Swedish singer Zara Larsson has become the consummate pop star, with two albums, a string of hit singles and collaborations with other headline acts. Ahead of her next album, Poster Girl, The Forumist talks to her about her love of life, her ambition and the person behind the poster image.
“I do think love is the greatest thing in life,” says Swedish pop phenomenon Zara Larsson, claiming that all she sings and writes about is love, adding the self-explanatory statement: “To me, the meaning of life is to feel love”. As Larsson, at the age of 22, has already had a career spanning more than a decade, one could say that this international sensation has spent half her life celebrating and revering what she finds most important. Seeing that she has the entire world of pop eagerly listening to every word she sings, and says,the message of love’s greatness has found an equally great medium. What the world needs now – if not always – is, undeniably, love.
Speaking of the world of pop, Zara has described herself as both a “prisoner of pop” and a firm believer in “the power of pop”. When asked about her personal definition of this wide but not so easily explained power, the conversation returns to the lovely message encompassing not only her musical effort but evidently also her whole life. “Pop music has always been a way for me
to step into a world that is entirely my own, ever since I was singing in front of the mirror in my childhood room,” Zara reminisces. “I love how pop music can be allowed to be simple, and accessible to anyone.” Considering the fact that she is of the opinion that love exceeds all else, her view on the visceral influence of pop music can easily be translated into a belief in that the significance of love is best preached to one, and all, simultaneously. The simplicity of pop carries within it the possibility of individual and collective change, and love is simply an excellent way to change the world in reverence of life. “Even though there aren’t any clear political statements in my music, I believe I can change lives just by making pop,” Zara says, with her voice enveloped in an invigorating hopefulness.
Apart from the lives she has probably changed, her own has definitely changed because of pop music. Starting her musical journey in the public eye at the age of ten, she has now become one of the foremost poster girls for gender equality in the pop world. Fittingly enough, her upcoming, third full-length studio album is entitled Poster Girl, expected to be released in early 2021. Asked once again for her personal definition, this time of the phrase chosen for the record’s title, Zara gives a straight answer, however open to interpretation: “The title track is really about weed, another love song so to speak, as I don’t want to be the poster girl for it, but I do love it. The album title itself refers to me wanting to be the poster girl for many things, while also being a private person my Instagram followers don’t actually know. There is a complexity to a person that cannot be printed onto a poster, but then again it’s not up to me whether I’m a poster girl or not.”
On the subject of Poster Girl, her first release since 2017 hit-filled album So Good (not counting the numerous successful singles put out over the past three years), Zara gives a reassuring description of the album’s musical direction: “If you like what I have released before,” she says with characteristic confidence, “you will also enjoy Poster Girl. I have given this album a lot of thought, and now I finally feel ready to release it. Poster Girl has highs and lows, just like life, and I have written it with people whom I really love.” Not only does Zara Larsson’s music itself forward the message of love, but the actual creation of her work leaves traces of it.
Getting back to the term “prisoner of pop”, Zara doesn’t see such an imprisonment as the limitation one might think it would mean. “I listen to all kinds of music, but I love to sing pop because it is such a versatile genre. It changes all of the time, which is fun for me, seeing as I usually collaborate with other artists and DJs – in that way I can do almost anything.” Saying that Zara has worked with some of the most popular performers of her time is almost an understatement, and keeping her bar high, she lists a few of her dream collaborators, rapidly and enthusiastically naming great names as if they were her next-door neighbours: “Ariana Grande would be fun. I would really like to work with Kehlani, and Snoh Aalegra, and maybe PARTYNEXTDOOR. I like testing the waters, making different types of pop music.” Obviously, she is as committed a fan of her beloved pop music as she is a purveyor of it.
Rightfully sporting high hopes, Zara has always thought of success as a final goal for her career, ever since those childhood times of singing in front of the mirror. “Before even understanding what it meant, I knew I wanted to be the best, the biggest,” she remembers. “That’s just my personality, I want to be number one. I’m very competitive, but as I get older I realise what is really important. Success to me is feeling pride and being happy about my music, which I do more and more through becoming more involved in it. ”Certainly, success has many faces, but it seems that Zara Larsson has found her own path to a very personal sense of what success means. and guided by love, success is always near.
Words by Filip Lindström
Photography by John Scarisbrick
Styling by Fernando Torres
Make-Up by Elvira Brandt
Hair by Catherine Lethonen
Fashion assistant: Katija Hirsch
#1 Jacket by Acne Studios, Earrings stylist’s own
#2 Zara Larsson wears Blouse by Saint Laurent @ Nordiska Kompaniet, Vintage Leather Vest
by Katharine Hamnett London, Shorts by Ganni, Shoes by Balenciaga @ Natalie Schuterman
#3 Zara Larsson wears Bodysuit by Calvin Klein, Sweater by Jacquemus @ Natalie Schuterman, Shoes by Christian Dior @ Natalie Schuterman
#4 Coat and Vest by Burberry @ Nordiska Kompaniet, Turtleneck by Weekday, Tights by Swedish Stockings, Earrings stylist’s own, Shoes by Malene Birger
#5 Zara Larsson wears Jacket and Pants by Matilda Åberg, Shoes by Acne Studios
#6 Top and Pants by Jade Cropper, Earrings by Jade Cropper @ The Forumist Shop,
Gloves by Humana