MØ Revs Up Los Angeles For “Forever Neverland” At The El Rey In Advance Of The Release Of Her New Album MØ Slays The Stage
LOS ANGELES, CA- MØ is a well-established Danish pop and electronic music artist that got her start in 2012, creating an independent album “No Mythologies To Follow”. The song “Pilgrim” was a massive hit, that shot her into mainstream fame, and got the attention of Diplo, a big idol of hers, to which he then signed her onto his record label.
I’d seen MØ at least three years prior at The Roxy in Hollywood. I saw her again later that same year with Elliphant at Coachella 2015. I quickly learned that they’d built themselves a small Scandi crew consisting of MØ , Elliphant, Tove Lo, Icona Pop, and their designated music video Director, Tim Erem. Being half Scandinavian, I was far more privy to this information than anyone in the States. The Roxy was a small intimate venue with the stage not much higher than my waist. Now, all these years later, I could finally do what I’ve always wanted to do, and document the MØ SHØ.
This venue, the El Rey, is MUCH bigger than The Roxy, and a testament to her long running career and success as a music artist. Her past shows have always been a combination of eclectic, “no fucks given” dancing, stage dives, and head bangs, wearing her signature long braid, thick sneakers and spandex. Her style of performance and stage presence can be directly attributed to her main genre of influence- Danish Punk Rock music.
Since her 2012 breakout, and the last show I was able to attend in 2015, she’s grown her career into a majorly recognizable one, with a continuously growing fan base. She’s done collaborations with Justin Bieber, Major Lazer, Diplo and Snakeships (just to name a few), and has released a slew of singles with millions of streams, and Youtube hits. It’s hard to believe that she’s “only” on her official second album, “Forever Neverland” (which is scheduled for release October 19, 2018). I say this facetiously, as she’s created so much music including two EPs, “Bikini Daze”, and “When I Was Young”, that it’s difficult to keep track of how much music she’s made, and when exactly everything was released. Without question, MØ is a hit-making machine.
While waiting in line, I couldn’t help but feel slightly out of place. MØ’s music connects with all ages, and much like my time documenting Pale Waves, I felt like I was about 10 years everyone’s senior. I stand around amongst all these young, cherubic faces, suffering from pre-pubescent emotional distress, and finally join in their excitement when the doors finally open.
We still have a solid hour before MØ even begins her set. We thump to the opener, DJ Kim Ahn. Some kid lights a joint in the audience, to which one of the security guards says, “Wait for the fucking show to start, don’t be amateurs”. Personally I’m not into weed, but still 420 friendly. To this guy, I’d say he’s a real one. I scope out what I can… Glittered-up rave girls, bare feet to my left, and fanboys front and center, standing just above me from the photo pit.
Finally, the curtains open, the wave of cheers ascend, and MØ and the band step out for the show. She comes out rocking a fanny pack, an oversized thrift store shirt, thick Dr. Martins, an ankle bracelet, and spandex shorts. These days she fashions a pixy haircut- Presenting to us, her totally uncompromised self. She waves, warmly greeting us with, “LOS ANGELES! I’m so happy to be here! Thank you for coming”. And they start right away.
MØ plays two, typically upbeat songs in down tempo; almost acoustic. One of these songs being, “Spend The Night With You”. I know what she’s doing- She’s warming us up. I think it caught everyone off guard at first, but once they figured it out, the audience was edging in anticipation toward the main event.
All of my focus and attention was on MØ. She was leaning forward to my camera, or rather hovering above me, and reaching out to the audience- A real pleasure to capture. She picks us, and the tempo, up with her third song, and major hit, “Kamikaze”. I secretly wished Eminem would have pop out for a guest feature. Everyone was singing along to every word.
The pacing and energy of the show picked up even more when she sang “Sun In Our Eyes”, her collaboration with Diplo.
She switched over to “Turn My Heart To Stone” and “Nostalgia”, more upbeat pop songs. Admittedly, I didn’t know either of these, but her diehard fans filled in the gaps, and sang along to every word. Personally, I loved “Turn My Heart To Stone”. Because I hadn’t known of these tracks, I really got to hear them for the first time, and I was majorly impressed with her range when she seamlessly hit the high notes in the first track.
She stops after these, and talks to the audience:
”This next song is ‘Pilgrim’. It’s the song that launched my career, and it’s symbolic to me because my next album is coming out, ‘Forever Neverland’, so I’m going to sing this for you- It’s like a special anniversary or a renewal”.
A classic hit, and one of my personal favorites, we are overjoyed and fully ready to take part and listen to this. Now, MØ was in full performance mode. With the audience singing along to every word, she jumps off the stage and goes into the crowd- No fear. The fans swarm her like flies on s**t, and she gets lost in the sea of iPhones. My guess is that her plan was to make it all the way around by the end of the song, but with El Rey sold out, she never makes it, and has to cut through the middle to get back on stage. I know this already, but I’ll say it again, her audience engagement is one of the best, and it’s what brings her fans back every time.
The next song she plays for us, is her Frank Ocean cover, “Lost”. She explained that it was actually inspired by Los Angeles- A fun fact I never knew until now. After this, she gets intimate with us, and says “It’s time for you guys to sing with me”… Her band looks confused, and I agree, thinking this is too soon. She hops back to her band to look at her set list taped to the floor, and says, “OH FUCK! It’s actually not the time”! What would-be a ruined surprise, is laughed off by her and us, together. I personally love this moment. It’s a comical and vulnerable snippet, reminding us of her humanity. The crowd responds with “WE STILL LOVE YOU”, and cheers ensue. She apologizes, and carries on with her next two tracks. We forget all about this when we get to her song, “Get It Right”- Another collab with Diplo. This has an EDM drop / chorus, and everyone loses it. MØ does her “no fucks given” dance- We mirror her.
Coming down from getting high, MØ says, “Okay, NOW you can sing along…If you’re up for it”. She takes a slow, acoustic take on “Cold Water”- Her collaboration with Justin Bieber and Major Lazer. Everyone sways side to side, taking in this new version. “This next song, means the world to me”. We come all the way back up with a major bop, “Lean On”. I’m ready. Let’s dance. This time, MØ head bangs, and jumps off the side of the stage again to party in the pit, swallowed up by the crowd. To this, let me be clear… MØ makes viral, electropop music for a predominantly young audience. But I’m gonna call it like I see it- Emulating her punk rock idols before her, MØ is a fuckin’ rock star. Whatta legend.
And just like that, the show is over. It went by so fast for me, but that’s how I know a show kicked ass. It goes by quickly, and always leaves you wanting more. The crowd shouts “ENCORE”, and within less than a minute, the whole crew is back on stage. MØ comes out saying, “Thank you guys! I’m so happy! You’re amazing”! They’re generous, and give us not one encore song, but TWO. MØ says, “This first song is a love song”… She performs “Don’t Leave”, her collab with Snakeships. It’s still an upbeat pop song, so the vibe and crowd keep their energy high. She finishes off with, “LOS ANGELES I LOVE YOU”!! This pulls me right into another would-be rock star scene of a major band performing in the 80s- Another clear sign that MØ is a rock star underneath all the pop hype.
She gives it her all with “Final Song”, a MAJOR single. The crowd goes nuts, and right when the drop hits, MØ flies over with her classic, signature stage dive. I was waiting for it, and I got everything I wanted. The crowd holds her up for the whole song. She relishes the moment, singing, and kicking and punching the air on her back. She’s no stranger to this ritual. She floats back to stage and the audience is on cloud nine. She finishes off, sending out big love, with big “THANK YOUs” to the crowd. How do you come down after a show like that? I was ready to stage dive myself, fuck s**t up, and shout lyrics at the top of my lungs even though I’m tone deaf. The only thing to take me out of my moment of feeling the after burn of an incredible show, was one of the teenage rave girls saying in a whiny voice, “I want her to sign my phone case SO baaad”! Forgive me if I sound jaded, but I guess that’s our generation, and Gen Z’s attitude in a nutshell- You get to experience a mind blowing show like that, and all you want is a signed iPhone case for the most Instagram likes. Ah well, I was elated with my time listening to MØ.
What’s kept me abreast of MØ’s career for all these years has never been about cheap thrills. Her sound isn’t what caught my attention either. It was, and has always had been, her lyrics. I admit, I haven’t paid as much attention to her more recent output, simply due to the fact that she’s been creating more mainstream pop hits with fewer words and catchy beats to feed the masses. No judgment, she’s a talented boss, growing her own career with strong business movies, and making money. But I’ll always appreciate her first “No Mythologies To Follow” album. She wrote stuff like, “Life is a daydream, we’re dead anyway”. Or the entire first verse of “Pilgrim”, “Oh what a world I was born into Warriors are lying down. Hush little head, don’t get sick, So sorrow-filled I am. Old, wise river take me to the sea, be free.
Like pilgrims on the Camino, I go, I go….All the time I just want to Fuck it up and say, I’ll get a hold of it”. These are deep, contemplative, haunting lyrics and stories. With this, a combination of catchy beats, and good music are rare, especially today. For that accomplishment alone, she’s earned my hard respect for life.
Her music has evolved from big existential questions, to things revolving more around relationships and longing. There’s a deep pain masked by the upbeat pop rhythms in all of her work. This makes it digestible and entirely relatable to her fans, and anyone new who’d dare give it a listen.
You can check out all of her stuff throughout the Internet, or catch her overseas on upcoming Europe tour.