Swedish Singer/Songwriter Cultivates Songs for Grieving

Swedish Singer/Songwriter Cultivates Songs for Grieving

Despite the fact that her name can be translated into happiness in English, the Swedish singer/songwriter Lykke Li has been successful just because she cultivates songs for grieving. 

Lykke Li (born Timotej Zachrisson 1986) has been used in advertising campaigns by brand names such as Levi’s and Victoria’s Secret, she has collaborated with artists like Røyksopp, Kayne West and Kings of Leon, but she is not impressed with today’s youth culture. She loves old music and believes that songs should have a healing effect.

Swedish Singer/Songwriter Cultivates Songs for Grieving
Lykke Li performing at BST Hyde Park 2019.

Swedish world citizen
Li Lykke was born in Ystad, Skåne by a photographer mother and a punk-reggae musician father.  Her younger brother, Zacharias Zachrisson (a.k.a. Vacation Forever), is also a musician. The family moved to Stockholm when Zachrisson was a toddler and when she was six moved to a mountaintop in Portugal where they lived for five years. The family also spent time in Lisbon and Morocco, and winters in Nepal and India.

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Lykke Li discovered the joy of music when she was seven years old, in a spartan house in Estorninhos, a Portuguese idyll with 200 inhabitants. The family had acquired their first TV, and the first thing see watched was Michael Jackson’s video “Black and White”. Later she experienced how grief was cultivated in the fado – sad songs about broken hearts, performed in Lisbon’s restaurants.

Swedish Singer/Songwriter Cultivates Songs for Grieving
Hard Rain video. Screenshot by Moley Talhaoul

Her music has been featured in several movies
She moved to Brooklyn, New York City, for three months when she was 19. She returned when she was 21 to record her first album, Youth Novels. A remixed version of her song “I’m Good, I’m Gone” was featured in the 2009 horror film Sorority Row. The song “Possibility” was written for the 2009 film The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Li had been asked to write a song to the film soundtrack but was reluctant to commit to the project. It was after she had seen an early screening of the film that she decided she wanted to contribute to the soundtrack, which was released in October 2009.

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Her debut album was followed by Wounded Rhymes (2011), I Never Learn (2014), and So Sad So Sexy (2018). Last year she teamed up with Oscar-winning producer Ludwig Göransson for her first-ever single in her native Swedish “Bron” (translated as “The Bridge” in English).

Swedish Singer/Songwriter Cultivates Songs for Grieving
“I need grief in music,” says Lykke Li. Her album “Wounded Rhymes”, has a bold, provocative sound. Photo: The Windish Agency

Pop artist noir
The Swedish noir pop artist has managed to marry her two favorite things, music and feminism. She often supports festivals celebrating women. “Then I can sing and give back at the same time,” she says.

Her positive feminist message is: “All businesses all over the world are pretty much ruled by rich white men… that’s what we’re trying to change.”

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“I need grief in music,” she says. “My records are sad, and it’s sadness I like best in all kinds of music. In all this darkness there is something very positive, something to grasp, and that helps me through the day. ” Cheerful Beach Boys, for example, are not one of her favorite groups. She prefers Leonard Cohen, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone.

In “Bron” she sings (translated from Swedish):

You go after me
But I won’t stay
Let me go.

(co-written and produced by Ludwig Göransson)

The song “Get Some” was featured in the 15th episode of the first season of Hawaii Five-0 titled “Kai e’e”. The song was also used in ABC Family’s drama “Pretty Little Liars” in the 18th episode of the second season which was titled “A Kiss Before Lying”.

Several broken love relationships
After her third album, I Never Learn, Lykke Li’s female-focused directive has become clearer. She appears as a strong woman who has widened her definition to encompass vulnerability while not sacrificing any tenacity. “I think for the first time I felt like I had arrived into being a woman.”

Lykke Li has gone through several broken love relationships, but despite song titles like «Breaking It Up” and “Unrequited Love”, she does not write classic “break-up” albums.


As close as possible to her possible truth
One of her latest releases, “Still Sad Still Sexy” is a remix EP with songs taken from her 2018 album with the same name, including alternative versions of “Deep End” and the title song and two new songs “Neon” and “Baby Doves”.

Making music, ang getting it as close to her possible truth as possible, seems to be the only way Lykke Li knows how to create

Swedish Singer/Songwriter Cultivates Songs for Grieving, written by Tor Kjolberg

Feature image (on top): Lykke Li at Primavera Sound, Barcelona 2018 © Matias Altbach/NME

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Journalist, PR and marketing consultant Tor Kjolberg has several degrees in marketing management. He started out as a marketing manager in Scandinavian companies and his last engagement before going solo was as director in one of Norway’s largest corporations. Tor realized early on that writing engaging stories was more efficient and far cheaper than paying for ads. He wrote hundreds of articles on products and services offered by the companies he worked for. Thus, he was attuned to the fact that storytelling was his passion.