Pop Goes The World: Meet Liam Horne, Fallulah, Tone Damli, Laleh & Satin Circus
We’re long overdue on a trip ’round the globe with Pop Goes The World, my roundup of the best and brightest talents emerging from places besides America (but mostly Scandinavia, because duh).
For this go-around, we have a Scottish crooner creating viral waves with his lead single, a trio of Nordic songbirds and the Finnish equivalent of One Direction. (Yes, that’s right — Finland’s answer to 1D.)
Get your visas out — this pop plane is making a few stops.
Liam Horne — “The Truth Is”
Scottish singer-songwriter Liam Horne grew up working-class but had an unusual connection to the music industry — his uncle Graham Edwards was one-third of the epic production team The Matrix, who helmed hits for Avril Lavigne and Hilary Duff. Brought over to Los Angeles to put his prodigious musical talent to work, he wrote tracks for Justin Bieber and Neon Hitch before launching as a solo artist in his own right — and lead single “The Truth Is” has shades of Bieber, although it’s a butterier confection than that, with a sincerity that aligns him more with the sweet R&B of Conor Maynard. Just try to get it out of your head after you’ve heard it once.
Fallulah — “Dragon”
Already famous in her native Denmark (her 2011 debut went double-platinum), Fallulah has more spark and attitude than her Scandinavian origins would necessarily suggest. “Dragon” is an appealingly weird track: It stomps and soars, with some of the sonic experimentalism of Oh Land‘s recent work and the shouty delivery of a more artful Ke$ha, or maybe Uffie. Expect more hype surrounding her as she preps a proper North American launch this year.
Tone Damli — “Perfect World”
Norwegian songstress Tone Damli went an appealingly MOR road with the last single of hers I really loved, the sweeping midtempo “Look Back,” but “Perfect World,” produced by Darkchild, is endlessly more American in its bent; it wouldn’t sound out of place on stateside radio. Damli’s already had an impressive career in her native Norway since appearing on Norwegian Idol almost a decade ago, but this is the first track that might give her some serious pull at stateside success: Slick, savvy and modern-sounding, with a killer 8-bit hook and propulsive production, it’s a perfect fall jam.
Satin Circus — “Emma”
The unfortunately named Satin Circus didn’t grab my attention at first with their lead single “Emma,” but repeated plays have revealed it to be, well, the best song One Direction never recorded. The verses are peppy and sugar-sweet, but the chorus has unexpected muscle, elevating it well beyond its obvious tween target. Of course, they’re a boy band in the most quintessential way — the Finnish four-piece are comprised of fresh-faced, on-the-nose-styled teenage boys — so the music may not be the most crucial element of their success, but suffice it to say that it’s a Scandi take on the 1D formula that works marvelously.
Laleh — “Colors”
Iranian-Swedish singer-songwriter Laleh had my full attention last year with her LP Sjung and its brilliant lead single “Some Die Young,” and now she’s back with a new single, “Colors,” that’s even better. Twinkly-sad in that way that Swedes do best and built on a lushly hopeful hook — “And just because it’s black in the dark doesn’t mean there’s no colors” — it builds to a euphoric, tribal finish. “Colors” is cinematic like a good single from Ellie Goulding or Florence & The Machine, and by my estimation, it’s packing major crossover appeal.