Los Angeles trio MUNA had a whirlwind 2016 and 2017, hitting the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart with their single "I Know a Place," releasing their debut album, About U, and touring North American and Europe with Harry Styles. The comedown that followed involved battles with depression and impostor syndrome for all three members. After six months, lead singer Katie Gavin broke through her writer's block by deciding she had enough distance from certain prior relationships to revisit them. Working again with co-producer Dan Grech-Marguerat (Keane, Izzy Bizu) and sticking with a synth-heavy, '80s pop-inspired palette, the more pensive Saves the World opens with the words "I want to grow up/I want to put away my childish things." An under-two-minute piano ballad that serves as a theatrical prologue to the record, "Grow" transitions via synthesized effects to the bass-charged dance-pop tune "Number One Fan." While much of the album concerns looking back in order to look forward, "Number One Fan" addresses the need to be one's own cheerleader. Another up-tempo, club-friendly tune, the assertive "Hands Off," doesn't appear until three-quarters of the way through the track list. Instead, Saves the World favors the relaxed, mid-tempo grooves of songs like "Pink Light" and "Taken" as well as slower, yearning reflections. Closing the set of searching synthesizer pop is "It's Gonna Be Okay, Baby," an autobiographical mini-epic that touches on sex, politics, religion, love, loss, addiction, depression, and even music, all in less than six minutes. While lyrics stick better than hooks here, the album is not without a handful of low-key anthems (including the latter track's high-flying, Auto-Tuned "it's gonna be okay"), and the atmosphere manages to be consistently warm and inviting despite its mechanical veneer.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson