Review of Goodbye Lullaby, the New Album by Avril Lavigne

For me, Goodbye Lullaby, Lavigne’s fourth album, has been one of the most highly anticipated albums of my lifetime, as I have ultimately been anticipating it for seven years. While The Best Damn Thing was released in Spring 2007 (which was still quite a long time ago), I was not too thrilled with that album (save a handful of songs), and Under My Skin was released in Spring 2004. Many months ago (it was, in fact, close to a year ago), I read that this album would be a closer return to Lavigne’s earlier work as opposed to The Best Damn Thing, and I can agree with that.

While Goodbye Lullaby is not at all “heavy,” as some of the tracks found on 2002’s Let Go and 2004’s Under My Skin are (such as “Losing Grip,” “Unwanted,” “Take Me Away,” “Forgotten,” etc.), it is far from being the “cheerleader pop” (for lack of a better term) that The Best Damn Thing is, and Lavigne, with a majority of crisp melodies layered on top of simple acoustic accompaniment that is Goodbye Lullaby, affords her fans (such as this one of almost ten years) a very pleasant, refreshing experience. I do know quite a few people who loved The Best Damn Thing, so I apologize to them if I offend, but that certainly does not change my opinion.

In regards to The Best Damn Thing, Lavigne seemed to have retrograded, moving from a sophisticated, alternative style to adolescent high school craze with an array of songs that one might expect to hear at athletic games (such as “Girlfriend,” “The Best Damn Thing,” “I Don’t Have to Try,” etc.), and for that reason, I was very disappointed with the album as a whole with few exceptions (such as “Runaway,” “When You’re Gone,” “Innocence,” etc.). Goodbye Lullaby attempts to break away from that, painting a much more serene picture.

I purchased a physical copy of the album, so I have the benefit of seeing all of the graphics included in the package, and it is really beautiful; I consequently find myself quite impressed with that, as well. However, I also find myself in opposition to only one (rather trivial) feature; Lavigne, on the album cover (which, mind you, I do find very beautiful), looks rather morose, while the album’s content is primarily very relaxed and gleeful, dealing with lyrical themes such as being in love and enjoying the beauties that life has to offer. I reiterate, however, that the artwork (meaning all photographs, designs and additional art) is very beautiful.

The album opens with the very short (only 1:34) “Black Star,” and most fans should remember this from her Black Star fragrance commercial, in which a small portion of the song is featured. While I am slightly disappointed with the fact that the song is so short when I had been expecting it to be full-length, “Black Star” is one of my favorite songs from the album, as it is an incredibly beautiful, simple song accompanied by a simple but catchy melody composed of very high notes on the piano. The song sounds very much like a lullaby and would serve as a good introduction if it didn’t make such a rough transition into “What the Hell.”

“What the Hell,” the album’s first single, is the closest that the album comes to The Best Damn Thing, and, because of that, it, with the risk of using a cliché, sticks out like a sore thumb. When I first heard the song, I didn’t like it a whole lot, but when I began to find it consistently stuck in my head, it really began to grow on me, and I do really love it now, even though, again, it really doesn’t belong on this album. Next, we hear “Push,” a song that sounds a lot like Alanis Morissette’s style. I really like the song, especially with the male vocals, which I am assuming are Evan Taubenfeld’s, since he co-wrote the song with Lavigne.

The fourth track is titled “Wish You Were Here,” another one of my favorites on the album. “Wish You Were Here” operates as Goodbye Lullaby’s “When You’re Gone,” since it is nearly identical thematically (while it reminds me melodically of “Innocence”), and I am sure that it will be a single. “Smile” is a fast-paced song with attitude but is still a great deal of inches away from nearing The Best Damn Thing territory; “What the Hell” is definitely closer. “Stop Standing There” and “I Love You” are both mellow songs about being in love, and “Stop Standing There” is possibly the closest the album comes to Let Go, while “I Love You” is, for lack of a better description, an adorable song about loving someone for exactly who that person is, having no desire to change him or her. It is definitely a stand-out track, sounding a bit like something that would fit on Under My Skin, and it may just be me, but I think I hear a mandolin in the song.

The eighth track on the album is titled “Everybody Hurts.” Yes, when I first learned of the album’s track-listing a few months ago, I wondered if the song would be an R.E.M. cover, which it is not; it is, however, nearly identical thematically; “Everybody hurts some days,” the refrain advises. “It’s okay to be afraid. Everybody hurts; everybody screams. Everybody feels this way, and it’s okay.” It would seem to me like Lavigne draws inspiration from the R.E.M. song and attempts to recreate it for her generation. The song sounds a lot like something from Lavigne’s days prior to Let Go having been released.

