In a tiny theater on the east side of Philadelphia we waited impatiently for the headliner we wanted to see appear and tried to hide that we were dreading having to sit through what we anticipated would be a disappointing opening act. Never have we been more thrilled to be wrong!
Out came a gawky Swedish man with disorganized flaming red curls that sat atop an otherwise shaved head like they were erupting out of his pale face. He was wearing (this is not a joke) a black zip-up curly lamb fur vest that was roughly two sizes too large and paired with-and somewhat balanced by-arguably the world's tightest pair of black jeans. It was a memorably iconic look to say the least. To make this remarkable moment even better, Hassle began with a high-energy pop number during which he danced with the most unapologetic confidence, unbridled joy, and oddly exceptional coordination (please watch the full video below for a glimpse of his impeccable dancing!). It was absolutely impossible not to be overcome with delight watching his performance and we were instantaneously smitten.
His style and personality won us over but, that aside, his music is incredibly enjoyable. Falling into a genre thats somewhat of a funky/groovy pop laced with R&B and synthesized elements of European electropop, Hassle's music always includes stripped down pop lyrics that capture sincerely innocent but clearly powerful emotion. Regardless of the tempo, Hassle's music is an unguarded reflection of Hassle himself and, given how we described him, we hope you can understand the appeal of that! While he may not be the most experimental or groundbreaking pop artist, Hassle's perfection lies in his ability to make us happy.
While we could easily and enthusiastically talk about all of his songs, we're going to show restraint and only highlight two: No Words and Talk About It (although, we can't promise not to sneak an extra track in at the end!). This is in no way a representative sample of his body of work but we believe these two tracks are the best. We have to start with No Words because it's an unrestrained love anthem that will make your heart burst and undoubtably your foot tap. Creating a genre-defying amalgam of funk, pop and just a touch of soulful R&B, Hassle employs a tapestry of orchestral builds, rhythmic clapping, and a funky bass line to carry his minimalist pop lyrics, that describe his inability to find words that do justice to the object of his affection. It's profoundly upbeat, soulful, and just plain fun. You'll wont' be able to resist smiling and dancing and we think thats an excellent reason to listen to the track.
Showing a bit of depth, Hassle released Talk About It, a different, slightly darker, interpretation of a love song where he earnestly-and almost pitifully-pleads for insight into the status of his relationship. A gentle piano rides a melancholy cello melody thats overlaid on a heavy clapping drum. Throughout the song Hassle is authentically fragile, almost to the point of breaking, without being distastefully melodramatic. It's heart-felt and a grounding complement to songs on the album like No Words and Talk About It that are unyieldingly pop-y.
When journeying through Hassle's music, look for joy not genius and you wont be disappointed. No Words, Talk About It, and Pathetic encompass, in our humble opinion, the best Hassle has to offer.