Icona Pop: This Is… Icona Pop

[11 October 2013]

By Francesca D'Arcy-Orga

As far as mainland European artists go, many struggle to gain widespread attention in the UK, let alone make it into the notoriously competitive charts of the US. Sweden however is an anomaly, producing artist after artist who are making a name for themselves. From Swedish House Mafia, Basshunter, Eric Prydz and Avicii, to Robyn, Peter, Bjorn and John, the Hives, and Lykke Li Sweden is constantly producing artists of high calibre and the world is lapping them up. Let’s not forget one of the most popular bands in the last century – ABBA. Icona Pop is the next in line, and they’ve already got people singing them high praises. Their latest release, This is… Icona Pop will certainly satisfy the ears of fans and critics alike.

‘‘I Love It’’ is undoubtably the song that propelled Icona Pop into the public domain. While it’s clearly one of the catchiest songs it’s definitely not the best, lyrically or in terms of composition. Featuring Charli XCX, it’s a song for those ‘90s kids, or ‘90s bitches, as they like to say. If you’re from the ‘70s don’t even bother, you just won’t be on the same level as the kids of today. While I doubt they’re seriously excluding the more mature from the fun, there’s definitely a sense that the album is catering for the more youthful at heart. On ‘‘All Night’‘, their fourth single from the album, the lyrics ‘‘We can smash the club, make the pop go rock / With a love this deep, we don’t need no sleep’’ are clearly aimed at the more outgoing, sprightly listeners. ‘‘We can live fast, fly young /  Everyday we celebrate just like we won’‘, lyrics from ‘‘We Got the World’’ cater for a similar audience.

While some listeners might feel distanced from this hardcore, exuberant party life style, there can be a sense of nostalgia for those who are acquainted with the feelings, but live a more settled life now. ‘‘The harder you go the better you feel’’ lyrics from ‘‘Ready For The Weekend’’ might not be something all can necessarily relate to, or even agree with, but I’m sure many people have had one of those nights where they danced too much, screamed too loud, or over intoxicated, but still woke up feeling like they had an absolutely cracking night.

I for one was surprised to hear the words of hip-hop legend Tupac dominate the single ‘‘Girlfriend’‘. Samples are dubious at the best of times, and they rarely do justice to the original song or do anything to elevate the song using the sample. Hip hop heads who would probably never listen to an artist like Icona Pop will probably sigh at the use of Tupac, as just another example of an artist trying to be ‘diverse’ or of people trying to give hip hop a once over of pop and cheese. However, in this case, I don’t think it’s being used in that sense at all. Icona Pop probably have no interest in making hip hop more pop, or trying to use Tupac to enhance their own image. In an interview with Page 31 they say the lyrics ‘‘All I need in this life of sin, is me and my girlfriend’’ captured their situation and what they wanted to say perfectly. They respectfully asked Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother, for permission to sample the track and she agreed. They’ve used a famous lyric and turned it into a girl power anthem, and they’ve done it exceptionally well.

The album slows down marginally on ‘‘Just Another Night’‘. It’s in some respects a nice break from the constant loud, upbeat songs of the rest of the album, and it highlights the vocal ability of the duo. Unfortunately it does mark a slight down point in the album. The following songs don’t have the same catchy, dance in your room like no one’s watching fun to them, which is a slight shame. It also doesn’t help that pretty much every song follows the same recipe so come the end you’re feeling like you’ve heard everything all before. They’re still very decent songs though and should in no ways be dismissed as the scraps of the album.

It’s frustrating that This Is… Icona Pop fails to even hit 33 minutes. For their second album and a debut international album, many would expect it to be longer and will no doubt wish there were more songs. It certainly feels like you press play and all of a sudden you’ve reached the end. Saying that, even if the end doesn’t have the same standard as the beginning, there certainly aren’t any unnecessary, or filler songs, on the album which is a better deal than a longer album with substandard tracks that would bring the album down.

Everything about this album could scream cheesy pop. It’s filled with choruses that wouldn’t go amiss in any song by any cliché boy band from any era. Yet the album embraces this. There are no pretences to be anything that they’re not and it gives the album a very different feel. The album was never going to be an entire album addressing serious issues such as poverty, drugs, war, ‘ghetto lifestyle’, and at the same time it wasn’t going to be an album about men, love, dinner dates and the inevitable break up. It’s an album about having fun, living life to the full and going a little bit crazy from time to time. It’s unashamedly fantastic, uplifting and most of all it’s a real joy to listen to.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/175637-icona-pop-this-is-icona-pop/