In a recent interview, Tove Nilsson, better known as Tove Lo, takes being compared to Lorde as a “huge” compliment, and then threw one to fellow female vocalist Banks. “My favorite (song) right now is ‘Goddess’ by Banks. I just love the line, ‘F-cking with the goddess and you get a little colder.’ I think that’s genius. Wherever I look, I see these new singer-songwriter girls doing super cool things”. Though she’s quick to dole out praise for her peers, Tove should consider herself a part of this new wave of genre-defying, leading ladies of pop and R&B today.
Nilsson began her career in her home country of Sweden, where she went through Rytmus Musikergymnasiet, a music high school. In 2012, Tove was writing for other artists like Glee’s star Lea Michele, X-Factor’s Cher Lloyd, and high school friends Icona Pop. At the same time, she was releasing music as Tove Lo, but caught her biggest break when an artist/fans of hers, Hippy Sabotage, remixed her “Habits (Stay High)”.
The song topped charts around Europe and went double platinum in Sweden, Australia, and New Zealand. Releasing several other “Habits” remixes, and collaborating with fellow Swedes Lucas Nord and Alesso on “Run On Love” and “Heroes (We Could Be)” respectively, Nilsson seems to complement electronic music effortlessly.
Though a lot of Nilsson’s tracks are electronic and pop influenced, her writing transcends the highly superficial material of today’s mainstream music. Probably the most defining feature of her music is her uncensored lyrics, both in the literal and intimate sense.
Along with “Habits”, songs like “Talking Body” and “Love Ballad” evoke a shock factor when played against the stereotypically watered-down, sugarcoated lyrics of pop music: Tove herself personally brands her insistent style as “dirrrty pop”. Going beyond typical love songs, Tove’s writing explores sex, drugs, and the extreme highs and lows of relationships.
Some of the inspiration for her songwriting comes from movies, but most of it derives from very private conducts. The Truth Serum EP and Queen of the Clouds album are both recollections of Tove’s love life. Truth Serum recounts a specific, special relationship, and QOTC portrays Nilsson’s cycle of how relationships work for her: “The Sex,” “The Love,” and “The Pain.”
Tove processes complex emotions and themes through her writing. She rummages through inner thoughts and feelings she wouldn’t speak aloud, finding it easier to put it on paper and through music. Because of that, Nilsson is winning over fans with the sheer amount of energy, passion, and personality that come through in her music. For me, Tove “Cha Cha Slide”-ed into my heart while singing “Habits” on late night television. If you saw the performance, you can easily tell she doesn’t have the strongest vocals, but Nilsson’s voice remained beautifully distinctive and emotionally compelling, even more so than her studio work.
Tove is coming off a coast-to-coast US tour, a solid debut with Queen of the Clouds reaching 14 on the Billboard 200, and the immense success of original “Habits” has now gone platinum in Denmark, Canada, and the US: peaking at #1 on Billboard’s Pop and Rock charts. That’s a lot to take in, but she’s not stopping. Nilsson will be featured on the highly anticipated official movie soundtrack Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 as well as opening for Katy Perry in Australia and New Zealand, then continuing to tour solo throughout Europe all in the next few months. Despite saying almost everyone her name wrong, seems like everyone wants Too-veh Lu to stay.