Habits (Stay High)

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"Habits (Stay High)"
Artwork for "Habits (Stay High)". A black-and-white image of Tove Lo holding scissors.
Single by Tove Lo
from the album Truth Serum and Queen of the Clouds
Released
  • 15 March 2013 (2013-03-15)
  • 6 December 2013 (2013-12-06) (re-release)
Format Digital download
Studio Warner/Chappell Studios (Stockholm)
Genre
Length 3:29
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s) The Struts
Tove Lo singles chronology
"Out of Mind"
(2013)
"Habits (Stay High)"
(2013)
"Stay High"
(2014)
"Habits"
Original artwork for "Habits (Stay High)". Tove Lo is standing in front of a black background with mascara streaming down her face.
Original single artwork of the song under the title of "Habits".[1] After Lo was signed to Universal, it was re-released under the new title of "Habits (Stay High)".[2]
Tove Lo singles chronology
"Love Ballad"
(2012)
"Habits"
(2013)
"Run on Love"
(2013)

"Habits (Stay High)" is a song recorded by Swedish singer Tove Lo from her debut extended play (EP), Truth Serum, and her debut studio album, Queen of the Clouds (2014). It was written by Lo with Ludvig Söderberg and Jakob Jerlström, while it was produced by the latter two under the production name The Struts. Initially, the singer self-released the song under the title "Habits" on 15 March 2013 as her second independently-released single. After Lo was signed to Universal Music, the track was re-released on 6 December 2013 under the title of "Habits (Stay High)" as both the second single from Truth Serum and the lead single from Queen of the Clouds. Musically, it is a pop and electropop song which features a minimal and upbeat electronic instrumentation. Its lyrics delve into the singer's attempts to forget her previous boyfriend through substance abuse, drinking and other hedonistic practices. Consequently, some critics and Lo herself noted a contrast between the song's production and its lyrical content.

"Habits (Stay High)" was well received by most critics, who commended its lyrics and production. The track became a sleeper hit; it entered the music charts in 2014, one year after its original release. The recording peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and became the highest-charting song by a Swedish artist on that chart since "The Sign" by Ace of Base peaked at number one in 1994. It was certified five-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and sold over 2.6 million copies in the country. Additionally, the track topped the charts in Poland and Romania, and peaked within the top ten in Austria, Canada, France and Switzerland, among others.

Two music videos were filmed for the song, both directed by Motellet Film. The first version, released on 15 March 2013, featured the singer at a tea party while getting drunk with her guests. It reached half-a-million views on YouTube before it was made private one year after its release. The second version was filmed at a Swedish club over three days and depicts Lo in a night of partying with her friends. The singer performed the single at festivals such as South by Southwest and the Hangout Music Festival, and included it on the set list of her tours, the Queen of the Clouds Tour (2015) and the Lady Wood Tour (2017). The single was awarded the Song of the Year award at the Grammis of 2015 in Sweden. A remix by record production duo Hippie Sabotage, titled "Stay High", was released as the third single from Truth Serum and reached the top ten in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe. The song has been covered by artists such as Vin Diesel, whose performance was a tribute to his late friend Paul Walker, and Kelly Clarkson, who performed the track on her Piece by Piece Tour (2015).

Background and release[edit]

"Habits (Stay High)" was written by Tove Lo alongside Ludvig Söderberg and Jakob Jerlström, while produced by Söderberg and Jerlström under the production name The Struts.[3] Initially, Lo signed a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music in 2011,[4][5] and co-wrote songs for Icona Pop and Girls Aloud.[6] She later released her debut single, "Love Ballad", in October 2012, which drew the attention from some music blogs. This encouraged her to start a career as an independent singer so she could record her most personal songs.[7][8] According to Lo, "Habits (Stay High)" is the song from Truth Serum (2014) that means the most to her because of its honest lyrics and extended writing process.[8] Initially, the verses of the song were part of a poem written by Lo when she was going through a difficult time in a relationship.[9] Later, Lo's boyfriend became part of a Buddhist movement but she refused to join, which led the relationship to an end.[10] After that, she started using drugs and drinking in order to forget him.[9][11][12] Months after the relationship ended, she was staying at a friend's apartment in New York City, during 2012's Hurricane Sandy.[13] When the apartment lost electricity and heat, Lo went on to stay at her friend's studio in Midtown, New York City, where she wrote the chorus.[12][14]

