Annie’s career may seem to have slowed to a near-halt, with no new albums materialising since Don’t Stop released in 2009, but that’s not due to a lack of success or attention. After breaking onto the scene with Anniemal in 2004, she charted high in her native Norway and decently on the US Dance charts, though her main source of attention came from the music blogs that praised the album to the highest degree upon its release. It’s not hard to see why, either; teetering between simple yet effective pop music and left-of-field experimental numbers, with her own unique style and personality flavouring each track, Anniemal is the kind of debut artists dream of having.
The album had more than its fair share of pop and electronic powerhouses fuelling its success, as well. From the pop mastermind Richard X on Chewing Gum and Me Plus One and fellow Norwegian electro-heads Röyksopp taking the reigns on the album’s main claim to internet fame Heartbeat, alongside contributions from various other producers, one would almost expect Anniemal to fall apart based on the varying contributors alone. Thankfully this isn’t the case; even as it moves to the minimal electro groove of Helpless Fool for Love and the trip-hop of My Best Friend—another Röyksopp track that’s much more recognisable as their work—the songs all feel like a part of a solid collective.
The album’s success makes a lot of sense when Heartbeat is used as an example; there’s a reason it garnered the most success. From its simple guitar and keyboard intro to the melancholy brought on by the synth strings and the club euphoria emphasised by the following drum beat, it turns a simple pop song narrating the act of meeting the object of your affection into something much more emotive, especially when paired with her sugary sweet vocals. It’s as simple as pop songs come on the surface, but shows off a number of layers if you pay closer attention to it.
Annie’s voice and its effect on the myriad of moods the album covers is the album’s main connecting point and its biggest quality factor. Even over the darker, borderline foreboding beat of Always Too Late, her distinct vocals give the song a pure atmosphere; the recurring synth strings and electronic whizzes and whirrs give the song a more whimsical tone, but her voice is the factor that steers the song in that direction. Singing along to Chewing Gum, where she compares men to chewing gum and chants happily about her desire to keep looking out for herself—I don’t want to settle down / I just wanna have fun / I don’t want to settle down / I just wanna chew gum—she gives the man-eating message of the song a much more vibrant, almost cloying style that feels off-beat and distinctly like Annie’s style.
The 80s style of the production is the icing on the cake that is Anniemal. The array of beeps and buzzes on Helpless Fool for Love feels fittingly retro, and Chewing Gum in particular takes to the outright peppiness of 80s synths perfectly, almost completely foregoing any modern touches if not for its up-to-date production values. The dance-pop of Greatest Hit is the only moment to wear the mantle more blatantly than Chewing Gum, adding house, disco and funk elements to the package to fill it out; it also happens to feature the album’s most infectious beat and memorable melodies, and given that it existed five years before Anniemal would be released, it’s surprising how well it melds into the package.
The simplest way to say it is that Anniemal was an album that knew exactly what it wanted to accomplish, and in turn accomplished it to the best of the abilities of those involved in the production. When there are so many powerhouses involved, it’s no surprise that the final package was so influential. Anniemal is a schizophrenic ball of melancholy and euphoria wrapped in an 80s synth package, with Annie’s perfectly sweet vocals throwing a wrench in every track and making it entirely her own beast. It may not be one of the most successful pop debuts in music history, but it’s easily one of the most effective and infectious.