Following a five-year hiatus, British electronic artist Elly Jackson—better known under her stage name La Roux—returns to the music scene with her second album, Trouble in Paradise. Focusing on the struggles Jackson dealt with during her time out of the spotlight, the album offers an interestingly upbeat and mature take on the ‘downside of fame’ theme, resulting in a more personal and intimate experience than her previous album.
Gone are the synthesizers and electronics, which are replaced with heavy bass, airy vocals, and chewy choruses. Trouble in Paradise is possibly the most ‘80s-sounding 21st century record made in recent memory.
Beginning with the immediately arresting, tap-your-foot lead single “Uptight Downtown”, Jackson displays her frustration with modern society, asking “how do all these people have so much to prove?” over a steady, Duran-Duran-esque guitar riff. “Kiss And Not Tell” flirts with a cheeky ‘night on the town,’ while “Cruel Sexuality” sees an introverted Jackson battling her own sexuality and the issues that arise from its uncertainty. The Hawaiian-esque “Tropical Chancer” takes the listener immediately to some sort of paradise, while standout track “Sexotheque” discusses both sides of an unequal relationship—a woman wanting to settle down whilst the man “wants to go where the red lights shine so bright”, delivered over one of the catchiest melodies released this year.
However, even at only nine songs long, Trouble in Paradise does tend to drag in some places. “Paradise Is You” crawls for a long five minutes, while album-closer “The Feeling” is an underwhelming and slightly bland conclusion to an otherwise upbeat and polished pop album. Jackson’s clever and simple lyrics work in her favour, but with beats this airy, the weighty lyricism is at risk of getting lost in West coast guitar riffs and steel drums.
Nonetheless, Trouble in Paradise is a joy to listen to, offering plenty of hooks, interesting musical arrangements, and well-executed ‘80s-style production. The only downside is its length, which—after a five-year hiatus—doesn’t quite offer enough to satisfy. The result is akin to having your unfinished ice cream scoop accidentally fall from its cone on a hot day—delicious until an untimely and somewhat disappointing end.