Tove Lo

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Tove Lo
Tove Lo (2) By Daniel Åhs Karlsson.jpeg
Tove Lo performing at Gröna Lund in Stockholm, July 2014
Background information
Birth name Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson
Born (1987-10-29) 29 October 1987 (age 30)
Stockholm, Sweden
Origin Djursholm, Sweden
Genres Electropop
Occupation(s)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • drums
  • piano
Years active 2006–present
Labels
Associated acts
  • Tremblebee
Website www.tove-lo.com

Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson (born 29 October 1987), known professionally as Tove Lo (Swedish pronunciation: [²tuːvɛ ˈluː]), is a Swedish singer and songwriter.

She was born and raised in the affluent Djursholm district of Danderyd, just north of Stockholm, and is an alumna of the musical magnet school Rytmus Musikergymnasiet. She formed the Swedish rock band "Tremblebee" in 2006.

Following the disbanding of Tremblebee, she pursued a career in songwriting and earned a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music in 2011. Working with producers Alexander Kronlund, Max Martin, and Xenomania, she became a successful songwriter recording and independently releasing her own compositions. In 2014, she was signed to Max Martin's songwriting collective Wolf Cousins and was offered a recording deal. She signed to the American label Island and Polydor Records in the UK.

Lo rose to fame with the release of her debut album, Queen of the Clouds, which opened at number 14 on the U.S. Billboard 200 in October 2014. The album spawned the sleeper hit single, "Habits (Stay High)", which peaked at number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

Her second album, Lady Wood, was released on October 28, 2016, opening at number 11 on the U.S. Billboard 200. It was promoted by the single "Cool Girl". Her third album, Blue Lips was released on November 17, 2017.[1]

In addition to her solo work, Lo has cowritten a number of songs for other singers, including Lorde's "Homemade Dynamite" and Ellie Goulding's "Love Me like You Do", a song that garnered her first Grammy Award nomination for the 58th Grammy Awards. She has collaborated with Coldplay, Flume, Alesso, Nick Jonas, Adam Lambert, Years & Years, Seven Lions, Broods, Lucas Nord, Urban Cone, and Wiz Khalifa.

Deemed "Sweden's darkest pop export" by Rolling Stone,[2] Tove Lo is known for her raw, grunge-influenced take on pop music. Her characteristically honest, complex and autobiographical lyrical content has led to her being dubbed "the saddest girl in Sweden" by a number of media sources.[3]

Early life[edit]

Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson was born on 29 October 1987 in Stockholm, Sweden.[4][5] Her mother is a psychologist and her father is a businessman. She has one older brother.[6] Her lifelong nickname and adopted stage name, Tove Lo, was given to her at age three by her godmother because of her love for lynxes (singular: "lo" in Swedish).[4][7] Lo grew up in the affluent Djursholm district of Danderyd Municipality, just north of Stockholm.[4][8] She describes her childhood as being "very protected" and her family as "pretty posh".[4][6] With her parents being academics,[9] Lo earned good grades in school and grew fond of literature, writing poetry and short stories.[5][10] In an interview with the BBC, she explained, "Growing up so safe, I think I was looking for something else".[4]

Lo then developed a love for music and formed a girl band with her friends.[11] With the band, she wrote her first song at age 10 or 11.[8][12] By age 15, Lo had written a compilation of lyrical content which "nobody ever saw" and had performed twice on stage, before enrolling at Rytmus Musikergymnasiet, a musical school in Stockholm.[5][6] During her time at Rytmus, Lo developed a friendship with Caroline Hjelt, who would later form the Swedish duo Icona Pop.[13] After two years, Lo graduated from the school and felt assured that her career would be in music despite her parents preferring otherwise.[9][14][15][16]

An interview and profile of Tove Lo in W magazine in October 2016 referred to her as "openly bisexual," citing that as one of several identifiers that "she once took for granted but are now very much part of her public persona."[17] In an interview with Attitude magazine in January 2017, Lo referred to her own sexuality in non-binary terms: “Being open and owning my sexuality in both ways – with both men and women – I think that’s just never been a big deal”, she says, adding that she was very lucky growing up in a liberal country.[18][19] In March the same year, she gave an interview with Out magazine, stating that she had never been in a relationship with a woman.[20]

