Responsible for arguably one of the greatest Eurovision pop songs of all time (“Euphoria”), Sweden’s triumphant 2012 entrant Loreen now faces the pretty insurmountable task of sustaining her success for more than five minutes, a feat which has pretty much eluded everyone, barring a handful of winners, since the Eurovision Song Contest began 56 years ago.
If TV and radio bigwigs can put their snobbery to one side, then Loreen’s debut album Heal should help her to become one of those rare performers who transcend the contest. Worlds apart from the camp schlager-pop and overblown power ballads that casual viewers usually associate with Eurovision, the album’s 12 tracks are elegant, ethereal and emotive examples of multi-layered electronic pop that on several occasions recall the lush late 90s output of Madonna and Bjork.
Indeed, there’s a definite Ray of Light quality to the orchestral “If She’s The One” and the shimmering synth-pop of opener “In My Head.” Things get even more melancholic on the sparse claustrophobic trip-hop of “Do We Even Matter” and the subdued Royksopp-esque closer “Heal.”
If this all sounds a little too dark for someone who came from such shiny happy beginnings, then Heal does contain few more immediate sing-along moments akin to “Euphoria,” which still sounds as breathtaking as it did during Loreen’s interpretive dance performance on stage in Baku last May.
“My Heart Is Refusing Me” is a similarly anthemic blend of tribal chants, trancey synths and Loreen’s sultry breathy tones, while “See You Again” and “Breaking Robot” are more obvious ventures into four-to-the-floor territory.
But Loreen is far more captivating when she’s at her most cathartic, whether she’s drunkenly wallowing in misery over a broken relationship on the skittering breakbeat of “Crying Out Your Name” or pouring her heart out on the gorgeous analog electro of “Everytime.”
Heal’s biggest drawback is that it might be just a bit too understated and subtle to catch on in the same way as her Eurovision winner. But for those who wish Madonna would stop trying to act like someone half her age and go back to her William Orbit/Earth Mother days, this is surprisingly possibly the next best thing.