12. Tove Lo, BLUE LIPS (lady wood phase II) (Universal)
At first it felt as though Tove Lo was rushing a little too quickly to follow up her excellent 2016 album Lady Wood. After all, with so many potentially great singles on that record, why not spend a little more time milking it to maximize that exposure? But good for her for not stopping the creative process. Besides, once you dive into the seamy, explicit sounds and themes of BLUE LIPS it quickly becomes apparent how well the album works as the second act of an ambitious double concept album. Like Lady Wood, it is divided into two different chapters, which respectively serve as the climax and the denouement of the story about a failed romance. Consequently, it starts out feeling increasingly euphoric (led by two stupendouns dance tracks, “Disco Tits” and “Stranger”) before bottoming out completely on the downbeat “Bad Days” and “Hey You Got Drugs?” It’s a risky venture for Tove Lo to be so artistically exhibitionist, but as provocative as it all is, it’s not for attention, and is in fact smarter than some will care to admit. She balances melodrama, amour fou, heartbreak, and introspection so well within the normally trite confines of pop music, and the fact that her songs so consistently succeed on the pop side (those hooks!) is admirable on its own, regardless of the lyrical content. As it stands, though, Tove Lo continues to solidify her identity as first-rate pop auteur and provocateur.