This review needs a rewind. The year was 2008, and I was a 15 year-old budding “music critic”. Some of my favorite things to keep up with were the winners of talent shows, especially American Idol. On this particular day, I was going through some YouTube Videos of Jordin Sparks winning American Idol, when I came across a video claiming a “10 year-old winner of Sweden’s Got Talent”. Curious, I clicked on the video to see a young Zara Larsson absolutely smash her rendition of “One Moment In Time”. Needless to say, I was stunned. I hadn’t ever heard anything that poised coming from a 10 year-old, granted, I was only 15. I resolved to “keep tabs” on Zara Larsson, and went on with my life, completely forgetting to keep tabs at all. Man. I missed a lot in six years.
Fast-forward to the summer of this year. I was going through my old computer and looking at videos I had favorited when I saw the video of Larsson’s winning performance. Instantly, I had to know what she was up to. It was a time capsule of sorts, back to when I thought I had stumbled on to the most talented young artist I would ever encounter. Turns out, I might have been right. Her single, “Carry You Home”, is one of the best songs I heard all summer. There, I said it. A 16 year-old might have made the best song I heard all summer. Ever since I heard “Carry You Home”, I was fully stoked for a debut album, and that debut album, “1”, was just released in
Sweden on October 1st.
First things first, Zara Larsson does not have the voice of a 16 year-old. I don’t know what criteria you’re supposed to use to age voices, but Larsson sounds like a seasoned veteran in the music game- I guess 6 (maybe more?) years of professional musicianship combined with supreme talent will do that for you, regardless of age. Larsson’s vocal abilities allow her to sidestep the usual young pop star stereotypes, as she boasts a wide range of tools that easily set herself apart from her age group. Where her colleagues, even older, more experienced ones, usually lack emotion, the change in tone from confident ex-girlfriend to shaken ex-lover in “She’s Not Me” from Part 1 to Part 2 is chilling. Where other young artists cover big vocal moments with big instrumentals (sometimes for lack of ability, sometimes to cover excessive Auto-tuning), the beat is stripped at the bridge to allow Larsson’s range to shine in songs like “Wanna Be Your Baby”. In this album, Larsson performs at the ceiling level of the majority of most potential young stars; the crazy thing is that Larsson is starting at this level, and most young artists will spend a whole career never getting there.
Her lyrics are, for the most part, above her age as well. Some overused concepts make appearances on “1”, but the way these concepts are newly-wrapped in songs like “Carry You Home”, “Rooftop”, “Weak Heart”, and other tracks help keep the “I’ve heard this before” feeling at bay. Writing was clearly a focal point on this album- a refreshing idea for this category.
The standout tracks on this album boast high replay values. “Carry You Home”, “Rooftop”, and “Bad Boys” are tracks you are bound to have playing in your head over and over again, while “She’s Not Me” Parts 1 and 2 are tailor-made for a rough breakup situation. I can’t find one song in particular that I won’t ever listen to again.
I thought of doing a “things wrong with the album” section right here. I was going to say “here are the problems with this album, and here’s why they’re totally acceptable”, and defend with the point that “1” came from a 16 year-old, but the only problem on my bullet list was that “1” is only available for purchase in Sweden.
This is a debut album; Larsson has plenty of time to craft and perfect her own original sound. Like LeBron James coming out of High School, Larsson should go nowhere but up. Under the right circumstances, her already top-of-the-line writing, control, originality, vocal abilities, and style will only get better. The next six years could show double the growth the last six years saw. For now, she’s an exciting, young, impressive artist with a ceiling that has yet to be seen and a killer debut- I’m sure that will do. You can bet I’m going to do a much better job keeping tabs on Zara Larsson from here on out. You should too, because honestly, my only real issue with “1” is the fact that it isn’t available for purchase outside of Sweden.
Review by Kyle Copier | @Kcopesmusic