meta-scriptHow 'Venus' Helped Zara Larsson Find Joy In Her Journey: "I Have Cemented Myself As An Artist" |
Zara Larsson Press Photo 2024
Zara Larsson

Photo: Paul Edwards


How 'Venus' Helped Zara Larsson Find Joy In Her Journey: "I Have Cemented Myself As An Artist"

Nearly 10 years into her career, Zara Larsson feels like she's starting over with her fourth studio album, 'Venus' — and she's ready for the world to truly get to know her.

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2024 - 03:50 pm

For international artists, making it in America can feel like a pipe dream — something only reserved for a handful of pop stars every few years. For Swedish pop singer Zara Larsson, it's a dream that is coming true slowly but surely.

In 2015, Larsson released "Lush Life" and "Never Forget You," two singles that both hit No. 1 in her home country. A year later, and America eventually caught on: both singles hit the Billboard Hot 100 — with the latter reaching No. 13 — and helped make 2016 Larsson's breakthrough year. In 2017, her second album (and first to be released internationally), So Good, went platinum in America; since then, she's collaborated with a wide array of stars, from Kygo and Young Thug to BTS and David Guetta.

Yet, it feels as though Larsson has remained her fan's best kept secret. As she's continued to see massive success in Europe, headlined several tours, and opened for the likes of Clean Bandit and Ed Sheeran, she's also continued bubbling under the surface — landing a fair share of Top 40 hits on U.S. pop radio, but ultimately waiting for the stateside success to stick. 

One thing that's kept Larsson going, though, is knowing that she has always remained true to what matters most: her music and her artistry. Rather than succumbing to the pressure to hop on a music trend or create a viral sound, Larsson opts to look to the future, thinking positively that her moment will come. Venus, her fourth studio album, will hopefully help that moment come true.

The 12-track album is an ode to the various types of love Larsson has experienced over her life so far — the most prominent, of course, being the love for her music career. In the music videos for Venus tracks "On My Love" and "End of Time,"  Larsson revisits versions of herself from her past, which served as a visual representation that she's still following the right path. 

"Looking back at a lot of video material from when I was editing, I see who I was as a baby and a kid back then, and it's so clear that I was always meant to do this," Larsson tells "[Venus] is the essence of me and who I am and always have been." 

Venus is pop at its finest, with Larsson crafting an album that juxtaposes infectious floor-fillers like "Escape" with more introspective tracks like "Healing." The through line between her previous work and Venus is obvious: Larsson just wants to make people feel as deeply as possible. What's different is that now, she sounds confident and in control; she's not trying to chase anything except her own happiness and uses music to soundtrack those emotions.

In between a much-needed trip to Thailand and the release of Venus, Larsson chats with about staying true to her artistry, working with female producers, and more.

This year marks 10 years since your debut album. How would you describe the way you've grown and developed as an artist between then and now?

Ten years is a long time. I just turned 15 when I released my first song. It's hard to say what exactly grew in my music [or] in me as a person because I think they do intertwine. 

What's interesting about this album is that I feel like, in a lot of ways, it goes back to my very first album, 1. It wasn't released internationally and a lot of people think So Good is my first album. Venus has the essence of me — it's fun, not that serious, and a little sassy. 

I've been lucky enough to always have people around me who listened to what I wanted to do and say. It's tricky because you feel like you need to reinvent yourself but, at the same time, you want to stay true to yourself. I'm really excited to let the world hear Venus because I do feel like it reminds me of my very first album. 

You mention having a team around you that supports you. I read a previous interview you did and you essentially talked about how the industry was full of men and you scared them by being 15 years old and saying no. How has that mindset carried you over your career so far?

I've just always been a very opinionated person and determined in what I want to do. For me, it was so clear what I was feeling [when recording] — it was "No, I don't like this song" or "Yes, I like this song."

I have a lot of good people around me. At 15, I had a small team, and although they were men, I trusted them. They allowed me to release what I wanted to release. I wasn't signed to a major label at that point, but after I got signed to a major with lots of budget for styling and choreography, I have to ask myself if I like what I'm doing or making. 

I think that it is so important [to stick up for yourself] because I don't think it would feel good to release something that I don't like… even if it probably would feel great to have a hit. But, again, you can't guarantee a hit and when you release something that you really, really like, you can't lose. 

