June 25, 2018

Tove Styrke: ‘Writing a pop song is like solving a puzzle’

011It’s called The Flow: A state of effortless concentration and enjoyment, where time just seems to melt away – and Tove Styrke has been getting it a lot of it lately.
In fact, the Swedish star has already lost five months to making her third album… and it’s still not finished.
“I’ve been really geeking out,” she giggles down the phone. “Almost to a point where it’s mathematical, trying to find the balance between all the elements”.
When inspiration pounces, she can lose “hours, days and weeks” in the studio, “just bending different sentences and rhymes to find the best fit, to find the missing piece of the puzzle”.
Pop, in particular, puts “so much focus on what you say,” she adds. “You have to be really neat and concise. It’s important you get it right.
“So it’s about puzzling together a song, a good pop song, that makes sense. It really is a brain game.”
But sometimes a writers’ brain isn’t on their side, obsessing over one terrible idea, or spewing out endless cliches. So Tove has developed a way to trick herself out of a dead end.
“I play solitaire on my phone,” laughs the singer. “I have the song on in the background, and I play solitaire so I’m not concentrating so hard.
“It’s a good way to make sure you don’t overthink it. If you force the brain into shutting off then, suddenly, something will just come out of your mouth that fits.”
The first result of all this effort is Say My Name, a gigantic pop fizzbomb that’s primed to explode all over the charts this month.
It’s a deceptively simple song built around a quirky ukulele riff, but the chorus sticks like Velcro.
“Say my name,” sings the star, “wear it out like a sweater that you love, cause I can’t get enough when you… say my name”.
“I really love that chorus,” she says. “It was such a good feeling when we nailed that one. Like, ‘Yes!'”
Her painstaking perfectionism reaches a pinnacle in the vocals. Tove is understated and conversational, making you lean in to the song’s coquettish flirtation, where most pop divas would have belted out the melody in one take and gone home for a sandwich.
“I don’t understand how people do that,” she protests. “I feel like the vocals are such a huge part of the production. Like, how do I sing this line? How much strength do I put into it? How can I make this melody as interesting as possible? How can I communicate this feeling even more.”
“And it’s the best feeling when you find that missing piece. It’s like, ‘Arrroooggahh!’ Amazing.”
Swedish Idol
Tove Anna Linnéa Östman Styrke was born and raised in Umea, an unassuming university town near the edge of the Arctic Circle, whose most famous former inhabitant is Stieg Larsson, the author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Her mother was a ballet teacher; while her father was a musician, whose band Max Fenders scored a number one hit in 1975 with the song Vindens Melodi (Wind Melody), and who set Tove on the path to musical stardom when he gave her her first synthesiser.

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