We’ve not made it any secret that we’re pretty partial to a bit of Icona Pop here at Best Fit, but honestly, what’s not to love? The Swedish duo of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo have lobbed crystalline pop into the ether consistently since their inception, and birthed arguably the mightiest summer stomper of 2013 – “I Love It” (featuring and written by goth-pop starlet Charli XCX) – which hit the coveted number one spot around the globe and has gone multi-multi-platinum. Not bloody bad at all.
But, of course, the twosome couldn’t coast on the buzz of one single forever, no matter how elephantine and captivating. So, for their worldwide debut (they already achieved moderate success in their home nation with an eponymous debut last year), entitled This Is… Icona Pop, they’ve set their phasers to ‘fun’. It’s an anthology of bubblegum, dance and electro-house; this record would sit quite comfortably in a tweeny-bopper’s birthday disco set or amongst Vodka-induced depravity on dancefloors across the planet. It’s somehow simultaneously super-PG and coquettishly hedonistic. A wily, lucrative and ever-so-marketable gimmick that Icona Pop share with Katy Perry and the denizens of neo-pop Valhalla.
There’s a smorgasbord of anthems available that aren’t their signature cut. “Ready For The Weekend”, opening with medieval chants, transforms swiftly into vocoder-ed house with throbbling wobbles of bass, titanic bouts of snappy percussion and more drops than Robert Green. It’s not Mariana deep lyrically, but that’s never been a selling point of Icona Pop. What you can expect are declarations of merriment and party antics. “On A Roll”‘s ‘do do da do dododo’ hook is a sonic plague you’ll need bleach to scrub from your frontal lobe. Sirens wail and synths bleep, the rhythms are basic and bass loud – it’s pop gold. “Girlfriend”, nabbing melody and lyrics from Tupac‘s “Me and My Girlfriend”, is a mantra to be blared on summer breaks and half-terms and uni socials, it’s gloriously facetious and stuffed with high calibre riffs. Makeout ode “Then We Kiss” trots with chirpy confused-Furby synths and a chugging motorik; it’s weirder than most of their offerings, but incredible nonetheless.
Icona Pop are famed for their massive heavyweight perky pop, but that’s not the only gadget on their utility belt. “In The Stars” is perhaps the best synthpop effort this decade, which whilst still Top 40-friendly, isn’t as rambunctious as previous IP endeavours by a long shot. There’s a comfortable anxiety, if you can forgive the oxymoron, that’s like the aural equivalent of butterflies in your belly. “Just Another Night” is as ballad-y as you’ll see the pair get on This Is…. “Stepping on the cracks in the pavement/ another night of being wasted,” opens the ditty, which features saccharine acoustic guitar strumming and ABBA-esque harmonies. It’s a track which showcases the vocal abilities of Hjelt and Jawo – while their mega-tunes are great, they don’t offer a focus on the musicality of Icona Pop. Here, we can see the talented foundations underneath the glamour and glitz and party streamers – surprise, surprise, it’s wonderful. “Hold On” is the best thing Girls Aloud never released, and bears more than a passing resemblance to Europe’s “The Final Countdown”. There’s more than meets the eye on This Is….
This is undoubtedly one of the strongest pop records of 2013. While ARTPOP hasn’t hit the shelves yet and Prism is still fresh, neither of their makers have the insanity, adolescent frivolity or sheer modesty. If there’s one thing Icona Pop (ironically) laud over other popstars, it’s that their entire lack of conceitedness. It’s such an easy album to connect to and adore fully because it’s exactly the kind of pop that is sung for a transient, universal feeling of contentedness. It’s instant. It’s designed for fleeting passion and momentary revelry, not the paeans to an entire fanbase that Gaga’s begun shovelling. There’s no thinking, no head-scratching pretense. On some level, you’ll believe that this record is just for you. It’s uplifting, motivating and unashamedly simple (which, frankly, is it’s major charm).