It's a brilliant observation. The lyrical and musical sophistication heard on 2004's Under My Skin are gone from Lavigne's third disc, The Best Damn Thing -- which instead relies heavily on sub-Good Charlotte pop-punk, bland hooks, and insipid sentiments.
More disturbing are Lavigne's misguided attempts to embrace her girly side, mistaking empowerment for helplessness: "I hate it when a guy/Doesn't get the tab/And I have to pull my money out/And that looks bad," she coos on the title track. In fact, for all of its Joan Jett-esque muscle, "Girlfriend" is basically about two girls fighting over a guy -- stereotypical chick behavior Lavigne used to scorn.
Still, Thing isn't without merit. "I Don't Have to Try" begins with a Peaches-like rap and features Lavigne's best riot-grrrl squeals. Meanwhile, "Hot" and "Contagious" are calorie-free pop pleasures. But unfortunately, those few bright spots aren't enough to save Lavigne's coming-of-age album from falling flat. -- Annie Zaleski