Zara Larsson is in a lane of her own. With three studio albums under her belt—one local to Scandinavia and two international records—and a fourth on the way, the Swedish pop superstar continues to assert her presence in today’s field of pop music with a catalog that stands out from the rest. What Larsson brings to the table is rare these days, possessing a work ethic and talent resembling those of 2000s pop icons such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Rihanna. Larsson’s potential to reach that level of success is evident, which makes her journey as an artist all the more exciting to follow.
Last month, the 25-year-old entertainer dropped her latest single, “End Of Time,” following the success of lead single “Can’t Tame Her,” which recently reached #1 on US Dance Radio. The symphonic dance ballad feels as grandiose in nature as it is addictive, becoming an immediate standout in Larsson’s discography. The single is accompanied by a visually stunning music video, directed by the Baker Twins, that follows Larsson as she revisits her younger self with an inspirational message: Keep following your dreams.
With the follow-up to 2021’s Poster Girl, Zara plans to take fans back to her roots. A more focused project, Larsson says the currently untitled record will be reflective of her early works like ‘1,’ featuring her signature hit, “Uncover.” She adds that it was worked on alongside a much smaller group of creatives who know her best, such as Rick Nowels, co-writer and producer of “End Of Time.” “It’s very naked. […] It’s a little less obvious and a bit more personal—a little vulnerable,” Larsson tells Pop Crave.
Pop Crave caught up with Zara on Monday, which happened to be the 8-year anniversary of “Lush Life,” to chat all about her new era, including new singles “Can’t Tame Her” and “End Of Time,” and much, much more. Keep reading for the full interview!
First of all, thank you so much for giving us the extended version of “End Of Time.” We feel blessed. The fan reception has been great! What made you give in to that request from fans?
I just really agreed! I also felt like it was supposed to be longer. And I don’t know if they uploaded it with a mistake or something, but when I listened to it, I was like, “What the fuck is going on?” And then, obviously, I didn’t know that it was possible to just switch it out, but then I spoke to my manager, and apparently, it’s not that hard! So, it took like one or two weeks for Spotify to update… I just felt like it made a lot of sense. And also, if my fans feel like they’re being heard, that’s really good for me too. It just also creates that relationship where I appreciate you guys so much, so if I can make something that makes you guys even happier that I also agree with… If I didn’t [also] think that it was a better idea, I probably wouldn’t have done it just because other people said it. But I just felt like it was the way to do it.
The music video for “End Of Time” is amazing and has such a beautiful throughline. What inspired the concept?
I did actually make a music video before this one that was a lot more… It didn’t really have a story to it. It looked cool, but nothing happened. I feel like [“End Of Time”] is so emotional and passionate, and I really wanted to feel that through the screen. I wanted it to tell a story. I love a good story in music videos. Like, my favorite music videos from me are probably “Never Forget You” and “Symphony,” two videos that you feel like you relate to the characters. You know, it’s like a mini-movie! It leaves an impression on you, so I really wanted to do something like that for the video.
Because it’s a love song, I could be like, “Oh, just me and a guy,” but I wanted it to be something more meaningful than that. Not that loving someone isn’t the best thing in the world, but my first love of all in my life was music and performing. When I was a kid, that was all that I was doing. I was in front of the mirror singing to myself, imagining being in front of a crowd, and looking up at the posters on my wall, which were all Beyoncé and Christina Aguilera. When you bought magazines back in the day and they would have posters in them, they were all over my wall. So, I wanted to kind of go back and visit a younger version of me and be an inspiration for that younger version of me, but also just someone who’s like, “Keep going! Keep pushing yourself! You’re gonna do fine! Life is gonna turn out good, you’re gonna be happy, and all the things you want are going to happen!” So, yeah, it felt way more personal to me.
The “End Of Time” music video starts with a television screen showing yourself in the “Can’t Tame Her” music video. Should you release more music videos for this era, can fans expect them to remain connected in some way?
I would really want them to! I’m standing between two different songs right now. I don’t really know what direction I’m going to take it, but I would love for everything to make sense just a little bit. I feel like “Can’t Tame Her,” the video in itself, is very different from my “End Of Time” video, but they still have a small, interconnecting part of it. If it’s something like that, that would be really cool. I think it also depends on the song and the vibe of the song [as to] what video I would do, but I would really like it to connect. And also the album cover. I want everything to connect, and I think it will all make sense in the end.
You’ve described your upcoming album as dynamic, with some highs and lows. Is there anything new you can share with us about it?
