The Swedish duo’s US debut is filled with dancefloor jams to prove that “I Love It” was no fluke.
Well, they did it.
That’s what I kept thinking throughout my first listen of This Is…Icona Pop, the debut full-length from newly crowned rave princesses Icona Pop. As song after song blared from my car speakers, enveloping me with bass, EDM beats, and stacked, shout-y vocals, I just kept repeating, “they did it, they did it”. Against pretty stacked odds, the Swedish duo have managed to write a stable of songs that can get them out from under one of the most ubiquitous pop songs of the last five years.
I’m talking about “I Love It”, of course, the absolute burn-the-house-down jam that’s done pretty much everything a pop song can do in our current musical landscape. It’s been remixed by pretty much every DJ on the planet, become a Song Of The Summer contender two years in a row, and soundtracked an instantly iconic visual on HBO’s Girls.
I admire the way that the record begins with “I Love It”, immediately disposing with the song that jump-started the girls’ career. It’s not exactly innovative to lead off with your biggest (and so far only) hit, but it’s easy to imagine that the following tracks would suffer by comparison, each song failing more and more to capture that initial spark until the album trails off…
Somehow that isn’t what happens here. On the contrary, there’s an electric current running through every song, filling the music and vocals with life. It may be blasphemy, but I haven’t heard this much raw joy in a record since Japandroids’ Celebration Rock, my favorite punk album from last year. Every song shoots for the heavens with its melodies and gang vocals, and their titles (“Ready For The Weekend”, “We Got The World”, “In The Stars”) reflect those ambitions. There’s not a lot of thematic variety here–the album’s biggest tonal difference is between über-optimistic jam “All Night” and searching power ballad “Just Another Night”–but it gets the message across: they’re here to party.
I’ve tried convincing myself that I’ve given Icona Pop too much songwriting credit. To be fair, a lot of these songs sound like rewrites, like the way “Hold On” imitates Youngblood Hawke’s “We Come Running” in it’s soaring chorus. I blanched back in May when I first heard how current single “Girlfriend” reframes the hook from Tupac’s “Me And My Girlfriend” (though it’s far more likely the Swedes know it as the hook from that Beyonce and Jay-Z song) into a female solidarity slogan. But after hearing it a few more times, my bobbing head gave in to the inevitable; it’s going to soundtrack a few thousand me-and-my-bestie YouTube slideshows, and there’s an (insanely catchy) reason for it. You can either be annoyed or sing along.
Besides, there’s some truly awesome stuff going on here sonically, like the way that amazing pitched-up vocal that kicks off “Ready For The Weekend” gets contorted and twisted in the song’s outro. Or the way instant earworm “On A Roll” layers those “do do do” vocals until they sound like synths. Every song has moments like this, proving that regardless of how you might feel about “I Love It” (or dance pop in general), you’d be foolish to miss out on songs this good. These girls know their craft.
The album’s breathless closer “Then We Kiss” is an ode to DFMOs over the bounciest breakbeat I’ve ever heard. In just over two minutes, the girls mainly alternate between shouting the title phrase and singing “all I wanna do is have a good time” before it abruptly stops. It happens every time: I immediately long for more of this music, this feeling, in my life. I start the record over again. This is Icona Pop.
Favorite Tracks: “Ready For The Weekend”, “Then We Kiss”, “On A Roll”