Zara Larsson on Being Compared to Rihanna and Her Favorite Photo Editing App
If you've listened to the radio or been to a club recently, chances are, you've heard Zara Larsson belting her heart out. She isn't a household name just yet, but with two major singles out, it's hard to escape her Swedish twang. To be honest, you've probably heard her and thought it was a new Rihanna single, as the 18-year-old's voice has an eerily similar sound to the Barbados singer's pipes.
Zara has over one million followers on Instagram, 17 million monthly listeners on Spotify, and almost 900,000 subscribers on YouTube. And while she has been in the business since she was 10 — she won the Swedish version of Got Talent — we assume her following has been amassed due to her humorous posts ("I love memes!") and inspiringly gorgeous looks. Plus, several of her songs have been incorporated as the soundtrack to posts on sites like Vine, Instagram, and Tumblr.
As the face of Clinique's Play With Pop campaign, Zara was offered a unique opportunity to create four versions of her smash hit "Lush Life" with accompanying makeup looks created by the brand. Each style played into a specific genre: bare (acoustic), vixen (dance), bold (country), and sweet (the original pop version). From a production and music standpoint, it's one of the most interactive experiences online. As you jump from genre to genre, the song plays seamlessly as it converts from dance to country, and her looks transform from vixen to bold. As a fan of her music, I wish you were able to download all the tracks!
I sat with the singer during her sound check prior to her performance in Austin, TX, for a SXSW party. Read on to learn more about how she really feels about those Rihanna comparisons, along with her best beauty and Instagram advice.
On the #PlayWithPop Campaign
The music video is unique in that you select one version of the song and you can easily jump to another look and genre seamlessly. It's essentially four music videos rolled into one.
"When we talked about it, I didn't really get it," Zara said. "But when it was done, I was like, 'Wow!'"
The idea of matching the looks to the song came naturally to Zara.
"We talked about the music style first, which to me, I was thankful because I'm an artist," she said. "My favorite look is definitely The Vixen Look because it's different. I love the pop look . . . I could wear that on a regular day. The acoustic is sweeter. The pop look is the original song, so that's me."
As far as her favorite product from the videos, she told me she favors the lip lacquer from The Bare (Acoustic) Look.
On Comparisons to Rihanna and Adele
It's hard to deny that Zara sounds akin to Rihanna. Granted, they're from countries that span over 5,000 miles away from each other, but the similarities are there. Just check a few of her top YouTube comments. "Rihanna's voice + Adele's face = Zara Larsson," reads a top-rated comment. The teen welcomes those comparisons.
"People love those two," she enthused. "So do I! I don't think I look like (Adele) at all . . . maybe it's the eyeliner, the way we do our makeup. I see some similarities. But Rihanna's voice? I'm like 'What?' But it's totally a compliment."
Zara later told me Rihanna is her beauty inspiration, and although people like to talk about how similar their makeup looks, she's not Adele's beauty twin.
"I'd never have an Adele eyeliner," she admited. "Her liner is way too round for me!"
On Her Instagram Strategy
When you have over a million followers, surely there's a strategy to attaining — and keeping — an engaged audience, right? Not for Zara. It's second nature for her — after all, she is a millennial. (Fun fact: she announced during her set that she was a 1-year-old when "No Scrubs" came out, before diving into a cover of the TLC classic.) But one thing she doesn't subscribe to? Filters.
"I don't use filters," she said. "I use an app. VSCO cam! It's so much better!"
Does the delirium of having over one million followers ever dissipate? "It is crazy, but when you have that, everything is relative," she noted. "When you have that for a couple weeks, you think, 'Just a million? I only got 60,000 'likes' on my photo?!'"
On What She's Listening to Now
When I announced I'd be getting time to interview Zara, six fan accounts started following me on Twitter, and I received several dozen questions for the singer. One of the most frequent was when her album will be released.
"Early Summer is the plan, and it's going really well," she said. "I feel like we are almost there, maybe, like, two songs from being totally finished!"
Zara noted that she is currently listening to an eclectic mix of music, citing Bryson Tiller, Anderson Paak, and Rihanna ("I think it's 'Sex with Me' by Rihanna — her album is really good").
At this point, she couldn't remember the song she's most recently been obsessed with, so she got up to scroll through her phone. "'Intoxicated'!" she exclaimed with a smile. "By Ashley DuBose! It's not famous at all. She has such a good voice. It's beautiful. I'm listening to that over and over."
Her Best Beauty Advice
I couldn't ler her get away without asking her for some beauty advice.
"Be yourself!" she said with an intentionally cheesy inflection. "Wear makeup that you feel comfortable in. It's like wearing an uncomfortable dress. You don't want to dance in an uncomfortable dress, so wear stuff you think you look cute in. There's really no right or wrong in makeup."