Last year, Tyler, the Creator tweeted, “Coco O has the voice of an actual angel” and there are few who would disagree, especially since some of her fans include Adele, Mark Ronson, JAY-Z and Pharrell. Part of the Danish soul duo Quadron, Coco Maja Hastrup Karshøj, known as Coco O, has vocals that shine on Avalanche, the sophomore album that was released this past June under Epic Records.
Coco and band-mate, Robin Hannibal, were especially inspired by Michael Jackson for this album. Whenever they had to make decisions on the album, they would ask “What would Michael do?” and coincidentally, the album was recorded in Westlake Studios where the King of Pop had also recorded some of his tracks. Coco cites Prince, Lauryn Hill and Sade among her inspirations, ever a fan of soul music and that style of singing. In fact, in an interview with NPR, the Copenhagen native admits, “I was so sad that I didn’t have, like, a real church where I could learn how to really sing. But I think, because I didn’t do that, I’m more sparse in my vocals. And I think that’s a Danish thing — to just have what is necessary.”
Though it has been four years since their acclaimed, self-titled album, Coco has been busy, not just working on Avalanche, but also lending her stunning vocals to a track by Tyler, the Creator and another one featured on The Great Gatsby soundtrack. The group has been nominated for seven categories in the Danish Music Awards, no doubt their stellar sophomore album a testament to their popularity and quality musicianship.
The first single off the album, “Hey Love” is not exactly representative of Avalanche as a whole but it’s undeniably catchy and fun. The rest of the album isn’t as uptempo but either way, Coco’s voice dominates whether ballad or dance track. Her control is admirable because she knows exactly when to let go and when to stylize. It’s apparent in “Hey Love”, where Coco sings comfortably in her middle range until she hits the bridge and finishes with a few runs in the ending chorus.
In contrast to the soul-pop feel of the first single, a slow jam featuring a mellow Kendrick Lamar, “Better Off,” showcases Coco’s vocal versatility. Reminiscent of British singer, Sade, Coco sings with a breathy, sultry quality that’s dreamy rather than unsteady. The instrumentals are simple, letting Coco’s voice take the lead, a common theme throughout the album.
Lastly, as a personal favorite, “Slippin” off the soundtrack of Danish film, Se Min Kjole (2009), highlights the musical cohesion Coco shares with Robin Hannibal. While Hannibal handles the tight production, beginning the song with a driving bass line and steady hand claps, Coco sings with quiet reflection, her vocal control apparent in the ease of her switch from chest voice to head voice.
By Teta Alim