Sweden is known for many things, but the Scandinavian nation’s musical tradition centers around two tropes: electronic pop and in-your-face sexuality. Standing at the helm of this is Ebba Nilsson.
Known professionally as Tove Lo, Nilsson broke out into mainstream pop with her 2014 debut LP Queen of the Clouds, a record focused on the different stages of a tumultuous relationship. What made Tove Lo so refreshing was her perspective on issues many pop artists avoid all together. Bringing a sense of reality to her music, Tove Lo focuses on down-to-earth perspectives similar to the likes of The Knife and Bjork. With her next endeavor, Lady Wood, Tove Lo dove even further down the art/electropop lane, setting up for a two-album concept project, once again attempting to encapsulate the emotional turmoil of a relationship. Blue Lips, the newly released second half, brings both similar highs and lows of its predecessor to a generally entertaining but occasionally
Compared to Tove Lo’s debut, Blue Lips is nowhere near as commercial. This album’s title says a lot about its no-holds-barred content. The majority of this record is packed with scandalous R-rated depictions of drug binges, drastic love swings and a general desire for what can’t be had. “Disco Tits” does a fantastic job at capturing a passionate moment, using erotic lyrics and a hard beat to bring about club vibes and a truly euphoric moment. Additionally, “Bitches” discusses lesbian love and crafts an extreme examination of the beauty of women in general, challenging listeners with the grittiest of details as to Tove Lo’s love life. She gets extremely blunt, saying she prefers when girls are as upfront with her as possible rather than creating some kind of romantic hunt.
Yet, for how often she discusses these moments and issues, Tove Lo never states how all of these adventures pan out, and if she does it’s usually vague and dismissive. “Bitches” might do a fantastic job of capturing the initial moment of lust, but Tove Lo goes nowhere with this moment, intentionally avoiding some kind of message or lesson from the brief anecdote. In an artsy-fartsy sense, this leaves much up for interpretation, but when Tove Lo is consistently leaving listeners with just pure moments rather than enduring memories, it’s hard to consider Blue Lips a true completion to the concept Lady Wood set up.
Individually, most songs succeed with only an occasional song or two failing to hit home, but their mileage will vary depending on the listener. The half-hearted lyrics and synths on “Romantics” flew far foul, lacking the introspective moment the track desperately needed to succeed. Otherwise, Blue Lips is a confident collection of all pleasure and little-substance dance-pop jams.
All said and done, Blue Lips considered on its own is an exhilarating listen — something that’s expected of Tove Lo this deep into her career. But, when considering its concept, it lacks a certain oomph that many of its predecessors delivered on. The individual tracks on Blue Lips practically sell themselves with catchy melodies and intense lyrics, but taken as a whole, they fall short of Tove Lo’s lofty aspirations.