A covert Scandinavian invasion of pop music started at the very beginning of the 2010s. In the late 2000s Swedish DJ Basshunter was the star of every school disco with his saga of eurodance hits and in 2010 Sweden’s Idol winner Agnes followed this with the europop classic Release Me. After that was Robyn’s Body Talk trilogy, which spawned the enduring pop-gems Dancing On My Own and Call Your Girlfriend. These successes were soon followed by the rise of the endless number of Scandinavian DJs like Avicii and Swedish House Mafia who dominated the new merging of house and pop music. The final step in this conquest is where Tove Lo comes in: the emerging of the female electro-popstar. Along with duo Icona Pop, Zara Larsson and Danish singer MØ, Tove Lo represents the new electro leaning pop trend happening in the charts right now.
However Sweden-native Tove Lo separates herself from her somewhat similar contemporaries through her darker and far more honest take on pop music. Her sophomore album Lady Wood takes the grungy, synth-influenced style of pop that her first album Queen Of The Clouds introduced and polishes it to create a more personal, unique style.
Lady Wood is split into two chapters both which are preceded by a short title track. The first, Fairy Dust, has a far more upbeat but determinedly cool vibe and seems to reflect Tove Lo’s fun-loving personality. The second, Fire Fade, is more self-exploratory dealing with the singer’s inner anxieties and insecurities. This separation is definitely a novel idea and makes the album stand out as an artistically considered piece of pop music.
There is a definite distinction between the two halves with Tove Lo’s simple but effective lyrics working perfectly to adjust the emotional tone of her synth inspired sound. Fire Fade is where her vocals really shine with the chorus of Imaginary Friend and the beginning of Keep It Simple showcasing her range and the power she can put behind her words. The effects added to her voice only serve to enhance the impact her vocals have. Rather than twist them to sounds you might expect robotic automaton, the effects add an out-of-worldly echo that gives the album a dreamlike quality. While it is the second half that stands outt, as the features of Fairy Dust bring rare lows for the album, the spoken word parts that pop up across Fire Fade across unfortunately lack the emotional depth of songs their attached to.
Where Lady Wood really succeeds is the electro melodies behind Tove Lo’s voice, especially the intros. The beginning of True Disaster has a haunting beauty that works perfectly as a counterbalance to the energetic drop at the chorus. Also the introduction to Don’t Talk About is a the one true synth pop heir to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Run Away With Me.
The recurring celebration of female sexual empowerment tranfers from Tove Lo’s first album. Unlike many other pop stars, Tove Lo does not make her personal inclinations palatable to a conservative audience rather names a song and album after female arousal. Don’t look to Lady Wood for tearful break songs or heartfelt dedications to that one man who just completes her entirely either. Instead the first chapter of her album is refreshingly braided together by desire to experience a sexual relationship without the usual romantic entanglements. With the album’s lead single Cool Girl, Tove Lo even attempts to challenge the affected personality that women are often forced to adopt to make themselves attractive; she revealed to Rolling Stone that the song was inspired by the central monologue of the film Gone Girl. The chorus repeats “I’m a cool girl, I’m a, I’m a cool girl / Ice cold, I roll my eyes at you, boy,” revealing this dark view of male expectation and her cynical attitude beneath her seeming compliancy.
Overall Lady Wood is a strong example of the heights that pop music can reach and distinguishes Tove Lo as a great artist from her many Scandinavian compatriots.
Picks:True Disaster, Imaginary Friend