So, I think I’m gonna have some exciting features, which I’m thinking about now. I know one, and I just love this person so much, and they were [genuinely] really, really down to do it as well. When I do features, I really want them to feel like, “Okay, you are excited to be part of this, and you actually like my music!” I think the best features are the features who are genuine, so that feels really, really good. And then, what else? I don’t know… I just think it’s gonna be really good [laughs].
One thing artists strive for each era is to make their next project better than the last. With Poster Girl being such a career high, how would you say this upcoming album reinvents Zara Larsson?
I would say for everyone who listened to my really early projects, like 1, which isn’t available anywhere outside of Scandinavia, so it could be hard, or my EPs, I would say it’s more back to that Zara, which is kind of, like you said earlier, dynamic. It’s very much that. I think I allow myself to also be a little still, be vulnerable, and be open to some new sounds because Poster Girl is very fun. It’s very pop, and it’s kind of pop through and through, while my other stuff has been a little bit more experimental. So I think it’s gonna go more in that direction.
Me and Rick [Nowels], who has been making the majority of the album with me… I was talking to him in the very beginning of making the album, and I was like, “Do we want a sonic red thread? Do we want a conceptual album?” And then we decided to not do that and to just put the best songs on the album and let my voice be the red thread. Some of my favorite albums, like all of Rihanna’s albums—she just makes good albums. She just makes good songs, and she makes amazing hits. That’s my goal, but then also to go in and not feel like everything has to be a number one on the radio.
I feel like every song on Poster Girl could have been a single, and I feel like [every song] can still be a single on my upcoming album, but it doesn’t feel like I’ve been writing it with that in mind. It’s more like, “Oh, it turned out to be an amazing song!” And it’s like, “Oh, well, this is just one track with one piano track and one vocal track.” It’s very naked. It doesn’t feel so obvious, in a way. It’s a little less obvious and a bit more personal—a little vulnerable. I am also giving a lot of that credit to Rick, because it’s been really nice to work with a smaller group of people for this whole project and spend so much time with them rather than doing a lot of different sessions in a small period of time. We’ve been hanging out so much, so I feel like they really know me and I really know him, which made it easier to really write songs or inspire songs that feel more connected to me… Yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see what you guys think about it [laughs].
Your choreography just keeps getting better and better. Who inspires you in dance, and how do you hope to continue evolving that talent?
You know, I’m really happy you say that, because dancing is something that you need to keep doing. It’s like math. If you don’t do it, you’ll forget it. Your body’s like, “Wait, what? What’s going on?” So, I feel like I haven’t been good to myself in that; I haven’t been dancing the way I should. But then in rehearsal, it’s like, “Shit!” Like, we’re gonna have to give it all now. But what I would like to see for the next year is to take regular dance classes and just stay on top of it. For some reason, I’m still afloat. It’s still going well. Dancing has been such a big part of my life. Before I started making music, I went to the Royal Swedish Ballet School, so I feel like I have a good foundation. All the artists that I love and that I’ve really looked up to have been singing and dancing. Everybody knows Beyoncé is my number one. She’s my number one inspiration, and I really like JaQuel [Knight] who she’s been working with a lot and who’s doing a lot of my choreo. I also just love to dance around… I’m really happy I’m together with somebody who loves to dance too. Me and my boyfriend just dance a lot at home. No pressure; just having fun with it, because I just think dancing is actually very fun. Like singing, I really enjoy it.
For “End Of Time,” what I said to JaQuel was that—and I also worked with a guy called Jacob who is a bit more contemporary—because I’ve danced so much ballet and contemporary, it would be nice to have some of the weirder, more lyrical movements and not just commercial choreography. I would really like to incorporate a little bit more of that. I think somebody who’s doing that very well [and] who’s doing it a little bit different than what we usually see is Rosalía. She has a little bit of that flamenco, Spanish touch, but she’s also her own unique kind of movement. It’s still a little commercial, but it’s different. I don’t know; I just think that it’s so cool! And I would love to do some more contemporary and ballet-inspired things to kind of go back to what I have grown up with and what I actually know more than just JaQuel steps.
You’re a social media legend, as we know, and you had a notorious TikTok “scandal” about your opinion of talking at the movies. What’s your favorite movie you’ve seen recently?
I saw The Little Mermaid! I think that was the last one. Yeah, so good. I loved it!
Sweden stays creating the best pop stars. What do you think it is about Sweden that produces such iconic women in music?
