Danish singer/songwriter Karen Marie Aagaard Ørsted Andersen, or MØ as she’s known professionally, is no stranger to strong, steadfast style. For a while now she’s performed across the world sporting a high, braided pony tail, a style chosen for both optics (when she took the stage at Roskilde festival in 2016 many fans in the crowd were wearing a similar style) and to keep the sweaty hair off her face while dancing onstage. But four months ago, feeling the tug of her return to Saturn, the 29-year-old decided it was time for a change.
“Oh my god, that’s my new hairstyle!” she says, letting out a joking wail as she recounts the moment she spotted Juliette Lewis in Natural Born Killers. “That’s the new me! I was ready to challenge myself. Something new has to happen, seriously. There was a couple of years where I tried to color my hair blond and cut it a little bit but I couldn’t really find the right hairstyle.”
Andersen doesn’t deny the symbolic nature of the makeover. After three years of heavy touring behind her 2014 release No Mythologies to Follow, it was time to usher in a new era. The album established herself as a formidable electro pop vocalist with an outsider’s ear for production: her songs dotted with double-dutch chants turned into beats, Detroit soul-style horns, and vocal loops, which created a girl group-reminiscent backing choir. It wasn’t until her 2015 collaboration with Major Lazer, however, that the artist transcended “critical darling” status. On the tropically tinted house track (which both Rihanna and Nicki Minaj turned down) Andersen commands attention, her lightly accented English vocals carrying the song with an arena-act intensity.
“Lean On” marked a dramatic change for Andersen, an artist that once called Copenhagen’s infamous hippy commune Christiania home. The track became Spotify’s most-streamed song. (“A song was made out of pure love and fun, and it can actually become a big song worldwide,” Andersen says, pleasure evident in the words. “So that was a great experience.”) It also marked her transition into viable top line vocalist and collaborator—a musical muscle that for a time she enjoyed exercising.
But despite releasing a handful of singles, including 2016’s “Drum” and “Final Song,” Andersen missed constructing complete musical worlds. That desire led her to begin working on When I Was Young earlier this year. Beats that range from hip-hop to house and, once again, child-like choirs make an appearance on the album in “Runaway” as do dramatic drops on “When I Was Young” and slinky horns in “Turn My Heart to Stone.” Andersen has never been shy about letting listeners into her internal monologue. (“I’m not just a fuck-up/I’m the fuck-up you need,” she moans on the Snakehips collaboration “Don’t Leave.”) But for the first time, her emotive stories feature relatively fresh battle scars.
“In a lot of my songs in general, and my songwriting and my life, I’m nostalgic,” Andersen says. “I’m looking back and glorifying. Daydreaming about what’s going to happen. But I think for me this EP is very much about the journey I’ve been on for the past four years.”
From flirtations to breakups, it’s also a love-centric release, although Andersen connects more with her own feelings than the fates of her unnamed partners. For her part, she admits that she’s no stranger to romantic drama—her first proper kiss at 13 wasn’t with the object of her affection, but rather his best friend. (“We made out on the ferry on a school trip,” she moans. “And then I regretted it so much afterwards.”) But, having been in a stable relationship for the last two years, she’s moved past rocky romances. Somewhat. As the artist revels, the clattering heartbreak ballad “BB” was preemptively written in her now-boyfriend’s honor.
“I wrote the song when we were just getting together,” says Andersen. “I wrote it as a tribute to if he was going to break up with me, it would be my heartbreak song. I was so in love. If you don’t want me, I’m just going to be in love with you forever and it’ll be fine.”
“I’m looking back and glorifying. Daydreaming about what’s going to happen. But I think for me this EP is very much about the journey I’ve been on for the past four years.”
Although she could easily become a super-saturated pop hero—seemingly appearing everywhere at once—Andersen’s desires right now are to slow down, focus, and fight the artistic FOMO that led her to the brief burnout in early 2016. Work on her sophomore album is well underway, and there’s a slowly expanding string of 2018 tour dates.
“When it comes to art, I’ve notoriously been super bad at saying no,” Andersen confesses. “I’m still immature. Oh, yeah—I’ll do it all! I forget to be practical. That’s something I’m learning. But I feel like I’m getting better. I’m learning to prioritize. But it’s taken me a while for sure.”
At this brutal self-evaluation she laughs. “I’m a slow learner, but I do learn!”END
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