It's hard to overstate just how much Loreen changed the Eurovision Song Contest when she won in 2012 with Euphoria.
A blissful, urgent explosion of tender synth-pop with elements of trance and electronica, Euphoria transformed the opinion of what caliber of song can be entered into Eurovision; Loreen almost singlehandedly legitimised the contest's ability to create great, modern pop music on global scale.
And now, 10 years after changing the game, she's back again. A surprise entry into this year's Melodifestivalen [the contest where Sweden chooses it's Eurovision entry], Tattoo functions, and feels, like a sister track to Euphoria.
"I don't care about the pain," she decrees, "I'll walk through fire and through rain, just to closer to you."
But now, with a decade of experience behind her (including a masterful debut album, Heal, and elegant pop tracks like Paper Light (Higher) and My Heart Is Refusing Me), Loreen has opened herself back up again. Tattoo leans in heavy on the trance and electronic elements, bursting into life with a serene urgency to be heard.
"All I care about is love," she coos on the outro to the surging banger, and she really means it. As Loreen prepares to see if lightning really can strike (to date, only one act as won Eurovision twice - Ireland's Johnny Logan), we jumped on a Zoom to talk to Loreen about her grand return and her plans to help make the world a better place, one perfect pop song at a time.
Oh, and the time she nearly accidentally got crushed by a giant, 2 tonne screen. All in the name of art, of course!
MORE: The Official Charts guide to Eurovision 2023
Hi Loreen, can I just say as a gay man who loves pop music, it's a pleasure to finally meet you
Hello! Thank you my love.
Now, you're going to be back on the Eurovision stage, the song is brilliant...how are you feeling? History seems like it could be about to repeat itself
How am I feeling? I feel like I'm in the right place at the right time [bursts into song] "The riiiight place at the riiiight time!" I honestly thought that this wasn't going to be my path, but I feel so happy being here...being back. It's like I'm back home. It's crazy.
You competed in - and won - Melodifestivalen this year and it did seem that something shifted. You competed in 2017 with Statements, very underrated song by the way...
Oh, thank you.
But it did seem like something was different this year, that you were ready to take it again. Would you agree?
I know that...let me put it this way, I know [that performance] is what I was meant to do. In a way, yes, I did feel ready [again] but I feel more that I now have something to give. To me, it's always been about that. What are you sending out? What are you trying to create here? I always have to ask myself those questions.
So when I heard [Tattoo], when I got the song, I never thought that this was going to be my path, George, but it was. Certain things happened along the way; it was just so positive, the energy was flowing in the right direction. All of a sudden, I knew exactly what I needed to do and how the scenery was going to look. It came to me really fast. So for me, I guess life said to me "you're ready. It's time for you to say what you want to say."
MORE: The Official Top 40 biggest songs of 2023 so far
You can definitely tell that by the sentiment of the song too. Like you say, "all I care about is love."
It is! And it's the only thing that matters for one reason - it's the antidote to negative energy. It sounds corny, but what is love? Forgiveness is love. Being in a loving space, that changes things. It is necessary.
And to be completely honest, I know that there's this narrative of bad things happening in the world but let me tell you, it is my belief that the majority of people are great and we're heading, consciously in the right direction. There are more vegans and vegetarians than ever. Some people are slow. I don't have to mention names, but many people are already there.
I think that's one of the reasons why so many people are resonating with the song and the performance. Because if you look at it, even if it's abstract, George, I'm surrounded by nature. I'm surrounded by love.
Speaking of the performance, it's so metaphorically loaded as well, and abstract in the sense that anyone who watches it comes away with a different understanding. My take on it was that you were pushing away the expectations of people and the pressure you felt, letting it go and finding a space that's completely yours
That's so beautiful, thank you. And that's the whole point. The vision was to create something that sparks creativity [in others]. You make what you want out of it. Fear is one big f*cking illusion, it's a mind game. Creativity changes that. So I'm happy to hear your thoughts on it. That is so beautiful.
Although I was worried you were going to get crushed by a giant screen
The roof is really important. It's the sky. I have all the elements in there. I don't have water, but I have sand.
I'm actually going to tell you a story. This is true. I've been practising with the [lowering platform], it's really heavy and it's really big. You don't really think about it [when you're performing] but there's nowhere to roll [if things go wrong]. One time, I was rehearing in Stockholm [for Melodifestivalen] and it was snowing at the time.
It's calibrated so when it knows exactly when to stop [during the performance]. Listen to this. It had snowed all day, and the snow actually sunk the roof a couple of centimeters. Nobody knew this. It hadn't happened before. I was performing, and suddenly it comes down and it's getting closer...and closer...my body was getting pushed down. I bumped my head a couple of times because it was so close. [After the performance], I told my team it had sunk and they were like, no. It's impossible. But the snow had sunk it by three centimeters.
So you literally could have died for your art, Loreen. The Melodifestivalen staging of Tattoo seems so fully formed - are you looking to change it at all for Eurovision?
It's an organic performance and I always like to change things for the better. And everyone seems to have connected to it so much. So that will not change, but there are certain things I want to enhance even more. My original vision was that you watch me in this space, but you watch as if you're not even aware there's a stage. Almost like a movie. So we've been working hard. I'm super excited for you to see it.
I want to touch on Euphoria, because that was such a moment, and I think it really did have an impact on Eurovision, especially the caliber of songs. After 10 years, coming back now - how are you going to incorporate everything you've learnt?
I approach it with love. The energy now is so effortless. It flows. I think there's a huge difference between [competing with Euphoria] and now. Euphoria was the first time I opened up, I gave you a little glimpse [into my soul]. I don't want to say I had fear, but I was very sensitive. It was like coming out of a shell. Now, on this journey 10 years later, it's strengthened me. All the ups and the downs, there's so many things that happened. Now, I feel there's this motherly calm energy. And I'm just giving.
You are the Eurovision mother
[bursts into laughter] Hey! Whenever people say that I'm like...I'm not that old?! But I do love it, because it's the feeling I have. It's the reason why I'm here, to create something that resonates. In love, in life, there's power. I'm trying to open that up within you. Creativity can open us up. Oh yeah. F*ck yeah.
Tattoo is out now.