On her breakthrough 2017 album Lovers, Norwegian pop singer Anna of the North chronicled her own real-life break-up with heartbreaking honesty. The album’s breathy title track enjoyed a second life last year with a sync in a pivotal scene of Netflix romance flick To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.
But now, as the singer and songwriter born Anna Lotterud announces her sophomore album Dream Girl, out Oct. 25, her outlook has changed, and so has her sound.
“This is the moving on album,” Lotterud explains over the phone from her home in Oslo. “Like, we’re not going to be together, but I’m not going to lay down and die. I’m going to be fine.”
She unveiled the first taste of the album in February with the fittingly-titled “Leaning On Myself,” a slow-burning tune about finding self-assurance while in the throes of loneliness, followed by funky anthem “Thank Me Later” and the blissful “Playing Games.” Now, as she officially announces her sophomore LP Dream Girl, the singer is premiering the album’s title track here.
With a whimsical xylophone melody and playful verses, “Dream Girl” takes an unflinching look at the ups and downs of getting over a break-up. “I kind of like the girl that I’ve become/ When I’m all alone, since you’ve been gone,” Lotterud sings in a moment of clarity — though by the next verse, she’s back to calling her ex at 3 a.m.
Listen to “Dream Girl” exclusively below, and scroll on as Lotterud explains the album’s “happy-sad” message, her struggles with opening up in the studio and how she relates to her onstage persona.
How do you view Dream Girl in relation to Lovers?
The first album I did was a heartbreak album, because I was really in love with this guy, and he broke up with me and it was super sad. This time around, I did the opposite of writing really sad songs about it. This is the moving-on album. I tried to make it like, “Okay, we’re not going to be together, but I’m not going to lay down and die. I’m going to be fine.” It’s an ironic kind of heartbreak album, instead of the other one that was more devastating. This album is about trying to get over it and move on. I’m going to keep on moving forward.
What’s the story behind the title?
It kind of organically fell together. I originally wanted to call it Thank Me Later. That’s a song on the album, and “thank me later” is a really catchy thing to say. I had a photo in mind that I wanted to use, and had everything planned out. But then I did the “Leaning On Myself” music video, and that video ended up being quite dreamy, with angel wings and elf ears. I thought, it’s actually super cool to create this dream world. I was like, “Shit, it has to be Dream Girl.” It’s the album where you wish to be someone you’re not to be happier than you are.
Almost like an alter ego.
Definitely. So then I thought Dream Girl is also catchy, and I started thinking about merch. It just fell into place. All the songs are inspired by something I’ve been through, or a family member has been through. But at the same time, through music you can create these stories, or you can write yourself to be someone else. If you don’t feel good, you can write a song about feeling good, and maybe you do, after.
Do you feel separate from Anna of the North, your stage persona?
As a person in my real life? Yes and no. It’s not always easy walking onstage to entertain people. But I do think that everything I’ve done is so down-to-earth. I’m the same onstage and at home. I would love to act — that would be so much fun — but I don’t think I could do any roles that weren’t close to me or my personality. But definitely, when you get onstage, what changes me from who I am is the attention and the crowd and people singing my songs, really hyping me up. People supporting me, when they come to gigs and they show me that love, of course I change. I get happy; I get psyched. The more I get from the audience, the more I give of myself.
You wrote the majority of Lovers with producer Brady Daniell-Smith, but on Dream Girl, you worked with many different producers. What was that like?
I have never worked with this many people before. It’s been a lot of different producers; a lot of different writers. It’s quite hard to open up in a session, and I’m quite shy and insecure in many ways about my music. You want to make a good impression, and it’s not always easy. Music doesn’t always come when it’s supposed to come. If one day, you aren’t inspired, it’s hard to force it, and if you’re in the studio with someone you really respect, then you’re like, “Shit, they don’t think it’s good!” [Laughs.]
I’ve done some sessions with Tyler [the Creator] and of course, he’s super talented. One day I was really good, and the other day there was nothing and that sucks ’cause the last person I would want to disappoint is him, you know? You always want to be on top. I met so many people this past year, and people I’m definitely going to work with again. Some people I’m probably never gonna work with again, but that’s been really good for me, too.
Who are some of the people you really enjoyed working with?
I’ve been doing a bunch with Bastian [Langebæk] and Tom [Havelock], they’re both in London. And then a Norwegian producer called Bearson who I really love working with. These are those people who I’ve never had a bad session with, like, never.
You wrapped your first U.S. headlining tour in April. What has it been like getting to perform new material?
Really fun. Today I have a meeting with my band to focus on the next tour, and next year, and this music — I can’t wait to get that all tied together. I want to do so much. I said to my band, there’s so many artists these days and everyone’s stepping up their live sets. There’s so much happening. Everything has to be big.
Dream Girl Tracklist:
1. Dream Girl
2. Leaning On Myself
3. Time To Get Over It
4. My Love
5. Lonely Life
7. Thank Me Later
8. Used To Be
9. What We Do
10. Playing Games
11. When R U Coming Home
12. Reasons feat. Charlie Skien
13. If U Wanna