It’s clear from the pulsing, retro tinted opening notes of ‘Venus’ that Zara Larsson is here for a damn good time. Operating from within a similar musical space to The Weeknd’s ‘80s indebted recent work, ‘Can’t Tame Her’ introduces the Swedish star’s fourth record in tremendously euphoric fashion. What follows is a parade of largely entertaining and maximalist dance pop bangers, delicate ballads and slick, finely constructed scandipop.
While the record isn’t a drastic departure in what we’ve come to expect from the 26-year-old, you’d have to be a hard line miserabilist to say it’s not at least great fun. There are some surprises tucked away at the back end of the record too. The funky, infectious bop ‘Escape’ impresses and the title track wrong foots the listener with its hazy intro before bursting into life as a synth pop stomper, anchored by an icy, instantly memorable hook.
Larsson is at her most potent however, dissecting toxic relationships as on the gloriously anthemic ‘You Love Who You Love’ or via the aforementioned empowering riposte of ‘Can’t Tame Her’. The ballads function perfectly fine, even if they don’t necessarily bring us closer to the artist, though ‘Soundtrack’ tries: “We danced to ‘Something in the Way She Moves’ / You kissed me during ‘Karma Police’ / And anytime I hear ‘Born to Die’ / It’s like I’m in a time machine.”
Naturally for an artist at this stage of her career, Larsson attempts to broaden her appeal but this does create conflicts of sorts. Although it managed to infiltrate the UK Top 20, her collaboration with David Guetta – the simplistic and trite club hit ‘On My Love’ – can’t help but feel like something of a coarse misstep and just one of a handful of examples where proceedings stray too far into the realms of generic predictability.
In terms of consistency, ‘Venus’ doesn’t quite match her previous work. Sure, it’s heaps of fun at times and packed with plenty of euro pop bangers to satisfy the faithful, but this time around, otherworldly, celestial highs compensate for moments when Larsson surrenders to commercial viability during its unfortunately frequent lows.
Words: Luke Winstanley