It’s time for the world to meet Zara Larsson. Yes, Sweden has known about the 21-year-old singer/songwriter since she won her home country’s version of America’s Got Talent back in 2008 at age 10. And yes, she’s had a string of notable singles in America, including a top 20 Billboard Hot 100 hit (“Never Forget You” with MNEK). But she’s ready for the world to get to know her — not as a duet partner or as a featured vocalist or as just a voice on your radio.
Enter “Ruin My Life,” Larsson’s buzzy new single, which hits its No. 20 peak on Billboard‘s Pop Songs chart this week — her highest-charting song on the tally since “Never Forget You.” When she first got wind of the song, it was intended to be a male/female duet, but Larsson had other plans.
“I didn’t want to do a duet, because the last time I did a song, my biggest one in America, that was a duet,” Larsson tells Billboard‘s Pop Shop Podcast, referencing “Never Forget You” (listen to her full podcast interview below). “I thought to myself, I just wanted to release a song, just me. If it’s going to be my single, I want people to know who I am. A lot of the times, people have heard my song, any of the singles, but not necessarily know who I am. If they see a picture of me, they don’t put two and two together. I wanted to put my face out there.”
Not only was “Ruin My Life” originally a duet, but its lyrics were about an even more toxic relationship than the one in the final version.
“When I looked at the lyrics, it felt really tragic — this passionate back-and-forth almost argument in the song,” she says. “And now that we took away the guy, it was just a really, really sad girl. We switched up a few things — it talks about a toxic relationship, knowing someone isn’t good for you, but you really, really want this person back. That and the [original] topic of the song was a bit too much, and I’m very cautious about what I talk about. … I felt that it was a great song, but I wanted to make it more emotionally sad than actual physical violence.”
Another way Larsson is getting her name out there is with the song’s ultra-luxe (and eerily voyeuristic) music video, which viewers won’t soon forget. “It was hard finding a concept for this video that wasn’t, like, me laying in bed crying over this guy,” she says. “I didn’t want it to be that. I wanted it to be more glamorous.”
“Ruin My Life” will be part of a larger project for Larsson, who is currently working on her third album, the follow-up to 2017’s So Good. “I don’t think I’ll be done until someone is like, ‘Stop recording!'” she laughs of the album process. While she said she’s doing things “the old-fashioned way” and creating a proper album, she admires the way Ariana Grande has been dropping music at her own pace.
“I really love that she’s kind of releasing songs [like] a rapper,” Larsson says. “She released ‘Imagine’ like it was nothing, a song that I thought was fantastic. She was like, ‘Here’s a song, by the way.’ … I’m into that.”
We also chat with Larsson about possible collaborators for her new music (“I’d love to get in the studio with Khalid”) and whether America’s Got Talent: The Champions invited her to join the series, given her Swedish connection to the franchise. Listen to that and more in the podcast above.
Also on the podcast, we have news about Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper reuniting in Las Vegas for a live performance of “Shallow” from A Star Is Born and new chart-toppers on both the Hot 100 (Grande’s “7 Rings”) and Billboard 200 (Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD).
The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard‘s weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard‘s senior director of charts Keith Caulfield and deputy editor, digital Katie Atkinson every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)