We’ve all had phases in our adolescence where the music we grew to love mirrors the angst inside, and in the early to mid-2000s, pop-punk was that. Avril Lavigne is one of many artists to have made a name within the genre – until 2007 when the infamously juvenile “Girlfriend” made splashes, only for Avril to double-down with “Hello Kitty,” years later; however, I haven’t always been absent from her music – some highlights here and there – and it’s a good thing I wasn’t as Avril Lavigne has come with her best work since 2005’s Under My Skin. Love Sux is a dynamic shift from blending nuances of the past with oblique pop. Love Sux knows what it is: lyrically poignant, blending commercialized lingo with riotous rock or rounded pop-punk ballads.
Love Sux doesn’t disassociate sonic complexions as tracks transition, like 2019’s Head Above Water. The album saw Avril Lavigne transition from the soulful and mediocre “Tell Me It’s Over” to a weird Power-Pop/Hip-Hop hybrid with Nicki Minaj on “Dumb Blonde.” It was only ever-so-often that her inner punk seeped out – here, she is hitting strides by delivering upon her strengths. But Avril is a rockstar, and she makes it known with her emotionally rugged vocal performances and righteous production. It’s on bombastic and hypnotic tracks like “Cannonball” and “F.U,” and driven love tracks like “Kiss Me Like The World Is Ending.” “Cannonball” ignites the fire for Avril’s return to Pop-Punk. It parallels her debut’s, Let Go, opening track “Losing Grip.” Both tracks mirror similar sentiments of being better off without an ex, except “Cannonball” does not lament, and instead, she is ready to turn it on, except for a few tracks.
Avril Lavigne keeps the energy flowing with veracity, especially when we hear her blending tempos and speed. Unfortunately, these balanced transitions don’t mirror with two of her duets: “Bois Lie” featuring Machine Gun Kelly and “Love It When You Hate Me” with Blackbear. MGK’s turn to pop-punk has turned out basic melodies and instrumentations, which reflects in both effort and chemistry with Avril; it can be said about Blackbear, as well. There is little effort, which is sometimes the case with Avril, like with “Bois Lie,” which perpetuates an argument in a relationship. There is little that stands out, and most times, it’s waning on pop and relevancy, considering it is done better with Mark Hoppus on “All I Wanted.” “Bois Lie” has minimal depth, and the emotional delivery is lackluster; fortunately, these tracks could get pushed aside, and you’ll receive an incredible pop-punk album.
When you displace those two duets, a lot of what Love Sux gives us is a rocking head-banging time – whether she is destroying property on “Bite Me” or “Love Sux” or creating parallel pop-punk ballads (in tempo). Like most pop/rock ballads, we hear elevated piano riffs or slow tempo string arrangements; however, Avril Lavigne keeps you on that steady path before triggering the withheld angst. “Dare To Love Me” takes the former approach while retaining a rock aesthetic to keep the momentum flowing. Avril told us on “Cannonball” that the hunger is there, and without giving us a real taste of varied like “Complicated,” she has enough to keep you going, like mirroring the energy and cadence of “Sk8er boi,” especially with “Love Sux.”
Playing Love Sux without those duets offers a lot of breathing room for the monstrous head-banging to never stops, even when Avril Lavigne slows it down. It adds definition, sonically and lyrically, as we hear Avril singing about varying topics like keeping yourself up during the bad days on “Avalanche” or that emotional bridge that comes within starting a new relationship after being broken-hearted from a past one. Avril is opening the doors to her heart, more so than before, because it comes naturally to her. She isn’t widening her horizons with these different styles, and instead, she keeps it 100. It translates to a benefactor – if you – 86 the other duets: “All I Wanted,” her duet with Mark Hoppus of Blink-182. Mark Hoppus adds that 00s nuanced, with a modern twist – this allows the track to feel fresh amongst a modern wave of the genre we hear today while taking you back to the end of summer moshing at Warped Tour. The production helps; it continues to build energy from both singers over shreds of riotous electric guitar and drums, and that’s a predominant feeling throughout most tracks.
Avril Lavigne is at her best on Love Sux, and it shows. She is hungry, energetic, and thriving as she finds home with a genre she left in the past – it shows as she demolishes every production in her wake. Though the same can’t be said about two of the three duets, putting them into a flow with the other tracks stipends the smooth progression. But I’m a man of simple taste, and it’s easy to push those tracks aside so I can bathe in pure pop punk bliss.
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