Saturday, November 27

Zara Larsson: ‘The more hate I received, the louder I became’ | Pop and rock


WWhile some artists are interested in cultivating the perfect video call staging (“Oh, these coffee table art books? I love them!”), Or turning to your stylist for designer loungewear. , Swedish pop star Zara Larsson did not have time for that. Literally. “I didn’t know this interview was going to be on Zoom!” he apologizes when he enters the chat five minutes late. It is 11 am in Stockholm and Larsson is not ready for the camera. Instead of insisting that we speak through her supposed means of communication, the humble phone, though, she finds a comfortable spot on her boyfriend’s couch, scratches her messy hair, and adjusts the belt of her navy blue robe. “This is how I look 90% of the time now anyway,” he shrugs.

Larsson has returned to Stockholm since last March, after struggling to put the finishing touches on his second album, Poster Girl, in Los Angeles. A 12-track collection of disco-tinged coming-of-age hits with heavy attitude featuring Atlanta gonzo rapper Young Thug and renowned Swedish production master Max Martin, the album is about “knowing what I want but at the same time the definitely not time, ”also known as life at 23.

It’s the follow-up to 2017’s So Good, a debut that bottled up the pop star’s innate energy to sit back and pay attention from Larsson on zeitgeist hits that were reminiscent of Rihanna early on, both in terms of sound and effortless attitude. Buoyed by the success of her sun-kissed hit Lush Life, which spent over a year on the UK charts, and the 90s house throwback Never Forget You, it’s the second-most-played debut by a female artist. on Spotify and recently. went platinum in the US Two of his spinoff collaborations: Girls like Tinie and the top of the UK charts Symphony with Clean Bandit – have helped Larsson win four Brit Award nominations.

But it wasn’t just gold-plated pop music that helped Larsson go from a web forum to mainstream ubiquity. In 2015, when the social media accounts of most pop stars were becoming promotional tools with no personality, one of Larsson’s Instagram posts – a photo showing his leg in a condom, poking fun at men who said they were “too old” to practice safe sex. – went viral and earned him a spot on Time magazine’s 30 Most Influential Teens List. Meanwhile, her unfiltered Twitter account has seen her dragged into various “bugs,” from Chris Brown, who once called her a “stinky ass” after he confessed to despising it, to, well, a large percentage of the world’s population.

“I had pretty extreme opinions for some people, like when I said, ‘I hate all men,’” he explains, before admitting that he purposely amplified Twitter’s lack of nuance to generate more controversy. “Because saying, ‘Hey, I hate toxic masculinity because it’s bad for both men and women, blah blah’ is just not a good tweet.”

For someone whose job requires showing off, these “unprecedented times” have imposed a period of stillness and contemplation. Famous in Sweden since she won the television talent show Talent (Sweden’s Got Talent, essentially) At the age of 10, Larsson says that, at first, the interruption of the tours gave him the opportunity to put his normally hectic schedule on pause (“He watched a lot of television and had a lot of picnics,” she smiles.) After a while, however, it felt like it had no purpose. “My identity is so tied to what I do,” she sighs. While Sweden’s herd immunity approach meant there were no blocks like tal (“You’re allowed to go out, but you’re ashamed,” he laughs), he’s also spent a lot more time at home bored than he used to. Even creating his own makeshift home studio didn’t help eliminate his creative itch.

The prodigy… Zara Larsson on the Swedish talent show Talang in 2008.
The prodigy… Zara Larsson on the Swedish talent show Talang in 2008. Photography: 4TV

“I had Vogue come in for their Perfect Night In show and they said, ‘Show me your studio,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, totally,’ and I couldn’t get anything to work. Someone had unplugged the keyboard and it took me 10 minutes to figure out how to do it all. ”

As pop begins to slowly rebound from the “authenticity” brigade boom of the late 2010s, Larsson, who once supported Ed Sheeran on tour, is more than happy to claim his right as a classic pop artist. . “Not everyone has to be, like” – he slides in a gloriously pretentious “artist” voice – “‘Sometimes when I have nothing to do, I take out my journal and write songs.’

She adds: “When I get bored I play my favorite pop songs and stand in front of the mirror and perform. I am an artist before anything else. “

Larsson always knew that she would be a star. Her parents, mother Agnetha is a nurse, while her father, Anders, was a naval officer, supported her early desire to act, enrolling her in ballet lessons, but never expected her to be famous. A natural attention seeker, Larsson used to perform a mini concert at meal times, followed, at his dad’s urging, by the family discussing the big issues of the day. “My dad thinks it’s important for everyone to be heard, even if you don’t. I don’t agree, ”she says. “It’s scary when people say, ‘This is the right opinion and if you have the wrong opinion you can’t say it.’ He pauses, something he rarely does. “I mean, in my opinion, I’m always right.”

