There’s a certain kind of pop song that plays at gay clubs that you don’t really hear anywhere else. You know the type: Punchy, vaguely European, empowering in a totally uncomplicated way—songs like Ava Max’s “My Head & My Heart” or Rita Ora’s “Bang Bang,” good enough to dance to and catchy enough to sing along with, but which mostly serve to fill time between “Dancing on My Own” and “Stronger.” For better or for worse, Norwegian pop singer Sigrid excels at this specific sort of banger: Her de ella new album de ella, How to Let Go, features at least three of them. It’s a useful talent—“gay club filler” is an entirely valid, and I would argue vital, category of pop song. But as How to Let Go proves, true neutrality is hardly a solid foundation for a career as a pop star, and, for the most part, Sigrid is working with little else.
Sigrid has always been something of a blank slate; initially, it was part of her appeal. Her debut album by her, 2019’s sucker-punch, was emblematic of a new crop of “real girl” major-label pop stars clad in casual fits and sporting natural-look makeup but largely selling the same kind of paint-by-numbers girlboss pop as their catsuit-wearing counterparts. Nestled among moments of faux-rebellion like “Don’t Kill My Vibe,” though, were a couple of real gems: ecstatic, smile-through-the-tears Eurodance songs like “Don’t Feel Like Crying” and “Strangers” that suggested that, were her sound to become little less conventional, Sigrid could one day emerge as a natural heir to Robyn.
How to Let Go, disappointingly, stymies that thought. On this album Sigrid might actually be described as an anti-Robyn—a pop star who trades exclusively in uncomplicated emotions and easy endings, who has seemingly lost any sense for lyrical tension. On nearly every song, Sigrid introduces some kind of problem (she’s lost her sense of self, she’s scared to move away from home, and so on) only to solve it by the first chorus, usually through embracing her own flaws or, occasionally, simply looking on the bright side.
Opener “It Gets Dark” typifies the ease with which Sigrid moves through the world on How to Let Go. “I’ve never ever been this far away from home/And all alone/It gets dark,” she sings over booming, stadium-pop drums, before promptly getting over it: “It gets dark/So I can see the stars. ” By the time the interminably dim-witted Bring Me the Horizon collaboration “Bad Life” rolls around nine songs later, metaphor has gone out the window: “It’s just a bad day, not a bad life.” Over and over, these songs present sadness or discomfort as problems to be solved, rather than feelings to interrogate or even just sit with. Although Sigrid sings each line as if it’s eye-openingly profound, anyone looking for depth on How to Let Go will quickly find themselves in the shallow end.