On 11 December 2012, she announced through her Facebook account that she did not get to finish some of the projects she was working on in New York and that she was collaborating in the studio with The Struts in Sweden.[15] The singer decided to use the vocals she recorded for the demo on the song because her vocal performance "was really coming from the heart".[9] The Struts co-wrote, produced and programmed the track, and additionally played the keys. Filip Runesson played the strings, with Lars Norgren mixing the song and Björn Engelmann mastering it.[3] In an interview with Coup de Main magazine, Lo said that: "[While writing the song, I was thinking about] my way of getting through a hard time in 'the best' possible way. It's a big relief to just think 'fuck it all' for a while. We all have to be so perfect, and absolutely no one can live up to it."[16] She later confessed to The Huffington Post that she recovered from the break-up after writing the song.[17]

On 13 March 2013, the singer released the song's artwork accompanied by the statement "soon" on her Facebook account.[18] Two days later, she released the track, under the title "Habits".[19] It was her second independently-released single, after "Love Ballad" (2012).[20] The song drew the attention of music blogs, which gained Lo an online following.[4] Welsh singer Marina and the Diamonds and New Zealand artist Lorde praised the song through their Twitter accounts.[16] Subsequently, the recording was re-released under the title "Habits (Stay High)" on 6 December 2013 through Universal Music as the second single from Lo's debut EP Truth Serum, as well as the lead single from her debut studio album Queen of the Clouds (2014).[2][21][22] It was made available for digital consumption in the United States on 14 January 2014.[23] On 17 June 2014, it was sent to US contemporary hit radio.[24] About the song's re-release, the singer explained in an interview with The Untitled Magazine that, after the attention the track gained from music blogs, she signed a record deal with Universal Music. Then, the label representatives decided to re-release it with proper promotion as they believe it still had commercial potential.[25]

Composition[edit]

"Habits (Stay High)" is a pop and electropop song.[26][27][28] In an interview with AP Entertainment, the singer stated that the song's lyrics describe her behaviour during the time she wrote it, when she was devastated and trying to overcome a former relationship. She also remarked that the main theme of "Habits (Stay High)" is the suffering she experienced despite her attempts to numb the pain.[29] Echoing this thought, Lo further confessed that: "I can't lie. What I'm singing about is my life. It's the truth. I've had moments where [drug-taking] has been a bigger part than it should be. It's hard to admit to, and I could filter it or find another metaphor for it – but it doesn't feel right to me."[30] According to the artist, the songs on the Truth Serum EP talk about her most intense failed relationship.[30] Following the narrative of the EP, Lo indicated that the track talks about the part when the relationship is over and she is trying to get on with her life in "not the healthiest way".[11] The recording was also included in "The Pain" section of Lo's debut studio album, Queen of the Clouds, a concept album that describes the pattern of the singer's relationships.[31][32]

According to the digital sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Alfred Publishing, the song is composed in the key of F major and set in common time signature, with it having a dance pop tempo of 110 beats per minute. Lo's vocals span from the low note of B3 to the high note of C5.[33] The song has a minimal and upbeat electronic instrumentation which consists of drums, bass, backup vocals and Lo's voice.[34] The song starts with the words "oh oh", which repeat after every sentence of the verses.[34][35] The chorus contains the millennial whoop, a vocal melody repeating on the fifth and third notes in a major scale.[36] Some critics noted a contrast between the track's lyrics and production. Carrie Battan of Pitchfork stated that the song "contrasts a giant hook and chorus with snappy verses filled with quietly distinct, often strange imagery: of [Lo] eating her dinner in the bathtub, getting drunken munchies, seducing dads on playgrounds".[37] Chris Jordan of Asbury Park Press described "Habits (Stay High)" as a "synth-based pop song with a sweeping chorus", but noted that the lyrical content of the track was similar to that of rock 'n' roll music.[38] The singer herself stated that: "You can feel the lyrics and the dark and sad but if you combine it with, brings a little to the dark humor as well. I like the thing of dancing along and then listening to what I'm actually saying."[39]

