The Swedish pop queen discusses sexism, sensuality, Harvey Weinstein and her new album 'Blue Lips'
Tove Lo has spoken out against victim shaming in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and her own determination to continue to express her sensuality. Read our full interview below.
The Swedish singer-songwriter recently announced the release of her third album, ‘Blue Lips‘ – the follow-up and companion record to last year’s acclaimed ‘Lady Wood‘. Also dubbed as ‘[Lady Wood Phase II]’, Tove Lo told NME that the album ‘picked up’ on the same themes as its predecessors (sex, love, loss, life and hedonism) – but took them to a ‘much more dramatic’ place.
“It has more of that feeling of never really feeling satisfied and chasing that direction,” she told NME. “Calling the first one ‘Lady Wood’ and then following it up with ‘Blue Lips’, it’s the female version of ‘blue balls’. In a deeper sense it’s all about trying to reach satisfaction – I don’t just mean sexually, I mean for life overall.
“I think sonically, I’ve been a bit more free this time. I’ve been playing with sounds that I haven’t explored before. On this record, I decided to have my first ballad. I wanted to get into the different types of pop that I didn’t on ‘Lady Wood’. That was cohesively more together, but this one goes in more different directions on purpose.”
Speaking of her bold and confessional writing style, she continued: “I’m always like an open book and my songs are like my journals. I feel like some of them admit to maybe needing a bit of a change in myself, rather than just being like ‘I embrace myself!’ It’s kind of about admitting that my of life isn’t always the best for me or the people involved. I’ve been writing some hard truths to myself.”
Are you forever challenging yourself to expose more of your own personality through music, or do you not think about that?
“When I write these songs, they’re already very personal and showing me inside out. When I’m writing them, I’m not thinking that people are going to hear them. That’s my process, and it means I’ve worked through something. I’ve already been through it so it doesn’t bother me that people know. Maybe if I have kids then I’ll care more about what I talk about in the moment. I don’t know what future me is going to think about everything I’m sharing now. When I grew up listening to music, I loved the artists what would really just tell the truth in how they’re thinking and feeling and talk about what life really was. They’re were the ones I connected with.”
“These people were including sex and sexuality. You know, women discussing how they feel the same things as men but not being allowed to express those feelings. It was like ‘boys will be boys and girls will be girls’, but they’re not really the same thing. For me, I’d rather have the full truth than a softened version of it.”
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You’ve always been very open about drugs and sexuality. Does it still bother you that some people take it as taboo on face value?
“I choose to rub it in people’s faces even more. If you look at the record title, the artwork – it’s obviously done as a reaction to reactions. For me, it’s very artistic rather than just a picture of my ass. Obviously, that’s going to upset a lot of people – ‘why does she have to do that?’ This feels good to me. I’m not doing it because someone’s telling me not to, but I feel like ‘oh, come on’. I’ve spent so much of my life creating songs and things so personal and deep. It’s about questioning everything in life. Yes, there’s sex and drugs in there, but there’s definitely a depth to it. I’m not just a random party girl. That’s what pisses me off.”
You’ve said before that people seem to take male artists like The Weeknd ‘more seriously’ when they discuss these things?
“People could be like ‘oh, this song mentions drugs so obviously that’s all she’s about’. But if a guy says it, you don’t even question those things. You’re like ‘oh yeah, he fucks, he does drugs, what’s the message?’ You want to find what else is behind it with serious artists like The Weeknd. I’m not comparing myself to him, but with male artists there are serious subject matters that are not portrayed the same just because of the fact that I’m a girl.
“I don’t spend a lot of time feeling pissed off about it because my fans get it. All I can do is keeping doing what I do. It’s a very fun problem to have. I feel like I have a platform to do what I want. No one is trying to stop me. I’m very lucky. It doesn’t feel like it’s a huge issue. I’m going to keep pushing to claim my place.”
Zara Larsson recently shut a tabloid down very succinctly for writing a story solely about being able to see her nipples.
“That’s so good! We’re in a different situation now. Why are we focussing on these things? It says more about people, but will people will get over that. The shock of nudity, nipples and all that will fade out. We’re a lot further along now than we were 20 years ago. We’re getting towards a place where it’s not that big of a deal any more.”
Do you feel as if there’s been any kind of widespread cultural shift in terms of objectification and misogyny in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal?
“The #MeToo campaign happened, and a lot of men came out and admitted that they’d committed a lot of things that could be perceived as sexual assault, even if they didn’t even realise it. You know, this is a about people realising their own behaviour. Whenever it’s like ‘oh, we’re objectifying women’ – we’re turning the attention on to the women. What about what we do? Not just men, but what about women judging over women? Donna Karan was defending Weinstein. She was saying ‘women need to think about how they carry themselves and end up in these situations’. That’s insulting.”
What do you think needs to change about the way people are approaching this?
“We just need to stop judging anyone who is an openly sexual and happy person. That should never be a weapon for someone to use against someone else. If you want to cover yourself from head to toe, that is up to you, that’s your life, do it. If i choose to be naked all the time, then that should be my choice. We can both live simultaneously and that not be an issue. It might be a dream that will never come true. As soon as we turn the attention to women instead of the men or people who are acting this way, it becomes a problem again. It’s another way to blame the women who were abused.”
How should we fight the fear of speaking out against it?
“It’s tricky. People get so afraid of sexual expression when something like this happens because it’s like ‘am I asking for it?’ That’s wrong. Someone can tell a dirty joke to me and I’m on board and I can laugh and it’s funny, but then sometimes I’m like ‘that’s not really cool’. It’s hard to say where the limit is, but you have to be prepared to stand up for it.
“Some people are like ‘oh, don’t feel offended’. If she wants to feel offended, then she’s allowed to feel fucking offended. Maybe others should use that offence as an opportunity to realise they’re wrong and become a better person. You know what I mean? It’s crazy that a person in power can go around acting like that and treating people like that and so many people knew. All these young girls are terrified and just like, ‘I’m supposed to put up with this because everyone else is?’ That’s what happens. We just need to take responsibility for looking after each other.”
‘Tove Lo’ releases ‘Blue Lips [Lady Wood Phase II]’ on November 17.