In Tove Lo's video for her new single "Disco Tits," she's consumed by a wild love affair, riding down the freeway with her hair blowing in the wind, head thrown back in ecstasy as she accepts passionate road head from her passenger-side paramour. And there's something a little...different about the co-star in this story. Sure, he's easy on the eyes. And yes, he has a head full of hair. But he's also...a puppet.
This all might sound strange, but a romantic tryst with an inanimate object makes complete sense in the world of this feminist, sex-positive singer. The Stockholm, Sweden native hasn't been afraid to push boundaries since she first landed on our playlists in 2014 with "Habits," which began: "I eat my dinner in my bathtub/Then I go to sex clubs/Watching freaky people get it on." Lo's second studio album Lady Wood arrived two years later, with an omnipresent lead single "Cool Girl" and an album cover featuring the letter "o" of "Tove" in the shape of a vagina. And one of the signature moves of her worldwide tour last year? Flashing her breasts to the audience.
So no, seeing a muppet-like creature going downtown on the singer as she croons about being "high as fuck" with her nipples "hard and ready to go" doesn't come as that much of a surprise. And the accompanying track "Disco Tits" is the kind of rapturous electronic dance tune best heard under the influence, equally fit for getting-ready playlists and nighttime car rides with the windows down.
"I always call it a state of mind," the newly turned 30-year-old said about the meaning of "Disco Tits" during a sit-down at the Refinery29 offices in New York. "It's kind of about being free, that kind of naive, no consequence romance with your partner in crime...it's just getting into all kinds of trouble but having a good time with that person." She's got a sparkle in her wintry blue eyes, and as we mic up for our conversation, she chats excitedly about how she's preparing to meet her boyfriend's parents in New Zealand over the holidays, and about the meaning behind her lynx tattoo, which she purposefully had inked on her microphone-holding hand. (Tove was born Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson; Tove Lo became a childhood nickname after she fell in love at the zoo with a lynx — or "lo," in Swedish.)
Blue Lips, out now, is Lo's third studio album, a collection of pop-ready dance hits and enchanting, moody tracks divided into chapters titled "Light Beam" and "Pitch Black." Just ahead of the record's release, the singer opened up about her latest project, plus sexism in the music industry, Harvey Weinstein, self-confidence, and more.
Read the interview and watch the full video below.
You're so confident in your skin. On stage you even flash your audience, and you're all about accepting yourself. How did you learn to be so confident in your own skin?
"I think it took time. I was not as a teenager, you know. I think I just hit a point where I remember just being like, with my friends and girls around me, one of the most common things was you put yourself down. You're not supposed to be too happy with yourself. You're supposed to almost be critical about the way you look. It's always about bettering the way that you look at all times. But it was just like, this takes up too much energy, man. When I started performing, when I'm on stage, every insecurity I've ever had just kind of goes away. It's a very free space for me to just be who I want to be. It's fun to be sexual and expressive and naked as much as I can on stage. It's just a very freeing feeling to not be critical toward yourself for an hour each night. You don't have to be what society tells us is the perfect look to be confident and proud of yourself."
Speaking of being sexually expressive, "Disco Tits" is the new single. I was obsessed with the video. There's a romance happening with a muppet-puppet situation...can you tell us the inspiration behind that?
"The video was actually a treatment that the director was going to make part of one of my short films, 'Fire Fade' first. And he was like, 'It would be cool if you were in this intense love relationship on an escape...' and I was like 'Ah, you know, we've done that...' And he was like 'Oh, you know, with a puppet." And I was like that is actually genius! I could picture it being that kind of bizarre, fun...new way to express things. The deeper layer is how you always fall in out of control with someone you're in love with, and love can make you crazy, because you follow this person in every step that they take, because you're so fascinated by them and that kind of goes back and forth. Usually someone is in the lead at different times. That's the deeper sentiment of it. But this song, everything about it had the right energy for that treatment. But it was a very different thing acting with a yellow little furry doll!"
You're an avid feminist, you talk a lot about girl power and the strength of women. Right now in entertainment industry, there's been a lot of talk about sexism and sexual assault. Is that something that you've seen or that you've dealt with?
