With Robyn momentarily dropping the ball with the hugely underwhelming crapfest otherwise known as "Body Talk", the most unlikely candidate has stepped in to snatch her Scandipop crown. Linda Sundblad has been doing the rounds for the past decade without ever making much of an impact outside Sweden. Her former band - Lambretta - even released a couple of singles in Australia but they never really took off. Despite being the tragic fag's No Doubt. The diva's debut solo album yielded a couple of huge hits at home but her quirky brand of pop proved too dark and challenging for the rest of Europe. So she went back to the drawing board and quietly came up with one of 2010's best albums. "Manifest" is a diamond in the rough. It's not perfect - the mix of sounds is perhaps a little too eclectic, a couple of the songs misfire badly and occasionally her lyrics don't make a lot of sense - but that's also what I love about it. Linda is not a graduate of Sweden's cookie cutter school of pop. She experiments with different genres, sings upbeat songs about suicide and dances around semi-naked in boxer shorts. While Robyn stuck rigidly to the same old sound, Linda threw caution to the wind and just did her own thing. The result is a rich collection of catchy pop tunes with grit and attitude. Scandinavia has been put on notice.
Intro (Choice) - 7/10
I hated this bizarre intro the first time I heard it. The song sounds like something from "Damita Jo" - complete with dodgy lyrics about feeling like a virgin and weird stopwatch sound effects. However, through some annoying twist of fate, the damn thing has wormed its way under my skin. I love the subtle chorus and the way Linda sexes up her vocal simultaneously makes me want to laugh and touch myself. Genuinely odd but memorable.
Making Out - 10/10
Max Martin dusts off his trusty pop/rock formula on this brilliant anthem. "Making Out" stands up to anything the super producer has crafted for P!nk or Kelly Clarkson. Speaking of Kelly, this sounds like a cross between "I Do Not Hook Up" and "Since U Been Gone" but that's not exactly a bad thing. The chorus is pure audio crack and Linda's voice sounds amazing against the explosion of guitars. That's not even mentioning the amazing lyrics - "we're fabulous and rich together, we could not look any better"! If this isn't released as a single, Linda needs to find a new record label.
Let's Dance - 9.5/10
The album's second single was a top 10 hit in Sweden, bettering the peak of "2 All My Girls" by more than 40 places. While I definitely prefer the latter, "Let's Dance" is something of a triumph. That is if you ignore the clunky intro. I honestly can't think of another genuinely great pop song with such a dire beginning. The first verse doesn't work at all - it's disjointed, sloppy and unsettling. But then that gorgeous chorus explodes in your ears and you really just don't give a shit. With a bit of editing this could be an international hit. "Let's Dance" is one hell of a hot mess.
It's Alright - 8.5/10
A lot of fans have compared this with Madonna's "Cherish" and they're spot on. Linda's anthem shares the same (sickly) sweet sentiment and unbearably cute production - courtesy of Johan "Kermit" Bobäck. If you love that old cunt's 90s classic (as much as I do), chances are you'll lap this shit up. The cynic in me wanted to hate the song's unabashed hopefulness and optimism but I was won over by the second verse and pretty much smitten by the end of it. "It's Alright" is musical Xanax. Just press play and feel the happiness start to spread.
Perfect Nobody - 7/10
Um, why is this shit the album's 3rd single? Ok that's a bit harsh. "Perfect Nobody" is a pleasant enough ballad - if you ignore the fact that it doesn't really make sense and is more than a little boring. I guess the involvement of Fibes, Oh Fibes! was the selling point but there are at least half a dozen better songs on "Manifest". I guess my problem with it is the chorus. The verses are quite pretty. I love Linda's subtle vocal delivery and the restrained production is nice. However, the chorus is totally overwrought and, more to the point, would you really want to be described as the "perfect nobody" by your lover? I think something got lost in translation...
2 All My Girls - 10/10
"2 All My Girls" featured on my best of 2009 countdown and got its own post late last year. 7 months have passed and Linda's anthem is still on high rotation on my iPod. Max Martin knows his way around a pop tune and this is the most original thing he has put his name to in years. It's big, bold and utterly addictive. And don't even get me started on the video (above). So fucking fierce! Despite the fact "2 All My Girls" barely scraped into the top 50 in Sweden (what do you expect from a nation that snacks on Plopp?), I firmly believe the song would be massive in Australia and the UK. It's tailor made for radio and lesbians would finally have a new anthem to grind to in Newtown. Girls, it's time to move on from "Sexy Bitch"!
Serotonin - 9/10
This is a massive fan favourite and it's easy to see why. Linda re-visits the 90s in all its trashtastic glory. I love the house-y (is that a word?) piano, adore the purposely dated synths and am pretty much sick for the daggy 'woah woahs' in the chorus. If you're going for a retro vibe, you might as well do it properly. And producer Johan Bobäck is clearly a connoisseur of the decade. "Serotonin" is a camp gem but it's more than just an exercise in kitsch. The song holds up as clever piece of pop music and would make a fantastic single. Just imagine the crimes against fashion Linda could commit in the video!
Suicide Girl - 7.5/10
Who else but Linda would pen a catchy pop tune about killing yourself? It sounds gruesome but this is an ironic swipe at attention seeking media whores. I like it - particularly the lyric "took too many pills and dialled 911 and now I'm playing cute in an ambulance!" - but it feels like a bit of a throwback to her last album. That said, it's almost obscenely catchy and Macho Psycho's bubbly production (the guys behind Vanessa Amorosi's "Hazardous album) is a lot of fun. I gave it an extra point for the spoken interlude at the end where Linda disses tourists and admits to being unfriendly.
Pick Up The Pieces - 8.5/10
Break up songs are usually depressing or annoyingly empowering but "Pick Up The Pieces" strikes a nice balance between the two. The verses are refreshingly raw and pathetic ("a broken heart is nothing new") before switching gears with a cute chorus about moving on. It's a bit disjointed and the 90s flavoured production is curious but the song works. I love Linda's voice on this. She doesn't have a huge set of pipes but she knows how to interpret lyrics beautifully. Strike this up as another gem.
Damage - 6.5/10
Linda explores faux urban beats on this slow groove. It reminds me of the album opener ("Choice") - only without the filthy lyrics. I wish the chorus was stronger and the lyrics meander without having very much to say. This is the closest thing to filler on "Manifest". And while "Damage" isn't particularly catchy or memorable, it's still better than two thirds of the shit on Robyn's "Body Talk". Fact.
History (featuring Kleerup) - 10/10
Kleerup is more shameless than Stargate and Ryan Tedder put together when it comes to recycling beats. I swear he's been pushing the shame shit on every diva from Robyn to Cyndi Lauper. The thing is - Andreas Kleerup is pop's most endearing one trick pony. "History" sounds like a cross between Cyndi's "Lay Me Down" and Titiyo's "Longing For Lullabies" but I can't think of universe where that is actually a bad thing. "History" is another icy electro-ballad with pretty lyrics and clinically precise production. And I love it.
Feel So Good (Bonus Track) - 7/10
Now this is just a piss take. Linda sings about bubblegum and demands to know "where the fucking show is". It's musical equivalent of drunken rant complete with eerie backing vocals, strange sound effects and beats straight outta 1997. Weird and more than a little wonderful. Which basically sums up the whole album.
"Manifest" has bombed thus far in Sweden. But I still live in hope that it will be picked up abroad. It doesn't seem right that dirty, old Velvet has a UK record deal - let alone a pointless pro like Gathania or the BWO homos. Linda Sundblad is quality and could really shake things up with this album. Hopefully, she gets a chance to prove that there's more to Sweden than Robyn.