Reviews of new music by Avril Lavigne and Florida Georgia Line

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“Head Above Water”

BOTTOM LINE: A personal comeback story that needed more outside input.

It’s great news that Avril Lavigne has recovered enough from her battle with Lyme disease to record music again. And the title track of “Head Above Water” (BMG) tells the story of that struggle well, using a dramatic ballad and more forceful use of her powerful voice to great effect.

These new songs, her first since 2013’s “Avril Lavigne” album, are clearly personal, dealing with relationship woes as well as her health issues. And nearly all lean more toward the pop world than the pop-rock line she used to straddle with hits like “Complicated.”

The problem is she doesn’t always navigate that world very well. Sometimes, it’s a lyrical problem — like in “Goddess” where she mispronounces “bananas” so it rhymes with “pajamas.” Sometimes, it’s a phrasing problem — like the way she slips into vocal fry in the serious “I Fell in Love With the Devil” as she talks about “teddy bears and ‘I’m sorry’ letters.”

The issues on “Head Above Water” are numerous, but generally minor. The fact that easily addressed things were left in means Lavigne likely wanted them that way, leaving her comeback slightly short of where it could have gone.


“Can’t Say I Ain’t Country”

BOTTOM LINE: Trying to re-establish themselves as “Y’all Boys.”

Florida Georgia Line protests a lot on its new “Can’t Say I Ain’t Country” (Big Machine) album.

“You can say you don’t like my truck,” Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley sing in the title track. “You can say that I talk and I dress all funny, but you can’t say I ain’t country.”

That’s the kind of projection and misdirection we see a lot these days. While few people complain about trucks or joke about the way Nashville folks talk or dress, there are probably way more who question — rightly or wrongly — how country Florida Georgia Line is. After all, this is the duo who teamed up with pop star Bebe Rexha for “Meant to Be,” and their breakthrough hit was a remix of “Cruise” with rapper Nelly.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but walking away from it, now that people are starting to tire of the “bro country” domination they helped build, seems a bit calculated. The current single “Y’all Boys” hammers home the Florida Georgia Line talking points, ribbing people who lock their doors and declaring, “You mess with one of us, you get us all boys.” It doesn’t sound organic. It sounds test-marketed and political.


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