As I clear out the seemingly bottomless pit of Swedish pop album I’ve accumulated over the years, I now arrive at the first (and so far only) solo effort from former A*Teen Marie Serneholt. I did enjoy what I heard of the A*Teens, though I wish they didn’t occupy the first slots of my iTunes library (seriously, what comes before A*?) out of a misplaced sense of musical dignity (seriously, who am I kidding?). I originally got this because of a super pair of lead singles, but never really got motivated to listen to the rest. UNTIL TODAY!
08 Enjoy the ride – A faux-Arabian twang to start off, with some serious-sounding vocals from singing Barbie that don’t really convince me. I can’t even bring myself to snigger to potentially suggestible lyrics about riding, straddling, making her sweat etc. I somehow think she’s probably talking about an actual horse ride or something. The chorus has a nice melody and it’s a fluffily easy listen. There’s a brief flirtation with a dance breakdown and then a KEY CHAAAANGE! Enjoying it so far!
07 Wasted Love – What are all these pseudo-Egyptian noises doing on this album? (I want to describe something as “quasi-” something, let’s hope they do it again). It’s a bit of a downbeat midtempo about being disappointed by some waste-of-space boy. The rather clumsy melody helps to stand this one out, but she doesn’t really sound THAT sad. COMMIT TO THE ROLE MARIE. At least it’s a change from what I feel will be a series of perky pop songs.
10 That’s the way my heart goes – YAY I love this, the lead single that perked my ears up in the first place. A mixed bag of strange effects, the sneaky twanging accompaniment to the verses, the infectious “dum di dum” hook, but it’s all good. The bridge and chorus really are solid gold pop. This is nearly 7 years old now and still feels fresh. Well maybe it sounds a bit like a Rachel Stevens single, but she was always pretty good value wasn’t she? (poor cow). The middle-eight doesn’t let up, and we get the classic old “quiet bit before the last big chorus”. Perhaps I feel sold a bit short without a key change, but this is still a delight.
10 I need a house – Second single now, and she’s a very demanding woman isn’t she? Maybe that cheap shot of a Barbie comparison wasn’t that far off, she needs a house, a car etc (sold separately). The verses are nice and sweetly delivered, but it’s really the choruses that shine, they’ve really got a good ear for a hook haven’t they? Totally adorable and relatable (ish). The vocals aren’t exactly stretching her but it’s really gorgeously delivered, perfect for her.
07 Beyond tonight – So far I’d remembered all these tracks from earlier listens, but not this one. Starts off as a timidly solemn little ballad, all airy and cold. Doesn’t really go anywhere though, the chorus wafts into my ears without any beats kicking in. It’s a pretty little soundscape, I can imagine some cheapo staging, a sparkly star backdrop, lots of white outfits and dry ice. A bit like that palace in Neverending Story. Am I rambling? Well the song has let my mind wander a bit. A beat does kick in about 2 minutes too late, and it does build to quite a nice climax, but it’s too little too late.
09 I love making love in the morning – Oh well no two ways about it, this one IS supposed to be about shagging, the dirty mare. Oh how could I say something so wicked? Barbie has found her Ken, and now she wants to get busy. This is done via a day-glo cousin of an early Kylie song, it’s infectiously happy, which lets me give them the benefit of the doubt on some of the ropier aspects of this (lyrics, verses, all minor issues I’m sure you’ll agree). Does fit her voice totally, but it’s so devoid of sexiness that she might as well be making pancakes in the morning. I bet they’d be really nice though.
08 The boy I used to know – That sneaky beat is back from “That’s the way my heart goes”, but sadly we aren’t approaching such a treat. Marie needs some closure on a failed relationship, was it her or him? Actually this chorus is pretty tight, and she does add a faint sliver of ferocity to her vocal delivery. The harmonies on the chorus really make this though. That middle-eight isn’t half bad either, well done everyone.
06 Calling all detectives – Oh with a name like that it’s sure to be good. We’ve got police siren effects, overheard phonecalls, it’s like being in Sin City! (or more like Who Framed Roger Rabbit). The chorus is unusually delivered in some breathy whisper that doesn’t really add any weight to things at all, apart from maybe appreciate her vocals elsewhere. For a midtempo it relies on this lyrical gimmick (criminal justice slang all over the place) and as such it falls a bit flat. That middle-eight perks things up, but then “case closed”, it’s back to more of the same. Objection!
07 Can’t be loved – Some quasi-1920s (yay I did it!) schtick propping this one up, and it’s a nice refresh of that period with a few modern-day effects. Not sure why it’s there but why does anyone do anything? The verses are a bit flat really, but the chorus gets things going (again). It’s not her best hook really, but it’s enjoyable, and those vaguely seductive bridges sounds as good as they could sound really. Sorry if that’s faint praise, it’s a decent song, just nothing special.
07 Oxygen – This was going to be the third single? I can’t see it really but I suppose it would have been a change of pace. Looks like they got cold feet with the release. It’s a bit of a slowie too, and her vocals are a bit too exposed on these sorts of tracks. It does build up a bit, some nice little “huh-huh-hah” backing vocals and a gradual climax. Just doesn’t really reach any big finale, it’s nice enough for a made-for-TV Disney movie but not something I’d be in a rush to keep forever.
All in all, it’s difficult to get too bored by a 36-minute album, so that forgives the few moments when my attention really drifted. Generally it’s a strong pop album, with two pretty solidly amazing tracks, which is more than a lot of albums get I suppose. This doesn’t feel like much of a progression from the A*Teens’ music, but I’m sure she’s doing what she’s comfortable with. At times her vocals come off as a bit insubstantial, even if they are sweet as honey.
Perhaps her upcoming return to Melodifestivalen this year might show us what she’s made of these days. But she seems to have carved a niche as a popular personality in Sweden, so maybe she doesn’t need a big comeback these days.
Keepers for the iPod: Enjoy the ride, That’s the way my heart goes, I need a house, I love making love in the morning