Tove Lo

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Tove Lo
Tove Lo (2) By Daniel Åhs Karlsson.jpeg
Lo performing at Gröna Lund in Stockholm during July 2014
Background information
Birth name Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson
Born (1987-10-29) 29 October 1987 (age 30)
Stockholm, Sweden
Origin Djursholm, Sweden
Genres Electropop
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • drums
  • piano
Years active 2006–present
Associated acts

Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson (born 29 October 1987), known professionally as Tove Lo (Swedish pronunciation: [²tuːvɛ luː] lit. "Lynx"), is a Swedish singer and songwriter. Called "Sweden's darkest pop export" by Rolling Stone,[1] she is known for her raw, grunge-influenced take on pop music. Her honest, complex and autobiographical lyrical content has led to her being dubbed "the saddest girl in Sweden".[2]

She was born and raised in the Djursholm district of Danderyd, a northern suburb of Stockholm, and is an alumna of the musical magnet school Rytmus Musikergymnasiet. She formed the rock band Tremblebee in 2006. Following the disbanding of Tremblebee, she pursued a career in songwriting and earned a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music in 2011. Working with producers Alexander Kronlund, Max Martin, and Xenomania, she became a successful songwriter recording and independently releasing her own compositions.

In 2014, Lo was signed to Max Martin's Wolf Cousins and offered a recording deal. She signed to Island US and Polydor. She rose to fame with her debut album, Queen of the Clouds, which opened at number 14 on the U.S. Billboard 200 in October 2014. The album spawned the sleeper hit single "Habits (Stay High)", which peaked at number 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Her second album, Lady Wood, was released in October 2016, opening at number 11 on the Billboard 200. It was promoted by the single "Cool Girl". Her third album, Blue Lips, was released in November 2017, peaking at number 138 on the Billboard 200.[3]

In addition to her solo work, Lo has co-written a number of songs for other singers, including Lorde's "Homemade Dynamite" and Ellie Goulding's "Love Me like You Do", a song that garnered her her first Grammy Award nomination for the 58th Grammy Awards. She has collaborated with many artists like Alesso, Flume, Nick Jonas, Seven Lions, Broods, Urban Cone and Coldplay.

Early life[edit]

Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson was born on 29 October 1987 in Stockholm, Sweden.[4][5] Her mother is a psychologist and her father is a businessman. She has one older brother.[6] Her lifelong nickname and adopted stage name, Tove Lo, was given to her at age three by her godmother because of her love for lynxes (singular: "lo" in Swedish).[4][7] Lo grew up in the affluent Djursholm district of Danderyd Municipality, just north of Stockholm.[4][8] She describes her childhood as being "very protected" and her family as "pretty posh".[4][6] She excelled in social sciences at school and grew fond of literature, writing poetry and short stories.[5][9] In an interview with the BBC, she explained, "Growing up so safe, I think I was looking for something else".[10][4]

Lo then developed a love for music and formed a girl band with her friends.[11] With the band, she wrote her first song at age 10 or 11.[8][12] By age 15, Lo had written a compilation of lyrical content which "nobody ever saw" and had performed twice on stage, before enrolling at Rytmus Musikergymnasiet, a musical school in Stockholm.[5][6] During her time at Rytmus, Lo developed a friendship with Caroline Hjelt, who would later form the Swedish duo Icona Pop.[13] After two years, Lo graduated from the school and felt assured that her career would be in music despite her parents preferring otherwise.[10][14][15][16]

An interview and profile of Tove Lo in W magazine in October 2016 referred to her as "openly bisexual", citing that as one of several identifiers that "she once took for granted but are now very much part of her public persona."[17] In an interview with Attitude magazine in January 2017, Lo referred to her own sexuality in non-binary terms: "Being open and owning my sexuality in both ways – with both men and women – I think that’s just never been a big deal", she says, adding that she was very lucky growing up in a liberal country.[18][19] In March the same year, she gave an interview with Out magazine, stating that she had never been in a relationship with a woman.[20]


2006–2013: Career beginnings and collaborations[edit]

In 2006, Lo began writing songs with Christian Bjerring, a guitarist from Rytmus.[9] The pair then formed a math rock band, Tremblebee, with three other male students from the school. They played together for "a few years" in bars across Sweden, independently releasing some of their songs, before breaking up in 2009.[5][9][21][22] During her time with the band, Lo developed a passion for performing on stage,[23] and was introduced to Swedish production duo The Struts.[24] After the dissolution of Tremblebee, Lo's musical focus turned toward pop. She then decided to focus on her own tracks, spending six months in her shed studio producing a demo,[5] while doing session singing as a means of income.[23] She also learned how to play the drums and garnered knowledge about music programming and record production during this time.[25] Lo later spent time living with Icona Pop, in a suburb near Stockholm.[7]

