Music

Tove Lo Is the Sex-Positive Pop Star Shocking All the Prudes

by Ilana Kaplan
11.30.2017
The unapologetic singer talks about her third record, Blue Lips.

Sitting in front of Tove Lo, in a booth at The Williamsburg Hotel, as she sips a hot tea, one would never guess she’s the pasty-wearing sex-loving Scorpio pop star who has built a career on not censoring herself. The only hint at who she might be is the lynx tattoo covering her left hand—it’s her spirit animal. 

 

At her birthday party, just a few weeks ago, her now signature nearly-nude accessory was perfectly in tow. “I gave away at least 200 pairs of them at my birthday party a couple weeks ago,” she says. “It ended up with everyone at the party walking around topless with different cuts of pasties on.” 

Just a few days prior she was on stage in Bushwick singing about having hard nipples and getting high all the time in celebration of her third studio record, Blue Lips. Where her contemporaries rely on euphemisms and ambiguity, Tove sings about doing drugs, sex, and heartbreak dramatically well. It works because it's real: she's lived it.

 

At 30 years old, Tove has become a household name, at least in the pop industry. Before her debut release, Queen Of The Clouds, and explicit follow-up Lady Wood, Tove was writing pop songs for Icona Pop, and most recently the likes of Lorde and fellow Swede Zara Larsson. She's responsible for tracks like Lorde’s “Homemade Dynamite” on Melodrama (which was just nominated for a Grammy), Ellie Goulding’s multi-platinum highest-selling single “Love Me Like You Do,” and Hilary Duff’s critic favorite “Sparks.” And while she does still write songs for the biggest names in pop, her career is front and center — and she's not panning to the prude.

In 2016, Tove put out her provocative multidimensional project Lady Wood along with the short film Fairy Dust. Through out the 31-minute narrative video, she explores the highs and lows of lust and self-love—the final scene sees her masturbating on a bed. The project was broken into chapters, and the finale of Lady Wood was not the conclusion of her story. In late November, she released her third record — a companion piece to Lady Wood called Blue Lips. Tove’s third record is about always chasing a rush and never really feeling satisfied. “It’s also just a wink to Lady Wood and blue balls because that was kind of funny and clever,” she laughs. But Tove isn’t making her music sexual just for the sake of scandal: she’s doing it because she’s not afraid to be open about it. And unlike other artists, she drops the metaphors and focuses on her reality.

 

The bulk of Blue Lips comes from the plethora of songs written during her Lady Wood phase, ones she didn’t want to cram together for the sake of it. “I want to have my intros, outros, and interludes, and make it an experience you can listen through, take it all in and listen to again,” she explains. Blue Lips is very much the whole part of Tove’s story; it’s basically the continuing emotional rollercoaster ride that Lady Wood was, but even more dramatic and chaotic. “With this album it’s funny because I always want people to listen to it backwards because ‘Pitch Black,’ where the album ends, is about a breakup that I was going through during Lady Wood, and ‘Light Beams’ is kind of where I’m at now: a happier, more naive state of being in love and just enjoying life,” Tove says.

"Disco Tits"

Blue Lips’ lead single “Disco Tits” particularly turned heads with its hypnotic chorus, “I'm sweat from head to toe/I'm wet through all my clothes/I'm fully charged, nipples are hard/Ready to go.” For the track, she broke from the typical pop structure and focused on what would make her want to keep dancing. Tove credits lead single “Disco Tits” as the “happiest” single she’s ever written: a song derived from a nickname she gained at Coachella after wearing a see-through top engulfed in disco mirrors. “It’s free and it’s a little bit of a different style than anything I’ve done before, but it still feels very me,” she says. Tove takes things a step further in the video, having sexcapades with a Muppet-esque puppet who eventually turns into a human — something your conservative mother would surely find appalling.

 

But “Disco Tits” isn’t the only song that pushed buttons, “Bitches” hears Tove taking on a cultural sex faux pas. On it she sings, “Know your own love, but I don’t fuck with no glove.” “In Sweden it’s very common for people to have unprotected sex and that would always be the reason you would not go down with a girl on the first night, but you would have unprotected sex with her on the first night,” she explains. “It’s kind of me nodding to that and just fucking pushing your head down, in a way.” She once again delves into her affinity for substances with “Hey You Got Drugs?” and sexual exploration on “Shivering Gold.” Each track is raunchier and rawer than the previous ones, meaning she’s finding more confidence in honesty. 

“With this album, I always want people to listen to it backwards because ‘Pitch Black,’ where the album ends, is about a breakup that I was going through during Lady Wood, and ‘Light Beams’ is where I’m at now: a happier, more naive state of being in love and just enjoying life.”

With two bombastic albums in just two years, Tove is taking a breather from writing now, and currently dreaming about who she’d love to collaborate with: Sia and Robyn being at the top of her list. “I’d love to do like a big just like Scandi album,” she confesses. “There are just so many amazing artists that I think are great writers and are cool on output, like Icona Pop, Zara Larsson, Elliphant, MØ — she’s Danish though. We should do an album together, all of us.” Regardless of who is included, it will probably be extra in all the best possible ways.

 

Whether it’s singing about sex or a part of her daily routine, Tove isn’t going to stop being blunt. “I write out of my own perspective and things that I’ve been through,” she explains. “It can be the smallest shit that doesn’t matter — just like, not real problems — but they’re still my problems.”

 

She’s wise enough to know her privilege and stay away from subjects that she hasn’t experienced firsthand, like racism and segregation in Sweden and throughout the world. “I haven’t experienced that being a white woman from Sweden,” she admits. “I don’t know what it’s like, so I feel like that’s something I have a lot of feelings about, but I wouldn’t make a song about it because that’s not my perspective.” For her own life though, she will continue to write about what she knows. And for her music, the less the boundaries, the better.

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