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Picks and Pans Main: Music

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Goodbye Lullaby |


It’s hard to believe it’s been nine years since Avril Lavigne crashed the scene as a 17-year-old punk-pop princess with 2002’s multiplatinum Let Go. Now she’s back as a 26-year-old divorcee, sounding as if she’s hung up her skateboard on her fourth studio effort. Indeed, the sleepy Goodbye Lullaby lacks much of the feisty fun that we’ve come to expect from her. The album finds Lavigne, once a poster child for girl power, playing a more traditional romantic role on slow-to-midtempo tracks such as “Remember When”-a breakup ballad that is one of six cuts produced by the singer’s ex, Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley. Pairing with Pink collaborator Max Martin, though, Lavigne revs up, getting back in touch with her inner brat on the spiky “Smile” and the rebel anthem “What the Hell.”

Sara Evans

Stronger |


“Even on my weakest days, I get a little bit stronger,” sings Sara Evans on “A Little Bit Stronger,” the emotional centerpiece of her first studio album since ’05-and the scandalous split from her first husband that led her to drop out of Dancing with the Stars in ’06. Certainly, Stronger is a potent country comeback, packing an understated power on ballads like the aching “Alone” and “What That Drink Cost Me,” a drunk-driving tale. But faster tracks such as “Ticket to Ride,” one of several bluegrass-tinged tunes, are pretty sturdy too.