LIVE REVIEW: Tove Lo, KOKO London, 30/03/15

2014 was a miserable year for the pop lyric. Ed Sheeran earnestly trilling about loving you when you’re dead old (or even being cuckolded by someone in One Direction) gave a reminder that life is to be taken very very seriously. In the midst of balladeering maturity staggered one artist who’d missed the memo as she’d been up all night partying.

Tove Lo’s Habits (Stay High) was like a Shoreditch pavement on a Sunday morning. A mess of half memories reconstructed through card transactions.  “I eat my dinner in my bathtub/Then I go to sex clubs/Watching freaky people getting it on”. Habits stumbled into the UK and US top 10s and couldn’t be roused for months. Weeks after first planned, Lo finally brought these lines to Camden’s Koko last night.

It’s not just that Lo writes pop’s most gloriously dark lyrics, but she looks like she lives a heroically hedonistic life, where clean-shaven arriviste James Bay comes across like he’s been steam cleaned and gift boxed, a long-haired Ken Doll in a dainty hat (it’s pretty clear that those songs about holding back rivers are grounded in a solid eight hours kip). In contrast, Tove Lo looks like she might have sticky hands and burp Jagerbomb, with Habits the work of a grubbily genius mind: “Pick up daddies at the playground/How I spend my day time/ Loosen up the frown / make them feel alive.” Take that, teen market.

It’s not like she doesn’t know her way round a pop hook – this is a woman who tantalisingly spends her days penning ditties with the celestial Max Martin – but her lyrics are show stoppers. “I’m not the prettiest you’ve ever seen/But I have my moments/I can get a little drunk/Get into all the drugs/… But on good days I’m as charming as fuck,” she sings on the standout Moments. If Lena Dunham is celebrated for bringing the unheard voice of 20-somethings to a public stage, then Tove Lo soundtracks the messy after-party.

It’s hard to know if Lo is destined for bigger stardom. She commands Koko with a carefree fizz but she doesn’t seem too preoccupied with fame. Her follow up to Habits was the inexplicably bad Alesso collaboration Heroes. It sounds no better live than it did grazing the edge of the charts. Maybe pop music’s greatest lyricist of the moment will find more long-term success writing songs with Martin. The thought of her sordid thoughts tripping off the tongue of future pop legends is too exciting to contain.

Bruce Daisley

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Tove Lo, Koko London
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