Considering the way the internet works now, you kind of assume that when something is popular in one place, it's instantly popular everywhere else at the same time. So when I stumbled across "Flytta på dej" by Sweden's Alina Devecerski and instantly lost my shit over the electro-rave-pop track, I figured it was old news even though it had only come out about a month ago.
Turns out I was wrong, and that despite going to number one in the charts in Sweden and Norway, and number three in Denmark (so cute), there wasn't a single mention of it in any English language blogs. You realize how rare it is for any half way decent song in the world to exist right now without being obsessively blogged about ad nauseum by every single person in the world? What do, say, Icona Pop have that this song, just as infectious and instantly danceable, doesn't? Well, for starters, “I Love It” is in English (sell outs). Turns out we're all racist against the Swedish language here I guess, even if we know that Sweden is basically the capital of awesome music adjusted for population inflation, and that would still be true if you erased every other Swedish musician off the face of the earth and reduced it down to Robyn and my personal pick for the most woefully under-appreciated band ever, Kent, who are giant in Sweden, but were met with zero fucks here during their brief attempt at breaking America. (All you revisionist nerds can keep Refused, by the way. They were much better when they were doing white belt scene punk).
So hey, get me, I'm the Rusko of journalism over here, discovering shit that's already popular in other countries then putting my face in front of it as if that was something to be proud of. I called up the super cute and polite Devecerski to talk about what it feels like to blow up in Scandanavia after years of hard work in the music trenches, and, more importantly, to find out what the fuck it is she's talking about in the song.
VICE: So has no one at all heard of you in the States yet?
Alina Devecerski: No, not very many more than my cousins. They live in Arizona. They probably heard it.
Who are you? Normally that stuff is pretty easy to figure out, but I can't read any of your biographical information online.
I'm born 1983. I'm from Stockholm, like a suburb called Sundbyberg. I lived there when I grew up. I'm not very good at telling you things about myself. I've been dong music for like ten years. I've been writing as an artist only for the last five years now. Then I started working on my own stuff like a year and a half ago.
You were in a girl group or something when you were younger?
The very first band I was in was a girl band, that happened when I was like 17 or 18, still in school, so that's the first things that happened. The band split up and I started writing more, and doing back up vocals for other artists with friend's bands and stuff like that. I was never like the lead singer in another band or anything like that, more like doing back up for friends while writing for other people, and surviving as a singer doing demos and stuff like that to pay the rent.
So you write your own music? Do you make the beats as well?
Yeah, I write my own stuff. I work with Christoffer Wikberg. We work together on everything, the melody, lyrics, production, everything we do together. But I don't play any instruments, I'm like a backseat driver when it comes to production. I sit behind and say, do this do that. We find sounds together.
What does, I'm not even going to try to pronounce it, Flytta på dej' mean?
It means 'move over, you have to move over.' That's the name of the song. The lyrics are me talking to someone saying like 'I'm building up and you tear me down, you make me....', like mad is not the right word, but something like that. 'We gotta talk man, you gotta move over.' The verse is like talking about this person how annoying it is that this person is following me around and messing things up for me all the time. It's a song about myself, I wrote it to myself.
Do you get in your own way?
Yes. Kind of. Well it's pretty much my whole story, writing for other people for a long time, I kind of put my artist dreams aside. Then I decided to really go for it, now I'm really going to do it now. It's about insecurities and stuff like that. That's pretty much what the song is about letting go, and moving forward with a positive spirit and fuck everything else.
Well, it seems like it worked out. This is big hit, right? Are you surprised?
I am in shock. I was. Now I'm starting to understand a little bit. I've been playing a lot and seeing people know the song, so, ok that's great. But in the beginning it was hard to understand. It was like May I think it really started going, that's when it kind of exploded, now it's just really out there.
Are you working on an lbum?
I'm working on an album right now, like with the single, it came with a b-side, “Jag svär.
” In the old days we used to have b-sides. Now I release one more single, Ikväll Skiter Jag i Allt
, that's started playing on the radio as well.
I've been playing your song for everyone, and they keep comparing it to Yelle and Icona Pop.
With Yelle it was strange at first because I never heard that artist. People started saying that and I said, ok I gotta see who this is. I didn't think the songs were very alike anyway. Then people started saying 'Be serious, did you copy that song?' I was like, 'I never heard that artist.' But that was weird for me. Now with the second single people are saying I'm copying my own sound. People always say that, people are doing what other people are doing, I don't know why. Icona Pop, I love their new song, but my song came out before. I don't listen tot them for inspiration but I think they're doing really cool stuff.
People here say this all the time whenever we write about Sweden, but why is there so much good music coming out of there? It's such a small country.
I know, it's odd. I think its a combination between, like when someone does something and you think, ok if they did that, I can do it too, I think it started with ABBA you know? They were huge, and the culture continued to like, when you see that it can happen, you know it can happen for you as well. That's mixed with – from the beginning, before ABBA – Swedish folk music is very special. The melodies are very melancholic and kind of mysterious, the melody language is very kind of like that. You know more and more people had great success, in the 90s as well, Ace of Base, Roxette, all of that. When you see that if they were huge, oh my God, we can also be huge, you keep that fire going. Also here I think if people say they're good they're good. People work really hard. We have bad weather and we're always depressed so we just sit inside and work.
That's the same thing people always say about Manchester England. Nothing else to do but sit inside and write.
I think there's something in that.
So are you like a celebrity now?
No, I'm not, I'm so happy. I can walk down the street and no one will recognize me. I don't think I will be. I wasn't known before the songs so people know the song more than they know me. Maybe it will change, but I'll figure out a way to work against that. I'm going to change my hair color a lot so people don't know.
Were you surprised that an American music writer wanted to talk to you?
Very. And I was excited when I heard you were working for Vice, because I love that magazine. We get the English one here and they have it in clothing stores and stuff so you can pick it up.
The cool thing about “Flytta på dej” is that it works in the acoustic version you did as well.
That's kind of... I mean that's very important to me, that the song has like a core even though it's electronic and stuff. People always think 'this electronic shit is something they threw together' but it's not, it just depends on which sounds you use. It sill has chords and melody that's thought out.
I noticed all sorts of back and forth in the comments on your videos, but I couldn't understand any of it. It seemed like inter-Scandanavian shit-talking? Is there a rivalry between the countries?
Well, I mean, I don't know. We have lot of jokes about each other, but I don't think it's like a real rivalry. The whole thing about fighting on YouTube about shit, I fucking hate it. Don't write anything if you don't have anything good to say, just leave the page if you hate it. If you want to start a fight with someone it's bullshit...
Are you getting a lot of criticism online then?
Yeah of course. Nowadays it's like some kind of salughtering of artist going on on YouTube, which is crazy. I don't even look anymore. I think that's weird, but it's always like that: people are going to hate you and love you.
You have a pretty mature attitude about the whole thing. Is thatbecause you've been going at it for a long time?
I think that's part of why I waited as well. I've been around it so much that I know what it means, and how it affects people and your life, and if you're not a strong person yourself you're going to be fucked up, and if you don't have good people around you as well that see your artistry and projects the way you see them, which is rare when you work. So thats pretty much why I waited as well because I wanted to really be sure of myself and what I wanted to do, then when I met [manager] Anders Johansson I felt like, ok I can do this, he saw it the way I saw it, and he understood what I wanted to do. I think yeah defintely, I am so happy that I waited.
Does everyone love Robyn there as much as we do? Is that type of career you want?
Oh yeah. Everybody loves her. I don't think like that. I just want to do really good music and I'll see where it takes me.