Irresistable pop from Swedish singer Zara Larsson; revolutionary music from 1917

So Good by Zara Larsson and The Year 1917: Music In Turbulent Times.
So Good by Zara Larsson and The Year 1917: Music In Turbulent Times.PHOTOS: EPIC, DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON

Swedish pop star Zara Larsson is 19 and has released her debut international album, which she unabashedly calls So Good.

Arrogant? Maybe. Accurate? Oh yes.

Larsson, winner of Sweden's version of Got Talent, Talang, at age 10, has the chops to back up her boast. This is not sugar-coated bubblegum fare; this is proper Scandi-pop, the kind that dominates airwaves.

Her earworm of a summer tune, Lush Life, put her on the radar in 2015 and a string of hit singles has preceded the album release.

  • POP


    Zara Larsson


    3.5/5 stars

Never Forget You, the dark, electro-pop duet with British urban producer MNEK, and cheeky man-stealing anthem Ain't My Fault feature on So Good.

Thankfully, she has not exhausted all the good songs on singles, saving some gems for the album.

There is Symphony, a delicate but dancey ballad, which is a collaboration with British classical crossover band Clean Bandit. "I've been hearing symphonies, before, all I heard was silence/A rhapsody for you and me, and every melody is timeless," she sings.

In the title track, a throwback to 1990s R&B, she shows that she is not afraid to get what she wants: "My love is more potent than anything in the cup that you're holdin'," she croons, with a sassiness also found on Beyonce-type girl-power anthem Make That Money Girl ("Why you so hesitant? You can be the next female president").

The album is undone at the end by the ballads One Mississippi, Funeral and I Can't Fall In Love Without You, which are all fairly lacklustre. But there is enough irresistible pop music to make up for them.

Anjali Raguraman

Exactly 100 years ago, Europe was mired in the bloodiest war that civilisation had known and, within months, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was overthrown in the Bolshevik Revolution, ushering in the most brutal political regime of modern times. Music was still being composed, distinguished by iconoclasm and modernity, but it was indelibly influenced by global events of the time.



    Deutsche Grammophon 479 6969 (2 CDs) /4/5 stars

This double-disc set surveys works written in the momentous year of 1917, encompassing late Romanticism, Neoclassicism and the rise of Avant-gardism. Composers such as Respighi, Holst, Bartok, Stravinsky and Prokofiev figure in this musical montage, in excerpts from major repertoire works.

There is a complete performance of Erik Satie's Dadaist ballet Parade (performed by the Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra, led by Louis Fremaux), which employs the non-musical sounds of the typewriter and sirens.

Ravel's piano suite La Tombeau De Couperin (comprising six movements dedicated to friends who died in the Great War) is performed by Monique Haas, and Debussy's last piano piece, a little prelude titled Les Soirs Illumines Par L'Ardeur Du Charbon (Evenings Lit By Burning Coals), is played by Philippe Cassard.

The centrepiece is Shostakovich's Twelfth Symphony, The Year 1917, a 1961 programmatic potboiler commemorating the October Revolution and dedicated to the memory of former Soviet leader Lenin. Neeme Jarvi conducting the Gothenburg Symphony gives a straightforward account without any hint of irony. Recommended for history buffs.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe