It was announced in early January of 2020 that Lolo Zouaï would be supporting Dua Lipa on the pop superstar’s Future Nostalgia Tour. A few months later, the first global pandemic pushed the tour to the backburner, but the rising star was finally given the opportunity to bask in Dua Lipa’s warm glow this past summer and she hasn’t looked back since. “It’s one of those things like when you’re older you just look back and you’re like, ‘damn, I really did that,’” Zouaï tells RANGE.
This wasn’t Zouaï’s first time on the road though. Prior to opening for Dua Lipa, she did her own sold-out shows in Toronto, London, Paris, and New York all before releasing an album. The growth was organic but quick. Shortly after releasing a few self-proclaimed “random singles,” her fanbase expanded quickly. She quit her restaurant job, loaded up the tour bus and started her career. “Those were all just sold out 300 capacity shows, basically with six songs and my merch was selling and it was crazy. I was signing autographs and I was like, ‘Oh shit, I have a fanbase.’”
Zouaï grew up in San Francisco, but loves to record in New York. Though the Big Apple’s Flux Studios has been her home since the beginning of her career, on PLAYGIRL—her first album since 2019’s High Highs to Low Lows—she split time between Flux and Gold Digger Sounds in LA.
During that three-year gap, Zouaï has become renowned for her style, crediting her upbringing and her understated fearlessness for her natural proclivity to the fashion-forward world of pop music. “How you carry yourself and being comfortable in your own skin is what makes people want to dress like you,” she says. There is a simplicity to her thinking that is charming and exudes confidence.
That kind of emulation often manifests itself through an eerie connection between artists and fans during a live show. The day of the show takes on the tone of a ceremony, complete with rituals and ending with what feels like a spiritual experience. Part of the accepted code is fans doing their best to dress like their favourite artist. This summer, for instance, we saw plenty of Harry Styles fans donning feathers; a badge of honour for the fans and artists alike.
Zouaï is no stranger to this sensation, experiencing it during her own headlining tour. Besides followers or streams, she views this widespread impersonation as a symbol of success.“People wear like a tennis skirt. And like, a race car jacket and hoops and eyeliner. That was the fucking best, it was so cute.”
As you might expect from the title, 2019’s High Highs to Low Lows dealt with some deeply personal moments in Zouaï’s life, drawing inspiration out of her darkest moments. Realizing that she wasn’t taking care of herself mentally, her music and lyrics took a tone she wasn’t happy with. Zouaï has always dabbled in the more melancholy side of things, but this time felt a bit different. “This is all getting really dark, and it wasn’t the kind of dark that I liked,” she says. “It was a little bit too negative for me.”
The budding pop star regrouped and recentered herself, figuring out what direction she wanted to head in. Zouaï has frequently discussed the idea of a new era in anticipation of her latest project. The rumbling bass, hyperpop percussion and delightfully carefree lyricism of 2021 singles “Scooter” and “Galipette,” sung partially in her mother’s native French, certainly felt like a refreshing shift in tone—but Zouaï also subscribes to the old proverb, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in other areas of her musical output. “I feel like once the album is heard, it’s not that different,” she says. “I’m never going to really change my style, I’m just going to experiment with new drum patterns and not get stuck on only doing the same like trap beat”
The new music serves as more of a growth than a deviation, serving as a launching pad into her own future (nostalgia). Until the bitter end, Zouaï reveals very little about the project, though while keeping things under wraps, she does her best to untangle any misconceptions. “The people who fell in love with High Highs are gonna have a lot of stuff for them, too,” she says. “And then people who fell in love with the new sounds will also be happy.”
By Glenn Alderson
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