Loreen on why Eurovision winning songs Euphoria and Tattoo are like night and day

Despite winning this year’s very close Eurovision Song Contest – making her the first female artist to win the competition twice and also helping Sweden equal Ireland’s seven Eurovision wins – Loreen is also keen to talk about the role of meditation in her life, and her main priority being to connect with people through her music and inspire others to be creative. Back in Sweden, she chats to Headliner about the magic Moroccan song she played backstage to help her win, writing Tattoo, how creativity might just save the human race, and how she plans to build on this huge moment.

“I took four days off shortly after the competition. Four days!”, Loreen says with a laugh. “So I went to a tiny island in Sweden where there are hardly any people, just me and my dog. I needed to recharge so I can go back out into the world, authentic and present.”

Nature, the art of being present in life and spirituality are Loreen’s favourite things to talk about, but that doesn’t mean she speaks in a slow, veering-on docile style of speech that many stereotype nature and meditation loving-types as having. She is highly animated and speaks with a great degree of presence and melody in her voice, often letting out a hearty laugh mid-sentence — little things that make her such a likeable Eurovision winner.

For the Eurovision artists, it must be a very curious experience, flying out to Liverpool and becoming friends with fellow singers who they are also competing with. The Eurovision final itself is more than four hours long, and it all comes down to a three-to-four minute slot where you perform the song that got you to the final.

Loreen approached this heady madness in a pretty unique way: “If you passed my little room where we were set up, it was like a little meditation studio. It is a mess, being in that arena with so much noise and so much going on! I would be there for very long hours, but I didn’t mind because in the times when there wasn’t preparation or rehearsal, I could go back to my room with my sage and sit in meditation. But for those who don’t like to do that, it can get very intense backstage, most definitely!”

I do have Moroccan heritage, and I am a nomad.

In case you’ve been living under a rock that is also expertly able to deflect any Eurovision-related content, this year’s final was held in the UK for the first time since 1998. Followers of the contest will be acutely aware that the United Kingdom has had a pretty torrid time at Eurovision since then, until Sam Ryder’s spectacular Spaceman performance earned a second-place finish, and perhaps may have won had it not been for Kalush Orchestra’s Stefania performance also being excellent, and sympathies towards an invaded-Ukraine being so high.

The invasion from Russia of course also meant Ukraine was unable to host as winners, so Liverpool was the fairly common sense alternative as one of the most famous music cities in the world. 

Before each performance, a video segment would show a beautiful location in both the Ukraine and the UK, and then introduce the artist in their home country. Loreen was seen in a stunning bit of Swedish nature, carrying out some holistic practices.

There is a good reason she’s so passionate about discussing these subjects; she feels they’re vital for and intricately connected to her music and creativity.

“It’s about being authentic, really knowing what my creativity is and what my sound is; asking what my identity is, my core? In my opinion, you really need to spend time alone with yourself and connect with yourself to discover this and for it to be really authentic. I discovered this as a kid when it was just my mum and five other siblings — you can imagine the household was just crazy, so creativity became my sanctuary. Meditation, and that spiritual way of seeing creativity, is really necessary for me to be able to create.”

when there wasn’t a rehearsal, I could go back to my room with my sage and sit in meditation.

If you’re still unconvinced, it’s worth noting that Loreen feels the unique combination of her spiritual inclination and her Moroccan heritage from her parents lead her to a Moroccan chanting song. This became a song she would play on repeat for over 20 minutes on a portable speaker before rehearsals, the knockout events and the final. The secret ingredient behind her victory, perhaps?

“The other artists and the tech crew would be thinking, ‘Oh my god, here she comes with her speaker and that spiritual music.’ It’s very Moroccan in its style, going round and round on certain drums, and the lady chants these very powerful words. I would listen to it over and over again and it would get me so charged up before I went on stage.”

So there you have it — hunt down this song, and you too could win the Eurovision Song Contest. If you haven’t seen her performance of Tattoo in the grand final yet, you really should head to YouTube immediately. She begins sandwiched between two platforms, beaming out visuals of sand and the desert, which matches her outfit, complete with huge stone nails, exposed washboard abs and her trademark black, flowing hair and fringe that covers a fair deal of her face.

And thankfully, the brilliant visuals and choreography (which Loreen says simply came to her without any help from a choreographer) are simply in support of a truly killer song.

We’ve built a society where we think the grass is greener on the other side.

While some Eurovision entries are a little caricature-ish and unmemorable, Tattoo is a song demanding to be heard by millions of people, and perhaps Eurovision was the mere vessel for that (at the time of writing, it’s had more than 91 million streams on Spotify alone).

A thumping piece of eurodance-pop, it's elevated by Loreen’s almost overwhelming vocal performance and lyrics about true, authentic love only being achievable by coming through times of struggle.

“Both sides are necessary,” she says. “You can’t experience love if you never have that other side. It’s like day and night. You can’t bypass any of it. We’ve built a society where we think the grass is greener on the other side. 