Lo later met an A&R who she handed her demo to.[5] The artist initially met him upon the occasion of a party in Stockholm celebrating Icona Pop's first record deal,[21] and then again by chance in a bar in London.[8] The A&R liked Lo's demo and subsequently introduced her to a songwriting group which included The Struts and Hjelt.[23][26] In 2011, Lo decided to pursue a career in songwriting and earned a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music.[27] This new career path led her to travel to Los Angeles, and work with Swedish producer Max Martin.[5][7] In 2012, she collaborated with British production team Xenomania and Swedish producer Alexander Kronlund,[27] co-writing Girls Aloud's "Something New", Icona Pop's "We Got the World" and tracks for the duo's self-titled debut album.[28]

Lo then decided to manage an "artist indie career on the side", recording her more personal compositions and releasing them independently.[23][26] She released her first single, "Love Ballad", in October 2012,[9] and her second single, "Habits", in March 2013.[29] The latter gained her a substantial online following.[5] Lo was featured on Swedish disc jockey Lucas Nord's single, "Run on Love", released in June 2013 for his album Islands.[30][31] She also collaborated on the single "Strangers" by Seven Lions and Myon & Shane 54 for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones film soundtrack (2013),[32] and Seven Lions' extended play (EP), Worlds Apart (2014).[33] Throughout 2013, Lo was mentored by Max Martin and his fellow Swedish producer Shellback.[8] She also co-wrote Victoria Justice's "Gold",[28] and tracks for Icona Pop's This Is... Icona Pop.[34]

2014–2015: Truth Serum and Queen of the Clouds[edit]

Due to the strength of her online following, Lo was offered a recording deal by Universal Music,[21] releasing her first single, "Out of Mind" under the label in October 2013.[35] She would eventually be signed to Island and Polydor Records.[6][26][36] Lo then shifted her focus to an international singing career, earning critical acclaim for her first live shows in London and during South by Southwest in the United States.[23][6] Lo's debut EP, Truth Serum, was released on 3 March 2014. It became her first charting release in Sweden where it peaked at number 13.[37] The EP was also a critical success, and led to several news media sources referring to Lo as "a pop star in waiting".[4] The material spawned three singles; "Out of Mind", the lead single,[2] only managed to appear on the Finnish Airplay Chart, peaking at number 39.[38] The following singles were "Habits (Stay High)" and its remixed version by production duo Hippie Sabotage, re-titled as "Stay High".[39][40] The latter marked Lo's international breakthrough into mainstream success,[9] peaking at number 13 in Sweden and number six in the United Kingdom.[37][41] The singer was later named VH1's 'You Oughta Know' and iHeart Radio's On the Verge artist.[26] She made her live television debut performing "Habits (Stay High)" on the Late Night with Seth Meyers in June 2014.[7] Lo's debut album, Queen of the Clouds, was released on 24 September 2014,[37] to generally positive reviews.[42] It debuted at number 14 on the US Billboard 200, selling 19,000 copies in its first week,[43] and received a Platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2016.[44] The album peaked at number 17 in the United Kingdom[41] and number six in Sweden, where it was certified platinum by Swedish Recording Industry Association (GLF) for sales of 40,000 units.[37][45] Serving as the album's lead single,[15] a United States release of "Habits (Stay High)" became a sleeper hit.[46] The single was Lo's commercial breakthrough in the country, peaking at number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.[47] The album's second single "Talking Body" peaked at number 12 on the US Billboard Hot 100,[48] number 16 in Sweden,[37] and number 17 in the United Kingdom.[41] The following singles were "Timebomb" and "Moments".[49][50]

Lo performing at the Tavastia Club in Helsinki in 2014.

Lo was also featured on Swedish DJ Alesso's single "Heroes (We Could Be)" from his debut album, Forever.[51] The single was a commercial success, peaking at number five in Sweden,[37] number six in the United Kingdom[41] and number thirty-one on the US Billboard Hot 100.[47] Lo served as the opening act for the third leg of American singer Katy Perry's Prismatic World Tour in November 2014.[26][52] She wrote, produced and recorded the song "Scream My Name" for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 film soundtrack released that month.[53][54] In late 2014, she was signed to Max Martin's songwriting collective Wolf Cousins.[26][52] Tracks co-written by Lo were featured on the 2014 album releases of Cher Lloyd's Sorry I'm Late,[26] Lea Michele's Louder,[21] and Zara Larsson's 1.[34] She also co-wrote "What Are You Waiting For?" by The Saturdays.[28] In December 2014, Lo announced that she was taking time off to undergo surgery on her vocal cords which had developed cysts. The surgery successfully took place on 3 January 2015.[21]

