TIME Music

Review: Tove Lo Is Far From Sunny on Queen of the Clouds

Island Records

Sharp lyrics and finely tooled production power one of the year's strongest pop releases

You many not know 26-year-old Tove Lo by name, but you’ve probably heard her voice: “Habits (Stay High),” the debut single from the Swedish singer-songwriter, is currently climbing the upper reaches of the Billboard Hot 100, nearly 18 months after its initial release back in March 2013. If “Habits” has had a slow burn, it’s nonetheless earned its spot on radio: the song is a hazy paean to post-breakup debauchery that sounds like nothing else in the mainstream. (Except maybe her fellow Scandic siren Robyn — if Robyn were addicted to cough syrup.) “Habits” sets the tone for Lo’s timely first album Queen of the Clouds (out Sept. 30 on Island Records), which announces her arrival as pop’s messiest, most winsomely addled diva. Assisted by throbbing, gloomy production, Lo uses her little-girl voice to wonderfully discordant effect on electropop anthems about heartbreak and headaches — the kind that follow a night of reckless partying.

But make no mistake: there’s a razorlike precision to these songs that belies her rough-around-the-edges persona. Lo (real name: Tove Nilsson) is an acolyte of super-producers Max Martin and Shellback, who have helped helm singles for superstars like Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, and it shows in her songcraft. Clouds is roughly divided into three parts — The Sex, The Love and The Pain — although that conceit doesn’t totally stand up, as most of the songs touch all three. The tracks all have a satisfying stomp and crash, but it’s her lyrics that shine brightest, trading in pop clichés but flipping them in the same breath.

Lo can be vulgar, as on the lusty “Talking Body,” which sets a scabrous singalong hook against some of Shellback’s irresistibly catchy production, but that sexiness is shot through with frustration; she owns her desire, full-throttle. “Moments,” meanwhile, is ostensibly a love song, though it works on tongue-in-cheek self-deprecation: “I might get a little drunk… but on good days I am charming as f–k,” she sings. And for all her self-medicating tendencies, she easily turns plaintive: “I’m not on drugs, I’m just in love,” she insists on “Not On Drugs.” Best of all is the madcap stampede “Timebomb,” with talky lyrics and a chorus that explodes like a confetti cannon. (No surprise that it claims Klas Ahlund as a co-writer, since he had a hand in Robyn’s heartbreaking “Be Mine!”, a song with similar happy-sad tones.)

In a year where pop has been pretty toothless, Lo has a sharp bite — and the hooks are commercial enough to give her a fighting chance at stateside stardom. Taken all at once, Queen of the Clouds packs an unusually heady buzz.

TIME Music

Robyn and Röyksopp: ‘We Have Been Slightly Ahead of Our Time’

Röyksopp & Robyn
Röyksopp & Robyn Cherrytree Records

The Swedish songbird says she's finishing a new solo EP after making a mini-album with the acclaimed Norwegian producers

After taking a few years off from releasing new music, Norway’s legendary electronic duo Röyksopp and Sweden’s reigning pop star Robyn teamed up this past May for the collaborative effort, Do It Again. Not quite Robyn songs, but not quite Röyksopp songs, either, the record was something else entirely — a moody, five-song set that ran the gamut from chilled-out instrumentals to heart-pumping club-bangers (and, accordingly, deserved its own separate release). “We’ve talked a bit about how we have good chemistry and how everything comes naturally to us in our operation,” says Röyksopp’s Torbjørn Brundtland. “When we came together, there was no blueprint for what to do.”

TIME caught up with the trio the day before their Wednesday show at New York City’s Pier 97 to talk about dancing, collaborating and how to write music that’s timeless.

TIME: Do It Again includes hook-driven pop as well as some of the most avant-garde material of your careers. Is a song like “Monument” on the same dance music spectrum as “Do It Again,” or is it something else entirely?

Torbjørn Brundtland: It’s not really dance music — it’s not as if we strived to make a song that would be most suitable on the dance floor. But it’s part of what we do. We like that musicality in dance music and always have.

Svein Berge: Club music is where we hail from, with a hint of pop, obviously. So that’s where we have our background and that’s something we’ll not easily let go of, but it’s not as if we’re trying to make a main-room stomper. But it will be there, those elements.

Robyn: But then we actually made a stomper, too, but it wasn’t on purpose. I think that “Do It Again” was accidental. That’s how we described it, officially. We didn’t think about that when we started making it. We started making it with this pad — [hums the chords] — so it had nothing to do with the way it ended up at all.

SB: But it’s good to let the track take control and just tag along with it.

It’s interesting to hear you say you didn’t set out to make dance music because for you, Robyn, I can’t think of another artist who has more songs about dancing. Are you going to make more songs about dancing? Is the songs-about-dancing moment still in you?

