Tove Lo may be the busiest person in pop music. Even if she only released her first solo song of the year Cool Girl in August, we’ve heard from her repeatedly throughout the whole year with multiple features. She added power to Flume’s Say It, sex to Years & Years’ Desire, emotion to Broods’ Freak Of Nature and sentimentality to Coldplay’s Fun.
It’s a hugely diverse list of features but Lo’s personal style is so strong that her aesthetic is the same no matter whether she’s singing a soaring ballad or a glitchy electronic track.
“It’s a whirlwind,” Lo says about her insane schedule on the phone from Toronto where she’s just bolted from the airport to her hotel room in time for the phone call. Despite clearly being run off her feet, there’s no negativity from her side, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“It’s been so amazing,” she adds.
Starting as a writer, the Swedish artist was shot very suddenly into the spotlight when the Hippie Sabotage remix of her track Habits (Stay High) shot into the top 10 in both the UK and here in Australia. Her debut album Queen Of The Clouds came very soon after and then she bagged a hit in the often impenetrable market of the US with Talking Body. A whirlwind first album can often be enough to throw an artist off track but for Lo, it hasn’t even rattled her.
She spent the next two years after the release of her debut touring and collaborating with her favourite artists, one of them being our very own Flume. She teamed up with him for Say It, Flume’s biggest pop moment on his second record Skin.
“People who have reached out to me are all people I’ve been huge fans of,” she says of the collaboration.
“Flume, I’ve been listening to for years and he reached out and I was like, ‘is this for real?’ I feel very honoured to be asked to write or work with people because it means that they trust me…at the time I wasn’t a big name, it was only because they liked what I wrote and that meant a lot.”
As a fan, she was the most “nervous” to work with Flume of all her collaborators, despite also holing up in the studio with Coldplay’s Chris Martin, a band she’s been “listening to since High School.”
Somehow in between a hectic touring schedule and big-name collaborations, she found the time to record her second and most cohesive record Lady Wood.
While the debut album was a critical and commercial success, album number two truly feels like her chance to say exactly what she wants to say. She wrote and recorded the LP between Sweden and LA, with an intense writing camp in Nicaragua.
From the throbbing, powerful lead single Cool Girl to the sensual Don’t Talk To Me, it’s a confident celebration of sexuality, femininity and individuality.
“I had so much inspiration I just needed to get it all out of me,” she says.
“I want it to be very raw, I want it to be not retouched. I don’t like the word provocative but I guess that’s what it is – sexy and proud. I have people I work with that can read my mind sometimes.”
Sexy and proud may be the best description of the album – two words that may not have necessarily shone through on the first album. It’s one that explores the juxtaposition between the light and dark, taking the sunny setting of LA to explore some of the darker sides of relationships and fame.
“My favourite things are those contrasts ‘cos that’s how I feel all the time, it’s always like that. It’s an emotional rollercoaster,” she explains.
“The album is all about emotional rushes, doing things that terrify you but turn you on a bit. It’s kind of like feeling the most alive at all times. I think when you have those really intense highs, you’re always going to get the lows and I want to write about both.”
One thing that’s sure to grab people’s attention is the album title Lady Wood, perhaps the strongest statement to grace an album title this year. Very literally, lady wood is a female hard-on but it’s got far more layers than that.
“I feel music and sex are very connected,” says Lo, decoding the album title.
“When you say to someone be brave it’s ‘grow some balls’ and when someone’s being a coward it’s ‘don’t be a pussy’, and when someone’s cool and strong it’s, ‘a chick with balls’. I’d rather say we have lady wood.”
For Lo, it’s about reclaiming a certain strength and power that’s too often subconsciously and consciously attributed to males. If you’ve seen the simultaneously playful, creepy and sexy video for Cool Girl, you’ll know exactly the strength that she’s talking about. She’s an in control pop star in an industry that so often attempts to strip individuality from its biggest names.
Lo knows all too well the way the industry tries to “polish” and “shave” your personality. This album is about doing it the way she wants to do it.
“I had to be open about what I stand for,” she says.
“I’m going to remember that when my gut tells me it’s wrong, it’s wrong. If you keep sacrificing yourself all the time, you get lost in the middle of it.”
As scary as it is to take control, it’s resulted in her strongest artistic output to date.
“There’s nothing to fear in the things I’m afraid of,” Lo sings in album track Imaginary Friend and that may be the biggest takeaway from Lady Wood.
‘Lady Wood’ will be released Friday, October 28th. Pre-order the album here.