“Not Enough” is nothing special, definitely not making any attempt to stand out on the album. However, like “Everybody Hurts,” it also reminds me of Lavigne’s “demo” era, reminding me especially of “Get Over It.” The tenth track, “4 Real,” has a beat and a melody that are guaranteed to stick with you, and while I definitely love the song, it sadly loses a bit of credibility due to its use of the number “4” in place of the word “for.” I am not amused when artists do that, especially not ones for whom I have a lot of respect. Pay mind to the fortunate fact that you are not Kesha (or should I say Ke$ha?), Avril.

Next on the album is “Darlin,” and I love this song because of how positive it is, seeming to be an attempt to cheer the listener up, reminding him that the world is a beautiful place in which he is loved. “Darlin” was written when Lavigne was only fourteen or fifteen years old, which is another reason that I love it. “Remember When” and “Goodbye” are slow, beautiful tracks with very similar stories; they are both memorandums in which the speaker apologizes for having to temporarily leave her lover physically but reminds him that he is very loved, while explaining why. I love “Goodbye,” because lyrically, it has sentimental value to me. I only wish that “Goodbye” had ended the same way as “Remember When,” that is, included a band at the end of the song. “Goodbye” seems to lack a component without that, especially since I expect it, but the strings are beyond gorgeous.

The album closes with an extended version of “Alice,” including an additional verse in between the original first and second verses. Fans will remember the song being featured on the Alice in Wonderland soundtrack last year, titled Almost Alice, and if one did not know that the song has ties to the film, either the title or the line “I found myself in Wonderland” should give that away. The standard edition of the album ends at this point, but the deluxe edition (the one that I purchased) includes acoustic versions of “What the Hell,” “Push” and “Wish You Were Here,” as well as the cover of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” and a bonus DVD. Overall, I am very happy with the album; it was worth the wait and definitely worth the money.

NOTE: Please excuse a lacking of italics where they are necessary; this was copied and pasted from a Facebook note, and the formatting was not transmitted correctly.

Dan Kamin

This past weekend, I went to Dan Kamin’s show at the Waterman Theater with my boyfriend Ray, and I was surprisingly pleased. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, but then again, I didn’t really know what it was that I was getting myself into, which is probably why it was that I wasn’t expecting to have so much fun.

Basically, what Dan Kamin’s show involved was primarily mime work, and he was hilarious. The show ran for approximately ninety minutes, and I was never bored, not for a minute. He was incredibly entertaining, and he told quite a few jokes, too. He was very communicative and interactive with the audience, and we were a part of the show. Perhaps, my favorite segment of the show was his parody of the Creation of the world according to the Bible, which managed to be hilarious but not offensive toward people who may have been Christians.

What’s really neat is that Ray and I then had the opportunity to meet Dan in person. On our way out of Sheldon later that night, he was walking in, and I had the chance to personally tell him that the show was awesome and that I enjoyed it, and that really made him happy. The show was definitely worth the $7.00, and it would be awesome if he came back for another show.

HIM – Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice, Chapter 1-13

The band that identifies itself as a “love metal” band follows its 2007 release, Venus Doom, with Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice, Chapter 1-13. In its thirteen-year career, HIM has unleashed anthem after anthem, such as “Join Me,” “Buried Alive by Love” and the American success, “Wings of a Butterfly.” The most recent album since Screamworks garnered mild success with “The Kiss of Dawn,” “Bleed Well” and “Passion’s Killing Floor,” featured on the Transformers soundtrack album. Screamworks is, as I believe each of the three albums since and including 2005’s Dark Light have been, a break from the band’s previous work, since it takes on a bit of a more uplifting and happy tone, songs such as “In Venere Veritas,” “Scared to Death” and “Katherine Wheel” acting as examples.

The album opens with the aforementioned “In Venere Vertias,” which opens the album with Ville’s hook, “Let’s fall apart together now.” Venus Doom is an album with which Ville took the opportunity to experiment with his voice, especially on the title track, and he continues to do such on this album, especially on this song, beginning the chorus of the song in a relatively high register with the word “have,” which then rapidly spirals downward into “no fear.” Something that I have always loved about HIM is that it takes risks; it loves to make use of new ideas, and that is exactly why I wholeheartedly disagree with those who have told me in the past that the band is repetitive; no two albums, especially not since and including Dark Light, sound the same.