At the 2015 Grammis, Lo won in the categories for Artist of the Year, and Song of the Year for "Habits (Stay High)".[55] The artist co-wrote the 2015 singles "Love Me like You Do" by Ellie Goulding and "Sparks" by Hilary Duff.[28] She went on to write other two tracks of Duff's fifth album Breathe In. Breathe Out., "Stay In Love" and "One in A Million".[56] "Love Me Like You Do" topped the UK Singles Chart and peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.[57][58] Additionally, it earned Lo nominations for the Golden Globes, Grammys and Critics' Choice Awards.[59][60][61] Lo was featured on Swedish group Urban Cone's single "Come Back to Me", released in March 2015 from their album Polaroid Memories.[62] The artist also co-wrote and was featured on "Rumors", from Adam Lambert's third studio album The Original High.[63] On 24 September 2015,[64] a repackaged version of Queen of the Clouds was released as the "Blueprint Edition". It featured all tracks from the original release, as well as "Heroes (We Could Be)" and tracks from Truth Serum.[65] Four days later, she started her first headlining concert tour, the Queen of the Clouds Tour, featuring fellow Swedish singer Erik Hassle as the opening act.[66] Also in that year, she won STIM's Platinum Guitar prize, which is awarded to accomplished Swedish songwriters,[67] and was featured on Coldplay's "Fun", from their seventh album A Head Full of Dreams released in December 2015.[68]

2016–present: Collaborations, Lady Wood and Blue Lips[edit]

Lo performing at the Osheaga Festival in Montreal, August 2017.

On 19 February 2016, Lo released "Scars", the lead single of the soundtrack to the film The Divergent Series: Allegiant.[69] The next month, she was featured on the remix version of the single "Desire" by English band Years & Years,[70] which entered the charts in Belgium and Sweden.[71] In the same month, she appeared as a featured artist on Nick Jonas's "Close", the lead single from his third studio album Last Year Was Complicated.[72] The track peaked at number 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and received a Platinum certification by the RIAA.[48][73] It also reached the top 20 in Canada and New Zealand.[74][75] Lo was also featured on Australian musician Flume's single "Say It", released on 20 April 2016.[76] The track was successful in Oceania, entering the top 5 in Australia and New Zealand.[77] The artist co-wrote Ellie Goulding's "Still Falling For You", the lead single from the soundtrack to the film Bridget Jones's Baby (2016).[78][79]

On 28 October 2016, the singer released her second studio album, Lady Wood,[80] which topped the albums chart in Sweden and peaked at number 11 on the US Billboard 200.[37][81] Its lead single, "Cool Girl", entered the top 30 in Australia, New Zealand and Sweden.[82] The track was certified Platinum in the former country and Gold in the latter two.[83][84][85] Five days prior to the album release, Lo announced a European and North American solo tour entitled the Lady Wood Tour that would take the singer across twenty-one cities across the two continents, starting on 6 January 2017.[86][87] To promote the record, the artist released two short films directed by Tim Erem featuring the tracks of the album. The first one, Fairy Dust, was uploaded on 31 October 2016, but was removed for a few hours from YouTube due to the site's policies on sexual content. The singer addressed the situation via Twitter, stating that she was not even naked on the clip.[88][89] The next clip, Fire Fade, was released on 25 August 2017.[90] In late 2016, Lo acted as an opening act for the Maroon 5 Tour across the United States to promote Lady Wood.[91][92]

Lo co-wrote and performed the song "Lies in the Dark", from the soundtrack to the film Fifty Shades Darker, released on 10 February 2017.[93] Six days later, it was announced that she would be opening for Coldplay on their A Head Full of Dreams Tour from June to October 2017 across Europe, United States, and Canada.[94] The singer also co-wrote "Homemade Dynamite", from New Zealand artist Lorde's second studio album, Melodrama.[95] The track was released on 16 September 2017 as the record's third single.[96] On 17 November 2017, the artist released her third studio album, Blue Lips, to which she referred to as the sequel to Lady Wood.[97][98] Compared to Lo's previous releases, the record was less successful, peaking at number 138 on the US Billboard 200 and at number 15 in Sweden.[99][37] The first single, "Disco Tits", was released in September 2017.[100] On 7 June 2018, Lo released a remix of "Bitches" featuring Charli XCX, ALMA, Icona Pop and Elliphant as the second single from Blue Lips.[101]