Career[edit]

2006–2013: Career beginnings and collaborations[edit]

"I think I started to write for others because I didn't know who I was. I was too lost at the time to know who the fuck I was and what I wanted to sing about." —Lo on her choice of a career in songwriting.[21]

In 2006, Lo began writing songs with Christian Bjerring, a guitarist from Rytmus.[10] The pair then formed a math rock band, Tremblebee, with three other male students from the school. They played together for "a few years" in bars across Sweden, independently releasing some of their songs, before breaking up in 2009.[5][10][22][23] During her time with the band, Lo developed a passion for performing on stage,[24] and was introduced to Swedish production duo The Struts.[25] After the dissolution of Tremblebee, Lo's musical focus turned toward pop. She then decided to focus on her own tracks, spending six months in her shed studio producing a demo,[5] while doing session singing as a means of income.[24] She also learned how to play the drums and garnered knowledge about music programming and record production during this time.[26] Lo later spent time living with Icona Pop, in a suburb near Stockholm.[7]

Lo later met an A&R who she handed her demo to.[5] The artist initially met him upon the occasion of a party in Stockholm celebrating Icona Pop's first record deal,[22] and then again by chance in a bar in London.[8] The A&R liked Lo's demo and subsequently introduced her to a songwriting group which included The Struts and Hjelt.[24][27] In 2011, Lo decided to pursue a career in songwriting and earned a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music.[28] This new career path led her to travel to Los Angeles, and work with Swedish producer Max Martin.[5][7] In 2012, she collaborated with British production team Xenomania and Swedish producer Alexander Kronlund,[28] co-writing Girls Aloud's "Something New", Icona Pop's "We Got the World" and tracks for the duo's self-titled debut album.[29]

Lo then decided to manage an "artist indie career on the side", recording her more personal compositions and releasing them independently.[24][27] She released her first single, "Love Ballad", in October 2012,[10] and her second single, "Habits", in March 2013.[30] The latter gained her a substantial online following.[5] Lo was featured on Swedish disc jockey Lucas Nord's single, "Run on Love", released in June 2013 for his album Islands.[31][32] She also collaborated on the single "Strangers" by Seven Lions and Myon & Shane 54 for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones film soundtrack (2013),[33] and Seven Lions' extended play (EP), Worlds Apart (2014).[34] Throughout 2013, Lo was mentored by Max Martin and his fellow Swedish producer Shellback.[8] She also co-wrote Victoria Justice's "Gold",[29] and tracks for Icona Pop's This Is... Icona Pop.[35]

2014–2015: Truth Serum and Queen of the Clouds[edit]

Due to the strength of her online following, Lo was offered a recording deal by Universal Music,[22] releasing her first single under the label, "Out of Mind" in October 2013.[36] She would eventually be signed to Island and Polydor Records.[6][27][37] Lo then shifted her focus to an international singing career, earning critical acclaim for her first live shows in London and during South by Southwest in the United States.[24][6] Lo's debut EP, Truth Serum, was released on 3 March 2014. It became her first charting release in Sweden where it peaked at number 13.[38] The EP was also a critical success, and led to several news media sources referring to Lo as "a pop star in waiting".[4] The material spawned three singles; "Out of Mind", the lead single,[3] only managed to appear on the Finnish Airplay Chart, peaking at number 39.[39] The following singles were "Habits (Stay High)" and its remixed version by production duo Hippie Sabotage, re-titled as "Stay High".[40][41] The latter marked Lo's international breakthrough into mainstream success,[10] peaking at number 13 in Sweden and number six in the United Kingdom.[38][42] The singer was later named VH1's 'You Oughta Know' and iHeart Radio's On the Verge artist.[27] She made her live television debut performing "Habits (Stay High)" on the Late Night with Seth Meyers in June 2014.[7] Lo's debut album, Queen of the Clouds, was released on 24 September 2014,[38] to generally positive reviews.[43] It debuted at number 14 on the US Billboard 200, selling 19,000 copies in its first week.[44] The album peaked at number 17 in the United Kingdom[42] and number six in Sweden, where it was certified platinum by Swedish Recording Industry Association (GLF) for sales of 40,000 units.[38][45] Queen of the Clouds has since spawned four singles.[46] Serving as the album's lead single,[15] a United States release of "Habits (Stay High)" became a sleeper hit.[47] The single was Lo's commercial breakthrough in the country, peaking at number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.[46] The album's second single "Talking Body" peaked at number 12 on the US Billboard Hot 100,[48] number 16 in Sweden,[38] and number 17 in the United Kingdom.[42] The following singles were "Timebomb" and "Moments".[49][50]

