Music

Zara Larsson is the most famous pop star you’ve never heard of – but that doesn’t bother her


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Zara Larsson is, by all relevant measures, one of the biggest pop stars in the world – but that doesn’t mean your average Brit knows her name.  

While you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard her music (she has multiple songs that have over a billion streams and she racks up 26 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone), you’d likely have to play someone a song before they’d say, ‘Oh yeah, I do know it! She’s who sings this song?’

The Swedish superstar, 26, has seemingly managed the impossible: Achieving worldwide fame and success without suffering the inevitable burn of a spotlight that never dims. 

When Metro.co.uk sits down to speak with her at Lord’s Cricket Grounds ahead of her headlining performance at The Hundred 2024 Final’s Day, the Lush Life singer is bubbly and warm, clearly an old pro at interviews. 

But she doesn’t exhibit the diva behaviour that so many in her position do. Instead, she has the energy of a hostess trying to ensure everyone is comfortable, making easy small talk while publicists, makeup artists, and photographers buzz around her. 

The pixie-like singer admits without self-consciousness that she’s never seen a cricket game but is open to the idea of becoming a fan, saying: ‘I haven’t seen a game yet, but I’m going to perform at the best event to watch, you know, the finals. So we’ll see from there!’

Zara Larsson sits down with Metro at Lord’s Cricket Grounds to discuss her long career and upcoming performance (Picture: )
The singer first rose to fame at only 10 years old (Picture: )

She gives the impression of a person who doesn’t have to dig very deep to summon enthusiasm, describing the upcoming performance with almost childlike glee (‘I’m gonna perform some of my favorite songs to do live, and I’ll bring my dancers, and I’ll bring lots of energy!’) but also quickly growing more stoic and thoughtful when asked about her decision to make her pro-Palestine stance known to her 8.4million Instagram followers, something that many larger artists have been criticised for not doing. 

She reflects: ‘I think I’m a very vocal person. Just as a human being. I can’t really speak for other people or why they choose not to [speak out], but I believe that as an artist or as someone with a big following, you usually have people who look – if not up to you, maybe to you?’ 

Larsson promised a high energy performance of her biggest hits at the cricket event (Picture: )

While she doesn’t necessarily feel that it’s her responsibility as an artist to be as politically vocal as she has been over the years, she does think it’s an inextricable part of who she, specifically, is: ‘So, yeah, it’s just a part of my personality. And even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could ever really shut up about stuff that I care about.’

Zara is no stranger to the pressures of having a platform. In fact, living a life in the public eye is all she’s ever known. She was just ten years old when she entered and ultimately won Talang, the Swedish version of Britain’s Got Talent, and hasn’t slowed down since. 

In 2015, Zara released Lush Life, a song that topped the charts for weeks in multiple countries. Soon after, she began working with iconic DJs and producers like David Guetta and quickly became a familiar voice on radios and dance floors all over the world with songs like Never Forget You, Girls Like, This One’s for You, Ain’t My Fault, and I Would Like.

Her 2017 debut album, So Good, remains the most-streamed debut by a female artist ever on Spotify and Larsson has been nominated for no less than four Brit Awards. And yet, she doesn’t make headlines like other singers of her caliber, a situation that she may not necessarily embrace, but at least accepts. 

When asked how she feels about her relatively low profile she says:I think it’s a Swedish thing, honestly. Where I grew up we don’t really have like, celebrity celebrities. We have famous people, but no one really bothers you when you go out. It’s a way of thinking. It’s like you’re not better than anyone else.’ 

The Swedish superstar’s music has been streamed billions of times across platforms (Picture: Maria Laura Arturi/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock)

She admits that sometimes she finds this state of affairs a bit restrictive, saying it’s ‘Sometimes like, oh, like “boring!” you know? I want to be like a little bit extra! But also it means you’re also never worse than anyone else. You know, everyone is just very equal. And no one’s better and no one’s worse. And that’s just the mentality of Swedish people.’ 

In contrast, she shares that the LA lifestyle (‘like…everyone’s like a star there.’) is just not her scene. 

‘I don’t really go to parties or I don’t care that much about who I’m hanging out with or who I have to be seen with. Like honestly, that’s a job in itself. And I just like to hang out with the people that I love,’ she says. 

When asked if it feels like a lot of pressure to continue living up to her own success, given that that success came so early, she says: ‘I think the older I get, the less pressure I feel. I think I felt the most pressure at like ten,’ she laughs, ‘It was a lot.’ 

But despite this pressure, the singer naturally gravitates towards the public eye. Zara has not only cultivated hordes of loyal listeners over the years but, as is characteristic of her generation, has always shared a lot of her life online (‘I had a blog back in the day, like every Swedish girl had their own blog.’) 

This has come with its downsides, and there have been multiple instances over the years of the pop star having to address or clarify her social media posts when faced with negative fan reactions, once even receiving an onslaught of hate for simply sharing that she didn’t care for the series 13 Reasons Why. 

But it’s clear that she has compassion for the past versions of herself that were figuring out how to be a public figure, ‘I was angry, you know?’ she says of her early career and her days blogging. 

Larsson had her first massive hit in 2015 (Picture: Allover Norway/REX/Shutterstock)
The singer recently released her fourth studio album Venus (Picture: Ibl/REX/Shutterstock)

‘I needed to find a voice for justice. I don’t know. It was a way of communicating the anger I was feeling about the inequality in the world.’

It would be easy to meet Zara and write her off as a bubbly, blonde pop princess without much substance, but this is far from the case. When asked about managing her public persona, she’s almost philosophical, making it clear that she’s closely interrogated this very question before. 

She admits that, ‘It’s hard to share the complexity of who you are as a person completely,’ she reflects. ‘But I think maybe that’s an experience of any person…All you can do is share yourself, if you want to do that, as truthfully as you can. And then however people see you, that’s, you know. I can’t be completely responsible for that.’

Larsson has long been an outspoken feminist (Picture: Ibl/REX/Shutterstock)

Now, only in her mid-twenties, the superstar is figuring out how to combine the things she wants to say to the world with her art. When asked about her thoughts on Beyonce’s country era (‘I love it, I love everything that she does, I really do. I mean, she can do no wrong and she’s Beyonce because she is Beyonce! You know? I wonder what the third act will be!’) she squeals with delight but grows more thoughtful when asked which era she’s in as an artist. 

She concludes, gesturing wildly, something that has quickly become evident to be a vital part of how she expresses herself: ‘She’s very sassy. And she is a little bit controversial. She’s dancy!’

The singer says she’s in her ‘controversial’ era (Picture: Ibl/REX/Shutterstock)

Her newest album, Venus, which came out in February, is the most authentic the artist has ever been in her music. Released to generally positive reviews, her fourth studio album is as much a declaration of self-possession as it is a compilation of listenable dance music.  

‘I want people to know, like, where I stand,’ she says of the project. ‘It’s personal and I think personal doesn’t have to be like, “oh, here’s my really, really sad song.” Personal could also be like…It’s funny. It’s me. It’s my personality.’

Being around Zara for any length of time forces one to agree with her own estimation of her success: It was always an inevitability. Her star power isn’t defined by how many people know her name but by her absolute insistence on being herself in an increasingly manufactured industry.

Find out more about Zara’s performance at The Hundred here.

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