Sunny, funky, and magnetic. Swedish pop singer Tove Styrke draws us in with her infectious beat, compelling vocals, and electronic influences. Her music perfectly balances teasing attitude with catchy fun. In anticipation of her upcoming tour with Lorde, we chatted with Tove about insights into her upcoming album, Sway, her inspirations and thoughts on pop, and more. Later, we caught up with her again at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, a dynamic performance with Lorde and Run the Jewels in the middle of the Melodrama tour.
You mentioned that your most recent single, “Changed My Mind,” is about when “you don’t want there to be a vibe, but there is a vibe.” Tell us a little more about that.
TOVE STYRKE — [laughs] I feel like that whole song describes when you’re super into a person and you’re trying to be smart about it, but you can’t decide what you’re feeling. You feel what you feel. I made it so that in the beginning, you can hear the way I’m saying, “changed my mind,” super clearly. And then as the song progresses, it gets more and more like [distorted] “ahhh, changed my mind.” So it’s almost like following a person around during a night out. Like at first? Not so sure. But towards the end? Pretty sure about us.
I’m also super excited for your new album, Sway, to drop on May 4th. Can you give us some insight into the background behind it or what we can expect?
TS — I think of Sway as sort of like collection of love stories. Some of the songs are super romantic, and some of them are not romantic at all—and that’s like life. And I wanted to write from a perspective that is more like those dialogues that go on inside your own head. It’s more introverted and close and personal and intimate, especially if you compare it to my previous albums. It’s more outward—colorful and like a burst of emotion, so I’ve had a lot of fun making this album. And I wanted intimacy and closeness to be part of the production as well. But not just the lyrical content, I wanted it to sound like that too. I’ve been stripping away what’s unnecessary and just keeping the sounds that have to be there, and working on the sounds that are there and making them special.
I absolutely love your cover of Lorde’s Melodrama single “Liability.” What was your reaction when you found out that you were going to go on tour with her this spring?
TS — I mean, usually when you get these kinds of requests that require a big commitment, you really take your time to figure out, “Is this a wise choice timing-wise? Do we have the budget?” But I just said YES because, how could I not. Lorde is a brilliant, beautiful human being.
How do you prepare for going on a full tour and playing in front of thousands of people? Do you have any pre-show rituals?
TS — What I’ve learned through the years is for me, my best ritual is to not expect to have any ritual. One day, I’m standing at a place like SXSW trying to outsing the other person at the other stage and one of the speakers is broken. And the other I’m doing a festival and there’s thirteen thousand people and they all know you. With this case, the Lorde tour, it’s the first time in my life doing an arena, so I’m trying to just stay open-minded.
What do you think has influenced your style of music or affected the way you approach it?
TS — I mean, there’s so much. I grew up loving Bob Dylan. At the same time, loving Björk and appreciating those soundscapes. And also simultaneously loving Britney, Beyoncé, Madonna, Rihanna, all these amazing female pop artists. So [my style] meets everything, everything combined. They all give me that drive and has made me the person that I am and the person that has the drive to make the things that I’m making.
Pop music often gets a bad rap for being “basic” and “easy-to-make,” especially from older generations talking about modern pop. What are your thoughts on this?
TS — A good pop song is a good pop song—if it speaks to people and does something interesting. I love pop music. Everybody has different ideas on what pop music even is, and today the lines are so fuzzy on genres. And I really like that today is a very free environment so you can do whatever you want. What pop is to me, or what the music that I’m doing is, is finding the simplest way to describe or to communicate a feeling. I don’t really want to come up with metaphors that you need to read five times before you actually get it. I want people to immediately feel what I feel. It’s a little bit like me wanting to find shortcuts to your feelings.
Any takeaways or final things you want to say?
TS — I just want people to know that my album drops on May 4th. “May the Fourth be with you,” that’s a good way to remember it [laughs]. And that I’m going to keep releasing music. My ambition for this year is to keep releasing. I’m still writing, even as this tour comes on, so stay tuned for that. And I want to come back to LA to play my own shows. It’s all so busy, exciting, and fun—don’t miss.