Pop idol… Zara Larsson (right) meets Beyoncé in 2014.
Pop idol… Zara Larsson (right) meets Beyoncé in 2014. Photography: 4TV

Beyoncé was one of the first music idols and the couple met in 2013 after Larsson pleaded with Beyoncé’s label to leave her behind the scenes after their concert in Stockholm. “I died,” she says. “When she came into the room, I lay on the floor and sobbed.” However, that encounter was enough. “I’m not sure I want to see her again,” she says. “I enjoy that it is on a pedestal because it is unattainable for me, like a mythical creature. I don’t want her to be my friend… ”She laughs at the boldness of the statement. “As if that was an option!”

The poster girlThe cover, a neon pink fantasy with a bedroom wall covered in ripped images, plays on this idea of ​​Larsson as the untouchable superstar idol and everyday pop fan who dreams of stardom. “This is how I normally look,” she says, looking at her robe, “and I love that, but I also love the show. I love the glitter, the glamor, the lights, the big hair, and that’s also part of who I am. ”Like Beyoncé, Larsson had been focused on achieving her dreams. After winning Talang in 2008, it was I was like, ‘Boom, when are we going to make the album? When are we going to shoot the videos? But they didn’t sign me and I was fucking devastated.’ Two years later, still only 14 years old, he signed his first contract: “I thought it was 14 years too late!” she laughs and enjoyed local success with her Swedish-exclusive debut album 1, an endearing collection of youth pop that hinted at what was to come.

After Lush Life made her a superstar in 2016 (she currently has 945 million views on Spotify globally), Larsson found herself undermining her own success. “I am a very dissatisfied person, which is a blessing and a curse; It makes me push for better things, but it also means that I can never be in the moment and enjoy something, ”he says. “For example, I thought I would already be doing stadiums.” This constant striving for perfection may lead to a second guess, which is one of the reasons for Poster Girl’s long gestation.

Showgirl… Zara Larsson performing at the MTV European Music Awards in 2020.
Showgirl… Zara Larsson performing at the MTV European Music Awards in 2020. Photograph: MTV

Last year, Little Mix released Sweet Melody, a song that Larsson had originally recorded for the album. His frustrating turnaround on whether or not to keep it eventually caused his songwriters to withdraw it and the song slipped out of hand. In January, it topped the UK list. When I point out that Little Mix has released two albums in that same four-year period, Larsson gets depressed for the first time in our interview. “It’s easy to sit back and think, ‘Oh fuck, I could have made more albums right now,’ but it just didn’t feel right at the time,” he says.

Slowly, however, it is beginning to release the pressure. “Sometimes my manager has to remind me: ‘We’re not going to Mars, we’re going to make a pop album.’ It may be a big part of people’s lives, but it shouldn’t feel like the end of the world. “

That more level-headed mindset is also being applied to Larsson’s lively social media presence. She mentions episode nine of the acclaimed television drama I May Destroy You, in which Michaela Coel’s character becomes an outspoken celebrity on social media in an attempt to forge an identity. “She does that almost as a defense mechanism in a way. I am very happy to have felt those strong emotions and I think I became stronger the more hate I received, which is natural. I am a feminist, I want equality and I don’t see how anyone can argue that, but they do. However, the older I get, the more I realize that it’s all about having a civil conversation. Something in me now can’t feel so mad [at ignorance] like it used to be. “

Pure Art Attack ... Zara Larsson performs at Arena Birmingham in 2019.
Pure Art Attack … Zara Larsson performs at Arena Birmingham in 2019. Photograph: Jeff Spicer / Getty

Rather than singling out people for their anger, he says that 2021 “will be the year that I will talk about issues and problems.” She recently posted about the abortion ban in Poland to her 6 million Instagram followers, captioning an image with “You can NEVER ban abortions. You can only ban SAFE abortions. “Even when talking about Chris Brown, in 2009, Brown pleaded guilty to serious battery on his then-girlfriend, Rihanna, or on Dr. Luke (Larsson removed songs made with So Good’s producer to In light of the sexual assault accusations made against him by Kesha, which he denies and is suing Kesha for defamation), she insists he was always making broader points. “Why can Chris Brown be abusive to women? Why doesn’t anyone listen to a woman who says she was abused? “

Dr. Luke’s recent public resurgence via a Grammy nomination for his production work on the rapper Doja Cat says so it did not surprise her. “Of course that only seems to happen with men. Janet Jackson showed a nipple [at the 2004 Super Bowl] And she was gone forever It’s wild. “

Plus, Larsson doesn’t want to have time to sit around debating people on Twitter all day. While she’s “super proud” of Poster Girl, and teases an upcoming deluxe version that may include a long-discussed Ariana Grande collaboration, she’s also willing to move on. “Mentally, this album is something that I have to get over and finish, somehow,” he says. “It has been around for so long and I feel a lot of pressure. I want it to be published, for people to say, ‘Yeah, that’s fine’ and say, ‘Ugh, I’m back.’ In fact, he has already started recording the next one. “We’re on a roll, baby. I will not stop “.

First things first though, it’s time to get dressed.

Poster Girl launches March 5


www.theguardian.com

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