I've had to stand up for myself a lot of the time. I've never been truly alone in going up against the bigger dogs at the bigger company — I've either had my indie label, my manager, or my mom telling me that I know what I want. I think now, having my fourth album on the way, it feels like I have cemented myself as an artist. I don't feel the pressure of having to live up to other people's standards or expectations.

Touching on that, something that I love about your work is that you always stay true to who you are. Has ensuring your artistic integrity stays intact and keeping true to yourself rather than 'selling out' to try and get a huge hit always been a no-brainer for you?

I think so. It is hard because, at the end of the day, I can't lie — one of my biggest dreams is to have a sold-out stadium world tour. I would love to see lots of faces in the crowd and to have as many people as possible to connect with my music. But I don't [want to release] stuff that I don't like just because someone else thinks it's a good song. I don't want to hate the song when I perform it at shows. 

How did the creation of Venus differ from creating previous albums?

I wanted to make an album that felt like the first one I wrote [2014's 1]. The beauty of pop is that it's so broad, it allows you to dip your toe in anything. Venus is a step up in the quality of songs. The Goddess of love and beauty is Venus, so this album focuses on different types of love — platonic love, romantic love, healing from love, and just love from different perspectives. 

I think love rules my world, in a sense, and Venus captures where I am in life. I have so much love for my career and I'm in a very good place. I'm glad Venus is coming out in the first quarter of the year because everyone is excited and everyone has this new, refreshed energy. It feels inspiring.

In the "End of Time" video, we see you revisiting yourself as a kid. Did you feel like you were healing your inner child while creating that video?

Yeah. The story turned out exactly how I wanted it to. For me, it was about expressing a feeling of being a young girl and wanting so badly to be a singer and then being visited by an older version of myself. 

In the video, young Zara is going through a lot and she uses music as an escape into her own world. I feel like I have always done that. That's the beauty of pop and why putting on a fun song to dance to is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. You just enter a different world where no one can bother you. That was my childhood — me dancing in front of my mirror dreaming about one day being an artist. 

Arguably the most important love to ever feel is to believe in your dreams and your goals, so [the music video] was my way of saying to little Zara that we did it. 

Vulnerability is a thread that connects your songs together — do you see songwriting as a form of therapy, to get your thoughts and feelings out and make them tangible?

Yeah, definitely. The older I get and the more I do it, the better I get. It's just a really good way of putting your emotions into the world because the beauty of music and any type of art is to feel like people can relate to it. You feel like you're not alone and you feel understood. It's why we listen to happy songs when we are happy and sad songs when we are sad — we want to feel like we're not alone in what we are experiencing. 

Compared to your past albums, did the writing process for Venus change at all? 

For Venus, I worked with a small group of people. Sometimes, when you go from one session to another, it can be difficult to open up your soul. It does get easier when you've been working consistently with the same group of people, though. It's important for me to feel safe in a room and know that I can say whatever. 

I think a couple of years ago when I was in sessions, I would also be with nine people in the room or something, and they'd mostly be men, and that was really intimidating for me. I had to stand up for myself in those writing rooms. Now, I don't want to be the only girl in the room. I want other women in there. 

At the end of last year, I released an EP called Honor The Light and one of my favourite songs, "Memory Lane," was made with one of my favorite producers, Elvira Anderfjärd. 

With there being so many male producers, it's easy for them to lift each other and so much harder for women to get in the door. 

Exactly! I want to work more on having more women in these rooms in the future. Venus is my essence. Looking back at videos of me as a baby, it was so clear who I was even back then. That's the purest version of me. I want it to be very female-driven and empowering. So, now I have an all-female band because I want to play with other women. 

I loved "Memory Lane," by the way. What was it like working with Elvira Anderfjärd and Klara Söderberg from First Aid Kit on it?

We had a couple of days in the studio and we were reminiscing and talking about old memories. I felt like I'd reached a point where I was starting to be nostalgic about my childhood. 

For me, it's hard sometimes to talk about memories or personal stuff without being too cheesy about it. But I feel like this one turned out to be very personal and beautiful. I think it's also quite relatable even though you might not have been experiencing everything that I sing about, but you can look back at what you've been through and be thankful for it. 

I was reading comments about the song and so many people love it. I know reading commentary online can be difficult at times, but is it gratifying to know when people take your songs and apply them to their own lives?

