Back in 2017, the music industry was lit up by a rainbow of Scandinavian pop.
Artists were mostly different flavours of the same ice cream: from winking sexpots to kittenish sweethearts, the aesthetic, the sound was singular. And – as is often the case with genre explosions – a little repetitive. It speaks to the absolute affect of Sigrid's music that she stood out: aligned enough with her peers to ride the populist wave, but immediately distinguishable, brilliant.
This might have had something to do with a quality I'll reluctantly refer to as 'authenticity'. In the video for one of her earlier singles, "Plot Twist", Sigrid stared down the camera in a plain yellow hoodie and jeans, grinning like an idiot and dancing like someone unaccustomed to being asked to dance. When the BBC awarded her the Sound of 2018 award, she was filmed giving an overenthusiastic tour around her hometown of Ålesund, Norway ('Look at this! This is amazing!) and shared of video of herself, in primary school, played a ropey band cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Under an increasingly bright spotlight, she just seemed to revel the joy of being herself.
In Sucker Punch, we see that confidence crystallised. A concise package of recent singles and flawless new material, the debut LP just confirms the obvious: aside from retaining that melting charm, Sigrid is a total gift to pop music. And the songs on Sucker Punch radiate her particular brand of empowerment: not the sweeping, air-punching kind we might expect from her counterparts, but a more modest commitment to self-love – especially when life throws its inevitable right hooks.
Many of the tracks here will already be known to fans: crush anthem "Sucker Punch" bounds in to open the record, with its fat synths and chorus that sees Sigrid throw her remarkable falsetto to the rafters. "Don't Kill My Vibe" – famously written about her experience being undermined and dismissed by a cohort of male producers in an early writing session – has lost none of its potency, the brooding thrum of its verses bust open by crashing carnival drums, frantic claps and Sigrid's fearless holler. And "Don't Feel Like Crying" is a striking take on the standard break-up number. A gentle call to arms at its centre – that pain is inevitable, but it's OK, almost necessary, to distract yourself sometimes – it perhaps offers a more attainable goal to the heartbroken than the "Since U Been Gone"s of this world.
Each and every new track here glitters, too. "Sight of You" is the sweetest take: an anthem about how, despite gruelling schedules, AWOL luggage and almost-permanent homesickness, Sigrid feels saved by the sea of adoration that awaits her on stage. 'Basic' conjures that first flush of romantic infatuation: Sigrid nails the lyric here ('Let's be real, I'm just saying, If you feel it, don't cage it, Ooh, I wanna be basic') before pulling out the catchy big guns with a brazen 'nah nah nah nah' refrain. And over the skipping '80s vibe of "Mine Right Now", we hear her talk herself out of sabotaging a new relationship by overthinking ('But I ruin the moment 'cause I picture the end, And I don’t wanna go there, So I tell myself that, Hey, it's alright if we don't end up together.')
With Sigrid's knack for finding that silver lining, genuinely sad songs are a rarity here. That said, "Never Mine" speaks to a place we've all been: the torment of a love who has moved on before you've had the chance. Here, as the synths part, we hear Sigrid's changling voice settle, briefly, in a broken place, repeating the song's titular lament – a performance that will make the breath catch in your throat.
On the technical side, Sigrid's arrangements surpass the genre she rode in on: there's a core of deftly-orchestrated electronic pop, sure, but more classical features abound too – the ringing electric guitar solo that lifts "Sucker Punch"'s final bars; the thunderous strings carrying "Sight of You"'s melody; the tender piano chords that transform "Basic"'s middle eight. With pop currently consumed with references to trap and dancehall – Scandi-pop being no different – hearing these delicious deviations is a thrill.
Again, it all comes back to Sigrid's character, and how her beaming confidence and candour gives her arrangements a stand-out flair and her stories an earthy relatableness. Aside from being a near-perfect collection of belting pop, Sucker Punch also carries a message of triumphant grace: if you can try to be your own best friend and love yourself a little more, wonderful things will happen.