Tove Lo performing at the Tavastia Club in Helsinki in 2014.

Lo was also featured on Swedish DJ Alesso's single "Heroes (We Could Be)" from his debut album, Forever.[51] The single was a commercial success, peaking at number five in Sweden,[38] number six in the United Kingdom[42] and number 31 on the US Billboard Hot 100.[46] Lo served as the opening act for the third leg of American singer Katy Perry's Prismatic World Tour in November 2014.[27][52] She wrote, produced and recorded the song "Scream My Name" for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 film soundtrack released that month.[53][54] In late 2014, she was signed to Max Martin's songwriting collective Wolf Cousins.[27][52] Tracks co-written by Lo were featured on the 2014 album releases of Cher Lloyd's Sorry I'm Late,[27] Lea Michele's Louder,[22] and Zara Larsson's 1.[35] She also co-wrote "What Are You Waiting For?" by The Saturdays.[29] In December 2014, Lo announced that she was taking time off to undergo surgery on her vocal cords which had developed cysts. The surgery successfully took place on 3 January 2015.[22]

At the 2015 Grammis, Lo won in the categories for Artist of the Year, and Song of the Year for "Habits (Stay High)".[55] The artist co-wrote the 2015 singles "Love Me like You Do" by Ellie Goulding and "Sparks" by Hilary Duff.[29] She went on to write other two tracks of Duff's fifth album Breathe In. Breathe Out., "Stay In Love" and "One in A Million".[56] "Love Me Like You Do" topped the UK Singles Chart and peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.[57][58] Additionally, it earned Lo nominations for the Golden Globes, Grammys and Critics' Choice Awards.[59][60][61] Lo was featured on Swedish group Urban Cone's single "Come Back to Me", released in March 2015 from their album Polaroid Memories.[62] The artist also co-wrote and was featured on "Rumors", from Adam Lambert's third studio album The Original High.[63] On 24 September 2015,[64] a repackaged version of Queen of the Clouds was released as the "Blueprint Edition". It featured all tracks from the original release, as well as "Heroes (We Could Be)" and tracks from Truth Serum.[65] Four days later, she started her first headlining concert tour, the Queen of the Clouds Tour, featuring fellow Swedish singer Erik Hassle as the opening act.[66] Also in that year, she won STIM's Platinum Guitar prize, which is awarded to accomplished Swedish songwriters,[67] and was featured on Coldplay's "Fun", from their seventh album A Head Full of Dreams released in December 2015.[68]

2016–present: Collaborations, Lady Wood and Blue Lips[edit]

Tove Lo was also featured on the lead single to Nick Jonas's third studio album, Last Year Was Complicated, titled "Close". The song was released on 25 March 2016. Tove Lo is the featured artist on Australian artist Flume's single 'Say It', which was released on 20 April 2016.

In an interview during the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, Lo confirmed that she had finished recording her "darker and dreamier" second studio album.[69]

To promote her upcoming album, Lo acted as an opening act on 18-dates of the Maroon V Tour across the United States.

On 4 August 2016, Lo released the lead single from her second album, "Cool Girl". The following day, it was revealed that the title of her upcoming album would be Lady Wood, and its release date was announced as 28 October 2016.