"But then we’re looking at our lives, thinking, ‘Why am I not able to experience love?’ It’s because we’re not willing to go through certain pain. It’s like being hungry: you’ll enjoy that food once you get it!” she laughs. “I don’t mean unnecessary pain, like staying in a destructive relationship, but the everyday struggles that we can’t bypass in life.”

Euphoria is night, moonlight, and Tattoo is day time and sunlight.

Regarding how the performance was going to look, Loreen says (with another genuine laugh): “I have a new nickname now, Sandstorm Loreen! Because it is a sandstorm performance. But this is the beauty of being creative, and I believe all of us, the whole human race, are creative. We create things out of nothing. 

"When I recorded the song, I just knew what the scene was going to look like. Not down to every detail, but I could see the colours, this beautiful, cloudy paradise. I know it sounds spooky, but it all came to me while I was recording the song. Before music, I did a lot of work in editing videos and in movies, so I think understanding camera and cinematography language really helped me bring these scenes to real life.”

The moment Loreen was announced as this year’s winner was endearing and wonderful. With Finland’s Käärijä doing very well in the public vote and jumping up to first place, the screen split to show him and his only rival to win, Loreen. As national treasure and host Graham Norton did an achingly long dramatic pause after, “Sweden, the public has given you…” Loreen was left with her head to one side and eyes closed, as if in actual physical pain, even mouthing, ‘Come on.’ 

As Norton then reveals, “243 points!”, there’s a split second where her brain confirms to her these are more than enough points to make her the winner, and the agonised expression turns to pure joy and elation.

In terms of similarities and differences, and the things that connect her 2012 winning song Euphoria to this year’s Tattoo, Loreen thinks that “there are similar dynamics and similar movements. Euphoria is quite a mystical and hidden kind of track. It’s very dark, actually. Whereas Tattoo is right out there. 

"Euphoria is night, moonlight, and Tattoo is day time and sunlight. So it goes back to yin and yang. I was a lot more present this time, maybe because I knew what to expect and could enjoy myself more.”

As well as being the first woman to win Eurovision twice, Loreen’s two wins have hugely helped Sweden on its way to equalling Ireland’s record seven wins at the contest. It was fairly inevitable that one country eventually would, as Ireland has sadly joined the UK in struggling at the contest from the 2000s onwards, that record seventh win many moons ago in 1996.

Headliner asks if she’s excited to have helped put Sweden on the musical map again, best known for such exports as Abba, its death metal bands like Meshuggah and At The Gates, and its traditional folk music. Loreen’s win shows that Swede musicians aren’t just headbangers, or currently performing in holographic form, but that the country can produce a rapturous and electronic-infused pop anthem.

But, bearing in mind one of Loreen’s chief concerns in life is to feel connected to nature and people all around the world, regardless of their nationality, you can perhaps imagine how her answer will go:

“I hope so!” she says. “But I’m not so much of a patriot. Because I honestly feel like the most important thing for all of us is to be creative. It’s hard to be prejudiced when you’re creative. When you’re in a creative, happy space, it’s the best antidote to all these crazy decisions we make and a lot of the problems we see in the world. Both on the environment, and everything.

“If our leaders could just be a bit creative; I don’t know: paint, dance, laugh a bit, they would be making different decisions! I do hope the win will help Sweden, but I also hope it’s going to help everyone. Because what I was envisioning was that the song and performance would spark creativity in other people; I’m seeing people on TikTok and social media making their own versions of Tattoo, making their own nails and being in a happy creative space. Which was always my goal.”

But with that said, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is also a wonderful win and display for multiculturalism, with Loreen’s parents both being Moroccans fleeing the country to Sweden (for her mother, it was escaping an arranged marriage) and how vital this influence was in informing the song and visuals.

I’m not so much of a patriot. If our leaders could be a bit creative, they would be making different decisions.

“I do have Moroccan heritage, and I am a nomad. There are so many beautiful things I’ve got from that. My whole spiritual way of seeing music comes from this. And there are so many beautiful things that come from my Swedish heritage, because I was born here and we love nature and have certain values. I wanted everyone to feel included, and for people to have an understanding. Like, ‘Why is she so spiritual? Where does it come from?’ And then people can connect to the song more strongly.”

With the world at her feet, it’s safe to say this powerhouse artist wants to go vastly above and beyond being merely seen as a Eurovision artist, and will be building on this huge moment for her throughout 2023. Soon is a trip to Iceland for an unexpected yet exciting collaboration with neoclassical composer Ólafur Arnalds: “I’m trying to be cool about it but I can’t, I’m so excited! I’m such a fan of his. We’ve been sending each other all kinds of sounds.”

And from there comes new music, and a huge European tour later in the year. Not too many Eurovision winners have gone on to become globally successful, but you’d be mad to bet against Loreen achieving it. “We’re gonna go on this super creative writing and recording journey, and then there’s going to be a tour in November. It’s going to be positively intense, but I’m prepared!”

Loreen's single Tattoo is out now on all platforms. Tickets for her UK and European Tattoo tour are on sale here.

You can listen to the full interview with Loreen on Headliner Radio, here: