MØ: A Punk Wet Dream

A soundscape of MØ singing soft “hmm’s” and “ooh’s” starts playing from the stage, and the atmosphere of Paradise Rock Club shifts. Side conversations are brushed aside, lights are dimmed, and clusters of fan girls in signature MØ braided ponytails and grungy, athletic clothing crowd the front of the stage. Apart from the excited whispers of the more zealous MØ fans, the mood of the room briefly feels meditative and brooding. The room transports to Denmark, near the shore. Looking out into the distance at different shades of blue and gray in the water, the sky, and the mountains, the crowd is immersed in romantic and existential angst. This is something MØ’s gloomier songs are capable of doing artfully well. The stage is lit up and the drummer comes out. He plays a fast-paced drum roll and is followed by the guitarist and the keyboardist. Finally MØ, in a black Harley-Davidson sweater and black boxing shorts. She walks out on stage dressed to the nines in untamed teen angst and indie pop glamour.

In the 70’s, there were Blue Swede (“Hooked On A Feeling”) and ABBA (“Dancing Queen“, ). In the 80’s, came A-ha (“Take On Me“) and Roxette (“Listen To Your Heart”). The 90’s brought The Cardigans (“Lovefool”), Ace of Base (“The Sign”), Aqua (“Barbie Girl“), and Björk (“Pagan Poetry“, “It’s Oh So Quiet“). And so quietly, Scandinavian pop became an integral part of American music. Now in the 21st century, it seems impossible to find someone who doesn’t listen to any Scandinavian artists. From electro pop to dream pop to R&B to trip hop to folk (the list goes on), Scandinavia has emerged as a massive music-producing region with countless artists progressing their genres and producing new genres. Some old and new artists of the 21st century that any Spotify user would recognize include: Little Dragon, Miike Snow, Say Lou Lou, NONONO, Icona Pop, Lykke Li, Mr. Little Jeans, Elliphant, Peter Bjorn & John, Tove Lo, Robyn, The Tallest Man on Earth, Mapei, Frida Sundemo, Faye, and, of course, MØ.

Courtesy Martin Prosperity Institute

Courtesy Martin Prosperity Institute

In 2011, the Martin Prosperity Institute’s Global Creativity Index ranked four Scandinavian countries as being the 1st (Sweden), 3rd (Finland), 4th (Denmark), and 8th (Norway) most creative countries in the world. Maybe it’s the welfare culture of Scandinavia, where citizens are allotted “equal access to social and health services, education and culture,” as described by The Nordic Council. Maybe it’s that paying for an education, choosing a career, and providing for oneself is not as big a source of anxiousness in Scandinavia as it is in America and other countries. Maybe it’s the mesmerizing scenery of Northern Europe that inspired the likes of so many Romantic artists in the 19th century. Maybe it’s just in the water. Whatever the reason, Scandinavia has been producing the most exciting music of the past couple of years. Clear winners in originality, boldness, and sheer musical talent, Scandinavian artists have proven themselves on the world stage of pop music.

20140924_211307

MØ at Paradise Rock Club in Boston

With catchy earworm hooks, an unquestionable talent for singing, and a clear 90’s-pop influence, MØ could have easily fallen into the mechanical grind of making mindless Top 40 hit pop songs. She explains the pop elements in her music to The Guardian in an interview: “In my head I justify the pop thing with the fact that before I started listening to Black Flag, I fucking loved pop music. The Spice Girls, Cher, I loved them all. It was such a big thing for me. It makes sense to make a big song people can relate to.” Where and how she deviates from the tired and worn Top 40 pop path is also exactly what gives her music a sound unique from her Scandinavian pop counterparts. Though not as experimental as Björk and Little Dragon or as established as Lykke Li or Robyn, MØ has developed a sound unlike her electropop counterparts but still accessible to listeners. And from her stage presence to the poetic nature of her lyrics to the emotional versatility in her voice, her work is praiseworthy.

After seeing a live MØ performance, one recognizes her stage presence as a continuation of her music and an integral part of her work. Her dancing jumps from angry to restless to melancholic to excited. Every emotion expressed in her song is translated effortlessly into her performance on stage. As she said in an interview with Consequence of Sound, “So when [a song] is like about something ‘euuubleh,’ I also just want to be like ‘euuubleh’ [on stage].” She goes from hair flipping bumps and grinds to closing her eyes and embodying a classic Whitney Houston stance while singing her slower, ballad-like songs. Performing live, she is captivating and unique in her ability to capture the themes of her music seamlessly in her dancing, singing, and facial expressions – something that only comes from knowing all your own songs so intimately (she writes all her own music). Each live performance is a reconnection to the person she was when she wrote the song. She doesn’t have fancy light setups, costumes, or anything of the sort. Her stage presence, personality, and music are the meat of her performance.

Paralleling her talent in performing on stage is her ability to organically transform specific feelings into appealing sounds, words, and rhythms. Her music captures a raw feeling of passion and desperation familiar to anyone who’s ever lived through the ages of adolescence. From the wide range of emotional availability in her voice—akin to that of Kurt Cobain and Lana del Rey—to the ingenuity of her songwriting, her music causes an unavoidable aching in the heart of the listener. A beautiful occurrence that only comes from talented musicians composing sans unwarranted influence of others.

Drawing from her teenage punkdom, her songs express the unsatisfied and restless malaise of coming into this world expecting things to be so much more different than they are.  A feeling of being lost and not knowing what you want or what your purpose is. Lost in a desire to feel passion for something or someone and not finding solace in anything the world has to offer. In “Fire Rides,” she cries out in her melancholy: “What am I to do in the city if I can’t have it all and I just wanna feel pity? / For my doomed soul, doomed as the source, where can I find peace in the city?” She ends the song questioning, “What’s it gonna be like when the sound of you and I die out?” Her album is a true testament to the teen and post-teen whirlwind feelings of existential angst, punk nihilism, and rebellion.

MØ’s music comes out unadulterated from her confused and restless heart. Her work is genuine, and for this reason she has found a comfortable niche of listeners who understand and appreciate her talents. The listeners who come out to her concerts can sing and scream along to her songs without missing a beat. For MØ along with all the Scandinavian artists storming America, their music could never be considered forced or superficial. Everything MØ releases is completely natural. And that’s exactly what one finds when they see her performing live: complete liberation and freedom. A punk wet dream.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s