Photo Credit: DTA Records
While Avril Lavigne’s new single unmistakably sounds like one of hers in nearly every way – the angsty-but-somehow cute vocals, punk-with-a-pop-hook melody, and even the title (“Bite Me”), it also contains one of the most confounding and funny lyrics in a rock radio hit in quite some time. “Hey you, you should have known better // Better than to f*ck with someone like me,” are very much par-for-course for a song from Lavigne. But then we get the next line, which is: “Forever and ever, you’re gonna wish I was your wifey.”
Try to remember: What was the last raw, angst-ridden (if accessible) rock track in which the person being addressed in the song was threatened with the withholding of marriage? Sex and/or a romantic relationship, sure, but… marriage? It just seems odd, not to mention the use of the cheeky phrase “wifey.” This all sounds like something you might hear from either a small child (playing a game) or a person well into their adulthood (mid-thirties at least), and that perfectly epitomizes Avril Lavigne in 2022: now 37-years-old and twice divorced, almost nothing about her sound or even her appearance seems to have aged a day since her debut in 2002 at age sixteen.
And this is not necessarily a bad thing, as Love Sux overall is tight, to-the-point, and a lot of fun. Opening cut “Cannonball” (not the Breeders’ song) is a strong curtain-raiser, with Lavigne alternating between a talk-sing verse and an emo-ish chorus. The title tracks, then, mix a tight ’90s-like guitar riff with a cool early rock piano, as well as more characteristically tough-but-playful lyrics, even passing into the realm of Jason Mraz-type wordplay (“Let’s play a game of tic-tac-toe // I’m gonna make all my exes say ‘oh!’”).
“Bois Lie” has a sunny major chord feel along with a well-placed acoustic guitar section, while “All I Wanted” is another good one. The tracks are he said/she said vocals duets Machine Gun Kelly and Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, respectively. Mod Sun also appears but sticks to drums (no pun intended). And speaking of both drums and Blink-182 – yes, you all know where this is going – by this point Travis Barker turning up on any pop-punk release is no surprise, and he does here (not that he isn’t welcome, especially being the founder of DTA records and signing Lavigne to the label). These are guests one might expect to find on an Avril Lavigne album. There’s unquestionably a formula that Lavigne adheres to, but it’s largely a case of not fixing what isn’t broken.
This is not to say that Lavigne never ventures beyond the familiar on Love Sux. We dare say that the standout track is “Dare to Love Me.” One of only two songs on the album with the writing credited to Lavigne alone, the song is an emotional, striking, and memorable power ballad which could have come from Taylor Swift or possibly even Adele or Lana Del Ray. Though still not quite ready for opera, Lavigne on the song does further show that her vocal range goes beyond the way that most people think of it.
Not long before the album came out, Lavigne spoofed herself in a Geico insurance commercial, which no doubt had her detractors – who’ve always called her a poser of minimal talent, just another shallow record business “product” – thinking that she was now officially a has-been (and in desperate need of insurance TV ad money). Well, sux for them: Love Sux just entered the Billboard album charts at number two (making it her highest charting in the US since The Best Damn Thing in 2007). Though when she originally debuted she drew comparisons to Alanis Morrisette (due in part to them both being Canadian), Lavigne is probably on her way to enjoying career longevity more similar to that of Joan Jett.
The album closes with “Break of a Heartache”, a great guitar-based rocker less than two minutes long which includes a surprising and very enjoyable “Who-Oh-Oh” chorus. It’s the perfect ending for the record, and the final lyrics “So I guess it’s goodbye,” have already proven ironic, since, given the album’s quality and chart success, it’s definitely only “good-bye” for Avril Lavinge for now. So, all in all, Love Sux does not suck – It’s pretty darn good.