“In Venere Veritas” works as a great way to begin the album, a lot of energy and a lot of poetic beauty, something that has echoed throughout all thirteen years and seven albums of the band’s career, beginning with 1997’s Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666. “Scared to Death” rings with utterly beautiful melodic beauty, while the sheer energy of “Heartkiller” makes it act perfectly as the album’s first single. Other standout tracks include the ballad “Disarm Me (with Your Loneliness),” the desperately seeking “Love, the Hardest Way,” the ridiculously catchy “Ode to Solitude” and “Acoustic Funeral (for Love in Limbo),” which despite the misleadingly dark title, is probably one of HIM’s happiest songs yet. I enjoy, however, every single song on this album. It is the first album in at least a year to which I can’t stop listening, because it is that highly addictive.

The album is definitely one of HIM’s best albums yet, which, to me, says a lot, since the band tends to release masterpiece after masterpiece. This album and 2005’s Dark Light are probably my two favorite albums to date. Something that I love about HIM is that they tend not to repeat ideas and sounds but instead consistently move forward with new and innovative ideas and sounds, and Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice, Chapter 1-13 is no exception, departing from Venus Doom, which Ville has described as a cross between Metallica and Bullet for My Valentine and instead creating a sound that he has described as “the first time [that] HIM does acknowledge that there is such a thing called happiness.” It is so different, in fact, that many HIM fans are criticizing it for that very reason, but Ville is a new man, sobered up but still making amazing music. I give the album a well-deserved five stars out of five.

Lady Gaga – The Fame Mons†er

As a good majority of you probably already know, I am a very big Lady Gaga fan. I think that she is incredibly creative, artistic, daring and independent. She has undoubtedly changed the music industry, setting new grounds for artists that were most definitely not there before. I recently read one critic who argued that Gaga is not original at all, since she dresses like Björk, acts like Madonna and sings like Gwen Stefani, but I would argue against most of these claims. She has the “out there” look that Björk always has, a sense of fashion that dares to defy norms. However, Gaga designs most of her own clothing, and a good majority of the clothing that she designs (although most definitely drawing influences from artists such as David Bowie and, yes, Björk) is very creative and original (where have you seen the bubble dress before?). I would not argue that her demeanor is anything like Madonna, except that I would argue that she has a similar need of daring to venture. As far as her vocals being compared to Gwen Stefani, there are undoubtedly tracks in which you would think it is Gwen if you didn’t know any better. However, these tracks are limited to a select few, such as “Paparazzi,” “Paper Gangsta,” “Summerboy” and “Filthy Pop.” Gaga definitely has her own style of singing, which is definitely brought to light in songs such as “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance.”

Anyway, the highly-anticipated follow-up to last year’s record, The Fame, was released yesterday, Monday, November 23rd, and even though the album is somewhat short (consisting of only eight tracks), it does not disappoint by any means. My anticipation for this album has been building up for quite some time now, and I don’t, in any way, feel cheated (except for maybe the fact that I do wish the album was a little bit longer). After Fame’s release, Gaga began to explore fringes of her personality that she hadn’t been immediately experiencing during the early days of her major success. She began to realize that as much as she loved fame, fame was not an all-seeing power of goodness but instead sometimes heavily comprised of monsters, or fears, with which, as a superstar, Gaga had to deal. She was consistently traveling since she was touring, and during her days on the road, she began to explore this dark side of fame musically, a project that came to be known as The Fame Mons†er, an eight-track sophomore effort that would bring Gaga’s music to new levels.

The record opens with the hit single, “Bad Romance.” I have heard a great deal of people say that “Bad Romance” is more or less a reinvented “Poker Face,” but I drastically fail to understand the connection, not one that calls for that kind of comparison anyway. Her vocals are a bit similar, since in the verses, Gaga explores very low registers of her voice while in the refrain, she explores higher registers. However, I fail to understand how the melodies are similar. Anyway, “Bad Romance” has already gone its way to becoming Gaga’s fifth smash hit in the U.S. (the other four obviously being “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “Lovegame” and “Paparazzi”), and the music video (which features Gaga as a sex slave, sold to the Russian mafia after a round of bidding) is by far her most genially creative one yet. Even if you’re not a Gaga fan, I think that it would be rather difficult to get this track out of your head.

