Living up to its title, So Good -- the sophomore set from Swedish singer Zara Larsson -- arrived after a two-year promotional rollout that followed the release of her debut, 2014's 1. Her slow climb toward the upper pop strata occupied by Rihanna, Sia, and Tove Lo -- the artists whose vocals Larsson most closely echoes -- began in 2015 with the quadruple-platinum number one single "Lush Life," an effective dose of tropical pop that rides the surf with a playful whistle and undeniable bounce. Quickly following with the skittering staccato of MNEK duet "Never Forget You," Larsson scored another hit. Two subsequent album highlights -- the bass-blasted "Ain't My Fault" and "I Would Like" -- provided additional examples of her strong voice and confident attitude. By the time fifth single -- the Ty Dolla $ign-featuring, Charlie Puth-penned title track -- arrived in 2017, a third of So Good had been unveiled. Despite the significant time gap, So Good remains a tight vision full of romantic drama, youthful abandon, and a strong sense of female empowerment. "TG4M" ("too good for me") basks in the sun with a piña colada in hand, part of a Girl's Only weekend with Daya and Hailee Steinfeld, while the WizKid-featuring, Stargate-produced "Sundown" invites Sia to the moonlight island party. When the party ends, the uplifting "What They Say" provides a comforting shoulder to lean on. Amongst the feel-good party jams, heartfelt surprises provide more emotional sustenance. "Make That Money Girl" is a slow-builder that turns the bad gal toughness of Rihanna into a girl power anthem with a message that demands self-reliance and vision, going so far as reminding listeners that "you can be the next female president." When Larsson delves even deeper, the results are refreshing. Album closer "I Can't Fall in Love Without You" is a beautiful sendoff. Set to Jesper Nordenström's piano accompaniment, the track is a sweeping and heartfelt expression, the most vulnerable and pure on So Good. Fun and engaging, Larsson made one of the better pop albums of 2017. Like contemporaries Daya, Steinfeld, Bebe Rexha, and Dua Lipa, Larsson delivers polished R&B-influenced pop gems that shine bright like diamonds while maintaining a too-cool-for-school factor that helps to distinguish her from the bubblegum.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung
feat: Clean Bandit