Sugar World by jonatan leandoer96, AKA Yung Lean, Shows New Direction

Isabella Minicucci, Contributing Writer

On February 3, Swedish musician Jonatan Leandoer Håstad released a new album under the alias jonatan leandoer96. Håstad—whose enigmatic career began as “Yung Lean” with the single “Ginseng Strip 2002”—started the jonatan leandoer96 side project in 2016 as a way to experiment with defying the rap genre he had previously been boxed into. Under the Yung Lean moniker, Håstad is said to have popularized the DIY style of SoundCloud rap that was prevalent throughout the 2010s. Recently, Håstad has been branching out, and his new album Sugar World serves as an indicator of what themes and genres he might explore in the future.

Håstad uses his musical platform to experiment with different musical styles and aesthetics, rather than for commercial success. 

Made in collaboration with Frederik Valentin, Sugar World makes references to the style of previous albums made by jonatan leandoer96. The album was announced in December with the release of the lead single “Blue Light.” The song takes the shape of a love ballad, which is complemented with intentional off-key vocals over a basic piano melody. “Blue Light” sets the tone for the concepts of the rest of the album, which are centered around similarly cheesy, love-struck themes.

Throughout the album, references are made to previous jonatan leandoer96 releases. One instance of this is in “Rivers of Another Town,” where Håstad hums the melody of his 2019 song “Wooden Girl.” These references facilitate connections between Sugar World and previous music made under jonatan leandoer96, helping the listener understand the similarities and contrasts of the two personas in more depth.

One aspect that stands out throughout the album is the laughably bad vocals. Håstad’s inability to sing is made clear from the first seconds of the opening track—“Nightmare Amusement Park”—in which Håstad sings incredibly off-key over a guitar melody. Although annoyance with Håstad’s singing is very reasonable, the vocals bring a casual and charming feel to the album. In addition, it strengthens the persona embodied in the music video for “Blue Light,” that of a satirized wedding singer. These choices make it clear that Håstad uses his musical platform to experiment with different musical styles and aesthetics, rather than for commercial success. 

In addition to being an opportunity for Håstad to experiment with genres, the jonatan leandoer96 project has allowed Håstad to break away from the experiences that had been attached to his Yung Lean persona. During the peak of his fame, Håstad suffered from drug addiction, as well as the loss of his friend, and was subsequently hospitalized for several months. His albums following these incidents explored what had happened, and the events seemed to have altered his style of music. Under jonatan leandoer96, Håstad is freed from these notions and is able to create music more freely. Sugar World exemplifies this ability and may represent the future of Håstad’s music.