Written in the stars
Swedish electro-pop duo Icona Pop’s success is proof that a slow career start is no reason to give up.
IF you’re not too familiar with the name Icona Pop, you’ll immediately know the group once you hear its music. With Icona Pop’s hit single I Love It taking over the airwaves around the world, being featured in video games and also TV series like Girls and Vampire Diaries, this Swedish duo is forging its own pop-centred niche in the dance music scene.
“I think some people find it annoying that they can’t really define our music, and we love that. That’s the very music we found ourselves making when we sat down together to write music,” said Caroline Hjelt, 26, during the duo’s first promo visit to Kuala Lumpur last week.
Icona Pop’s music has brought it to many countries, including an MTV Europe Music Awards performance in Amsterdam and the Mnet Asian Music Awards appearance in Hong Kong last month.
Last Friday, the duo thrilled nearly 800 fans during its intimate showcase at Club Neverland in Kuala Lumpur.
The duo’s new video All Night has kept Icona Pop in the spotlight while the girls have been one of the most blogged about acts this year.
As cool as it sounds, Icona Pop wasn’t well-received by many at the beginning of its career – even to producers.
“Many of the people we worked with in the beginning were saying things like ‘ you should do this, you should sound like this, because you’re a pop duo.’
“But wait, no! This is who we are. We are Icona Pop and we do it our way. Just because it worked for other artistes, it doesnt’t mean it would work for us,” said Aino Jawo, 27, the other half of this talented and straight-talking duo.
Despite the homegrown attention in Sweden, the duo wanted an international breakthrough and decided to put out I Love It last year, which slowly received a buzz on the Internet. From sharing links to tweets and Facebook likes, I Love It , featuring British recording artist Charli XCX, became a smash hit.
“We put the song out in Sweden, and people everywhere were just putting it up. The song started to have its own life and suddenly, we had to release it in Australia. It just started to spread and we started to travel with our music,” said Hjelt with a smile.
Back in Sweden, Hjelt and Jawo were a duo who pushed hard to carve out their own path in the music industry in the early days.
Two years and loads of groundwork later, the girls can boast an international album release This Is ... Icona Pop, which is also the main reason the duo is on tour in this region.
“I think we both met each other at a time when we needed each other, which wasn’t a perfect timing. We didn’t meet through someone who put us together and asked us to wear sparkly and shiny clothes. We came from the dirt and we didn’t have anything,” said Hjelt.
Hjelt and Jawo first met at a house party in Stockholm hosted by Hjelt. Both of them were graduates from the same music school, and during that time, Jawo was heartbroken from a break-up.
“If I hadn’t been dumped or if she (Hjelt) wasn’t frustrated, I don’t think we would’ve met in the same way. I think it was all about the timing, and I was really out there looking for something and being open for new people to come into my life. When we met, we just felt this connection and energy. I felt very welcomed,” revealed Jawo.
The next day after the party, Hjelt met up with Jawo to work on music, and the results gave them the confidence to move ahead.
“We’ve been talking a lot about how intimidating and scary it can be writing with new people. And at that time, I was pretty down, and she (Jawo) was also down, so my selfconfidence in the studio wasn’t that good. But now, even if we don’t talk about what kind of music we want to do, I feel inspired.
“I could say anything and there is no right and wrong in it. And I think that’s when you get to the (right) point of making music ... you just do it. If you start thinking, then you’re screwed,” said Hjelt.
Prior to meeting one another, both individuals had been producing their own music, but could never really head in the direction they both wanted.
Coming from a classical background, Hjelt worked with a host of musicians and producers in those circles.
“I’ve worked with so many people, and I discovered what I didn’t want to do. When I met Aino, I was like ‘Ah, so this is what it should sound like!’” said Hjelt.
Jawo disagrees with the common mindset of how pop artistes have it easy in their careers.
“When people say we took the easy way just because we play pop music, we’re like ‘you don’t seem to have an idea of the music business at all,’” she said with a laugh.
To Hjelt and Jawo, it has always been about taking a risk – to follow their creative instincts.
“If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, it’s going to be very hard for you when you need to stand up for what you’re doing. Keep the passion and the fun. People ask us what we would do if we’re not doing music, and our answer is there’s nothing else,” said Hjelt.
Self-defined pop stars: Swedish duo Icona Pop, famous for its single ILoveIt, performed in malaysia for the first time at club Neverland, Kuala Lumpur, last Friday night.
caroline Hjelt (left) was not fulfilled and satisfied with the music she was writing on her own until she met aino Jawo, when they formed Icona Pop.