writer / Erica Russell
photographer / Spencer Kohn
makeup / Lynsey Laskowski
Some nations export oil and cars. Others supply textiles and produce. Sweden’s export, however, is arguably the most precious of all, unabashedly loud, shimmering pop. Tove Styrke is the latest
distributor of infectious, bright Swedish electro-pop, and damn, does the girl deliver the goods.
The 22-year-old former Swedish Idol finalist released her critically acclaimed Borderline EP back in November, a glimmering collection of feminist anthems, including the bombastic reggae-tinged
single “Borderline.” When asked which track on the EP best synthesizes her perspective as a songwriter, Styrke points to this one.
“It’s tricky, but [it’d probably be] ‘Borderline,’ because it’s a look at the world through my eyes as a young woman. Also, it tackles a heavy subject for a pop song, which I personally think is a great thing.” After all, Styrke is not an artist afraid to speak her truth, and makes a point to do so with her music.
As a woman and as an artist, the singer-songwriter has been very vocal on the importance of claiming space. “It’s one of the most important things to me,” she explains. “I have a necklace that says, ‘Make a fuzz, claim space, raise your voice, and don’t back down. We hold each other’s hands when it gets frightening.’ Amen.”
While the music industry has wholly embraced Styrke’s contagious brand of smart, mouthy electro-pop – spreading her music and videos like wildfire across the web – the artist is not entirely satisfied with the current state of music culture. But what would she change? How would she like to be understood?
“The inequality between genders is the most obvious thing to me that needs to change,” she says, adding, “don’t take this the wrong way, but to be honest, I don’t really need people to know or understand me. Their relationship is with the music, and after I put it out it’s theirs. And I can’t say that people need to know or understand the songs either, because it’s up to them what they take away from it. That’s how music works, and that’s the beauty of it.”
And beautiful it is. Styrke’s music is a pristine concoction of emotive expression, diverse socially- conscious perspectives, and rhythmic synths that carry the singer’s airy vocals to places high and heavenly. When she writes, she pulls inspiration from “a little bit of everywhere,” noting that in particular she gets most of her “good ideas” while riding the bus.
“I suppose it’s because you see all these people you don’t know, and you pass by so many different places,” Styrke explains. “Usually, I think very visually about a song, like I imagine a setting for it, a place or a made up world.”
This year, Styrke is positioned to release her debut U.S. album, the aptly titled Kiddo, which will no doubt continue the artist’s modus operandi of sharing her personal experiences coming-of-age as a young woman. When describing her head space for writing the record, she reveals, “I had lots of ideas that I wanted to try out. Some of the lyrics are pure fiction, and some are thoughts about the society we live in.”
It’s likely that once the album drops, Styrke will have more reason to write about society as touring brings her to cities far and wide across the world. “I’m looking forward to coming out and playing. I just want to go on tour and see places and meet people!” Right back at you, kiddo.