Interview: Tove Lo on “Fairy Dust”

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By Erica Snyder, Fusion Editorial Department.

In 1981, MTV made history when they debuted their network and started broadcasting music videos, the first being The Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Since then, society expects artists to drop a music video after they release a hit song. Recently though, music videos have gone through a transformation of their own. Many artists now make films, or “visual albums,” with their releases instead of individual music videos. Think, Beyonce’s “Lemonade” (directed by Fusion’s Woman of the Year Melina Matsoukas), Frank Ocean’s “Blonde,” and Tove Lo’s “Fairy Dust.”

Tove Lo’s visual album focuses on the overlap between storytelling and music, with a splash of feminism thrown in as well. Ok, more than a splash, but who’s complaining there? Tove, like many other musicians, uses her visual album to complement her music. “For me, ‘Fairy Dust’ is about the, sort of, bittersweet escape, when you’re on this constant chase for rushes. And the way that I wanted to portray that in the film was having someone play my…what’s usually seen as the self-destructive side,” Tove says. “It’s about the highs and lows and the need for them.”

In “Fairy Dust,” Tove’s “self-destructive” side is played by Lina Esco, another powerful feminist and founder of the Free the Nipple movement. Tove explains that, when writing Lina’s monologue, she was not thinking about whether anything was “wrong” to say. She wrote without thinking what she was “supposed” to do.

With her last album, Tove did not release a film as she did this year with Lady Wood. But as an artist, releasing a film with this album was very important to her. “For me at least, it’s very important to feel like it’s not just a bunch of songs thrown together just to have an album. I want it to feel like there is a journey, there is a story. It is one body of work.” Releasing films with albums serves as a way for musicians to express another layer of their art and bridge a connection between songs, something that can’t be done by putting one or two in a self-created playlist. And actually, “Fairy Dust” is Tove’s first time screenwriting and acting. Which, yes, in case you haven’t watched the video already, she slayed both.

“There were a lot of firsts shooting this thing,” Tove says. “I started by just writing out the monologues, and then me and Tim [the director] went through song by song like, ok, how do we translate this song?” For example, Tove sings “Cool Girl” from a very sarcastic place, but she also wants to express that it’s a “power song” about “owning your emotions.” For Tim and Tove, the challenge was expressing both those perspectives in “Fairy Dust.”

Like many other female musicians, feminism plays a large role in both Tove’s music and her daily life. In fact, in “Fairy Dust,” Tove is seen masturbating at the end, which caused Youtube to temporarily take down the video. “Are we still here? Really? I thought we passed this like 20 years ago!” Tove says. “So I’ve definitely decided to be like, ‘Hey, I’m gonna do whatever I want with my body, and you can’t tell me what I can or can’t show and can or can’t do.’ It’s so funny when people are like ‘Oh, it’s so scandalous — she’s touching herself’[referring to the end of Tove’s video when she masturbates]. This is the least harmful thing you can do to yourself, like, you know what I mean?”

Yes Tove, we know exactly what you mean.