Head Above Water: A VinylTap Review

Head Above Water: A VinylTap Review

Introduction:

It’s been a long time since the name Avril Lavigne was said in the same sentence as new music. The last we heard from her was 2013, when rocking self-titled album was released and she finalized her very public divorce from Nickelback’s Chad Kroger. Since then, she’s gone to war with her own demons and with her own body, contracting Lyme disease. Now finally healthy and back to full strength, Avril Lavigne returns with a record that is sure to reflect her own life, while also having something subtextual to say about pop music today.

1. Head Above Water

The blend of pianos and vocals is gorgeous. It’s a really moving song to start the album with. The inclusion of guitars and strings makes the build to the chorus even more powerful. Lyrically, the song is simple in structure, but I really appreciate the imagery. I think the arrangement of instruments and vocals is the really shining part of the song. It’s a moving, powerful song that feels very real and it’s very different for what we’ve heard Avril Lavigne do in the past.

Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

2. Birdie

This song has a more alternative vibe to it with ringing organs and deep, echoing drums. Built on its pianos, this song comes across more as a traditional Avril Lavigne rock anthem and it kicks. She uses poignant imagery to show struggle. It’s an anthem with a heartbeat. While less rebellious and antagonistic than previous anthems, Lavigne stills show defiance in the face of what adversity she faces. It’s a new sound for Avril Lavigne, but I really dig it.

Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

3. I Fell In Love With The Devil

With a title like this, we knew we were in for an emotional song. I figured it would be more upbeat than the ballad we got. Utilizing the booming drums and moving strings, as well as layered vocals, Lavigne delivers another moving song. While the first was a plea for help and the second was a declaration of freedom, this one is a letter of forbidden love and a realization of a painful situation. It is also well-made and another solid entry to the album.

Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

4. Tell Me It’s Over

The second single off the album has a blues rock vibe with really funky guitars and horns. It’s a very different song than anything Lavigne has ever made and it feels really fresh. Another declaration of freedom or a questioning of status? The answer is the song works as both at times. Lyrically, the song is probably the most well-constructed of the album thus far. This song feels like a Sunday morning church ballad, but this isn’t subject matter you’d air in a church. The piece builds and grows with each refrain as she grows more and more independent from the mystery partner that’s playing with her emotions in the song. It’s a strong entry into the album.

Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

5. Dumb Blonde (feat. Nicki Minaj)

With a drumline and booming bass, this song sounds like a school fight song. Lyrically, this is classic Lavigne. It’s an anthem of self-confidence and identity. It’s infectious fun. The production is really solid, with biting guitars and a drum section that just kicks. This is the most fun song on the album so far and it is infectious. Nicki Minaj’s feature only solidifies the toughness of the song and she brings the exact right tone to this fight song. It’s an infectiously fun tune.

Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

6. It Was In Me

We slow things back down with another piano ballad, which we’ve had a few of this record. The strings and guitars help make this song feel grander and more moving. The lyricism feels genuine to her emotions and struggle and like a genuine realization song. It just feels a little much and I’d like to hear maybe a little more diversity in subject matter. Not to take anything away from this piece, which is a very moving and inspirational song about the epiphanies one has about themselves as they grow old. I really appreciate the sentiment and craft of the song. It brings tears to my eyes.

Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

7. Souvenir

I love the summer road trip vibe this song gives off. The guitars and drums are standout. The song feels bright with the memory of love and discovery of new love. It’s glowing with this fun, summer anthem radiance. The lyricism isn’t necessarily deep, but it crushes the purpose. It’s poppy and fun and the kind of anthem that the past few summers have been desperately missing.

Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

8. Crush

Going back to the swinging blues guitars and echoing snares, Lavigne has backed off the darker, more real songs about personal struggle and presented a lighter relief as alternative. This love song is really well produced, giving a black and white, Chicago vibe. Lyrically, Lavigne crushes. Pun fully intended. It’s a really sweet love song that I really dig.

Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

9. Goddess

The acoustic guitars that open up this track are beautiful. Avril Lavigne sings about being found and coming out the other side of tragedy and the new found love, both romantic and self, that she’s found. It’s a beautifully crafted song with a really sweet sentimentality. From the lovely lyrics to the enchanting production, this song steals my heart and reaches the top spot on my personal rankings.

Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

10. Bigger Wow

Going back to the summer love song vibe, this one takes a more straightforward approach to the anthem and crushes it again. The catchy, well-crafted lyrics are filled with poppy flare. It’s ultimately another sweet love song that is a breath of fresh air from the recent pop records. It’s stellar for all the same reasons as “Souvenir”.

Rating: 9/10

Grade: A=

11. Love Me Insane

Continuing the trend of poppy love songs, this one takes a slower, groovier approach. While it doesn’t land as strongly as the previous songs, it’s another solid entry. Well-produced and well-written. Its ultimately candy fluff, but delicious nonetheless.

Rating: 7/10

Grade: A-

12. Warrior

Capping off the record is one last piano ballad about overcoming adversity. Her vocal performance is strongest on this effort, as well as the songwriting. The strength of her lyricism is apparent on this final ballad. Well-produced and layered with strings, this caps off the album pretty strongly. It summarizes the album’s ultimate message well and is a good finale for the record.

Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

Conclusion:

I think the biggest issue with Lavigne’s record is track listing. It feels unbalanced, with the first half of the album being front-loaded with ballads of struggle and love lost, while the second half is filled with pop songs about new love. The tone of the album is a little mixed, but every song contains the theme of rebirth, exactly reflecting the difficulty that Lavigne faced these last six years. It’s genuinely the best pop record I’ve heard since 2014. There isn’t one bad song on this album and it’s ultimately not for the fans. This album is for her and I respect that immensely. It’s a poignant window into her life, while also being a true pop record and using a style of production that I haven’t heard since early 2010s. Rather than coming back and adopting the new music trends, she stays planted in the era she left and, thusly, reinvigorates an increasingly stale genre with new life; which is only fitting with her rebirth record.

Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

The Fourth Annual KohOscars

FeaturedThe Fourth Annual KohOscars

The fourth annual KohOscars are here! With a brand new voting committee instated, this year’s awards capture a wide array of films and genres. Coming home with most nominations for a single film this year is Avengers: Infinity War, picking up fifteen nominations. A Star is Born came second with thirteen nominations, followed by Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse tying for third with twelve nominations. Disney was the studio with the most nominations with forty-one total nominations.

Best Picture:

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  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Bad Times at the El Royale
  • BlacKkKlansman
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Creed II
  • The Favourite
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  • A Quiet Place
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  • A Star is Born

Best Actor:

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  • Christian Bale, Vice
  • Jeff Bridges, Bad Times at the El Royale
  • John Cho, Searching
  • Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
  • Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
  • Michael B. Jordan, Creed II
  • Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Actress:

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  • Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
  • Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place
  • Toni Collette, Hereditary
  • Olivia Colman, The Favourite
  • Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
  • Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
  • Anna Kendrick, A Simple Favor

Best Supporting Actor:

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  • Mahershalla Ali, Green Book
  • Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
  • Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
  • Sam Elliot, A Star is Born
  • Daniel Kaluuya, Widows
  • Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed II

Best Supporting Actress:

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  • Lucy Boynton, Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Elizabeth Debicki, Widows
  • Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
  • Blake Lively, A Simple Favor
  • Zoe Saldana, Avengers: Infinity War
  • Emma Stone, The Favourite
  • Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Best Young Actor/Actress:

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  • Rohan Chan, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
  • Julian Dennison, Deadpool 2
  • Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
  • Abby Ryder Fortson, Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace
  • Milly Shapiro, Hereditary
  • Millicent Simmonds, A Quiet Place