The song's lyrics delve into Lo's hedonistic attempts to forget her former boyfriend.[28][30][40][41] According to Markos Papadatos of Digital Journal, the narrator describes her attempts to overcome a failed relationship through binge eating and alcohol, as indicated in the lyrics about having the munchies, eating Twinkies, and throwing up during the first verse.[42] In the chorus, she sings about drug abuse: "You're gone and I gotta stay high / All the time, to keep you off my mind".[27] According to Adam R. Holz of Plugged In, in the bridge, Lo approaches the theme of "knowing—at some level—just how empty and self-obliterating her choices really are", as she talks about needing to take someone home in order to relieve her suffering.[27] The singer confessed to iHeart Radio that the song's bridge is her favorite part of the track because "that just says everything [that the] song is about for me".[43] However, Billboard's Jeremy D. Larson considered the song's message untrue because "staying high does not keep anyone off your mind".[44]

Critical reception[edit]

"Habits (Stay High)" was well received by most critics. Harley Brown of Billboard wrote that the track is "one of the most easily identifiable pop songs [she has] heard in recent memory: everyone's gotten high, maybe eaten too many Twinkies, and regretted life decisions, but not everyone makes a really superb song about it".[44] Pitchfork's Carrie Battam stated that the track's hook and production make the lyrics "sound gracefully sad instead of tragic".[1] In her review of Queen of the Clouds, Battam called it "a big, sticky song, but not so big that it stuns your senses or numbs you into enjoyment".[37] Ewald Arndt of FDRMX said that "Habits (Stay High)" is "so fun to listen to" despite its sad themes.[34] AllMusic's Heather Phares called it "the Queen of the Clouds's standout track,[45] while Sam Lansky of Idolator stated that it "has a little of the texture of Kesha's no-fucks-given party-girl pop but with the languorous sadness of Robyn" and that "It'll get stuck in your head, which is right where it deserves to be."[46] Nick Murray labeled it as Truth Serum's best track, and compared it with the music of American rapper Kendrick Lamar.[47]

Bradley Stern of MuuMuse called it "the younger, more Swedish-sounding sister" to Sia's "Chandelier" (2014),[48] while Markos Papadatos of Digital Journal considered it an "anthem of female empowerment".[42] Alex Kritselis of Bustle opined that "Habits (Stay High)" was a dramatic song, but further stated that the "sadness, anxiety and terror" in the singer's voice were authentic.[49] Michael Cragg of The Guardian called it the stand out track from Truth Serum and deemed it as "brilliantly frank".[7] Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph considered it a straightforward song about hedonism with a "fantastic" chorus.[28] However, some critics gave the song mixed reviews. Jason Lipshutz of Billboard said that "Habits (Stay High)" was one of the weaker tracks of Queen of the Clouds, while Jillian Mapes of the same magazine stated that it was "a little too same-y amidst artists like Lorde and Banks".[44]

Recognition and accolades[edit]

The staff of The Line of Best Fit ranked "Habits (Stay High)" at number 6 on their list of the 50 Best Tracks of 2013 and wrote that it was "easily one of the most vital pop songs of the year".[50] Rolling Stone ranked the recording at number 23 on their list of the 50 Best songs of 2014 and compared the song's production to that of Lorde's music and the lyrics to those of Kesha's songs.[51] Chris Jordan of Asbury Park Press deemed it as one of the best singles of that year and stated that "it was refreshing to hear the debauchery depicted" in the song.[38] Echoing this thought, Chris DeVille of Stereogum ranked the track at number 26 on his list of Top 50 Pop Songs of 2014 and confessed that: "For a song that derives much of its appeal from being out-of-control and over-the-top, 'Habits' is a work of extreme poise and precision from a pop songwriter with a blindingly bright future."[52] Entertainment Weekly 's Miles Raymer selected the line "I eat my dinner in my bathtub / Then I go to sex clubs / Watching freaky people gettin' it on" on his list of the best lyrics of 2014 and wrote that it was "one of the most interesting images to come out of a pop singer's mouth this year".[53]

