Loreen: Sweden’s Eurovision Queen Is Ready to Make History
Swedish dance-pop superstar Loreen is unnervingly calm for someone who is on the cusp of making music history. On Saturday, she will once again represent Sweden in the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest, having reigned victorious in 2012. If successful, she will be the first woman — and only the second person ever – to win the world’s longest-running TV music contest twice.
Eurovision started with just seven participating countries in 1956. But over 60 years later, it has evolved into a 43-country competition, where often-bizarre acts battle it out against musicians of all genres, showcasing the talent and eccentricity that Europe has to offer. This year, the contest is hosted in Liverpool, Englad — the home of the Beatles. The U.K. is hosting the contest on behalf of Ukraine, who won last year but were unable to host because of Russia’s invasion.
When people think of Swedish music, they might think of artists like Robyn and Zara Larsson, or legendary producer and songwriter Max Martin. And when they think of Eurovision and Sweden, the first act that comes to mind is ABBA. Next to Celine Dion, who won for Switzerland in 1988, the Swedish foursome are Eurovision’s most iconic and celebrated winners.
But Loreen has her own special place in the Eurovision canon. She didn’t just win the contest in 2012 — she changed Eurovision forever. Her career-defining bop “Euphoria” is credited with ushering in a new era for the contest, where critically acclaimed music could thrive once more. Like the very best music, the song is timeless. It dominated the charts across Europe and was certified nine-times platinum in Sweden.
Now, Loreen returns with another undeniable banger: “Tattoo.” The song was recorded in just an hour and a half, with an “energy” — a word she uses a lot, with an almost religious devotion — once again propelling her toward pop perfection. Since deciding to return to Eurovision, she has spent the past six months “living and breathing” her performance, with dramatic staging that brings together all of the world’s natural elements. (It wouldn’t be Eurovision without a bit of drama, after all).
When Loreen talks to me in her Eurovision dressing room, she fizzes with excitement, hippie-style optimism, and intelligence, gliding between topics from human rights to music with ease, making connections between them as she goes. Describing her as both “calm” and “excited” might sound oxymoronic, but it’s an accurate description. She has the noticeable contentment of someone who has already achieved what she came to do, because her music has once again connected with fans across borders, languages, and cultures. And maybe, just maybe, she might have a quiet confidence that Eurovision history is about to be made.
Congratulations for qualifying for the grand final on Saturday. How did it feel to return to the Eurovision stage for the semifinal?
It was amazing. It was crazy spiritual. The whole vibe of the arena was incredible!
Why did you decide to return to Eurovision for a second time?
Honestly? It was the people around me. It wasn’t like they forced me or anything, but we had the song and it was amazing. There was no talking about any competition or anything like that, but the people around me asked the question and my initial reaction was no. But basically, I go where the energy is light and where it flows. And whenever I said, “No, I don’t think I’m gonna do it …” there was dense energy around me. But whenever I said, “Maybe I’ll do it …” something changed. The energy lit up! That was the universe telling me where to go. Sometimes we have these ideas of where your life is going and stuff like that, but that is how I navigate: Life wants me to go in this direction, I’ll take a leap of faith and follow my gut feeling. And now I’m sitting here having the time of my life!
How does it feel to be in Liverpool, the home of the Beatles. What is the vibe like?
The energy is great. You can tell that the people in the arena from Liverpool love to have fun and they love creativity. Even before the performances started at the semifinal they were screaming and had so much energy. That says a lot about them.
“Euphoria,” your winning anthem from 2012’s Eurovision Song Contest, is thought of as a game changer. What does it feel like to be thought of in that way?
I mean, sometimes it feels a bit surreal, you know? I’m thankful and honored, because I don’t take anything for granted. Back home, we have a certain way of seeing music and sound. It’s like it is a tool and you can use it in a negative way or a positive way when you stand on a platform like that. So it’s an honor and I have a huge respect for it, and I’m very careful with what I’m sending out.
Eurovision has gotten even bigger and more international since you last performed here. Is it exciting that people across the world might be hearing your music for the first time?
Yeah, it is! Some creators create for themselves, and some creators like myself create so we can connect with people. That’s what it’s all about! I love to connect through creativity.
