Universal Music A/S
«Just as expected, but nothing more»
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Astrid Smeplass’ debut album is perhaps one of Norwegian music’s most talked about releases – and that long before the album was to be released at all. With postponements and speculation, it has seemed as if the debut is an almost insurmountable milestone for Smeplass. But after a lot of ifs and buts, the album “Leave It Beautiful” is here.
The album opens with the single “Marilyn Monroe”, a pop song with an attitude that clearly says where Astrid stands. With suggestive rhythms, a refreshingly independent determination is emphasized. Here she stakes out her own course, the only question is whether she manages to keep her own promises in the release?
The production is by the Swedish star producer duo Jack & Coke. With a strong pop CV, Smeplass is in good hands. It happens, however, that production takes over. «Hits Different» may offer a dark and bass-infested soundscape, but you easily lose Smeplass’ characteristics in the mix. It could be a song from any pop artist.
Unshakable star quality
This problem is also encountered in «Airpods», a perfectly decent pop song, but unfortunately just as bland.
“Leave It Beautiful” honors a number of current pop trends, but it is simply at the expense of the impression. Many of the songs pass easily, without effect. It is danceable but superficial pleasures, which one easily forgets as soon as they are finished.
A debut album is about showing an artist’s identity. Now it must be said that Astrid S is a special case. There are not many debutants who have already been named Spellemann of the Year, but it is all the more exciting to see what she wants to achieve. Unfortunately, this is also something you can not fully grasp. There are many nice glimpses of honesty, feeling and even hurt, but the release as a whole still feels a bit empty.
One can not deny that Astrid S has an unshakable star quality. When her crystal clear vocals shine, when the lyrics hit, when the production claps – then little is better. We all know what Astrid S can do, but we would like to see her dare to bid more on herself.
High hit potential
But there are moments that make you remember why we love Astrid.
«It’s OK if You Forget Me» is a sore and honest account. Here the emotions and Smeplass’ fantastic voice are at the center and the result is bittersweet magic. Also «If I can’t Have You» hits this nerve and creates magnificent melancholy on the otherwise flat release.
The album ends with the hopeful title track “Leave it Beautiful”. The vibrant soundscape manages here, for once, to lift up Astrid’s vocals and the result is a shiny song with high hit potential.
All in all, Astrid Smeplass’ debut is exactly as expected. At its best, fantastic glimpses of true pop star quality. Unfortunately, the highlights are colored by unambitious and forgettable songs. It easily becomes too safe, too blasé. One would like to see more of what Astrid actually has to offer, because this does not live up to expectations.