Monday, December 16th, 2013

READER AMNESTY 2013: Tove Lo – Habits

Reader’s Amnesty starts NOW! First, from David Montiel: a Swedish pop star (subgenre: Icona) who doesn’t, in the words of Freaky Friday, make good choices…


David Montiel: Holy fuck, this is intense! Sweden’s Tove Lo has essentially rewritten Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” from a much grittier, darker perspective. While Ke$ha seems happy to portray herself as a trashy skank who just wants to party, Lo is ready to admit that her self-destructing ways are the result of heartbreak and pain. And lyrics like “I eat my dinner in my bathtub, then I go to sex clubs watching freaky people getting it on” are not only better written, they are delivered in a more honest way. As is the devastatingly sad chorus.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: One of the crack team of “Something New” writers gives us Something Sad, a portrait of a woman who eats in the tub, leaves for an evening of degradation, then returns to throw up in it. “Habits” is a gauche glimpse into lonely hells, like a scene from Gummo set to precise Scandipop. Tove sounds screwed-over, fraying at the edges, but focused nonetheless — her craft outweighs, at least for a moment, her hubris.

Katherine St Asaph: Things that are far more worrisome and/or debauched than anything in “Habits”: 1) being the creepy person at the sex club (if your takeaway is “watching freaky people get it on,” you have neither been around nor seen it all); 2) that choir preset; 3) wasting the band name Tremblebee on this dullness; 4) wasting the poignance in “I’ve gotta stay high all the time to keep you off my mind” on easy shock-n-edge, like Cat Marnell if she couldn’t write, wasn’t self-aware and was found by VICE first; 5) mentioning “gotta stay high” but zero actual drugs, which is either a Ke$ha move or keeping it PG-13 for advertisers (also technically a Ke$ha move, or at least a Ke$ha’s-team move that Ke$ha probably doesn’t like either); 6) being a Shitty A&R Guy tweet incarnated, squarely within the post-Icona genre of pop for people who don’t follow pop and bloggers needing sponsored posts — which would fall under “blame the system, not the worker” if not for: 7) Modeling vocals after Katy Perry.

Brad Shoup: The bluntness doesn’t scan like buzzbait. It just startles. The moralistic sting of the refrain would seem to put a bow on the emetic verses, but maybe it’s just the standard line of the addict. When she sings about finding someone to numb the pain, it seems like it’s really possible. The track isn’t abject at all. It’s actually quite pretty: thick-toned bass, sanctified bgvs, a Robyn-like climb to a vocal peak. There’s more here than a fast scan of Twinkies and sex clubs would indicate.

Alfred Soto: In the first verse she’s so restless and zonked out that the freaky people at the sex club don’t get her nervous (tip: avoid Twinkies). The rest is midtempo longing and obsession (tip: use synths for propulsion, not immersion). 

Scott Mildenhall: Are Twinkies readily available in Sweden? That’s the important question here, and if they’re only sold in North America then that might maybe give an insight into Tove Lo’s ambitions. “Habits” touches a nerve even when it’s really unrelatable, and the seeming contradiction of on-edge ennui really must be for a lot of people. The minor repetition in the first couple of verses sums up that mundanity accompanying insanity: eating dinner in the bathtub, then regurgitating it into the bathtub, then probably sleeping in it too. At least there’ll always be music though, and, as those “woo-ooh-oohooh”s continually bring to mind, quality television like Take Me Out. Maybe she could apply for that if she’s still at a loose end.

Iain Mew: Every time I try to recall this I find myself thinking of the chorus to “Manners” with the word “Habits” instead. The only memorable bit of the song is the provocative lyrics, and they aren’t funny or sad enough for that to be a positive.

Will Adams: To know that the hedonistic, vomit-happy lyrics that everyone aped after “Tik Tok” got big still haven’t run their course is rather disheartening.

Anthony Easton: Bathhouse sex is predatory and decimates your self esteem, but it is also profoundly generous, and when you manage to pull, you can feel like Lana Turner at Schwab’s Pharmacy. Working out whether the balance works in favour of the practice, especially when you are slightly too young for the plague and slightly too old for Grindr, is incredibly difficult to articulate. Weirdly, this manages it better than many texts written by gay men for gay men. But maybe not that weirdly — hasn’t that been one of the goals of dance music since the ’20s?

Patrick St. Michel: At this point, women have totally taken — and mastered — the narcotic-soaked sound The Weeknd rose to hype with. “Habits” is one of the most (heh) blunt takes on this sound yet, even if it moves a touch faster than the codeine-hopped before it. “High all the time/to keep you off my mind” — I mean, that’s what all of these artists have been going for, right? Tove Lo whittles the debauched misery down to its center, over a really pop-friendly song.

Reader average: [8.3] (10 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

7 Responses to “READER AMNESTY 2013: Tove Lo – Habits”

  1. DAVE?

  2. Not Dave, but the controversy rating is a 2.33 – close, but not a winner

  3. Actually it’s a bit higher with the weighting — I saw a “TBC” in the controversy slot this morning and did it by hand. The total with the Secret Formula is 2.37, but still only good enough for 11th place, between Bonnie McKee and Jimmy Buffett. (That trio has to be some kind of alternate universe Controversial Pop 2013.)

  4. (Not sure why this one used the old weighting — I double-checked and the other controversy picks used the new weighting — the difference between a 1.02 versus 1.04 multiplier for each contributor over 8, not usually enough to make a huge difference.)

  5. Thanks! (As you might’ve noticed, we’re running reader blurbs for the songs they chose, if they choose — ALSO IT IS NOT TOO LATE TO SEND YOURS, HINT HINT — and there were a few hiccups getting them into the calculations.)

  6. Yeah, my bad, and thanks to Conor both for his patience and for getting into the TSJ Spirit by giving something a [4].

  7. @katherine I sent an email to the amnesty Gmail if it’s not too late. It’s a different sort of “controversial pick,” I think?