The Swedish singer on exploring self-love in her latest album, so sad so sexy.
This summer, Lykke Li returned after a four-year hiatus with so sad so sexy, a 10-track collection of melancholic pop, mixing trap beats and ballads with her saccharine, synth-led sound. Since her last album I Never Learn – released in 2014 – Lykke has become both a mother and lost her own mother, and so sad so sexy is a highly personal exploration of hopelessness and heartache, euphoria, self-destruction and self-love.
As her European tour comes to a close, we spoke to Lykke about her writing process for the album, connecting with fans on stage, and getting through shows wearing three layers of PVC…
How did you come up with the album title?
I was in a writing session for “better alone”. The way that I’ve been writing this album was to show up on the day, I’d just go on the mic and kind of freestyle. On that song I started singing the harmonies, kind of one long flow, and listening back I was like oh my god – it’s so sad but it’s so sexy. And then I was like oh… I think I’ve found the title for my album. I guess that became the world and what I wanted these songs to sound like. It really hit the spot for me.
Why did you choose now to release it?
Well I had a baby, and that takes away a couple of years. Then my mum got sick and passed away, so there was a lot of personal things that were unavoidable that I had to deal with. Those things in anyone’s life, when they come, you kind of have to deal with it.
What are the main themes it covers lyrically?
I think self-love. All my albums are about love, they’re just different stages.
Would you say that reflects how you’re feeling right now, is it quite a personal album?
Oh yeah. All my albums are super personal. I don’t write unless I have to write.
Have you had a lot of people really connect with your lyrics then?
Yeah, I think that’s the beauty about going on tour. I get so shocked that people even know my lyrics. But when they do and they’re crying it’s like oh OK, maybe someone did listen. I don’t think about other people when I write, so when someone likes it I’m always surprised. When it’s your own show, it’s really special and emotional when all these people took the time and money to come. I feel very grateful that they still do, it’s a very beautiful thing.
How did choose your outfits for the tour? Is the visual side of it important to you?
I definitely put the effort into building a character. I’m wearing three layers of PVC, which is so fucking hot! And glitter all over my face, and my hair is gelled every night… So it’s a lot. Mid-tour I’m like what the fuck have I gotten myself into! But it’s necessary. Yeah, I make my costumes myself.
Do you take the lead in crafting your music videos too?
I already know what the story I want to tell is because I wrote the songs, I know all the undertones and subtext so usually I find a director that I admire and we collaborate. But I know how I want it to look, how I want to look, who I want to cast. And then I’m very involved with the editing process too.
What inspires you – everyday stuff, your imagination?
Everyday stuff, I just got a new house. I’m renovating a house from the 60s and it’s inspiring, the thought of building a new life and every single thing you put in there.
Do you have a favourite song from the album?
Yeah, “hard rain”, “better alone” and “bad woman” are my favourites.
Do you have any plans to release new stuff soon?
Yeah, I’m going to release another reimagined version of a couple of songs that’s going to be exciting, which I’m working on right now. Remixed, I suppose.
Do you like to work with DJs and artists in other genres? Is there anyone in particular that you’d really love to work with?
Yeah, I’m a music lover so whatever floats the boat. My number one is Kendrick Lamar, he’s my dream collab!
Where would you like to see your career going years from now?
You can’t put out albums unless you’re inspired! So I hope that I’m still inspired.