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Tove Styrke is a pop star of the most badass variety. The 22-year-old Swedish singer may have experienced fame early, as one of the contestants on Swedish Idolin 2009, (the counterpart to American Idol, in which she placed third). Her reality TV performances nabbed her a record deal with RCA, but since then she’s been paving her own path toward music stardom without looking back. Her debut album Kiddo (which has been heralded as a “feminist pop triumph”) is a tongue-in-cheek nod to her age, of course, and the preconceived notions that go along with it. Featuring lyrics like “I live my life in shackles but I’m borderline free, I used to be blind and I still can’t see,” tracks like her newest single “Borderline” go far beyond sugary bubblegum pop. And the fact that she wears tie dye and tracksuits onstage? That’s just a bonus. Just after Kiddo dropped in the U.S., Tove phoned in from Stockholm to weigh in on style icons, party songs, and why Sweden is so great at making pop hits.
On her album: I’ve been working on this album for almost two-and-a-half years now, and it’s just so great to release it. I want everyone to hear it and to sing along with me. For the most part I have been writing on buses and trains, and I wrote some of it in my hometown in Sweden.
Her favorite track to perform: I am always very fond of “Borderline,” but right now I’ve been sort experimenting with my favorite ones to play live. I’ve been performing them live for quite some time. It’s really fun now, because people have actually heard them! Everyone seemed to really like the EP and the singles, and when I play songs off of the album the audience really catches on fast. Sometimes I feel like my fans have gotten into my brain [Laughs].
On her pre-show routine: I always make sure there is water onstage and there’s towels—that’s about it. I don’t do any prayers, or any dancing, or hold hands, Madonna-style. No chanting!
Her onstage style: It’s different, really. I’ve been wearing old hand-me-down stuff, like tracksuits, because they are so comfortable. Recently I wore this outfit from a Swedish designer, who made this amazing stage outfit for me. It’s tie-dye and metallic and really really beautiful.
Why Sweden is so good at making pop: It’s hard to know exactly, but one possibility is that English is not our first language. So we keep the lyrics simple – at least, I do. I can’t make things too complicated, and I want to make it as easy and simple as possible. This tends to make songs really catchy. Also, the music community in Sweden is extremely tight-knit. It helps music to thrive.
Swedish musicians to know: One producer that I’ve been working a lot with, Johan T Karlsson, has his own music project called Familjen. He’s incredible, and has a very great attitude toward making music. There’s also a rapper named JOY, and she’s so cool. She raps in all-Swedish, and it’s really badass.
Her dance party jam: I like anything from M.I.A. I think she’s brilliant.