"Habits (Stay High)"
What does Swedish newcomer Tove Lo want to do with her music? "I challenge myself to sing things I probably wouldn't say," the pop singer told MTV. "I wouldn't talk about it as much as I sing about it. I have a weird need to put it all out there for people."
And in an interview with Rolling Stone, she added, "I write about what I know and my way of dealing with things, good or bad. And I think no matter what your drug is, if it's weed or alcohol or just adrenaline in general, it's whatever gives you the ultimate high. I like to compare things to that because that's what everyone's always chasing, at least I'm that way. I can't live just being content. I can't have a routine. I can't be settled because then I just get really frustrated. I need to get these rushes. I'm pretty much chasing rushes."
Tove Lo (full name: Tove Ebba Elsa Nilsson) is not kidding about her willingness to "put it all out there" with songs about "chasing rushes," as evidenced by her first smash hit "Habits (Stay High)." It's a catchy, low-key breakup song that dispenses with pretense and dives right into the murky depths of looking for anything to take the edge off the emotional pain.
Specifically, sex, drugs and alcohol.
"I eat my dinner in the bathtub/Then I go to sex clubs/Watching freaky people gettin' it on/ … Yeah, I've been around and I've seen it all," Tove begins, delivering lines that prompted MTV writer Brenna Ehrlich to observe, "Yup, forget eating ice cream and crying and whatever. When Tove Lo gets dumped, she heads off to the sex dungeon."
Wondering what's next? "I get home, I got the munchies/Binge on all my Twinkies/Throw up in the tub/Then I go to sleep/I drank up all my money/Dazed and kinda lonely."
All this over a guy who's left her. She mourns, "You're gone and I gotta stay/High all the time/To keep you off my mind/ … Spend my days locked in a haze/Trying to forget you, babe/I fall back down/Gotta stay high all my life/To forget I'm missing you."
The next verse casts Tove in a role of a dangerously desperate sexual predator: "Pick up daddies at the playground/How I spend my day time/Loosen up the frown/Make them feel alive/Oh, make it fast and greasy/I'm numb and way too easy."
As the song grows weary of its own existence, things get ever-so-slightly self-reflective with Tove talking about knowing—at some level—just how empty and self-obliterating her choices really are: "Staying in my play pretend/Where the fun ain't got no end/Can't go home alone again/Need someone to numb the pain."
The video follows Tove through one of her (many) days full of pain and painkilling. She wakes on a couch with three other people, drinks another beer and heads blearily home. Her dour expression never changes as she changes clothes (we see her in a bra) and wanders through the city and subways. Soon she's out with three friends (two women, one guy), with whom she eventually messily makes out (sometimes with more than one person—and gender—at once) as she smokes (cigarettes and pot), drinks, dances and parties. She finally collapses into bed with the same empty, world-weary expression she wore the morning before.
So is Tove Lo glorifying self-destructive behavior or calling it out in a cautionary way?
I'll let her answer that. "If I sing about [my choices] in a positive way, I'm no longer just only sitting in my studio," she told Rolling Stone. "People are starting to know who I am, and young kids will listen and feel inspired—either to not do it because they'll see the 'Habits' video and just say 'F---, that looks awful,' or be like 'That's so me; I want to be that self-destructive person.' Which is kind of how I was when I was growing up. I was always drawn to the self-destructive kind of way. I thought there was something beautiful about it, I don't know why."