Reviewing every kind of music means that one minute you are writing about a polished mainstream singing act like Collabro, then a funk-duo who are friends with Snoop Dogg and then the next an out-there Swedish pop songstress garnering International attention and even whose logo is overtly sensual….
Currently on a worldwide tour showcasing this record, Tove Lo sings about whatever she wants, works with whoever she pleases and wears however much or little in the way of garments as the mood takes her. Yes, Madonna and Lady Gaga have trodden this path, but Tove Lo seems to be something else altogether. Being outspoken and open about absolutely everything is a state your scribe can only imagine..and that, with difficulty. But the world is entirely different – especially socially – from my younger days. Females will invite males out, these days. So I’m told. Away from the slinky presence, daring video outings and blaring promo – does this record indicate any degree of talent or originality ? that, as ever is the question…
The first half of the collection has the subtitle Fairy Dust and lead cut Influence has a guest in the shape of Wiz Khalifa. Now I happen to know that he performed a song for one of the recent Fast & Furious American films, number 28 I believe. (Incidentally I am working on a new English motoring movie serious called Slow & Cautious highlighting sensible and safety-conscious driving habits, the only problem being a rather long run-time of 300 minutes.) It sounds as though someone is lighting a fire of some kind at the start, as low-register synths – oh there’s bound to be synths in contemporary pop – growl softly and a confident vocal commences softly, becoming more emphatic and it must be said tuneful. Surprisingly so, Derulo would be swamped in Vocoder by now! Then Mr Wiz appears, albeit briefly using the rapping style favoured by many of his colleagues. It’s not a conventional duet.
Lady Wood is the title track of the album and is inspired by a term for female romantic arousal. Rather than a posh woman. Again the synths are here and sub-tropical beat soon arrives. So far the record is light on proper instruments. A jungle-tinged reverb is used to complement the sound. The lyric is of the ‘they don’t like you, but I fancy you’ ilk, as used by Phil Spector acts and earlier. ‘Leader Of The Pack’ anyone?
True Disaster has more of a pulse to it and an excellent vocal which is well-recorded and has a better melody but still synths and automated rhythms. That apart, this IS superior tuneful pop. Guitars are credited but they must be treated to hell as I can’t hear them. Cool Girl keeps up the quotient of coarse language, but as I said, Tove Lo says what she wants. She must know this means most radio won’t play her material. ‘I’m that fire kind..we could burn together’. Hard to see many turning this down. Vibes has input from Joe Janiak – yes, that Joe Janiak. And for the very first time, an acoustic guitar can be clearly heard, Lo’s lovely voice floating above it all.
An intoxicating tune, as hedonistic as all the cuts so far. Some real strings would have transformed this into something much better.
So now we move on to the segment named Fire Fade and this starts with Don’t Talk About It which paints an almost Playboy Mansion picture of sensual hedonism unfettered. Very knowing for a relatively young artist, maybe. But who know what life she has lead to arrive here, writing lyrics like this ? It makes the coy tripe that Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and even Miley Cyrus churn out seem very tame. Imaginary Friend finds our lass in confident mood, ignoring the carpers and snipers. But her imaginary friend will be an asset.
Keep It Simple finds Lo for the first time rather vulnerable, over a distorted piano and ominous crash-bang arrangement. The song Flashes has Tove addressing those back home, I think. WTF Love Is closes the record has the defiant Lo back, in come-on-then-if-you’re-hard-enough stance. Another chorus with a curse word.
Having heard this entire album, I don’t think I know Tove Lo any better. I love her directness and her voice is very good – far better than most pop females – and her lyrics contain some brilliant expressive phrases. However I hate the hackneyed, synth-smudged production. Much as I did on the Larsson record. It makes her sound like contemporaries and I think she deserves better. There is just no richness or character in the ‘music’ on this album, which puts it at odds with the artist and her approach. Rise above standard pop, Tove!!
Tove Lo’s new studio album ‘Lady Wood’ is out now (Polydor/Universal).
For more information visit her official website here: http://bit.ly/2pna4a4
In addition, Tove Lo will be performing some shows in the UK during the Summer 2017.
She will be playing the following venues: