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.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R.AGE - By KEVIN TAN allther­age@thes­tar.com.my

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.

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