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Alma-Sofia Miettinen says she was bullied as a teenager, which led her to discover how therapeutic songwriting could be. “When a pop hit goes big, it goes fucking big,” says the Finland native, 23. “Even haters have to listen.”
In 2013, she placed fifth in the Finnish singing competition Idols (part of the Idol franchise) and began releasing her own edgy, electro-pop music as Alma, signing to Universal Music Group in 2016 (and Warner in the Nordics). She has since built up an impressive history of collaborations including Justin Tranter, Charli XCX, ZHU and even Lindsay Lohan, whose Instagram DM earlier this year led to their collaboration, “Xanax,” in September.
In November, Alma shared the first of her three-part debut album, Have U Seen Her? -- a release strategy aimed at appealing to “people who want the whole album, and people who care about singles” -- and is now opening shows on Christina Aguilera’s U.K. tour. Alma says that her networking skills stem from her Finnish background: “I come from a culture where if we’re friends, we’re going to be friends forever.”
After hitting it off at a Lykke Li album-release party in 2018, Alma and Cyrus wrote three songs together: “Mother’s Daughter” and the RuPaul-featuring “Catitude,” both off Cyrus’ 2019 EP, She Is Coming, and Cyrus’ latest one-off, “Slide Away.” Alma says that they quickly connected because “we both want to change the world.” And when she jokingly suggested they get inked after a session, Cyrus had a tattoo artist in the studio within the hour -- Cyrus tattooed “gay” on Alma's arm herself. Says Alma: “If we talk about something, we get it done.”
When Ariana Grande asked Cyrus to feature on the soundtrack to the Charlie’s Angels reboot that Grande executive-produced, Cyrus insisted on bringing Alma. Suddenly, the singer-songwriter found herself in a writer’s room with the legendary Max Martin, co-writing the soundtrack’s lead single, “Don’t Call Me Angel,” for Grande, Cyrus and Lana Del Rey. It hit No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September. “I learned to trust myself,” says Alma, “and never doubt that I can do it.” She also guests on the horn-blaring “How It’s Done” with Kim Petras, Kash Doll and Stefflon Don.
In August, Alma teamed with fellow Nordic pop artist Tove Lo to release the rebel jam “Bad as the Boys,” the second single off the latter’s recent album, Sunshine Kitty. Tove Lo returned the favor by co-writing and featuring on “Worst Behaviour” on Alma's LP. Alma says that her debut is full of personal stories, and as such, she felt most comfortable collaborating with people who really know her. She and Tove Lo’s bond will become even stronger in 2020 when Alma opens for the singer on her North American tour of 2,000-capacity-plus venues.
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 16 issue of Billboard.
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