Swedish songstress Lykke Li has cemented her status as a household name in the music field for years. With her raw and honest songs about emotional break downs and loss, she embraces a femininity quite opposite of other female artists which are promoting strength and independence. Still, she would never call herself weak, despite openly addressing the bleaker moments of her life. ‘I’ve experienced a lot of sadness in my life’, the singer explains when asked where she grows her strength from as an artist and a women. ‘I found a way to overcome it and that makes me feel strong. And sexy.’

The quote fits right into the title of her latest album, So Sad So Sexy. It combines two attributes which are rarely connected. To the singer, showing vulnerability is no sign of losing your own power. ‘I think it’s one of the most beautiful things to see someone cry. It’s honest.’

Through honesty Lykke Li wants to empower her listeners.

‘I’m trying to put out a powerful message. It seems like all the people who are listening to my music are feeling the same things as I do. It is a universal thing to have all kinds of feelings and emotions. To just let it be, accept it and to dance and cry together seems very empowering to me.’

Photography by Brendan Walter

With four albums in her repertoire, the singer proved time after time that turning anxiety and self-destructive emotions into art is a magnet for a wide range of listeners. The sort of people who can relate to her inner dark side – because it hides in each of us and comes through on certain occasions.

For her fans, Lykke Li might portrait a kind of a dark fairy, a fallen angel. Not necessarily in need for help, but more as a figure to overcome your inner demons, as she told before. Is it the picture she wants us to see or did fans and media turn her into it? In general: how is the balance of creating your own image as an artist and the image which people put on you? ‘It depends on what type of artist you are’, the singer explains. ‘I am the type who creates my music and then I have directly the idea of how I want to look, how the light should be. Should my hair be wet? Should I cry glitter? I am building my image and that is what I give them.’

Photography by Brendan Walter

When on stage, the artist shows exactly what she has in mind: The lights are utterly dark – red mostly, with single strobe lights when the beat fits. During certain songs, there is just a bright light from the back of the stage which allows to only spot her silhouette striking a pose. The cozy white hoodie from the interview is gone, Lykke is wearing now a black latex suit – straight out of a Matrix movie, but way more sexy. The mentioned glitter on her face. Lyrically, she is bursting her heart out, how better she is alone and lonely, how needy of love. Her persona shows confidence at the same time, taking strength out of a women’s fragility. It is a different version of female power.

A change of perspective

‘I feel empowered in general by being a women. Half of the people on this tour are female and it feels amazing. It is so much fun.’, the artist says when it comes to working with other females. On her latest record, the singer tells, she wrote the majority of her songs with another women for the first time. California-based singer songwriter Ilsey Juber put her pen on the entire So Sad So Sexy album. Juber is mostly known in the industry for co-writing hits for huge mainstream artists like Shawn Mendes or Bebe Rexha.  To me, she is the best’, Lykke Li gushes over Juber.

It is still an ongoing debate what a male-dominated area the music business is, but for Li herself, it is more about the whole society then a single business:

‘The biggest names on stage are female, let’s take Beyoncé or Rihanna. Behind the scenes there are indeed a lot of men. But the hard thing is how society in general uses women, how they get judged. That is the most fucked up thing. And how women view themselves. Not only in the music industry, even in a coffee shop or everywhere else. Ideas of beauty and sex are always connected with each other.’

The harsh judgement of women comes even to a new dimension when one gets pregnant and wants to continue with her career, as the singer knows best from becoming a mother herself. ‘When I grew up I was constantly told that I cannot be an artist and a mum’, the singer says. ‘So it is important for young women out there to know that you can. It is still this thought that motherhood will take away your sex appeal. Of course it is fucking difficult to be a mother and pursue a career, but you can do it if you want.’

Preach, girl!

Photography by Brendan Walter

According to her, the journey of motherhood did not just start after giving birth, but already during pregnancy: ‘Being pregnant is the craziest thing you can do to your body. You are all over the place with hormones. It is so difficult for you to walk, but after giving birth you are able to dance again at some point. It changed my whole perspective of it. I never used to be an artist who shows skin – suddenly I was just so proud of it. I felt so good about it.’

During the interview and on stage, Lykke Li proved that experience makes you wiser and builds a thick skin. You can find light inside the darkness and earn strength out of your fears. As a woman and mother, she claims her spot as a strong female artist, convincing her audience that honesty will take you places. As for the last question, what hope and passion means to her, the answer is a simple and clear one: Everything.

So Sad So Sexy is out now via LL Recordings/RCA Records.