by MIKE CHAIKEN
Right at the start, it’s clear Avril Lavigne’s newest album, “Head Above Water,” is drawing from deeper emotions than her previous efforts.
In the title track, which opens the album, Lavigne sings, “God, keep my head above water/ Don’t let me drown/ it gets harder/ I’ll meet you there at the altar/ As I fall down to my knees.”
On another key track, “I Fell In Love With the Devil,” Lavigne sings, “Shot guns and roses/ Make a deadly potion/ Heartbreak explosions/ In reckless motion.”
Although musically, the songs come from the same DNA as Lavigne’s other efforts, “Head Above Water” finds a more vulnerable Lavigne than fans have head previously.
“I felt I needed to evolve” said Lavigne in a phone interview when asked about the new tone on “Head Above Water.”
“I don’t want to do the same record over and over again,” said the singer who first announced her rock and roll presence with the songs “Complicated” and “Sk8er Boi.”
Speaking of the emotions demonstrated on the new album, Lavigne said, “That was the space I was in, and I was in a vulnerable place.”
For this effort, Lavigne, who is coming to the Toyota Oakdale in Wallingford on Oct. 5, said she wanted to write from “my true core experiences and not hold back.”
Although the songs came from a personal place, Lavigne said she also wanted the stories to be relatable to her audience.
“All the songs have an empowering message,” Lavigne said. She hoped the songs would make a difference for her fans. And, if the words touched her listeners in some way, Lavigne said, “That would be amazing. I would love that.”
Lavigne said she felt no trepidation about being exposing her emotions on “Head above Water.” She said she knew there would be questions about the meaning of the songs and the personal stories behind them. But she decided not to worry about that. She let herself be in the moment.
Although Lavigne has mined a pop rock sound since the beginning, she said the record company supported her as she veered into her current direction.
“They were amazing,” said Lavigne. They respected her vision and told her, “Make the record you need to make.”
Not all of the songs on the album come from a tender place.
“Dumb Blonde” (featuring Nicki Minaj) is a danceable, musical middle finger to an unidentified protagonist. (“I ain’t no dumb blonde/ I ain’t no stupid Barbie doll/ I got my game on (Just watch me)/ Watch me, watch me, watch me prove you wrong.”)
Lavigne explained that when she was making what would become “Head Above Water,” an individual—who she called a chauvinist and a misogynist—treated her poorly, calling her a dumb blonde.
Lavigne shared the incident with songwriter Bonnie McKee. The two decided to use the experience to write an empowering anthem for women.
Lavigne said the song tells women it’s okay to be strong and independent. They can work. They can be the boss.
“No one should put anyone down,” Lavigne said.
But, despite the heavy message, Lavigne said she wanted to deliver it in a playful tone.
“Dumb Blonde” does tap into the political mood of the #metoo movement. But Lavigne said she has been fortunate in her career to have never been taken for granted, or dismissed, because she was a young woman.
“I was always strong-minded and always stood up for myself,” said Lavigne. “I’d fight for songs I believed in.”
Yes, Lavigne said, there were some times when she was told by executives to do things that she didn’t care for. At the end of the day, however, being a musician is a job. “You do your best.”
But, she said, over the course of her career, “I’m proud of everything I did.”
The tour that brings Lavigne to Connecticut this weekend after a five year break.
For the singer, she’s glad she finally can reconnect with her fans.
And her fans have been happy to reconnect with her.
“It’s just been over the top,” said Lavigne of the fan response to the tour. “The shows have been insane. The audiences have been screaming to every song.”
“It’s so much fun,” said Lavigne. “I’m enjoying myself.”
Beyond the tour in the United States, the Canadian singer has her gaze set next for a bunch of dates in Europe. “I’m excited about that.”
Avril Lavigne performs at the Toyota Oakdale in Wallingford on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. For information, go to Oakdale.com or AvrilLavigne.com.