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There's Mø Limits

She’s the Scandinavian pop star du jour with a massive Avicii smash under her belt. Weirdly, though, Mø would rather not dwell on her biggest hit to date. For her, it’s about keeping it underground and edgy

Ed Power, 18 Nov 2013



Karen Marie Ørsted shifts a little uncomfortably in her seat. “Working with Avicii was just a funny thing I did,” she says. “I think it’s always nice to try something different. I like to challenge myself.”

 

She’s a little wary of broaching ‘Dear Boy’, her hands-in-the-air collaboration with EDM’s biggest, arguably naffest, brand. As electro pop ingenue Mø, Karen is all about the edge: her songs are smart and sharp, joyously avant-garde. Avicii, whose latest album combines throbbing house beats and Mumford and Sons banjo dirges, is none of these things. She’s worried about crossing the streams.

“It was such a long time since I even did it. It was just me having fun in my vocal box, really. I was screaming – seeing what would happen. I see them as two different things. It isn’t a ‘Mø’ project.”

She smiles and looks away when Hot Press canvasses for her opinion on Avicii. “It is different from what I enjoy doing,” she says, which, even allowing for the fact English is not her first language, doesn’t sound much like a ringing endorsement.

Some artists would simply shut down this line of inquiry entirely. That’s not Karen’s style. On stage, she’s a proper art-rock dervish – a riot of flared nostrils and popping eyeballs. Seated in a Dublin hotel several hours before an AlunaGeorge support gig, however, she couldn’t be less like her stage self. She is shy, giggly and very grounded.

“I grew up in a small town where there was very little to do,” she says. “You’d put on your hoodie, hang around, watch people, walking past. It was pretty boring.”

She found an outlet for her restlessness in a teenage riot girl band with whom she sang and played keyboards. Soon she started to write songs away from the group. Mostly electronic and infused with a melodic sensibility she hadn’t known she possessed, the recordings made their way to Sony Music in Copenhagen and, just like that, Mø was born.

Denmark can be a difficult place to break out of. Whereas critics and audiences are readily receptive to artists from Sweden, assuming they are steeped in the Abba-esque knack of imbuing uplifting music with a world of sadness, the southern neighbour is a more an unknown quantity. We have the Danes to thank for ‘Barbie Girl’ – more a German style euro-stomper than a piece of Scandi pop genius – and several so-so post rock groups. Mø agrees than Denmark can hold artists back, though not for the reasons you might expect.

“In Denmark, we are so privileged. You have so many choices. You can do whatever you want and, if you don’t, you get money from the government anyway. People have nothing to shout about. It’s hard to push back. You can go into a comfort zone and stay there.”

You might expect the phlegmatic Danes to be immune to the traditional music industry hype. In fact, there is a lot of buzz back home about Mø. It’s getting so that she can’t walk around Copenhagen without being recognised.

“There has been some of that in Denmark,” she nods. “We Danes do hype as well. However, it hasn’t got to a point where I cannot handle it. I feel I have had the space to work on my album. It is completed now. The decision has been made to hold it until early next year. From a business perspective, they have identified that as a good release time.”

For a moment you wonder if you are speaking to a trainee accountant rather than a high-kicking, mildly scandalous pop star. Hot Press observes that the polite young woman seated opposite is in vivid contrast to the Mø who shrieks and snarls her way across stage.


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