Slick songwriting and polished production help this focused suite of tracks hit home
Pop music in 2022 rests in the shadow of Olivia Rodrigo. Her debut album Sour documented a messy break-up using an instrumental palette of pop-punk, analog synths and ASMR balladry, and it rocketed her to superstardom remarkably quickly. As sure as night follows day artists around the world were going to respond somehow to this reinvention of the mainstream, and Sigrid’s latest album devotes most of its subject matter to ending relationships and the need to move on, though without hard feelings – less sour, more sweet.
Lead singer Mirror hits hard with disco beats and piano stabs, all self-love and good vibes (plus a hint of Miley Cyrus in the hook’s raspy echo), while Burning Bridges utilises similar driving grooves and a neat chromatic turn in the song’s topline. Where Rodrigo was consumed by confusion, jealousy and self-pity, Sigrid is in control, walking away with the firm belief that better things are on the horizon: surely it’s no coincidence that several songs are co-written by Emily Warren of New Rules fame?
Speaking of that decade-defining hit, is How To Let Go going to spawn any hits of its own? Sigrid’s fortunes have waned significantly since her debut record a few years back – as Chart Watch’s James Masterton has pointed out, not even a One Show appearance could get her duet with Griff a Top 40 slot – but there’s plenty on this album that would be worthy in a fairer world. A Driver Saved My Night rides a watery guitar riff to pop perfection, a self-explanatory bop about the power of good taxi music (“tears running down my face / ‘til he looks back and turns it up all the way / and then I feel, I feel a song holding me tight / I think a driver might have saved my night”).
Break-ups often contain a gamble of sorts, an urge for new experiences, and tracks like Risk Of Getting Hurt and High Note focus specifically on this notion – life is for living, don’t waste time in a situation where you’re unhappy, etc. Last To Know, however, turns up the empathy levels and expresses unease about an ex that was less ready to move on, in a manner reminiscent of Robyn’s pathos-laden Call Your Girlfriend. The chord sequence is poised and elegant, while its stripped-down arrangement shows Sigrid’s voice off nicely, a poignant highlight of the record.
The aforementioned Griff collab Head On Fire is absent, but some star power is provided by way of metal-ish rock band Bring Me The Horizon, who have joint billing on Bad Life. The song sees our protagonists imploring someone to keep going through life’s stresses and strains (“I know that you’re afraid / things will always be this way / it’s just a bad day / not a bad life”), and it straddles the divide between ballad and hard rock with panache, even if overzealous pitch correction renders Oli Sykes’ impassioned delivery a little bit comical.
There have been many predictions about the death of the album in an era of individual streams, but concept records like Sour and How To Let Go suggest quite the opposite. In order to ensure maximum engagement artists have to convince listeners that their whole project is worth listening to, and it helps if said project is cohesive, so we are seeing more focus and more balanced output than in the bygone singles-and-fillers age. On that note, Sigrid has delivered a suite of tracks that explore a theme without becoming tiresome, with slick songwriting and polished production to help the message hit home.