The Swedish electro-pop sensation Tove Lo scored a huge sleeper hit with Habits (Stay High). It’s the kind of hit you’d want to make: catchy, smartly written and ever-present without becoming unbearable. The lead single of her debut album Queen of the Clouds marked her introduction to the world and she made it a good one. On stage she claims most of her songs are about drugs, sex and heartbreak,1 which is pretty much the most accurate description of Habits.
Queen of the Clouds turned out to be one of the best pop-albums released in 2014, with Grantland’s Steven Hyden drawing a comparison between Tove Lo and Lorde,2 dubbing her music “the spirit of grunge”. While the production on Queen of the Clouds is near-perfect, the words of Tove Lo are why the songs stay in your head long after the beat has faded.
The show in Amsterdam was scheduled for the small concert hall, but was moved to the bigger stage (with a capacity of 1,500) when the show sold out almost immediately. Tove Lo’s down-to-earth, everyday girl persona is obvious from the second she takes the stage. While it very easily could be an act of counter-programming, I actually believe Tove Lo is exactly who she claims to be. She is flawed, brutally honest, insecure and incredibly talented, but above all she is a twenty-something girl figuring life out. With her three man band, Tove Lo perfectly translates the sound of her album to the stage. The lights are a little bit too bright, Lo’s music may sound like sugar sweet pop, it’s best enjoyed in a dark setting accompanied by your choice of poison. For the first three songs, Tove Lo seems distracted by technical difficulties and the fact she turns the echo on her track on and off with her feet, doesn’t help either. It takes a while before she really connects with the audience, but when she kicks off her shoes (“I try to keep them on, but I always take them off”) and her voice is warmed up, the fun can start.
With the personal Over, Tove Lo shows she can also bring a good mid-tempo song. It’s a perfect break between the more uptempo tracks from Queen of the Clouds. From that moment, the show builds to a climax with Talking Body, where she flips the script with a female gaze on the male’s body. When she flashes a breast, the female part of the crowd goes crazy, which sounds weird but makes perfect sense during the show.
Tove Lo has an undeniable charm when she’s on stage. There are two kinds of stars in the music business. The first group consists of artists who are so perfect at life, they have fans thinking: “I want to be just like him/her”. The best example? Beyoncé. The second group isn’t as perfect (but still more talented than 99% of the people), but uses its flaws to its advantage, Tove Lo belongs to the latter. She knows how to use her “I’m just like you”-attitude like Steph Curry knows how to shoot three pointers. It’s amazing to see it happen in front of you.