Five days prior to the album release, Lo announced an upcoming European and North American solo tour entitled the Lady Wood Tour that will take the singer across twenty-one cities across the two continents to further promote the new release. More tour dates were later announced after the release of the album.[70][71][72]

In February 2017, Lo was featured in the song, "Lies in the Dark", from Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack. On February 16, 2017, it was announced that Lo would be opening for British band Coldplay on their A Head Full of Dreams Tour from June to October 2017 across Europe, United States, and Canada.[73]

On September 7, 2017, Lo released the single "Disco Tits", the lead single from her third studio album Blue Lips, which was released on November 17, 2017. The album is the second phase and the conclusion to her double album, started with first phase Lady Wood.[74] On the night of the album's release, Lo hosted a release party concert at Elsewhere in Brooklyn, New York City.[75][needs update]

Artistry[edit]

Musical style[edit]

Music critics have described Lo's music as drawn from the subgenres of pop: synthpop[76] and alternative pop.[11] Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker describes Lo's sound as "of the moment: simple, spare, electronic, and unfussy".[77] Lo's musical style is often described as dark,[11] idiosyncratic[5] and raw.[3] Rolling Stone deemed her "Sweden's darkest pop export".[2] Lo has a Light lyric soprano vocal range.[78][79][80] Peter Robinson writes, "As a vocalist she hints at euphoria and melancholy in equal measure".[6] She has stated that her vocals are predominantly recorded from the first three takes of their demos to best convey her emotions.[24] Her music uses a dynamic mix of prominent drum instrumentation, quiet verses and thunderous choruses indebted to the template of grunge music.[4][81]

Songwriting[edit]

Described as "the world's most brutally honest pop star" by Alex Panisch of Out,[3] Lo uses songwriting as a means of therapy for subjects she avoids speaking about.[27] Her lyrical content is primarily autobiographical,[78] and is mostly based on mistakes, love, sex and failed relationships with her characteristically direct, candid and complex lyrics.[4][6][21] According to Tim Jonze of The Guardian, Lo tends to home in on "the more deranged side of love".[9] Dubbed "the saddest girl in Sweden",[3] Lo admits that her lyrics are predominantly sad because she is "useless" at writing tracks of a happier tone.[6] Her lyrics have been noted to make subjects that are generally relegated to genres of punk and hip hop more accessible in a pop framework.[3]

Lo's debut EP, Truth Serum, documented one of her failed relationships[4] in the order of how it took place.[3] Her debut studio album Queen of the Clouds served as a concept album that went through the stages of Lo's relationships and was divided into three procedural sections: 'The Sex', 'The Love' and 'The Pain'.[22][27][76] Jason Lipshutz of Billboard described the album as "blisteringly honest" and "unapologetically uncensored".[27] Lo's lyrics have also been noted to frequently contain profanity[22] and drug metaphors.[2] In an interview with Coup De Main, Lo explained her songwriting process:

"Sometimes it starts with a random lyric idea that sets the tone for the whole song. Chords and sounds build from the lyric and rhythm, kind of. Sometimes it's a track I fall in love with... but writing my own songs, I rarely write on tracks. Then it's pretty much always 'the story' first. Then I add some chords and melody on my piano, or do a minimal production to get the sound right."[12]

Influences[edit]

Lo grew up idolising Courtney Love, inspired by grunge culture and the polarising lyrics of Love's music and her band, Hole.[37][81] Lo also became fascinated with Love's romantic relationship with Kurt Cobain, as well as the rawness and honesty of his music with band Nirvana.[24][4][6] While in high school, Lo developed a passion for pop music and songwriting, influenced mainly by the output of Swedish singers Robyn and Lykke Li.[21] She cites the simplicity and quirky lyrical content of French singer Charlotte Gainsbourg's IRM (2009) as the main inspiration behind her career in music and said that it "opened a new world" for her sound-wise.[24] Her other musical influences include Madonna,[82] Amy Winehouse, Jeff Buckley, Mikky Ekko,[12] The Weeknd,[83] and Silverchair.[13]

Public image[edit]

Tove Lo in 2014.