"Habits (Stay High)" received the accolade for Song of the Year at the Swedish Grammis Awards of 2015.[54] At the ASCAP Pop Music Awards, it was recognized by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) as one of the most performed songs of 2014.[55] The single was further awarded with a Pop Award at the 2015 BMI London Awards.[56] At the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Awards, "Habits (Stay High)" received a nomination for the Best Lyrics award, but lost to "Blank Space" (2014) by Taylor Swift.[57] It was also nominated for Top Streaming Song (Audio) at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards.[58]

Chart performance[edit]

A man with blonde hair wearing a white T-shirt, a smiling woman with brown hair wearing a dress and another man wearing a suit and touching his head.
"Habits (Stay High)" peaked at number three on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming the highest-charting song by a Swedish act on the chart since "The Sign" by Ace of Base (pictured) peaked at number one in 1994.

In the United States, "Habits (Stay High)" became a sleeper hit.[59] It made its first appearances on the Billboard charts when it debuted at number 34 on the Rock Airplay and at number 36 on the Alternative Songs.[60] It eventually debuted at number 66 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the issue dated 14 June 2014.[61] On 15 October 2014, the song became part of an all-female top five on the Hot 100 when it ascended from number six to number four on the chart.[62] In its twenty-second week on the chart, the track peaked at number three,[63] and held that position the following week.[64] In doing so, it became the highest-charting song by a Swedish act on the Billboard Hot 100 since "The Sign" by Ace of Base peaked at number one in 1994.[65] "Habits (Stay High)" topped the Radio Songs chart on the issue dated 22 November 2014, becoming the sixth song by a debut artist to reach the top of the chart in 2014.[66] On the Pop Songs chart, it debuted at number 40.[67] "Habits (Stay High)" topped the chart on the issue dated 15 November 2014,[68] becoming the seventh song by a debut artist to reach the number one spot in 2014.[69] It remained on the top of it the following week.[70] On the Rock Songs chart, "Habits (Stay High)" debuted at number nine on the issue dated 14 June 2014.[71] In its twelfth week, it climbed to number one,[72] becoming the third song by a woman or female-led act to top the chart, after Lorde's "Royals" (2013) and Paramore's "Ain't It Fun" (2014).[73] The recording topped the chart for six consecutive weeks.[74] As of January 2016, it had sold 2.6 million copies in the United States and was certified five-times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[75][76] In Canada, "Habits (Stay High)" debuted at number 86 on the Canadian Hot 100 for the issue dated 5 July 2014.[77] It eventually peaked at number three,[78] and was certified double-platinum by Music Canada, which denotes 160,000 downloads.[79] It was the second-most-streamed song of the second half of 2014 in the country, with 1.3 million streams in that period.[80] In Mexico, the song peaked at number ten on the Mexico Airplay chart and spent 16 weeks on it.[81] The single found more success on the Mexico Inglés Airplay chart, where it reached number three and spent thirty-two weeks.[82]

