“All Night.” “Then We Kiss.” “I Love It.” Despite their upbeat tempos, punchy melodies, and infectious cadences, they aren't your typical pop records. In the words of Grammys blogger Arjan Writes, they comprise a “bittersweet brand of pop that is uniquely” found in Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt's world.
Last Thursday, on the 20th floor of Hotel on Rivington's LES escape, an intimate crowd of pop music propellers gathered for Writes’ #ArtistTalk series starring Icona Pop. Amid girlish giggles, witty one-liners, and tales of humble beginnings, it was clear that Hjelt and Jawo's international fame still hadn't quite hit them. “We never tried to be cooler than we are. We love pop music.” Especially, the indie pop rock sound found in their native Sweden.
Pop music that has a rare, dark edge. “We sound a lot happier [on records] than it actually is,” Hjelt said. Her partner in pop added, “Unfortunately, a lot of people can relate to it... I'm very glad that I got my heart broken.”
Icona Pop isn't all about EDM-masked blues, though. They do karaoke, have a soft spot for thongs, and are proud advocates of the funny face.
What was the first album you bought with your own money?
Jawo: It was a mix tape. In the 90s, things like Absolute Mix 10 were popular. They had everything from Prodigy to the Spice Girls.Hjelt: My first one was [through a service where] you got a CD every month. The first cover had strawberries with faces on them and a song that went “la da di da da, da da da. (“Be My Lover” by La Bouche).
If you could have one super power what would it be?
Jawo: Flying.Hjelt: Traveling time.Jawo: Ah, that's so bad. That's not a good super power.Hjelt: It would be kind of hard though, because I think you'd run away from stuff. Jawo: I'm going to take the flying back. I would like to be invisible.
Do you have a funny story about your first time performing in New York?
Jawo: The first time we performed in New York was 2010 at this place called PopShop. That was the first time my nerves kicked in really bad, I was shaking, and unfortunately, we had one of the worst gigs ever. It was so bad. Well, that was kind of a depressing story [laughs].Hjelt: This [headlining] tour is a first time as well. We had production, a tour bus, all of the luxury stuff that we've been dreaming about to be able to create our vision.
If you were doing karaoke, what would be the one song you'd want to sing?
[In unison] Sisqo, “Thong Song.”
In case you're wondering, there's nothing remotely similar in context to “Thong Song” on Icona Pop's international debut... but you won't be disappointed. Stream the album below or listen on Spotify.