As a fag scorned and spat upon for never following the Eurovision Song Contest, I would say my immediate attraction to this year’s winner is something of a hallowed turnaround. I may, once again, hold my head up high in a gay bar.
Sweden’s dance/pop raven Loreen captured me at first instance with her bewitching interpretative dance performance of the champion Eurovision song, ‘Euphoria’, which swiftly raced up the charts around the world after taking the crown and even became the first non-UK Eurovision song to make the Top 3 in the UK charts since 1987.
I had so little knowledge of the mononymed artist that every move felt like she was deliberately building a mystery. The heavy bangs, the steely gaze, and that icy-yet-pleading vocal performance in ‘Euphoria’ all set the tone for what was to complete my Loreen experience.
The 29-year old’s debut album Heal is an alluring blend of pulsating dance pop that feel more subtle than what one might initially expect from a Eurovision pop purveyor.
In the current pop market that is already fluent in electronic dance music parlance, Heal speaks a language of its own – shrugging off trendy dubstep inflections in favour of a richer soundscape that enhance its emotive lyrics rather than compete with it. Most tracks on the album are smoothened with waves of atmospheric synths and lush orchestral strings, which really complement Loreen‘s own chilled vocal delivery.
Standouts like the tormented ‘My Heart is Refusing Me’ is a showcase of pedigree dance balladry – just like ‘Euphoria’ – it comes complete with a chorus that formulaically expands after periods of restraint verses. If there is any justice, her international label would release this 2011 single now following her mainstream breakthrough.
The splendid ‘Crying Out Your Name’ – with its percolating synths and drum ‘n’ bass beats – is such a relatable self-destructive break up track. It totally got me with its raw flares of frustration and desperation.
“So don’t you ask me where I’m gonna be tonight. Don’t ask me if I’m gonna be alright. I’ll be crying out your name, drink through all this pain tonight. I don’t even want to fight. I know when the battle’s lost… the painful things you did to me. I’ll do them all to someone else. And that is how it’s gonna be – it takes a lot of self-defence.”
The aforementioned three singles – all produced by SeventyEight (who worked on Kerli‘s ‘Zero Gravity) – make sense as the shining ambassadors of Loreen‘s album but they’re not necessarily indicative of its scope.
Elsewhere, the ethereal ballad ‘Everytime’ harks to the downtempo gems Anggun used to turn out in her prime. I mean, this song was almost designed for soundtracking introspective moments when you’re soaking in the bath, contemplating your next move. I appreciate the deliberately stripped back, acoustic setting in the opening recital of verse one before she repeats it over a bed of winding synths and claps.
As far as cohesion goes, Heal serves a masterful blend of crowd-pleasing Eurodance in its obvious singles candidates and more distilled, chill out sounds. It’s essentially a cathartic break up album – as the title would suggest – offering salvation for disparate moments, whether you’re throwing on the Louboutins to dance the tears away or simply staying at home with the cat, blogging your feelings on Tumblr.
Loreen‘s Heal will be released digitally in Australia on 26 October.