Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Venus’s perfectly polished pop lands Zara Larsson in the predictable mainstream


Release date: 09 February 2024
Zara Larsson Venus cover
06 February 2024, 09:00 Written by Emma Thimgren

At only 26 years old Swedish popstar Zara Larsson is already a veteran in the music industry.

She debuted when she was just 13 years old, and has been aiming towards the international market ever since. Aside from some global hits, she has yet to fully establish herself outside of Scandinavia. Last year Larsson launched her own record label Sommer House, and the ambition is clear – to gain more control over her career as well as her sound.

Thus far we know Larsson as a classic pop diva – saccharine pop so catchy it has quite a short-lived expiration date. Although she has a career that spans 13 years, we have never seen her branch outside of the mainstream, the music has instead become more spotlessly glossy with each year. The latest album Poster Girl was pushed back several times before Larsson was satisfied with the end result. Sure enough, the album was immaculate – but so much so that it felt overworked. Aiming to contrast this with her new album Venus, Larsson partly lets her guard down – but not enough for it to be fully believable.

Named after the Roman goddess, Venus loosely centres around different perspectives on love.

But like all of Larsson’s previous work, it too serves as a playlist or a festival set rather than a concept album. As if fighting with the listener's attention span, the album serves up hit after hit after hit with no real throughline. This reasoning is made even more clear by choosing the album's strongest song, "Can’t Tame Her", to be the opening track, instead of savouring it. The furiously fast-paced 80s tribute is a true face punch of deliciously carefree pop. Instead of creating a build-up, "More Than This Was" feels bland in comparison.

Later, Larsson is joined by David Guetta on "On My Love", the latest single to come out of the project. Guetta brings his grandiose, but static, electronic house to the track – which pales in comparison to the other singles but is maybe the most straightforward and effective song of the whole collection.

Finally on "Ammunition" Larsson starts to experiment with what we have come to expect from her. The fourth track doesn’t seem so overly self-conscious about delivering easily digested pop, but broadens its influences to R’n’B and even features a romantic nylon guitar. Aside from the misplaced, tryhard warped outro, this is a solid addition to her catalogue that will far outlive the year.

Unfortunately, this mode is quickly interrupted by the next two tracks, "None Of These Guys" and "You Love Who You Love"all of which are faceless enough to be forgotten as soon as they have played through. These predictable songs filled with safe and cheap pop tropes could belong to any popstar and feel too unambitious for a singer of Larsson’s magnitude.

"End Of Time" then recruits a grandiose 80s disco beat reminiscent of ABBA, a sound that Larsson obviously thrives in. It slowly builds momentum with the help of strings and fully explodes when the chorus arrives. The song fits Larsson effortlessly and feels unique enough to build her pop stardom.

Surprisingly, Larsson then chooses to end the album on a much more laid-back and playful note. "Nothing", "Escape", "Soundtrack", "Venus", and "The Healing" try different expressions – all quite different from the easily accessible and quick-to-the-punchline previous pop anthems. This is also where the love theme finally crystallizes, Larsson sings about finding new love and hoping her old wounds won’t get in her way – a side of the singer we have never seen before. Inviting the listener by being this personal is a welcome contrast to her glossy exterior. Even though Larsson can't seem to refrain from slipping into her usual belting and vocal acrobatics, we get a glimpse of what her voice would sound like free from the jaunty BPMs and without all the superfluous add-ons.

Venus marks a new transitional phase for Zara Larsson. She seems to have reached a point in her career where she’s enjoying the process more, and it shows in the end result. Larsson knows her strengths, but she knows them too well. If she could only break down the facade further and reach beyond her comfort zone to meet the listener halfway, she would be unstoppable.

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