"Habits (Stay High)" charted in various European countries. It spent one week on the Euro Digital Songs, where it peaked at number 19.[83] In Germany, the song debuted at number 79 on the Top 100 Singles chart on 30 May 2014. It eventually peaked at number 14 and spent 53 weeks on the chart.[84] It was certified Platinum by the Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI), denoting 400,000 sales in the country.[85] In France, the song peaked at number two on the Top Singles Téléchargés chart for the issue dated 6 September 2014.[86] According to Pure Charts, the song sold over 88,600 copies during 2014 in France, becoming the thirteenth best-selling song of that year in that country.[87] It spent a total of 75 non-consecutive weeks on the chart between 2014 and 2016.[86] It also reached number two on the airplay chart and topped the streaming chart of the country.[88][89] In Hungary, the recording peaked at number nine on the sales chart and at number eight on the streaming chart, both published by the Association of Hungarian Record Companies (MAHASZ).[90][91] In Poland, the song debuted at number 11 on the Polish Airplay Chart for the issue dated 1 November 2014.[92] It eventually topped the chart for four consecutive weeks.[93][94][95][96] In Denmark, the song debuted and peaked at number ten on the Track Top 40 chart.[97] It further reached number six on the Airplay Top 20 chart, and received a Platinum certification accorded by IFPI Denmark, denoting 2,600,000 streams in the country.[98][99] "Habits (Stay High)" peaked at number three in both Austria and Switzerland,[100][101] and was certified Gold in both countries by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).[102][103] In Romania, the song topped the International Airplay Songs Chart on the issue dated 15 December 2014.[104] It reached the top ten on the digital chart of Czech Republic,[105] Luxembourg,[106] Portugal and Slovakia.[107][108] In Spain, it peaked at number 13 on both the sales and airplay singles charts published by the Productores de Música de España (PROMUSICAE).[109][110]

Music videos[edit]

First version[edit]

On 1 February 2013, Motellet Film announced on their Twitter account that they were shooting a music video for Tove Lo.[111] On 27 February, they announced that they had finished it and posted a photo of Lo on the set.[112] The duo directed the video, with the singer co-directing it and writing its script.[113] Swedish website PSL premiered it on 15 March 2013,[20] while the singer posted it on her YouTube channel two days later.[114]

The video begins with the singer recalling memories from a hangover, including images of whiskey, a shoe in a chandelier, and her making out with a man flash on the screen, particularly getting a bottle of whiskey and drinking it with him. In the following scene, Lo is seen at a tea party with four other women and the waitresses, where they drink champagne amongst an array of cakes and cupcakes. As the video flashes white, it shows a glimpse of the other women's fantasies. Then, Lo becomes drunk, takes her shirt off, smears cake on her face, pours champagne on herself and starts to dance with her guests and the waitresses. In the following scene, she makes out with the man she was drinking with. The visual ends with the singer being at home while vomiting into a sink. Scenes interspersed through the main plot portray Lo in a dark room, with mascara dripping from her eyes while doing activities such as blowing bubble gum, eating melting ice cream, and smoking a cigarette. Despite the video's plot, Lo wanted to depict the imagery in an "artistic" perspective, explaining that "the dark undertone is key for the whole video".[113] As of 14 March 2014, it received nearly 530,000 views on YouTube.[115] However, it was made private that same month,[116] becoming unavailable to view.[117]

Second version[edit]

Three women and a man laughing and making a toast in a club.
Tove Lo partying with her friends in the second music video for "Habits (Stay High)", in which the singer wanted to "show this kind of night where things can get out of control".[118]

The second music video for "Habits (Stay High)" was also directed by Motellet Film. It was filmed at a Swedish club in the span of three days,[119] where the singer spent time with three friends who were asked to "have a few drinks and make out" with her.[120] Consequently, the directors filmed a large amount of natural footage because there was not a specific "direction".[121] Regarding the fact that two of her friends were women, Lo expressed: "There are girls in there—one of them is my best friend. That should be OK, that shouldn't even be a thing."[122] In the video, the singer wanted to "show this kind of night where things can get out of control" and the viewers to "go slowly into this emotional turmoil" represented in the lyrics of the song.[118][123] She explained: "I want people to know what I'm feeling. I want it to really reflect the song. So I wanted to make a video that I'm not able to watch, which is kind of what it is."[25]

