Tove Lo is undeniably a pop artist. Lyrical specificity may have ushered her into the spotlight, but Wednesday night at the Fox, she let the sound and show of her albums take over in a true celebration of the abstraction in pop music. Poppiness oozed from every decision she made, from her wardrobe changes to the best-in-tech rainbow rave lights to the omnipresent Taylor Swift-esque glossed banter that wiped away the grit of life.
After performing the first three songs of the night from her 2016 sophomore album, Lady Wood, Tove Lo reached back to her 2015 breakout album, Queen Of The Clouds, for “Moments,” (“I can’t be the perfect one / But I’ll make you come”).
Queen Of The Clouds exudes danceability and lyrical platitudes, commonalities for popular radio tunes. “I like ‘em young” asks with all the swagger a house beat can muster, “Hey girl, why you’re judging me? / When you, your guy is turning fifty three / I like ‘em young.” On “Timebomb,” in an excessive display of naïveté for the sake of push and pull love-at-first-sight teen relatability, Tove Lo croons in autotune, “I couldn’t decide if you were the most annoying human being I’d ever met / Or just the best thing that ever happened.”
Likewise, Tove Lo’s 2016 sophomore album, Lady Wood, further embraces joyous techno beats and insatiably danceable choruses. But the lyrical tone and sharpness narrows in on her progressing sexual and romantic messages. In a way, Lady Wood is one of the most candid, introspective self portraits of 2016.
Live, the differences between the two albums didn’t particularly stand out, one song blending into the next without any perceptible shift in tonal maturity. The throw away lyrics in Queen Of The Clouds didn’t feel as meaningless when sung in person with her vocal ease and pop flare, even directly alongside the more developed sexuality of Lady Wood.
The overt sexuality of her music drew an interesting crowd — couples ground together, large groups of preteen girls and young women danced next to each other, packs of college guys snaked through the packed room, men in their 40s stood lone-wolf style at the back.
But Tove Lo’s sexuality isn’t for her fans, it’s for herself. In an interview with The Guardian, Tove Lo says, “I just feel for me, sex and music have always been very connected. Being open about being a woman, about being open about sex, is not a bad thing … I feel like I grew up in a place where nudity and sex is something natural and not shameful. Here (in the United States) they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re a bad girl, aren’t you? You go against the rules.’ That’s not at all what I’m trying to say or do here.”
The closing kick drum beat of “Talking Bodies” compelled Tove Lo to flash the crowd. The roar of applause was enough to reveal some concert-goers niche interest in her artistry, but it felt like a gesture that was much more meant for herself than for all of us, to prove her confidence in her body and her identity as a sexual person.
This sexuality was also mirrored in her closing performance of “Habits (Stay High).” The most anticipated song of the night, “Habits (Stay High),” offers an unusual level of personal confession and vulnerability, a break in the swirling teen pop party mix that is Queen Of The Clouds. The song stretches beyond the uninspired safety of implications, enunciating a smooth, syncopated progression of the bad habits Tove Lo falls back on when the end of a relationship has left her heartbroken.
Obviously, the lyrical implications of staying high in the context of suppressing emotional pain polarized listeners despite the song being appealingly original — a heartbreak song that makes you want to dance.
Tove Lo’s performance of her closer emphasized danceability, compelling the crowd to sing along and possibly even forget about the heartbreak in their own lives. But, like the rest of the show, this closing number was mostly just for her.
Contact Olivia Jerram at [email protected].