Album Review: Lykke Li – so sad so sexy

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Lykke Li tries out new things on fourth album
Ten years after the release of her debut record Youth Novels, Lykke Li is now back with her fourth album, so sad so sexy. The Swedish pop star dropped two other albums in the meantime (Wounded Rhymes (2011), I Never Learn (2014)), with each of them having a distinctly different sound. Lykke Li first rose to fame with dreamy electro pop, while the follow ups explored a darker sonic world. On her brand new album Lykke worked with a long list of hit producers (including Malay, Skrillex and Ali Payami) and experiments with trap and hiphop while still delivering her signature emotive, but instant choruses.

After touring to promote 2014’s I Never Learn, Lykke Li stayed away from music for a while, until she released some folk tunes as part of her very own supergroup Liv. She might have raised a few eyebrows when she returned as a solo artist in April with the trap inspired double single ‘Deep End’ and ‘Hard Rain’. It is not exactly what people expected from her, but somehow it did work. ‘Deep End’ is an incredible pop song that apparently was first intended to be an acoustic track, but was turned into a slow burning hiphop banger. ‘Hard Rain’ combined Lykke’s often heartbreaking lyrics and deep vocals with a more fresh and contemporary way of producing.

Fans who listen to a Lykke Li record to be hit right in the feels still will find what they are looking for. ‘Last Piece’ is a stunning semi ballad with a soaring chorus that repeats the sentence ‘so let me keep the last piece of my heart, before you tear it all apart’ all over again. The aptly titled ‘so sad so sexy’ expresses both feelings in the lyrics and production and ‘Better Alone’ is the kind of break up track that grabs you by the troat from first listen when it draws its inevitable conclusion: “I’m better alone than lonely here with you.”

You might have made it through all of these tracks mostly unmoved (I sure did not, but you never know…), but Lykke sure saved the most personal for last. The atmospheric album closer ‘Utopia’ was written after Lykke’s mother passed away and describes how her mother always wanted the best(‘utopia’) for her, like Li herself wants the best for her son. It is probably the least obviously produced track on the record, but might actually hit the hardest.

As a reinvention of her sound, so sad so sexy definitely is a successful experiment, although not every single track reached its full potential. Current single ‘2 Nights’ has a deliciously subtle rhythm and a light, steady build up that is completely killed by a sure quite strong, but misplaced rap by AminĂ©. Both ‘Jaguars In The Air’ and ‘Sex Money Feelings Die’ are built around infectious one sentence hooks, that sound like they will get old pretty soon, as they seem to miss the emotional power that the straightforward choruses of tracks like ‘I Follow Rivers’ and ‘No Rest For The Wicked’ did have. Although Lykke Li did not score a 10 out of 10 this time around, she successfully put a contemporary twist on her own sound, while mostly staying true to her lyrical love for the sad and the sexy.

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