It's crazy. It's honestly so weird because you can so easily search for things. It's so easy to read what everybody thinks of me or this new song. It's like being a fly on the wall.  

It makes me so happy when people feel like they connect to a song and it makes them feel seen or makes them feel better. There was a point where I was searching and scrolling for the negative stuff because I was waiting for it. Like we talked about earlier, when I release something I want to feel like I don't give a damn, respectfully, what other people think. But, at the same time, I'm an artist so I care very much about what other people think. It's a weird tightrope that you balance on. 

Lastly, where do you hope Venus takes you next on your artist journey?

The GRAMMYs, baby! I've been doing this for a long time, over 10 years. I'm really living my dream life, I truly am. I just want to take it to the next level in terms of production with my show. Let's upgrade the venues and have fun! 

I want to be able to keep making albums, create projects, and go into a visual world. I want to keep directing music videos and have a Billboard number one. I could see myself on top of the world. 

I'd love for Venus to bring me around the globe and back again. I just want people to realize who I am and what I do, because I have a lot of ambition and drive. I was born to do this, and I'm excited about where that and Venus are going to take me. 

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Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images


BTS Drop Juice WRLD Collab, "All Night," In Lead Up To BTS World Release

"All Night" marks the third week of releases for BTS, following last week's Mura Masa-produced summer-ready jam, "A Brand New Day," led by J-Hope and V, along with Swedish pop songstress Zara Larsson

GRAMMYs/Jun 21, 2019 - 11:23 pm

New music Friday is always a good day, especially when your favorite artist drops a hot new bop you can't stop playing.

Well, K-pop heartthrobs BTS are always ones to warm their fans' hearts, and today they did just that, with a smooth new song, "All Night," featuring rising Chicago rapper Juice WRLD. The song features just RM and Suga of BTS, two of the group's rappers, and was produced by RM and Powers Pleasant.

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The new single is the third release from the band's forthcoming BTS World Soundtrack, the musical accompaniment to their new mobile game of the same name. Both the soundtrack and game, where you can play the role of young Jin, V, Jungkook, Jimin, J-Hope, Suga and RM's manager, back when they formed the fab 7 squad, are due out next week. The game will be available to download in the U.S. on June 25 and the soundtrack drops June 28.

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"All Night" marks the third week of releases for BTS, following last week's Mura Masa-produced summer-ready jam, "A Brand New Day," led by J-Hope and V, along with Swedish pop songstress Zara Larsson. The group tapped British alt-pop queen Charli XCX for the first BTS World song, the anthemic "Dream Glow," released June 7.

BTS have had a big year so far, taking over their first GRAMMYs, being named one of the "100 most influential people" by Time, channeling the Beatles on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, launching a crowd-sourced database dedicated to their fans, continually breaking records, and more.

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Zara Larsson

Zara Larsson

Photo: Jo Hale/Getty Images


MTV Confirms Performers For Spring Break Reboot: Zara Larsson, City Girls, Tyga & More

Rae Sremmurd and Lil Baby have also been announced to perform at the network's first Spring Break party in five years

GRAMMYs/Mar 14, 2019 - 03:30 am

Last November, MTV announced they would be reviving their Spring Break TV special come March 2019. Now, things are finally starting to heat up; on March 11 the network revealed details about the forthcoming week-long party.

MTV Spring Break 2019 will bring the party to Cancún, Mex. one more time, with Swedish pop star Zara Larsson, GRAMMY-nominated rapper Tyga, brother rap team Rae Sremmurd, trap duo City Girls and their Quality Control label-mate, Atlanta rapper Lil Baby, all slated to perform.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"> <a href="">@CityGirls_QC</a> and <a href="">@lilbaby4PF</a> will be performing at <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MTVSpringBreak</a>.<a href=""></a></p>&mdash; MTV (@MTV) <a href="">March 12, 2019</a></blockquote>

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The party will take place at the beachside Grand Oasis hotel from March 23–28, airing live on MTV and The event will be hosted by two of MTV's boisterous personalities: "Wild N' Out" co-host and MC Justina Valentine and Vinny Guadagnino of "Jersey Shore" fame.

Guadagnino's former "Jersey Shore" cast-mate is also slated to join the festivities, joining the lineup of musical guests as DJ Pauly D.

