After spending her career burying her femininity in an industry dominated by men, Swedish artist, Tove Lo is digging up the shards of her past for her new album: Dirt Femme.
Defined by the internet as the act of reclaiming femininity, ‘Dirt Femme’ provides a lyrical stream of conscious unlearning as the singer deconstructs her relationship with conventionality.
Showcasing her impressive musical versatility, the alt-pop album trusts listeners with its bold, yet deeply vulnerable lyrics. “Now here I am with you / I never wanted babies,” Lo writes in her track ‘Suburbia’ of societal pressures to want children.
After breaking onto the charts with her hit single, Habits (Stay High), Lo has produced five albums, collaborated with artists including Ellie Goulding and Kylie Minogue, and featured on the soundtrack of the cult series, Euphoria.
Here, the artist sits down to discuss her thoughts on unconventional living, the healing power of music and rewriting the rules of domesticity.
marie claire: Congratulations on DIRT FEMME. What was the inspiration behind the album?
Tove Lo: I treat my albums like a journal that everyone can read. DIRT FEMME is about my relationship with my femininity and how it’s helped and hurt me throughout my life. I’ve started to embrace parts of my femininity that I haven’t before, which is reflected in my new songs. I used to get very frustrated about needing someone and being dependent and being romantic. Now, I don’t mind that so much, maybe because I’m in a good relationship. This album is very dramatic, emotional and vulnerable and cinematic sonically. Which I think came out of having a lot of time to still time with a lot of intense emotions.
MC: What was the catalyst for you to rethink your perception of femininity?
TL: When I got into the industry I felt like I had to enhance my masculine traits to feel like I could get ahead and get along with the boys club and be more respected and get more attention. I used to move only in circles with only men, and I never actually thought of how that affected me. I was taught to view femininity as a weakness, instead of a strength. I think that has changed over the years through getting to know myself better and being comfortable in myself. The #metoo movement has helped acknowledge and push down toxic masculinity in the industry and address that it’s a problem.
MC: The album grapples with the conflicting feelings that come with domestic bliss. You got married in 2020. What has been the most challenging part of conventional living?
TL: I’m not really living very conventionally. I still live in a collective in LA with three of my friends. My partner and I got married in Vegas, which was very wild. We eloped with a few of our friends.
I guess there’s this idea that when you get to a certain age and you get married and you have kids, you almost don’t have a choice that you have to get pushed into suburban life and I know that I wouldn’t be happy there. I don’t know if I want kids, but you always have to make an argument as a woman if you don’t know if you want to have kids. I don’t want to put too many restraints on myself as a human being.
MC: Your song Grapefruit, which is about your experience with disordered eating, which you wrote after losing weight for your role in the remake of the Oscar-nominated Swedish movie The Emigrants. I read that it’s a song you wanted to write for 10 years, but was never able to find the right words for. What helped you find the words?
TL: I had eating disorders from when I was 15 to around 20. Anyone who has ever struggled with it knows that it’s the only thing on your mind, nothing else matters. You’re never satisfied, you’re never happy and you hate everything about yourself. I don’t think I could have written about it earlier because I was still too close to it. I’ve worked so hard on getting better and going to therapy and started doing the work on loving myself and my body.
Once you’ve broken the behaviour, you have to get to the root of it, because it’s very rarely just about your body. I honestly have a better relation to my body after going through all that than I would have. Once I started becoming an artist and putting out music I wanted to be free of it. I didn’t want to acknowledge that it had happened, I didn’t want to talk about it all the time. I shot this movie in Sweden in like 2020 and they wanted me to lose weight for the movie in a very short period of time. So I had to go on a diet for the first time in like 10 years and kept having all these past memories pop into my head.
It was pretty triggering in the sense that just made me sad thinking about what I used to do to myself. I had this day when I was writing with my roommate, who is a producer, and he wrote this beautiful dancy beat and I wrote these lyrics. And he asked what I was singing about. And I guess it just felt like this was the day to tell the story. Maybe because I have so much distance to it now that it doesn’t affect me as much. It was something I just needed to write about.
Personally, I don’t like songs that are preachy and tell me how I should be feeling. I like it better when they just talk about the feeling, and then that we’re feeling the same way. I remember that when I was going through all that shit, I would listen to songs that would be like ‘love your body’ and I’m not saying those songs are wrong. But for me personally, I would think ‘oh I’m supposed to feel this way about myself, but I don’t.’ So I felt like a failure. Whereas when someone would just sing about the actual how it actually feels in the moment, that was the most sort of helpful for me. That’s why I decided to write that way.
MC: I read that when you first got signed you spent your first advance on a trip to Australia. What do you love about Australia?
TL: Good breakfast, good coffee and surfing.
DIRT FEMME is out now.