Tove Lo may have began her career writing songs for other artists, but her debut album, “Queen of the Clouds,” has finally thrust the Swedish singer out from behind the curtains and onto center stage. With Tove Lo’s smooth voice and honest, clever ideas, the 26-year-old’s first album is an impressive launch to a promising musical career.
Tove Lo breached the mainstream when producers Hippie Sabotage remixed her 2013 single “Habits” and turned it into a European hit by the name of “Stay High.” Both songs stand out in the album as particularly strong (“Stay High” is only available in the Deluxe Edition). The song opens with a cheery beat, while the first lyrics sharply contrast this with an off-hand line in which she sings: “I eat my dinner in my bathtub.” The lyric leaves you wondering whether you should laugh or be severely concerned.
From there, it ramps into an honest exploration of the chaotic realm of post-relationship periods and self-medication that’s likely to strike some familiar feelings with its audience.
Tove Lo’s strongest point is undoubtedly her writing ability. The album is comprised of 15 tracks, of which three are intermediary cuts. These cuts, called “The Sex,” “The Love” and “The Pain,” designate clear thematic groups for the songs that follow them. Keeping in mind that the whole album is about romantic relationships, it’s not tough to figure out what the thematic distinctions are. The album’s organization is nice and tidy, but what’s really striking and invigorating is how blunt her lyrics are.
The songs that follow the “The Sex” explore physical attraction and focus more on the other half of her relationships. In “Like Em Young,” she has no qualms revealing that she’s more interested in younger men. These surprising choices of what she chooses to reveal and the open way in which she does this makes her far more admirable than many of her more uninteresting pop contemporaries.
In “The Love” section, she shares more about the way she views herself when in a relationship. Listeners are given more of a first-person view into Tove Lo’s introspective process. “The Way That I Am” explains her personal hopes for a relationship: “Falling in love/ And I hope that you want me/ The way that I am.” This part of the album seems to be a collective reflection of the conclusions she has come to about herself.
The final portion, “The Pain,” takes the listeners on a darker trek through all of the more difficult experiences that come with relationships and their conclusions; This peaks in “Habits” but is present throughout. “Thousand Miles” touches on the first signs of a breakup as Tove Lo runs through all her speculations about what her partner is thinking and feeling.
Tove Lo also has the benefit of a strong yet mellow voice. This positions her perfectly among many other successful women pop singers — Lana Del Rey, in particular, comes to mind often when listening to Tove Lo. She rarely tries to push her vocal chords to their extremes, but this doesn’t come off as a fault. Rather, her restricted use of tonal range seems to accentuate the moments in which she does stretch herself.
The production seems to be the only flaw with the album, but it is unfortunately a major one. The whole album seems to be packed with colorful, smooth tunes ֫— but there’s far too few “wow” moments that could draw listeners back in if one started to lose interest. The only truly impressive production work is displayed in the remix of “Habits,” but the originals leave something to be desired. There is little variety in the music and its style, which detracts somewhat from the poignant thematic areas that the lyrics touch on. The unchanging positive tone of the music creates an unnecessary tension with the lyrics, which often dip into dark and less happy-go-lucky areas.
Tove Lo has done what she needed to do with this album — get herself on the map. With a good start, she has all she needs to delve into a strong career: lyrics that can carry her past others in her field and a voice that can match many. The one major concern that the album faces is that the music itself feels monotonous and oftentimes simply boring. Fortunately, this flatness is not enough to entirely hamper Tove Lo’s obvious talent.