After what happened with another female singer-songwriter that I reviewed, I figured I probably should have little to no expectations for Swedish songstress Tove Lo’s debut album Queen of the Clouds. Let’s just say those lack of expectations lead to a genuine enjoyment of the album and she absolutely proves that she is way more than just her hit single “Habits (Stay High).” Tove Lo’s album artfully tells the story of a girl in love from the honeymoon phase to the questioning phase and finally to its demise.
The short spoken word intro consisting of “The passion in the beginning is always going to be the best part of it…” is what starts off Queen of the Clouds as she delves into a trance inducing retelling of the three stages of a relationship gone wrong – “The Sex,” “The Love” and “The Pain.” Of course, love tends to form from lust and the first few tracks (“My Gun,” “Like Em Young” and “Talking Body”) are animalistic, slightly obvious indicators of that theory.
“…and then you freak out because suddenly you need this person…” transitions the listener into the falling deeply in love. In “Moments,” Tove Lo is stating that although sometimes she’s kind of a hot mess, she is pretty freakin awesome when she wants to be (which is stated in the line “on good days I am charming as fuck”). The Bond-like “Got Love” and the sounds-like-it’s-remixed-but-not “Not On Drugs” continue in the same dance-pop fashion of the first stage of the album but focus its lyrics to match this portion of the story. Even as love songs, there is not once ounce of cheesy-ness or stereotypicality within them and they set up the next round of songs in an exceptional manner.
“…and then there’s no good way to end things because it’s ending, you know?” leads into the final stage of the relationship and that undeniable riff where she feels her lover is drifting away is clearly indicated in “Thousand Miles.” She gets herself into some not so great “Habits,” and she gets a little cynical (“Run On Love”), but she learns that maybe all of those crazy unconventional things she does for love (“Love Ballad”) are a tad over-the-top and one day she will her perfect match when she least expects it (“Not Made For This World”).
In each phase of Queen of the Clouds, there is one track that stands out from the rest of the bunch. “Timebomb,” “The Way That I Am” and “This Time Around” combined created an emotional masterpiece that could have easily been a simple 3 song EP. These 3 songs open up the audience to the heaviest part of that particular segment in the most lyrically inclined way possible and the fact that each one is of a significantly different tempo add a realistic feel to the storytelling aspect.
“Timebomb” perfectly embodies that moment when you realize that you’re starting to fall for that person and are uncertain whether it can flourish or not. Exquisitely distorted vocals paired with frantic pianos and anthem-like Katy Perry-esque musicality gives the listener an honest look into her struggle of pursuing this relationship in a serious manner.
In “The Way That I Am,” Tove Lo successfully turns the ‘take me as I am and I will love you no matter what’ theme into something more sultry and honest than your average pop song. Echoing, raspy vocals with the perfect amount of soul and angst is every girl’s power song with a strong chorus of “I’m falling in love and I hope that you want me/the way that I am/I’m falling in love and no one can change me/do you understand?” It’s also kind of sexy, and could easily be the theme song for power-hungry women that have a secret kinky side.
Tove Lo learns her lesson when giving her entire heart to someone in “This Time Around.” She reminisces on the good times of the relationship, but its retro meets dark alternative vibe ultimately gives us a full blown look into her disappoint and heartache. It’s a realistic example of how even though we can be disoriented from a breakup, it gave us the chance to learn about what we truly want in a life partner.
With seductive vocals, entrancing storytelling, spellbinding instrumentation, and flawless transitions that you can easily get lost in, Tove Lo’s debut work has got it all. She showcases star potential that fits in the range of Lady Gaga, Charli XCX and Katy while still having the indie appeal of Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches and Sydney Sierota of Echosmith. Queen of the Clouds clearly proves that she is not afraid to be herself, which is commendable for any female artist regardless of genre in the music industry and I can only see her music getting stronger with each album that she puts out.