Let’s cut to the chase, these Swedes have more hits hidden up their finely stitched sleeves than justthatoneshoutysongwhichsoundslikeShampoominusthedodgycockneyaccents. Their first UK full-length proves this, with its infectious EDM thrills and feisty F-U demeanor.
10 of the 11 songs on This Is… exhibit in-your-face lyrics and shiny chrome beats…Magnetic verses orbiting even catchier, hook-laden choruses; like ball bearings, nay grenades, around the playfield of an electronic pinball machine. They buzz, tink, plink, bleep and purr with oodles of ‘mid-90s girlband’ guts and defiance, before being ramped up, slam tilted and slung into a high-speed, stroboscopic explosion of Friday night euphoria…Ding! Ding! Ding! It all makes for a prismatic, attitude-packed album that sounds its demands loudly from the offset: stop feeling like you’re losing to the world, go grab your friends and have some f*****g fun! After all, isn’t that what pop music is all about?
Sure, in a time where Calvin Harris and his dance-pop harem dominate ‘Top 40’ charts worldwide, this typically bouncy formula of ever-building beats and party anthem choruses is anything but revolutionary. ‘I Love It (Feat. Charli XCX)’ arrived like a brattish breath of fresh air and stormed straight to number 1 because, much like its defining lyric, it didn’t seem to give a flying IKEA meatball (was that not the next line?) about what anyone else was doing, it simply came, conquered and kicked your arse in a flurry of pure unabashed ecstasy. From the moment you first found yourself singing along to “I threw your shit into a bag and pushed it down the stairs” you were hooked on that sudden rush of invincibility and for 2 and a half minutes, doing everything to make yourself feel good was all that seemed to matter.
However, instead of trying to recreate ‘I Love It’ eleven times over to the point where they’d sound more repetitive than rebellious, these two drop dead gorgeous besties, Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, have fortunately found other ways to express their peppy brand of empowerment – raising their hedonistic middle fingers to the world like two sugar-loaded cannons.
Whether it’s the subject of love (‘Light Me Up’), youth (‘We Got The World‘, ‘All Night‘) or female solidarity (‘Girlfriend‘, a cheerier reference to a Tupac Shakur hit) Icona Pop are less concerned with breaking sonic boundaries and more successful at giving “girl power” an honest [even if not necessarily needed] facelift.
On ‘Just Another Night’ we hear a rare moment where the Icona pinball plunges to a heartbreaking standstill, just below the bright lights. Fans of Robyn will appreciate its lone mirror ball melancholy (“I wonder who you’re dancing with now..?”) but ultimately it’s Icona Pop’s own remarkable attempt at a stunning breakup ballad, amidst all that turbocharged Tank Girl muscle. Not only does it come as a refreshing breather 8 tracks in but it also serves as an important reminder that even the hardiest of XX chromosomes are allowed to take an emotional tumble every now and then (you can bet Hannah Horvath would dance alone to this one too.)
On the other hand, the cloud-shattering europop optimism of ‘In the Stars‘ (with its underlying Stevie Nicks/Bootalicious-esque guitar chug) and entertaining/tongue-in-cheek rock star swagger of “On A Roll” (AMAZING LINE ALERT: “you go and pee, your drink is SO safe with me…”) sum up This Is… best. Where Caroline and Aino’s journey ends is irrelevant. So long as they’re sipping on sisterhood and whisky during the ride, they don’t care, they…
Well, you know the rest.
‘This Is…‘ by Icona Pop is available on U.S. iTunes now and released in the UK on November 4th: