Club Romantech

Club Romantech

The making of Club Romantech found Icona Pop in a full-circle moment. Early in the pandemic, the Swedish dance-pop duo of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo left Los Angeles and moved back home to Stockholm. As uncertainty hung in the air, they retreated to the recording studio—the same one where they’d started more than a decade ago. It’s also been a decade since they released their last album, 2013’s This Is… Icona Pop. Then riding the high of their culture-defining 2012 anthem “I Love It,” the duo spent the next few years playing tour support (for the likes of Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and One Direction) and DJing while releasing mostly singles. “We're addicted to touring,” Jawo tells Apple Music. “It's like, 'OK, this year went by. Next year, we're going to sit down and write an album. OK, this year went by...' Suddenly it's been five years.” Within those studio walls, Club Romantech took shape—more than just an album, it’s a fantasy nightclub where self-expression and experimentation were encouraged, and rules and time didn’t exist. While Icona Pop continued to pen danceable heartbreak ballads (“Loving You Ain’t Easy”), night-out anthems (“You’re Free”), and undeniable pop hooks (“I Want You”), they also rediscovered their electronic roots, poring over production and going harder, clubbier, bigger. “It's a freedom feeling for us,” says Hjelt, “and I hope people feel that when they listen to the album.” Here she and Jawo talk through it, track by track. “Fall In Love” Caroline Hjelt: “It's a love song about falling so hard for someone that you can’t… It's like hitting a wall. You can barely breathe or function or talk, and you're like, ‘Is it supposed to feel this way?’ It feels amazing, but it's also scary, and you almost feel nauseous. The lyrics [are] very direct. But we played around a lot with the melodies and production.” “Desire” (with Joel Corry and Rain Radio) CH: “Aino was like, ‘I've been watching this Indian matchmaking show and it’s got some crazy melodies. We should do something like this.’ So that inspired the melodies. The message of the song is just, like, when you're trying to make someone follow you into your deepest secrets like, ‘You should join me on this journey. Don't be afraid. You should trust me. It might be weird, it might be dark, it might be amazing, but you should just trust me and come with me.’” “Shit We Do For Love” (with Yaeger) CH: “We were all in the studio just talking about different things. Of course, you always end up talking about love, but we started talking about, like, it's insane, the crazy stuff you can do for love sometimes. When you're just like, ‘OK, this is not me. I'm not this person. I would never do that.’ But you can become that person when it's about love. I feel like that song has this bright feeling about it, but also a dark feeling about it, like melancholic... It makes me really want to dance my heart out, but with a little bit of sadness, too.“ “Stick Your Tongue Out” Aino Jawo: “It's a very sexy song, I would say. It's about tasting someone, basically making out with someone. We were in LA and we were supposed to jump on a plane, but our plane got canceled. So we got one more day in LA and we were like, ‘What are we going to do?’ Then our friend, a great producer, Tim [Nelson], was like, ‘Let's jump into the studio and have fun.’ We started and it happened so naturally. And we felt that, OK, we have this amazing part. We shouldn't overwork it. It should just be that simple message of ‘Stick Your Tongue Out.’” “Make Your Mind Up Babe” CH: “I feel like a lot of people can relate: You're in a toxic relationship, you deserve better—but you can't let go even though you want to. And you're like, 'Why do I always fall for this?' It's weird how something so unsafe can still make you feel safe because you don't know any better, so you can't imagine how it would be without it. And this song is like, ‘Come on, make up your mind. It's time. Can't keep on doing this. You have to make a choice.’” "Stockholm at Night" AJ: “‘Stockholm at Night’ is a song about our friends in Stockholm and what we used to do. Things have changed so much for me and Caroline; we've been abroad for 10-plus years. And now, when we moved back, things are... I mean, people have grown up and have proper jobs, and we're still doing what we did 10 years ago. Our lifestyle is so different from theirs, but we still have this beautiful connection when it comes to going out dancing, reminiscing. It's so beautiful how we all can meet in that space, and everything is like it used to be for a little small second.” "Where Do We Go From Here" CH: “I feel like Aino and I had almost two different views on what we were singing about. For me it was like, ‘We're here now in a very good place. We have all these things, we have our friends, we're so happy… Where do we go from here?' Almost that feeling of, sometimes, when things are really good, you're almost scared that it will end, or how are you going to top this? Is it going to keep on going? That was my feeling of when we started writing the song.” AJ: “And for me, it's more of a sad song. It's more like, ‘So what do we do now?’ We're constantly looking for new highs as human beings. We never think things are good enough. You're not happier just because you have more money. We were just talking about it and realized that we wrote this song with two different meanings. That's the beauty of music.” "I Want You" (with Galantis) AJ: “That song is very forward: I want you. No time for bullshit. We've been talking to so many friends about this. When you've been dating for a while and you're just so tired of playing the game. If you find someone you like, you're like, ‘Hey, I like you. How do you feel about me?’ Because you just cross the line of, ‘Oh, I'm not going to text you. Oh, I'm going to play hard to get,' because you're just so dumb doing that.” "Loving You Ain't Easy" CH: “It was a very fun process to sing that one because we used our vocals a little differently. But ‘Loving You Ain't Easy’ is a pretty sad love song. It's about not giving up on someone who's not ready to be loved, basically. You know that that person is toxic, but sometimes you fall for someone and you think that you can change that person. I think that's also a song that people can relate a lot to unfortunately, and what we've been through, both of us, in our lives. And that just leaves you a little afraid of loving someone. Love is amazing when it's good, but when it's bad, it tears you up.” "Need You" AJ: “A little bit on the same subject. It's a song about, you're in a relationship with someone that's not ready to be loved. And that's so heartbreaking because you’re like, 'I know you need me, I need you. But you're just not ready for my love. I'm trying here, but it's not enough.' When we wrote that song, one of our friends was going through a situation like this, and it was heartbreaking to see her go from this blooming woman to this really sad person just because that person was not able to give love to her. I remember it so clearly. So it's definitely a sad story about this person, but also something I've been going through. And yeah, it's hard.” "Off of My Mind" (with VIZE) CH: “We wrote that song together, and then our friends VIZE jumped on it. [This song’s about] when you try to get someone off your mind—'please leave my memory, leave my body, leave my everything.' When you're obsessed with someone and everything reminds you of them, like a smell or hearing a song can take you back to these memories." "Faster" CH: “Nothing deep about that song except the bass. We wanted to make a song that we could DJ. We made ‘Faster’ and we were like, ‘I love this song. I want to dance to it. Let's not overthink this song. Let's not try to do a proper pop structure with verse, pre-chorus. Let it just be the weird song that it is.’” "You're Free" (with Ultra Naté) AJ: “We've been huge fans of Ultra Naté, and we grew up with that song. I don't quite remember the process, but I think we were DJing and talking about [how] we should really do something with this song, like a remix or a feature. Then a couple of days later in a session, we started to sing that song over a beat and it sounded so dope. We were like, 'OK, we need to clear it so we can use this song.' So we reached out to Ultra Naté's team and a couple of days later, we got a text and she was so stoked about the track. She was like, ‘Can I be with you on the track? And by the way, it's 20 years since we released that song, so this is an awesome new interpretation.’ She's such a queen.” "Feels in My Body" AJ: “That one is a song about feeling like you're almost misplaced and alone, searching for someone you can connect with that has the same feelings. Like, when you feel like you have so much emotion and you want to dance and do all these things, and no one understands you. You're just looking for that person who will look at you and be like, ‘I'm in. Let's do this.’” "Spa" (with Sofi Tukker) CH: “It was funny because we're singing, ‘I'm done with the club, just take me to the spa’—almost like, ‘OK, I've been clubbing for too long. I need a spa. I need to take care of my body.' But when it got released, it was [during the] pandemic and we were like, ‘We can't even go to the club now.’ But yeah, that was so much fun.”

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