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.

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.

500 Days of Summer Review

A few months ago, I saw the trailer for the film 500 Days of Summer, and it instantly went on my mental list of movies that I had to see. Although I can’t recall the exact date, I remember that it was supposed to come out sometime in July, and when that date came, I realized that it was only playing in certain cities, and my city was not one of them, unfortunately, which I was pretty upset about, because I had been waiting and looking forward to it for so long. Thankfully, however, it just opened in my city this past weekend, so I finally got to see it.

As a whole, I really liked it. I thought that it was really cute and original. At first, I didn’t like the whole idea of time jumping around so randomly, but eventually, I became used to that, and now, I see it as one of the ways in which it was original. I really wish I could go into all of the ways in which I thought it was original, but if I do that, then I will be getting into heavy plot details, and I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone. I will do my best anyway; this is the type of the movie that is somewhat difficult to discuss and review without getting into plot details, so I will try to be as vague as possible.

I thought that the choice of acting was really good, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom Hansen and Zooey Deschanel as Summer Finn. I really liked the way that Deschanel dealt with the character. Summer Finn is a firm feminist who doesn’t believe she has to give herself to any man, and her firm beliefs sometimes initiate stubbornness in her character, and I personally thought that Deschanel played this out so well. Gordon-Levitt played Tom’s role really well too, the casual, somewhat awkward Michael Cera-like dude that you would just naturally expect to be with a girl like Summer.

The plot follows the two of them who meet at a club and pursue a friendship. However, Tom likes Summer as more than just a friend, and even though the relationship starts to get a little bit more serious, such as the two of them becoming intimate, for example, Summer doesn’t want anything serious with him, and she doesn’t want to call what they have a relationship. Another reason why I found this movie to be original is that you see right at the beginning of the movie that she breaks up with him, but you don’t really know why or if they’ll end up back together or not.

However, my biggest problem with the movie was a personal one, which is why I say that overall, the movie was really good. I honestly couldn’t really connect with it or understand it, because I’m not in the same boat as the theme of the movie is. I am in a very serious, loving and trusting relationship, and I wasn’t really sure what this movie was trying to say. Perhaps, it was trying to say that love is only a fabrication, that it doesn’t actually exist, but I see that as being ridiculous. I offer that as a suggestion, because a line very similar to that is actually in the script. Another message that it could have been trying to convey is that events don’t happen because they are meant to be; everything is coincidence, but I don’t believe that either, so ultimately, I wasn’t really sure what to make of the movie, but like I said, it was really cute. The acting was really good, the soundtrack is exquisite, it’s cute, and the plot is original. Ultimately, it’s a decent “summer” movie.