Zara Larsson

So Good

(Sony Music)

She’s a forthright young singer, a lot of people in the business want to work with her. The pop charts resound with her voice and now here is her album, produced by Ola Makansson. I suppose her natural competition in the music sales charts is Rihanna and Charli XCX and the like. But she seems to have her own character, from what we can hear thus far – so that plus being photogenic means that the sky is probably the limit for her at this point. As I start to play the album, I am fearful that as with most pop-dance releases there is too much temptation to fill every space with synths, how will this one fare ?….

What They Say puts her slightly throaty voice upfront over solemn keys chording and the beats start @ 00.55 fully automating within 01.30 – it’s not bad as a moody starter. Machine handclaps underline the build. It’s a song that never really takes off. Lush Life however dances in on damped notes and a great insistent vocal performance that fuses youthful exuberance, confidence on the melody and absurd catchiness. Play on TV has made this familiar.

I Would Like is softer, more sensual in ambience but the singing – in wronged female character – is forceful. The keyboards lack warmth, but this is modern pop and where this stuff is played such things don’t matter a jot. So Good uses multi-tracked vocals and a lazy electro backbeat, close to Rihanna to these ears.

TG4M is about getting drunk and high, going by the lyrics – over a swaying electro rhythm. A human string section would have improved this no end, it’s all silly synth squiggles in the arrangement and no real colour  ; Only You is almost circus-polka tempo as it stands. Larsson sings well in her sexy voice, the build is cold which doesn’t help ; Never Forget You involves MNEK, whatever or whoever that is. The melody is on the strong side for this collection and the delivery holds nothing back. Within a minute an over-busy beat spoils everything and the lad’s vocal is all pose and no substance.

Sundown goes Caribbean, once again the vocal is quality, better than the song; Don’t Let Me Be Yours seeps in on arpeggio guitar chords and has fine singing. The arrangement is one of the better ones on the record though the synth figures should be erased and replaced with a real trumpet, immediately. Make That Money Girl brings us a muddy vocal – vocoded ? – base track over which our girl sings with custom clarity and again the obvious competing-with-Rihanna is evident. How much better to avoid songs which expose this obsession…

Ain’t My fault is busy as can be before a heavy beat kicks in, the speedy vocal is handled well but overall the arrangement is clumsy where it wants to be horny. One Mississippi has a much more tender vibe about it but the high register effects are annoying and the organ sounds a tad churchy. One of the catchiest melodies on the set – real horns would probably have saved it, over the verse chord progression.

Funeral commences with sombre strings over an edgy tempo, her voice sounds so good on this one and it’s maybe the best song here. I Can’t Fall In Love Without You Rolls out on acoustic piano and Zara eases back to just sing, which she does really well. Bonus track on my copy is Symphony in conjunction with the mighty Clean Bandit with their usual stabby keyboard sound – they never sound cool at the start of their songs – but the song takes shape and moves forward about @ 01.15.

So..a great and sensual pop voice not that well served by mostly average songs, too much plinky synth wadding and a lack of proper instruments which would have put some richness and colour into the recordings. Zara Larsson should not be stuck in a studio stacked with mainly machines, she is better than that.

Pete Sargeant



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Zara Larsson's new studio album 'So Good' is out now on Sony Music.

For more information visit her official website here: zaralarssonofficial.com

Zara Larsson