Pop fans rejoice: Avril Lavigne’s period of introspective artistic expression is over. The world is no longer under her skin and she no longer wishes to be Alanis Morrissette. She has fully embraced the snotty brat persona that made her debut album so appealing. Avril’s third album is not the Best Damn Thing that she proclaims it to be, but there are a few enjoyable moments.
The Best Damn Thing should have been Lavigne’s second album, because it expands on the template set on her 2002 debut Let Go. On her 2004 sophomore effort Under My Skin, Lavigne tried to prove she was a legitimate songwriter, and although the record contained some decent singles, the “maturity” of the album felt forced. Lavigne makes no attempts to broaden her sound here, staying firmly within the bouncy pop/rock that made her famous.
The album explodes out of the gate with “Girlfriend,” one of the catchiest pop songs in recent memory. “Girlfriend” has all the elements of great pop music: A simple guitar riff, inane lyrics and a cheerleader chant that refuses to go away. To Lavigne’s credit, she manages to keep up the pace for a remarkably long time. The kiss-off anthem “I Can Do Better” is pop-punk in the blink-182 tradition, and “Runaway” manages to channel the Replacements’ “Within Your Reach.”
The problem with The Best Damn Thing is that it gets old. Hearing Avril Lavigne tell a boy to go away the first time is great, the second time it’s fine, but by the third time you say to yourself “Wait, isn’t she married?” Lavigne’s voice is very thin, and it becomes grating. She is unable to hit high notes, and when she tries it’s pretty painful. Lavigne covers up her lack of vocal ability by adopting a faux-punk snarl. She compliments the vocal affectation with copious amounts of cursing. There is nothing wrong with cursing on a record, but Lavigne curses like a 12 year old who has just learned how.
The lack of maturity in The Best Damn Thing is what ultimately destroys its potential. The snotty brat persona is fine when you are 17 years old, but as a 22 year old married woman? It’s not only immature, it comes off as artificial. A lot of the appeal of pop music is that it is artificial, but Lavigne tries to convince the world that she is more than a shallow pop star.
Despite these problems, The Best Damn Thing is a decent pop record. It contains a great single, and a few solid pop songs. If you want a piece of musical candy, you could do a lot worse: Fergie for instance.