The second track that Mons†er has to offer is “Alejandro,” which had previously been titled “Don’t Call My Name” when a short portion of the song had been leaked online. “Alejandro” has been described as a rehashing of the “What happens in Mexico stays in Mexico” adage. Gaga has traveled to Mexico, fallen in love with a boy who is either named Alejandro, Fernando or Roberto (she can’t seem to recall), but she fears commitment and therefore insists on running away. The song is very powerful both melodically and vocally. Unfortunately, since both “Alejandro” and “Dance in the Dark” have both been officially released as promotional singles to help promote The Fame Mons†er, we can probably rule this one out as a future single. The second and the third singles from the album have already been selected, which I will discuss momentarily.

The third number we’re given is the track “Monster,” which I personally feel would have been a much better opener for the album. The song has previously been described as demonstrating a “fear of death,” and although I don’t immediately interpret the lyrics of the song to be related to death, I am going to continue to listen and see where perhaps they could in fact be interpreted that way. The track opens with the spoken lines: “Don’t call me Gaga/I’ve never seen one like that before/Don’t look at me like that/You amaze me.” At first glance, the lyrics potentially seem to be about rape or some form of sexual interaction that was not consensual, which is why she refers to the boy as “a monster.” This track definitely has the potential of being a future single, and even though it has not been announced what the fourth single will be yet, I think that this might actually be it, because I can definitely see this one doing well on the radio. There is a censored line in the song that upset me at first, because I thought that it was censored on the CD since I had bought it at Walmart, but further research has since indicated to me that the track is censored on all editions of the album, which I find to be a bit odd. Why write words on a piece of paper that aren’t going to be used?

The album moves into its first and only ballad, which is the epic “Speechless,” a song that has already been confirmed as the album’s third single. According to Gagapedia, Gaga’s father had been very sick, and she recorded this song for him as a way to plead for him to receive heart surgery that he needed. “I think is the best song I’ve ever written,” Gaga, herself, says about the song. “It’s about my dad. It’s a really beautiful ballad. It’s piano-driven, and there’s no beat on it. It’s all live instruments. I produced it with Ron Fair, so we did a full live orchestra, recorded everything with live drums, live guitar and bass with me playing piano. We got that really organic, delicious feeling.” “Speechless” is probably my second favorite song on the record and really does stand out as incredibly powerful and emotional. To those of you who watched the American Music Awards the night before last, this was the second song that she performed, the one in which she played at a piano and broke Vodka bottles over it.

The fifth track is the incredibly powerful “Dance in the Dark.” While “Speechless” is probably my second favorite track on the record, this is probably my first favorite. Gaga revealed a few months ago that during the writing process of The Fame Mons†er, she had been exploring some gothic influence, mainly in beats, and I think that this song is a very good example of what she was talking about. Melodically, it is probably the darkest song on the record, reminding me very much of bands such as the Birthday Massacre and Depeche Mode. Although I cannot seem to locate any information behind the meaning of the song, it seems to me to be a kind of feminist anthem, shouting out to women have ever felt unprotected or unsafe in the world (literally shouting out to women such as Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana). Like “Alejandro,” this song has been officially released a promotional single, so I seriously doubt that it will be released as an official single, especially since one song (“Bad Romance”) has already been determined, and two more have been announced.

The first few times that I heard “Telephone,” I was not very impressed. It just isn’t as powerful as some of the other material that The Fame Mons†er has to offer, and even though it is still not one of my favorites on the album, it has grown on me, and I like it a lot better than I did when I first heard it. The track features vocals by pop superstar Beyoncé (who was originally supposed to be Britney Spears, but Britney’s vehement desire to include the track on her new Greatest Hits collection caused some complications), and the lyrical content seems to be relatively simple. It seems to be about a girl who is out partying with her friends who is consistently being annoyed by her boyfriend texting her cell phone. Its simplicity could be one reason why it is not one of my favorites on the album, but one fact that needs to be kept in mind is that out of the eight songs on the record, this is the only one that was not actually written during the Monster era. “Telephone” was written during the Fame era and was initially supposed to be a song written for by sung by Britney Spears for her Circus album. This has been selected as the second single from the album and is expected to be released in early 2010.

