Loreen - Swedish singer, songwriter and composer

Loreen - Swedish singer, songwriter and composer

Loreen, born Lorine Zineb Nora Talhaoui, is a Swedish singer, songwriter and composer. Representing Sweden at Eurovision, she has won the contest twice, in 2012 with the song "Euphoria" and in 2023 with "Tattoo". She is the second artist and the first woman to have won the contest twice.


Born in Stockholm in 1983, of Moroccan immigrant parents, she wanted to become a musician from an early age. She took part in the Swedish Idol 2004 television competition, finishing in fourth place and making a name for herself with the Swedish public. The following year, she released her first single, "The Snake", with the group Rob'n'Raz, and became a host of the TV show "Lyssna" on Swedish channel TV400.

Wishing to withdraw from overly visible roles, she began working as a producer and director for segments of several Swedish reality shows, such as "Värsta pojkvänsakademin" on TV3, "Matakuten" on TV4 and "Frufritt" on SVT.

She returned to the spotlight in 2011, taking part in Melodifestivalen, a Swedish singing competition, with the song "My Heart Is Refusing Me", which reached the top 10 in Sweden. Two of her tracks finished in the Swedish top 20, her singles "Crying Out Your Name" (2012) and "Statements" (Melodifestivalen 2017).


In 2012, Loreen won the national Melodifestivalen final with the song "Euphoria", making her the artist to represent Sweden at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, Azerbaijan. She won Eurovision with a total of 372 points out of 40 voting countries. In June 2012, just one week after the contest, "Euphoria" reached number three on the UK Official Singles Chart, the best position for a non-British Eurovision entry since Johnny Logan's "Hold Me Now" in 1987. The single sold 62,148 copies in its first week in the UK. Euphoria is also known for its consistent presence in the UK charts, staying in the top 20 for weeks after the contest, which was rare for a Eurovision song.


In October 2012, she released her debut album "Heal", which quickly became a huge success. It debuted at the top of the Sverigetopplistan Top 60 albums chart and became certified platinum in Sweden in its second week.

In 2014, she announced her first residency concert, "En Euforisk Jul", at Moriska Paviljongen in Malmö, Sweden. That same year, she was nominated for three Rockbjörnen and five World Music Awards. She also headlined the Budva Tourist Organization Celebration and the National Holiday at Jaz Beach. In November 2014, she announced on Instagram that she was working on a new musical project called "Paperlight".

In 2015, she performed as an interval act at Melodifestivalen 2015 with the lead single from "Paperlight", "Paper Light (Higher)". A few months later, she headlined the Vienna Life Ball, Europe's biggest charity event for people with HIV and AIDS, in a dress designed by Jean Paul Gaultier.


She released her second album "Ride" in November 2017, five years after the first, with the singles "71 Charger" and "Hate the Way I Love You". This album follows an EP entitled "Nude", released a few months earlier, with the singles "Body" and "Jungle".


In 2020, she appeared in David Dobkin's musical film "Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga", alongside other Eurovision winners. The same year, she joined the Swedish TV show "Så mycket bättre" and the cast of the Netflix film "JJ+E", due for release in September 2021, in which she plays Maria, the mother of the main character.


In 2021, Loreen released her first self-penned Swedish single, "Sötvattentårar", and began a Swedish tour. The following year, she took part in Melodifestivalen for the fourth time with the song "Tattoo". The song was released on digital platforms on the night of the final and debuted at number one in Sweden, becoming her second number-one single. She won the contest with 177 points, becoming the Swedish representative for the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool. She won the Eurovision with 583 points, giving Sweden its seventh victory and making Loreen the first woman and second artist to win the contest twice.


A dedicated human rights activist, she was the only contestant to meet local activists, through the Swedish NGO Civil Rights Defenders, at Eurovision 2012 in Azerbaijan. She told journalists that "human rights are violated in Azerbaijan every day. One should not be silent about such things". A spokesman for the Azerbaijani government reacted critically, saying the contest should not be "politicized", and called on the EBU to prevent such meetings. Swedish diplomats defended Loreen, responding that the EBU, Swedish broadcaster SVT and Loreen had not acted against the rules of the contest.

