Much like Sia, Charlie Puth, Ed Sheeran, and many others before her, Linnea Södahl -better known as Nea– got her start writing songs for other people, a place she occupied seemingly with comfort for a time, so much so in fact that her lyrics have resulted in well over 2.5 Billion streams across all tracks… how not to take the plunge and put a face over that wellspring of songwriting proficiency?
Nea’s turn to the microphones came in 2019 with the release of the unrequited love anthem “Some Say”, which made it onto nearly every top 20 charts in Europe including two number one spots, and four years later, after some intense preparation and a journey into the heart of her own artistry, Nea is finally releasing her debut album, simply titled: “Transparent”.
The name feels fitting in a lot of ways -She confesses the album is intentionally more raw and less polished than her previous work- but particularly in the sense that she’s come into her own, no longer standing behind other people who embody her songs. As the name implies, “Transparent” is all about raw honesty and pure, unfiltered humanity. It is Nea’s way of saying “I am here, it’s my turn now”.
In “Transparent” Nea’s comfy pop sound is characterized by its soothing and laid-back nature. Her music often combines catchy melodies with warm and intimate vocals, creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere that simply transports me to a warm Swedish café in winter. Nea’s songs often feature a blend of electronic and acoustic elements, with a focus on lush production and delicate instrumentation. Her music is far from insular because she knows how to speak the lingua franca of pop quite fluently, but throughout the album, you do notice a distinct Scandinavian touch, with a penchant for clean and crisp production, subtle harmonies, and introspective lyrics that can get quite harrowing at times.
Let’s take a brief look at each track and how they play together
If being transparent is what this whole work is about, then Nea chooses to start by letting us know what’s important to her: Friendship.
“Chosen Family” is a powerful tribute to the support and love provided by those closest to us. The song serves as a reminder to express appreciation and gratitude to our chosen loved ones more often. The song has a very lush melodic component to it with its sweeping electronic synths that verge on high-stakes electronica.
SWEET CRASH FEAT. DECLAN J DONOVAN
In the captivating lyrics of “Sweet Crash” by Nea and Declan J Donovan, we are immersed in a tale of intense attraction and desire between two spellbound people. The verses express the unshakable hold they have on each other as if nothing else matters beyond their connection. Described as a chemical reaction waiting to explode, their love is portrayed as a force that cannot be resisted.
The chorus paints a vivid picture of the overwhelming passion they share, using metaphors of crashing and whiplash to convey the exhilaration and potential risks involved. The song even hints at a fatal attraction, acknowledging the intensity of their bond.
“Sweet Crash” delivers a powerful narrative of irresistible attraction and the excitement that comes with it and it does so wrapped neatly in a would-be summer sound that I’m sure will help chase off the cold in these few months for a lot of people. The dynamics and chemistry between Nea and Declan are just off the charts here.
Imagine features the warm, jangly sound of late 90s pop-rock but effectively modernized and verging on the danceable side of things. Yes “Imagine” is almost kind of a club banger and a love ballad all in one. “Imagine” is a song about the transformative power of love and finding the right person to share your emotions with. The lyrics are heartfelt and emotive, with a focus on the depth of feelings that can arise when you meet someone who truly captures your heart.
LOSING A FRIEND
This song is -in some regards- the flip side to “Chosen Family”, and it’s plain to see why. The track has a much more “folksy” acoustic composition that really sells the wistful longing of its themes. The lyrics explore growing apart and changing circumstances. The final verse offers a glimmer of hope that the friendship may be rekindled but also acknowledges the possibility that it may be over for good, and with that comes the true first “sour note” in the album, so to speak.
If you’re in need of a sweet and tender pick-me-up after holding back emotions from the previous track, “YES” is here to deliver. It’s undoubtedly one of my favorite songs on the album. “YES” embodies a straightforward message of embracing new experiences, taking risks, and living life to the fullest with a significant other. The song exudes a sense of spontaneity, excitement, and fun. One of the highlights is the sparkling and hopeful piano that resonates most powerfully when Nea proclaims, “The answer is yes, yes, yes, yes, yes”
I must admit, this song deeply moved me and helped me navigate through fortuitous circumstances that lingered in the back of my mind on the day I first listened to it.
