Words by Devin M. O’Toole
Tomorrow’s female pop stars sure sound depressed. With torch bearers Lorde, Charli XCX, Quadron and Lana Del Rey waxing poetic over lovelorn melodrama (see longing, mascara gaze and pursed lip quiver,) the scene sure could use some spring cleaning.
Karen Marie Ørsted, aka the un-googleable, Mø (pronounced “Moo,”) had a Scandinavian sized ax to grind. Once a young activist in her native Denmark, her protopunk angst has matured into a London-mope exhibition. Aside from the minimalist scarf draped around her thin frame, a pair of varsity-lettered leggings sprawled abound; the uniform completed by her signature French braid atop her head-banging skull.
Mø, part internet meme, part Diplo discovery, has crafted a wailing brand of murky hip-pop that surely begs the question– why hasn’t American caught on?
That answer may be in the presentation. Mø hasn’t quite abandoned her aggro roots–the backing video displayed artful images from Braveheart to the Trail of Tears, from vocal sing-along mimicry to labia mutilation. She clearly studied at the Tyler Durden School of Sublety.
She also bears the unfortunate resemblance of Sporty Spice and the McPoyle sister. Her lethargy for glam might point to a disconnect in her music.
Teaming with producer, Ronni Vindahl (Boom ClapBachelors,) Mø blared through arpeggiated hip-hop on “Waste Of Time” and the trillcore “Red in the Grey.” Her street-cred comes into question when she punctuates the chord breakdowns with dated Black jargon “Phil- E What is UP?” “Diploooo” “Say Whaaaaaat”–an ever constant reminder that Copenhagen isn’t Harlem. The biggest ovation from the sold-out crowd came on the Diplo produced “XXX 88.” She had a knack for reveling in the crowd’s cool as the trumpets blared through the concrete production. The Grimes-like kiddy reverb tore through the “Ready Or Not” aped chord splashes.
During “Never Wanna Know,” the moment found Mø not only upstairs on JB’s second floor proscenium, but straddling it’s center beam. The Phil Spector, what’s-a-girl-to-do chorale provided one of more tender moments of the night.
She champions harmony somewhere in between the two disparate genres. “Maiden” (Mø’s namesake) worms in a jangled calypso guitar scale through a brooding ‘nevermore’ hook. She asserts urban cultured R&B through a nerdist synth vector without a ounce of irony.
Mø’s true gambit came later in the night, when she recalled the nostalgia of every (female) millennial. Her rendition of the Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There” left the original’s chassis drug through a Victorian graveyard. It’s girl power for the girl who can’t get along with the other girls.
At times inaudible melodies became clunky facsimiles of prior songs, but Mø provides enough boom bap, enough awkward Euro slam dancing and enough passion to carry a rucksack’s worth of noteworthy memories.
Photos by Teresa McCullough