Swedish Pop giant, Zara Larsson, is no stranger to the spotlight. Having produced several smash hits including ‘Lush Life’ and ‘Never Forget You’, it should come as no surprise that Larsson continues to solidify her presence in the international pop scene with the release of Poster Girl.
Marking four years since her first international release, the singer’s newest album features twelve tracks that trace Larsson’s growth into a more mature sound. Threading together her observations on love with reflections on the transition into womanhood, Larsson intertwines elements of R&B, disco, and 80’s synth beats to create songs that play on the sonic thrills of glittery pop music.
Love is an endless source of fascination for Larsson. Whether the toxicity of ‘Ruin My Life’, the flirty butterflies of ‘FFF’, or the thrilling narrative of ‘Look What You’ve Done’ (who knew a woman on the run from the police could sound so good?), Poster Girl breathes an exciting dramaticism into a topic that is often criticised for its overuse. It probably helps that Larsson left no room for soppy ballads, instead infusing the ups and downs of love with funky beats that highlighted an overarching optimism for the future.
Larsson’s – and pop music’s – focus on love is nothing new, but the singer was keen to keep exploring it as a cohesive concept for her album. Love is addressed through relationships and narratives, but Larsson also recognises the importance of self-love and experience. This is where the lows of love (and its propensity for vulnerability) becomes one of the core themes of Poster Girl.
Speaking to Paper, Larsson explained how “In everyday life, I see myself as a very strong woman… So if I could just be strong, but still say I’m weak in this, or I feel sad in this, it’s like life.” Through love, Larsson expands on how our experiences define our ability to mature and grow; development shouldn’t just focus on our strengths, but also our vulnerabilities and weaknesses too. In allowing herself to be shown as vulnerable, Larsson envisioned her growth into a strong woman who learned from her experiences.
Poster Girl delves into Larsson’s wish to celebrate her growth as a woman, and in many ways pays tribute to other women in the music industry who inspired her growing up. For example, the cover art for the album pays homage to how a young Larsson would decorate her childhood bedroom with posters of Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, and Rihanna; by placing her own image on the bedroom wall, Larsson highlighted her wish to set a similar example
for young girls who grow up dreaming to be a performer. Poster Girl acknowledges Larsson’s stepping into a new phase of her life, one which has seen her grow into what she aspired to be.
Larsson also made sure that she had a central hand in the creation of the album and its projects, while employing the help of other women in the industry to materialise her vision. Writing credits include Julia Michaels, Sarah Aarons, and Kamille, giving the album a female-centric vision of the themes Larsson wanted to explore. Speaking again to Paper, Larsson commented: “I want to give women a seat in the writers room, you know. Let’s say we accidentally write a smash hit. Why would I give that to a man?”
Raising up the voices and talents of women was central to Poster Girl, matching up to the messages of female empowerment that are interlaced into many of its tracks. The music videos also upheld Larsson’s wish to support women within the music industry, with the likes of Charlotte Rutherford and Viivi Huuska in the director’s seat. Larsson herself is also noted for co-directing some of her content, specifically the music video for ‘Talk About Love’.
The release of Poster Girl follows the long-running resurgence of dance-based pop music, which has recently propelled Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, and Lady Gaga into new realms of stardom. For Larsson, however, this is just another opportunity for to refine her sound while honouring the influences she grew up with. While there are elements of disco and 80’s dancefloor anthems, the branding of Larsson’s music – her honesty, her interest in the intricacies of relationships, and the upbeat mixing of genres – is distinctly her own.
Larsson will be celebrating the release of her album with an online concert via YouTube on the 8th of March 2021, presented through Live Nation and IKEA. Aptly falling on International Women’s Day, the livestream will be the first time Larsson will perform the songs from Poster Girl live. Watch the show here at 7PM GMT.
Words By Charlie Colville