Dark-pop singer-songwriter Tove Lo ain’t your parents’ pop star. The NSFW Swedish songstress sings about sex, drugs, hard drinking, and other late-night exploits and has more in common with Peaches than ABBA. Here are three reasons her ACL Fest 2017 set Saturday night may have raised a few eyebrows among the uninitiated.She doesn’t shy away from sexuality.
A crowd of teenagers scream-singing along the chorus of “Talking Body” (i.e., “If you love me right we [expletive] for life”) probably isn’t something the folks with lawn chairs wandering by from the Wine Lounge expected to hear. Nor might they have expected to see a sparkly-faced Tove Lo dancing in front of a giant illuminated vagina icon, an image pulled from her last album, Lady Wood. She flashed her fans.
Exposing her chest is a regularly scheduled occurrence at Tove Lo’s live shows. In her native Sweden, Lo says attitudes about sexuality and nudity are much more relaxed. But here those two things can elicit some big reactions. (During her Saturday night set, that reaction was a thundering round of cheers and applause.) Her lyrics aren’t exactly radio-friendly.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a non hip-hop or DJ act at ACL 2017 with a bigger arsenal of F-bombs in their lyrics. Granted, it’s not that Lo’s lyrics are so profane as it is that most ACL acts are kind of squeaky clean. But, heck, there are even a couple song titles from the set I can’t type out here…
It would be easy to assume it’s all a cheap shock tactic, but, seeing Lo’s performance, her choice in lyrics and subject matter doesn’t come across as forced or fake. It feels candid and real while still being danceable and fun. It worked, and the massive crowd fanned out along the lawn at the Barton Springs Stage was enthralled and moving nonstop. Not even a lengthy sound issue that resulted in Lo leaving the stage briefly could derail her set’s momentum.
While parts of Tove Lo’s performance may have skewed R-rated, her interactions with her fans Saturday night were Hallmark Movie–level wholesome and heartwarming. Beyond jumping down from stage to embrace a sweaty throng of thrilled front-row watchers, Lo called out a fan from deep in the crowd she had met in Austin back in 2015 and then took and wore on stage a custom shirt he made for her. The scene played out on the big screen by the stage, and if the look on that adoring fan’s face didn’t give you some feelings, your feeler might be broken.
Tove Lo plays Emo’s Thursday, Oct. 12, before returning to ACL Fest next weekend.