R: I don’t know. You never know what’s going to happen in the future.

TB: How many songs has she made about dancing, though?

Well, Body Talk felt like it was so much about dancing.

R: Yeah, Body Talk was about body and dance and maybe club culture. “Indestructible,” “Dancing On My Own” and “Dancehall Queen.” But I think, definitely, there’s that on this album, too, but in a different way. It’s not about the actual act of dancing. But I think “Monument” is very much about the physicality, maybe that’s where it’s at.

SB: But you also have a lot of movement in you, if I can say so.

R: Yes, I do!

SB: And obviously, that is expressed when you perform live as well. It’s not something you do for the sake of doing it — you do it because that’s what you do.

Robyn, you’ve been playing new songs on the tour. Are they finished? Is that a taste of what’s to come?

R: Some of them are actually finished and mixed. But when we started this tour, I felt like the main reason for doing this was to go out on the road with Svein and Torbjørn and play the music that we just made. Part of why we made the album was so we could go back on tour together, because we’ve done it before and it’s been fun. But because we were doing our own sets as well, I felt like I wanted to play new material if I was going to play my own set, too.

I’ve been working on this EP with Markus [Jägerstedt], who’s in my band, and a producer by the name of Christian Falk, who is this Swedish guy that I worked with for many years, since I was like 15 — we worked on my first album, even. He tragically and very sadly passed away two weeks ago. He was sick for a while before he died, and that’s also one of the reasons I wanted to make sure that we got that material out there, before he actually disappeared from the face of this earth. So he was able to be a part of that a little bit before he went. It’s also changed the songs a little bit, me and Markus are still working on it. It’s going to be strange, but very healing, to finish the record without Christian. But it’s really nice to be able to play material that’s not finished, and I think that’s a lot of how it used to be back in the day. I was in the studio with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis a couple of months ago, and they told me that’s how a lot of the stuff they did with the Time happened. They played it live and they saw how people reacted to it, and they changed the set and stuff.

Röyksopp, your track “Only This Moment” [from 2005] still sounds so fresh — like it could be released today. How has your sound evolved over the years?

SB: Can I seize this opportunity to blow our own mutual horn for a second? We feel that we have been slightly ahead of our time when it comes to production. Is that okay to say?

R: Yeah! It’s feisty, but you can say that.

SB: I don’t mind being feisty. We strive in terms of production, in terms of the soundscapes that we create, to give it longevity so it doesn’t sound dated like, “April 2013! Just listen to the snap!” Obviously it’s tied to a certain time period, but you want it to have a long-lasting feel. This is something we strived for with this release as well. We always want to give it longevity and identity, which makes it standout with a unique expression.

R: I think that’s what’s so amazing about Svein and Torbjørn— I’m going to blow your horn as well — they have so many qualities, but I think their best quality is being able to make sounds and soundscapes that have lots of layers but still are very well thought-out. They are also open and playful. Without saying that you have not been appreciated the last years, I sometimes feel you’ve been a little looked over when it comes to the actual quality of the music.

Robyn, was there a switch for you when you started thinking about music the way they’re talking about it, or did you always approach it like that?

R: When I started making music, I made music in a very commercial space and I didn’t have room to really explore things on my own terms. It took me awhile to create a little bubble where I could explore other things, and new things. When I did that, my tools were songwriting and arranging. If you have the patience to really stay with your idea and push yourself beyond that first point where you’re inspired and have something to say, you get to this other point — where you become alive, in a way. There’s room for more than just that first, instant emotion that everyone can connect to. That’s in there, too. But it’s not going to be like an open book. You have to get into it.

SB: Obviously Robyn’s artistic sessions prior to doing things with us are clear evidence of the voice — not the singing voice, but the voice within. It’s Robyn to the bone. It’s all hers, not someone else’s voice.

R: My main skill is not making sounds, but I think I have the same way of looking at music as Svein and Torbjørn. You have to work through the layers. You have to do your homework in a way and be thorough. When you do that, things tend to last. You have to invest something. If you don’t risk something that really matters to you — like your integrity, or your pride, or your time, or your security, or your reputation — if you don’t risk yourself, you can hear it right away.

Scandinavia’s music scene seems so collaborative, like there’s a spirit of people working freely together there. Are there people you want to work with that you haven’t yet?

R: I think that we are very collaborative here in America as well. But I think what’s different is, in smaller countries, the music industry is not as big. It’s not where you go into the studio and say, “Yeah, let’s write a song! My fee is $25,000 a day.” Or, “You’ll get this beat, but you have to pay $50,000.” [In Sweden and Norway], you make music and see what happens. It’s not like people are charging each other for writing songs together. I think one of Max Martin’s first decisions when he started his career as a songwriter was to never work with established artists. I think that also goes for who you want to work with. It’s more about what you can create now, rather than working with someone who’s already created what you want to do.

