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After several albums of synth-led R&B, 2004 Swedish Idol runner-up Darin embraces a more anthemic pop vibe for Lovekiller, his fifth studio release, and his first since signing to Universal. His previous trademark sound may have helped him to surpass the success of the show's winner, Daniel Lindström, but opening track "Microphone" appears to suggest that this largely self-penned effort, produced by the likes of Tony Nilsson, Arnthor Birgisson, and Johan Boback, is the first chance to hear the real Darin. Backed by sinister strings, shimmering synths, and stinging guitars, it's a blistering celebration of his musical freedom, whose defiant lyrics, the odd expletive, and powerful urgent vocals are a far cry from the clean-cut boy next door we first saw during his talent show beginnings. This much-needed catharsis appears to open the floodgates, as the majority of Lovekiller is just as dramatic. The title track fuses the operatic pop/rock of Queen and shades of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colours," with Darin's impassioned vocals which label the object of his affection a "cold-blooded murderer," the clattering rhythms and gigantic choruses of "Only You Can Save Me," and the Melodifestivalen entry "You're Out of My Life" echo the epic power ballads of Ryan Tedder, while the only uptempo number, "OK (Dangerous Game)" is a Lady Gaga-esque electro-pop stomper which sees him endlessly pleading "be careful with my heart." Melodramatic and extravagant they may be, but this newfound attitude appears to suit Darin to a T, as when he steps back into more familiar territory, Lovekiller comes unstuck. "Can't Stop Love," specially written for the TV broadcast of the Royal Wedding of Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling, may have its heart in the right place, but is the kind of soppy boy band ballad even Westlife would think about turning down. "I'll Be Alright" is a dreary, stripped-back acoustic number, while "Viva la Vida" is a watered down and completely unnecessary cover version which strips away the epic qualities of the Coldplay original. An obvious riposte to his former label, Sony, Lovekiller is an admirable attempt at a more mature musical direction, but unless he wants to deal with record company wranglings every time he releases an album, he's going to have to work harder on his less attitude-laden output in the future.

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