The Swedish pop nihilist peaks out of her dark pop shadows, finding some illicit thrills on an edgy and intimate new album that is expertly crafted with bold new sounds.
It has been six years since Tove Lo graced us with her sad banger “Habits (Stay High),” a hazy, self-destructive break-up pop anthem that slowly climbed up the charts, won awards and the hearts of millions globally and exposed the Swedish pop nihilist to mainstream audiences. The sparse production on the track in addition to the brazen lyrics were very edgy, fresh and exciting for a pop song in the mid-2010s. And these characteristics are what define Tove Lo’s style of music and it remains to define her career in the following years. Since her debut, she has released three concept albums – all to critical acclaim – wrote several hits for other artists (anyone remember the cultural impact of “Love Me Like You Do”) and toured globally with her own concert tours and multiple festival appearances.
What is evident on her fourth studio album, Sunshine Kitty is a new different sound. Don’t get me wrong, the same electropop sounds that defined her earlier work still exists but after taking a dark turn on 2016’s Lady Wood and an even darker turn in themes, lyrics and sound on 2017’s Blue Lips, she turns to a more upbeat, electropop and synthpop sound. The album boasts a collection of intelligently written and slickly produced pop offerings. “Really Don’t Like U,” which features the legendary Kylie Monogue is a reminder that Lo still knows how to expertly craft a glittering tune filled with fizzling hooks. Or look at lead single, “Glad He’s Gone,” where Lo comforts a pal after they have split with a fuck boy – it is a sun-drenched tropical beats filled track with electronic falsetto vocals showing off her production range in crafting songs that she wants to create.
Musically, her writing is the most vibrant it has ever been (which could explain her shift toward a more upbeat and tropics-friendly sounding sonic range). She uses the meticulous, straightforward and distinctively Swedish approach to pop music with today’s mainstream and popular usage of chill vibes and trap beats to entrance the listener with her messages. Midway through the album is a Jax Jones collaboration “Jacques,” a slick, house banger that dazzles and stands out among the many shimmering electropop tunes that make up the rest of the record. The steamy “Are U Gonna Tell Her” which features MC Zaac, is a whirlwind of techno, Reggaeton and hip hop trap beats, illustrating the tug-of-war between her thoughts and the sounds that go along with them. The heavier beat and robust dynamics of current single (as of writing) “Sweettalk My Heart” literally resembles a heartbeat in the midst of passion with the backing bass and drum beats – the song depicts a picture of a struggle for deeper commitment and longing for something new.
Lots of people make songs meant to dominate the streaming era nowadays, but none or few of them are as magnetic as Tove Lo. I mean her concept with this album is female empowerment in relationships. The cat on the cover of the album is a “play on pussy power” for her but the title and iconography run a bit deeper than that – it ties in with the lynx, an extension of herself and a part of her new music (Lo in Swedish means lynx, one of her favorite animals). The feline is an excellent symbol and reminder though that pop stars sometimes have as many lives or opportunities as cats have lives, that even they stumble, the best of them land on their feet.
Sunshine Kitty at the end of the day is Lo’s most “light at the end of the tunnel” album. It is more empowering than her previous works and represents an affirming feel at the core that Lo may be coming to terms with past romantic misadventures like the ones that she has written about in her previous works but using a new bold sound to uplift her words. Her fourth album sticks to the same formula that many other pop artists use but it definitely is no bad thing: it features some her best work in years and a shift to something bold and new and it helps to have some new and unusual collaborators (Doja Cat?). Exhilarating and fearless, she ensures that she’s stayed relevant with a bold and new and brilliant record.
Essential Track(s): “Glad He’s Gone,” “Sweetalk my Heart,” “Are U Gonna Tell Her?” (featuring MC Zaac), “Really Don’t Like You” (featuring Kylie Minogue)
Released: September 20, 2019.
Featured Artist(s): Alma, MC Zaac, Jax Jones, Doja Cat, Kylie Minogue.
Tour: "Sunshine Kitty World Tour"  (as of publishing)
Vinyl Edition: Yes - through various outlets (as of publishing).