Robyn, you mentioned getting into a creative bubble earlier. Did you struggle to find your way back to that after the success of Body Talk?

R: For me, it was an effort to just make music with Svein and Torbjørn because we had already said it would be nice to do it — to do it again! — to do more stuff together. You guys were also at the beginning of a record and figuring out what to do. It’s nice to not have a goal, to not have a set format. It’s very liberating to just get out of our comfort zones and be in a new space.

SB: And we felt the same way, having the insight to know that this is the time we should do this, and we just did it, without even deciding what it is. No plan, no nothing. Just make music.

TIME remembrance

Nathan Lane on Robin Williams: “[He] Made Me Laugh So Hard and So Long That I Cried”

Nathan Lane and Robin Williams
Bruce Glikas—FilmMagic/Getty Images

The two actors co-starred in the beloved comedy The Birdcage

Updated at 9:25 PM EST to include complete statement.

Nathan Lane and Robin Williams made comedy history when they co-starred in the 1996 film The Birdcage, the hit film version of the much-adapted French play La Cage aux Folles. They played domestic partners, Williams as the owner as a drag club and Lane as its histrionic star.

In a statement to TIME, Lane remembers his friend and colleague, who died Aug. 11 at the age of 63:

One day in 1995 while riffing in the character of a snobby French toy store owner, Robin made me laugh so hard and so long that I cried. It seemed to please him to no end. Yesterday I cried again at the thought that he was gone. What I will always remember about Robin, perhaps even more than his comic genius, extraordinary talent, and astounding intellect, was his huge heart — his tremendous kindness, generosity, and compassion as an acting partner, colleague, and fellow traveler in a difficult world. My heartfelt condolences to his wife and family.

TIME remembrance

Robin Williams Dead: Celebrities Mourn on Social Media

The Crazy Ones
Monty Brinton—CBS/Getty Images

Comedians, actors and entertainers react to the iconic actor's tragic passing

News broke on Aug. 11 that the comedian and actor Robin Williams has died at age 63.

Police in Marin County, Calif. said the beloved star of movies such as Aladdin, Mrs Doubtfire, and Good Will Hunting was found dead in a suspected suicide.

His peers and admirers in the entertainment industry quickly took to Twitter to share memories of their friend and colleague.

TIME Television

Taradise Lost: Tara Reid’s Sharknado Comeback

Sharknado 2: The Second One
Tara Reid as April Wexler in Sharknado 2: The Second One. Jaimie Trueblood—Syfy

The Sharknado star and notorious party girl gets older, and wiser — maybe

Tara Reid did not expect Sharknado to be her big comeback, but she’s learned better than to try to predict when opportunity will knock. She is 38 years old now and she has, as she often says, been working her entire life. Though she is lean and striking, there’s something a little bit brittle about her. She’s gone crinkly at the eyes, but her teeth are still gleaming, movie-star white.

She believes that her time is coming back around — or, at least, she hopes so. “I think people are saying, ‘This girl has lasting power. She’s been in this business since she was 6 years old,'” Reid says. “I’ve done over 45 movies. Regardless if they’re A movies, B movies, C movies, D movies. I always stay working. I love what I do.”

A beat. “Would I love to be doing it with Brad Pitt?” she asks. “Yes. Who wouldn’t? Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough for that to happen, but if it doesn’t, I’m still doing the job I love, and I still make a good living.”

It’s March, and we’re in a midtown Manhattan hotel, where she orders tea and sits cross-legged on a sofa. She is in production on a new film, Sharknado 2: The Second One, the sequel to the 2013 B-movie about, as the title suggests, a freak tornado carrying man-eating sharks that ravages Los Angeles. The first Sharknado became an unexpected viral hit and instant camp classic, creating a self-conscious media furor; it was Reid’s first buzzy role after nearly a decade of straight-to-video horror flicks and bawdy comedies. (Her lone major-studio release in recent years was 2012’s American Reunion, the fourth American Pie film, which saw her reprising her role from the original sex comedy that helped make her a star.) But the success of Sharknado has given her a new sense of purpose, and she is excited for the world to see the second installment, which takes place in New York and, she says, is even more entertaining than the first.

Sharknado was a fun, silly movie that we made — we knew it was ridiculous. The second one is still ridiculous. But this one has a heart,” she says earnestly. “It’s not like I did Titanic, or I’m up for an Academy Award. In that way, it did nothing for my career. It certainly showed the popularity in the fans that I have. Throughout the years I’ve lost the credibility of how much I did have, with things that weren’t always in my favor.”

