Fifty Shades of Fever Ray

Fifty Shades of Fever Ray


“I have always been in relationships, and I understand now that it’s really good to be by yourself for some time,” she said. “It’s not a scary thing.”

It’s also a celebration of newly embraced sexual explorations. She may be based near Stockholm, where her two teenage daughters go to school, but Ms. Dreijer has been spending a lot of time in Berlin. “And Berlin is a great city of queer happenings,” she said.

On the album’s lead single, “To the Moon and Back,” Ms. Dreijer is explicit about her desire for women, while the video gleefully embraces kink: She plays a baldheaded creature, awoken from a cryogenic slumber to find herself in a community of fantastical, fetish-gear-wearing women who use her as a table then urinate on her face. To her delight.

“I wanted it to be very joyful and collective and sisterly. A very important thing was not to show sexuality as something dark and difficult,” Ms. Dreijer said. Does it still feel radical to be a woman singing about sexual desire in a way that’s both free and explicit? “I think it’s super radical, actually,” she said. “It’s very sad that it is that way.”

She later explained that she was expressly not trying to please a hetersexual cis man. “I know what I’m doing is not a mainstream thing,” she said, before a long pause. “That’s great.”

The new, brighter visual aesthetic was developed with her longtime collaborator and fellow Swede Martin Falck, who sees the record as a reflection of what he called his friend’s “transformation.” “It’s about finding your fun, and embracing it,” he said.

For all her newfound openness on record, Ms. Dreijer guards her privacy fiercely. She wore a variety of masks onstage as both Fever Ray and the Knife, and she will not do TV or awards ceremonies. “Before I worried — it was very important to keep my private self apart from the job,” she said. “But I think I have found a way to have these things separately.”

Instead of masks, for “Plunge” Ms. Dreijer and Mr. Falck have created a series of characters. There’s the bald-heading being, but also a monster, which Ms. Dreijer explained represents “a toxic partner, or something that it’s hard to quit.” These guises allow her to externalize conflicted elements of her own identity, but they also offer an artistic framework for her self-revelations.

Ms. Dreijer said she has always worked, where possible, with women or non-binary individuals. For this album, the list included the producers Paula Temple, Deena Abdelwahed and Nídia. In a telephone interview, Ms. Temple, a British techno producer based in Berlin, said Ms. Dreijer wanted the recording process to be “nonhierarchical.”

“You don’t feel like you’re working with a superstar,” she said. “She has a vision, but it always feels deeply experimental too.”

On “Plunge,” the vision involved songwriting as an attempt to make sense of viscerally intense emotions. Ms. Dreijer described falling in and out of love (and lust) as “very physical feelings.” She added, “Your heart explodes and falls out of your body and you think you’re going to die,” before laughing at her own histrionics.

“I like to try things. I don’t want this old story of love that I have been told,” she said. “I want something else.”



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