To stand out in the world of electro-house-pop is a difficult ask. The genre has become the bedrock of chart music over the past couple of years, supplied with an endless stream of chart-ready hits from super producers like DJ Snake, Jack Ü and Calvin Harris. As with any pop music the focus is largely on excess — primarily drugs and sex, and Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Lo doesn't stray too far from that winning lyrical format. However, her perspective on these subjects has somewhat shifted since she was staying “high all the time / to keep you off my mind” in her breakthrough single 'Habits (Stay High)'.
On ‘Lady Wood’ she has abandoned the heartbreak fuelled excesses described in that track, but has maintained her candour in describing her sexual and drunken exploits. Her new outlook is more overtly based around female sexual dominance and unashamedly embracing hedonism, as she says on 'True Disaster', she gives “zero fucks”.
'True Disaster' is a highlight on the opening half of the record, entitled 'Fairy Dust: Chapter 1', and is essentially a song about desiring drunk, shallow sex despite the knowledge that it will inevitably not end well. The song is perhaps the best encapsulation of Tove Lo's persona on this record, riddled with a dangerous and compelling mixture of insecurity and arrogance.
Unfortunately, preceding this are two of the weakest songs on the project, 'Influence' and title track 'Lady Wood'. The former of these tracks is particularly formulaic, with its underwhelming chorus and an essentially redundant verse from Wiz Khalifa. The production on both is also forgettable, with barely anything to differentiate them sonically from any other electro-pop chart hit from the past 18 months.
The second half of the record, 'Fire Fades: Chapter 2', is more reflective and less energetic than the opening section. 'Don't Talk About It' might be the strongest song on ‘Lady Wood’, with its darkly captivating synth riff accompanying Lo's lyrics about feeling somewhat trapped by her hedonistic lifestyle. Another high point is the spacey, Weeknd-esque 'Keep It Simple', with the singer seemingly arriving full circle back to 'Habits (Stay High)', discussing how she hasn't fully moved on from her old relationship.
Much like the opening of the record, the closing tracks veer more towards the mundane, although there are moments of interesting and introspective lyrical reflection. The issue with the closing tracks is indicative of the rest of the record, as Tove Lo's song-writing ability feels restricted by the formulaic electro-pop productions.
‘Lady Wood’ proves Tove Lo is one of the more interesting characters in what is often a personality-less genre, but unfortunately, her unique perspective is diluted by fairly humdrum electro-pop production.
Words: Will Rosebury
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