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AVRIL LAVIGNE - THE BEST DAMN THING - SONY BMG
Record Rating: ****

AVRIL LAVIGNE - THE BEST DAMN THING Clad in baggy skater jeans and Converse sneakers, Avril Lavigne literally burst onto the music scene as a teenager with hit single Complicated, and since then has been sort of a permanent fixture on the charts. For the millions that buy her albums, she’s already the voice of their generation, and has one of the best voices in rock music or pop, depending on your opinion.

Although hardly deserved, Under My Skin (her 2004 follow-up to the number one debut Let Go) turned out to be something of a flop, selling considerably less than its predecessor; and when faced with such a commercial disappointment, most artists would go back to the sound that made them a star. But not Avril.

To be sure, the Canadian’s latest offering, The Best Damn Thing, is a dirty pop/rock album; but it’s a young adult album, driven almost entirely by gleaming guitars, beats and surprisingly tender production work. The 12 tracks are built upon a strong songwriting foundation that are ~ thanks to a host of top producers (including bigwig Dr. Luke, who’s reportedly working with Britney Spears on a new CD) ~ sturdy, catchy and very memorable. Girlfriend, the first single, is a far cry from the pubescent angst of Sk8er Boi, and propelled this CD straight to the top of the US and UK charts.

Like any young woman, she’s experienced a burst of maturity and finally left her skater chick days behind ~ on tracks like Everything Back But You, Innocence and When You’re Gone, she makes some serious headway in turning into a mature recording artist. Still, by delving into Britney like pop elsewhere with Hot And Contagious, she sacrifices consistency for fizzy peaks and loses out on making what otherwise could have been an unforgettable five star effort.

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