Major Lazer’s 2015 pop hit “Lean On” introduced Danish singer Karen Marie Ørsted, known professionally as MØ, to the music industry with much success. The gritty thrills of her vocals twist ferociously with Major Lazer’s anthemic backdrop, and with the addition of her newest album, “Forever Neverland,” MØ continues to showcase the strength of that combination.
This fearless mesh between pop instrumentals and MØ’s visceral melodies is intoxicating in “If It’s Over (feat. Charli XCX).” A heavy, throbbing drumbeat combines with MØ’s staccato vocals. The two hammer down on the listener as every group of four lines rhymes with one another. A distorted wind instrument drives the chorus forward, in which MØ details the newfound freedom in her life after a breakup. The song sounds more like a fierce victory march than it does a pop song — a common theme that runs through “Forever Neverland.”
MØ also explores a honeyed rendition of her voice in songs like “Blur” and “Beautiful Wreck,” both which prove the Danish artist can step away from her roughness. “Blur” is the haunting ode to MØ’s lost creativity and stress while she was in Los Angeles, and the evocative power in her voice and lyrics effectively translates her yearning for inspiration in what she calls the “city of stars.” Both “Beautiful Wreck” and “Blur” have heavily autotuned choruses in which multiple layered harmonies of MØ’s voice seem to stand apart from the electric background. This bewitching echo is one of the most captivating elements of the album.
“Forever Neverland” has several standouts, including “Sun in Our Eyes (feat. Diplo)” and “Imaginary Friend.” “Sun in Our Eyes (feat. Diplo)” is the up-tempo hymn that perfectly encapsulates that inescapable elation of summertime. This feeling comes from the endless pulse of Diplo’s beat and, of course, MØ’s boundless vocals. “Imaginary Friend” has a defining beat similar to “Sun in Our Eyes (feat. Diplo),” and the automated, dynamic thrums make the listener want to sway to the song’s stirring melody.
A tribal-like adrenaline runs through “Way Down” and “Red Wine (feat. Empress Of).” Their excellence rests in the computer-automated instruments, a backdrop that relies on the clash between smooth rhythms and the percussion’s infectious beat. These instrumentals are another thrilling addition to MØ’s album, and their compelling force is asserted with a variety of instruments, including what sounds like a flute and trumpet in “Way Down.”
The final song, “Purple Like the Summer Rain,” is the only discordant song on “Forever Neverland.” The album, until this point, defines itself as powerful and experimental. It’s unfortunate, then, to see such a weak concluding song. “Purple Like the Summer Rain” is a continuation of the song’s first track, “Intro,” and the elements the two songs share are as enchanting as the rest of the album. The verses in “Purple Like the Summer Rain,” however, sound offbeat, as if MØ’s vocals were slightly mismatched to the song’s instrumentals. The spoken word at the end of song sounds incompatible with the rest of the album, too — though once MØ’s vocals cease, the soaring instrumentals place the necessary final touches to the album.
“Forever Neverland” is a testament to how pop artists aren’t necessarily bound to the conventional boundaries of pop music. The lyrics need not be generic to be catchy, and the songs need not be repetitive to be remembered. The synth beats and indie influences throughout this album are noticeable and shrewd. MØ stands tall with other talented pop artists, and in “Forever Neverland,” she has proven that reputation is well-deserved.