Even Zara Larsson concedes that this album has been a long time coming. “You can always find excuses not to have a release, which is what I’ve been doing for, like, four years,” she told NME last month. Still, pop fans needn’t panic. Though ‘Poster Girl’ arrives nearly two-and-a-half years after its lead single, the faintly masochistic R&B bop ‘Ruin My Life’, it doesn’t sound tentative or desperate. When Larsson sings “this girl’s having fun” on standout banger ‘Look What You’ve Done’, you can tell she means it.
Her third record begins with last year’s ‘Love Me Land’, a stunning dance-pop song that deserved to become a huge hit like Larsson’s 2015 breakthrough singles ‘Never Forget You’ and ‘Lush Life’, but somehow didn’t. “Never thought I would love again,” she sings blissfully. “Here I am, lost in Love Me Land.” This evocative line, which almost sounds ripped from a lost disco classic, introduces the album’s recurring theme: love in all its ecstatic, messy and sometimes frustrating glory.
Nine tracks later, on the equally dreamy ‘FFF’, the Swedish star delivers an even more dazzling lyric, asking, “Is there a spark for us, or is it just purely platonic? / Is this a story arc?”, before concluding: “It’d be iconic.” ‘FFF’ turns out to be Larsson’s shorthand for “falling for a friend”, which as many of us know, can definitely be messy.
Thankfully, even a loved-up Larsson is too cool to give us saccharine Valentine’s Day sentiments; the glistening, mid-tempo tune ‘Need Someone’ wrong-foots you slightly when she sings: “I’m happy, I don’t need your love / I’m happy, but I want you.” It’s the sort of subtly empowering line that really suits Larsson, a straight-talking pop star known for promoting sex-positivity and calling out toxic masculinity. And she isn’t afraid to get a little risqué, telling a distracted partner on ‘I’m Right Here’: “I could have two girls in this bed / Wouldn’t even get your attention.”
Elsewhere, ‘Poster Girl’ blends elegant electro-pop and slightly grittier R&B, with a dash of EDM on the Marshmello-produced ‘Wow’ and a Young Thug feature on ‘Talk About Love’. Only the plodding ‘Stick With You’ lacks her usual spark. The ABBA-influenced disco banger ‘Look What You’ve Done’, perhaps a loose sequel to Larsson’s smash 2017 Clean Bandit collaboration ‘Symphony’, definitely sounds ready to conquer the charts. Whether that happens or not, this catchy and characterful album already feels like a job well done. When this girl’s having fun, we are too.
Release date: March 5
Record label: Black Butter