Aurora is no stranger to experimentation, but her third album, A Different Kind of Human (Step II), takes far more chances than her previous work. The Norwegian art-pop singer-songwriter takes a more imaginative approach, and it works. Each song’s distinct sound flourishes within the thematic parameters of individualism and preservationism that were introduced on 2018’s Step I.
Album opener “The River” combines abstract electro-pop with elements of contemporary Disney musical numbers. The instruments and singing maintain Aurora’s catchy, idiosyncratic structure, but the overarching sonics have a an immersive, magical feel. She references the “cry me a river” platitude, emphasizing that crying is not necessarily a weakness, but can be a cathartic self-expression.
There’s also reference to Peter Pan in the verse as she sings, “I’m a shadow/ Stitch your skin onto my skin/ And we won’t be alone.” By building on the unending need to be with someone as much as possible, Aurora pushes for the destigmatization of emotions, whether they’re positive or negative.
Lead single “Animal” plays on the idea of hunting for sport with the refrain “Hunting for love/ Killing for passion.” Aurora describes people as animals “lost in a concrete jungle,” hunting for another either in search of making a kill or finding a mate. Starting off with simple drumming and synth loops, the song grows with each chorus while leaving room to mellow out on the verses. The music’s hopeful atmosphere stands in stark contrast with the lyrics, which begin to explore different metaphors for mortality. Aurora’s soundscapes push the listener to enter this headspace of love, survival and death, giving the album’s multifaceted themes conceptual and musical depth.
On “Daydreamer,” the verses’ ethereal percussion allow the sweetest aspects of her Nordic inflection to take hold, while the hard-hitting choruses layer her singing on galloping rhythms and echoing chords. The hook, “And we become nighttime dreamers/ When we should be daydreamers,” shows a shift from our idealized selves to our realities. The song’s dynamic arrangement reflects the progression of idealistic daydreamers from hopeful and looking for happiness—to cynical realists as age and experience take hold.
Album close “The Seed” has a possessed atmosphere to it, created by dissonant, overlapping singing. The effect reaches a chilling effect when combined with droning hums and heavy electronic percussion. It’s an aptly disconcerting atmosphere for the chorus vocal: “You cannot eat money, oh no.” Aurora critiques world hunger crises, on which the song’s video evocatively expounds. The music, the video and the lyrics all come together to create a sense of urgency to respond to the dire problems humans created for the environment. These pressing passages still evoke the album’s harmonious outlook through Aurora’s transcendent voice, providing a powerful close to a potent, relevant album.
From the roots of its predecessor, A Different Kind of Human takes a striking stance of environmentalism and humanism on this album. Aurora uses vivid metaphors and ornate songwriting to portray these universal issues, creating a euphoric environment in which to think about these large issues. Her impressive sound serves the effective activism, balancing artistry and politics for a compelling and convicting listen.