Everything is coming up Lykke Li. The 22-year-old Swede (born Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson) is the overnight, blog-approved, singing sensation du jour. But while that sort of hollow praise is usually fodder for another round of hype 2.0, Li's impact on the pop music fault line will continue to rumble and shake far past her 15 minutes, next year's next big thing, and beyond.
Reason being, the drop-dead ridiculous single "Little Bit," which—along with its jittery Mattias Montero-directed video—has propelled Li into the pop stratosphere, a long way from singing at open mics in Stockholm and putting out her debut recording on her own, conveniently named, LL Recordings label.
"I've been waiting my whole lifetime to make an album," says Li, about to kick off a tour of the States alongside fellow Swede El Perro del Mar. "You only get one shot to make your first album, it's a hard process." The album in question won't even hit our shores until later this year—although it's been available in Europe as of February; meanwhile, Li is touring on the gorgeous four-song Little Bit EP. The Björn Yttling (of Peter Björn and John fame)-recorded EP is anchored by its lead single, a song so captivating that it's hard to focus on much else.
"Little Bit" flexes a staggering range, from the saccharine sweet, "A little bit in la-la-la-la-love with me," to the seductive and damaged hook, "And for you I keep my legs apart/and forget about my tainted heart." Love songs aren't meant to be this sexy. Romantic, sure, but Li purrs with a coy sensuality not traditionally associated with her Nordic homeland. Of course the song is a total lie, since Li's soft vocal coos fail to mask her all-consuming devotion—this is not a casual case of being a "little bit in love," despite what she says—and her very personal songwriting. "I had been collecting experiences all my life," she says. "And making this album was quite an intense experience for me."
Li's voice, childlike and inviting, lightly bounces around an atmospheric collection of restrained instrumentation—plus the occasional soft flurry of minimalist beats—and is the centerpiece of her ever-changing work. Not content with her limited body of material to date, Li explains how her debut came to be. "I gave the title Youth Novels to this record because it's my youth, it's the beginning of something. Everything is not perfect, but it's a picture of my life at that time. I did my best at the time and now I'm better."
Li's rapid rise and newfound home in the pop culture spotlight is enough to make a hippie father proud. Li's pops is a member of the popular Swedish reggae (yes, there is really is such thing) act Dag Vag, and while he supports his daughter's breakthrough success, the feeling wasn't always mutual. "When I was really small they took me to shows, but when I had the choice, I didn't want to go. My mom would be backstage smoking weed and being embarrassing."