TAKE IT AS A MAN
Blind-sided by this song, I could not believe my ears, it was a whiplash -and a justified one. “Take It as A Man” is a difficult song to talk about because it deals with a subject that is difficult and incredibly necessary.
Let’s not beat around the bush and try to be subtle about it. “Take It As a Man” is a song about sexual assault and the torment and confusion it causes. In its lyrics, Nea bravely addresses the issue of sexual assault and the societal pressure to remain silent about it. She recounts her own experiences of being sexually abused by her grandfather as a child and feeling the need to hide it from her parents. She also describes being pressured into sexual encounters by multiple partners, highlighting the prevalence of this issue. The frustration of feeling unheard and the toll it takes on one’s mental health is expressed throughout the song. The chorus questions the validity of experiences that are not acknowledged or seen by others, emphasizing the societal expectation for women to accept and endure sexual violence without speaking out. The repetition of “Do I gotta learn to take it as a man” highlights the absurdity of this expectation. Overall, the lyrics convey a sense of anger, frustration, and a desire for change in how society deals with sexual assault. Nea’s powerful message serves as a reminder that survivors of sexual assault deserve to be heard and supported.
Nea’s song is a challenging and thought-provoking piece that balances gentleness with the weight of its subject matter. Its melody may initially deceive listeners, as it defies expectations for a song addressing such a heavy topic. Rather than being cold and haunting, the song is surprisingly upbeat, charming, and catchy. This deliberate juxtaposition creates a striking contrast that is both overt and intentional. It’s rare to encounter a piece of music that employs such a bold and deliberate approach to contrasting elements.
A LOVER LIKE ME
Nea is truly a bold one, special and unique. How do you move on from a song like “Take It As a Man” with flair and style?
“A Lover Like Me” is one of the strongest anthems in the album, and a truly danceable masterpiece, here Nea expresses her longing for a satisfying romantic connection. Nea admits to trying different relationships but finding no one who fulfills her desires. Emphasizing a yearning for someone who can truly satisfy her and understand her on a deeper level.
Is it the ultimate self-love anthem, maybe?
Another excellent track, with a sound so catchy, powerful, and instantly iconic that it’s on par with “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham!, and if that doesn’t convince you of the caliber of Nea and her team, I don’t know what will.
Nea’s lyrics here capture the dark and possessive nature of love, revealing the depths one can descend when consumed by an overwhelming desire to keep their beloved close, where she passionately pleads for her partner’s unwavering presence. The haunting repetition of “Arrest this love” echoes her desperate desire to retain her partner, regardless of the consequences. This song shows once more Nea’s penchant for juxtaposing vibes and themes with her music; catchy and upbeat but deep and even tough to deal with.
DANCE WITH MYSELF
At first, I anticipated a Billy Idol cover for some reason (slightly different title, yes), but “Dance With Myself” delivers an unexpected and unconventional finale. The track’s dramatic electro sound incorporates glitched vocals and orchestral string hits, almost reaching a gothic level of theatricality. However, the chilling freshness of the sound and its upfront nature only serve to reinforce the themes running throughout the album. It subverts expectations, yet fulfills a promise. It may not be what listeners expect, but it is precisely what they need from an album that pushes boundaries and defies convention.
I knew I was set up for exceptional lyricism on display, however, I wasn’t quite ready for something so subversive, intense, complex, and vivid, something so boldly interested in creating contrasts between the subject and the sound used to convey it. It’s as if Nea was enamored with juxtaposition and contrast and has a mind to make us fall in love with them as well. Was that her goal all along? Was she perhaps not wholly “transparent” about her agenda? Perhaps! She was very open and forthcoming with us in this album, but above all -and what will certainly bring her longevity in the industry- is that she was more than willing to be brave and try something new and genuine. She was brave to gamble on her instincts and experiences of what *could* work and made it her trademark.
Overall, “Transparent” is a fantastic album, a superb debut conceptually and in execution, and while I’m sure there’s still room to grow for her, Nea has shown that she’s got more than every tool necessary at her disposal to do so. Let us keep our eyes and ears open for what this Swedish genius has to offer.
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