Intoxicating new material is taking the Swedish songstress Lykke Li in a new direction. Her message? Change can sometimes be painful, but it’s an essential part of life if you’ve any hope of growing as a person.
With Lykke Li’s latest album, So Sad So Sexy, it doesn’t take long to notice that she has gone through big changes in her personal life as well as with her music. The concept of change is present in her honest lyrics about a relationship falling apart, as well as in the melodies that show there are new sides to her artistry. The sound is more upbeat and filled with pure pop, taking her tunes in a new direction compared with her previous records.
“It seemed that I spent my whole twenties exploring the darker themes of love in a very introspective way. After giving birth and then experiencing some personal tragedies, I felt I’d had enough of the darkness and wanted to make something that lifted me up and also showed the transformation I’d undergone as a woman,” says Li.
The soundscape on So Sad So Sexy is also filled with the pulse of Los Angeles at night, projecting an air of solitude and mystery. When Li describes it, it’s almost poetic. “Driving alone at night with only my thoughts as company,” she says. “The view from my bedroom window. Smoking cigarettes at night by my pool.” You can almost smell the cigarette smoke and hear the distant buzz of the LA traffic while the music plays.
Los Angeles seems not only to play an important role musically, it’s also the counter opposite of her life in Stockholm. “LA, for me, is where I finally became an adult and it’s also a place that’s very much about you creating the life you want to live, as there are no rules or boundaries. It’s a place for dreamers and a very modern place. And for the first time in my life I was also really inspired by what was going on culturally, on the streets, on the radio. It is a very eclectic place and I wanted to make something contemporary,” Li says.
Even her style and aesthetic has changed significantly. The Lykke Li we know from previous albums seems to be gone. She describes transition as being a natural part of being an artist, the process of getting inspired by her surroundings and creating little worlds that, sooner or later, she tires of, making her want to go in a completely opposite direction. “Being pregnant made me more aware and loving of my body, and it was really interesting to see how flexible and changeable the body is,” she says. “So for some reason, after the pregnancy, I wanted to cover it up less. And I had a very immediate impulse to chop my hair off and go blonde. But ultimately I think I just feel like a real woman for the first time in my life.”
The lyrics on So Sad So Sexy feel very upfront and honest; they’re small stories that capture different aspects of life and love. Writing lyrics is something Li uses in a therapeutic way, or as she puts it: “Sometimes I feel like I unfortunately manifest things with my lyrics before they even happen. It’s like I’m having a dialogue with my subconscious.”
On reading recent interviews with Li, you realise that the past couple of years have been rough for her, offering both happiness and sorrow. They’ve made her stronger but also more vulnerable. Nowadays she tries to take better care of her personal life and her child. “It put a lot of things in perspective. Before I could lay awake obsessing over how nothing ever turned out good enough. But now I’m more thankful that I even get the chance to do anything at all. It makes me try to think of the journey a little more, because ultimately we are all going to die. So, in a way, everything and nothing really matters. The most important thing is to live while you can. Stay open. Love,” says Li, delivering some heavy life lessons without even sounding the slightest bit clichéd.
Evolvement is essential to her, and trying to get to the bottom of what everything means is what drives her creativity. She explores her visions and dreams while staying true to the voices and urges inside her. She mentions the famous saying that a shark dies if it doesn’t swim forward and draws parallels to being an artist, as well as life in general. “All we can really be sure about is that nothing lasts for ever and things are forever changing,” says Li, reflecting on the essential core of transition.
It’s hard not to agree with her: things evolve and change for the good and for the bad. The decisions we make lead to things taking new turns and directions, transforming our life, bit by bit. For Li, life is a balancing act right now. “I have a young child and I’m on tour most of the year and then we are working on launching my female-empowerment brand Yola Mezcal in Europe,” she says. Li is making sure that she lives life to the fullest – feel the force.
#1 Jacket by Mashama
#2 Jacket by Nand, Trousers by Naim Josefi
#3 Jacket by Nand
#4 Blanket by Johannes Adele, Trousers by Naim Josefi, Sunglasses by Prada
#5 Jacket by Johannes Adele, Shirt by Arethé, Trousers and Shoes by Ann-sofie Back.
#6 Jacket by Tove Berner-Wik, Trousers: Lykke’s own
#7 Jacket by Tove Berner-Wik. Photograph taken by using a Samsung Galaxy S9
#8 – #10 Jacket by Tove Berner-Wik, Trousers: Lykke’s own. Photographs taken by using a Samsung Galaxy S9