If you’re unfamiliar with Tove Lo, you better start learning now. The Swedish-born singer has mostly been in the background of the music biz; writing songs for pop stars including Cher Lloyd and Lea Michelle, and lending her vocals to big EDM tracks by DJs such as Alesso and Seven Lions. It’s a blessing that she’s finally stepped out of the shadows with Queen Of The Clouds, because this debut is pure genius. Set in a story-like manner, the album deals with three themes: The Sex, The Love and inevitably, The Pain. Brutally sexy and disturbingly honest, Tove Lo will have you laughing then crying within a matter a minutes.
What’s special about Tove Lo is that in just a few lines, she can describe an emotion that many struggle to put into words. The feeling of sex and first attraction, for example, is ‘always gonna be the best part of it’ – as she narrates in a six second intro titled The Sex. This leads straight into the album’s first track, My Gun, beginning with a mournful sounding choir before building to an upbeat pop groove. Tove Lo’s vocals are low and seductive, and when gliding into her higher range she does so with a sly ease. This is the flirty stage before the sex, which is later represented in Talking Body. This sultry track quickly rises to be an album highlight thanks to its subdued synths and irresistible chorus. Tove Lo doesn’t hold back, projecting her lust as she belts ‘now if we’re talking body, you’ve got a perfect one so put it on me.’ The magic of this initial attraction is carried on to Timebomb, an odd piano ballad/dance track featuring psychedelic synths. In a bid for creativity she sings out of time to the beat, rushing all her lyrics into a single phrase. Normally this would be a disaster, but Tove Lo performs with such attitude that she pulls it off. The real gem here is the chorus; an explosive hook that lives up to the title, complete with crashing cymbals and a pounding bass. Tove Lo describes these first sensations of love so accurately, it’ll have you wanting to relive your own personal experiences.
Love itself however, is complicated. As Tove Lo puts it, ‘you freak out, because suddenly you need this person.’ She elaborates on this with the defiant love song The Way I Am. It’s a modest sort of track; she admits she’s rough around the edges but capable of giving love. The dubstep beats and her raspy vocals are what give this song its standout attributes, and you can’t help but break a little when her voice cracks into a pleading tone. In another spectrum, Not On Drugs describes the high of Cloud Nine; a wonderful sensation that isn’t induced by substances, but sure feels like it. Tove Lo murmurs over tasteful low-key beats, before taking it up a notch with a euphoric, explosive chorus. Drugs and sex, as we find, is a key theme to the overall album – one that’s present in the early stages of love all the way to its demise.
The Pain indicates that the album’s taken a darker turn. ‘And then there’s no good way to end things, because it’s the ending, y’know?’ she says nonchalantly. Try as she may, she definitely can’t act nonchalant about heartbreak – what we get in this final chapter is painfully real. Thousand Miles begins with soft synth chords, as she paints a nostalgic image of her lover. Before you know it, the track morphs into a heart-wrenching, soaring ballad about a fading love affair. This here is your token break up anthem; one you can unashamedly belt at the top of your lungs. Then there’s the famous Habits (or Stay High, as you might know it) – the hit single that catapulted Tove Lo to fame. It has all the qualities of a good pop song: fun sounding verses and a catchy, yet simple hook. But you’ll sit up when the track morphs into a broken, wailing chorus. This is Tove Lo’s greatest moment – she’s raw and brutally honest as she describes her hedonistic lifestyle and inner turmoil. The passion and emotion peaks at the bridge, where the production in significantly reduced to a mere backing beat as she quivers, ‘can’t go home alone again, need someone to numb the pain.’ Heartbreak isn’t pretty, and Tove Lo doesn’t spare us as she launches into one ugly account after another; all equally painful lyrics disguised with hypnotic beats and slick production.
It’s not an understatement to state that Tove Lo is a force to be reckoned with. With spunk, attitude and heart-wringing emotion, she may have just single handedly delivered one of the strongest debuts of 2014. Both euphoric and candid, Queen Of The Clouds will stay with you long after you’ve finished listening.