Little Dragon is a Swedish, electronic pop band with an extensive repertoire of features across the music industry. Formed in 1996 by Erik Bodin, Fredrik Wallin, Håkan Wirenstrand, and lead vocalist Yukimi Nagano, Little Dragon has had their hand in all corners of music throughout their career. The group draws influence from eclectic sources, with a sound unique from most any other performing group out there. Nagano cites icons such as Prince and Kate Bush, with Bodin quoting larger r&b as well as hip hop influences A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. Håkan adds his own takes on jazz and experimental music, drawing from South African house music and other electronic sounds from across the globe.
Their melting-pot style is well reflected by the variety of songs and albums they are featured on, as well as the collaborations they landed on their most recent albums. The 2020 release New Me, Same Us contains the more noticeable feature of Kali Uchis on the concluding song: “Are You Feeling Sad?.” A great dance beat to close out the album, “Are You Feeling Sad?” follows in line with much of the rest of Little Dragon’s discography and light-hearted energy.
Another of their more popular appearances is on KAYTRANADA’s 99.9% in the song “Bullets.” KAYTRANADA has established himself well in the electronic dance world with his ability to interweave lyrics and beats, and in “Bullets” he beautifully fuses Nagano’s easily identifiable voice with his similarly notorious drum sound. Her high voice ebbs and flows with the fader, creating a pleasant contrast against the deeper beat.
Little Dragon’s prowess does not lie solely in fast-paced dance music, as they show impressive breadth in the plethora of styles they’ve mastered during their nearly 26 years together. In 2010, Little Dragon was featured in two songs on the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach: “Empire Ants” and “To Binge.” “Empire Ants” is a much slower tempo than what we hear on “Bullets” or “Are You Feeling Sad?,” with Nagano’s verse on the song joining an intensified swell in the music and a more prominent drumline. Her introduction marks a distinct change in the song’s direction, highlighting her contributions to its sound. This experimental style strongly supports her vocals, giving us a little of what we find so familiar about Little Dragon.
Little Dragon’s influence spreads even further, nailing collaborations with big names in the contemporary worlds of hip hop and R&B. Mac Miller featured the band in “The Festival,” the final song on his 2015 hit album GO:OD AM. The song’s step-like cadence paired with her slow, flowing vocals makes you feel like you’re softly bouncing through clouds. “The Festival” speaks to the adaptability Little Dragon has to fit themselves into almost any song, while still presenting their very unique and identifiable markers.
The band also worked with Tinashe on her album Joyride for “Stuck With Me,” the track following the album’s mediating interlude. While this song speaks more to Little Dragon’s core style, the introduction of Nagano’s voice at minute 1:16 still catches you off guard because she manipulates the song’s flow. The way her voice presents so soft yet resonates so deeply across pieces is what makes her vocal features note-worthy.
Needless to say, Little Dragon’s unique sound and their ability to exist within numerous genres makes them one of the most versatile bands in the past few decades of music. Fans of the Swedish group are given so many opportunities to appreciate their skills, as their sheer quantity of music means there’s something out there for everyone to enjoy. Considering the space they’ve made for themself in the industry and the broad potential for their future collaborations, Little Dragon is definitely a band to keep on your radar.