As with most awards, the BBC Sound of… is hard to take seriously. For every deserved win (Adele as the Sound of 2008), there’s a dud; In 2009, the award was presented to Little Boots over someone called Lady Gaga. Recent years suggest the Sound of… is the baby-faced sibling of the Mercury Prize. 2016’s Jack Garratt had a solid but brief run, while the following year’s victor Ray BLK released her debut last year. It failed to chart. 2018’s edition was presented not to current chart-topper Lewis Capaldi or starlet Billie Eilish, but to Sigrid – a 22 year-old from Norway with enough synth-pop tunes to soundtrack ten summers.
‘Sucker Punch’, Sigrid’s debut album, has been a highly-anticipated affair for nearly two years. The ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ EP was released in May 2017, followed by the ‘Raw’ EP fourteen months later. Two EPs, one single and a contribution to the Justice League soundtrack later and Sigrid is making the album jump. And with ‘Sucker Punch’, the Ålesund-born singer is proof that big things come in small packages.
The songs on the record are, as one may have expected, massive. Previous singles have flexed her songwriting credentials but combine that with fresh production and you get ‘Sucker Punch’. ‘Don’t Feel Like Crying’ is a wonderful post-break-up anthem with a post-chorus to savour. It is destined to make you put down that ice cream, jump up on the couch and dance for hours. Debut single ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ is still superb, is a little worn out but in the context of the album it is strong.
The lead single and title-track is an incredibly strong album opener. It possesses an explosive instrumental that builds towards a key change with one of the biggest choruses of 2018, and consequently 2019. Opening an album with a key change is bold but Sigrid pulls it off with confidence.
From then on the album takes a skeptical turn. ‘Mine Right Now’ does not attempt to continue the high stakes of the opener, opting instead to take a different route. The chorus is typically big but the verses do not quite land. While it is thematically consistent with the title-track (short-term relationships aren’t that bad), the song is pleasant but ultimately drab and forgettable. ‘Basic’ is lyrically-testing and despite Sigrid’s playful approach to formula, by track three you may question the album’s direction.
Then ‘Strangers’ enters the fold. The top ten-charting single steers Sigrid towards a more focused path, with its ridiculously large chorus and charm. ‘Sight of You’, much like ‘Don’t Feel Like Crying’, is spearheaded by spry piano chords and a respectable use of violin. Described at a gig as a “love song to old friends and [the audience]”, it is a bouncy and infectious number to tap your toes to.
‘Sucker Punch’ does take a couple passive detours along its journey. ‘Level Up’ is a quiet reflection, sweet but unnecessary. It serves mostly as a mediator between the two aforementioned piano-pop bangers. Album closer ‘Dynamite’ is a live staple and rather disappointingly is the exact same version used on her debut EP. Sigrid has ditched the ‘Acoustic’ label but offers nothing to suggest it is an expanded version. Nonetheless it is a painful track; As she hits the high notes, you can sense the strain and emotional peak.
Sigrid truly finds her footing when she opens up. ‘In Vain’ is striking – you would not believe where the song is going from the top but you are lured in. The song consists of two sections, divided by a cheeky breakdown. Both sections flourish but as a whole, it is a beast. ‘Business Dinners’ operates in similar territory to ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’. A track instructing the music industry that they might want her to be, “sweet, better”, but “I just want to be me”. It is a delightful, Ariana Grande-esque number that stands out after the album closes.
To put it simply, Sigrid and her team are a songwriting tour de force. It is important to remember that this is her debut album and it is a tremendous effort. While it fluffs at times, when the songs are good, they are bold and cultivated. At times you do wish there is more to it than tenuous relationship songs but with songwriting as stellar as this, Sigrid lives up to her Sound of 2018 label a year later with a debut worth the hype.
‘Sucker Punch’ by Sigrid will be released on March 8th via Island Records