Published on December 10th, 2014 | by Simon Maracara0
To love Tove Lo’s “Queen Of Clouds” – A second listen kind of review
2014 has been a year for melancholic Pop Music. From Sia’s Chandelier to Sam Smith’s Stay With Me and Hozier’s Take Me To Church, the popular playlists in clubs and home speakers had been painting a rather blue landscape with odes to heartbreak and the headache (and emptiness) that comes from trying to cope through drinks, cigarettes and others.
And by others, well, drugs are a thing now in Pop Music. No more virginal (yet hypocritical?) idols, future generations will have to do with the intoxicated antics of Rihanna, Kesha and Miley.
Youngsters seemed tired of club bangers and the “raise your hands up” or “it gets better” kind of anthems from the likes of Rita Ora and Jesse J, giving way to acts such as Lorde, FKA twigs and Lana Del Rey to fill the airwaves without being overshadowed by Taylor Swift’s latest offering.
Cue the entrance of Ms. Tove Nilsson from Sweden.
Undoubtely (but perhaps unknowingly), the Swedish have made of Pop Music what it is today: a flashy melodic affair to uplift one’s emotions. Going all the way back to the times of ABBA in 70’s, to Ace of Base in the 90’s, and in a quieter way over the last 10+ years with the work of Max Martin: the master mind behind practically half of the pop songs to hit the Top 10 of Billboard in the US (Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, etc). Also you can’t forget about Eurovision’s winner from a few years ago, Loreen.
So it should come as no surprise, while listening for a second time to Tove Lo’s debut album “Queen Clouds”, that this Stockholm native really knows how to pen some massive pop choruses (she has writing credits on all of her tracks and has already a career writing songs for Girls Aloud, Icona Pop and other acts). Her debut LP released last September is a strong compilation of catchy yet solid songs to discuss her rather tragic approach to relationships in a three-chapters concept album: The Sex, The Love, The Pain.
In the first set of songs Lo is enthusiastically crooning about enjoying her body, about guns as metaphors for body parts and about chung wan’s hot bodies, after all it is the chapter called “The Sex”. The tracks play like a raw/grittier version of Rihanna’s catalogue but with an unmatched prose and a laid back production that positions her voice right at the centre of the drums, synths and electric guitars.Then the tone turns with “Timebomb”, a massive love declaration for a guy she knows is not the right one. It plays a little like Katy Perry’s “Firework”, but with actual heart, when she admits in the chorus “we’re not forever, you’re not the one, you and I we’re a timebomb-bomb-bomb-bomb”. Amid 80’s keyboards flying left and right, it reaches the hopeful break of the song: “You and I could be the best thing ever”. Oh, but things don’t go as planned.
“Moments” opens the second chapter as a fair disclaimer to her new lover: “I can get a little drunk, I get into all the don’ts, but on good days I am charming as fuck”. Instead of being a perky-funny claim, her delivery makes it a vulnerable plead for one shot at love, definitely a highlight of the record. Another great moment comes with “Got Love,” a happier note rounded out with an epic yet crystal clear chorus that thematically has probably been revisited plenty in the past, but with enough melody and enunciation to freshly sing about the power of love over mountains, valleys and rivers in 2014.
Clearly what has called the attention on the young singer is her honesty on the use of narcotics in a gloomy sort-of-depressed fashion. I read this once in a comic book and has felt truth ever since, “I like any song that can make me cry while everyone else is dancing”. That’s why I think Tove Lo came out with a pretty great album that more people should give a first, second and third listen. She openly laments taking drugs on the sleeper hit “Habits” (released back in March, it just started to hit the charts last November), to numb her senses in order to forget she’s missing her ex-lover, while the production gradually elevates in a beat orgy that is dying to be remixed over and over again. She also assures that her euphoria infused track “Not On Drugs” is because of love, the second single of the record and from where the title “Queen of the Clouds” comes.
Once the album reaches its final chapter, one realises that “The Pain” was always there from the beginning but it’s better expressed in the closing numbers, “Thousand Miles” and “This Time Around” (on the standard edition). Here, she lyrically addresses her attempts to save her relationship and later herself from the distraught state that we all know too well. It’s more than often linked to a moronic idiot who decided to not love us anymore, who left us with pathetic excuses and a bad case of syphilis… wait, I take that back. Or not. Anyways here’s a pop record that it’s honest, catchy, emotional, Snoopy-dance-able, and all around great, or in Lo’s own and very eloquent words “is a lot about the melody, and also having a little bit of melancholy or a darker sense to it.” Cheers to Sweden once again.