Like most of us, Tove Styrke has been through quite a few changes in the four years since she last released music.
On her new album, Hard, the Swedish singer takes a markedly different approach both sonically and lyrically, admitting this was a very deliberate decision to go completely “in the opposite direction” from her previous work.
Tove Styrke (Photo: Ninja Hanna)
“My big challenge for this album was to try and not have any boundaries, and more try and trust the process and the songs and the initial thought and feeling, and just ride with it” she explains. “There are a lot of different things on there. It’s messy, but it’s a good mess. I love this mess.”
She’s also showing more of herself than ever before in her lyrics, a concept she admits is “really, really scary”.
"It’s a good mess. I love this mess." (Photo: Roberto Ricciuti via Getty Images)
Tove reveals: “One of the first songs that I wrote for the album was Show Me Love. And that’s such a personal song, I wrote it for this person that I was in love with – and she’s my girlfriend now, it worked out!
“But I don’t usually write songs directly to another person. I wrote it to her and I showed it to her, like, ‘this is how I feel’. And that was almost so personal that it felt weird to put it out. But that was also the reason I needed to.
“We need to be more personal and show people our vulnerability for music to really be relatable. And that set me on a different path and it opened me up to really open my heart.”
Indeed, the other big change in Tove’s life in the last four years is going public with her new girlfriend, who she started dating in 2020.
“To me, I’ve never not been open with who I am,” she says on the subject of coming out. “I’ve just been this person, living my life and trying to figure out who I am and my purpose, and go about my life in a way that makes me feel as free as possible.
“And the more I live, the freer I feel like I’m able to be. So I don’t really feel like there’s been a shift.”
Speaking to HuffPost UK about Pride month, Tove opens up about her deep love for Madonna, the importance of staying hopeful and how a lack of queer role models affected her while she was growing up...
Who was the first queer person you can remember looking up to?
God, that’s tricky, because growing up there weren’t a lot of queer people that I could relate to. That’s part of why I am so upfront and open about myself.
I feel like when I grew up, that’s like medieval times now. Things have changed so much and everything is so different and the representation is so much broader today. People are fluid and we talk about gender in a different way.
Tove performing in Leeds last month (Photo: Andrew Benge via Getty Images)
But growing up in a small town in Sweden, I didn’t have a lot of role models, and that made it take so much more time for me to figure myself out and get to know myself well.
And the queer people that were visible, for me, they were often kind of a stereotype that didn’t necessarily fit my identity at all. It was like, “if that’s what it means to be queer, I guess I’m not... but I don’t feel straight either”. So, I’m so glad that it’s different now.
What was the first LGBTQ TV show or film that you remember resonating with you?
My two favourite TV shows of all time are Six Feet Under and True Blood, and those two are made by the same guy, Alan Ball. The queer representation in those two TV shows is so good – it’s just there, it’s not there to be “a thing”, and that’s more like how the world feels to me. It’s accurate.
I think that’s queer representation at its best, when you don’t necessarily even think about it.
Six Feet Under (Photo: Moviestore/Shutterstock)
What was the most recent LGBTQ show or film that made an impact on you?
Oh, Euphoria. I am so happy for young people today that that show exists. It takes the feelings and the experience of being a young person seriously, whether you’re queer or not – but everyone’s queer, ultimately, one way or another. And it properly deals with those feelings in a way that’s also representative of a lot of different experiences.
I wish that there’d been a show like that when I was young. And the looks, the fashion, the makeup… so good!
Hunter Schafer and Zendaya in Euphoria (Photo: HBO/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Who is your ultimate queer icon?
I love all the big pop stars. Madonna introduced me, at an early age, to queer culture. I remember watching In Bed With Madonna, and seeing the dancers and that sort of culture – she made that visible and put that in the spotlight for an audience that probably wouldn’t have experienced that otherwise. I’d never seen that before.
And I’m also a huge Lady Gaga fan, so those are probably my two biggest ones.
Madonna on her Blond Ambition tour, which was documented in the film In Bed With Madonna (Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd. via Getty Images)
Who is a queer person in the public eye right now that makes you excited about the future?
There are so many people who’ve more recently risen to prominence that I think are so cool. King Princess, for instance. I’m so happy that she exists, she’s so amazing. 070 Shake is really, really cool.
And Janelle Monáe. She’s our generation’s Prince, she’s so good at what she does.
Janelle Monáe (Photo: Mark Horton via Getty Images)
Why do you think Pride is still so important today?
It makes me so mad but [groans] it’s been proven time and time again that even though we’ve made progress, we can never take that progress for granted. Like the situation in America right now with abortion rights, it’s insane that we’re having these conversations.
For instance, one part of me is like, ‘I have to get married to my girlfriend now, because I’m not sure that I will be able to in the future’, because the world is so. Fucked. Up.
So, we definitely we need Pride month, and we need to keep standing our ground and making sure human rights are human rights for everyone. It’s disgusting the way the world is set up, it’s bullshit. So, yeah. It’s important.
"We can never take that progress for granted." (Photo: Ninja Hanna)
What’s your message for the next generation of LGBTQ people?
One thing that I have relied on a lot in my life is trying to always keep in mind that everything gets better. Everything gets easier. And I know a lot of people are going through really, really trying times right now, and it’s such a weird time to grow up. Imagine going into adulthood during the pandemic? So weird. And trying to figure out yourself and not be able to spend actual physical time with a community that you need? So you have to exist on the internet and on social media – and that can be a fucking really ruthless and harsh place.
If you’re a young person and you’re not feeling great, trust that it gets better and life is so beautiful. There are so many opportunities and things to do, there is so much beauty. I feel like everything is so dark and shitty right now. But trust that there is so much goodness, and so much fun to be had.
Tove Styrke’s new album Hard is available to stream and download now. Watch the music video for YouYouYou below:
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.