‘I am an activist,’ Loreen said at the end of 2017 during one of her performances. It was ever so casual. The four words were pronounced by the Swedish-Moroccan singer in front of the guests of the Pontus Schulz foundation: a Swedish organisation that advocates a system that makes better use of Mother Earth’s resources. She sang StatementsThe song that would have announced her Eurovision comeback. The Swedish public decided otherwise: the song didn’t become a new Euphoria. Anyway, so she is an activist, an activist who managed to break through the chains with a brand new album. Ride was released on November 24th 2017, the overall tone is particularly dark – very dark – and it’s meant to leave the old Loreen in the past. 

I, I’d rather kill myself in a ’71 Charger
1973 was perhaps one of the best years, financially, in the history of the car brand Dodge. That year at least 108,000 models were sold of the Dodge Charger, a car that was brought onto the Global Car Market in 1971 mainly because of the youth series The Dukes of Hazzard. The Charger is well known for its aggressive appearance and those who love V8-engines will really like the sound of the engine and the car’s acceleration. A strong car – and inherently linked to the first song on Loreen’s new album: ’71 Charger.

A clear demand from Loreen: Please do not lay your head down on the backseat of the Charger. She is not in the mood for that, having already wasted enough time on personal misery. Don’t you lay your head, on my head / On my head, on my couch / I ain’t got the time / Won’t waste time on your insides and out. Although, at first glance, the opening track of Loreen’s new album seems to be about an ex-lover,  the images from the accompanying music video make us less certain of that idea.  Filmed from above, you see Loreen driving in the dark green Charger down the country roads where a grey, mystical snow-laden sky hangs over them. When the Charger is at a standstill, droplets quickly appear on the windows. Here the countryside seems to play a functional role in everything: an ideal environment to let your thoughts and memories run free. Drove by the black road it’s my comfort zone / Craving the comfort from that empty sea / I ride on my own.

Still this subtle reference to The Dukes of Hazzard remains: the series that takes place in rural Georgia, one of the southern states that broke away from the rest of the United States in 1861. In the series, the Dukes are constantly at odds with Mayor Hogg and Sheriff Rosco, who are corrupt county commissioners. For various reasons Hogg and Rosco aim their arrows at the Dukes’ farm. Your trouble isn’t worthy / You’re talking like it’s dirty / Bite your tongue hun, keep it to yourself / Rolling back and forth, back and forth / Back and forth with your words. And cousins Bo and Luke? They indeed drive around all day in a Dodge Charger 1969 RT.

I keep a chain on your heart, put a spell on you
Let’s jump to the third song on Loreen’s album: Jupiter Drive. A song that Loreen has already performed at the Melkweg Amsterdam in early April 2014. It was not the album version; this was a natural, unpolished version of the song with an even deeper underground sound. Because that’s where Jupiter Drive is coming from – the smoky nightlife of Berlin. The song consists of a swelling intro, ominous lyrics and a beat that leaves much to the imagination. If we die, we die together / You’re mine, you’re mine forever / We ride my Jupiter drive. She points the listener to Jupiter, the planet that is bigger and heavier than all of the other planets in the Solar System combined. It is the planet that is often visible even with the naked eye, due to its size. The song could also be about the supreme God Jupiter, a figure from Roman mythology. As God of the storms, he controlled the wind, thunder and lightening.  He brought the rain and he had several mistresses. Since the Gods often drank nectar and ate ambrosia, they were immortal. Death is a recurring theme in Jupiter DriveAnd my lips just kill you once more / I need to feel you breathe and then / You’re all mine, mine. Desiring somebody and being in control is what Loreen is singing about. Close your eyes, make a decision / In your mind, I know you need me / You’re my main obsession. It is a desire that turns into obsession.

What if I told you, I die a thousand times
Forget the mystical Björk with her thick Icelandic accent. Scandinavia also has Loreen’s contact details in its musical Rolodex. During the 6 minutes and 38 seconds of Hate the way I love you, Loreen goes in search of the answer to this unnerving question: Which deeper truths are the reason for my feelings of unhappiness? During the first minute of the music video, the viewer is confronted with the weary face of Loreen. Exhausted she dodges the lens, her naked body wrapped in white sheets. There are dozens of candles around her bed. Images are projected onto the wall, which aims to confuse the viewer. In the end it is Loreen who has to deal with the oppressive thoughts plaguing her. You’re the reason I’m a mess / I gotta get you out. However it is not possible for her to let go of the other person. While both lives are screaming more clearly when the lights go out. Our lives shouting / Brighter when the lights out. But the afterglow remains and wraps itself around Loreen’s heart. Your afterglow / Wraps itself round my heart. It is the reason why a goodbye cannot be brought into it. It is love that confronts, defies and lasts the longest in the end. You’re the reason I’m a mess / I hate the way I love you / But I love you… Regardless of how long the fight has lasted and the fact that Loreen must have died a thousand deaths, it is love that is making her believe the lies.

You’re sleeping in my bed but he is in my head
The only song on the album that Loreen has written without the involvement of others is called Heart on Hold. It is a solid rock song where Loreen’s voice comes into its own. But again in this song, it is the lies that dominate. I’m hiding from the truth / Cause since that day I knew / I couldn’t resist you. While the guitars are very prominent and hard drums can be heard in the background, Loreen asks herself how long she can keep her affair hidden. Every single day / I’m feeling so afraid / Thinking he will notice. And a bit further on: My mind is in a spin / So fragile and so thin / Gotta stop pretending, right?. Eventually Loreen decides to keep running, with her eyes closed so that she can put her heart on hold. That all-consuming uncertainty remains.

When the cold creeps in, you warm my skin
The title track Ride is the 9th song to be featured on the album. A somewhat strange choice to place it there but not completely illogical if you listen to all of the songs in order. The album is actually a trilogy. The first part kicks off with ’71 Charger, the song with Loreen driving away in her Dodge Charger from the world of commerce which restricted her incredible creativity for so long. The second part starts with Hate the way I love you in which Loreen is struggling with the child in her soul, while she tries to become an adult and pursue her ambition. And when the listener gets to the song Ride, they have then reached the final part of the album. The culmination with which Loreen hopes to announce the new phase of her musical career. Just smoke with me in leather seats and ride. This time you can put your head on the backseat of the Charger, preferably with a burning cigarette in between your lips. They don’t know what we are / Dreamer, wait now, let them chase / To the lights off your car. ‘Nobody has any idea who we are, what we are chasing, but let them put out the headlights of our car’, that’s what Loreen seems to want to tell the listener.  She doesn’t care any longer, as long as she herself knows who she is. A message that is reinforced by the image in the music video: the old Loreen watching the new Loreen enter the stage. Leave the pride outside for love tonight / Just smoke with me in leather seats and / Ride / Drive…

This article was translated by Laura Burn.