Although I have not mentioned it until now, there are two songs on the album that remind me a bit of “Just Dance,” and those two songs are “Monster” and “So Happy I Could Die.” “Monster” shares very similar electronic accompaniment, and the next song on the record, “So Happy I Could Die,” is somewhat similar melodically. “So Happy I Could Die” is another song that I haven’t been able to fully decode just yet, but the title does seem to be fairly self-explanatory. This one has a bit of growing to do on me yet, since I am not absolutely crazy over it just yet like I am “Speechless” and “Dance in the Dark.” The album closes with the song “Teeth,” which is a very blunt, R&B-like track that, to be quite honest, closes the album while you are left wanting more. Like I said, The Fame Mons†er is incredible, but if I can find any fault in it whatsoever, it’s that I would have liked for it to have been a bit longer. It is more outrageous than The Fame while at the same time is more down to earth, and I love how in the track “Monster,” she shouts out to the very first hit with the line, “I want to just dance, but he took me home instead.” Her voice is also a lot more natural on this record, with not as much production applied as songs such as “Poker Face.” You have once again not failed to please, Gaga.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus Concert Review! (4/26/09)

On Sunday, April 26, a total of five bands played at SUNY Oswego in the Campus Center arena. The show featured Los Angeles-based Drive A, Medina Lake, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Secondhand Serenade and N.E.R.D (with Pharell), respectively. I was very surprised by how few people there seemed to be at the concert, especially with The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus there. I thought that it was going to next to impossible to even breathe in there, but it wasn’t that bad at all. Overall, however, I vehemently enjoyed the show for the most part and was especially impressed by Drive A and Medina Lake.

My friends and I were all under the impression that the show was only three acts, with N.E.R.D., Secondhand Serenade and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus playing, but when we got there, we were surprised to find that there were two other opening acts as well. I found it odd, because as I found out later, Medina Lake is actually somewhat popular, and I heard that of a lot of people who didn’t go to the concert were extremely disappointed, because Medina Lake was there, and this was because Medina Lake was not advertised at all. I know that they were booked late in the game, but there still could have been some notification beforehand.

I seemed to be the black sheep of the family when it came to Drive A, the first band that played. When they got up on the stage, the first thing that immediately caught my attention was how young they were, especially the lead singer. I therefore wasn’t expecting much. However, I thought that they were amazing. Even though they seemed to receive a good response from the crowd, a lot of my friends didn’t have very many good things to say about them afterwards. One of my friends said that they were “Jonas Brothers wannabes,” which I didn’t understand in the least bit. They didn’t look or sound anything like the Jonas Brothers. Someone else said that they thought that they were cool but that they really weren’t.

It seemed to me like the people who didn’t like them ridiculed them because of how young they are, which I found to be unfair. In fact, their age is what impressed me. If you visit the band’s MySpace or download their single called “Are You Blind?” from iTunes, you’ll hear the pipes on that kid, who apparently is sixteen years old. I was very impressed with their performance and can’t wait for the album to be released, which is mid-May, not sure of the exact date. They didn’t play very many songs, but I really enjoyed what they did play. I thought that they were very fresh and energetic and that they really blended in with the rest of the bands that played.

Secondly, we had the pleasure of seeing Medina Lake live, a very pleasant surprise. As soon as the band walked onto the stage, the first thought that ran through my head was My Chemical Romance because of the symbols on their sleeves and the white-blond hair, which reminded me of Gerard Way during the Black Parade era. Some of their music, however, really reminded me of Muse. They put on an excellent show, and everyone who I spoke to about them after the concert agreed with me. I really liked their musical style, and it was great how they got the crowd engaged, especially by throwing oversized balloons into the crowd which resulted in everyone engaging in what I could best describe as volleyball without a net.

After Medina Lake came The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. I was very disappointed with them, especially since they were who I was there to see. First of all, Ronnie has an amazing voice, and you couldn’t hear him. I don’t know if it was because the volume on his mic was turned down too low or not, but I think that’s what the problem was. You could just barely him. I mean, it was bad to the point where I often found myself not knowing what the song was until the refrain began. Not only that, but I felt that, for the most part, they chose some of their weaker songs to play. In my opinion, their greatest and most powerful songs are “Misery Loves Its Company,” “Godspeed,” and “Believe,” and they didn’t play any of those. One of the main reasons why I couldn’t wait to see them live was to hear them play “Godspeed” live, and I was vehemently disappointed when they didn’t.

Lastly (I didn’t stay for N.E.R.D.) was Secondhand Serenade. They were also very good. The singer, John Vesely, was very easy to hear, and his performance garnered a very strong response out of the crowd. I was very surprised by how many people in the crowd knew so many of the songs apart from “Fall for You.” I knew a few, including, obviously, “Fall for You,” and I also knew “Your Call.” I wasn’t as familiar with their music as I’d have liked to have been, but I thought that their performance was very impressive. However, I thought that Drive A and Medina Lake were the best, and overall, I felt that my twenty dollars was definitely worth it.