She’s only 23, but Zara Larsson is already an industry vet. With the release of her third album Poster Girl, Larsson shows exactly why she is deserving of that title. Because one thing is certain — she is the poster girl for this industry and proves she’s an incredibly gifted artist who has creativity flowing through her veins.
It’s hard to capture Larsson’s sound beyond the overarching umbrella term pop, as there are elements of electropop and disco-pop, as well as R&B and dance all over the record. The common denominator is a rich, melodic production and Larsson’s signature staccato, crisp and clear vocals. Almost a year on from its initial release, I’m still wondering why “Love Me Land” never became a monster hit. It’s got an incredibly slick, seductive dance hook that expertly incorporates strings in a way you don’t often hear. What is more, Larsson absolutely delivered on the accompanying choreo-based music video. Alas, it is a great opener for the album that immediately sets the bar high for the rest of the album.
Thematically, the album embodies the same feminist take on love and relationships that Larsson shares herself. On “Need Someone,” she sings, “I’m happy, I don’t need someone / I’m happy, I don’t need your love / I’m happy but I want you.” There’s a sense of confidence, liberation, and independence across the lyrics — being self-assured in knowing what you want and knowing what you’re worth. For example “Look What You’ve Done,” which must have been partly inspired by ABBA, sees Larsson express that she “don’t need no one, this girl’s having fun, watch me catch fire,” On “FFF,” Larsson takes a leaf out of former collaborator Clean Bandit’s book, as she playfully tells a story of falling for a friend interspersed with an incredibly catchy instrumental chorus. “Is this a story arc? Cause if it are, it’d be iconic.”
The album also includes older songs, such as “Ruin My Life” and “WOW,” which recently saw a revival after being synced in a Netflix film. And while it’s not an old song, “Stick With You” is reminiscent of earlier songs by Larsson — “Rooftop” and “Uncover.”
Finally, title track “Poster Girl” is a great, glossy up-tempo song that is dressed up as being about love, when that might not be the entire story behind it. Larsson spoke of the song previously and said it had some hidden meanings — one of them being weed, and while she enjoys it, she doesn’t want to be the poster girl for it. The lyrics to the track seem to playfully allude to that from time to time, with the chorus saying, “holy smokes, I want the sweet organic healing on the tip of my tongue.”
More importantly, it’s representative of the paradox that celebrities face more often — being relatable and real, while also being acutely aware how important both privacy and public perception are to maintain both your sanity and success. “There is a complexity to a person that cannot be printed onto a poster, but then again, it’s not up to me whether I’m a poster girl or not,” she told The Forumist in 2020.
Perhaps it’s just a fact that Swedish artists tend to excel in melodic and innovative pop — think Robyn, Max Martin, ABBA, Avicii, Tove Lo, and Lykke Li, to name a few. But while Larsson may just be expanding on that long-standing tradition, she’s also most definitely developing her own legacy and signature sound. In that respect, she’s succeeded in creating an album that’s the perfect poster girl for her own musical potential and versatility.