Secret Meeting score: 54
by Philip Moss
Lykke Li’s 2014 album, I Never Learn, was a glacial blast of icy pop and one of the year’s defining records. In the intervening years, the Swede has had a period of conflicting emotions: her appearance on U2’s The Troubles – the highlight from their iTunes giveaway, Songs of Innocence and giving birth to her first son, Dion, while also having to deal with the trauma of losing her mum.
On so sad so sexy’s opener, hard rain, melancholia is the overriding sentiment. Under waves of heavily processed drums, layered vocoders and pulsating bass, this Rostam (Vampire Weekend, Solange, Frank Ocean) co-write very much sets the tone for the record- ‘If you like the feeling of a hard rain falling / I have a sea full, I can give you an ocean’.
Much has been made in the build up to this record’s release about the record’s production, which has been undertaken, in the most part, by Li’s Grammy winning husband and megastar knob twiddler, Jeff Bhaskier (Kanye West, Mark Ronson, Eminem). But where the title track from I Never Learn was driven by shimmering acoustic guitars, it feels very much like no ‘real instruments’ have been harmed in the making of so sad so sexy. Meaning that much of the emotional impact is lost in a haze of studio trickery. And where I Never Learn felt like an original voice, so sad so sexy could be just A.N Other pop star.
deep end’s triggered, programmed drums are predictable and its extended metaphor narrative feels tired. two nights gives us a glimpse of Li’s superb voice but, again, its melodic phrasing, rhyming choices and the decision to employ Aminé in a guest rap spot is another lazy, cliché move. jaguars in the air and sex money feelings die are simply throwaway and contrived.
Closer, utopia, offers some light at the end of the tunnel, but – again – Li delivers another fervourless performance. The irony of lines like – ‘We could be the most transcendent / Go deep like Dylan’ – are not lost either, as her indolent wordsmithery could not be further from the ‘deep’ and astute lyrical flourishes penned by Mr Zimmerman.
Sadly, so sad so sexy is a rather generic affair, that’s not so much a glacial blast, but one that just leaves you feeling rather cold. Sad, yes. Sexy, not really.