Tove Lo has always been a vivid storyteller with a steely vision rooted uncompromisingly in the female gaze. On each of her albums, she explores her own sexuality remorselessly: positioning herself as both the object and subject of desire.
Now, the Swedish pop princess has brought that project to the small screen with her new film: Blue Lips, an accompaniment to her 2017 album of the same name. Starring Tove Lo herself and Ouija-star Ana Coto, Blue Lips was directed by artist Malia James, who has crafted music videos for Troye Sivan, Alessia Cara, Halsey, Hailee Steinfeld, MØ & Snakehips and more.
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The 25-minute visual is a Whip It meets Spring Breakers meets Bend It Like Beckham whirlwind, rich with loving, fleshy detail. It bathes female friendship in both heavenly, and neon-club light, celebrating the euphoria and complexities of female intimacy. An all female-team created the film, which, in keeping with Tove Lo's brand, lets female bodies and sexuality breathe on-screen: unfiltered and uncorseted, not so much raw as simply relaxed.
James says the film's team was committed to working through a female gaze, inspired by visual projects like Beyoncé's Lemonade and Sampha's Process, as well as tough, sensual women-driven films like Morvern Callar and Victoria that she and Tove Lo watched together while writing the script and sharing their experiences with love and friendship.
"Tove has always been a dream artist for me to work with because she's so fearlessly unapologetic about who she is and I'm honored to show that not only will she tell you to get your fucking tits out, she'll also open up and share her heart with you."
PAPER chatted with Tove Lo about her acting debut and the creation Blue Lips. See exclusive stills of the film and read our conversation, below.
Why did you want to tell this story visually?
The past shorts I've done have been more visual albums than films. I love telling stories and feel like I often paint the love and drama scenarios I'm picturing in my head in my lyrics. The idea to use the music as soundtrack and make an actual film felt like a great new step to take and a unique way to show the music.
This is your acting debut, but your music always has a strong cinematic, visual tendency. Did this kind of performance feel natural to you?
Making these films I've realized I love acting, but this was definitely a new challenge. I'm comfortable performing in front of a camera, but acting is a different thing. I wanna keep doing it for sure, but music and writing is still my number one passion. So I love when they intertwine.
The film feels like a love letter to female friendship, albeit a brutally honest one. Are its joys and complications something you've had to navigate in your own life?
Malia and I both have. It was long nights of sharing experiences in love and friendship that shaped this story. Portraying real situations where we don't act perfect but you know your friendship will survive it. There's a way to show the version you want to be or show who you actually are. No one acts the way they think is right all the time, but you always try justify your actions. I think this is a beautiful way to show all different sides of two people who are really close. Where there's a lot of history that is both bad baggage and at the same time an unbreakable bond.
Photos courtesy of Tove Lo