Like many of us, Tove Lo entered 2022 anticipating the second season of “Euphoria.” The musician had a more invested stake in the series than most fans: her single “How Long” debuted in January as part of the show’s soundtrack. The track would be the first single (and ultimately final track) on her fifth studio album, “Dirt Femme,” which was released on Oct. 14.
“It really set up this year for me amazingly — in terms of new exposure, it being such a dark song and powerful revenge track,” says the dance-pop Swedish singer, who reached out to the show herself after the first season to pitch her music. “It showed a side of me that I really didn’t show on the last album, but that I feel is one of my strengths as a writer. It was a unique and special thing to be able to have that as my first song back after a long time.”
“Dirt Femme” marks the launch of the Grammy-nominated musician’s newly created independent label, Pretty Swede Records. The singer established her career Stateside under Universal Music; when that deal expired, she began meeting with new labels and ultimately established her own in partnership with artist development company MTheory.
“Being an international artist coming from Sweden and having a career in the States, I am so grateful that I did that journey with a major label, because when I started out I really needed that power,” she says. “But now I have this amazing platform of dedicated fans, and I care so much about the creative vision and how it all looks and sounds and in which order it’s released and every little detail,” she adds. “I want to know exactly what’s going on at all times. So this just really was the right step for me.”
“Dirt Femme” sprung from a moment of stillness found during the pandemic. Although she didn’t have a specific album concept in mind when she started writing, all of the tracks speak to that moment of self-reflection. Now 34, the musician found herself looking back to take stock of the past decade: interrogating questions of “who am I, and what happened, and why; why I am the way I am,” she says. “Reflecting on that, and also being in a pressure cooker with the rest of the world.”
The working title of the album was “Feminine,” and all the songs reflect an exploration of her relationship to femininity and how that has evolved throughout the years. She also wanted a roughness to come through: enter the “dirt.”
Known for dance-able tracks like “Talking Body” and “Habits,” her latest album is populated by uptempo tracks that touch on a complicated range of emotion. Asked if she had uncovered anything surprising through the process, Tove Lo points to the track “Suburbia,” which considers a more domestic lifestyle; notably, the musician got married early in the pandemic.
“Those thoughts are so — I think a lot of us feel them: ‘It’s a shame to want all that, that kind of life, but it’s also a shame not to.’ And the inside struggle of someone — me — who has never seen myself in a traditional future ever. But now I’m like, ‘Is that so wrong? Maybe I want that. But maybe I don’t. Am I not who I thought I was all this time?’ It’s singing openly about it and the selfish thoughts,” she adds. “I’m kind of surprised that I went all the way there.”
Each track has a visual companion, “scenes” formatted for TikTok and YouTube Shorts. She’s also released several official full-length music videos, including “Grapefruit,” which dropped a couple of days before the album release. The music video and lyrics are highly confessional, with the singer revisiting her experience navigating an eating disorder as a teenager. Shortly after the video’s public debut, the singer says she’s “happy and proud” of how it turned out; based on user comments, the topic has resonated deeply with her audience.
“It was a pretty hard shoot; it was hard to put myself back in that head space. But I’m really happy that I did,” Tove Lo says. “It’s very personal to me, so I feel like I have to just let it live its own life now and be proud of it.”
She describes the album as an emotional “journey,” but all emotions and roads lead back to the dance floor. And fans will be able to dance along with her soon enough: Tove Lo sets out on a European tour at the end of this month, followed by a U.S. tour that kicks off in February, supported by Slayyyter.
As she gets older, the singer continues to amp up her onstage looks in support of her music. She has several costume changes planned for the upcoming tour, repurposing looks used in the visual “scenes” accompanying the album. “I used to be terrified of anything, fashion, hair and makeup,” she says. “But I use it as an enhancement of my expression now.”
And if she has any specific intention for the album, that’s it: expression.
“Once you put out a song, people are gonna take it however they want,” she says. “It will bring up different memories and feelings and thoughts for everyone. The one thing I love to hear is a lot of my fans are like, ‘These are the songs I put on when I just want to let go and cry and dance and just be free to be me,’” she adds. “I want to be a space to feel freely and be as dramatic as you want.”