Zara Larsson – VENUS

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Zara Larsson hasn’t stopped reaching new highs with her vocals, production, and lyrics. Every time someone says the star has created something beautiful, she goes on and tops it. VENUS is an example of that. And while longtime fans of the pop pantheon may not exactly vibe with some of the songs on this record because they’re not the sexy pop dance-worthy tracks they associate her with – most of the tracks are actually more laid-back so that their messages can be the selling point – there’s undoubtedly a lot to admire about it.

Let’s start with the title track “Venus.” Described by Larsson as “a love song to love itself,” the song talks about experiencing a love so exhilarating it lets loose your emotions: “I can’t stop this overwhelming feeling / You got me fallin’ in love / And everybody here can see us / My world is upside down / Oh, Venus, you turn my heart around.” You don’t have to be in love to understand the beauty of this track.

To accompany the release of the album on February 9, the music video for “You Love Who You Love” was released. In the eclectic video, Larsson steps into the role of a pawnshop owner who allows heartbroken lovers to trade in their ex’s gold for cash. She is also seen consoling a friend getting over a heartbreak. A day before, she gave the US debut TV performance of “You Love Who You Love” on Good Morning America.

Kicking off VENUS with the self-love anthem “Can’t Tame Her,” Larsson takes us on a ride that explores the different kinds of love, from the love shared among family members (“On My Love”), to the one you have for your craft (“End Of Time”), and to the kind you have for a partner (“You Love Who You Love”).

To achieve what she wanted for this record, which is to explore the different facets of her personality, she worked with a diverse, but focused, team of people. The result was a blend of the classic songwriting tradition of Rick Nowels, Violet Skies, or Casey Smith and the maximalist beats of Danja.

In “Can’t Tame Her,” Larsson is a powerful woman who knows exactly what she wants, and if it’s staying out late that’s on her mind, like hell, she’s going to do it. “Don’t need no one, she can dance on her own / Club is closin’, but she ain’t goin’ home / Night is still young, where the hell will she go?” she sings, confidently going on to proclaim that “she runs her own world.”

By the time “Healing” comes along, I already feel like I’ve explored a wide range of emotions, and now I’m at the closure. In “Healing,” Larsson wants a potential lover to stick around until after the healing. What is she healing from? “The one before you wasn’t careful / The one before you kicked my heart around the corner / The one before you wasn’t gentle / Nobody told me love was a contact sport.”

I feel like I should throw a bone to “Memory Lane” for the sake of all those who are disappointed it didn’t make it into the album. If VENUS can be summarized, I feel like “Memory Lane” would be it. “So I walk myself down memory lane / I still hold onto all the joy and the pain… and I thank myself for who I became.”