If a camel is horse designed by committee, then what does that make an elliphant… the same committee designing a pop-star? Looking over the writing and production credits for Ellinor Miranda Salome Olovsdotter’s – otherwise known as Elliphant – debut album, Living Life Golden, over 20 individuals are given a nod for song-writing, and 16 producers are named in the liner notes, with Sony Music’s golden boy, Dr. Luke, taking the helm as Executive Producer. All for 12 songs; sounds like a committee to me, and the label evidently wasn’t worried about having too many cooks in the kitchen. With the involvement of so many, it’s actually surprising that Living Life Golden is as coherent as it is.
The album’s first third is all dancehall reggae, and rap inspired swagger and vocal syncopation. This is Elliphant at her weakest, and it’s difficult not to consider cultural misappropriation when listening to a 30 year old Swede affect a faux-Jamaican accent (the start of Love Me Badder) and sing “I love your gansta ways” (Love Me Badder), and “ain’t nobody do it real these days” and “I’m shinin’ when that camera click, nigga” on Everybody – okay, that last line is sung by Azealia Banks, but if the internet hadn’t pointed that out for me I doubt I would have spotted the slight differences in their voices, and unless a guest vocalist of colour is always going to be used in a live setting, say goodbye to hearing the (full) song in concert. It is interesting that Love Me Long features an actual Jamaican dancehall/reggae singer, Gyptian, yet lacks any of the genre’s tropes that are so readily applied to the preceding tracks, instead focusing on being the best little electronic-pop song it can be – including a hint of auto-tuned vocals – and kicks of the pop oriented last two thirds of Living Life Golden.
Electro-pop/EDM song, Hit And Run, does away with the rap posturing that marred the earlier songs, and consequently Olovsdotter’s vocal strengths are on full display here, showing why demand is growing for her to lend her voice to other artists’ songs. Where Is Home, featuring Twin Shadow, is a solid pop song, with just enough huskiness of Elliphant’s earlier vocal delivery on display to provide a satisfying warmth to the vocals. One More again showcases Olovsdotter’s strong vocal abilities by pitting her against Karen Marie Ørsted (stage name MØ) and together the two women weave gorgeous vocal harmonies over a minimal, electronic, musical backing. Dubstep superstar, Skrillex, appears on Spoon Me, but there are no electronic squeals and squawks to be heard, instead a fast tremolo is applied periodically to the song to adequately transpose dubstep’s trademark sound to electronic-pop.
Elliphant clearly has vocal talent, and it won’t be surprising to hear her voice appear on an increasing number of releases. It won’t be disappointing either, provided she isn’t asked to replicate her efforts from Living Life Golden’s first third. With a tighter focus applied to the writing and production of this record, Living Life Golden could have been the breakthrough album for Elliphant that the label was clearly aiming for.