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Zara Larsson at Wonder Ballroom on 9/18/19 Photos/review

 By MATT HANSEN // Swedish popstar plays Portland for first time on Don't Worry Bout Me Tour

 Photos By: MAHIR HRUSTIC //

If you first learned of Sweden's Zara Larsson in 2014, you remember her as the nice girl of missed connections at rooftop parties. Larsson, then 16, was early in her career but already had a debut album resting at No. 1 in her home country. Even so, it would take a year before her first single reached American charts, eventually going platinum. Larsson probably didn't set out to be an overachiever and attain more at 17 then most aspiring singers do in a lifetime. Now at 21, the subject matter of her songs has become age appropriate, going in the direction of full diva clout for those of you just joining in.

Touring behind the single “Don't Worry About Me” – a house-sounding banger about remaining untethered after a relationship – Larsson came to Portland for her first time last Wednesday. After local pop singer and queer music sensation Frankie Simone primed the crowd with anthems like “LOVE//WARRIOR,” Larsson took the stage in all the same spectacle and grandeur as her opener. It was a night of diverse pop, with both acts boasting an unmistakable and catchy feminist message.

By her second song, “I Would Like,” Larsson's silver-clad dancers kicked into high gear, flanking her during hooks of brimming organ-like keys. Perhaps some can't get on board with lyrics such as, “I would like to get to know you baby, like to get under your sexy body,” but Portland's notoriously dance-shy audience was surely caught up in Larsson's prowess. And that meant questioning very little in the realm of lyrical content when it was time to dance.

Five songs in came the tour’s namesake, “Don't Worry About Me,” written with one of the producers that helped keep Britney Spears relevant past 1999. Unlike Spears, however, Larsson neither seems prone to headline-making breakdowns, nor show signs of an unhealthy work/life balance. Rather, the fact that “no news is good news” is admirable in her industry is another reason why Larsson seems to disrupt our perception of how pop stars mature with age. Or, is it merely making us aware of the immaturity our American pop stars?

Either way, Larsson not only seems to diverge from pop culture by handling the job better than most, she actually sets herself apart in the music production as well. With no use of auto-tune and rarely any pitched stems in her backing track, Larsson hardly resembles the Top 40 we’re familiar with. Would Post Malone's hair still catch the wind after a sideways split in a body suit, synchronized dance moves, and a perfect “blue steel” pose at the end note? This is business as usual for Larsson.

Equally impressive was when Larsson erupted into a churning solo during “So Good,” the title track to her 2017 album. While the song features a verse from Ty Dolla $ign in the original, Larsson subbed in her own towering voice live, which seemed to suggest Ty Dolla who? And who needs boys anyway? When the tempo slowed for the more mellow track “I Can't Fall In Love Without You,” Larsson again used the theme of avoiding relationships without too much combativeness. Although the line “I don't give a fuck 'bout who you fuck” was delivered with effrontery, it wasn't without smirking humor.

With a set of three-minute pop songs that lasted a little over an hour, Larsson left the crowd at Wonder wanting more. Returning for a choreography-heavy encore of “It Ain't My Fault,” she confirmed what we long had thought: she has time and talent to spare… and if the pop music world is reluctant to crown her a queen, she’ll still have a throne in Portland.



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