I Went on a First Date with Zara Larsson, the 18-Year-Old Pop Star Who's Already Triple Platinum
She began her career at the age of 10, went viral last year for taking a picture of herself stretching a condom over her leg, and is now making the most perfect pop music on her road to superstardom.
This interview originally appeared on Noisey UK.
I wasn’t entirely sure how to feel about the fact that my first date in three years was with a Swedish pop star, but now that it’s over I really don’t think I could have done better than 18-year-old Swedish newcomer Zara Larsson. You may not know her face, because she is yet to launch a full-scale promotional assault on the world, but in her Swedish homeland, she is basically the pop savior, going triple platinum before you can even say "hit single?"
UK audiences are now wrapping their ears around the Larsson effect, after the release of her first international solo single, the reggae-tinged “Lush Life”. Plus her turns on the MNEK collaboration “Never Forget You” and Tinie Tempah’s bass-heavy dance track “Girls Like”, have already left huge chemtrails across our charts. Some of you might even recall that a photo of her leg encased in a condom went viral at the beginning of last year, when she called bullshit on the idea that any man has a dick too big to wrap up.
Zara began her hustle at the tender age of 10, when she aced the TV show Talang Sverige (the Swedish version of ... Got Talent) before releasing a couple of EPs and a sparkling, pop-soaked debut album, 1, in 2014. Despite her uncool talent show beginnings, she is not your average winner—i.e. a super-polished, manufactured void with a karaoke vocal and no work ethic. She's exactly the opposite, in fact. From her electric first performance on UK soil at the end of 2015, to her turn on Radio 1 Live Lounge last month—where she vibed through “No Scrubs” and announced she was motorbiking to the airport to make a flight to LA—you only have to keep one casual eye on her movements to know that the next big superstar has entered the arena.
The weather was beautiful and the sun was fat, so we went on a vegetarian picnic in London's Regent’s Park for our date, and spent most of the time talking about fuckboys, the futility of existence, and how Rihanna is a good role model.
Noisey: Hello, Zara. You're quite young, but I’m guessing you’ve been on at least one date by now?
Zara Larsson: I went on my first date a couple of weeks ago, actually. Right here in London.
Oh, really? Do you wanna expand on that?
I just saw him on Instagram and thought he was really cute and I was like “Heyyyyy!” sliding into his DMs…
So you were the pursuer! That’s very modern. I like it.
It was a very unexpected thing for me to do! But I’m proud that I did it because I’m usually very afraid of meeting new people.
How did it go?
I think it went really well. He was super sweet. I will probably see him again, although it sucks that he lives here.
Do you ever get concerned about the potential pressures of dating now you’re on the way up?
I don’t really think about it, because people don’t care about my dating life right now. But probably in the future, if I get really big, people will be interested in everything I do. And it’s strange, like why do people care so much about someone’s private life? I guess that’s just what it is to be a celebrity in 2016.
People often talk about social media being awful, but it helps you control your narrative. Celebrities have become their own reporters now.
Exactly. Back in the day, if you did an interview for a magazine and they just wrote shit about you, you couldn’t really say “Uh, that’s not what I said.” But now you can go on Twitter or Instagram and stick up for yourself.
There's a line on “Girls Like”—the track you did with Tinie Tempah—that says “No Netflix and chill, that’s dead”… is it dead? Do you think Netflix and chill is over?
I just feel like it was such a big thing… in 2015. If someone actually told me : do you wanna come over for Netflix and chill, I’ll be like…
Yeah, I like to Netflix and chill alone. I don’t want there to be any ambiguity about the situation, I just want to binge watch.
Yes! I totally agree.
Okay, back to my social media stalking. You once tweeted, just simply, “boys are annoying.”
Oh my gosh, yes they are.
Yes, they are—but what can we do about it?
I honestly don’t know. It’s not boys themselves—it’s just how society raised them. Y’know what I mean? It’s just the whole macho culture and like… BLERGH, URGH… I don’t like it.
The struggle is real. Anyway, do you believe in astrology?
