Published Aug 14, 2019Two years after her debut studio album, Snoh Aalegra is still deep in her emotions. The aptly titled - Ugh, those feels again, the Swedish crooner's new album and follow-up to predecessor Feels, is a deep dive into life and love: its ups and downs and its messy, confusing in-betweens. It would be easy to think she was in the throes of a fairy-tale relationship right now. And in some ways she is — with herself.
"The album is really a continuation of my life," says Aalegra, 31, in an Exclaim! interview. "With Feels, I was in a really long relationship with somebody, so the songs were about that. This album is more about where I am right now. I'm single and reflecting on a bunch of things. In my last relationship, I didn't realize my own worth and I took so much shit. I wasn't very careful with my own heart. But I've learned so much about myself since then. Now, being out of that relationship, I feel more excited about life. I feel more inspired. It all reflects in my music."
The artwork for the new album is an elegant, understated black and white photo of Aalegra, channelling her inner Sade.
"It's so cliché. Every artist says things like, 'Oh, this album is more honest than ever,' or, 'This is me, for real.' But it's true. I'm in a different place and I feel more open. In my music, I bare it all; it's really naked. So I didn't mind showing my face in the artwork this time."
Although the album explores some of her darker moments, there's an overall lightness to Aalegra's latest effort that reflects her renewed, post-relationship lease on life. "I Want You Around" captures the endearing innocence of budding love and "Find Someone Like You" is the type of heartwarming love song that could score a first kiss or first dance at a wedding ("I joke and say that song is dedicated to my future husband," says Aalegra). Despite any past hurts she may have endured, her vocals are still full-hearted, optimistic and sweet. She sings the love songs from her gut. The singer says creating the album was a happy time.
"I've never had this much fun making an album. I laughed so much in the studio while making this album. I felt like I was more free than ever," says Aalegra. "The entertainment industry can feel so serious. But at the end of the day, it's music and it's supposed to be positive and make people feel good. I learned to have more fun on this album."
Like Feels, Aalegra's latest effort is mellow and emotional, with a heavy hip-hop influence ushered along by Aalegra's executive producer and brother-in-law, No I.D. She also teamed up with Brooklyn producer D'Mile, who joined her for the standout "Whoa," and joined forces with Canada's own Matthew Burnett and Riley Bell, whom she met while touring with Daniel Caesar (and who produced Freudian). Their contribution is a sexy, steamy number called "Toronto," an eyebrow-raising title for a Swedish singer with Iranian roots. Set to a smoky R&B backdrop, "Toronto" sounds like an obvious ode to a secret lover somewhere in the city. Don't expect a juicy story behind the song title, though.
"It's funny, I don't even say the word 'Toronto' in the song. But it just became a funny thing in meetings. I was trying to finish the song and we kept saying 'Okay, when is the Toronto song going to be done?' We kept calling it 'the Toronto song' in the meetings. So I was like, 'You know what? I'm just going to call this song "Toronto."'"
There are other songs, like "Nothing to Me," "Love Like That" and "You," that talk about darker relationships, the ones that might feel good but are ultimately destructive. On these tracks, with honesty and candour, Aalegra explores the toxic dynamic that she has since escaped. Though it can be hard to be so frank about her personal pain, Aalegra is happy to share her experiences if it means listeners can relate.
"The goal with this album, and with any album, is to make people feel something. I've realized that we might feel so alone in what we're going through, but there are always so many others going through the same thing. We might feel lonely, but we're never alone," says Aalegra.
"If my music can be part of the soundtrack to your day, that's such an honour. Laugh, cry, comfort yourself, whatever. As long as it makes you feel something, I'll be happy."
- Ugh, those feels again is out August 16 courtesy of Artium / Kobalt.