OUT FRONT: Tove Lo's Fairy Dust Gives Us The Feminist, Queer Romance We've All Needed
Originally published on OUTFRONTMagazine.com on Feb. 20, 2017
Previous to her visual release of the 2016 album Lady Wood, Tove Lo was “that girl” who sang the song about staying addictively high. But who seemed like a one-hit wonder and otherwise featured vocalist, the Swedish artist has successfully set herself apart as a feminist charged, identity-seeking, and inspiring self-loving star following the release of Fairy Dust last October.
The 31-minute film stars Tove Lo alongside “Free The Nipple” curator, Lina Esco, and features 5 songs off of her latest album, with a bonus track to boot.
Over 5 days in Los Angeles, Fairy Dust came to life, and so did Tove Lo. The shot opens with the singer taking an elevator down to the street leveled parking lot of Motel Glen Capri. She breaks into manic laughter, shortly followed by hysterical wheezes and cries while ascending a staircase to a room. She is up as quickly as she had come down in a 2 minute span of glee and sorrow so perfectly, the viewer can’t help but crave to understand. She enters a motel room and the scene escapes — everything fades to black and introduces Fairy Dust.
From there on out, Tove Lo’s story unfolds chronicling her “never-ending escape and all the rushes and pain that comes with it,” as she calls it. There are several memorable moments between the cityscape, queer exploration of sexuality, car crashing, fire igniting, glass casket humping, and self-pleasuring.
We first meet Lina Esco inside the motel room, with her pinning line, “I’m a feminist, but I still want you to call me a whore and come all over my face,” between detesting a cheating husband who slept with the maid of honor.
Tove Lo’s “Influence” plays, as the singer joins Esco on the motel bed. The women push and pull at each others bodies, rubbing chins and feeling the insides of the other’s mouth.
“I’m falling right back into my dark hole and I’ve never felt more safe. No one expects anything from me here. I’m free,” Tove Lo’s voice sounds inside a nightclub, her fist illusion to the search for self-empowerment and love. Inside the club, she meets Esco once again, her treacherous lover. The two dance and continue to pull at each other as the song shouts, “You give me wood, you give me lady wood,” from the title song of the album.
Back in the motel room, Tove Lo looks at herself in the mirror and takes an electric razor to her hairline. A new line appears on the screen: “I wanna be free like you.” In the desert Tove Lo lays atop a murky glass coffin that holds her lover. Back in the parking lot she rides the hood of a car that had been aflame in the previous scene. She pulls at her mouth as the lyrics “I’m a cool girl” ring. Back in the desert, Tove Love with a shaved head rubs her body against the glass case in the same manner.
What does it mean to be a cool girl?
“I’m a cool girl, I’m a I’m a cool girl, ice cold, I roll my eyes at you, boy,” sings Tove Lo against her dead lady-lover and a red hot car in the motel parking lot. What is this juxtaposition of setting fire to everything in sight, shaving your head, and mourning in celebration?
The film as a whole challenges how we imagine the ephemeral “cool girl”. She is not silent and aloof, but rather raging and self-indulgent. She acts, she screams, and she feel so deeply. Fairy Dust is Tove Lo’s attest to this reform.
As the glass case lower’s Tove Lo’s lover into the desert ground, she just as quickly moves her body against that of a man’s in the same motel room. She sits in his lap, and the two pull at each other’s mouths and dance together like she did with the Esco. His voice sings alongside Tove Lo’s, “Heart beating faster and faster, I’ll be your brand new disaster.” He sings, “What’s your type though, am I right though? Heard that before, but still you wanted more.”
The exploration of sexuality illustrated is as incredible as it is confusing. An undeniable connection is evident between her and the woman and man alike. But there is a longing for the woman that lasts beyond her burial, while the man doesn’t appear to have the same hold on Tove Lo. She accepts him, sexually. But the rush between she and Esco is irreparable.
All the while, what the singer actually seems to be after is a sense of self that is informed by her exterior actions.
“Nobody knows me, knows all the dark sides, all the things that really go on in my head when I talk to people,” her voice sounds across a view of Los Angeles, “Sociopath, psychopath… What if he’s right?” she asks.
The scene breaks to reveal Tove Lo masturbating on the motel bed. She touches her breast while moving her fingers between underpants. She is in the same scene as with Esco and the man, but this time she is performing a self-satisfying act.
Credits roll over the final song, “What I want for the Night (bitches)”. The sounds drift away from her body and into a mirrored reflection, where Esco returns to the film standing watch. “You like that shit?” Tove Lo’s voice asks, and the scene cuts to black.
The film’s close is complicated Tove Lo tells NY Magazine, “Some guys were clearly confused, especially these certain types of guys who think that because I am open about sex that can talk to me in a disrespectful, objectifying way.”
But what’s tricky is that, if you deny wanting to even slightly hook up with Tove Lo after Fairy Dust, no matter your sexuality, you’re simply lying. The film succeeds in challenging what you know about heterosexuality because Tove Lo paves a model for that. Despite the on-screen sexiness, the plotline highlights an incredible sense of self throughout. People enter your life and they inform the rush, but the self is someone who never leaves.
“It’s about reclaiming the female hard-on,” she says, encapsulating her album. But to be successfully heard, the film must teach this while also reminding the fine line of respect. What’s mine can only be yours if I choose to share. We watch Tove Lo share herself between genders and definitions of the self from between screens. A distance is kept, while the singer also privileges her audience with a window into her reality.
Tove Lo challenges the “cool girl” and reaffirms the sanctioned “lady wood” in a courageous short that is Fairy Dust. Thank you, Tove Lo, we’re all a little better after hearing your new tunes and watching you remind the importance of stunning self-love.
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