Out of all of the artists about whom I’ve written, I have yet to personally interact with any of them besides touching Perfume Genius’ shoe during one of his dance solos and when MØ ended up in the crowd during her show at Brooklyn Steel in January. However, a discrepancy arises when it comes to Froya, a commercial music composer who—when not known as Michelle Lee—brings dreams to life with her songs and albums.
Froya, whose name evokes the Norse goddess of love and beauty, performed as a local act during Good Vibes Festival (north of Kuala Lumpur) over the summer, sharing the stage with some very well-known contemporary artists such as Lorde, The Neighbourhood and Alt-J, a favorite band of mine for quite some time now. Soon after the festival, Froya posted a photo with two members of Alt-J, comment- ing about how their debut record, “An Awesome Wave,” is her favorite album. I commented “damn, thats cool,” and she, in turn, liked my comment. It isn’t the most significant interaction I’ve ever had, but it shows how Froya is still a humble and small-time artist. Nevertheless, she is on the cusp of hitting the big stages frequented by bands like Alt-J.
In 2013, Froya wrote a song that was featured in a showerhead commercial for Joven, a South- east Asian appliance manufacturer, à la Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am” for Old Navy. A copy of the commercial is displayed on You- Tube. A headlining comment by user James Ang cemented Froya’s sonic appeal, reading, “The advertisement purpose had failed because in- stead of people attracted to buy joven product, they are all looking for the song of this ad…lol…. thumbs up for the singer…” Froya released a new version of the song, “Hearty Bone,” on July 19, which will likely propel her to even more fame.
Much of her earlier music seems to reference and synthesize other artists and styles that were popular years before her own music career. Her 2015 album “Panic Bird” features guitar-backed songs and crisp acoustic vocals, highlighted in “Uncomprehended Child” and “Kill You (From ‘Pizza’),” as well as compositions reminiscent of late-2000s alt-pop anthems such as Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song” or Lenka’s “The Show” (this melody pairs well with “Save My Heart”). “De- serve” sounds like an amalgam of Lily Allen’s “Fuck You” and Sarah Jackson-Holman’s “Cellophane,” featured in an “Orange is the New Black” outro from 2014.
The introduction of her 2014 single, “Rosie,” could easily be mistaken for post-2012 Lana Del Rey, while “Dawn” reminds me of “Little Talks” from Of Monsters and Men. Listening to tracks from this period can definitely be confusing; until Froya’s song starts picking up speed, you think you’re listening to an old playlist. How- ever, as she releases more and more music, she seems to organically grow into her own artistic style—something distinctly Froya.
I first listened to her sometime in mid-2017; her single “Dark Chocolate” initially brought me in. I have to say, it is very rare that I can listen to a song with my parents and have one of them say anything remotely positive like “Hey, I like this, can you turn it up?” Yet, the first time I played “Dark Chocolate” with them in the car, its trip- hop feel began to pique their interest. The song soon became one of my spring semester staples: I would listen to it while walking to class or on the way back to my room late at night. With its repetitiveness, distinct segments and constant beats, “Dark Chocolate” easily put me into a trance, and anything that altered my state of consciousness was on the top of my playlist in those times. Now, whenever I listen to it, I visualize going up the elevator to computer science class. Yet owing to the discrepancies characteristic of human memory, I don’t remember the content of the class, only the strange feelings of my commute there. Appropriately, “Dark Chocolate” has a dark feel to it and features the convergence of many different tones of the singer’s voice throughout.
My favorite of her recent singles is “Sunny Side Down.” Froya seems to have established herself as a contemporary alternative pop artist through the past few years, and this single is as much of a keystone as is “Dark Chocolate.” Showcasing a completely different sound from anything on “Panic Bird,” this song could easily be an alternative hit. The synthesized piano throughout reminds me of the ambiance of “Dark Chocolate,” but it is overall a more cohesive piece as it flows nicely.
It also showcases Froya’s vocal range, as other songs show off her crisp, clear voice but not its versatility. It creatively utilizes the electronic sound that populates its backing track, revers- ing the beat early in the song to create build- up to the chorus. Evidently, she is also a skilled contemporary composer. Since this release, Froya has come out with two other singles, not including remixes: “Black Macaroon” and “Hearty Bone,” or “The Joven Song,” featuring Kuizz and Radio 3000. “Black Macaroon” is in the same vein as “Sunny Side Down” in terms of ambiance and shares a similar sound to “Dark Chocolate.” However, “Hearty Bone” takes the sound to a more contemporary Western-pop place, featuring a few rap verses with intermediate vocals by Froya sprinkled among the similar beats throughout the song.
As Froya continues to release music and moves up on the headlining list at shows, I am thrilled to see where her career takes her. Though much of her older music sounds like many genres of alternative top 40 hits, I can confidently say that if you listen to Froya now, you’ve caught her early.