Review Summary: Fat-free ice cream
It took me a while to realize it, but Sucker Punch
triggered some familiar thoughts I’ve had recently. Most importantly, the late 2000s/early 2010s concept of “music with mythology.” This was a phrase I found from Todd in the Shadows’ video on Halsey’s new single “Without Me,” but it held a lot of weight to me. Not only were our big pop stars larger than life, but they were almost like musical representations of superheroes and Greek gods. They were featured in massive music videos that exposed their distinctive personalities and controversial exploits, and everyone fucking ate it up. Remember when Katy Perry lived out the fantasy of a revenge-driven Egyptian goddess in “Dark Horse?” Or when Lady Gaga used a bunch of loaded religious imagery in a snowy landscape with the lovelorn ballad “Alejandro?”
I’m not saying those times are entirely behind us. Ariana Grande is a perfect example of someone who can play the pop game and still be an iconic superstar. Plus, there are B-listers like Carly Rae Jepsen and Halsey who can still drum up plenty of interest whenever they release something new. I’m not trying to make this some throwback “wanna feel old?” Buzzfeed article. But I think it’s hard to dispute the fact that the days of larger-than-life pop heroes are largely gone in favor of the more low-key landscape we’re living in today. There’s a lot more moody introspection in the trap and R&B-flavored tunes we’ve got, something that can be attributed to both the rise of contemplative indie pop in 2011 and the sparse pop stylings of Lorde. And while that may give the critics more to talk about… well, sometimes we just want to dance and get lost in a fantasy! Sometimes it’s better to shake the real-life woes away than to drown them out with benzos and other tranquilizers.
for all of its faults, brings me back to the late 2000s. These are songs that are wholly drenched in a pop
aesthetic and sound; nothing more, nothing less. The production work is gaudy and lavishly dressed, and Sigrid herself is often very showy in her delivery. There’s enough europop diva sugar to make ABBA jealous, although that might not be readily apparent from the odd Android Lust-isms of the opening title track’s synthesizers. But the chorus comes in and you instantly know what kind of record you’re in for. To be frank, it’s cheesy as all hell; that’s all part of the charm though. “Mine Right Now” sounds like the slower sequel of Carly Rae Jepsen’s sleeper hit “Run Away with Me,” and it hits a lot of the same endearingly naive boxes. “Don’t Feel Like Crying” sounds like some weird cross between “Viva La Vida” and “Escapade,” and yet its gloriously anthemic synths aren’t diminished of their intended impact.
There are some strange indie dabblings here and there, and it hits a weird note when it clashes with everything else. “Level Up” is a sparse little number of love and regret, and its percussive guitar is just… strange. It’s not played badly, but when combined with the strings and glittery keyboards, it simply creates an awkward and uncomfortable disconnect. The closer “Dynamite” also doesn’t do much to help things, but it’s for a different reason: Sigrid is trying way too hard to make an Adele ballad. It sounds like her take on “Someone Like You,” and it just doesn’t come close to reaching the same emotional heights. But these songs aren’t even representative of what I consider to be Sigrid’s strengths anyway. Call me shallow if you want, but I find much more value in the sugary synthpop that permeates the majority of this collection. It’s much more rewarding hearing her unleash her inner Robyn on starstruck bangers like “Strangers” or “Sight of You” than it is hearing her introspectively lamenting about failed love and emotional turmoil on indie-driven cuts.
It’s worth noting that nothing about Sigrid’s image has suggested that she matches that whole “musicians as superheroes” phrase I brought up earlier. For all I know, she’ll just become another face in the vast crowd of disposable pop idols. There have been countless stars who have gotten stuck in the middle of two genres without the intuition or insight to follow the path they’re best at. Manic Street Preachers faced this problem when they tried to reconcile soft rock and alternative rock in the late 90s; Taylor Swift faced this problem just last year when she tried to half-assedly incorporate dark glassy-eyed electropop into her glossy pop sheen. I don’t want Sigrid to fall into this trap. I think it’s high time we got another gaudy, flashy pop icon who’s firmly entrenched in poptimism without the burden of dated indie pop touches or moody trap vibes. Sometimes you’ve just gotta capitalize on a good thing when you hear it.