|Photo Credit: Dan Harris|
Shepherds Bush empire
Saturday, 1st November 2014
Pop music has moved on since the turn of the decade. Arguments of authenticity and ‘proper music’ now sound dated and petulant, whilst the artistic merit of writing a good a catchy, melody propelled song, whether it surfaces on Tumblr or Saturday Night Live can be appreciated on face value alone. Female artists like Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX and Tove Lo are bridging the gap between critical acclaim and wide-reaching accessibility, finding a beauty and a craft in the creation of music that’s instantly gratifying and memorable.
With so many examples now scattered across the popular music landscape, it’s easy to forget that MØ was once at the forefront of this modern renaissance. Since debut single ‘Pilgrim’, though, Icona Pop’s ‘I love It’ powered to number one and Charli XCX broke America, all while Karen Marie Ørsted’s debut album ‘No Mythologies To Follow’ hit neither the critical nor commercial heights to match it’s lofty expectations.
The level of fandom tonight is almost unnerving. Devoted disciples can be seen across all corners of a near sold out Shepherds Bush Empire, with girls elatedly swinging their plaited topknots, lads donning full scale, eighties tinged adidas tracksuits without a hint of irony and mums and dads greeting even the more arbitrary album tracks like old favourites. Pop music has always commanded an obsession with its listeners, and this almost feels like a throwback to the days where it was practiced like a healthy, constructive hobby, like your big sister buying Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack mini-dress or your weird cousin drawing heartagrams on his school pencil case.
What’s most striking about tonight’s show is how much more complete these songs sound. The album, arguably to its detriment, wanders through a diverse collection of styles and influences without expanding enough to really lock them down, reaching for the rhythmic dynamism of funk or the widescreen euphoria of pure-pop but just pulling up before the end. The band, that includes a four-piece horn section tonight, provide that extra weight - that shot of adrenaline - to get them over the line. The heavier percussion on the once woozy ‘Maiden’ edges it closer to the dance floor, whilst the aforementioned horns of the insolent ‘Pilgrim’ are more explosive and more deliberate. Circumstance can absolutely affect the way we perceive and experience music, and people will return home with a new set of favourite tunes from an album that they’ve heard one hundred times before. It might be because they were winked at during a disarming, lights-down rendition of ‘Freedom (#1)’, or because they were high-fived as she wandered through the upper tier of the crowd during the excellent ‘Never Wanna Know’.
MØ completely embodies the emotional properties of her songs, whether she’s swaggering on the back of her heels as she sings ‘I’ve got money’ on ‘I Got’, or punching the air and snarling defiantly during the empowering and aggressive ‘Waste Of Time’. That ability to understand and then capture the reason people connect with your music as recordings, and then translate it into a live show almost overwrought with emotion and intensity is something that has eluded many a great pop artist. There are times tonight where MØ sings directly to the front row, crouching on her knees and reaching gratefully towards their outstretched arms as if she’s clinging onto a final moment of intimacy before her platform gets too big and her audience too far away. A stage dive during the closing moments of her rendition of Spice Girls’ ‘Say You’ll Be There’ seems a fitting finale, as she finishes 2014 in the arms of the elated and the adoring masses, ready for her ascension into superstardom.