Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden
Fun Fact: A then-unknown Li got one of her first Stateside gigs by telling a clueless New York City booking agent that she was a famous Swedish singer.
Why She’s Worth Watching: The genre-hopping firecracker combines organic instrumentation with her unique voice and a distinctly danceable sensibility, to mesmerizing effect.
For Fans Of: Robyn, early Madonna, The Cardigans
Precocious chanteuse Lykke Li might be on the verge of living out her childhood fantasy of becoming an international star, but when Paste recently spoke to the burgeoning sartorial icon (her signature high-on-the-head bun has already become a trend in her native Sweden), she was engaged in some truly gasp-worthy behavior: tidying up.
“Before, I used to go out a lot—me and my friends, we would really go mad in Stockholm because it’s so small, you have to create your own fun,” the 22-year-old Li says, the clatter of dishes echoing faintly in the background. “Once, we dressed up in black hoodies and went out on a Saturday night and sprayed graffiti all over town. But now I’m like an old man… this is my night off and I’m cleaning my house.”
Li can be forgiven for indulging her domestic sensibilities for one evening. Since the onset of 2008, she’s been crisscrossing the globe, playing tiny clubs and massive festivals while promoting her debut album, Youth Novels, which features the irresistibly catchy “Little Bit.” In the song, Li coos a universal sentiment—”I think I’m a little bit, a little bit, a little bit in love with you”—over a percussive hodgepodge representing her polyglot upbringing spent in the rural mountains of Portugal and the bustling marketplaces of India.
The worldly lass is prepping for the U.S. release of Youth Novels, produced by fellow Swede Bjorn Yttling (of Peter, Bjorn and John), on her own LL Recordings label, a savvy move motivated both by Li’s keen business acumen and her control-freak tendencies.
“I decided very early on that when I had the chance to do an album, I’m gonna do it on my own label,” Li says. “I wanted to be in control of my career and able to do whatever I wanted. I just want to be a happy, creative person and I want to give back to society and I don’t want to go into that whole starve, Botox yourself, shave your head, kind of cocaine overdose thing.”
And the perspicacious Li knows that this is just the first square in her yellow brick road. Youth Novels is the portrait of an artist gingerly stepping into the spotlight, a combination of body-movin’ bangers, spoken-word musings and ballads—all united by Ytlling’s nuanced, spacious vibe and Li’s childlike vocals, which address topics ranging from obsession to depression to commitment-phobia.
“I get really scared when people try to judge me already,” she says, “because I don’t want to be cornered yet. This is just the first baby-baby steps I took in my artistic career, so I just hope people let me do more, and do weird stuff, as well.”