Tove Lo turns to a sadder brand of pop on 'Blue Lips'

Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 4:30pm

For years, Swedes dominated the pop charts from behind-the-scenes. With A-list songwriting teams controlling American Top 40, the careers of stars like The Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears existed almost entirely off of Swedish production teams. These Swedish pop songs dominated the charts but were characteristically unemotional and artificial (think about the minimal depth of “...Baby One More Time”). When Tove Lo, born and raised north of Stockholm, found international fame with Lady Wood, she furthered the Swedes’ pop chart sweep, emerging from behind the booth with highly sexual pop music. However, with Blue Lips (lady wood phase II), Tove Lo delivers a dark, electronic album that reaches for emotional depth at the unfortunate cost of sacrificing its pop appeal.

At times, the album feels like familiar Tove Lo pop, boasting overtly sexualized choruses and dark basslines. “Disco Tits,” the album opener, puts Tove Lo in the middle of the dance floor, paying homage to Europe’s house history with a droning, deep bassline. As the lead single, it’s also the most radio-friendly, featuring the catchiest chorus on the album and a rare glimpse of Top 40-oriented pop on the album. “Bitches,” another album standout, is classic Tove Lo describing how she will “let you be (her) guide while you eat (her) pussy out.” The track is aggressively sexual and feels the most carefree.

However, Blue Lips sheds a new light on Tove Lo — one that is romantic and sentimental. These tracks, although compelling, don’t provide that infectious Swedish bubblegum pop. On “Cycles,” Tove Lo walks listeners through a narrative of falling in love with an ex-lover. It’s sad and earnest but doesn’t lead to a notable chorus you’d sing in the car. “Romantics” falls similarly short, providing a glimpse into Tove Lo’s vulnerable side but at the unfortunate cost of delivering less catchy pop music.

But there are times when Tove Lo’s sentimentality aligns well with her pop songwriting. “Bad Days” sounds bittersweet, still conveying Tove Lo’s regretful breakup but not to a point where it overwhelms the catchiness of the chorus. “hey you got drugs,” steadily builds into a stripped down Tove Lo questioning “hey you got drugs / Just need a pick-me-up only for tonight.” The track closes the album with her repeated questioning and marks a rare moment of self-reflection. I’m left with a slight taste of sad pop that recalls Lorde’s Melodrama lyricism and suggests that, amidst all the sex and drugs, Tove Lo has a heartbreak story she’s yet to tell.