What Happened to the Heart? by AURORA album review by Sam Franzini for Northern Transmissions. The LP drops on June 7th via Glassnote


What Happened to the Heart?

AURORA - What Happened to the Heart?

Pop music has always been concerned with empathy, and AURORA’s catalog is no exception. Her newest album is concerned with this more than ever, taking a simple, pleading question and turning it into 16 songs concerning love, climate change, and heartbreak: What Happened to the Heart?

From her early days as a Tumblr-minted art pop artist to her most recent synthpop album The Gods We Can Touch, the Norwegian singer has paired dramatic, over-the-top vocals to intense arrangements. It’s consistently the winning formula on What Happened to the Heart? — “The Dark Presses Lightly” is a chilling and stomping lament of an overstayed victimhood, “Earthly Delights” is a sweeping, wild journey through portals, gardens, and death, and “Do You Feel?” is an off-kilter dance anthem about the everlasting nature of love. The most interesting switch-up comes with “Starvation,” beginning with an ominous drum beat which transcends into a club-ready techno anthem akin to the Challengers soundtrack’s best moments — it’s thrilling and completely unexpected, and its lyrics (“We are decorated bones / And my soul is starving”) add to the chase-like scene.

That being said, AURORA has a tendency to overwrite — an album investigating the end of empathy in regards to the climate crisis can only have so much nuance before it starts to tire. On places where she’s against a more interesting song structure, it can escape without notice, but some of the record’s slower, folkier bits get bogged down a bit by lyricism that attempts to be poetry too much. “Let the mothers and the daughters / Climb out of the waters / Like the needle and the cockroach we mend,” she pleads on “Dreams,” and while “Conflict Of the Mind” addresses perplexities in a relationship, it also strives to confuse the listener with its hard-to-follow gameplay: “In your soul I found a thirst / With only salt inside your cup / In your eyes I saw a longing / While I longed to lift you up” (though that might be the point).

AURORA could use her vocals for some terrifically light ballads, so it’s a relief she has the sensibility to produce some exquisite pop cuts as well. The ecstatically catchy “To Be Alright” dissects her need for belonging without knowing how to get there (“My heart does not rhyme / The rhythm of my mind”), “Some Type of Skin” sounds like an Ellie Goulding number, if she had the vocal prowess (The cries of “My God! It’s a lot!” is in contention for most relatable lyric of the year), “My Name” and “My Body Is Not Mine” are dark slices of gritty electro-pop, similar to Tove Lo’s past work. Even the slower songs are welcome reprieves from the insanity — “The Essence” is a quiet, reflective take on the nature of humanity: “It hurts so much / To be in touch / With the essence of us… / So I’d rather not.”

Coming in, you might expect What Happened to the Heart? to feature acoustic balladry lamenting about modern romance, and while that’s a solid part of it, there’s an unexpected, consistently entertaining jolt of surprise from nearly every track. AURORA contorts her voice and her sound from the airiest heavens to the darkest undergrounds to craft a dexterous, complicated pop album that’s as thrilling as it is deeply replayable.

pre-order What Happened To The Heart? HERE


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