Tove Lo: Blue Lips (Lady Wood phase II)
This is the second installment of the Lady Wood era, Tove Lo’s pop project investigating the depths of female sexuality. Offering even more confrontational songs here than on her last album, Tove Lo strikes one as a pop provocateur demanding a reaction from the listener. The album plays with the binary idea of human sexuality (the power dynamic between what is considered female and male, but also the necessity of sex, as well as the idea of it as a commodity), with Tove Lo pulling direct influences from conceptualizations that are generally attributed to men. In this sense, she is radically female, rejecting the normative understanding of gender roles. Like so many of her predecessors (for example, Madonna in “Erotica” or Janet Jackson in “The Velvet Rope”), Tove Lo reclaims the object of sex and liberates herself from the male gaze – she is representing herself just the way she intends.
The drawback of the album is perhaps its rushed nature – it was only one year in the making, and it comes off as such in three simplistically ambient interludes and some seemingly unfinished songs. Nonetheless, it is an important album that challenges the music industry – especially the narrow confines of mainstream pop. Tove Lo is redefining what it means to be a sex-positive woman in this day and age – and her spacious navel-gazing provides a real insight into our collective experience of trying each other out.
Morrisey: Low in High School
Morrisey has always been a polemicist – and considering the debate surrounding nearly everything he does (from releasing an autobiography to wearing a “We Hate William and Kate” shirt onstage), we wouldn’t really expect him to release an apolitical album full of insufferably platonic love ballads. But his latest album,
strangely titled “Low in High School,” does just that, offering twelve monologist songs about everything from the Arab–Israeli conflict to selfless love. The album is also very opposite to anything The Smiths released during their existence – as Morrisey grows older, he is rejecting the historic value of his creative legacy.
At once domestic and international, Morrisey’s latest solo effort is a mixed bag of unedifying songs and brilliant bangers. The opener, “My Love, I’d Do Anything For You,” is an instant classic in Moz’s oeuvre, with not-so-subtle nuances such as “teach your kids to recognize and to despise all the propaganda.” On other fronts, Morrisey echoes his long search for the definition of “home,” British or otherwise, declaring that “Home Is a Question Mark.” The cover features a boy holding a protest sign that reads “Axe The Monarchy,” and while the album promotes axing every kind of monarchy – governmental, social or even sexual – it does seem to be doing so just because it should. “Low in High School” is a distinct approach from Morrisey, containing anarchist anthems for an absent generation – yet it still captures the articulated virtuosity of the genius who once fronted The Smiths.
Charlotte Gainsbourg: Rest
Charlotte Gainsbourg’s “Rest” comes after a six-year absence from music, and it marks a glorious return for the Anglo–French singer–songwriter. Composed of eleven bilingual songs that effortlessly oscillate between French and English, Gainsbourg is able to capture both grief and joy just as easily as she switches between different states of the lingual mind. Her articulation in both languages is incomparable, and just as this is reflected in her songwriting, so it is in the production, which is eclectic and sewn together like a patchwork of electronic and compositional music. The single “Deadly Valentine” and the title track “Rest” shine a light on the multitalented artist’s ability to encapsulate conflicting feelings with ease – her vocal recital is affectionately performative. What results is the unique sensibility of “Rest,” a feeling that can only be captured by a woman of fractions such as Charlotte Gainsbourg – at once English and French, as much a singer as she is an actor. Like the album’s cover, everything, including the artist herself, is sewn together – and it fits together perfectly.