The Student Playlist

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REVIEW: Lykke Li – ‘so sad so sexy’ (RCA)

Lykke Li has not been named the Queen of Melancholia without a reason. The Swedish pop star has always been excellent at creating a bittersweet atmosphere on her records, a complex landscape of emotional ups and downs mixed with powerful feminine energy. This sultry appeal has characterised Lykke Li’s music from the very first days of her career, when she was starting out by sharing music on MySpace and when she released her debut album Youth Novels ten years ago.

Her following records, 2011’s Wounded Rhymes and 2014’s I Never Learn, revealed that her indie pop sound could be impactful, unpredictable, or even life-affirming. Often created with raw lyrical message and fresh approach to electronic music production, those previous records beamed with confidence and hypnotic storytelling. Four years later, is Lykke Li as impressive as she was before, and is she capable of recording yet another intricate album?

On her fourth LP, titled so sad so sexy, the songstress explores new territories and is heavily influenced by the sound of modern R&B and hip-hop. Collaborating with producers who have worked with the likes of Drake, Kendrick Lamar or Frank Ocean have brought Lykke Li closer to today’s most popular genres and made her new record far more accessible and radio-friendly than could have been expected.

It’s hard to disguise the fact that so sad so sexy is geared for the mainstream and is an album on which we can find more than a handful of memorable and melodic tunes. Although Lykke Li is still armed with her flagship sad-pop temperament, so sad so sexy can also be disappointingly stale or generic in its form. The production on tracks such as ‘deep end’ or ‘jaguars in the air’ doesn’t resemble the fickle approach to pop music, which was Lykke Li’s favourite craft for so many years, and uses the somewhat dull technique heard on any other song from Spotify’s “top hit” playlist.

At the same time, so sad so sexy is an album which should be praised for bringing those new influences together and for allowing Lykke Li to change her direction, while also keeping parts of her old self. She’s especially good on minimalistic tracks, such as ‘two nights’, which perfectly expose the gentle transition that Lykke Li made to more hip-hop and R&B influenced territory. Other stand-out songs include ‘hard rain’, which is beautifully sentimental, while the title track is the least obvious moment and surprises the listener with its slightly obscure melody and aching lyrics.

so sad so sexy is definitely not a poor album, but rather a record which makes it seem like the pop music scene is incapable of producing something that doesn’t sound like everything else. Lykke Li could always be counted on as being the slightly quirky underdog of the alternative pop scene, yet her new endeavour shows that she might have been tired of that particular emblem. In 2018, Lykke Li is a more polished, yet also a less interesting version of herself, on an album which follows the slightly tired sound of established modern pop. (6/10) (Alicja Rutkowska)

Listen to so sad so sexy by Lykke Li here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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