I have received my Loreen album yesterday and it's been a pleasure to religiously listen to it while reading to the credit notes from the booklet, although there are no lyrics and only strange close-up photos of her in black and white. Since her victory at this year's Eurovision contest with Euphoria, I was waiting for her full album with much anticipation. The lady took her time but it's a pleasure to finally have it between my hands.
Born in Sweden 29 years ago, from moroccan descent, she came fourth in Swedish Idol 2004 TV show and didn't launch herself as a recording artist quickly ; after a featuring for Rob'N'Raz just after the show, it took her six years to finally release her first solo single, My heart is refusing me, which was a Top ten in Sweden after being presented in the Melodifestivalen, and then another one, more underground, Sober. Her next step was for the better as Euphoria qualified to represent her country in the ESC and made her win. She didn't rush-released her album and took some more time to re-record her first single with more songs but just in time before the Christmas rush, Heal has been released and little by little must be imported by every euro fan into their personal discothèque.
As with its cover, all severe and dark with the photograph of her face in black and white, Loreen's music is not our typical pop/dance number. It is more chill-out, more progressive and takes more time to get into, but it has the power to invade your mind and heart to heal it for sure, and the album's title couldn't be more appropriated.
The album starts with electronical loops and strings, next with Loreen's vocals, warm and touching, slowly building up the tension into In my head's first chorus. Only after that comes a real beat to give the song a proper rhythm to lead it into a trance inspired pop/dance anthem that gives you the need to close your eyes and simply let yourself be invaded by the trance Loreen's voice puts you into. The song has been co-written with the same team who worked on her first single that comes next, but all reproduced by RedOne collaborators.
My heart is refusing me has been revamped into a full electronic pop/dance bit of energy where Loreen's vocals shine loud and strong, while the original was more of a dance single. You can still hear some oriental inspiration that gives some space to the song and make it breezy and really joyful. This version is her second international single and has a real strong chorus.
Everytime sounds all intimate and delicate, with its intro only displaying the singer's voice with some tiny bits of piano. But soon reverberated arrangements echo and give depth to that midtempo song written and produced by Espen Berg with Simen Eriksrud.
It is the ideal transition song to make way for the next one, the hit song that opens with a long orchestral intro before the electro elements slowly built their pace until final explosion with the extra powerful chorus. I think I could never get bored of Euphoria ! Its song's structure is really extraordinary, with these slow and low-toned verses, nearly silencious pauses, then the uptempo and anthemic chorus. I nearly regret an acoustic version of the song hasn't been included at the end of the album as a bonus, or at least a remix ...even though the original version by Peter Boström can not be bettered.
Next track is her new single in Sweden, and it relies on the same slow-building up tempo type of song than the previous one, even though Crying out your name adds some drum'n'bass rhythm to the chorus, while the verses are less powerful and more melancholic. The SeventyEight team has successfully made an electronic wall of sound to make it all sound good and nearly matching Euphoria's perfection. In fact the production team did co-produce her Eurovision entry so it is only fair I hear some kind of magical touch there again.
Do we even matter is once again a song co-written by Loreen and her initial partners, Moh Denebi, Björn Djupström and Mohito, while the production duties are taken by Tortugo with Ollie Olson. This is another midtempo where we can really hear Loreen sing her heart out with her beautiful voice. A slow beat gives a nearly religious atmosphere to this song that I imagine could be illustrated by a video filmed in a monastery where she could have been hiding after some heartbreak affair. I doubt it could be released as a single though.
Sidewalk has more potential and more rhythm too, once again in the kind of dubstep territory. It mixes fragility and powerness in Loreen's voice and at bits makes me think of Kim Wilde, because it is really expressive.
Now comes the time for Sober, which has been re-recorded too by new producers to give it a more matching sound to Loreen's mysteriously muffled though powerful sound design. The original was more a full dance/trance anthem.
A sad orchestral interlude serves as intro to If she's the one to make a transition to this new song that starts all slowly before a lightful chorus comes with Loreen's angelic and cristalline vocals like coming straight from heaven. This less dance orientated song could easily be chosen as a further single because its chorus is really addictive and memorable while you can't help but love the song's immediate appeal.
Breaking robot is one more song like its predecessor co-written by Loreen and her team, and that's what makes this album a very cohesive effort : every song on it fits in the same atmosphere to make it a full auditive experience not to be missed. This one includes vocoder effects and sounds more electro/trance, but still a nice vehicle for the singer's clear and beautiful vocals. And they haven't tried to make a string of hit singles compiled one after the other here : this album must be seen (listened) as a whole. The songs are growers, starting slowly, building up little by little to cheer you up.
See you again may be an exception though. This one, co-written and produced by another duo, JMike & MadMax, from the first notes till the end, sounds like a full blasting hit single ! It screams to get released to radios... I feel some kind of Katy Perry touches on it, with its anthemic powerful chorus. The rhythm is bouncing and Loreen is surprising joyful on this one ; no darkness here, just lightful and optimistic poppy moments she shares with us. This song could be her breakthrough hit to crossover on the international scene, with the right video, but maybe that wouldn't belong to what Loreen wants to be known for when we hear the rest of the album ?
The title track for the album, featuring and produced by Blanks (who?), sees her take a plunge back into gloomy and sad deepness of the broken heart. That kind of atmosphere suits her voice really well, because it can really express the pain and sadness in her wailings and whispers, but Heal ends the album with her most depressive track and a bonus wouldn't have been out of place...
As a conclusion, Heal, just like Euphoria was, is not your typical pop album : it needs more attention and courage to get into. The songs are not designed for instant appeal ; instead, they grow up inside your heart with each new listen to embark you into a journey into the deepest emotions Loreen's music make you feel. But it is worth it ! Check by yourself...