Tove Lo, the Swedish superstar behind breakup anthems “Bad As The Boys” and “Glad He’s Gone,” has become the ultimate queen of “sad bangers” through her raw, grunge-influenced spin on synth-heavy pop music. Her relatable and candid lyrical content has gained her a dedicated following. Now, the 31-year-old Grammy winner has graced us with her fourth LP, “Sunshine Kitty.”Writing for singers like Hilary Duff and Adam Lambert, Tove Lo has also collaborated with countless artists including Coldplay, Wiz Khalifa, Lorde, Charli XCX and Nick Jonas. Born as Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson, she prepares for a show with a steam machine and vocal warmups. Her precautionary practice comes from the traumatizing vocal surgery she underwent shortly after “Habits (Stay High)” was the newest staple to your commute playlist.“The rehabilitation after the surgery was so hard because you wait months and months waking up hoping your voice isn’t dead,” Tove Lo explains. “Then they say, ‘Make a little humming sound, and then be completely quiet for five days.’ You can’t breathe heavily, eat anything sharp, have sex, go running, you can’t cough. Completely silent for five days and then two months of exercises and isolation.“When you get cleared to sing again, you don’t have any control of your voice, so you have to retrain that muscle,” she continues. “It was like starting over. My voice did change, it was lighter, and people talked to me differently and softer and I’d be like, ‘What’s wrong?’ But, now it’s better than ever.”While “Sunshine Kitty” still expresses Tove Lo’s iconic mix of cheeky and dark content, “the saddest girl in Sweden” emphasizes more club beats in this project. “While the album is happier it has a touch of melancholy that I do think it needs. Especially as a Swede,” she jokes. “It has acoustic elements on there, and I wrote this record being in a calmer, happier place. It feels more effortless in terms of some of the melodies and lyrics.” Released via Island Records, the album features collaborations with ALMA, MC Zaac, Jax Jones, Doja Cat and Kylie Minogue.
While the content of “Sunshine Kitty” came from re-reading her old journal entries, based on current and future love and fears that she’s had since she was nine-years old, the album title portrays a positive play on pussy power, inspired by Lena Dunham’s character Hannah in HBO’s “Girls.”“Hannah is talking about Shaliene Woodley and how she had this amazing glow about her, but Shaliene Woodley lays out to tan her vagina, so she’s soaking up the power of the sun through it,” Tove Lo explains. “Hannah is like, ‘So that glow on her isn’t makeup, that’s sun in her pussy.’ And that made me laugh and it made me happy. I thought, ‘Hmm ‘Sunshine Kitty.’ This is really speaking to me right now.’”Tove Lo’s past titles have also had a “pussy power vibe,” like her second album “Lady Wood,” which explores how female sexuality and power in general is often viewed through a male perspective. (Her vagina outline tattoo, inked by Mark Lonsdale, was proudly featured on “Lady Wood’s” cover art.) But “Sunshine Kitty’s” ultimate purpose is to serve as a place to emotionally feel free. She does this by absorbing you with her intro, “Gritty Pretty.”“People don’t listen to albums with an intro and outro anymore, but I like to create a world that you enter, and I feel like an intro needs to be there to enter this space,” Tove Lo says. “I usually make an intro based on the first song and I start by talking it out with the producers and they get drunk and spit-ball and we go from there.”There are three songs that refer to actual people: “Mateo,” “Jaques” and “Bad as the Boys.” In this intro, the audio snippet of Mateo (based off an Italian guy who is, as she says “a bit of a douchebag”) embodies the theme of “Sunshine Kitty,” calling his friend saying in Italian, “Oh I heard you and Uma broke up. I’m sorry, but you know what they say... you don’t want to eat the same dish every night. And by dish I mean pussy.”The intimacy that Tove Lo delivers to and shares with her fans goes beyond her unfiltered lyrics. Best friend Uma, played by Lola Fuchs, is featured in the “Glad He’s Gone” video, which you will only connect if you’re a superfan. “I love doing that double-layer personal stuff that you only really know if you really listen,” she says.Tove Lo declares this music video as the most clever music video she’s shot to date. “We basically shot a mini movie over 4 days,” she explains. “It was a very extensive shoot that really captures the meaning of the song, and I think it tells the story in a really creative and funny way.” This story, of Tove Lo escaping jail to talk to her friend, delivers the message of having supportive friends through thick and thin. While her support system is strong, she noted that her inner strength is what gets you through life’s obstacles and hardships. As she was sifting through her journals, reading through her teenage romances, she realized what she would tell her younger self.“I was dying of embarrassment and laughter like, ‘What the fuck, I wish I could go back and tell you all these things,’” she recalls. “When you’re a teenager you’re like ‘fuck you this shit isn’t going to matter,’ but things that happened to me as a teenager matter so much in my life today. I would tell my younger self, ‘The shit you’re dealing with will be so much easier to deal with.’”
To Tove Lo, this understanding came with her getting more comfortable with herself and in her skin. Alongside her music, tattoos serve as a way the Swedish grunge-princess achieved self-acceptance.Her newest forearm tattoo, inked by Miles Langford, reads “HappySad.” It sits opposite of her piece of a flaming heart on the inside of her forearm, which comes from a Mark Ryden painting. Her second tattoo is also a Ryden painting, of his “Clear Hearts, Grey Flowers” piece. This outer bicep tattoo pays homage to her first band, Tremblebee. “I used to have black hair and bangs and in the painting the girl is on a carousel and the bee is a seat on the ride, and it also has two other girls, one with blonde and one with red hair, and when I saw this painting it reminded me of my best friends trio,” Tove Lo describes. “We used to live together, and I wanted to mark that time in my life.”While her dad cried after her first tattoo, (the scorpion under her right collar bone, done in the basement of a rave store when she was 17), his favorite is the lynx on her hand, tattooed by co-founder of New York City’s Three Kings Tattoo, Alex McWatt. “Lo” means “lynx” in Swedish, which ties into the “Sunshine Kitty” cover art, as well as the origin of her stage name.While Tove Lo shared her tattoos (and that she’s always 20-minutes late), she also reveals that playing for—and connecting with—smaller audiences outweighs making new fans while performing at festivals.“We’re coming up with a really cool live production,” she said on her ‘Sunshine Kitty’ tour starting in February. “For me, figuring out the flow of the set and getting in front of an audience that is just mine is a really, really special feeling.”