It was probably inevitable that the early '00s pop divas would start to release divorce albums. "Goodbye Lullaby," Avril Lavigne's first disc since her split from Sum 41 singer (and "Lullaby" co-producer) Deryck Whibley, is an album at war with itself, divided into uptempo pop songs meant to evoke the bratty Avril of old and lovelorn ballads meant to introduce a sadder, wiser, more grown-up Avril.
Lavigne, 26, pouts her way through two genuinely terrible, can't-be-tamed punk-pop songs, "Smile" and "What the Hell," both of which bear the heavy hand of super-producer Max Martin, but her heart isn't in it. Once a Hot Topic punk pioneer, she now sounds like a B-list Katy Perry who isn't having any fun.
But "Goodbye Lullaby" is at heart a breakup album, prone to pretty, indistinct heartbreak ballads with swelling strings. Some are generic ("Everybody Hurts," not an R.E.M. cover) and others ("Goodbye") are genuinely affecting, though there's something about Lavigne's voice that makes even the saddest songs seem callow; she has to work twice as hard as the average diva to avoid merely sounding annoyed.
"Lullaby" can't answer the obvious questions: Does anyone want to hear Avril Lavigne being sad? In a Gaga/Ke$ha universe, does anyone want to hear Avril Lavigne at all? It's a problem for which there may be no remedy. Unlike Pink, whose own breakup album "Funhouse" is turning out to be a model of the form, Lavigne isn't a formidable talent who needs only to be set free from her handlers. And unlike the uber-malleable Britney Spears, whose disembodied voice can be plugged into any sound, Avril can only sound like Avril, for better or worse.
Recommended tracks: "Darlin," "Goodbye"