Musical style[edit]

Music critics have described Lo's music as synthpop,[102] electropop,[103] dance pop and indie pop.[104][11] Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker describes Lo's sound as "of the moment: simple, spare, electronic, and unfussy".[105] Lo's musical style is often described as dark,[11] idiosyncratic[5] and raw.[2] Rolling Stone deemed her "Sweden's darkest pop export".[1] Lo has a Light lyric soprano vocal range.[106][107][108] Peter Robinson writes, "As a vocalist she hints at euphoria and melancholy in equal measure".[6] She has stated that her vocals are predominantly recorded from the first three takes of their demos to best convey her emotions.[23] Her music uses a dynamic mix of prominent drum instrumentation, quiet verses and thunderous choruses indebted to the template of grunge music.[4][109]


Described as "the world's most brutally honest pop star" by Alex Panisch of Out,[2] Lo uses songwriting as a means of therapy for subjects she avoids speaking about.[26] Her lyrical content is primarily autobiographical,[106] and is mostly based on mistakes, love, sex and failed relationships with her characteristically direct, candid and complex lyrics.[4][6][110] According to Tim Jonze of The Guardian, Lo tends to home in on "the more deranged side of love".[10] Dubbed "the saddest girl in Sweden",[2] Lo admits that her lyrics are predominantly sad because she is "useless" at writing tracks of a happier tone.[6] Her lyrics have been noted to make subjects that are generally relegated to genres of punk and hip hop more accessible in a pop framework.[2]

Lo's debut EP, Truth Serum, documented one of her failed relationships in the order of how it took place.[4][2] Her debut studio album Queen of the Clouds is a concept album that went through the stages of her relationships and was divided into three sections: 'The Sex', 'The Love' and 'The Pain'.[21][26][102] Jason Lipshutz of Billboard described the album as "blisteringly honest" and "unapologetically uncensored".[26] Her second studio album, Lady Wood, talks about "different kinds of rushes in life" and is divided into two chapters, "Fairy Dust" and "Fire Fade".[111] The singer's third studio record, Blue Lips, is a sequel to Lady Wood and is also split into two chapters: "Light Beams" and "Pitch Black".[112] Lo's lyrics have also been noted to frequently contain profanity[21] and drug metaphors.[1] Discussing the process of writing for other artists, the singer told Paste that she avoids drawing from her own experiences so that the songs do not become personal. She also stated: "My main goal is to say something how they would say it, even if I might say it in a different way that makes more sense to me".[21] In an interview with Coup De Main, Lo explained the songwriting process for her own songs:

"Sometimes it starts with a random lyric idea that sets the tone for the whole song. Chords and sounds build from the lyric and rhythm, kind of. Sometimes it's a track I fall in love with... but writing my own songs, I rarely write on tracks. Then it's pretty much always 'the story' first. Then I add some chords and melody on my piano, or do a minimal production to get the sound right."[12]


Lo grew up idolising Courtney Love, inspired by grunge culture and the polarising lyrics of Love's music and her band, Hole.[36][109] Lo also became fascinated with Love's romantic relationship with Kurt Cobain, as well as the rawness and honesty of his music with band Nirvana.[23][4][6] While in high school, Lo developed a passion for pop music and songwriting, influenced mainly by the output of Swedish singers Robyn and Lykke Li.[110] She cites the simplicity and quirky lyrical content of French singer Charlotte Gainsbourg's IRM (2009) as the main inspiration behind her career in music and said that it "opened a new world" for her sound-wise.[23] Her other musical influences include Madonna,[113] Amy Winehouse, Jeff Buckley, Mikky Ekko,[12] The Weeknd,[114] and Silverchair.[13]

Public image[edit]

Lo performing in 2014.

Lo says she created a media image for herself that is synonymous with her true identity.[115] She has a prominent tattoo along her left upper arm of a girl harnessed to the back of a bumblebee, which is from the cover of the album Clear Hearts Grey Flowers by Jack Off Jill, the album design by Mark Ryden.[109] Frequently barefoot during her live performances,[26][116] Lo's look is often compared to that of her style icon Janis Joplin.[24] Her other style influences include hippie fashion, the fashion of older rock singers, the people of Stockholm and Edie Sedgwick.[12] According to Elle writer Rebecca Moss, Lo is "a true '90s child unwilling to part with her early iconography".[109] Lindsey Rhoades of The Village Voice writes, "Tove Lo rocks a specific brand that veers slightly from most other women in pop—she paints herself as the hard-drinking, hard-drugging, DTF party girl, admitting the somewhat destructive nature of these preoccupations but celebrating them all the same".[117] In 2014, Lo's first clothing line, which she also modelled for, was released based on the lyrics of her EP, Truth Serum.[7]

