When we spoke to Tove Styrke about Kiddo, the mission statement seemed clear: smashing the patriarchy with Kill Bill realness, to the backdrop of twinkling Scandi-pop. It’s already been realised with the year’s catchiest single, Ego, which remains a pointed bit of emasculation while being an insidious little earworm (punctuated, of course, by some kick-ass karate-chop exhalations).
For the most part, Styrke keeps that level of inventiveness alive. The album opens strongly with Ain’t Got No…, a bloody brilliant little morning funk-jam that feels like the slow pulling-back of blinds before a blazing sun. It’s also one of Styrke’s finer moments, wonderfully restrained ahead of later bombast (the still-brilliant Borderline and Even If I’m Loud…).
It’s also an indication of where the album’s sound is heading, driven as it is by Styrke’s confident and spiky delivery (which sounds like what might happen if Lykke Li ditched the Scottish Widows vibe). If you’ve been spoilt by today’s young female pop stars like that other Tove, you’ll certainly find Kiddo lacking in the ‘massive chorus’ stakes. It only really niggles once, as Samurai Boy is perfectly enjoyable – and adorable with its ‘sam’rai’ syllable omission – but ultimately feels like a horseback ride to no particular destination.
But there’s more than enough here to balance that out. Walking A Line in particular ticks all the chart boxes, while Snaren makes you sit up with its Beyoncé-referencing ‘to the left, to the left’ middle-eight (careful, Tove). It’s to Styrke’s credit that she still makes a pop album sound so complete and rounded without one of the genre’s most obvious elements, exemplified by her ability to nail a gorgeous underwater ballad like Who’s Got News right next to a Hanson-indebted Number One (a not-unfair comparison, given she’s mentioned them as a guilty pleasure).
More importantly, as the album closes with the rousing Decay and the eastern melodies of Brag (“I don’t brag about my sweet life/ No need for me to spell it out”) we realise that Tove Styrke has left her TV past behind to emerge as a different kind of pop star. Hers is a more restrained approach, which may be at odds with the initial mission statement but still no less powerful as intelligent pop. The patriarchy might remain intact at the end of Kiddo but, like its cinematic namesake, it’s a sleekly-dressed example of how one female star can stand tall for the cause without ever selling herself short.
Kiddo by Tove Styrke can be ordered here; you can watch our exclusive interview with her below.