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You Heard It Here First: Snoh Aalegra on her soul-baring music and being Prince’s protégée

Every week Stylist is shining a light on a female artist you need to be listening to. This week we meet the Swedish-Iranian R&B powerhouse Snoh Aalegra.

Snoh Aalegra makes music for anyone who has ever had a feeling. Her hazy, dreamlike R&B is universal in its content: the soaring highs and stomach-churning lows of romantic relationships, from longing to heartbreak to late-night texts.

Her second album, August’s Ugh, Those Feels Again, is soul-bearing and cinematic, already a go-to for #SadGirlFall Instagram posts and wistful lyric-laden tweets. Breakout hits I Want You Around and Situationship have racked up 13 million streams between them, and the 32-year-old’s dazzling star is still on the rise.

Born to Iranian parents, Aalegra grew up in Sweden glued to the music videos of Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson on MTV. Migrating to Los Angeles in her late 20s, she was discovered by none other than Prince, who heard two of her songs online and went on to mentor her until his death in 2016.

“He had a life-changing impact on me, something I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” Aalegra says. “He told me I was an important artist, that I have a responsibility to make music, and I’m not going to take that lightly. I’m taking it with me.”

Here, she talks to Stylist about some of her most formative firsts.

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The first album I bought…
Was Robyn’s debut Robyn Is Here. That was the first CD I bought myself, but I had a lot of cassettes at home. My mum would always play a lot of music in the house – Shirley Bassey and Whitney Houston. And I was part of the MTV generation; seeing music videos like Michael Jackson’s Thriller was a magical thing for a kid.

The first gig I went to…
Was a Backstreet Boys concert. It was kind of crazy, there were a lot of people fainting and pushing each other. It was kind of dangerous, to be honest.

The first time I knew music was my future…
Was at a very young age. I grew up admiring Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin. They are the people who made me want to make music. R&B and soul is why I make music.

Snoh Aalegra: her new album Ugh, Those Feels Again is a soul-baring gem

The first time I realised I was good at my job…
Is difficult to say. The thing is, I just always felt like I had a purpose with music. I felt this kind of spiritual connection to it which I could never explain, but it just made me feel so much. The way Whitney Houston has given me goosebumps, that’s what I dreamt of doing as well. 

Then being mentored by Prince, having somebody like him in my corner, that changed everything for me in terms of my confidence. To get validation from that level – especially as I’ve had a lot of resistance and people telling me to give up – it meant the world.

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The first time I performed…
Was in school. I always did little solos, but my first big one was Can You Feel The Love Tonight from The Lion King – but in Swedish. Where I grew up, all the Disney movies were dubbed. I started writing my own songs in English when I was about nine, but it was my third language so, grammatically, they made no sense [laughs].

The first thing I do in the morning…
Is check my phone, unfortunately.

The first thing I do when I get home…
Is take my shoes off. I live in a small studio apartment in LA so there’s not much to do – I just come home, throw myself on the bed, take a few deep breaths and then take it from there.

The first thing I heard this morning…
Is one of my friend’s new songs, his name is Lou Val. He’s an artist from Toronto and I played his song Soul-catcher when I woke up.

The first thing I’ll spend money on…
Is probably make-up, I take all my make-up everywhere I go. I have a habit of drawing freckles on my face, I’ve been doing it since I was 14 but I’ve noticed it’s a trend now. Also good food – food over everything – and I’m into headphones and music gear too. I invest a lot in my music – as an independent artist you kind of have to.

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The first person who inspired me…
Is Michael Jackson, he’s had the biggest impact on me. There was so much about him, he was so unique. His voice, his moves. And then there was so much in his artistry, so much he invented: the glove, the socks, the glitter. He’s my inspiration when I bring lots of glitz and glamour to the stage.

The first female artist you should go and listen to after reading this…
Is Eryn Allen Kane, she’s an incredible vocalist. And also Madison Ryann Ward, she’s dope.

Snoh Aalegra’s second album, Ugh, Those Feels Again, is out now.

Images: Getty

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