When KEiiNO were first announced for Eurovision 2019 the response was divided. For some the appeal of their Sámi infused pop was instantly addictive, while for others they felt the cheesy pop leaning was a step backwards in the increasingly credible pop contest. On the night of the competition last year the public spoke loud and clear. While the trio were not favoured by the jury, the public awarded them a very resounding first place position. One year on and the group are ready to show the world that a book should never be judged by its cover.
Having released a sonically eclectic set of singles in the aftermath of Eurovision, KEiiNO have expertly played to their strengths. They have three distinctly different artists at the helm, but they certainly know how the recipe for pop perfection from those components.
At the outset of their collaboration that they wished to show the world that traditional folk sounds can have a place in the pop world, their debut album OKTA takes this notion and runs with it. Not confining themselves the Sámi tradition, they have teamed up with a very talented set of musicians from around the world to realise this goal.
Yet this is not an album that would ever be categorised as world music. This pop. All-out. Shameless. And totally enjoyable. This is not destined to be a guilty secret. This is all in your face pop joy that you will want to share with everyone you know. This slaps credible pop in the face and says remember pop is meant to be fun!
While there is a sheen and innocence to their presentation, the group prove that they are far from a bubblegum pop act with rather tasty cuts including the dominatrix driven Black Leather, which features the Canadian throat singer Charlotte Qamaniq.
Spirit In The Sky is without any hesitation still a key highlight, however, it is far from the stand out. Brisbane based Haka group Te Heu Tawhiti join them on the euphoric and dizzying anthem Roar Like A Lion, which contrasts the roaring chorus with the pure vocals of Tom Hugo and Alexandra Rotan. The understated lying chorus of Bed with the Wolf proves one of the most immediate. With echoes of Aqua at their peak, this is how pop should be delivered.
Joining the upper echelons of the album are the country-esque Take Me Home and dancefloor anthem Dancing in the Smoke, which is really lifted by Fred Buljo's hypnotic Sámi rap. But the true gem is the blissful trip-pop of Praying. One listen and you'll be transported to a very happy place.
OKTA is proof that pop can be all inclusive - lyrically, sonically and geographically. A true celebration of traditional sounds and pure pop, OKTA is a a joy from the moment it opens.
It has been a long time since Eurovision made international icons of a pop group, but KEiiNO could be about to change that. They are distinctive, playful, powerful, unique and know how the hell to write a radio anthem.
They defied critics at Eurovision, now a year later they have just released the best pop album over the last few years.