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MØ has recently come into the limelight after her appearance in the Major Lazer hit single ‘Lean On’ and more recently ‘Cold Water’. As well as having these singles under her belt, MØ also has a rafter of her own equally well-crafted pop hits. Now, all of this might seem fairly straightforward, she’s a successful up and coming pop-star, we get it. So what makes her different? Well, let me give you a wee insight.
MØ started life in Denmark in a pretty well to do area with parents who had pretty well to do jobs. A comfortable start. Yet there lies in MØ an incredible hunger not only to be a rebel but also to rebel. Reflected in her conspicuously non-mainstream style of dress, she used to be a lot less polished than she is now. Influenced by staple punk outfits such as Black Flag and Sonic Youth, MØ started out on a path most pop-stars would never dare to dread. She lived in Anarchist communes and started to write songs with brilliantly eloquent titles like, “Pussy in Your Face”, her early band MOR’s first record. This look, attitude and dedication to her punk ideals earned MØ a cult following both at home and in the U.S. Hardly the typical route to mainstream fame.
After her split with MOR, MØ went solo, continuing the shock and awe approach to her songwriting, releasing such gems like “Grease me up with Gravy Baby” and “When I saw his Cock”. This drew the attention of manager Ronni Vindhal and began MØ’s venture into the more mainstream side of the industry. Her first major exposure in this field was singing a hook for Iggy Azalea on Saturday Night Live. It didn’t go very well. Despite this, she gained the attention of Diplo, who began to send her Major Lazer demos that she could sing and write over. The rest is history. So how does she come across now?
I traveled over to the dark side of the pennines to see MØ in action at Leeds Student Union. I’d received word that she had lost her voice and began to somewhat regret making the journey over, believing that one should not spend anymore time than one has to in Yorkshire. Still, after a rather romantic man-date with a friend I headed over to the Union in time to catch the support act NIMMO, who were around halfway through their set. I bought an overpriced pint and settled in for the evening, feeling noticeably civilian among the more ‘expressive’ crowd that MØ had obviously attracted.
She walked on to the stage quite nonchalantly with a definite air of comfort, students after all, should be an easy crowd for someone who had tens of millions of streams on Spotify alone. MØ kicked off energetically, supported by her equally enthused live band (something I always respect pop musicians having, it must be tempting to pull a Kanye and have all eyes on you). Kamikaze proved to be the first song that got the crowd going, with its infectious chorus, pretty much everyone was singing along by the end.
Still, I had to note that her songs were not what I expected. I had gone in cold, wanting the gig to shape my opinion of MØ and wanting to be surprised by a pop-star that has had such an unusual start in life. Her attitude was evident, she stomped around the stage with authority, belting the songs out despite the worries surrounding her lost voice. Yet the songs, many of which I began to recognise from repeated radio-play, did not seem to be emanating the same energy. I may be inserting some bias here, normally sticking to the world of live rock, metal and indie bands but the crowd seemed a bit, lethargic.
Beyond hits such as Drum, Final Song and Cold Water (Lean on inevitably came as part of the encore) there seemed to be an air of “I’ve not heard this one”. Perhaps this is more down to the nature of radio stations to be focused on rotating successful singles rather than album songs than down to the songs being crap. I particularly enjoyed Dance with Nobody but like me, a large portion of the crowd seemed to be hearing this material for the first time.
This atmosphere evidently made its way on stage as MØ took a conscious decision to take control of the situation. She jumped off the stage and strode through the crowd, taking selfies and singing among a crowd that had suddenly found itself to be reinvigorated. This sort of ‘crowd-control’, developed seemingly on the spot, exhibited an awareness and willingness to intervene that many modern pop-stars just don’t have. MØ has enough experience living off-script that it has become infused in her performance. This was what I had been waiting to see, some flair.
The momentum was kept as she launched into Final Song, which the crowd now willingly danced and sang along to. It was refreshing to now see this song in a different light other than the incessant airtime it has received. You could now tell that MØ had something to prove to this audience and also that this song meant something to her. This is why live music is almost always better than listening to the record alone. You can witness the relationship the artist has with their songs and for better or worse, this provides an insight into how much they care. MØ clearly does care. She is established but not quite at the stage where she can rely on her name alone to get the crowd going. MØ had to fight for the attention of the crowd and she did so with great skill.
There is still a vein of that old rebellious self within her. The young rebel that still comes out in the form of a tattered army jacket and a raspy voice free from the overproduction many fall foul to. MØ is something that the pop-world needs desperately. MØ is a dose of the genuine.