Lo found the shooting difficult and exhausting because she had to walk around with a 22-pound camera strapped around her waist for the three days of the filming. She also stated that it was "draining" to represent the pain she felt when she wrote the track.[120][122] At one point during the filming, Lo was drunk and tired, so she decided to go into the bathroom stall; concerning this, the singer confessed that: "I was wasted and tired and it was a tough recording and I really just went into the bathroom and sat there by myself. There weren't any people around then and I was just really alone in that stall. I just sat there and thought of anything that was happening during that time. The tears just came."[120] She also confessed that she barely remembered half of the recording.[119] On 19 February 2014, she posted a teaser of the video on her Facebook account.[124] On 17 March 2014, the music video was released via Lo's VEVO channel on YouTube,[125][126] and was made available for consumption on the iTunes Store the next day.[127]

The video begins with Lo waking up at a friend's house after a night of partying. Then, she returns home, where she recovers from her hangover and prepares for another night of partying while trying on numerous outfits. She meets with her friends and goes to a club, where she gets drunk and starts to make out with them. Subsequently, she goes to the bathroom stall alone and starts to cry. After that, she returns home and collapses into her bed. Scenes interspersed through the main plot of the visual display Lo staring at the camera while lip syncing the lyrics of the song.[126] Miles Raymer of Entertainment Weekly called it a "clever" video that "showcases Lo's artfully complicated party-girl image as she recreates some of the debauchery in her lyrics, as well as some of its after-effects".[121] Caitlin White of Noisey said that the "new video for 'Habits' shows the darker side of coping with a lost love" and that it "may remind you of Janis Joplin a bit".[128] Sonya Mann of Bustle considered it "kind of boring".[129] The clip was the fifth most-popular video on VH1 during 2014.[130] Additionally, it won the accolade for Best Alternative/Rock video at the 2014 VEVO Hot This Year Awards.[131]

Live performances[edit]

A woman with brown hair holding a microphone.
Tove Lo performing "Habits (Stay High)" during the Swedish Sommarkrysset television program in 2014.

The singer performed "Habits (Stay High)" alongside "Love Ballad", "Out of Mind" and "Not Made For This World" at Swedish radio station P3 on 10 April 2013.[132] On 7 May, Lo sang the song in a live session for PSL in Sweden.[133] Rich Thane of The Line of Best Fit said that, despite the "smoky room and poor light", the performance was "wonderfully emotive".[134] On 27 February 2014,[135] Lo performed the track at the Norwegian festival by:Larm.[136] The following month, she sang the song alongside "Not on Drugs" and other songs from Truth Serum at the South by Southwest festival.[137][138] On 25 March, the singer held a concert at the Tavastia Club in Helsinki, Finland and performed the track among other material from Truth Serum.[139] Lo also sang "Habits (Stay High)" alongside the other songs from Truth Serum and "Run On Love" for her first show in the United Kingdom at Notting Hill Arts Club on 2 April 2014.[140] Echoing this thought, Michael Cragg of The Guardian rated the show with four stars out of five and deemed it as "a punchy UK debut".[141] Lo performed the same set list at her Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen show on 6 May 2014.[142] On 8 May, the singer sang the track during The Great Escape Festival in the United Kingdom.[143]

On 18 June, Lo made her first appearance on US TV when she performed "Habits (Stay High)" on Late Night with Seth Meyers.[144] On 1 July, Lo sang it in a live session for The Line of Best Fit.[145] In that same month, Lo sang the song alongside "Not on Drugs" on KROQ-FM radio station.[146] On 26 July, the singer performed the track on the Sommarkrysset television program in Gröna Lund, Stockholm.[147] The following month, Lo appeared on the Conan talk show where she sang the song, as well.[22] On 23 September 2014, Lo performed "Habits (Stay High)" while barefoot on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to promote the release of Queen of the Clouds.[148] On 17 May 2015, the singer performed the single at the Hangout Music Festival.[149] The artist also sang it during Lollapalooza Chile in April 2017,[150] and two months later on her Glastonbury Festival set.[151] Lo performed "Habits (Stay High)" during the encore of her tours, the Queen of the Clouds Tour (2015) and the Lady Wood Tour (2017).[152][153]

Charts[edit]