Because of overly hyped paparazzi magnets like Cheryl Cole and Lily Allen, today’s Euro-girl-pop genre feels like it’s built upon synthetic tabloid stories rather than genuine musical talent. Then there’s Norwegian pop princess, Annie. Her distinctive brand of pop is the kind of music her attention-loving peers wish they made. Anniemal, her critically acclaimed debut, landed Annie with an intimate and devoted fanbase instead of countless scandalous press exposés.
For these fans, Annie’s sophomore album Don’t Stop has been a long time coming. The record has been floating in obscurity for almost a year due to Annie’s split with Island Records last November. Don’t Stop proves to be worth the wait. The released album’s tracklist deviates from the original listing, featuring new tracks and eliminating weaker songs like “I Can’t Let Go,” “Sweet” and, most riskily, “I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me.” These songs appear on a special edition bonus disc, All Night EP, released with the album.
Cutting “UR Girlfriend,” Annie’s lead single last year, from Don’t Stop is a pretty daring move. But it’s justifiable. The track proves to be a throwaway compared to the glossy, revamped slices on the rest of the album.
The overhaul seems to have been a success. The album artwork’s quirky, electro-pop guise is reason enough to give Annie’s music a listen. The cover waxes her candy-coated, electronically hyped sound, featuring Annie’s fluorescently scribbled signature and the artist, clad in a neon-haute number, seductively peering at the camera out of the corner of her eye. It’s bound to make any electro-pop devotee weak in the knees.
Don’t Stop is the definition of “noise candy” — you know you shouldn’t give into its sweet-and-sticky-ness, but you just can’t help yourself. On the record’s first track “Hey Annie,” her chant-like vocals, poppy as bubble gum, are sung over fizzy synthesizers and xylophones, surely satisfying listeners’ sweet tooths.
Still, Don’t Stop marks Annie’s gradual departure from her signature guilty-pleasure sound to the realm of avant-garde electronics and experimental glamour pop. In “Take You Home,” Annie coos the flirty lyrics, “looking for trouble, that’s what I am / playing a game we both understand” with a swig of confidence and addictive charm. The track has a mesmerizing, intense quality, layering carefully planned synths and loops that would make electronic veteran The Knife swoon.
Annie’s album is still full of poppy tracks like the ones that made her famous — but they’re not all gems. One sure misfire is the annoying, overly cutesy “The Breakfast Song.” The track is a pointless slice of electro-junk in which Annie gratingly and repeatedly chants, “What do you want for breakfast?” I don’t know Annie, cereal?
But the most blindingly apparent misstep is one of the final tracks, the sappy, woeful “When the Night.” The song sounds like anything heard at the end of a John Hughes movie, utilizing a stereotypical, slow-paced ’80s pop sound to create a real yawner. The brokenhearted track feels dejected and inconsistent with the album’s bubbly, women-in-power demeanor.
But Annie thankfully brings the album’s theme of female empowerment full-circle in the final track “Heaven and Hell,” with the lyrics, “Tell me, tell me what did I do wrong? / Oh baby, I am perfect.” Girl power at its finest.
With Don’t Stop, Annie is creating pop in the tradition of artists Kylie Minogue and Madonna, but with her own indie-electro spin. Listeners can only hope that Annie will follow self-guidance she proclaims in Don’t Stop and continue experimenting with peppy, sugary-sweet beats.