The last time we wrote about Norwegian artist Ida Stein was in late 2015 when she released her song “Are We Changing,” and we couldn’t be happier to post about her again. “Race for Applause,” her newest single, is her first in a while—last May, she said on Facebook that she’d been “a bit more quiet and creative the last year”—but she hasn’t lost the touch that first got us excited about her. The “sequenced beats” and “understated vocal performance” that we praised her for in 2015 remain the backbone of her gorgeous, chilly electropop on “Race for Applause” (which is the first song on which Stein has collaborated with her boyfriend of eight years).
From its introductory calm burst of synth, “Race for Applause” is immediately enticing. Stein sings of her need to escape using language that leaves some mystery regarding what it is she’d like to be freed from. Her delicate, entrancing voice hovers at a contralto whisper until the song’s pre-chorus arrives, at which point it expands in volume and register just as the synths around her do. When she sinks back into her contralto, though, only her synths join her—in this moment, the percussion that has guided the song becomes far more present in the mix, expertly building the precise anticipation and tension Stein seeks to create.
When the song’s chorus ultimately hits, after another rendition of the pre-chorus, it packs all the punch that gradually accumulated in the track’s preceding moments. Stein sounds absolutely majestic, utterly soaring, as she sings “We count the days/We count the numbers,” even as her voice drifts into a murmur on the last word, leaving some question as to what it is she’s actually saying. Her words don’t even need to do the talking—a piece of music this powerful speaks for itself.