Icona Pop Doesn't Care (And We Love It)

Caroline Hjelt of Icona Pop talks with The Advocate about her dreams of becoming a gay icon, the Swedish dance music invasion, and why she doesn’t care if people think she’s a lesbian.

BY Jase Peeples

September 27 2013 4:00 AM ET

Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, the Swedish synthpop duo better known as Icona Pop, immediately drew a large LGBT audience when they dominated radio playlists, iPods, and dance floors this summer with their smash hit “I Love It.”

The pair’s infectious sound — fun and fiery lyrics fueled by a swirl of electro house, punk, and indie pop — is a high-energy blend that the Swedish sirens made part of the soundtrack for equality as they toured throughout the year, performing at the White Party in Palm Springs, Calif., and several Pride celebrations throughout the U.S. as well. Tracks such as “Girlfriend” (an ode to female friendship that can be easily interpreted as a lesbian anthem for the ages) and the group’s latest music video, “All Night” (a homage to New York City’s house ballroom and drag culture), have only served to propel the duo’s popularity with LGBT audiences.

With a new full-length album, This Is … Icona Pop, now in wide release and a world tour under way, Hjelt took a few moments to speak with The Advocate about her dreams of becoming a gay icon, the Swedish dance music invasion, and why she doesn’t care if people think she’s a lesbian. 

The Advocate: You’ve been eagerly embraced by an LGBT fan base around the world. Has that surprised you?  
Caroline Hjelt: I don’t know if I would say we’re surprised, but we’re very honored. The gay community in general has great taste and is usually very good at zeroing in on new things in pop culture, so we’re very happy to be embraced the way we have been.

You’ve performed at a number of Pride events and even the White Party in Palm Springs this year. Did you set out to gain a gay fan base, or did it happen by serendipity?
I think it just happened. It wasn’t something we intentionally set out to do, but we’ve been embraced and are gladly just going for it.

So would you say you’re ready to be a "gay icon"?
I would be so happy to be considered a gay icon. It’s funny, we’ve always found ourselves surrounded by the LGBT community, even when we were performing back in Sweden. When we first started performing we were doing shows in little gay clubs, so it always feels like home when we perform for a gay crowd.  It’s where we can really be ourselves.

Do you feel like there is a different energy when you perform for the LGBT community?
Well, every venue is different, but one thing that is always special when we perform in front of a gay crowd is the amount of love the audience shows us. Gay crowds seem to really appreciate what we’re doing when we’re up there, and that’s the best thing a performer can get when they’re onstage. When that happens, it feels more like you’re performing together with the audience, and that never fails to happen when we perform at a gay club or Pride event.

Tags: Music

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