As an unabashed Avril Lavigne fan, even I was dissuaded from buying her new album, The Best Damn Thing, by the cavalcade of horrible reviews it had been getting. But the other day, on a trip to Borders to pick up Gordon Lightfoot's Greatest Hits, a solid, new A-Train ballad, "Innocence," was playing overhead—so I figured I'd wave my Canadian flag in a huge way and tack Av's latest onto my tab.
Most of The Best Damn Thing is absolutely fucking horrible—certainly the worst music Lavigne's ever recorded (I chalk this up to the influence of her Sum 41-fronting husband). But say what you want about her contrived image and prosaic lyrics, Lavigne can sing. And just as on every Avril LP, there are like four power ballads that are absolute ear candy on this album, thus almost justifying its purchase price (but not quite).
Which brings me to Faith Hill, who stumbled badly two albums ago in an ill-advised bid for genre-crossing Celine Dion status with Cry. She writes none of her own songs, is sort of annoyingly perfect with her hot country husband and smiling kids, and overcorrected her image with 2005's Fireflies. But don't forget: Before those two misfires came Faith and Breathe. The latter album's title track features Hill and her powerful voice at their absolute best. And the video showcases her smoldering looks in a tasteful way that has yet to be replicated on the small screen. Also on that album is "The Way You Love Me" and its computerized backup vocals, which harken back to Hill's breakthrough hit, "This Kiss", from Faith. While phenomally annoying at first listen, this track grew on me big-time once I got over the too-cute adjectival wordplay and focused on Hill's gift for melody.
Generally speaking, I loathe what's become of modern mainstream country music, just as I loathe how "artists" like Lindsay Lohan, Michelle Branch, Paris Hilton and Hilary Duff have shit all over sensitive chick rock's better-than-advertised legacy. But to deny that there are diamonds in this rough like Hill and Lavigne is to deny the truth in one's very own ears.