The Danish pop star with punk roots, Karen Marie Ørsted is better known by her stage name MØ. She is part of a generation of artists including Grimes and Lana Del Rey, who are legitimately making pop music cool again.
MØ released her brilliant debut album, No Mythologies to Follow in 2014. It features the Diplo-produced track XXX 88 – our first taste of a musical partnership that would shortly make MØ a household name the globe over. Bringing her over to his dancehall-inspired Major Lazer project in 2015, MØ co-wrote and provided the vocals for Lean On, which turned out to be the breakthrough track for them both. It reached number two in the UK singles chart and smashed Spotify’s record for most streamed song.
MØ is part of a generation of artists including Grimes and Lana Del Rey, who are legitimately making pop music cool again
MØ featured on another Major Lazer track the following year, this time sharing vocals with Justin Bieber. Unsurprisingly, it was a number one hit and propelled MØ even further into the global limelight. MØ followed up strong, with two solo bangers from her forthcoming second album, Final Song and Nights With You – a beautiful ode to her best friend and a hugely refreshing antidote to the girl-loves-boy industry standard.
‘It’s a song that I wanted to write for my bestie. We’ve been friends since we were three years old. It’s about that love that you can feel for a very, very strong friendship that you have for many years. It’s totally a love song, but not necessarily in a romantic way and I think it’s so awesome that people have interpreted in all kinds of ways, that’s how it should be.’
MØ’s next release was her surprise six-track EP, When I was Young in October last year. Although she was involved in the writing process on both Major Lazer collaborations and wholly retained her artistic integrity, understandably, she wanted to put some distance between the craziness of those record breaking, chart topping collaborations and her second solo album.
an album is a big deal for me. I put myself into these things, they’re personal to me
‘I felt like I needed to do a little EP before I could go full on into the album finishing process. So many years had passed since my debut album and with all these collaborations and singles I had put out, I just felt like I needed a little sum up before going all in on an album, because an album is a big deal for me. I put myself into these things, they’re personal to me, and so I want to make sure that I can digest it and that people can digest it.’
The two singles and EP partner the tropical, synth driven sounds we’ve been hearing since her work with Major Lazer with the lyrical exploration and vocal depth that fans of her first album fell in love with. Though MØ explains that this was a natural sonic direction, rather than taking cues from the trend-setting mega producer.
‘Since 2015, I’ve felt that all pop music has sounded a little bit like Major Lazer to be honest. It has that kind of tropical, dancehall, EDM sound, drops and vocal drops and all of these things, which has been really awesome and cool for a couple of years, but I feel like the sound landscape is moving towards something different now.
‘Most of all, what Major Lazer inspires in me is this constant search for new sounds and new ways of doing things, pushing it and wanting to be better and being progressive all the time. That’s the biggest thing I’ve taken from working with him – a way of looking at music and the process, basically.’
Most of all, what Major Lazer inspires in me is this constant search for new sounds and new ways of doing things
MØ has openly cited Spice Girls as a major influence, with an excellent cover of Say You’ll be There on her first album; and yet it’s also no surprise to learn that before becoming a solo artist, MØ performed as part of punk activist duo Mor. The two opposing influences combine beautifully to inject some punk personality into modern pop music. Her cool girl aesthetic transcends well beyond her stage presence into the content and delivery of her songs.
The most radical thing you can do is really be honest and be yourself
‘Most of all, I want to make sure to put myself into it. Me as a private person, Karen, I’m a super fan of pop music, but also a super fan of everything alternative and ugly and dark, like punk music. So if I can put my personality into the pop landscape of now, that’s obviously my biggest dream. The most radical thing you can do is really be honest and be yourself. That’s what I always strive to do.’
being trapped in the suburbs and being in a school where people didn’t get me was a good way for me to learn how to work through that struggle of being misunderstood
Growing up in a tiny village on the Danish island of Funen, MØ crafted a thick skin and learned at an early age to embrace her otherness, an attribute found in every great musician throughout history.
‘I’m really happy about where I come from because I think being trapped in the suburbs and being in a school where people didn’t get me was a good way for me to learn how to work through that struggle of being misunderstood. That whole thing of learning to stand by your differences, learning to live with that and embracing it to make yourself even stronger.’
MØ will be bringing her tour to Bristol’s O2 Academy this April, where we can hope to hear more from the forthcoming album, which she assures us is coming soon. ‘The album is the big thing for 2018. It’s been four and a half years since my debut album so I’m really just stoked and excited to get everything done and roll it out. It’s going to be a relief, almost. I’m excited to come back to Bristol. I’ll be playing some new songs and bringing a new production and lights with me.’
Words by Rachel Morris
Photos by Dominika Scheibinger
7 April – MØ, O2 Academy Bristol