Four years after the release of I Never Learn, Swedish singer/songwriter Lykke Li returned with another, more effective set of heartbreakers on so sad so sexy. Her first effort without longtime collaborator Björn Yttling, so sad so sexy dips a toe into dark, atmospheric synth-forward pop, like a blend between the most morose of Lorde and Tove Lo's output. Executive produced by Li and Malay, the album also features work by Rostam Batmanglij, Jeff Bhasker, Emile Haynie, and T-Minus, whose combined work for Kanye West, the Weeknd, Frank Ocean, and Lana Del Rey can be felt throughout the ten-song collection. So sad so sexy is mostly the former, a mournful and bittersweet examination of a relationship on its last legs that features atmospherics as cavernous and cold as a dead heart. Despite the overwhelming sadness cocooning the album, Li's voice sparkles in this fresh, hip-hop/pop-leaning arena. Of the comparatively upbeat selections, "jaguars in the air" and the sleek Amine/Skrillex-assisted "two nights" are highlights, while "sex money feelings die" finds Li attempting a vaguely trap-meets-R&B delivery that marks the album's biggest stylistic departure from her previous work. The remaining tracks focus on the tear-jerking, detailing the infidelity, strife, bargaining, and desperation that accompany the disintegration of love. "So sad so sexy" takes its time slowly tearing a heart to pieces, while "better alone" disposes of the remnants with lines like "Better alone than lonely here with you" and "What are we gonna do when making love don't make it right?" Li's defeat and grief are palpable, yet she delivers with such grace and control, which offers a glimmer of hope for the fellow romantically downtrodden. With production to match, so sad so sexy succeeds in providing a relatable therapy session for love's final gasps.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung