Music

Swedish Eurovision favourite Loreen explains her plan to win a second time in Liverpool

After winning in 2012, Loreen is back at Eurovision representing Sweden. And she's going through the pain barrier to present something truly spectacular

Loreen

Loreen. Image: Supplied

Never let it be said that Loreen doesn’t suffer for her art. “I have scars all over my body,” the Swedish Eurovision superstar reveals, as we discuss the prickly impracticalities of donning massive, faintly terrifying claw-like fingernail extensions for her much-anticipated return to the contest. “When I need to go to the loo,” she laughs, “I’m like, ‘anybody wanna help me?’” 

The staging for Loreen’s song Tattoo – which swept to victory in Sweden’s fiercely contested annual Eurovision qualifier competition Melodifestivalen – sees her dressed in a skin-tight tan body suit, sandwiched between two giant horizontal electronic screens, the lower of which is covered in real sand (which tends to get stuck to places she would rather not say). Huge fans blow a gale of dry ice, as Loreen rises up inside her claustrophobic lightbox to sing and dance in a dramatic desert storm of elemental special effects. “Sometimes the wind is so strong it’s like, waaah,” she screams, mimicking nearly getting blasted off stage. 

All of this pain Loreen endures for you, dear viewers, in pursuit of bringing something fresh and exciting to a competition she previously won in 2012 with the exhilarating Euphoria.  

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Born Lorine Zineb Nora Talhaoui in Stockholm to Moroccan Berber immigrant parents, Loreen grew up in a liberal Muslim household and first rose to prominence as a singer in 2004 as a contestant on Idol, Sweden’s version of Pop Idol. When she won Melodifestivalen in 2012, at the second time of entering, an estimated four million people tuned in for the final – almost half the Swedish population.  

“It forces you to do a really good job,” Loreen reflects. Particularly, she says, by comparison to other countries whose non-publicly selected Eurovision entrants can sometimes seem lacklustre and ill prepared. “If I’m an audience, I expect heart. I want to feel that the artist loves whatever he or she is doing.” 

Since her breakout 11 years ago, Loreen has toured the world, released a multitude of new music and made a cameo in the Netflix film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams. She had no burning desire to repeat her triumph of 2012, she says, but when she first heard Tattoo – written by a team that includes Euphoria writers Thomas G:son and Peter Boström – she knew she was on to something special. “It was so spiritual,” says Loreen, “the feeling that I had in my body. It’s almost like when you’re falling in love, like when you see a person for the first time and that connection.” 

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She’s thrilled to be bringing it to Liverpool, where the UK will host on behalf of and in partnership with last year’s winners Ukraine. She’s made a lot of friends here over the years, including BBC Eurovision presenter and national treasure Rylan Clark. “I was so surprised he came to the final!” exclaims Loreen. “I was on my way up to the stage with the flowers and everything. I saw him and forgot there were cameras there. I threw the flowers away like ‘Rylaaaaan!’ There’s a real connection there between the two of us, it’s on a deep level.” 

The lightbox staging for Tattoo is so elaborate, rumour has it that Loreen’s been forced to simplify it in order to meet strict changeover times between performances at Eurovision. She won’t be drawn on what the revised version will be like, but she promises more, not less. “I don’t want it to be controlled,” Loreen muses, “We’re going to push the boundaries even further.” 

Loreen’s new single Tattoo is out now; the Eurovision Song Contest is on BBC TV and radio, Tue May 9-Sat May 13 

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