Swedish singer Tove Styrke performs in Los Angeles

Swedish singer Tove Styrke performs in Los Angeles

After rising to prominence as a teen idol and a Europop sensation, Tove Styrke has undergone an image reinvention and has set out to remind audiences one thing: she is in charge.

Born in Umeå, Styrke gained recognition after competing on Swedish Idol at the young age of 16. She followed her Idol success with a slew of top-forty hits, including the Grammis-nominated “White Light Moment” and the internationally-charting “Call My Name”. Her early releases cemented her as a pop mainstay. 

In recent years, she has released her most ambitious work yet with the critically-acclaimed records Sway (2018) and Hard (2022). Stryke further developed her artistry by evolving to sound rooted in 1980’s synth pop & rock as opposed to her classic teen-oriented bubblegum pop. Her latest release, Hard, marks a new era in her career. The 11-track album is an ode to sexual liberation and queer romances, serving as Styrke’s most candid album lyrically and most experimental one musically.

Styrke spent the last year promoting the record, touring extensively throughout Scandinavia before taking her show to the US. On her first stop, she performed at The Moroccan Lounge in Downtown Los Angeles which quickly became filled with adoring fans.

The show began with local singer Sophie Cates, who gained popularity online during Covid-19’s lockdown in 2020. Cates started off with several bass-heavy hyperpop songs, such as “boys r dumb! duh!” and “cardigan.” Dressed in simple black boots and an oversized anime t-shirt, Cates’ proved to be a versatile lyricist as she transitioned between party songs about drug use and power ballads about breakups, with her performance of “ghosts!” being the standout from her performance. Halfway through her set, Cates turned off her autotune and performed a stripped rendition of “Karma” by Taylor Swift. At the end of her set, Cates announced her new EP, Basement Party, would be dropping that Friday.

After a brief intermission, the venue fills up with synth beats reminiscent of Duran Duran and Donna Summer. “Imagine how good you could feel right now,” sings Styrke in a white mini-dress and gogo boots. The singer dives head first into her extensive catalogue as she plays her early hits such as “Mistakes” and “Borderline”. Styrke dances around the stage and walks into the crowd while performing the dance hits that made her famous, before connecting with her audience through more personal and intimate songs such as “Bruises” and “Show Me Love”.

Even when performing acoustic songs on her guitar, a style we aren’t used to seeing from her, Styrke maintains the audience’s excitement. Her pure yet powerful vocals and hard cutting words incite raw emotions that rippled through the crowd even during her minimally produced songs.

Styrke delivered energised renditions of tracks from her new album, with “Free” being the most heavy-hitting. The track serves as Styrke’s declaration of wanting the casual, passionate sexual experience without all the other burdens and restrictions that come with a relationship. The song’s graphic contents are a sharp contrast to her earlier, post-Idol output, but with “Free” and other liberation anthems “24H” and “Hardcore” on her latest release, Styrke has been able to successfully step out on her own in this new chapter of her career.

Her new album, Hard, is out everywhere now.