By Karl Batterbee | Photo: A. Aschberg
At the end of May, a little-known and largely talented performer going by the name of Loreen (real name Lorén Talhaoui) did something to make her fellow Swedes extremely proud: she won the Eurovision Song Contest with her song Euphoria and took the trophy back home to Sweden from Baku in Azerbaijan.
It is not a sense of pride that will necessarily be understood by the Brits, but then Sweden takes its pop music very seriously. A dedication to its art has made the country one of the world’s biggest exporters of music per capita.
However, it was not the Eurovision win that was most noteworthy here. After all, a song will win Eurovision every year. It is what Euphoria managed to achieve in the days after its Eurovision win that had so many people talking about Loreen. Euphoria went on to top the iTunes charts in twenty-two countries across Europe, including the notoriously Eurovision-phobic UK. An unprecedented flurry of sales followed, which meant that for the first time in decades, a Eurovision winning song actually went on to become something of a crossover hit. It even charted in Australia, the far away continent of cult Eurovision fans.
The success meant that Loreen’s planned time off was cancelled, and instead she was put straight back to work again, promoting the song across Europe. In the few days following her Eurovision win, she was treated to the obligatory homecoming ceremony in Sweden, before jetting off to Britain, France, Germany and beyond. And it is during those three days in the UK that Scan Magazine was granted the super-rare and tightly scheduled chance to talk to her.
“These are crazy fun times”
First things first, I want to know if Loreen is finding the post Eurovision experience to be the whirlwind I imagine it to be. “These are crazy fun times. But I’m extremely happy about all of this. It’s been perfect timing.” I’m also curious as to which side of the contest has been more hectic: the week leading up to the big night or the week she has been experiencing afterwards. “I would say the week before. Because of the performance, there was a lot of planning. There was a lot of focus on shutting everything out, rehearsing and practising. The week before the performance was very special, I would say.” And of course to us, the viewers, the performance we ended up getting was very special too. “It’s a special energy when you stand there. It has to be because of everything in it. And if I’m not there mentally, you guys won’t be able to see anything. I won’t sing well because my energy is split, because my thoughts are split and because I’m thinking of everything else around me.”
It’s an admirable dedication to the execution of one very big performance. And something from which Loreen certainly deserves a holiday afterwards. However, finding her song in the surprising position of being such a big hit around the continent in the days after the show, she now needs to decide what is more important to her: giving herself that well deserved holiday, or going into work mode again straight away to capitalise on all of the success she is having and the love she is receiving. “I love to be by myself. I love to meditate and not talk to anybody. I’ve been on silent retreats where I haven’t spoken to anybody for 30 days. So time alone is very important for me; that’s when I create. But right now I’ll find my thoughts some days and some hours, here and there, just to balance it up. And I’ll be very selective with what I do. Some artists will do everything, but I believe in having respect for your body. So when I think it’s too much, I say no.” I tell her that I feel privileged that she selected our interview as one of the things to do; she giggles.
“I don’t care about the programme”
So many millions of people now know Loreen, the Eurovision winner. But she has been Loreen, the artist, for a long time before that. An artist that actually seemed to be as far away from Eurovision as one could get. I wonder if winning the Eurovision Song Contest was the kind of thing she had even aimed for before she found herself mixed up in all of it. “To be honest, I didn’t. I don’t really think; I just follow the flow. To me, I don’t care about status as long as there’s a stage and there are people listening to me; that’s what’s important. So I didn’t ever imagine myself winning Eurovision. I just imagined myself being on a stage and doing my own thing for an audience, for a huge audience or for a small audience. I don’t care about the programme. I don’t care about the game; I don’t care about all of these things around it. I care about the connection between me and my audience, and I care about me creating something on stage that you guys will hopefully like.”
Now that we have all been enchanted by Euphoria, the natural progression in our thoughts is to look forward to the album. So just how is that coming along? “It’s actually coming along great. I’m working on it right now. Straight away, when I came back from Baku, I went into a meeting with my songwriters just to plan. The album was already done, and the songs were already written last year, but I decided that I didn’t want the album to come out just yet. So there’s not much left to do really. This summer I’m going to spend some more time working on the album, and then it’s going to come out this autumn.” With Euphoria being the super hit it is, an artist, and especially a record label, might be tempted to go back to the drawing board to ensure that it is a record full of sale ready Euphorias. But this is not the case with Loreen. “Every song that I’ve come out with always has an acoustic version to it. So the album is going to be very dynamic. It’s going to be a fusion between those two worlds: the electronic world, and the acoustic, organic world where every instrument is played live. Some club elements, but also a lot of James Blake and Björk elements. Not 100% club, which I think a lot of people are expecting it to be, because all of my singles have had a club element there.”
It’s so cold in Sweden – let’s write
Loreen’s Eurovision win is a further reminder to people that they should be looking towards Sweden as a source for great pop music. With so many highly admired and hugely successful writers, producers and artists coming from Sweden, and indeed Scandinavia, does Loreen feel a sense of pride for her contemporaries’ achievements in the field of music? “I’m not a patriot, to be honest. I see us all as one. Of course it’s always fun with music and that so much of it comes from Sweden. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so damn cold in Sweden that people don’t have anything else to do really but sit in the studio and write. We can’t go to the beach – let’s write. We can’t do this – let’s write. Everything is closed at six – let’s write! But I’m happy that there are so many great writers and producers that still create so much nice music that is so global and that everyone can enjoy. But to be honest with you, because I’m Moroccan and born and raised in Sweden, my way of expressing myself involves many cultures. And I’ve heard so much beautiful music from around the world that has influenced me.”
A song written by Swedes and delivered by a cross-culturally influenced performer: this year’s Eurovision winner was a foregone conclusion all along.
For more information, please visit: www.loreen.se