She’s talking about her reputation as a party girl in the tabloids, which precedes even the TMZ era. “I was the first one,” she says. “I was before Paris Hilton, before Lindsay Lohan. I’m the oldest one, and I started selling their magazines. They still want to make me that. The magazines aren’t even letting me grow up, and that’s what’s hurting me with the character roles. They need to let me be the woman I am now, not the girl. There’s a big difference.”

But her public persona is indelible now, after so many years of being trailed by the paparazzi. At the peak of her popularity, riding her sex symbol status in the wake of a string of successful films (most notably, American Pie, but also Cruel Intentions and Josie and the Pussycats), Reid was at every event, every nightclub, alongside the turn-of-the-millennium celebutantes who grabbed headlines every time they stepped outside.

A withering 2003 profile of Paris Hilton in Rolling Stone featured Tara Reid as a peripheral cast member, partying with Hilton at a Los Angeles nightclub. (Reid is shrieking into her phone: “Tell him if he doesn’t get here in five minutes, I’m going to fuck him up personally!”) Reid used her party-girl image to snag an E! reality show called Taradise, which followed her around the world as she visited global party spots, drinking to excess with the locals.

“If I was staying home and I’m not gonna get the meetings anyway, then what’s gonna happen?” Reid says of her past. “You feel like you’re in jail. You’re not going to get the parts. You’re trying to be on your best behavior and no one respects it. So you might as well just travel the world, meet new people, have fun. I can get hit by a bus, or fall on ice and die. At least I can say I’ve lived a really full life. I could have changed a couple things, but that’s part of growing up. You don’t learn if you don’t make mistakes. And I’ve made many mistakes.”

By 2006, the tides had turned. Taradise had been canceled. The state of affairs back then is summed up nicely by a paparazzi video from 2006 that shows Reid waiting in line to enter the Hollywood hotspot Hyde, being told the club is at capacity. Moments later, Paris Hilton — gazelle-like, her Chanel necklace glinting — enters the club, a pre-contouring Kim Kardashian in tow. Hilton shoots Reid a haughty smile, and Kardashian sucks her teeth as they breeze past her. But Reid keeps waiting, anxiously toying with her T-Mobile Sidekick, fuming and fidgety.

Nearly a decade later, while Kardashian and Hilton never entirely transcended their dubious origins, they’re both still wildly successful businesswomen — Kardashian can snag the cover of Vogue, while Hilton is the face of a global empire that includes everything from fragrances to hotels — whereas Reid never managed to evolve fully, feeding the headlines with a string of public mishaps. There was that most infamous wardrobe malfunction, which left her standing on a red carpet with her left entire breast exposed, grinning obliviously. A series of low-budget films followed. There were more public embarrassments still: an incident in Saint-Tropez when she stumbled into a parked motorbike and knocked it over; an accidental shopping-cart theft; an impenetrably strange friendship with the British twin-brother pop duo Jedward; photos of botched plastic surgery; a Twitter persona that must be seen to be believed.

But when asked about all of this, she demurs. Though the evidence is damning, in fairness, it is true that unlike Lindsay Lohan, Reid’s nocturnal activities never seem to have interfered with her ability to behave professionally on set — but rather, to get credible work in the first place.

“I feel like a cartoon,” Reid says. “Because that’s what sells. Let’s write a bad story about Tara. Let’s show her drunk. Let’s show a party girl. Let’s show the worst situations. They see me on the red carpet looking beautiful, they see me at charities looking great, they see me doing stuff all the time — but it’s never written about. They still talk about stories from 10 years ago, my dress falling down or something ridiculous.”

She looks pained. “That’s so old. It’s not even funny. Stop. Why are you still talking about that? So many girls have made so many more mistakes. I never got in trouble. I never got a DUI. I’ve never been to jail. And yet I’m the bad girl?”

“Over the years, I’ve built a reputation that isn’t what a movie star is supposed to be like — the way the American media portrays it,” she continues. “They made a character of me that’s not even true. There’s a whole side of me that no one gets. No one knows that side about me, but nobody wants to know that side of me. Even if they do know about it, no one wants to write about it. So I’m lucky that I’m doing Sharknado right now. Do I know I have the capacity of doing more? Of course. But will I get the chance? It’s not up to me. It’s someone that’s gonna believe in me and say yes.”

In fact, talking to her in person, it’s not hard to imagine Reid tackling the types of character roles that often go to actresses like Melissa Leo and Dale Dickey — tough, weathered women, down on their luck. “It’s not that I can’t do them,” she says of more serious movies. “The studio says no. If I got the opportunity to do them, I can deliver.”

And as fun as it is to be in a movie like Sharknado, she insists she’s ready for a real challenge. “Right now, I’m not getting chances like that. Which is unfortunate.”

She sighs. “Actresses can’t hire themselves.”

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