Loreen spoke about this event and the "politicization" of the contest in an interview for The Guardian in 2023."I knew exactly what I was going to do because I believe that there is nothing more important than human life. […] I don’t like the word ‘political’. It’s so small – I wish there was a bigger word for it. My people use music as a very powerful tool – you can create movements with it, depending on what type of energy you have. How can that not be political? Look at the Kalush Orchestra [the Ukrainian Eurovision 2022 winners]. This song brought a lot of hope to the Ukrainians."


In 2012, she also performed at the Slavianski Bazaar in Belarus, in the presence of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. During her visit to the country, fully aware of the risks involved in "speaking out", she met the wife of pro-democracy activist and political prisoner Ales Bialiatski, as well as representatives of Viasna and independent journalists. During a two-hour meeting, she expressed her support for political prisoners and signed the petition to ban death penalty in the country.


In 2013, she was appointed Ambassador of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan. In this capacity, she visited Kabul, Afghanistan, and the village of Yaskin Bala in the Warsaj Valley, with Carl Bildt, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs. The following year, Loreen returned to follow the construction of a new elementary school in the village. "It was a great experience to meet the people of Warsaj in Yaskin Bala, both men and women. I hope to come back soon and meet my friends again. Education is the most important issue, when it comes to decrease poverty and to help people taking control over their own lives. I am very impressed of what SCA is doing in Afghanistan. To me, this is the right way of development efforts. I am happy to be committed in that work".


To honor her work, Loreen was named the new Patron of the World Children's Prize in New York, and received the Crystal Globe, an award she will be given a second time in 2014. That same year, she met Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai and Queen Silvia of Sweden at a ceremony at Gripsholm Castle in Mariefred, Sweden.

She also supports WCP, the world's largest educational program for children's rights, and performed at Sverige samlas och hjälper in March 2022, a fundraising gala in support of Ukraine after the Russian invasion.


A few weeks after winning Eurovision 2023, Loreen spoke to a journalist from The Guardian. She talks about her strong spirituality, describing herself as "a nomad from the Atlas Mountains", and about what's close to her heart. Among these, she speaks out on the importance of integrating immigrants and refugees into society, with indisputable arguments based on her personal experience. Indeed, both her parents are first-generation Moroccan immigrants. Her mother arrived in Sweden at the age of 14 with nothing, fleeing an arranged marriage. She had Loreen, the eldest of six children, at the age of 16. Her great-grandmother also had to flee to protect herself and her children. Loreen recounts that "Her husband got killed in the war, she was beautiful, she was also very young. The family wanted her to remarry. She didn’t want this. So she dressed up as a man, took her two children and fled to Algeria. She raised her children, still dressed up as a man. I have a picture of her with a gold tooth. The women in my family fought really hard to get me to where I’m at."

So when it comes to helping immigrants and refugees, Loreen is on the front line, because she's been there. "You want to have a purpose as a person, you want to feel like you matter. You don’t want to sit around and not do anything. When we have our immigrants coming in to Sweden, we just make them sit there and wait. Let them have a purpose. Let them be a part of this society. This is really important. Otherwise there’s segregation. How do you build up a confidence, where people think, 'I earned this. I did this'."


Loreen also supports the lgbtqia+ community, one of the reasons she believes she was subconsciously drawn to Eurovision, a contest that advocates acceptance. "I love the fact that it doesn’t matter what background you have – as long as you come with love and respect, you’re allowed to be there". In 2017, she actually officially came out as bisexual, during an interview with Swedish TV host Renée Nyberg. "Many people are so focused on sex, on sexuality. Love is so much more. I usually say 'Love is where you find it'. [...] I’m open. I want to find love. And if I find it with a woman and it feels right, then it is right". Over the years, Eurovision has firmly established itself as one of the most important events for the lgbtqia+ community, one of the few televised events where homosexuality is actively celebrated and defended, and where lgbtqia+ people can express themselves and fully embrace their own selves (PinkNews, 2017). From Paul Oscar, the first openly gay contestant in 1997, to Dana International, the first transgender artist to win in 1998, to Krista Siegfrids kissing her backing singer on stage in 2013... Eurovision has long carried a very clear message that no one was going to hide to spare the feelings of bigots. So, when asked by the journalist if she is bisexual, Loreen simply replied: "I guess I am, because love is where you find it. Love is love. It has not much to do with [sex] so much as [the heart]." (The Guardian, 2023)




© Article BY Julie Henry Poutrel for Adama Toulon

© Photo: Jonatan Svensson Glad - CC-BY-SA 3.0