Bustle Mixtape

10 Years Later, Icona Pop Still Don’t Care

The dance-pop duo is releasing a new album, a decade after “I Love It” topped the charts.

Bustle Mixtape

In 2012, Icona Pop released their eponymous debut album, featuring a half-sung-half-screamed lyric that would become their de facto calling card: “I don’t care, I love it.” It was a pivotal step in a journey that Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo had begun when they named their band back in 2009 — courtesy of Hjelt’s mother.

“She went to dinner with her friends from Italy and talked about us having a band, and they were saying, ‘Oh, so they’re going to be in the next pop icons,’ which is Icona Pop in Italian,” Hjelt explains to Bustle at a hotel bar in New York, wine glass in hand. “We were huge fans of David Bowie, Prince,” Aino adds. “It wasn’t just about us; it was like, ‘Oh, pop icons.’ We want to become one of them.”

It took another year for the United States to embrace the song, called “I Love It,” which was written by Charli XCX and a mutual friend, producer Patrik Berger. But eventually, the band’s electro-pop-punk mission sent them on a fast-track journey to fame. They spent two years promoting the track and opening for A-listers like Miley Cyrus and One Direction, which resulted in a global Top 10 hit.

A decade later, the duo are finally releasing their second studio album, featuring the single “Where Do We Go From Here” that premiered on June 23.

The full album, Club Romantech, is due out on Sept. 1. It revives the band’s signature blend of intricate pop melodies and pounding, club-ready beats, with help from EDM collaborators such as Sofi Tukker, Galantis, and Ultra Naté. Club Romantech was inspired by the virtual nightclub they created in their studio during the lockdown. “We started inviting our fans, talking to them, like, ‘How are you? What are you longing for when everything opens up?’” Hjelt explains. “It’s all about the people you are with,” Jawo adds regarding their virtual dance bar of a club. “It doesn’t matter where you are. For us, it was you and me in the studio and our fans that we connected with, and we felt like we had a club.”

The album represents “so much freedom,” as it’s their first time recording one with full creative control, giving them a second chance to prove themselves. (“I Love It” was originally written off by many radio stations and executives, but when the song dominated Top 40 airwaves and commercials, Hjelt and Jawo realized how strong their own instincts were.)

“We’re not tired of playing it live because we just love that energy that we can have together with the crowd,” Hjelt says of their hit song and its early criticism (they “still don’t care,” she says). “It’s probably going to outlive us. People always told us, ‘Wait 10 years and you’re going to hate that song, [but it] hasn’t happened yet.”

Below, Icona Pop talk about 10 years of “I Love It” and singing karaoke with Miley Cyrus.

On Opening For Miley Cyrus & Working With Charli XCX

What was your favorite memory of opening for Miley Cyrus?

Hjelt: We were singing karaoke, going out with Miley. She took us to a barn party in Nashville.

Jawo: Miley’s our favorite. We saw her show maybe 10 times on that tour. She was the sweetest, the most hardworking.

What did you learn from opening for other artists?

Jawo: When you see the big artists, they work so hard as well. Miley was on a tour bus every single night and she was doing all the promo and sound checking — exactly what we were doing but with a bigger crew.

Have you seen the meme of Charli XCX performing “I Love It” in Germany and no one knowing the words?

Hjelt: We love Charli. She’s the coolest. But we’ve been laughing to that one so hard. She’s like, “What the f*ck? Don’t you know the words?”

Jawo: She’s so rock and roll, and we’ve known her for such a long time and are so happy to see her career blooming right now.

She still performs “I Love It” in her sets.

Jawo: She is? I love that. We should join her one day.

On Favorite Songs, Misunderstood Lyrics, & Playing SNL

What song do you want to be played at your wedding?

Hjelt: “There Must Be a Place” by the Talking Heads.

Now what song would you want played at your funeral?

Hjelt: I wouldn’t want a happy song.

Jawo: Yeah, or something like a symphony, but with a happy [tone]. There’s one Beethoven song, but that would be so depressing. It’s one of the most beautiful songs that I’ve heard. Maybe a Prince song too, like “Purple Rain.”

Is there an artist or band who’s really cheesy but you love anyway?

Jawo: I love all the boy bands. We don’t even think that’s cheesy. That’s respect.

Hjelt: They’re cheesy in a good way. Like *NSYNC, we’re huge fans.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve written a song about?

Jawo: “Downtown,” maybe.

Hjelt: Yeah, it’s weird when your mom is like, “‘Downtown’ is my favorite song,” because [the lyrics are], “Downtown, downtown, I like it when you kiss me downtown.” She kind of misunderstood this but doesn’t know.

Do you remember the first CD you ever bought?

Jawo: Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart.”

Hjelt: We had these compilations called Mr. Music in Sweden. It was a bunch of different songs with different artists from the ’90s.

What was the moment you really felt like musicians?

Jawo: The first time we came to New York and had our headlining show. It was at Glasslands, a small venue in Brooklyn.

Hjelt: We felt so cool that we could come to New York and play a show, and people showed up.

Jawo: That was a big dream for us, and people were singing along to our music.

Hjelt: But I also remember when we did SNL. That was crazy. And also the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. That was such a moment when we were like, “Oh, my God, I’ve seen this on TV.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.