Sweden is incredible at Eurovision. You win so often. Why do you think that is?
Because we are control freaks, man! [laughs] No, I’m joking. Honestly? I don’t know why, but it’s really interesting. It could be the weather? Like, we have such shitty weather so we can’t do anything else but create. If you’re in Spain or somewhere else, you might just want to chill on a beach. Or I don’t know if it’s a privilege thing? That we have time. I’m not sure!
“Tattoo” is an undeniable banger. I’d love to know about the process of creating it.
Well, first of all, sometimes people think that you have to struggle to create. But usually, it’s the other way around. The greatest hits and the greatest performances are usually made really fast, because it just flows. A certain energy needs to be there. So while I was recording the song in the studio it took, like, one and a half hours? Something magical happened there.
Your staging this year is pretty epic. How did you come up with that?
When I was recording the song, I just saw these scenes in front of me. Then, when I decided to be in the competition, I made this PDF of different pictures of nature, which is what inspired the stage. All the elements of nature: My nails are made out of stone, I’m laying in a bed of sand, then there is the wind and smoke and mist. Nature is a symbol in my performance because, really, we’re all small batteries. And sometimes we don’t know where we can recharge ourselves. Nature is a huge charging point, and we live in a society where everything is moving so fast. It’s hard for us to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing and if we’re living for ourselves or someone else. So how do we ground ourselves? Where do we find energy? It’s very simple: nature.
Human rights are very important to you. Is it extra special to be performing at this Eurovision, which is being hosted on behalf of Ukraine?
Yeah, it is. It’s special in so many ways. For me, there is nothing more important than creativity, and you can’t separate creativity from human rights. It goes hand in hand, because creativity is a way we express ourselves, how we express frustration or what is going on around us. It creates understanding. It’s a way of communicating. So you can’t really say “Music is not political!” because you know what? It is. It has always been, because it’s a tool for expressing yourself. It makes perfect sense that Eurovision is a creative community that supports the [Ukrainian] cause. We want to support these people and give them energy through music.
For international readers who might not be as familiar with Eurovision, what do you think is the thing that is most special and unique about it?
Well, it’s because we don’t have that many communities where everybody is accepted, regardless of your sexuality, religious background, or color. As long as you come in with love and respect for one another, you’re welcome. And we don’t have that many communities like that, which are diverse and inclusive. So it says a little bit about all of us, I mean, as a human race, so to speak. Eurovision getting so much bigger tells us a little bit about where we’re heading. Slowly, we’re heading in the right direction.
You have a huge LGBTQ+ fanbase and I read that, since the 2012 song contest, you’ve now come out as bisexual. Eurovision is so popular with LGBTQ+ people too, so are you excited to reconnect with your queer fans?
Yes! Eurovision is really a space where we can all be free and there’s no judgment. So for those who are in that community, there is a lot of joy and there’s a lot of happiness.
You seem very relaxed for someone on the verge of making Eurovision history. Are you always this chilled?
I don’t know if it’s my nomadic roots? Or maybe it’s because I’ve been around a while? I don’t know. This is me!
It seems like you’re more into the creative aspects of Eurovision than the competition element. Do you think that’s fair to say?
Yeah, that is fair. But to be honest, I wouldn’t want to take out the competition part, because that is the part that includes everybody. Although it’s painful at times, because you can’t really judge music and everybody has their own taste. But the competition is important, because I love the idea of families and friends gathering together and all voting for different people. Someone saying, “Loreen sucks!” and someone else saying the song is amazing. It’s all fucking love, man. I’m very focused, and I’ve been living, eating, sleeping, and dreaming this performance for six months. I’ve been in a bubble for six months, not doing anything else. It takes a while to generate that certain energy. The moment I said yes, I knew I had to change my life completely. So I’ve been living and breathing this thing for half a year.
What would it mean to you to make history and become the first woman – and the first person in 40 years – to win Eurovision twice?
Oh god! I mean, I’m a servant of creativity. My passion is to create things. I know when I’ve connected with people. And if I connect with people if I make you feel that I’ve done my job, darling! How would it make me feel to win it all? Happy! Because that means that I’ve been able to create something that made people feel.
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