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Sweden's answer to Rihanna: A pop nutter

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Sweden's answer to Rihanna: A pop nutter
09:58 CEST+02:00
With a proven record of predicting the next big music hit out of Sweden, The Local's Paul Connolly has a chat with Elliphant and dissects her new single in all its "propulsive, hip-twitching glory".

The best pop stars always appear at least a little unhinged. Who, for example, would prefer Justin Timberlake's bland, suburban sliced bread pop persona to Kanye West's egotistical, lunacy-spiced fruit loaf weirdness? To stretch the food-is-music analogy almost to breaking point, we want our pop stars full-fat and 100 per cent proof, not skimmed and alcohol-free.

Sweden, it seems, may be about to break its very own bona fide pop nutter onto the international market. Elliphant, Elinor Olovosdotter to her parents, has drawn huge praise from Katy Perry, who called her last single Down On Life "bad ass", and Olovosdotter's slightly ludicrous bad-girl stylings (half M.I.A., half Ali G), have landed her with the tag of "the next Rihanna".

SEE ALSO: Swede wows Katy Perry with jungle jingle

Olovosdotter, unsurprisingly, is baffled at the Rihanna comparison. "I'm a bit surprised by the comparisons because I would never have thought that people would think that we were alike. I think she is a gifted and talented singer and I'm not. What I do is more experiential and I challenge myself. Luckily, I've gotten the possibility to do that. Rihanna is a more elaborate and professional artist. I see the comparison as a compliment since people like her. It might be because of the way I use the words where it sounds as I have a Jamaican patois dialect."

Ah yes, the patois. Elliphant's new single, and probable summer anthem, Music is Life, is at once her most accessible single and her most preposterous. Accessible because its propulsive, hip-twitching glory is on a par with any of the great Madonna singles from the Eighties – preposterous because Elliphant's Jafakan accent is, well, ridiculous. But it works because, like all the finest truly madcap pop stars, Elliphant is utterly unselfconscious about her strangeness. She doesn't think it's odd to speak and sing like a Jamaican; it's just what she does .

Elliphant – Music Is Life

THE ELLIPHANT WOMAN

Elliphant talks about her upbringing, religion, music and Swedish pop

Her childhood:

"My mum had two kids with two different fathers and he had four children with three different partners. It was a chaotic but we were very tight. We listened to music 24/7. Everything from Sinatra to Zappa and it drove our neighbours crazy."

Her music:

"I say it's pop punk with an electronic influence. I've always been in love with the techno culture and I'm very influenced by electronic music. I don't have a pretty voice – it's what I call a personality voice."

Religion:

"I'm an evolutionist, and my religion is to be exposed to as much as possible and trust the biology and evolution and just feel proud every time you feel something."

Swedish pop's current golden age:

"I think it has to do with the fact that we have a melodic and clear language. We have always invested in culture and creativity and we get a lot of influences from other cultures and countries — we are a modern people. It is easy to get out there and get noticed in Sweden since it is such an organized country and the people have quality within them. Sweden rules!"

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Shadow Shadow

Riviera

(Ingrid Sounds) ****

It can be seen as testament to Sweden's current embarrassment of pop riches that this magnificent debut album was released a few weeks ago to almost total critical silence. It wasn't even greeted by indifference. That would have suggested at least a degree of media coverage. Instead, there was barely a whisper from any newspaper or website.

Such apathy is difficult to fathom because Riviera is, by some way, the best debut Swedish electronica album of the year so far.

Perhaps bandleader Mattias Friberg's strangely retro decision to shroud the Shadow Shadow project in secrecy and mystery was taken at face value. The band's website offers few clues as to their provenance – it's an odd, perhaps foolishly brave, approach in this age of instant gratification and easy accessibility. Even the band's media contacts were loathe to offer much in the way of information.

What is known is that Friberg, founder member of post-rock band Logh, recruited the likes of Britta Persson and The Local's January album of the month recipient Sibille Attar, to take turns singing these exquisite but defiantly upbeat songs of love and loss.

Lead track, Riviera, even hints at a waspish sense of humour as the keening synth line that introduces the song is immediately reminiscent of Eighties cheesefest, Irene Cara's Flashdance. That the song eventually blossoms into gloriously sad electro-folk shouldn't obscure the intro's clear wink – Friberg has at hand a formidable array of pop hooks and melodies with which to stud his synthesized melancholy.

So lush electro-ballad 100001, with a following wind (and just a hint of media cooperation), really could be a global hit – it's chorus soars and swoops in equal measure, while the cloud-bank of synthesisers build into an ominous storm front. It's epic on every level – if the makers of Top Gun 2 are looking for a 2014 update on Berlin's Take My Breath Away, they should look no further.

Kill Screen, meanwhile, has a hazy oriental feel and a synth riff that could have been written by Kraftwerk in 1975 or Daft Punk in 2013, while Skull Dreams fizzes with febrile pop energy (and reminds this Eighties boy of lost post-punk popette, Pauline Murray).

Perhaps though, the most apposite line on this already-lost classic comes from the sumptuously beautiful Treasure Island - "the treasure that I've found, gonna bury it deep in the ground."

Gig of the month

Kent, Robyn, Zhala, Lars Winnerbäck

Tele 2 Arena, August 24

A beguiling line-up including the stylish Kent, electroqueen Robyn and the on-the-rise Zhala. Lars Winnerbäck provides robust singalongability.

Paul Connolly

Read more from Paul here, including his Northern Dispatch column

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