"Definitely. A lot of the times it's these moments where it's like 'He's a bit of a sleazeball, watch out for him!' A lot of times I can feel that too. Or women putting each other down and defending the man in question. It's almost like 'It's part of the job, you have to take that, especially if you're a girl who sings about sex!' Obviously you're gonna wanna talk about that all the time and you want to have sex with everyone all the time, so we can ask you these questions."
"For me, in the beginning it was kind of hard to navigate through it, because first it was like, 'Maybe this is a language barrier sometimes? Where maybe I'm not getting the joke?' But then it was like you know what? I have to listen to my gut here. Someone will say a dirty joke to me, and I'll laugh and I'll joke back, and it feels good and natural energy and respectful. But sometimes I'm like: It just doesn't feel okay, even though it might be the same kind of joke. The only thing I can trust is my gut because I'm like no, I know what he's actually saying, or I know what he's hinting at. I think that, sometimes, is really hard to navigate through if you're like all these young girls. Like, you come into the industry, and all these people are supposed to guide you and show you the way. Then all of a sudden they make advances and you're like 'But I trust you!' And they kind of lured you in, and then you feel like...what am I supposed to do here? What is my role here? The only thing I can say is whenever you feel uncomfortable or someone is making you feel like this is not something that I want to do, you're entitled to those feelings. Whatever he or she says that makes you feel like that, they're in the wrong. It makes me angry!"
"Everything with Harvey Weinstein obviously has been a big thing. And I saw a woman designer [Donna Karan] speak out defending him like, 'Well, girls need to think about how they portray themselves, what message are you sending wearing that dress?' And I'm just like what are you doing? How can you turn it back on the women? I've seen it in the music industry. I've been lucky having a lot of great men...my whole team is mainly guys that I tour with, but they're all great guys with good values. They're like 'We don't get the men that are threatened by you,' because a lot of guys can be like 'Oh, there's so much hate against men right now!' And some of my friends are like 'Well, we don't feel threatened, because we have good values and whoever feels like threatened by it or hit by it, that's maybe because you need to rethink your values a little bit.' We're not talking about the men who are good here, we're talking about the men who are sexist and being not fair to women."
Another thing we're talking a lot about at Refinery29 right now is labels. There are so many labels, like, are you a feminist? Are you non-binary? All these different words. How do you label yourself and how do you feel about all of the labels in the world right now?
"That's honestly something that was kind of new to me when I started traveling in the States. The thing of having the need to identify, and like who are you, what's your image, what box can we put you in? Are you actually bi? Are you actually a feminist? It's very important for people to figure you out. You have to have a very clear standpoint on everything here. If that's what you need to feel secure about who you are, I think that's great. If you're transgender, and you want to put a label on yourself, that's your choice and you should be able to do that. Personally, I don't really think about that, I don't want to have to label myself. It shouldn't be something that is a mandatory thing. If you're growing up like 'I don't know if I'm a boy or a girl and I don't want to identify as any of it,' you shouldn't have to. But for some people, it's a security thing. If you're raised as a boy and you feel like a girl, you should be able to call yourself that and be that. I just feel like it should be a personal choice."
Ok, let's talk about the new album! Tell us what Blue Lips is and what we can expect from this album.
"It's the last two chapters of the Lady Wood era, so to speak. Blue Lips is kind of a play on blue balls, because I thought it was a fun cheeky way to continue the Lady Wood story. On a deeper sense, it's about never being fully satisfied, always chasing that rush. The chapters are 'Light Beam' and 'Pitch Black,' and it's a bit more of a dramatic album. Lady Wood was very sonically together, and there was a mood that follows through the whole album. Blue Lips, I experiment with a lot more different styles, like in pop, that I haven't really before. 'Disco Tits' being an example because sonically, that's a new sound for me. I have my first ballad on this album, there's a lot of very vulnerable personal songs that started as poems and now I put music to them. It's a bit more all over the place, but there's a thought to the chaos."
Blue Lips is out now.
Watch the full video of our interview below.
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