I'm one of those people that still watch Eurovision year after year, and the moment I heard Sweden's entry in this year's contest, Loreen's "Euphoria", I knew that I would be getting her album when it came out. Being a fan of both Scandinavian (make that Swedish) pop and throaty-voiced female singers, Loreen was right up my alley. When Heal was announced, I immediately pre-ordered it. As I expected, I was not disappointed.
For those of you (and I'm sure there are many) who will get this album based on the strength of "Euphoria" (which gets a haunting string intro here), it might be surprising to learn that Loreen the singer is not all about belting at full volume. Opener "In my head" is more subtle than I ever would've expected, all futuristic electronic pulse and weightless vocal delivery. That's not to say that there's no belting at all; far from it. But, aside from the passionate performance in "Euphoria", the showier vocal turns serve only to remind us that Loreen can sing. The vocal pyrotechnics, while impressive, don't really provide any sort of emotional emphasis. Lyrically, the album has its' ups and downs, and while there are occasional flashes of evocative songwriting ("Like a moon you pull me to the shore/But I can't be your ocean anymore" definitely qualifies), they are buried in formulaic takes on love and break up.
But, fair enough: this is a debut after all. And when Loreen hits her target, she does so splendidly. The spine-chilling atmospherics of "Everytime", the epic desperation of "Crying out your name" and the slightly soulful vibe of the title track are all excellent. The production remains strong and tight throughout, with previous singles "My heart is refusing me" and "Sober" (which have, for better or worse, been remixed for inclusion on this album) being the obvious club highlights, and "Do we even matter" and the standout "Everytime" working beautifully as the downtempo moments. Loreen's presence makes the average songs good and the good ones better; she's definitely a gifted vocalist, and it'll be interesting to follow her development in the future.
Overall: if you like electronic music, and if you liked "Euphoria", you'll probably like Heal. It has its' flaws, but like any good debut shows a lot of promise and potential.