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Say Her Name: Tove Styrke, the Biggest Pop Star You've Never Heard

Tove Styrke
Photography: Emma Svensson

The Swedish singer has returned with her first new music since 2015's Kiddo full-length. 

Tove Styrke's new single, "Say My Name," is the indisputable song of the summer, with its effortlessly breezy production and attention-seeking chorus: "Say my name," the Swedish pop star demands. "Wear it out like a sweater that you love 'cause I can't get enough when you, say my name." It's an appropriate sentiment, considering Styrke's one of music's brightest talents, and a name you've likely never heard. Regardless of whether you say her name now, you'll be screaming loud in the near future.

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First famous for coming in third place on Swedish Idol as a 16-year-old, Styrke eventually went platinum with her debut self-titled album in 2010. She later released her Borderline EP in 2014 and a proper full-length in 2015, called Kiddo--both of which were packed with blazing pop standouts, including "Number One" and "Borderline." Now, Styrke's shooting for global superstardom, delivering a fresh, sunny sound and maximalist visual language to match--her "Say My Name" music video delivers bold looks and blinding colors, as Styrke writhes around mirrors to represent self-love.

OUT caught up with the rising Swedish songstress to learn more about her straightforward sound, smash single and plans for the future.

OUT: Sweden is known for being a hub of great pop music. How has your home country informed the work you do today?

Tove Styrke: I just feel like Sweden, and especially Stockholm, is a really great place to live and write. There's lots of talented writers and producers here, so it's perfect for me who's all for collaboration when I'm working.

How do view your last two albums? Talk through the development of your sound.

I'm proud of both my previous albums. I started out not even knowing I could write. That was something I learned while recording my first album and I ended up writing most of that album. I look at my first album a little like learning experience, doing all my firsts. With Kiddo, my second album, I was at a place where I had a clear vision for myself of what I wanted to do. There were so many things I needed to sing about, [so] writing it was almost therapeutic for me. I needed to get that album out of my system. Moving in to my third phase of writing and recording, I had to search a bit deeper to find friction--something writeable. These songs sound simpler, but there's a lot of work and thought behind it.

How would you describe your sound today?

Chill, fun and a bit nerdy. I don't want to overdress the songs with cool production. I want them to feel effortless and straightforward. It's important, though, to make sure that the sounds that are in there are special. The songs need to have their own ID in the sound.

What's the story behind "Say My Name?"

I met this guy Elof [Loelv] about a year ago. We did a session together and it was the first time we ever tried working. He was like, "I've been working on this beat." He played it and it made me crack up because it wasn't even a beat, it was two notes, which became the bass line in "Say My Name." The first thing we wrote was the chorus and it really set the tone for the whole thing. The production grew with the song, like, "We need something that's faster here. Should it be the voice or the drums?" Then, we spent weeks finishing the lyrics and tweaking it into what it is now.

What were you hoping to achieve through the video's treatment?

I wanted the video to be bold, bright and crisp--and mirrors. I like mirrors as a symbol of self-appreciation. Through them, I can perform the song for myself and the audience at the same time. I had also been working on finding the right color combinations for this project for a while. It's in the cover art, as well. I wanted everything to look simple, but also playful and not boring.

How important are the visuals in relation to your music?

Very--it's an extension of the music and part of my artistic expression. I don't spend as much time personally on the visuals as I do with the music, which makes it even more important that the director/art director/photographer and I are on the same page and that they understand me and what I want to do.

Are you working towards a full-length album?

It's too early to say for sure what the bigger picture is going to look like. I'm still vibing with it, figuring it out. But I do know for sure that "Say My Name" and the other new songs that I haven't released yet are part of the same thing--they're part of the same story. I can't wait to release the rest of it.

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