Zara Larsson is an artist committed to making quality commercial pop. After publishing, in 2017, his international debut, ‘So Good’, one of the most played albums in the history of Spotify, thanks to the success of ‘Lush Life’, Larsson has continued to deliver macrohits such as ‘Words’ with Alesso and jewels of pop written with all the taste you expect from Swedish pop like ‘All the Time’, ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ or those contained in their third album, the poppy ‘Poster Girl’, which brought another hit the size of ‘Ruin My Life’. Larsson offers more good pop in her new album, ‘Venus’. Boosted by the success in the United Kingdom of ‘On My Love’, ‘Venus’ brings together a collection of songs as varied as the author’s own musical taste. Zara joined us via Zoom in the last days of January to talk about ‘Venus’ and other aspects of her career.
Does it also seem like January 82 to you?
Wait, it’s still January? I feel like I’ve done a lot of things this month. In the music industry the only time you can relax a little is New Year’s. Then you come back and I, for example, have been finalizing the last details of my album, and doing a lot of press and promotion.
What’s Venus in you? Why does it represent you on this album?
I have talked a lot about love and relationships during my career, and Venus is the Goddess of love. She represents the energy I want to embody this year, female empowerment, but also vulnerability. Also, my parents live in Rome and I visit them often. I am inspired by the history of the city. The figure of Venus unites all the stories on the album.
You say that Venus unites the songs on the album conceptually, and musically?
I don’t know if there’s anything that really unites them. Rick Nowels and I have had many conversations about it, thinking about the direction of the album, and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t want to limit myself to a single style. That’s not me and I never have been. It’s still pop. There are rhythmic songs like ‘Ammunition’ and ballads like ‘The Healing’. They all represent me as a person. In fact, my debut, ‘1’, just came out internationally on streaming. It was originally published 10 years ago, I just listened to it and many of the songs I would publish today. They have an essence that represents me.
What would that essence be? The importance of melody, perhaps?
Yes, or simply what I like. I like a lot of things. My musical taste is wide and varied. When you’re in the car with me you even freak out a little. I have many different playlists. What represents me is my own personal taste.
Do you consider ‘Venus’ an evolution?
It’s not so much an evolution because I consider all my music to be timeless. I mean, when I listen to it, even though it’s been years, I’m not ashamed of it. I still like. What has changed is that now I am more involved than before in the composition of the songs or the creation of the videos. Now I feel more like an artist than just a performer.
Your previous album didn’t have many ballads but here you sing some even orchestrated.
I love ballads, I think they are beautiful. They move you in a different way than a highly produced pop song. A pop song can be very good, but many times the voice is camouflaged beneath the production. Although you have to be vocally agile in certain productions, the voice shines less and the story takes a backseat. Ballads allow you to sing more intimately.
What’s the difference between ‘Venus’ and ‘Poster Girl?’
‘Venus’ is a more dynamic album than ‘Poster Girl’, it encompasses different emotions. Furthermore, making this album I have felt freer than when I was working on the previous one. When I was making ‘Poster Girl’ I felt a lot of pressure to meet the sales and streaming expectations of ‘So Good’. I was wondering, how am I going to get over that? With ‘Venus’ I haven’t felt that pressure.
You have worked with Danja (Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, half ‘Blackout’) on several cuts on the album. I’m surprised to see her name in ‘Ca n’t Tame Her’, not so much in ‘Ammunition’. What is it like to work with him?
We wrote the songs with Rick Nowels and then we took them to Danja to add percussion. Danja is also in ‘More Than this Was’ and ‘None of These Guys’. (Rick and I) wanted him to give that touch to Danja. He is a master of percussion. ‘Ammunition’ was originally a ballad, and he gave it a spin. In the studio, when we finished the songs, we passed them to Danja to make them into what they are now.
You acquired your catalog in 2022. Why is it important for an artist to own their masters?
Ola Håkansson, founder of TEN, my former label, offered it to me. Ola is going to be 80 years old, he founded TEN when he had already retired, he is a legend in the Swedish music industry, and he wanted to take a step back. He offered me the proposal when he was going through all that stuff with Taylor Swift. Ola didn’t want the same thing to happen to me. He offered it to me and I accepted without thinking twice for two reasons. First, it is a good investment for me and my future children. It is a retirement plan. Second, I like to own the rights to my own songs. When I started in the industry I didn’t write, but ‘Lush Life’ and other songs are still part of me and my career. Now I can say what to do with them and with all my songs. I created my own company, Summer House, to shelter them. I bought out my contract so I’m still licensed by Sony, I’m not completely independent, but I have more decision-making power in my career.
About ‘Soundtrack’, any soundtrack that makes you cry or moves you?
I love soundtracks. The one from ‘Gladiator’. Everything Hans Zimmer has done. ‘Shutting Down Grace’s Lab’, from ‘Avatar’. ‘Schindler’s List’. The soundtrack of ‘Das Boot’ is amazing. ‘Soundtrack’ – my song – doesn’t have so much to do with movies, but rather with listening to a song so many times that you associate it with specific memories, especially in a relationship. When you hear it you automatically think of that person.