On the album cover of her sophomore album, Dream Girl, Anna Lotterud — aka Anna Of The North — sits on the back of a smashed, yellow classic car with arms folded, enormous white wings unfurling behind her. The image is a fitting one for the album it represents, a gorgeous depiction in a desolate setting, a valuable car that’s past its ability to work properly. Dream Girl is full of songs about half-functioning relationships and unrealized dreams, not just a collection of breakup songs but a retrospective on the ways we fail, and fail each other, even when all the feelings are just as strong as ever.
For those who are unfamiliar, Anna is a Oslo-based Norwegian singer-songwriter, originally from a small town called Gjøvik, and surprisingly got her start in music while studying abroad in Melbourne, Australia. After meeting producer Brady Daniell-Smith, a New Zealander also living in Melbourne, the pair began working together and released their first single “Sway” in June 2014. After The Chainsmokers remixed that song, and a couple other singles “Baby” and “The Dreamer” racked up massive streams online, and working with other producers like Patrick Wimberly, Bearson, and Tommy English, Anna landed a label deal with Brooklyn-based singles label Honeymoon, a part of +1 Records and 300 Entertainment.
After another string of singles, Anna released her debut full-length, Lovers, in 2017, and got another huge look that same year by appearing on Tyler The Creator’s widely-acclaimed Flower Boy record. Since then, her profile has continued to rise as new fans pick up on Lovers, and it seems her acclaim will only continue to grow on the heels of last week’s release of Dream Girl. Anna brings more sparkling pop to this collection of sad love songs, which won’t come as a surprise to fans of her debut, a project that similarly focused more on the dysfunction of love rather than the daydream, fairytale ending.
The album’s title track and lead single, “Dream Girl,” sets the tone early on, walking through the steps of showing up at all the places that used to define a relationship, even if the connection no longer exists. Figuring out how to become yourself again after being part of a couple isn’t new territory for pop songs, but Anna skirts the fascinating line between reality and obsession, laying the groundwork for a slippery, synthy set of songs that blur fact and fiction — in much the same way that love itself can. Elsewhere, on tracks like “Playing Games,” “Used To Be,” and “Leaning On Myself,” she explores the cycles of long-distance relationships, on and off commitments, and finding strength in solitude.
Despite the polished, pristine sound that Anna Of The North has pursued sonically, she’s maintained an internet persona that undercuts some of the glittering perfection of her music. For instance, the ever-shifting release schedule of Kanye West eventually morphed to the point that his latest work, Jesus Is King, came out on the same day as Dream Girl. At this news, Anna jokingly took to Instagram with a knife to her neck, conveying the fear that smaller, independent artists have of getting swallowed up in a massive star’s wake. It was a funny, tongue-in-cheek way to comment on a very real factor for young artists in the social media era, and also showed Anna’s playful side.
But, as someone who has listened to both albums several times through, Dream Girl is the clear winner in that race. Whether she’s lamenting a love lost, or muddying her way through a work-in-progress relationship, Anna’s ability to put difficult, complex situations into plainspoken terms makes her an ideal pop songwriter, and the sleek, silvery production provided by Brady keeps the mood light even when the lyrics confront difficult things.
And while she’s sharing a release date with Ye, it’s a title crossover with a Drake album on Dream Girl’s best song, “Thank Me Later,” that has more cultural resonance. Anna’s song is about doing the work to make a good relationship happen, full of self-assurance that her instincts are right, a quality its namesake certainly possesses. Given her close proximity to the hip-hop world via 300 Entertainment, the strong foundation set up by these first two excellent albums, and the similarity of their subject matter, there’s more than a good chance that Anna and Drake could work together in the near future. Hopefully, when or if they do, Kanye won’t be dropping a project the same day.
Dream Girl is out now via Honeymoon/+1 Records/300 Entertainment. Get it here.