Back in 2014, the Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Lo released her first album. She managed to keep a consistent body of work throughout a staggering 24-track record – something unusual in debuting artists. Tove explored the themes of love, sex and pain in a deeply personal way that quickly garnered support across the world and was generally applauded by the critics, who praised her sharp, straightforward songwriting. Two years later, her sophomore dropped. Critics and fans loved it alike, but one thing started to get tiresome; the lyrics. Lady Wood was once again a concept album about relationships, a ‘rollercoaster’ of emotions and getting high whilst chasing the rush – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it I guess! She quickly announced that there would be a second phase to Lady Wood, a darker record that would represent the peak and downfall of a relationship. The repetition in themes in music is something everyone does, and it is not bad as long as there is quality to back up that ‘laziness’ – Lady Wood did deliver her biggest tracks yet, but will Blue Lips come anywhere close?
Starting with the first single, “Disco Tits“, Tove Lo pretty much summarises the record in one song. Over-compression on everything, un-climatic flat structure, repetitive lyrics and a strong will to make songs last longer than they should – just like students try to reach for the word count in essays. Nevertheless, she does succeed in making a good, solid pop song despite having a wildly repetitive structure.
The worst song by far is “Struggle” though, Tove Lo puts her writing and singing on automatic mode, resulting in an anodyne mess that leads nowhere and that does not have any sort of purpose on the record other than to be filler. Another track that just sits in the tracklist without really doing much is “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” – which I want to believe is a quick demo she recorded the night before the album deadline because there is nothing else in the world that can excuse such a horrid song.
Things do get better with average songs like the Julia Michaels impersonation disguised as an original song called “Cycles“. At some points one can easily tell the massive influence the song “Issues” had on the writing. Had Tove Lo decided for a more focused production, songs like “Stranger” or “Shivering Gold” could have reached its full potential – the former being the zillionth attempt at a new “Style” by Taylor Swift and the latter sounding like more of the same ‘dark and edgy’ pop she is known for. In “Stranger“, for example, she gives out all the song in the first half – everything after that is simply pointless and repetitive. Tove Lo tried to balance out sounds from her acclaimed debut and Lady Wood in Blue Lips. You can never please everyone though, and when doing so, you are more likely to end up in a no-mans land like this record has proven.
If there’s one song that has been completely ruined by its artistic choices is “Romantics” – a massive chorus that precedes one of the cheapest drops in the history of music. Another Tove verse and a bridge could easily substitute those to make the song actually listenable.
It is important to mention that her talent is still there; when she gets it right, the songs can be bombastic. In “shedontknowbutsheknows” [sic], we finally see some development in her lyrics, singing from the point of view of the woman a guy is cheating with and commenting on the feelings of his actual girlfriend. Catchy hooks, interesting lyrics and a great delivery – however it falls flat in a couple of plays as the song does not progress anywhere throughout its whole length, perhaps due to the extreme austerity in the production.
Nevertheless, it isn’t the most Lady Wood sounding songs that are the best – “Bitches” and “Hey You Got Drugs?” easily fare amongst her best tracks. The first is a short-but-flaw-free, proper edgy pop song that is completely unexpected after the relentless succession of disappointments in the tracklist. We find Tove Lo at her best in this song, with a perfect pre-chorus and a massive chorus that completely blows you away – just like she has always done! The second is her most honest mid-tempo yet, charged with emotion despite everything being programmed ’till hell and back. In “Hey You Got Drugs?” she sings about the end of a relationship in a direct, no-filters way and her voice sounds as raw as it could get. It is worth noting that Tove Lo has released one of the main competitors for the bridge of the year with “Hey You Got Drugs?” – an infectious melody that elevates the song to a new level.
In summary, Blue Lips is a record with its lows and highs – mostly lows and few highs. There is one predominant issue; uninspired and repetitive themes in lyrics. With only five truly great songs, she could’ve easily kept this record in the shelf and re-released Lady Wood with its two amazing short-movies and a third chapter to wrap things up. If there is one thing that Blue Lips has proven is that Tove Lo is right now being the IKEA of pop, releasing the same music over and over without really taking any risk in terms of sound or lyrics.
(5.7 / 10)