Pop sensation Dagny on discovering her queer fandom and being ‘vulnerable’ in her new music
“I feel very at home at this festival,” says Norwegian pop star Dagny, fresh from the stage at London’s Mighty Hoopla festival.
Dressed in a black-and-white playsuit and dark glasses, with slicked back, blonde hair, the 32-year-old singer, born Dagny Norvoll Sandvik, is chilling backstage but still buzzing on the adrenaline. She’s just performed her single, “Heartbreak in the Making”, and the crowd lapped it up.
Standing on stage against a multi-coloured backdrop and belting out several electropop hits, it’s no wonder she feels at home. As an unspoken queer festival, Mighty Hoopla is bursting with people who know and love Dagny.
Her 2017 song “Love You Like That” was an instant hit with LGBTQ+ pop lovers, so much so that two years later, Katy Perry remade it into her platinum-selling single “Never Really Over”, obviously aware of its queer and commercial appeal.
Dagny’s 2020 debut album Strangers/Lovers brought similar adoration from the community.
At first, she didn’t know she’d accumulated a sizeable queer fan base. Dagny arrived as a fully formed pop artist during the height of the pandemic, so meet-and-greets were a no-no. In 2022, however, all that changed.
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Although it hasn’t been long since she realised her affinity with her queer fans, they’ve already taught her how to be herself and to trust her instincts.
‘I don’t want to go less is more, I want to go for more is more’
“It sounds like I’m talking down Norway, I really am not, but in Norway… we have a lot of musicians [who are like the] girl next door, who rock up in your normal-day wear. But when I go on stage, I want to be a bit extra, I want to dress up, I want to have an outfit that feels different to what I would wear to the store on a Tuesday,” she says.
“I wasn’t sure if there was room for that. Then I thought, that’s what I like. I don’t want to go: ‘less is more, I want to go for more is more’.”
Seeing her LGBTQ+ fans arrive at her shows wearing whatever they feel comfortable in has taught her that she should be able to do the same. “If that’s over-the-top, that’s fine. If that’s extra, that’s fine. If that’s very casual, that’s also fine.”
Her latest track is a slight but perceptible shift away from her signature brand of maximalist pop, and it’s a taste of what’s to come from her upcoming, much-anticipated second album. There’s a hint of early noughties nostalgia – think All Saints or Natalie Imbruglia – and Dagny herself notes that she had Alanis Morissette and The Cardigans on the brain when creating the song.
“Strangers/Lovers [is] very electropop,” she says. “That was very inspiring to me at the time, and it still is, but once you’ve done that, you kind of feel like you need to find something new to inspire you. You don’t want to rewrite the same song again and again.”
‘A lot of my music is that mix between being very upbeat, but also there’s a melancholia to it’
As a “child of the ’90s” who found her love of music through the Spice Girls – “I had the t-shirt, I had the stickers, I knew all the dances. I was Mel B” – she found herself overwhelmingly inspired by the early 2000s. “That was what was tooting my horn. A lot of the music on this album is gonna be more influenced by that,” she reveals.
Dagny is used to writing about heartbreak. Half of her debut record is about a relationship breakdown. This time around, though, her lyrics might be stripped of their pop gloss.
“A lot of my music is like that mix between being very upbeat, but also there’s a melancholia to it. Like the cry dance,” she says, citing one of her influences, Robyn and her epic back catalogue of crying-in-the-club Scandipop. “But this new record feels a bit more raw and a bit more vulnerable. Maybe. I’m still working on it.”
Dagny fans shouldn’t worry, though. The album will absolutely be recognisable, with pop at its heart. The possibilities are endless: she’s keen to work with some queer talent too, such as Olly Alexander.
“I just love a great pop hook and a great pop song,” she says.
Her parents are musicians too, although they specialise in jazz bossa nova.
“Growing up in an environment where there’s a lot of jazz, and I went to school with classical and jazz music, people would always make fun of pop a little bit because it’s so simple,” she says. “But I think sometimes the simple and the easiest [music is] almost the hardest to do.
“In Norway, there wasn’t a lot of pop happening when I started. I was a bit worried about how that was going to go down, but I think people like it.”
“Heartbreak in the Making” is out now.
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