Tove Lo has always been a little dirty. Her brand of pop music — sharp and catchy — comes with a touch of darkness and grime to it. She made her debut with “Habits (Stay High),” a hangover of a single about willingly succumbing to all your vices to get over your heartbreak.
Dirt Femme, Tove Lo’s first release as an independent artist, is a tribute to all the things that define her own femininity. The album, a continuation of the alt-pop sound she’s been so good at for years now, is the musical manifesto of a deeply in love married woman grappling with how to make that experience her own.
Dirt Femme begins with a break-up: lead single and opening track “No One Dies From Love” is a booming existential crisis about losing the person your whole world revolves around. It’s the type of mega pop song that should be soundtracking blockbuster action movies with it’s ambitiously large sound.
There’s a cinematic quality to several other songs on the LP: “2 Die 4,” conjures up images of rain-soaked midnight adventures and “True Romance” has Lo belting harder than she ever has before (both songs pull their titles from cult-favorite Nineties films, too).
The domestic anxiety that comes after falling in love sets in on the album elsewhere. Since releasing 2019’s Sunshine Kitty, the Swedish star married her longtime partner and creative director Charlie Twaddle. On “Suburbia,” she points out how she is already embracing a part of life she thought she never wanted before: “I never wanted marriage/But here I am with you.” The rest of the song is Lo debating whether or not she’ll want kids, her fears of failing at it if she decides it’s something they should do in the future and the fact that she “can’t be no Stepford wife.”
Like the album title indicates, this love isn’t all silver screens and rain-soaked makeouts. On the Oasis-inspired “I’m to Blame,” a knockout cut, Lo grapples with both sides of a couple needing to melt the ice around their hearts.
Some of the best songs are the ones where the singer leans into her party-ready writing capabilities the hardest. “Attention Whore” seems like a bit of a narrative outlier on the LP but has a driving beat and a sexy verse from rapper Channel Tres, even if it’s just a 2022 redux of Madonna’s “Hollywood.” Meanwhile the sticky and sweet “Pineapple Slice,” one of two songs featuring dance music artist SG Lewis, is as playful, yummy and classically Tove Lo-horny as it sounds.
Dirt Femme isn’t Tove Lo’s magnum opus but in revealing a more vulnerable side and digging deeper into her ethos, she excels at not losing what has made her such a standout in a saturated genre over the years. Now, as an independent artist standing on her own, Lo is primed to continue setting the bar higher and higher for how to balance deep emotions with incredible pop craft.
Editor’s Note: You may have noticed that we got rid of the stars on our reviews. If you’re an engaged music fan in 2022, your opinion isn’t going to be defined by some random number. We’ll tell you right away (with some new labels) when a new album is a must-hear or, in rarer cases, an instant classic. After that, our critics will help you make up your own damn mind.