I don’t believe in shit to be honest. I guess I’m a big pessimist, because I just believe that our existence is totally worthless, really.
Well, that's pretty bleak...
Everything the human race is doing is basically just destroying earth. But I guess whatever is happening now is happening because of what we did years ago, and we can’t really change that.
Is this what you mean in “Lush Life” when you say you live each day as if there was no past?
Yes…? [Laughs] I mean, maybe my existence is not worth much more than my non-existence, but I am here and I’m going to have a good day today.
Well then, that’s a positive spin on this part of the conversation that took a dark, existential turn.
I’m also able to do what I love every day, which is a huge privilege. But I’m just a teeny teeny tiny tiny human in this big universe.
Okay, let’s lighten the mood a bit. Your first album was released when you were 16, but it’s not like Radio Disney—it’s an amazing pop album.
Oh, thank you. Well I guess if you like that album you’ll like my new one a little bit better. I didn’t write every song on the upcoming album, but I’m a much bigger part of [the writing process] than I was before.
What happened in the five years between you winning the talent show and your first album?
I guess nothing happened. I was trying to get a record deal in America at the age of 11, but they were all like, “Yeah, you’re really cute, but no, you’re way too young.” I was really devastated that nobody wanted to sign me. I was like, “Oh my career is over, I’m not gonna be an artist…”
On the scrapheap at 12!
I was stressed out, actually. I then went to the Royal Swedish Ballet School and sang a lot. Then I eventually got signed when I was 14, although they still thought I was way too young.
I've noticed that the younger wave of pop stars seem more outspoken than previous generations. Have you had media training?
No, I haven’t, but I think it’s very uncommon these days. I also think that thanks to social media and thanks to feminism that women are not supposed to just look pretty and to please people. We actually do have a voice and we can write our own songs. I would never let anybody touch my Twitter or my Instagram—that’s all me.
This was a good tweet: “I'm so done trying to please people who don't really care about me. My energy and time is worth more than thatTTTTTT.” Do you subtweet a lot?
I never subtweet, but THAT was a subtweet.
Subtweets are petty, but they can be so satisfying. Who were you subtweeting?
Ha ha so petty! It was an old friend that I was so over for many different reasons, but just I feel like I’m old enough to realize: why would I want to surround myself with people who don’t really give me anything? That feeling of someone just draining you—it’s not worth it, especially not when I don’t have a lot of free time and I could put my energy into something that’s more, I don’t know, fulfilling for my life.
The first people to speak on #FreeKesha publicly and come to her defense were you, Alessia Cara, and Halsey. I thought that was great because none of you are established to the point of being untouchable, and yet you said something because it was right.
I feel like artists today have such a big audience and a big following and if they can do something good with it, I think most artists will. The #FreeKesha thing is just speaking a lot to women because if she’s a victim of this it’s terrible, but the more terrible thing is that she’s not the only one.
As an artist do you feel a responsibility or is your attitude more Rihanna in like “I didn’t ask to be a role model?"
I think Rihanna is though. I don’t get why she doesn’t embrace that. Yeah, she smokes weed and yeah, she’s super sexual, but why is that a bad thing?
Yeah, and guys seem to get away with so much more.
So much! They are never expected to be role models for anyone. Also, how do you define a good role model? Being outspoken and comfortable—that, to me, is a good role model. I think Rihanna is a great role model, because she’s doing whatever she wants to do and people should do that more. We expect women to be so perfect and not do anything bad, but Rihanna’s so cool and if people just didn’t care so much about what society thinks I think we’d be more happy.
Exactly. I’m also really into this thing of there being “smart” pop stars.
Sometimes people are like “I just follow you because you’re a cool person, I don’t really like your music but you are smart.” And I’m like, “…thanks?” Ha.
Is that because of all that condom-on-the-leg business?
Yeah! But also people are the opposite, like, “I like your music but I don’t like what you stand for.” And I’m like, “I don’t even want you as a follower!”
They’re all boys, aren’t they?
Of course they are.
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