Guest DJ: Tove Styrke Talks Swedish Pop + Shares a Playlist of Her Favorite Songs

Photo by Hedvig Jenning

Things are moving quickly for Swedish up-and-comer Tove Styrke. After signing her, RCA Records put the works in motion to release the singer’s US debut, Borderline. The EP’s namesake track reached the #1 spot on Hype Machine’s “Popular” chart, with newfound fans clamoring over the artist’s eccentrically charged beats and diverse vocal tone, reminiscent of both dancehall music and M.I.A.

Unable to meet with the singer during a 48-hour stint in New York—her first time here for work—we chatted with her on the phone as she waited at JFK airport to board a flight back to Stockholm, her current home. She’ll be boarding another flight soon for Tokyo.

Minutes before she’d leave the US, we talked with Styrke about her exciting career and asked that she put together a list of some of her influences.

Why do you think Sweden is such a successful producer of Pop?

I get that question a lot, actually. And truthfully, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s tradition maybe. Many people do it…and then more people do it. It must be something in the water.

Well with so many other Pop artists out there, how do you differentiate yourself?

It’s pretty basic, actually. I write my songs and I write my lyrics myself. So just by doing that it gets very personal. I’m also able to write stuff that really fits my voice. I try always to write lyrics that fit the way the way that I think, and words that sit in my mouth. It also makes it easier for me to perform them. I guess it just comes naturally…That makes it personal, and unique.

What themes are you often writing about?

Well, it’s kind of a wide range actually. I mean, “Borderline” is just about our society and the patriarchy and how it shapes you. It’s about breaking free from all of that, from the norms and the standard ways of thinking about someone, or about yourself as a young woman. And then there’s “Brag,” which is actually about social media and society. It’s about bragging yourself through life and maintaining some sort of idea about yourself.

Can you tell me about being on Swedish Idol?

That whole thing was such a weird experience because you go from nothing to this extremely big exposure, and so you have the fame but you have yet to prove that you actually can do something musically. So for me, it was like, I almost had to work my way down from stardom in Sweden and then build a proper career from the bottom and do all those steps again, which I think has been really great. I mean, with my last album, it was really like learning all this, learning everything. And that was my first time writing—that was when I realized that I could write my own songs, which has been a really, really great thing for me, just in terms of keeping it true to who I am and keeping it personal. But it’s been a journey. I’ve been doing this for a couple years now and right now I’m having probably the best time of my life. I’m having so much fun with my music right now.

What did it feel like to release your latest EP?

It was so great because I’ve been working on this stuff for quite a while now and it’s just great to finally put it out there and hand it out to people.

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TOVE STYRKE’S PLAYLIST

Hans Zimmer – You’re So Cool

Probably the prettiest soundtrack ever.

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Spice Girls – Wannabe

Always an inspiration, I grew up with them.

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Beyoncé – Irreplaceable

Queen B!

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Tom Waits – Big in Japan

Badassery, these lyrics.

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Eagle-Eye Cherry – Save Tonight

That MTV feeling that was very present when I was a kid.

Upcoming Tour Dates:

15 January
Neon Gold’s Popshop @ The Echo, Los Angeles

16 January
Popscene @ Rickshaw Stop, San Fransisco

22 January
Neon Gold’s Popshop @ The Westway, New York

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