Sigrid is an anomaly in modern pop music.
These days, it often seems like every artist is striving to make a bigger and bigger statement on how unique they are. They aim to be flashier and somehow distinguish themselves with more clout or circustry. Whether it be through their elaborate social media posts, their high-end branded outfits or their bold, sexual and creepy visuals.
Sigrid, however, prefers to be understated. She is most often seen in a pair of pale blue high waisted jeans and a plain white t-shirt with her long locks down or pulled back in a simple ponytail. Understated and, dare I say it, normal. She’s the popstar that could blend in walking down the street.
But don’t let her simplistic look fool you; she’s got the spirit of a rebel and a powerhouse voice to back it up. In 2017, the Norwegian singer started her international career by releasing the single “Don’t Kill My Vibe,” an anthemic track crafted as a venting of frustrations after an unsuccessful session with two older male producers. The result, though, is a song that speaks to a much wider feeling. It can be about a break up, overbearing parents or basically any situation where someone is ruining your mood.
Over the next two years, Sigrid continued to prove herself as an impeccable pop artist, dropping two EPs (“Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “Raw”), performing sold-out shows in Europe and New York City and winning the BBC Music Sound of 2018, besting the likes of Billie Eilish and Khalid.
Needless to say, her debut album was highly anticipated, and now we finally have it. Sigrid released her album “Sucker Punch” via Island Records March 8. The album is the perfect extension of what she started with her two EPs, but it also pushes her further with beefier production and showcases her full vocal abilities.
Her songwriting is what Sigrid gets the most credit for. She is able to turn very specific moments and sounds from her life into relatable pop fodder.
Take the song “Sight of You.” She wrote it about a performance at Ireland’s Electric Picnic Festival last year and the drain of touring. But the end result is an ABBA-esque synth-pop ode to friendship and human connection. It’s about those people who keep you going and put a smile on your face when happiness is the last emotion on your mind.
Another example is the kiss off “Business Dinners.” In her words, “Business Dinners” is an homage to the films of Studio Ghibli (“Spirited Away,” “My Neighbor Totoro”), but the result is a bubbling anthem about sticking to your guns amidst pressure to please others.
Her ability to flip tiny moments into full pop songs is what has brought her an audience, but her voice cannot be left out of the picture. Throughout “Sucker Punch,” she shows off its many dimensions.
We were introduced to her battle cry on “Don’t Kill My Vibe,” which is one of only a few songs to make the album from her preceding EPs. But, her voice can also be that of the gentle singer songwriter, like on “Level Up.” She has a controlled falsetto on title track “Sucker Punch” and a contrasting growl and rasp in the chorus of “In Vain.” She breezes through her melismatic hooks on “Don’t Feel Like Crying” and “Strangers.”
From the very beginning, “Sucker Punch” is in your face with belligerent production. The bouncing synths that open the title track are insistent. As the album continues, the production continues to demand attention.
Borrowing largely from the ’80s synth catalogue and recent revivals of the sound like Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Emotion” and Taylor Swift’s “1989,” the album hits similar pure pop highs. But, just when you get comfortable with it, it zigs right when you are sure it’s about to zag.
The most impressive feat is the song “In Vain.” The song sits in the groove of a stripped back mid-tempo ballad until just around two minutes and 30 seconds where it pulls a quick change and briefly becomes a cutesy little sing-along only to immediately backflip out in a totally different direction. In theory, it shouldn’t work at all, but it hits so hard that its perfection is undeniable.
Though she took her time with it, Sigrid has managed to create a debut album that is an even stronger statement that her excellent debut EP. It is a more fleshed out vision of her as an artist and should serve as a blueprint of how to get back to pop music’s roots in a world dominated by hip-hop and rap. Though Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” is likely to be the biggest pop album of the year, Sigrid’s “Sucker Punch” is probably going to be the best work of pure sugar-coated pop in 2019 and a better argument for the genre as its own entity.