Best Director:

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  • Ryan Coogler, Black Panther
  • Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
  • Drew Goddard, Bad Times at the El Royale
  • John Kraskinski, A Quiet Place
  • Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
  • Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
  • Anthony and Joe Russo, Avengers: Infinity War

Best Adapted Screenplay:

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  • Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, Avengers: Infinity War
  • Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole, Black Panther
  • Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, & Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
  • Jungmi Oh & Chang-dong Lee, Burning
  • Jessica Sharzer, A Simple Favor
  • Rodney Rothman & Phil Lord, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  • Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, & Will Fetters, A Star is Born

Best Original Screenplay:

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  • Drew Goddard, Bad Times at the El Royale
  • Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
  • Paul Schrader, First Reformed
  • Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie & Peter Farrelly, Green Book
  • Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, & John Krasinski, A Quiet Place
  • Aneesh Chaganty & Sev Ohanian, Searching
  • Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You

Best Cameo:

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  • Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  • Stan Lee, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  • Stan Lee, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies
  • Ross Marquand, Avengers: Infinity War
  • Brad Pitt, Deadpool 2
  • Ray Park and Sam Witwer, Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • X-Men, Deadpool 2 

Best Animated Feature:

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  • Incredibles 2
  • Isle of Dogs
  • Mary and the Witch’s Flower
  • Mirai
  • The Night is Short, Walk On Girl
  • Ralph Breaks The Internet
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Best Comic Book Movie:

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  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Aquaman
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Black Panther
  • Deadpool 2
  • Incredibles 2
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Best Sequel:

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  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Creed II
  • Halloween
  • Incredibles 2
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  • Paddington 2
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet

Best Remake/Reboot:

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  • Bumblebee
  • Christopher Robin
  • The Predator
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  • A Star is Born
  • Suspiria
  • Venom

Best Cinematography:

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  • Annihilation
  • Black Panther
  • The Favourite
  • First Man
  • Hereditary
  • Roma
  • A Star is Born

Best Film Editing:

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  • American Animals
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Green Book
  • Roma
  • Searching
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Best Production Design:

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  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Bad Times at the El Royale
  • Black Panther
  • BlacKkKlansman
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • The Favourite
  • Hereditary

Best Original Score:

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  • Alan Silvestri, Avengers: Infinity War
  • Ludwig Göransson, Black Panther
  • Ludwig Göransson, Creed II
  • Justin Hurwitz, First Man
  • Nicholas Brittell, If Beale Street Could Talk
  • Marco Beltrami, A Quiet Place
  • John Powell, Solo: A Star Wars Story

Best Original Song:

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  • “All the Stars,” Black Panther
  • “Is That Alright?” A Star is Born
  • “Maybe It’s Time,” A Star is Born
  • “Shallow,” A Star is Born
  • “Sunflower,” Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  • “Suspirium,” Suspiria
  • “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Best Costume Design:

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  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Black Panther
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
  • The Favourite
  • Mary Poppins Returns

Best Hair & Makeup:

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  • Bad Times at the El Royale
  • Black Panther
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Destroyer
  • The Favourite
  • Suspiria
  • Vice

Best Sound Design:

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  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • First Man
  • Halloween
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  • A Quiet Place
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  • A Star is Born

Best Visual Effects:

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  • Annihilation
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • First Man
  • Paddington 2
  • Ready Player One
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story

Best Stunts:

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  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Black Panther
  • Creed II
  • Hotel Artemis
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  • The Night Comes For Us
  • Skyscraper 

Best Ensemble:

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  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Bad Times at the El Royale
  • Black Panther
  • Blindspotting
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Best Soundtrack:

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  • Black Panther
  • Blindspotting
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Creed II
  • Ready Player One
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  • A Star is Born

Best Post-Credits Scene:

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  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • Deadpool 2
  • Paddington 2
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse