The first half of the album is saturated with calculated bangers, while its latter half showcases the real Sigrid. (Illustration via Julianna Renk, University of California, Berkeley)

Sigrid’s ‘Sucker Punch’ Is a Tale of Two Albums

The Norwegian pop sensation’s debut is torn between her musicianship and her contractual obligations.

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The Norwegian pop sensation’s debut is torn between her musicianship and her contractual obligations.

The music industry is oversaturated with pop stars who work tirelessly to produce creative and relatable content. What most people don’t know is that, at the top of the corporate ladder of the music industry, there are powerful figures who are simultaneously trying to mold these artists into what that will produce the most profit. Somewhere at the bottom of this ladder is a talented artist clinging onto their individuality for dear life. An artist that has managed to climb up successfully is Norwegian pop singer Sigrid, who released her new album, “Sucker Punch,” on March 8.

The 22-year-old singer went viral in 2017 with her debut single “Don’t Kill My Vibe.” The song was written by Sigrid and was inspired by a creative session gone wrong, where she angrily left after being scolded by older male writers who she claimed were out of touch. “Don’t Kill My Vibe” is essentially a middle finger to men that patronize women, accompanied with a catchy electronic beat.

Since then, Sigrid has been featured on the soundtrack for “Justice League” and has over 5 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

Despite the solid debut, music critics and fans are left scratching their heads in regard to Sigrid’s persona. She is constantly attempting to produce an aura of authenticity. The Norwegian artist always has a makeup-free face and wears minimalistic clothing, sharply contrasting most artists, whose fashion and glamour is the frontrunner of their craft.

The basis of Sigrid’s character is that she isn’t like other pop stars, but in turn it makes her just that. It’s almost as if she’s trying too hard to be carefree that it’s lumping her into the same category of artists she’s aspiring not to be.

Even her music, including most songs on her album “Sucker Punch,” are very similar to other artists’ work. Before listening to the album, the assumption is that Sigrid is an independent lyricist who doesn’t want to conform to the standard ideology of the pop industry. However, the entire first half of the album is a total contradiction to that. It’s the stereotypical catchy, pop ballad about love. It’s easy on the ears and follows a very specific, conventional and safe format. Without the impressive beats and Sigrid’s stellar vocals, this album could have flopped solely based on the first six tracks.

“Sucker Punch,” or the track that the album is named after, is much like any typical, bouncy-pop tune with a summertime vibe; one that frequents popular radio stations. The song kicks off the album on a positive note, narrating the start of a love story. This remains a constant theme and plot in most pop music, so at first, I was hesitant to listen to the rest of the album. Would every song follow this same format or mindless content?

Surprise, surprise. This conventional format did, in fact, continue for a few more songs. While Sigrid’s vocal range is magnificent and the beats in every track are unparalleled, there is still a lackluster element that can’t be ignored. For an artist that is supposed to be a breath of fresh air and a differentiation from the norm, her first few songs seem to fall into the stereotypical production: a catchy beat and some lyrics about love, all wrapped in a pretty bow.

“Mine Right Now” and “Strangers” are tracks that I would describe as “fun” — at best. Although pleasing to listen to, the songs lack a dimension that listeners seek out in artists who claim to be different and multi-layered.

When the album comes to “Level Up,” however, there is a sudden shift in Sigrid’s vibe. At this point in the Album, the artist has leveled up and developed her thoughts, which are far superior, in comparison to the beginning of “Sucker Punch.”

“Level Up” has much more of an indie and intimate vibe, similar to Lana Del Rey’s style. Sigrid’s powerful vocal strength really works to her advantage in this piece and shines through with outstanding acoustics. The song is only two minutes long, but those two minutes shift the gears and take listeners to a new level.

One of Sigrid’s most notable talents is her ability to jump suddenly from a soft, angelic tone to a raspy, emotional, Janis Joplin-like tone. This technique is best demonstrated in the song, “In Vain,” where, for the first time in the album, Sigrid shows an intense amount of emotion, leaving listeners speechless.

Emotions will rise once again after listening to “Dynamite,” a track that combines the tune of a piano with an emotional ballad that accentuates the artist’s vocal range. The lyrics are melancholic, describing the differences between two lovers that have lost their romantic connection. “Oh, I wish we had a common view/You see my red as blue/I don’t belong in your universe/For better or for worse,” she sings.

If you could cut the first half of the album and place it in a separate piece, “Sucker Punch” would be an outstanding indie-pop debut. Unfortunately, it seems to be clouded by what would sell and what listeners will immediately define as catchy. The raw depictions and emotions that Sigrid displays in the second half of the album will unfortunately be shadowed by surface-level pop hits in the making.

The talent is there. Every track that Sigrid sings displays her immense talent. However, it seems to be shrouded by a lackluster marketing ploy and an attempt to be “different.” A message to Sigrid and her producers: Sigrid can be a successful artist with her performance skills alone. There is no need to try and appeal to what the public supposedly wants.

When she hones in on her passion and solely focuses on singing instead of the bells and whistles, she easily beats out her competitors. Hopefully, in the future, Sigrid’s music will feature more of her raw, genuine and vulnerable side that the public desperately needs.

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