The fourth studio album to come from Avril Lavigne, entitled Goodbye Lullaby, strips down past years' theatrics and focuses primarily on the emotional origin of the musical content. Because of Lavigne's need to express the personal journey she has undertaken since 2008's The Best Damn Thing, her musical growth is left overlooked as the acoustic-based instruments take a back seat to her powerful vocals. The title Goodbye Lullaby is definitely an accurate depiction of the album's tone both instrumentally and lyrically. Almost every song reveals a desperate attempt at holding on to something that is no longer in her life, and consequently describes the loneliness and forgone magic of losing relationship security. These seem to be obvious reflections of the personal losses that she has experienced within the last few years during her divorce to Sum 41's Deryck Whibley. With this knowledge, one is slightly more inclined to forgive the repetitive theme and mediocre lyrics within most tracks, and rather embrace the emotional honesty of a girl who so rarely lets down her guard.
The fourteen track album contains promotional material she has created, such as "Alice", which was used for the Alice in Wonderland 2010 film, and her fragrance's theme song, "Black Star". This longer-than-average track listing would presumably be due to a wide range of material, yet this is not the case as they all seem to follow the reflection of a single event. Lavigne has expressed a small battle with her record label to include each of these songs because of her connection to their emotional meaning. This is evident in the entire second half of the album, as there are no breaks from the soft simplicity and classically over-pronounced syllables that is typical of Avril Lavigne during the last eight, pop-ballad tracks. The beginning of the album, in contrast, feels slightly uneven. While first single "What The Hell" has a Kelly Clarkson meets Kesha sound reminiscent of the catchy vibe she has been recently known for, "Smile" is an upbeat number full of awkwardly placed swear words and mentions of drunken tattoos. This seems to highlight Lavigne's immature reputation that she should have outgrown long ago.
This theme, however, is barely present within most of Goodbye Lullaby, especially compared to her more recent albums. In fact, this fourth installment is more reminiscent of her debut Let Go, which featured much of the same acoustically driven, singer/songwriter elements. This is noticeable in "Not Enough" and "Remember When", which are heartfelt ballads similar to her 2003 hit "I'm With You".
Songs like "Stop Standing There" and "Everybody Hurts" get lost within the ongoing message of regret and loneliness, but track "Darlin" has the innocent layer of an endearingly sweet disposition. It seems that this direction showcases the growth that is needed for her career to unfold beyond her typical teenage angst theme that remains in this album with songs like "Push" and "Wish You Were Here". This is ironic, however, because "Darlin" happens to be the second song that Lavigne ever wrote at age fifteen. Despite her youth at the time of its origin, this song possesses more clarity than most other tracks on this album.
Final track, "Goodbye", is an excellent choice to close out the LP before the bonus "Alice". It is one of the songs on the album that was completely written and produced by Avril herself, which is representative of her need to use Goodbye Lullaby as an emotional time capsule. The background of string instruments and her softly ringing vocals, combined with the devastating acceptance of heartbreak in the song, make it the most touching track amongst the rest. While the journey of the album tends to stall, by the end of this song, it is easy to appreciate her artistic choice for its direction even though it may not be the most stand out development of her career. Though portraying less growth and range, Goodbye Lullaby bares Lavigne's soul, leaves one with a regretful sense of empathy and sadness, and as a whole achieves the message she wished to express.