Since releasing her third studio album Sway in early May, Swedish singer/songwriter Tove Styrke has been busy creating visuals to accompany the eight sharp pop songs that comprise the project. The video for the title track is a welcome change from the overly simplified depictions of queer female sexuality we often see in mainstream media. The narrative is not only relatable but real, much like Styrke herself. PAPER caught up with Styrke and director Joanna Nordahl to chat about "Sway" and how the video came to be:
Why is it important for you to elevate these types of stories?
Styrke: A big part of what I do in my work, especially with this album, is translating personal experiences to something more universal. I feel that we as humans are so alike in how we move through life emotionally and to me that's really comforting. I want to connect with people through my music, touch someone else's feelings not just tell you about mine. To do that I need to keep these stories open for interpretation so that anybody who didn't live my life can apply them to theirs. To me it gives the things I make more purpose as opposed to just being public diary entries.
What inspired the lyrics of "Sway?"
Stykre: I wrote it about a night when I fell in love with someone, but I've felt that exact way many times. That feeling like you only exist now, in a flow, with a person and nothing up to that moment or after it matters. I boiled it down to the different thoughts that might fly through your mind during a night like that. And the wish to just be with a person, "sway with me" is like saying "exist with me" in a way. Move through these feelings with me, flow with me, sway with me.
What about Tove's "Sway" inspired this treatment?
Nordahl: I've been working with Tove on her visuals for about a year now, and have been lucky enough to be part of her creative process when the album was still in progress. Very early on she told me that Sway was a collection of love stories, told from different perspectives, and that to me felt very fresh — that it's not all a fairy tale, it's complex, surprising and sometimes deeply complicated to be in love or to be in literally any kind of relationship, even with friends or family.
I really relate to the idea of love as this fluid ambiguous state of mind that's constantly evolving and highly personal, meaning a different experience for everyone, even for the person who is involved with you. When it came to this video I had actually been wanting to make a skate related film for a few years and the first time Tove played me this track I could see this story playing out in front of me. The flow and movement in the song really reminded me of warm summer nights, skating and the sense of empowerment and freedom that I associate with that, so it felt like a perfect match.
Queer narratives are infiltrating pop music more and more. What do you think this contributes to the conversation?
Nordahl: I think representation is extremely important, and music videos are a fantastic way to reach and communicate with a broad audience and start a conversation if made with the right intentions/knowledge and respect for the subject matter. In this case my goal was to portray a very relatable story set in an unexpected environment and show a genuine connection between two people, that the viewer could apply any type of relationship onto.
People have the immediate urge to put labels on everything, and that can be very important, but I guess what I'm trying to do is the opposite. Some will interpret the characters in this story as a couple, others will see them as just friends or perhaps lovers, and to me they are all equally valuable relationships and interpretations. I'm personally hoping that the future will hold complete freedom to do whatever you want with whoever you want and simply BE without having to be placed in a category by others or yourself if you don't feel like it. Humans are way more complicated than labels in my opinion.
Image via Emma Svensson