There will also be special programming airing in conjunction with the week's festivities, which involve the stars of two of the network's current reality shows, "Siesta Key" and "The Challenge," joining in on the Cancún festivities. The former cast of "Ex on the Beach" will reunite to "hit the sand to talk to spring breakers about love and romance."

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The first-ever MTV Spring Break took place in 1986 in Daytona Beach, Fla., featuring lots of neon and GRAMMY winners the Beastie Boys as musical guests. The network continued the program for years as its popularity grew, featuring guests over the years that included GRAMMY winners Usher, Lil Wayne and *NSYNC.  

The program aired live on the main channel until 2005, after which it moved to the MTVU until 2014, the last time the event took place. The reboot is part of MTV's expansion in the music-centered live events space, along with their purchase of the annual Tahoe-based SnowGlobe Music Festival in 2018.

Spring Break 2019 will be airing live on MTV and from March 23 to 28. Or if you have your sights set on challenging Pauly D in an arm wrestling match, visit StudentCity's site, MTV's longtime Spring Break partner, for more info.

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Juice WRLD

Juice WRLD

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images


Billie Eilish, Maren Morris And Juice WRLD To Headline iHeartRadio Fest

First artist lineup has been revealed for the iHeartRadio Music Festival's Daytime Stage on Sept. 21

GRAMMYs/Feb 21, 2019 - 04:30 am

The iHeartRadio Music Festival, set for September 20–21 in Las Vegas, has announced its first set of performers for the Daytime Stage at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on Sept. 21 with headliners Billie Eilish, Maren Morris and Juice WRLD.

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Eilish's debut LP WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? is expected on March 29. Three of her singles broke into Billboard's Hot 100 last year with two more so far in 2019, making the album hotly anticipated.

Country artist Morris enjoyed her top-charting track so far with last year's GRAMMY-nominated dance hit "The Middle" with Zedd and Grey. Her upcoming album Girl is expected to be released on March 8.

Juice WRLD released his debut full-length Goodbye & Good Riddance last year and his follow-up A Death Race For Love is scheduled for release on March 8.

Supporting artists on the Daytime Stage are Cnco, Fletcher, Monsta X, Old Dominion, Brett Young, and Zara Larsson. Additional artists will be announced at a later date.

The iHeartRadio Music Festival will be broadcast live across iHeartRadio stations and will subsequently be aired on television's The CW Network. 

General sales for the complete fest will be available this summer, but a limited number of "special" festival tickets are currently at AXS. Tickets for the Daytime Stage on Sept. 21 are now available at Ticketmaster.

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Zara Larsson at Sony's Lost In Music New York

Zara Larsson

Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images


Sony's New York Pop-Up "Lost In Music" Experience Makes Tech Personal

Guests get multi-dimensional and physical with the latest music, tech and gear at this SoHo pop-up

GRAMMYs/Dec 12, 2018 - 05:04 am

Sony's third Lost In Music creation is even more physically immersive than ever before with a pop-up studio at 201 Mulberry Street in New York City's SoHo neighborhood. Lost In Music NY enables visitors to create their own unique songs, incorporating interactivity from their heartbeats, voices, dancing on a sequencer, and walking through drum spheres, all of it featuring Sony's gear and "multi-dimensional" sound.

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Previous "Lost In Music" experiences included interactive virtual reality and 3D sound for unique combinations of music and technology. This year's expo is on another level, and there are artist performances and interviews online as well.

"We wanted to deliver something that music fans have never experienced before," Miki Anan, Sony's senior manager of entertainment partnerships, told Rolling Stone. "We wanted the guests to become music creators in the space through this unique audio interaction process."

The showcase closes on Feb. 10 and beyond generating excitement, the pop-up conveys a fresh sense of what is made possible by the marriage of tech and music in a real-world, intimate space.

Artists participating in Lost In Music NY events have included A$AP Ferg, Lauren Jauregui, Zara Larsson, and Snakehips, with Jake Miller appearing on Dec. 11 and Tove Styrke on Dec. 19. Finale performances on Feb. 6 and 7 have yet to be announced.

Being surrounded by music and hands-on interaction is an age-old experience but Sony's showcase brings that meaning to life in a new way for today, made possible by its latest innovations, artists and visitors working together. More information is available at the Lost In Music website and using #LostInMusic on social platforms.

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