Lo has voiced her frustration over the censorship in the United States, including her lyrics, although she understands that it is the only way to get her songs played on the radio.[21] She has also commented that, "[...] in Sweden, we don't really censor that way. You hear every swear word, in Swedish and English, on the radio, and kids will be singing along."[118] During tours in 2015, Lo began flashing her bare breasts in live performances, particularly during the song "Talking Body," and she has continued to do so on a regular basis.[119][120] "I started just by showing a little bit of boob or just being sassy, and everyone got so excited and then one night I just did it," she said to MTV News at Bonnaroo.[121] She has often said in interviews that she is unapologetically proud of her body.[122][121]

Lo is questioned frequently about being a negative role model for women, given the fact that her lyrics include numerous sexual and drug references.[123][124] She has commented that she finds it normal to talk about sex since she grew up in a country where that is considered "normal and not shameful",[88][125] and that many of her fans like the way she expresses herself.[123][126] She also believes that she receives this kind of comments due to gender double standards,[127] adding that:

I felt like I was getting asked all these questions because I'm a girl. Like, 'Don't you feel like you should be a better role model?' Or 'Don't you feel like you shouldn't be talking about this? You're so open about sex. Isn't that a bad example?' And I think the opposite. I think it's a good thing. [...] It would be insulting to ask a guy that. Which it is to a girl as well. I just remember defending myself in a lot of situations where I was wondering, 'Why am I defending myself? I shouldn't have to make a case about this.' To me, music and sex are very connected. I'm a very sexual person—not meaning I have sex all the time, but it's like, I express myself with my body onstage and off. It's a very beautiful, powerful thing.[128]


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Ceremony Award Nominated work Result Ref.
2014 Scandipop Awards Best Song from a New Artist "Habits" Nominated [129]
MTV Europe Music Awards Best Swedish Act Herself [130]
2015 P3 Guld Artist of the Year [131]
Song of the Year "Stay High (Habits remix)"
Newcomer of the Year Herself Won [132]
iHeartRadio Music Awards Best Lyrics "Habits (Stay High)" Nominated [133]
YouTube Music Awards 50 artists to watch Herself Won [134]
Grammis Artist of the Year Herself [55]
Song of the Year "Habits (Stay High)"
Pop of the Year Queen of the Clouds Nominated
Danish Music Awards This year's International Release [135]
Billboard Music Awards Top Streaming Song (Audio) "Habits (Stay High)" [136]
Teen Choice Awards Choice Music: Breakout Artist Herself [137]
Rockbjörnen Breakthrough of the Year Herself Won [138]
BMI London Awards Song of the Year "Habits (Stay High)" Nominated [139]
MTV Europe Music Awards Best Swedish Act Herself Nominated [140]
European Border Breakers Award Sweden Album Of The Year Queen of the Clouds Won [141]
Scandipop Awards Best Female Herself Won [142]
Best Album Queen of the Clouds Won
Best Alternapop Talking Body Won
American Music Awards New Artist of the Year Herself Nominated [143]
STIM Platinagitarren Herself Won [144]
Capricho Awards New Artist Herself Won [145]
2016 Golden Globe Awards Best Original Song "Love Me like You Do" Nominated [146]
Grammy Award Best Song Written for Visual Media Nominated [147]
Critics' Choice Awards Best Song Nominated [148]
Scandipop Awards Best Video Moments Nominated [149]
iHeartRadio Music Awards Best New Artist Herself Nominated [150]
Teen Choice Awards Choice Music Single: Male "Close" Nominated [151]
Choice Music – Love Song Nominated
MTV Europe Music Awards Best Swedish Act Herself Nominated [152]
Hollywood Music in Movies Best Original Song in a SciFi Movie "Scars" Nominated [153]
2017 APRA Music Awards Dance Work of the Year "Say It" (shared with Flume) Nominated [154]
Most Played Australian Work Nominated
NME Awards Best International Female Herself Nominated [155]
Best Track "Cool Girl" Nominated
Grammis Artist of the Year Herself Nominated [156]
Pop of the Year Lady Wood Nominated
Scandipop Awards Best Album Nominated [157]
Best Electropop Song "True Disaster" Won
Global Superstar of 2016 Herself Nominated
Social Hero of the Year Nominated
MTV Europe Music Awards Best Swedish Act Nominated [158]
2018 Grammis Artist of the Year Nominated [159]
Album of the Year Blue Lips
Pop of the Year Won [160]
Lyricist of the Year Herself



See also[edit]


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