Ulrik Munther

Ulrik Munther

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Ever since Justin Bieber burst onto the scene, it seems like record labels across the world have been scrambling over every high-school student who can hold a tune in a bid to get a slice of the teen pop heartthrob pie. Hot on the heels of Australia's Jack Vidgen, the U.K.'s Ronan Parke, and America's Greyson Chance comes Sweden's contribution to the hysteria-inducing subgenre, Ulrik Munther, a 17-year-old bright blonde-haired multi-instrumentalist who, like the latter, received worldwide attention for a stripped-back cover of a Lady Gaga song. His charming acoustic rendition of "Born This Way" only appears as a bonus track on his self-titled debut album, which gives some indication that Munther isn't content merely to play the karaoke pop star. Indeed, having already won various national talent shows in his homeland with his own compositions, the YouTube sensation is keen to show he's not just a record company puppet, having co-written all ten of its tracks, the majority of which were produced in his parental home by Johan Ã…berg (Cher, Christina Aguilera). From the opening number "Sticks and Stones," it's clear that Munther is a little more independent than his contemporaries as he declares "I think it's time I break the rules you make and make some of my own" against a backdrop of quirky synths and U2-esque chiming guitar riffs, a rather rebellious stance he also repeats on the Hanson-esque acoustic-driven "Heroes in Defeat" ("don't just be a part of the system"). But other than the chanting punk-pop of "King of Our Days," the album avoids the usual bratty tendencies that its teenage-angst lyrics suggest. Indeed, it's remarkable how mature both his throaty "wise beyond his years" tones and polished pop/rock sound is, particularly on the shimmering midtempo "Boys Don't Cry," the Kelly Clarkson-style orchestral ballad "Moments Ago," and the emotive Ryan Tedder-inspired melancholy of "Kill for Lies." Munther may have been just another bandwagon-jumping signing, but among the plethora of wannabe teen idols, Universal has stumbled upon perhaps the most musically gifted of the lot.