On the Verge: Icona Pop crash-lands into public eye
The Swedish electro-house duo's 'I Love It' is a smash hit on TV and in advertising.
Anatomy of a hit: Swedish electro-house duo Icona Pop shot to fame the moment Lena Dunham's HBO mega-hit series Girls aired a drug-fueled, glow-stick-adorned nightclub scene in which Hannah and a compatriot mouth the words to I Love It. A million teenage girls took to their computers to Google the lyrics— I crashed my car into a bridge/ I don't care/ I love it — and 10 days later, the song made its Billboard Hot 100 debut, where it has remained since February, peaking at No. 9. The song has since sold more than a million copies and continues to make the rounds on The Vampire Diaries, Glee, Fashion Star, Arrow, EA's Need for Speed video game, trailers for Fun Size and Girl Most Likely, and in ads for Dr. Pepper, Smirnoff, ShoeDazzle and Samsung.
In real life, no actual cars were harmed, however, and the song and the girls behind it have crashed into the public eye faster than, well, a car into a bridge. With high-profile live gigs at the Governor's Ball, Lollapolooza and the Billboard Music Awards set for summer, and performances at SXSW, Ultra Music Festival, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Dancing With the Stars, the Today show and Good Morning America under their belts, the duo of Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt show no sign of slowing down.
What the future holds: "To be honest, we're just living in this chaos — great chaos — right now and we don't really know what's going to happen," Hjelt says of the group's plans to finish out its phenomenal year. After opening for tours with Passion Pit and Marina & the Diamonds, the two are on a world tour of their own in anticipation of Icona Pop's full-length debut album. "We'll be all over the world, to the ends of the earth, touring. No one will miss us anywhere and we couldn't be happier about it because this is exactly how we wanted it to be."
The as-yet-untitled record will arrive later this year on Big Beat Records, the electronic dance music subsidiary of Atlantic Records, and will feature collaborations with The Cardigans' Peter Svennson and storied producers Shellback (responsible for hits like Pink's So What, Taylor Swift's We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and Maroon 5's Moves Like Jagger) and Kool Kojack (Ke$ha's Blow, Flo Rida's Right Round).
Electric Ladyland: Jawo met Hjelt at a party at the latter's Sweden home in the winter of 2009, and Icona Pop was formed the very next day. "I think we felt kind of invincible together, and we wanted to show people," remembers Hjelt, who described their immediate platonic spark as "electric." After moves to London and later the States, the band celebrated its four-year anniversary in February.
Prior to forming the group, Jawo played the cowbell and sang lead vocals for an otherwise all-male rock band, Tickdoll, while Hjelt eschewed the "girl drama of an all-girl group" for a solo career.
The two, who experienced their first tastes of success with 2011 debut EP Nights Like This and Manners, the first single off their Iconic EP, attribute their phenomenal success in part to their enduring friendship, which began under less-than-stellar circumstances. "Aino was dumped by her boyfriend, and I was kind of down because nothing was working out for me with the love life or my music, so I was throwing a lot of parties at my place," Hjelt says. "We just felt instantly that we had something special and we went out raving, dancing in the moonlight, and that afternoon I woke up and I thought, 'Oh, wow, I feel like we really have to collaborate.' Apparently Aino felt the same, because she called me and said, 'Hey, I'm on my way with a computer and a bottle of wine' and we wrote our first song. Three days later, we booked our first gig, and one month later, we played it. So that kind of explains how we are as friends and how natural the whole process actually felt."
"I lived with my boyfriend and we thought our apartment was too small!" says a laughing Jawo, who says the two are constantly together on tour and on their days off and attributes their chemistry to being able to read each other's energy. "The main thing is the respect we have for each other. We're not drama queens."
'80s girls: Even though one of their most oft-repeated lyrics protests, "You're from the seventies, but I'm a nineties b----," Hjelt and Jawo, 25 and 26, were in fact born into late-1980s-era musical families from suburban Sweden. Although I Love It was co-written by friend and fellow musician Charlotte Aitchison, who performs under the name Charli XCX, the duo feels very connected to the tune.
"It's such an emotional feeling when you watch the connection you have with your audience," says Jawo. "When we saw the Girls episode, we were just laughing and crying at the same time. It was just one of those moments where you realize your dreams are coming true. We're very proud."
The song is about dating older men, Jawo says. "It makes love so complicated even though love is supposed to be the purest thing on earth. It's like, 'You'll understand when you get older.' "
"But love is love!" Hjelt insists. "You can be in love when you're six, and you can be in love when you're 80 or 90."
"And, yes, it's a true story," Jawo says of the song's lyrics. "Except 'I crashed my car into a bridge.' (Only) in our heads we've done that."
"We've been crashing a lot of expensive cars in our heads," Hjelt adds.
Not one-hit wonders: In the pop industry, next big things come and go. So what does it take to stand out in a sea of one-hit wonders? "It's hard to say because often it's just about coming out at the right time, but I mean, you don't want to sound like everyone else," Jawo says. "There's a lot of bands that sound like Katy Perry or people like that, but the others (who come after) just become shadows of the bigger artists."
"It's very easy to get out there and create a buzz, but the hard part is to stay," Hjelt agrees. "I don't think you have to be that genius to get a song out there and make it. You just have to have the right timing, something weird, something that stands out, but it's the second and third ones that really count if you want to stay."
i hope the US version of the album doesn't differ too much bc it's perfect the way it is