Lo says she created a media image for herself that is synonymous with her true identity.[84] She has a prominent tattoo along her left upper arm of a girl harnessed to the back of a bumblebee, which is from the cover of the album Clear Hearts Grey Flowers by Jack Off Jill, the album design by Mark Ryden.[81] According to Elle writer Rebecca Moss, Lo is "a true '90s child unwilling to part with her early iconography".[81] Frequently barefoot during her live performances,[27] Lo sports only two footwear items in her public appearances: Dr Martens[25] and her signature platform Candie's.[81] Her outfits primarily consist of denim or black Cheap Monday tight shorts[27] with sheer crop tops or T-shirts[25] and oversized denim jackets.[81] Lindsey Rhoades of The Village Voice writes, "Tove Lo rocks a specific brand that veers slightly from most other women in pop—she paints herself as the hard-drinking, hard-drugging, DTF party girl, admitting the somewhat destructive nature of these preoccupations but celebrating them all the same".[85] Lo's look is often compared to that of her style icon Janis Joplin.[25] Her other style influences include hippie fashion, the fashion of older rock singers, the people of Stockholm and Edie Sedgwick.[12] In 2014, Lo's first clothing line, which she also modelled for, was released based on the lyrics of her EP, Truth Serum.[7] During tours in 2015, Lo began flashing her bare breasts in live performances, particularly during the song "Talking Body," and she has continued to do so on a regular basis.[86][87] "I started just by showing a little bit of boob or just being sassy," she told journalists, "and everyone got so excited and then one night I just did it," she said to MTV News at Bonnaroo.[88] She has often said in interviews that she is unapologetically proud of her body.[89][88]

Discography[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Ceremony Award Nominated work Result Ref.
2014 MTV Europe Music Awards Best Swedish Act Herself Won [90]
Scandipop Awards Best Song from a New Artist "Habits (Stay High)" Nominated [91]
2015 P3 Guld Newcomer of the Year Herself Won [92]
iHeartRadio Music Awards Best Lyrics "Habits (Stay High)" Nominated [93]
YouTube Music Awards 50 artists to watch Herself Won [94]
VEVO Certified Awards 100,000,000 views "Habits (Stay High)"
"Habits (Stay High) Hippie Sabotage Remix"
"Heroes (We Could Be)"
Grammis Artist of the Year Herself [55]
Song of the Year "Habits (Stay High)"
Pop of the Year Queen of the Clouds Nominated
Danish Music Awards This year's International Release [95]
Billboard Music Awards Top Streaming Song (Audio) "Habits (Stay High)" [96]
Teen Choice Awards Choice Music: Breakout Artist Herself [97]
Rockbjörnen Breakthrough of the Year Herself Won [98]
BMI London Awards Song of the Year "Habits (Stay High)" Nominated [99]
MTV Europe Music Awards Best Swedish Act Herself Nominated
European Border Breakers Award Sweden Album Of The Year Queen of the Clouds Won
Scandipop Awards Best Female Herself Won [100]
Best Album Queen of the Clouds Won
Best Alternapop Talking Body Won
American Music Awards New Artist of the Year Herself Nominated
STIM Platinagitarren Herself Won [101]
Capricho Awards New Artist Herself Won [102]
2016 Golden Globe Awards Best Original Song "Love Me like You Do" Nominated [103]
Grammy Award Best Song Written for Visual Media Nominated [104]
Critics' Choice Awards Best Song Nominated [105]
VEVO Certified Awards 100,000,000 views "Talking Body" Won
"Close" Won
Scandipop Awards Best Video Moments Nominated [106]
iHeartRadio Music Awards Best New Artist Herself Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Music Single: Male "Close" Nominated [107]
Choice Music – Love Song Nominated
MTV Europe Music Awards Best Swedish Act Herself Nominated
Hollywood Music in Movies Best Original Song in a SciFi Movie "Scars" Nominated [108]
2017 APRA Music Awards Dance Work of the Year "Say It" (shared with Flume) Nominated [109]
Most Played Australian Work Nominated
NME Awards Best International Female Herself Nominated
Best Track "Cool Girl" Nominated
Grammis Artist of the Year Lady Wood Nominated [110]
Pop of the Year Nominated
Scandipop Awards Best Album Nominated [111]
Best Electropop Song "True Disaster" Won
Global Superstar of 2016 Herself Nominated
Social Hero of the Year Nominated
MTV Europe Music Awards Best Swedish Act Pending

Tours[edit]

Headlining
Supporting

See also[edit]

References[edit]