Zara Larsson’s Lush Life was first released in June 2015. In the 12 months that have followed, the song, and Larsson herself, have gained wide mainstream exposure across both Europe, the UK and (against all possible odds) America too. I first heard Lush Life the night before my work’s Christmas party, and it’s had an almost ironclad grip on me ever since.
This is because, of course, the song is a grade-A, stone-cold, galaxy-eating banger which seems to run on infinite energy and joy that’s infectious to anyone that listens to it. As with most Swedish-written pop songs, the meanings of the lyrics are maddeningly unclear (what exactly is the ‘lush life’?) I’ve taken it in the context in which the song has made the most sense to me; Zara’s dumped her fuckboy, she realises she’s too good for that kind of shit and is off to have a fucking good time without him, etc.
The thing about liking pop music, about really liking pop music, is that it’s an occupational hazard to fall totally in love with an artist or song and watching it fall apart spectacularly. I weathered the very public implosion of my favourite popstar, the inability of the greatest pop song ever made to top even one chart and people’s inability to catch on to the short-lived brilliance of Dua Lipa. But for some reason, Lush Life was different. For one, it was an actual success. It became the most streamed song of last year in Sweden, broke through the doldrums of commercial radio in the UK, landing in at number 3 in our Top 40 charts and has just been released to radio in the US, following Zara’s breakthrough there with MNEK’s Never Forget You.
And this week saw that rarest, most fragile occurrence in modern pop – a do-over music video. Previously, Lush Life has stood in a small but hallowed corner of pop wherein an undeniably brilliant song is hampered by a – lets be honest – shit video. Think Sax, Domino and Run Away With Me. The original visuals for Lush Life are cute, yes, but unbelievably basic and (dare we say) quite amateur, almost as if Zara’s team weren’t acutely aware they were dealing with one of the best pop singles to be released in the past 18 months or so. But now, thanks to Zara’s move to properly conquer the US, a new video has been filmed for the song. And, do you know what? It’s great. Zara looks breathtaking and there’s choreography for days. And, like most great music videos, it hinges quite solely on the brilliance of one person, and that’s Zara Larsson herself.
Watching Zara perform – whether it’s in the new video, or this live performance where I first fell in love with her properly – is a weird experience, knowing that she’s actually just 18 years of age and already possesses more star power and charisma (which just bleeds through the screen) than most pop stars can hope to accumulate in a life time (or, in Meghan Trainor’s case, several). And Lush Life is the best vehicle for Zara as a viable pop superstar in her own right; it, at the same time, sounds like nothing else and sounds like a homogenisation of modern popular music. It sounds like a lead single from Rihanna in an alternate universe and yet, I don’t think anyone else could pull this off quite like Zara has. Rita Ora probably given it a good go though, right?
At this point, I think my love for Lush Life is endless. It’s stuck with me since Christmas, and bar one Max Martin produced romp, no other song has come quite as close to capturing my heart quite like it has. Zara Larsson was an internationally unknown singer when she first released Lush Life – which, it’s helpful to add, was written and produced by a troupe of completely unknown Swedish composers – and now, thanks to this one song (and, alright, a little help from MNEK) she’s on the verge of becoming one of the most exciting pop stars in recent memory. Time will still tell if Zara can ever hope to top the unabashed euphoria of Lush Life or whether her next single will fall completely flat or if that album (which has seen Zara share sessions with fellow Swede Max Martin and his Wolf Cousins collective) but I have more faith in her than that. Because she hasn’t run this song into the ground just yet and she’s been promoting it for 12 months, so just about anything can happen.
TL;DR, Lush Life is once again the song of the year for the second time running and Zara Larsson remains, for now, untouchably good.
Words by George Griffiths