On homesickness, stereotypes and stardom.
Lykke Li’s relationship with her Swedish heritage is complicated. When her hook-driven debut album, Youth Novels, was released to critical and popular acclaim in 2008, Li resented the inevitable comparisons to the Scandinavian pop singers that had come before her. Journalists who innocuously referenced Abba or Robyn during early interviews were met with not-so-subtle indignation.
“I’ve gotten over that,” she says today, speaking from Los Angeles, where she’s lived for half a decade now. “I think it can be frustrating when you’re starting out and you’re constantly getting compared to other female artists, but I realize that’s just part of the system and being a woman. We’re taught from an early stage that there isn’t room for all of us, which is wrong. In my opinion, the more women, the better!”
If she’s embraced the “Swedish pop singer” label affixed a decade ago, Li has done so in her own style. So Sad, So Sexy, the album Li released in June, is slick and stadium-ready but there’s an unexpected melancholy woven into it. The press has speculated that her relationship with producer Jeff Bhasker, the father of the child she had in 2016, inspired its lyrical accounts of heartache and heartbreak. Li prefers to approach the question in broader terms, “I write what I know… and try to accurately describe the scenarios around me,” she says. “This is just what my world looked and sounded like at the time.”