This week: “Love Me Back” by Ritual and Tove Styrke (Island Records, 2019)
Why we’re into it: This classic electronic-pop track is a master class in contrasting melancholy lyrics with upbeat production.
Look, this song may sound exactly like “Closer” 2.0 in the way that it mirrors its rhythms and contains the similar snaps and drops that made the Halsey hit. Still, “Love Me Back” exceeds where “Closer” fell short. In this single, all of its beats—the melody, the lyrics, the rhythm, and the delivery—hit all the points from start to finish.
Tove Styrke—who had the best album of 2018—is a big reason for that. Her unique energy flows through the verses, turning the lyrics into something felt rather than heard. The emotion and subtlety that make her own songs so satisfying have been evident in “Talk to Me” and “Good Vibes,” and are fully revealed in “Love Me Back.”
Even though Ritual doesn’t add much vocally, with his generic-sounding male contribution, musically the background sound pops. Like “Closer,” it builds concisely and with certainty, building up to a finale that is made for the dance floor.
Listen carefully as the narrative duality unfolds; a somber track in tension with upbeat production are the elements of a classic pop music hit. And it’s all here. “I saw this all play out/I should’ve stopped/We should’ve talked/You should’ve left me.” Sometimes two dueling tones can feel incomplete, neither doing the other much justice. This isn’t the case with “Love Me Back,” where the pathos and the pleasure are in a perfect balance.
Honorable mentions: Julia Michaels’ wondrous new EP, Inner Monologue Part 1; Charlotte Cardin’s sexy new single, “Drive;” and Florence and the Machine’s soulful throwback, “Moderation.”