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Tove Lo’s ‘Lady Wood’ gives voice to modern feminism

By Adam Lamper

Section: Arts

November 11, 2016

Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Lo, born Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson, made her debut on the pop music scene in early 2014 with her chart-topping sleeper hit, “Habits (Stay High).” Since then, she has released a few new singles that have managed to cross over into mainstream success as well, including “Talking Body” and the most recent off her new album, “Cool Girl.” Additionally, she has both co-written with and sang alongside artists such as Icona Pop, Adam Lambert, Hilary Duff, Nick Jonas, Ellie Goulding and Swedish DJ Alesso, with whom she co-wrote her second-biggest hit “Heroes (We Could Be).” Perhaps best known for her deep and strikingly honest lyrics on her debut album, “Queen of the Clouds,” she has been given the nickname “Sweden’s darkest pop export” by Rolling Stone, and certainly doesn’t stray too far from this in her newest album, “Lady Wood.”

The first song off the new album, “Cool Girl,” was released this past August, the music video for which has since surmounted over 25 million views on YouTube. Like her previous hits, Tove Lo often masks the true intensity and personal aspects of her lyrics behind catchy hooks and a repetitive, EDM-laden chorus. Close lyrical inspection reveals a commentary on the contemporary hook-up culture of today’s youth, and the singer’s dual desires to have a fleeting moment of passion and to foster a more meaningful relationship, insisting that she’s not really just a “cool girl.” Apart from the lyrical aspects of the song, “Cool Girl” features an incredibly bass-heavy, dark tonality that sets the mood for the remainder of the album’s songs. First and foremost, perhaps given her Swedish background, this song features a variety of toned down, synthetic sounds that are new to her style, though distinctively “Tove Lo.”

Alongside her album release, Tove Lo also released a short film on YouTube, “Fairy Dust,” that features many of her newest songs, and also gives context to the music video for “Cool Girl.” Featuring myriad explicit scenes, the video was pulled from YouTube a day after its initial release only to be reuploaded days later.

A true reflection of her lyrical works, “Fairy Dust” features incredibly personal dialogue and otherwise artistic scenes that reflect the hedonistic and sometimes self-destructive meaning behind her songs. Besides her own works appearing in the film, there is an amazingly dense soundscape that lies in between the proposed music videos of Tove Lo’s own songs, as well as extraordinary visual shots by Swedish director, Tim Erem, who has worked to produce music videos with other pop icons like Drake, Rihanna and Katy Perry. Not just an exhibitionary film to highlight and promote the songs on her album, Tove Lo, being the main scriptwriter and executive producer herself, incorporates her own beliefs on identity, sexuality and feminism, even claiming the album title itself, “Lady Wood,” is “about reclaiming the female hard-on.”

Divided into two parts, the album has two distinct feels. The first half, “Fairy Dust (Chapter I),” features the songs found in the short film of the same name, which leads many to believe the second half, entitled “Fire Fade (Chapter II)” will receive its own short film in due time. The difference lies in the instrumentation and sonic quality of the songs, whereas the lyrics explore similar topics across the album. “Fire Fade” contains a much more aggressive techno vibe and a greater vocal range. “Fairy Dust,” on the other hand has a very toned down vibe and even acoustic instrumentation in the song “Vibes,” which serves as a transition between the album’s two halves that begins with a slow, rhythmic guitar melody that gradually transitions into an explosive electropop dance song.

What Tove Lo has in her brutally dark, honest lyrics and undeniable talent as a wordsmith, she seems to lack in producing sonically diverse songs. Though subtle differences exist in her works, there is an overarching theme of deep bass, echoed vocals and similar rhythms that make nearly the entirety of the album feel like you are listening to the same song on repeat upon first listen. Though it is often damaging to an artist’s career to produce music out of their typical genre, it seems that this album plays it too safe, resulting in something, save a few songs, that is overwhelmingly redundant to the point of being boring to actually listen to the whole way through.

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