opinion byJEAN-LUC MARSH
The truth of the matter is that we live in a post-“I Love It” world. Icona Pop have irrevocably altered the soundscape of every party you will ever attend, setting an impossibly high standard for any don’t-give-a-damn pop banger to follow. At first, this appeared to be a mutually beneficial arrangement for both Icona Pop and the world. The denizens of discotheques everywhere gained an exhilarating fireball of a track, and Icona Pop received the recognition they rightly deserved. The song served as the springboard that propelled Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo from the multitude of promising Scandinavian talent to twin thrones at the head of the dance floor.
While “I Love It” went stratospheric, its immense success proves to be a double-edged sword for Icona Pop’s worldwide debut, This Is… Icona Pop.
It is a specter that looms over much of the album, with the unavoidable consequence that much of the material is measured up to the titanic catchiness of Icona Pop’s magnum opus.
The construction of This Is… Icona Pop does little to combat this attitude. “I Love It,” rather than having been saved for a lull mid-album, is placed at the helm of the record as the first track. In the hands of less ambitious artists, this could be interpreted as a sign of surrender. Instead, Hjelt and Jawo refused to capitulate, choosing instead to fashion ten more songs and forge ahead in the quest for party playlist supremacy. It is easy to view This Is… Icona Pop through the jaded prism of failing to meet expectations, but that detracts from the true feel of the album. These are ten strong tracks that demonstrate Icona Pop’s prowess over the fickle muse of pop music, in addition to one established megahit.
Upon closer listen to the record, the nuances of each song become apparent. “All Night” is by far the closest thing to “I Love It,” but it manages to set itself apart with a less irreverent demeanor. The lambent EDM pulses of “We Got The World” form fertile ground from which springs an irresistible sing-along chorus. “Ready For The Weekend” is still the high-octane rollercoaster ride it was on the Iconic EP, barreling through several techno tropes for a supremely satisfying electro odyssey at the speed of light. The rolling cadence of “Light Me Up” takes Icona Pop from their electronic comfort zone to a more reggae-inflected organic sound. Album closer “Then We Kiss” captures the giddy excitement of a first kiss in a series of power pop shouts.
For the most part, This Is… Icona Pop contains the emotional depth of a kiddie pool, rarely straying from the dependable formula of life-affirming choruses and dynamic melodies.
It is an ethos best encapsulated in a single lyric: “I jump the train / I never pay ‘cause I’m a rock star.” Because of this, mid-album breakup ballad “Just Another Night,” arrives as a complete, and welcome shock. Coming off the fumes of yet another anthemic number, the track begins with a downtempo solo that grows from plaintive reflections to a grand, guttural chorus in which Hjelt and Jawo reunite in a show of female solidarity.
One thing needs to be made clear: This Is… Icona Pop is not revolutionary, original, or inventive. The concept of a record bursting with buoyant accounts of endless revelry has been around longer than Hjelt and Jawo have existed on this giant disco ball of a planet. What This Is… Icona Pop, and Icona Pop as an artistic duo, possess that few others can lay claim to, is a firm grasp on the musical zeitgeist. They may be self-described nineties bitches, but Icona Pop have developed mastery over a sound that is nothing if not belonging entirely to the now. [B-]