One of the more flaccid beefs of this year has come from an unexpected corner: Melanie C, supposed beacon of Girl Power, accusing Little Mix of being ‘too provocative’. Sure it’s a take about as hot as a day-old puddle of piss, but it’s also a worrying charge that for some unknown reason seems to peak when people talk about Tove Lo or, as many would have us believe, pop’s scarlet letter.
To those people the Queen of the Clouds says a very unambiguous ‘fuck you’, a fact that makes Lady Wood a success right from the title to the end of its runtime. If her brazen talk about sex or drugs makes you uncomfortable, then you have to wonder what the reasons for that may be and what your expectations of a modern woman are, because it certainly doesn’t sound like anything other than an individual very openly – and melodically – baring her flaws for the world to see.
Influence kicks things off in typically unapologetic style (even if we could have all done without that shoehorned rap addition) before things get even darker. “I know what people say about you, they say the same about me,” she sings knowingly on the title track before it breaks down into grotty club beats that would feel at home both in the chart and in a darkroom.
Whether it’s True Disaster or Cool Girl or the effortless riding of Vibes, Tove Lo has the pop game down to a fine art. Her beats are never misplaced, they always sound fresh, and her choruses are enough to elevate the game high enough that her peers just can’t touch her. Doing that over any stretch of time is difficult enough, and while a certain degree of fatigue does set in around the time of Don’t Talk About It and Flashes, Lo still pulls it off with so much charisma and honesty that it’s hard not to stay on board.
And if Tove Lo has become synonymous with sex – which never feels like its gratuitous or irrelevant as incidental context – then she certainly delights in the foreplay of it all, the anticipation that each of her tracks builds before giving way to multiple hits of pop’s sweet spot. Best of all, she does it without ever trading on what feels like her very distinctive personality, using songs as therapy and catharsis rather than shock value. For that reason, Lady Wood is the pop record a generation of both men and women need right now: it’s the underbelly of millennials, but an exercise in self-pleasure that takes control of every aspect of a rounded personality without giving a single thought to judgement. What could be more empowering than that?