By Jayleen Rolon
Zara Larsson’s “Poster Girl” came out four years after her hit debut studio album “So Good,” but over a decade after the Swedish singer’s successful career began. After winning the 2008 season of “Talang,” the Swedish version of “Got Talent,” Larsson’s music has been well received in her native country in particular. Additionally, her single “Never Forget You” from “So Good” gained international popularity, further raising expectations for her future music.
“Poster Girl” opens with “Love Me Land,” an upbeat single that mimics the message of being immersed in a new romance as if it were a physical location. “Never thought I would love again / Here I am in Love Me Land,” sings Larsson in the peppy chorus.
“Talk About Love,“ a collaboration with Young Thug, takes the opposite perspective on a new love after previous failed romances. “Cause love always blows up in your face / And love always goes south in the worst ways,” sings Larsson as a justification for declining to have serious conversations about love. Larsson and Thug both reinforce the idea that the word “love” takes away from the intoxication of the moment, as discussed in “Love Me Land.”
“Need Someone” paints the picture of a car ride with the windows down on a summer day that exemplifies a state of being content, with Larsson telling her lover that while she doesn’t depend on them, she wants them to be there to amplify her happiness. “But you look so good in my sunshine / Now I can never look away,” sings Larsson in a song perfect for this current change of seasons into warmer weather.
In another one of the album’s infamous shifts, Larsson begs for attention from a lover who is too distracted by the technological world in “Right Here.” Her desire to recapture the chemistry of early romance is clear in lines such as, “Remember when you couldn’t keep your hands off my body? / Can we get back there again / I really wanna feel that you want me.” Larsson’s plea for attention is reflected in the unique audio of the song that catches your attention. This is particularly relevant during this pandemic where technology both creates and bridges distance in relationships.
The chemistry comes back in heavy with “WOW,” as a hot and steamy atmosphere is created. Larsson sings,“The way you want me makes me want you now / The only thing you have to say is (Wow).” The chorus rings out at the climax of the anticipation that is built through a progression from minimal audio manipulation to highly-produced audio.
In the club-worthy title track “Poster Girl,” Larsson details not being “the poster girl for feelings,” but uncontrollably falling in love unexpectedly. Lines like “Melting in like water” are a personal favorite of mine, as she so beautifully captures the feeling of falling in love to a catchy beat.
In “I Need Love,” Larsson comes to the realization that despite her past heartbreak she must succumb to the human need for love. “Like an addict needs a drug / Like a hunter needs the blood,” sings Larsson as she describes her innate need to love and be loved. This song stands out due to the emphasis on Larsson’s vocals in such a way that feels like a blend between country and pop.
“Look What I’ve Done” is an uplifting breakup song about returning to bliss after heartbreak, stronger than ever. “The beat puts my body next to somebody / Ain’t no mor? tears now, I’m lost in time,” sings Larsson as she rejoices in her newfound confidence.
The tone shifts in “Ruin My Life” as the loneliness of the breakup sets in for Larsson despite knowing the toxicity of the relationship. “I want you to ruin my life / You to ruin my life, yeah, to ruin my life, yeah,” repeats Larsson throughout the song. While the lyrics aren’t necessarily as complex as they could be, the cool sound of “Ruin My Life” makes it aesthetically pleasing, representing the concept of giving into temptation out of pleasure.
“Stick With You” explores the on and off relationship introduced in “Ruin My Life” in a different way, describing the mutual love of the thrill of the toxicity. “Oh, whatever white rabbit you chase / You might get lost or make a mistake / But I ain’t gonna leave you for it” belts Larsson to a simple, yet bass-filled instrumental, a reference to “Alice in Wonderland” where the white rabbit represents temptation that leads to trouble.
“FFF,” which stands for Falling For a Friend, is self explanatory in the simultaneous fear and thrill of having feelings for a friend. The blood pumping beat mimics the anxious lyrics like “If we cross the line / Go undercovers, close the blind / Will we be lovers or cut the ties forever?” This makes the visual of two friends with chemistry at a party who contemplate getting together is palpable.
The perspective shifts in “What Happens Here,” where Lasson argues that giving into temptation doesn’t have to have negative consequences if neither partner wants it to be a point of conflict. This song reminds me of recent pop female empowerment hits from artists like Ariana Grande and Megan Thee Stallion centering around sexual liberation. “Even if I kiss it, touch it, feel it / I’ma do it ’cause it’s what I want” sings Larsson, emphasizing the role of her own desires in her sex life rather than overthinking public perception of her.
As a young adult, I’ve been in almost all of these positions with my love life, most of which are usually summed up with the phrase “it’s complicated.” Larsson unapologetically putting into words inexplicable feelings — without making them sound like every other pop song — is what put this album at the top of my list for the foreseeable future. More than that, the songs often contradict each other without explanation, in the way that two different perspectives on a relationship can coexist without invalidating the very real feelings of them both.
There’s something for every mood of love in “Poster Girl,” whether you’re ready to dance again after your last breakup or find yourself unexpectedly lost in love with someone, there’s a song for it. Even if love isn’t your thing, Larsson will bring the world of a hot and steamy living room or nervous chemistry in the middle of a party to you through her memorable array of songs.