Flying high since the success of her debut record ‘Queen of the Clouds’, and in particular the well known single ‘Habits’, Tove Lo returns to share more of her personal, no holds barred pop music. Her decision to share things that other people would prefer to keep out of the spotlight carries through onto her second album ‘Lady Wood’, as she tackles a myriad of topics close to her own life and experiences.
Going back to her tales about taking drugs that featured on the first album, on ‘Influence’ she warns the subject to not take what she’s saying seriously as she’s under the influence. This detached attitude is pervasive throughout ‘Lady Wood’. “I know what people say about you, they say the same about me” she sings nonchalantly on title-track ‘Lady Wood’, an empowering song that has Tove Lo talking about her own sexuality in the way we often hear men speak about it in music. It’s an angle that is popular in music today. From Taylor Swifts ‘Blank Space’ to Lily Allen’s ‘Hard Out Here’, feminism is a hot topic within music since the last few years.
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Tove Lo takes a rather understated approach in her music. You know what she’s trying to say and the point she’s trying to make, but it’s as if she’s rolling her eyes at the same time like it’s a non-issue. It’s an interesting perspective and means the album can shine as a pop record without becoming too wrapped up in being topical or making social issues the centre of attention.
Lead single ‘Cool Girl’ is a great example of Tove Lo’s effortless ability to engage socially without it being overwhelming. Gillian Flynn’s extremely popular novel ‘Gone Girl’ contained a monologue on what a ‘cool girl’ is: “basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain“, whereas in Tove Lo’s version, ‘Cool Girl’ is the girl that has no time for boys. It’s an interesting contrast, and shows two sides of a similar coin of women’s representation within popular culture, whilst still maintaining typical pop song lyrics at its core.
Album highlight is ‘Don’t Talk About It’, a moody pop song with an undercurrent of sadness to it, making it sound almost desperate. The lyrics of the song allude to mental illness “take our pics it’s like a fix for your anxiety, the world is beautiful, so why don’t you feel anything?” and how people can use seemingly shallow endeavours to avoid talking about it. It fits with the theme of ‘Lady Wood’, it’s pop music with serious and dark tones within it, and is the song on the album with the most play-it-again qualities.
There are definitely stand-out songs on this album, (‘Cool Girl’, ‘Don’t Talk About It’) whilst some fade into the background as “okay” songs, but not what you’d expect on a pop album from an artist this big – see especially the uninspiring intro and interludes. It’s clear that Tove Lo has streamlined her sound since her debut and been more selective when songwriting, but it’s not yet a behemoth of glossy, dark pop gems.