Norwegian artist Aurora Aksnes is a muse for the electro-dark pop generation

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AURORA has been my favorite artist since I discovered her in 2015 as a freshman in high school. Messing around in one of my classes, I found a tweet by Katy Perry praising AURORA’s first single, “Runaway.” Watching the music video, I wondered who this pale, winter-fairy-like Norwegian girl was. Her dark pop genre of music was like a call from nature, like a viking song of discovery and exploration of a world where one’s truest self can run wild and free.

I was hooked. 

Aurora Aksnes, better known as AURORA, grew up in the Os Mountains, in a house isolated by nature. She spent a lot of time outdoors alone. The artist began young, composing melodies and whole songs at six years old, creating music out of the old piano in her family’s attic. When she entered school, her family (her two sisters, in particular) was afraid that she would be picked on due to her personality and habit of dressing in long skirts. However, she surprised everyone by becoming a popular and widely-loved child. Her sisters, Viktoria and Miranda, often collaborate with AURORA today as clothing designer and makeup artist, respectively.

AURORA’s music, often classified as electropop, strongly features synth, drums and keyboard melodies. Back then, AURORA had a couple thousand followers on Instagram and only had a few singles out, like “Murder Song” and “Running with the Wolves.” “Murder Song” is a dark, longing story about a supposed “justified” murder. It’s led by AURORA’s passionate vocals, which are consistently in soft, low tones, except for the chorus, where she is almost yelling the lyrics, horrified at the crime. Behind it lies a consistent, soothing guitar finger pattern that guides us through the rollercoaster of emotions. “Running with the Wolves” can be said to be the opposite of “Murder Song.” While AURORA’s delivery of the catchy melody is still emotional, it is far more upbeat. The main line is a perfect example of AURORA’s style: “I’m running with the wo, oo, oolves!” mimics wolves howling, yet it’s catchy and makes people want to sing their lungs out. The solid drumline reminds one of a hunt — slow at first, but quickening at the climax of the hunt (the chorus). By 2016, she re-released many of these and other singles into her debut album “All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend.” This was a very introspective album (as most first albums are), and felt very personal and sad. “Warrior” and “Conqueror” are two standouts, as they are anthem-like in nature. They hold upbeat drum tempos and catchy melodies that make one want to dance and shout the lyrics from on top of a mountain. Many in her fanbase (myself included) go so far as to say that these two songs are “classics.”

Over the next two years, however, she grew and evolved, both as a person and as an artist. She toured all around the world, starting in Norway, the U.K. and western Europe, initially doing smaller club shows. But by the summer of 2018, AURORA was playing at Lollapalooza in Brazil, singing then-unreleased hits “Soft Universe” and “Gentle Earthquakes” to the huge crowd of “Warriors and Weirdos,” the chosen name for her fanbase. The singer had amassed three digits of followers on Instagram, and was now well-known in the U.K. and Norway due to her years of touring. She began to be acclaimed for her mysterious and otherworldly aesthetic, and her merchandise, social media and style had become a “brand” for which she often draws inspiration from traditional Japanese fashion and aesthetics.  And five years later, while I have gone on to be a sophomore in college, AURORA has released two new albums: “Infections of a Different Kind: Step 1” and “A Different Kind of Human: Step 2.” She now has over 711k followers on Instagram and has a notable Twitter presence. She has toured North America, South America, Japan and most of Europe.

“Infections of a Different Kind” is by far her best album yet. AURORA’s sophomore album is a fully-rounded, well-versed journey of self discovery, discovering the outlandish world and learning to empathize with the world around you. There are eight tracks, all of them addressing deeply touching themes, such as love, loss, nature and humanity. Though the album itself is all very melancholic in tone, the standout title track is a soft, existential ballad instead of the rest of the album’s quick beats and electronic sounds. She has said many times that this album is a call to “not be afraid to feel, and not be afraid to cry,” as she says in an interview with NME magazine. “First you accept that life comes with pain, and then you work on it. I want people to listen to it and feel like they’re getting stronger … It’s the process of becoming a warrior, a true warrior, for the world. But you have to work on your own stuff first.” 

Her third album, “A Different Kind of Human,” came more unexpectedly, only six months later. This second “step,” per se, is part two of “Infections of a Different Kind.” It’s about taking steps to touch and heal others. Take what you’ve learned from “Infections” and do something. Though the music continues to be pensive in nature, its upbeat, major-pitched tones suggest that AURORA is ready for action. “The Seed” is a particularly popular song; it’s an anthem for mother nature, calling out capitalism and the fact that humans have destroyed Earth. The famous line from the chorus, “You cannot eat money,” has been very impactful in carrying that message out to the world. Other popular songs include “The River,” an ode to allowing yourself to feel and release your emotions, and “Daydreamer,” which is another dance anthem. 

But in reality, all of AURORA’s music touches people. She has a way of getting into your head, a way of sticking her messages of love, strength and power onto your brain. Her piano ballads move hearts; her intense beats move bodies. The listener feels incredibly close to her and her emotions. It seems that every one of her fans has a story about how AURORA’s music has changed or helped them in some way and they, in turn, influence AURORA as well. She has said multiple times that she dedicates “Queendom” to her fans — “You have a home in my queendom” being another one of her trademark lines. Truly, there is no one like her out in the world, and I consider myself lucky to be living in the same age as Aurora Aksnes.

Contact Kamilah Arteaga at kam412 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Kamilah Arteaga (’22) is a double major in Chicanx/Latinx Studies and Creative Writing. She can most likely be found stargazing and listening to 70’s & 80’s rock, indie rock, or The Weeknd.