I mean, it is a good question! I get it a lot, and I don’t personally really know the answer to it. I think some people say it’s because we have good education in school and we provide students with music in school. Everybody has to learn to play a little guitar, a little piano. Maybe some schools even require their students to write a song and really do stuff like that. Or it could be that we actually, as a country, put a lot of money into education for musicians. Not even education, but like scholarships or funding. If you invest in art and artists outside of music, too, like painters, [those] in theater, or any type of art, I think it creates this safety net of knowing that I could put my passion first without having to worry about, “Will I have a roof over my head? Will I be able to afford food?” Stuff like that, which is nice because then you can really just do music. I think that actually helps a lot. It’s something I’m proud of. It’s still a capitalist country, but we do have certain things that I like about socialism. It’s not all about, “Oh, sorry, you don’t have health care! You’re gonna die on the street!” I think that helps. I do think that helps a lot that the artists can just focus on their art, and I think more countries should invest in art.
You are an artist who truly embraces being a pop star, though we have seen you dabble in other genres. What would you say keeps you wanting to make pop music?
I just think it’s so fun! I also like the show of it. I like the glamour… Certain things you just like. Sometimes when I listen to a song on New Music Friday and one of my favorites’ albums drops, or whatever it is, I listen to a song and I’m like, “I really like that!” I don’t know why it just speaks to me. And I think I grew up with, again, Britney, Christina, or Beyoncé—just girls that I thought were so cool. And I still think pop is very cool. Some people don’t see pop as very cool, and I think it’s because usually, majority [of it] is run by women. Pop is so dominated by a lot of women. Like, we’re so good at that, and it’s also very broad. A lot of people like pop. I don’t want to do this very niche, very hard-to-understand kind of music. I want as many people as possible to come to my shows; I want the things I talk about to be relatable, and I do think there is a reason that pop is one of the biggest genres. I mean, what’s fun about pop is that it is quite broad. You can be a little inspired by everything. I can still do an EDM song, or a song with Young Thug and Ty Dolla $ign, and then Clean Bandit, and then be inspired by, like, “Ooh, I can do a little bit of a jazz-inspired song or a little bit of an afrobeat,” or whatever it is, and still be pop because it’s kind of everything. A lot of artists who are R&B or even indie, I’m like, “No, babe, that’s pop.” Like, you have just packaged yourself in a way to make people believe it’s not, but you’re pop. So, it could kind of be anything that’s good and popular, I guess, and that’s what I want.
We’re glad you embrace it, though, because it seems like a lot of people don’t want to embrace the pop-star-iness of it all.
Yeah, I love that. Like, that’s my dream. I don’t know… Yeah, I still want to be a pop star. Sometimes I’m like, “Oh my God, I’m not mysterious enough!” But that’s not really me. I’ve tried to be mysterious, and I just can’t. I am not Alexa Demie; you know what I mean? It’s not me, but I still want a sparkly moment, but in a relatable way, I think.
Next year, you’re starring in Netflix’s upcoming film, A Part of You, alongside Felicia Maxime and Edvin Ryding. It’s your acting debut! How did you land the role, and what was it like stepping into acting for the first time?
So, I did the audition like a year ago, almost. I wasn’t nervous at all. I just kind of did it for fun, and I think that helped me out a little bit. I just went in and was like, “Cool! I’m just gonna do it. It’s not that big of a deal.” I thought, “If I get it, I get it. If I don’t, I don’t. It’s really fine.” But I love the script, and I think it’s quite a dark movie. It’s quite raw and real. It’s about grief, and it’s about being a young girl, but it’s also very hopeful and beautiful. I felt like it had those very intimate moments, but also the very big moments. It made me cry so much when I read the script, so it just spoke to me.
I’ve been wanting to act for a really long time, but I’ve never really took the matter into my own hands. I did audition for Madonna, though. I did actually do that! But yeah, they’re not doing that movie anymore, so whatever [laughs]! That is kind of the only role I would have done, because everything else that I’ve been asked to do has been like, “You’re gonna play a pop star,” which I kind of want to stay away from. If anything, Madonna, I would do it every day of the week. But besides that, I think I would like to do something completely different. I would just want to do drama. I want to try something else. I want to be dramatic, I want to cry, and I want to look a little ugly. Kind of the opposite of a pop star, actually, if I’m going to act. So it feels very exciting. I’m very nervous. I haven’t done my scenes yet, so I don’t know what it’s gonna be like, but I really hope I’m gonna do a good job!
Zara Larsson for an A24 movie. We need that to happen!
