There’s no rulebook for pop, that’s the beauty of it. At it’s heart is a universality and freedom that makes it all so joyous. Someone who understands that better than anyone is Danish pop polymath Karen Marie Ørsted, aka MØ, aka the world’s best pop star. Having established herself with the raw, DIY-tinged agit-pop of 2014’s hugely influential debut album No Mythologies To Follow, she’s since expanded her sound and artistic vision via collaboration with a broad spectrum of some of music’s most interesting characters – from Diplo to Charli XCX to Cashmere Cat to SOPHIE. In 2015 she co-wrote and sang on one of the most streamed songs of all time in the shape of Major Lazer’s global smash, Lean On (she’d later repeat the trick with their 2016 Justin Bieber collaboration, Cold Water, a UK number 1), while these features have been peppered with hits of her own, most notably last year’s MNEK-produced Final Song, which broke the UK Top 15 and was a huge hit across Europe and Australia, and garnered MØ’s first Gold record in the US as a solo artist. As work continues on her second album, due in 2018, she’s unveiled a surprise six-track EP, When I Was Young, which aims to complete the circle that started with No Mythologies To Follow and hints at where she’s headed next. “Putting out this EP is just something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I just felt it was right to put these songs out before I put out the album,” she says. “I’m a super nostalgic person and so these songs, and the meanings behind them, all fit into this personal journey I’ve been on.”
To be fair it’s been quite the journey. Growing up in the sleepy village of Ejlstrup to a psychologist father and teacher mother, Ørsted always knew she wanted to sidestep academia and be creative. Her musical idols were typically polarised, with the Spice Girls dominating her pre-teen years before Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon took over as number one when she was a teenager. Early musical projects leant towards aggressive punk statements, with titles like A Piece of Music To Fuck To and Pussy in Your Face, before she started collaborating with Danish producer Ronni Vindahl in 2012 under the moniker MØ (Danish for virgin, by the way). From there the seeds of No Mythologies To Follow were sewn via the critically-adored early singles Glass, Pilgrim and Waste Of Time. After the album was released in March 2014, preceded by the Diplo-produced XXX 88, MØ launched into tour mode, traversing the globe and meeting a host of new friends and collaborators.
That year saw her collaborate with Swedish rapper Elliphant on the Joel Little-produced One More and then, in 2015, everything went interstellar. Having been asked by Diplo to write some lyrics over a beat he’d made for his Major Lazer project, MØ came up with Lean On, singing the song initially meant for Rihanna with such conviction she knew it could only be released with her voice on it. And it was. Over 1 billion (!) streams later and it’s now one of the biggest, most recognised songs of the last decade. Its success was swift and sudden, but the aftermath has been a little more prolonged. “It was a fantastic thing, but this is the first year where I can focus more on my own project,” she says.
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