Tove Lo’s new album is derivative and boring

By YOOSOO YEO | September 26, 2019

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Daniel Åhs karlsson/cc by-s.a 3.0

Swedish singer and songwriter Tove Lo dropped her fourth album, Sunshine Kitty, on Friday, Sept. 20. In the making of this album, she collaborated with various artists, including English producer Jax Jones for “Jacques,” a lively house-vibe song. Doja Cat, an American rapper and singer, and Australian singer Kylie Minogue are also featured in two of Tove Lo’s songs.

She first came into the spotlight with her grunge-inspired pop song, “Habits (Stay High)” in 2014. While it wasn’t an instant hit, it slowly made its way up the charts and eventually peaked at number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts. 

To rekindle my love for that song, I recently turned it on again, and just like six years ago, it has been on repeat ever since.

The lyrics, the music video and her shameless way of singing about sex, drugs and alcohol all combine into a provocative masterpiece. The beat is addicting, the music video is alluring and her lyrics, while some may say are nothing but shallow, are just too raw. 

Unlike the uninhibited styles of some of her own songs, the hit songs she’s written for other people have a different mood to them. She demonstrated her versatility as an artist when she helped write Grammy-nominated hit, “Love Me Like You Do,” as well as other songs for famous singers like Lorde and Icona Pop. 

In an interview with Billboard, she explained, “This album is written from a calmer, new kind of place so, naturally, it’s me looking out instead of looking in.” 

Sadly the songs from her new album don’t have the same effect on me as her 2014 release did. She seems to have switched from self-destructive mode to self-actualization mode — but my personal disappointment with her profession of newfound purity may just show that I prefer art and music as a form of commiseration.

Nevertheless, three of her top hits are “Glad He’s Gone,” “Bad as the Boys” and “Sweettalk My Heart.” The first is a very relatable song about true friendship, in which Tove Lo helps her best friend recover from a bad breakup. It’s a cute song, but something about the specific melody combined with her high-pitched voice freaks me out. The whole song is just Tove Lo telling the cliched plot of her friend’s relationship with the words “he’s gone” inserted all throughout. 

Regarding the song “Bad as the Boys,” Tove Lo explained to Apple Music that the context behind the song involved her realization that she was not just attracted to boys: 

“‘Bad as the Boys’ is based on one of my first crushes that I had on a girl. When I realized that I was attracted to girls as much as boys, it was an exciting but confusing feeling,” she said.

A female artist singing about another empowered woman, as suggested by the title, has its feminist nuances, serves an encouraging message and is fitting with the progressive times we are in. 

But frankly the melody simply reminded me of at least five other pop songs. Listening to that song once was enough. 

Another hit, “Sweettalk My Heart,” she described as about “being happy with the ability to be naïve when it comes to love.” 

It’s not about being cynical, it’s about choosing to believe someone because you feel them in the moment,” she continued. 

All the songs convey heartfelt messages with carefully thought-out lyrics, but none of the songs actually made a lasting impression on me. 

They seem to be relatable to every listener, and maybe that’s the problem. 

Add lyrics about friendship, heartbreak and the broad concept of love to a basic beat, and all you get is pop turned Taylor Swift.

I’m definitely not an expert when it comes to analyzing music, but a lot of the songs from her new album don’t sound too different from the array of mainstream pop songs that often reach Spotify’s top pop playlists and are nothing more than that. 

The New Yorker previously described Tove Lo’s sound as “of the moment: simple, spare, electronic, and unfussy,” but all I seemed to get from her newest album was ambiguity and conventionality. 

Her lyrics were always more straightforward than poetic, but she managed to differentiate herself with a refreshingly new rhythm through “Habits,” whereas that of the songs from her newest album felt too mainstream.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think that Tove Lo is undeniably badass, and I applaud her for always making a liberal statement with her songs — but I can’t say I didn’t expect something more. 

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