Best Avril Lavigne covers, collaborations
This Monday marks exactly five years since Avril Lavigne last released a studio album.
She will cut off that hiatus in the near future. The 34-year-old Canadian rocker is making promotional rounds with the title track of Head Above Water. When she is not debunking conspiracy theories, as she was last week, she is capturing and cementing her comeback from Lyme disease.
Per her official website, that diagnosis capped a trying calendar year, the first one to elapse after her last album. With “Head Above Water,” the story on her site says, “2017 represented a turning point.”
Not everything, including the precise release date, is known about the new album. Only a few tracks and a rough release date for this coming February are confirmed.
But in a chat last week, Los Angeles radio host Ellen K told Lavigne, “You do not change at all.” If that is true, Head Above Water could include some head-turning covers of Lavigne’s influences or contemporaries.
Even if the album features none, future tours are bound to pack some past and new reworkings. In addition, Lavigne should have a host of companions raring to share pieces of her grand comeback. After all, her initial rise from 2002’s Let Go through early in this decade packed no shortage of invitations to join original artists and put a slight twist on their brainchildren.
Among the most prominent covers and collaborations, there are sparse misses and several hits. For the sake of selectivity, we are reducing this best-of to five, leaving a couple of difficult omissions. An “Ironic” duet with Alanis Morissette and an independent take on Blink-182’s “All the Small Things” come to mind.
Those who made the cut exemplify the exuberance Lavigne brings to her chief genre. With each of these, she sustains or even builds on the quality of pop rock and punk’s finest tracks.
5. “In Too Deep”
While married to Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley, Lavigne brought the group on tour in 2008, joining in on their signature song. Precisely a decade ago Sunday, one of those live performances was uploaded to her official YouTube channel.
Frankly, the chief drawback to this cover is its sparse usage of Lavigne outside of the chorus. When she does pipe up, she takes an impeccable handle on the hook and the last portion of the final bridge. Her performance makes one wonder what could have been if she had a chance to spell Whibley altogether.
In a live performance of their magnum opus, the Goo Goo Dolls enlisted Lavigne to lend it a new voice. She spelled Johnny Rzeznik for the entire first bridge and chorus before they formed a duet for the bulk of the balance.
Because this is Lavigne and the parent band, it is little surprise this “Iris” does not differ much from the original. With that said, she fulfills her pressure-filled obligation to fit into the altered version.
And for what it’s worth, this live edition takes the time for one more reprise of the chorus than the original studio product. Who could object to that?
For MTV’s 2003 tribute to Metallica, Lavigne took her reworking of this hit to the stage. As she delivered it, the original artists looked on, nodding and casually cursing with approval.
The event would have been awkward otherwise, given that the arrangement was their idea. Regardless, Lavigne’s acceptance and execution of the task further underscored her precociousness in her late teens.
Her tone and her band’s instrumental supplement strayed just far enough to be their own version. Yet they stayed well within the boundaries of the genre.
Per blabbermouth.net, Lavigne admitted that needing to “sing really harsh” was her greatest challenge in the cover. But she would execute a solid uptick in speed and intensity with each rendition of the “Gimme fuel, gimme fire, gimme that which I desire” hook.
The delivery works especially well every time that chorus follows “Quench my thirst with gasoline.” It is as if she is sing-speaking for a machine getting its much-needed gulp and quickly making good on it.
2. “Basket Case”
It is one thing to cover a song live with those who spawned it to begin with. It is another to do so at the artist’s invitation and in their receptive presence at their event.
But taking on someone else’s tune with one’s own personnel in one’s own show is a tougher species.
After her breakout year, Lavigne made a nearly decade-old punk-rock gem a staple on her international tour. One of those concerts would become her first live album, 2003’s My World.
Given Green Day’s established stature and Lavigne’s drive for an encore to Let Go, this was a daring undertaking. With that said, she set herself a high ceiling and proceeded to brush it.
In her rendition of “Basket Case,” Lavigne replicates the rhythm of the original with no noticeable deviation. If her goal was the emulate Billie Joe Armstrong to the point of tying, but not surpassing him, she succeeded.
And in the absence of the original performer, she made a point of tacking a proper credit on the end.
1. “Bad Reputation”
Lavigne released this Joan Jett do-over around a milestone in her career. She was going on 10 years since Let Go first put her on the shelves.
Given her advanced maturity, it was fitting that she tried and triumphed with her version of an older tune than what she normally covers.
Another 10 years from now will be an opportune time to explore a next-generation edition of Freaks and Geeks. That would be the least anyone can do for the fans of a show widely considered cancelled too quickly.
Besides the slew of future stars, the show’s fans remember which song was clipped for the theme. With the hypothetical update set in the early 2010s, the logical theme would be Lavigne’s 2012 improvement on it.
But even without TV usage, this cover’s timing represented a nice callback to Lavigne’s breakout style. Compounding its multi-flavored punch, it used a pioneering rock hit from the decade of her birth.
Compared to its 1981 basis, Lavigne’s “Bad Reputation” packs the right extra pinch of speed from start to finish. Moreover, she steps up the assertiveness in her tone with each reprise of the chorus. Jett does that as well, but not quite as consistently, especially with the concluding “Oh no’s” and “Not me’s.”