Tove Lo will be performing at the Boston House of Blues on Feb. 19. (Photo courtesy of NME)
Tove Lo is best known for her two megahit singles back in 2014 and 2015, “Habits (Stay High)” and “Talking Body.” These were two dark, interesting, and supremely well written songs that launched her onto the music scene. While nothing she has released has retained a similar level of success, her next two albums, “Lady Wood” and “Blue Lips” kept a similar dark tone, especially on the latter, which was a fascinating album through and through. All these albums, while not necessarily telling a rigid “story,” are all intended to be concept albums that explore the growth and fall of a relationship. These factors all contribute to what makes “Sunshine Kitty” so supremely disappointing from Tove Lo.
“Sunshine Kitty” is the first album from Tove Lo not intended to be conceptual, however, that does not take away from its cohesion. One thing that Tove Lo continued to do supremely well here is coming up with a sound for an album and keeping all the songs on sound. Songs flow extremely well into one another, and it truly shows off her knack for developing an album.
However, the sound for “Sunshine Kitty” never reaches a genuinely interesting level like that of her past albums. It is mostly down to mid-beat pop with understated choruses and little personality. While bland pop is not necessarily always bad, there is nothing here that really makes Tove Lo stand out. Her vocals are solid, but not incredible. The songwriting is good, but not hard hitting or immediately impressionable. The featured artists offer an interesting dynamic sometimes (Alma, Kylie Minogue), but others often fall flat (MC Zaac, Doja Cat). It plays into current trends to a fault, where it feels like Tove has lost any and all sense of personality.
While the album is inherently cohesive, this cohesion eventually ends up working against it, rather than in favor of it. While it is commendable when an album has a unified sound, it is important for an artist to make sure that individual songs on the album actually manage to stand out from one another. Here, besides when features interject, many of the songs end up just simply blending into one another and becoming forgettable. This may not have been quite as much an issue if the album had more interesting of a direction than simply “trendy pop,” but it ultimately ends up like 14 songs fighting for a place on some playlist with the title “chill” on Spotify.
Despite this, it is hard to really call the album bad. None of the songs are particularly bad in any way, which honestly makes the album sound even worse. If something was bad here, it may have been bad in some way that could serve to make the album interesting. Instead, it remains at a consistent level of mediocrity that is just enough to not make it unlistenable, but not good enough to make it worth the listen.
However, there are a few highlights to be found. Lead single “Glad He’s Gone” has a strong chorus, “Really Don’t Like U” featuring Kylie Minogue is really fun and catchy, and “Anywhere U Go” is a strong, climatic end to the album. Other songs, such as “Bad as the Boys,” “Jacques,” and “Mateo” are enjoyable enough on their own, but just feel like they are missing a little spunk.
Overall, “Sunshine Kitty” stands as a supreme disappointment. Tove Lo has put out many fantastic songs throughout her career, but here, she makes a turn for the mainstream in potentially the most uninteresting way imaginable and loses all her charm in doing so.
Overall grade: D+