The synthpop icon Molly Nilsson talks to Tribune about her new politically charged music, her love for Rosa Luxemburg, and why she wants a world with no more billionaires.

Molly Nilsson in the video for her track ‘Absolute Power’ (Graw Böckler and Molly Nilsson).

On her days off from working at the cloakroom at Berlin’s Berghain nightclub, Molly Nilsson began recording lo-fi pop gems. Armed with a knack for creating gloomy ballads that sparkle with mordant observations on life, loneliness and the city, it didn’t take long for the Stockholm-born, Berlin-based artist to etch her name in the hearts of audiences from Manchester to Tokyo, now enjoying significant cult status across the world.

Together with her spartan stage set-up, her first songs captured her essence in the eyes of thousands: miniature, realist, personally driven odes to a certain type of young life, revolving around late night bars, the feeling of loneliness in crowded places and nagging reminders that not even the tiniest moments of beauty afforded to people by a city can ever last.

However, while her more recent records are brighter, so too are they more political. More often than not, Molly Nilsson uses her platform as a way to address social issues, including gun violence, the male gaze, late capitalism, and ‘neoliberal bullshit,’ as she neatly put it in the 2015 anthem ‘Lovers are Losers’.

This is true for her tenth and newest album, Extreme. A remarkable work pop which combines her signature aching melodies with unalloyed socialist conviction, Extreme is a left-wing record that is wryer and, in some ways, deeper than Billy Bragg’s activist earnestness and Gang of Four’s theory-driven art school formalism.

Songs like ‘They Will Pay’ take aggressive aim at tech billionaires, who are named and shamed for their exorbitant wealth and attacked for not recognising unions formed by workers at corporations like Amazon. For the historically minded bedroom dancer, ‘Obnoxiously Talented’ offers a propulsive elegy to Rosa Luxemburg, the communist leader murdered a century ago on the orders of the German state.

With socialist pop music in lamentably short supply, Tribune’s Alexander Brown caught up with Molly to discuss music after Covid-19, the future of creative pursuits in a neoliberal world, her hatred of pessimism and her admiration for revolutionaries like Rosa Luxemburg.

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