She wrote the lyrics on what she thought was her deathbed.
God, keep my head above water
Don’t let me drown, it gets harder
I’ll meet you there at the altar
As I fall down to my knees
Canadian singer/songwriter Avril Lavigne just dropped her first single in half a decade and it’s already sitting at number 5 on the Christian Billboard chart. That’s right, the famed pop-punk idol has crossed over into the Christian music genre with her latest release, “Head Above Water.”
For the last five years, Lavigne has put her career on hold as she fought for her life againt the debilitating Lyme disease. Her struggle was made all the more frightening by her doctor’s inability to recognize the illness and for a while she was left in limbo, feeling horribly ill while being told that it might all be in her head.
It would be nearly two months until the Lyme was diagnosed, but, as anyone who’s tangled with Lyme disease knows, the longer it takes to be treated, the worse the illness will be.
She opened up about the harrowing experience in which she thanked her fans for sending in so many supportive videos:
I sat there in my bed and watched these videos and did exactly what I’m doing right now. I cried through the whole thing. Honestly, I felt very loved. It sounds silly saying it, but I really did feel my fans through the whole process.
The lyrics of “Head Above Water” compare her illness to drowning. Each verse reveals more of the horror she felt as she did not know whether she would beat Lyme disease or not. Then, each chorus comes in like a desperate prayer for God to help to keep her head above the water, and let her last another day.
Musically, Avril has lost nothing in her 5 year hiatus. While the tune doesn’t make the same use of distortion as her previous works, it maintains the rocking pop-punk personality, for which she is known. The focus of “Head Above Water” is on Avril’s voice, which has grown much larger than her early work, “Sk8er Boi” ever let on.
Her arrangement is also very fitting for the song, which builds in intensity and scope throughout. We especially liked the use orchestra to make a thunderous rumble while singing about the storm above. Her melisma on the latter half of the chorus also made us curious how she would sound as a country star.
In a statement released with the song, Avril described how she started writing the lyrics on what she thought would be her deathbed:
“I thought I was dying, and I had accepted that I was going to die. My mom lay with me in bed and held me. I felt like I was drowning. Under my breath, I prayed ‘God, please help to keep my head above the water.’ In that moment, the song writing of this album began. It was like I tapped into something. It was a very spiritual experience. Lyrics flooded through me from that point on.”