So, you’re currently doing shows in Europe, but we know you have a home in Los Angeles now… When is a U.S. tour happening? We are starving for one!
Yes! I’m definitely going to do a U.S. tour next year. I don’t know if I’ll start it at the end of this year, but when the album is out and everybody is ready to go… I’m definitely going to announce it around the album, so pretty soon! I don’t know where I’ll start. I’ll probably do a full Europe tour as well, but next year 100%!
We were both obsessed with your Roblox collaboration! How did that come about, and what inspires you to keep exploring new ways to share your music with fans?
Yes, it’s so interesting because I remember when me and my manager talked about it, I don’t know who approached who first. Like, if I approached Roblox or if Roblox approached me. I can’t remember how it was. But I remember when we first spoke about it, I was like, “Are you sure? Are you sure? Roblox, is it gonna be good?” But then we spoke about it and were like, “No, I think it’s actually gonna be really nice!” And the little world that they made was so beautiful. When I recorded that, I didn’t know it was going to be that big. I didn’t know it would be millions of people who would see that, and even now I have people commenting on my TikToks or my Instagram, and they’re like, “She’s the Roblox girl!”
There’s so many kids on there. I just saw that “Lush Life” came out eight years ago today, which is insane. Eight years is crazy. But a lot of those people on the platform—eight years ago, they barely existed. So for a lot of people, that was probably their first time hearing about me. If you’re like nine or 10, you may have heard one song or two, but you might not be a fan. That really is like a new way of connecting with an audience that maybe isn’t checking out your Twitter, your Instagram, or whatever. They’re not listening to the radio on the way to work. They’re children, and that’s really the crowd you want. All the people that I grew up with are in my heart. You know what I mean? I will ride for them forever, so it was just so fun. I still giggle when I see comments like that because I’m like, “Aw, that’s so nice!” Like, I really reached out to new people. It’s just funny. I laugh at it now that I was a little skeptical at first, but it was a really good show. It was a really good way of connecting with people, and now I’m kind of more open to new things like that, whatever it is. If you just do it the way you want to do it, if you’re being yourself and you put out whatever you want to put out and you don’t compromise yourself, you can kind of go wherever if you’re just being authentic. You build your little world however you want it to look, and you represent yourself in that way. I think it was such a cool idea!
Robloxians still play as your avatar to this day!
It’s so cute! I actually loved it. I’ve been on there quite a few times, like, “Hey guys!” It’s so nice. It was super cute. I didn’t know much about Roblox before. And then obviously, people who like my music were like, “Well, I might just go on Roblox and watch whatever is going on here!” But yeah, it was a really fun thing to do.
The live, online concert you did for International Women’s Day during the pandemic was truly a moment and set the standard for similar productions at the time. What was putting that together like?
Yeah, it took some time. It took some energy, time, and money. I had to spend a lot of my own money on that because I just wanted it to be so good. But then, obviously, it was together with IKEA. I’ve never really done a big production like that, especially not for a live performance or a music video, really. I mean, it was a lot of different sets. It was almost like a passion project, the way we put in the time and energy into it. I just wanted it to be really, really good. Obviously, I played with my band for a really long time, so I felt like the musical aspect of it was kind of set. I felt safe in that. I knew it was going to sound good. I knew they were going to play really good. My dancers as well; it was going to look good. It was just everything around it that I put a lot of time into, like designing or changing that, changing that, and changing that. And a lot of time on Pinterest, [getting] inspiration for what would be cool and what would look nice. Because they’re quite different from each other, all the rooms and the looks. But I felt like the lighting was super fun, [and] Anders, who was the lighting guy—he’s so talented—is also making the tour now for the summer—the lights for that. So, it did feel like a family thing. A lot of the people who were working on that are people that I have been working closely with for a long time, and it was just so nice to watch it back and be like, “It really came out so well.” I feel very proud of it.
I’m happy that we put it up again, because, what the hell? I don’t know why we took it down [laughs]! But we got it up again, and it’s definitely a moment. I think it’s a good thing. You’re right, though. If you want to find out what kind of artist I am or what my show would be like, like the type of energy or the songs, that’s a great introduction to who I am as an artist. That was kind of the idea of doing it. And then also, obviously, [to] shine a light on Women’s Day and make the cause a little bit bigger than just myself, but that is me encapsulated in a show.
Zara Larsson’s new single, “End Of Time,” is out now.
Interview by Dylan Anthony & Austin Ashburn
Words by Dylan Anthony