It can’t be easy, being the saviour of the Swedophiles. Their capacity for hyped-up expectations, and equally powerful hate (or hugely unconvincing apathy) is a tough obstacle when you’re releasing a long-awaited debut album. Worse still if you’ve finally won Eurovision for Sweden, for the first time in 13 years. Particularly if the winning song delivered on its potential to be a huge European hit, transcending the usual indifference that many Eurovision winners get.
So Loreen has a lot to live up to, and certainly needs to seem justified in only releasing her debut album 5 months after her victory. Admittedly, she could easily have thrown a single out before now, especially if the European follow-up single to “Euphoria” was a remix of her 2011 Melodifestivalen entry “My heart is refusing me”. With this and its follow-up single “Sober” on the tracklist, you have to wonder if the album wasn’t mostly ready by the time “Euphoria” won victory in Baku. If that’s the case, what took it so long?
Anyway, no matter the convoluted journey to get here, we are here now. Will this just be a string of Euphoria clones? If that’s what you wanted, then brace yourself for disappointment. Loreen is an ARTISTE, don’t you know!
08 In my head – OK the Euphoria sound wasn’t totally unrepresentative, as you may have expected given her dark dancey previous singles. This simmers nicely for the first minute, with Loreen’s distinctively breathy vocals setting the scene. Is it just me, or does that bridge remind me a little of “My Heart Will Go On”?! The track doesn’t have a fast tempo, which I think works out well, with different layers of production filtering in smoothly. The repetition can make me question the 4 1/2 minute runtime, but there’s a nice mix in here, a strong opening track.
08 My heart is refusing me – I was very familiar with this from last year’s Melodifestivalen, so it takes a little adjustment to get used to this remixed version. Her gentle vocals on the verses soar when they hit that huge chorus. Thankfully all this remains, but we’ve got a more Clubland feel to the production. Not sure I totally get on board with it in comparison, but it stands up well as an album track.
07 Everytime – The dance anthems take a break now, and we get an almost acapella heartbreak track. It blossoms after the first minute into an atmospherically dark slow-burner. I can’t say this does much for me, even if she is trying to display some versatility. I’ve no doubt some people will love this, and (perhaps contrarily) say this is one of the best on the album, but Robyn does this sort of thing better.
10 Euphoria – Getting a gorgeous orchestral intro, this the max track of the album, and she’s teased us long enough. I love the intro, but it does feel a little disjoint with the horn-klaxon intro to the usual track. What can I say? This was an incredible moment for Eurovision, a brilliant performance and proof that the contest has the capacity for wide-reaching relevance. It’s a perfect blend of atmospheric verses and soaring chorus vocals over a state-of-the-art dance track. This is something really special.
10 Crying out your name – The Swedes had heard plenty of “My heart is refusing me” last year, so they got this as their album lead single. We should be jealous, as this is an amazingly strong track to follow up such a massive hit as “Euphoria”. It follows a broadly similar structure as that track, but it doesn’t feel like a clone. THIS is how she should do heartbreak tracks. She emotes really well, better than she copes with the breakdown of this relationship, opting for some good old-fashioned breakdowns and hysteria. The first new track so far that shows that “Euphoria” wasn’t doomed to be a one-off.
06 Do we even matter – Let’s not get over-stimulated, time for another bleak slow track. She knows how to have a good time, doesn’t she? Really this feels much in the same vein as “Everytime”, which doesn’t really help. Her vocals get a bit of a stretch, but it’s a pretty dismal thudding dirge.
08 Sidewalk – Heartbroken again? Much be a tough year. But thankfully this has got a bit more punch to it, and while she sounds a bit despondent, she sounds like she’s getting over it. She needs to enunciate a bit though, it took me a few double-takes to hear she was saying he had “no more CARDS to show”. It’s a downtempo track but there’s plenty of jolting electronic flourishes to give the track a jump-start. It knows when to give a bit of subtlety, and plays to Loreen’s strengths.
07 Sober – Another former single from last year, which also gets a remix. While I thought this was the weaker of the three previous singles, I can’t say I feel this remix has helped matters. This takes all the event out of the chorus, in fact the production barely flinches when she reaches it. It all feels curiously off-key too, and homogenises the track with the rest of the album sound. A shame, as it makes me appreciate the original single version more. This is just a bit neutered.
08 If she’s the one – Heartbreak time again! But she’s taking it well, and being surprisingly understanding about losing her lover to some harlot. But only if this other woman really means something. How progressive! There’s something missing from this, I can’t quite put my finger on it, the beat sounds ever so slightly out of time, and needs a bit more beef to it. She gets her standard-issue chance to stretch her vocals towards the end (does she do this every track?). I quite like this generally, but that chorus just needs a bit more energy.
07 Breaking Robot – What a title! Some echoey minimal dance production – why break the habit of a lifetime! A pulsing beat quickly joins the mix, which really does help, and a distorted voice effect actually breaks the vocals up quite nicely. Loreen’s a great singer, but her tone is just the same mournful tone throughout this album, you’d think she’d never smiled once in her life. It’s listenable but it feels a bit directionless and lacking in substance. But it’ll do.
09 See you again – Finally! For a woman so famous for her Euphoria, finally we get some positivity. I’m sure someone will describe this as vaguely Guetta-like, but I think that doesn’t hurt at all, there’s a reason he’s so popular at the moment. This is a breath of fresh air, just the key it’s all pitched at is uplifting and irresistible. Sounds a bit like similar songs by Usher, which in my books is a good thing. Could do with a key change or some sort of variation in chorus at the end, but it’s a good package.
08 Heal – Closing the album (what do you mean, we could go out on a high?), we get another slow-burner. It’s easier to get into though, that almost acapella intro has a real gravity, and when the chorus arrives, it’s a lot more polished and layered than similar tracks I’ve heard on this album. That glassy effect throughout the track is really memorable and unique, love that. OK it flounders a little outside the choruses, but those choruses are worth the effort.
I won’t pretend that I got into this album immediately, and I think it’s a bit of an arrogant attitude to purposely make a ‘grower’, demanding that the listener give it multiple attempts before it will dispense any pleasure. But sometimes that’s how these things pan out in any case. I won’t say I completely ‘got’ this album, and while it would have been easy to try and fill the album with “Euphoria” clones, in avoiding this it ironically ended up sounding a bit samey in places. There seems to be more versatility to be had in dancier uptempos than there is in minimal miserable heartbroken ballads, and I am left wishing she’d explored that avenue more thoroughly.
But still, it’s a decent listen, and there are a handful of tracks that are worthy successors to the post-“Euphoria” hype, and that’s more than a lot of people get. I just hope she lightens up one day.
Keepers for the iPod: In my head, My heart is refusing me, Euphoria, Crying out your name, See you again, Heal