The verdict is still out on Lana Del Rey and whether we will look back on her career as a cautionary tale or as a turbulent rise to stardom, but in 2014 it is hard to deny her influence on pop music and beyond. Miley Cyrus not only covered “Summertime Sadness” recently, but her signature song, “Wrecking Ball,” showcases a verse that bites the lilt of Del Rey, only without the smoky, piano bar vibe. Of course, Lorde also bears a resemblance with her vocal delivery, though her age and celebrity obscure the similarity. And now MØ, the Danish pop sensation who gained international attention through her electronic collaborations with AVCII and Diplo, has a debut album, No Mythologies to Follow, that is expected to turn heads in both the critical and commercial worlds and finds Lana’s singing style popping up again, this time Scandinavian, as if Del Rey and Lykke Li melded into one singer.
The reason all these pop singers seem so smart is that they took Del Rey’s best attribute, her aesthetic, and changed it enough to be their own, all without the controversy and backlash of the original. MØ, more than the others, follows Del Rey’s lead across many songs, but still has crafted a fun (if not particularly inventive) romp that could warm the cold winters of her homeland.
MØ is working in the other fine traditions of pop, too. Single “Never Wanna Know,” clearly meant to transition away from the dance scene and show her range as a songwriter, sounds like “Take My Breath Away” as sung by a ‘60s girl group. It’s a tune that is quick to be appreciated and catchy as all hell, so much so that just as quickly it can grow grating and unbearable. Gimmicks are not without their drawbacks.
But while “Never Wanna Know” might divide, other moments are harder to dismiss. The horns and handclaps of “Pilgrim” are vivid and crisp, allowing MØ’s playground vocal flutter to float effortlessly over the track, adding harmonies and other thickeners until a tapestry replaces what previously had looked like plain fabric. It is quite lovely, surpassing her bold pop aspirations and achieving a transcendent moment, her potential never looking brighter.
“Don’t Wanna Dance” is nearly as strong, its title foretelling the choreographer’s dream track for the year so far, the four-on-the-floor snare snaps offering visions of marching band demonstrations, tap recitals and any other peppy, light-hearted activities.
Others stand out for less commendable reasons. “Dust Is Gone” is Del Rey’d out, resembling her in her Great Gatsby mode, while the falsetto of “Slow Love” is nearly a catastrophe, and she will draw a fair share of laughs as she seemingly loses control of her voice and goes wild. In fact, that gliding moment of vocal recklessness is similar to the album as a whole, succeeding in its most humble mission, to surround some potential smashes with tracks that won’t bug you too much, but other times coming across as misguided. Is it a wasted opportunity? Perhaps, but with Lana hard-pressed to get a clean slate from music writers and more discerning fans and Lykke Li renouncing pop in favor of being a songwriter, MØ has a pretty open lane to the basket after No Mythologies to Follow. Smart money says she’ll score more next time around.