Laleh Pourkarim (Persian: لاله پورکریم, pronounced lɒːle-je puːɾkæɾiːm; born 10 June 1982) is an Iranian-born Swedish singer-songwriter and former actress. Following a short acting career, she entered the music industry in 2005 with her self-titled debut album which peaked at number one in Sweden and went on to become the highest selling album of the year.
She has since released three further albums, all of which have been produced, written, recorded, engineered and performed by herself. She has sung in both English and Swedish, in addition to her parents' native tongue, Persian. In 2011, she participated in the Swedish television show Så mycket bättre, which sees a number of artists create new interpretations of the others songs. Her performances on the show were lauded by both critics and the public. Following the show, it was noted in the media that she had been given "a second breakthrough".
Her 2012 album, Sjung, was released across Scandinavia on 25 January 2012 to generally positive reviews. The lead single from Sjung, "Some Die Young" was a commercial hit across Scandinavia, peaking at number one in Norway for eight weeks and becoming the twentieth biggest selling single of all time in the country. It also went double platinum in Sweden and gave Laleh her second chart-hit in Denmark and first in Finland. Her latest album, Colors, was released across Scandinavia in October 2013. She uses her given name Laleh as her stage name.
Background and personal life:
Laleh was born in the Northern Iranian harbour town of Bandar-e Anzali, but fled the country a year later with her parents to live in Azerbaijan, and later moving on to Minsk and a refugee camp in Tidaholm. She moved to Sweden when she was twelve (she has dual citizenship), and in her teenage years moved to Gothenburg to attend school in the multicultural district of Angered.
At Hvitfeldtska High School she was enrolled in the music program, growing up with classical music, ballet and circus music. She later got interested in punk, reggae and jazz music. She also learned to play the guitar, and formed a jazz ensemble, Bejola, with her music teacher when she was a teenager, and went on to teach herself to play percussion and the saxophone.
She is the daughter of Houshang Pourkarim, who drowned in August 1994. An opponent of the Islamic regime in Tehran, he was an artist, journalist and prominent Iranian ethnologist and rural sociologist from Bandar-e Anzali. During her appearance on Så mycket bättre, she discussed her tough childhood, moving from country to country, and how she witnessed her father drowning in 1994, when he tried to rescue a woman in distress who had fallen from her canoe into the water while at a summer camp organised by an Iranian association. As Houshang paddled out to help her, the canoe overturned. The woman survived but Laleh's father drowned. Laleh's mother, Atef, was a refugee from Georgia via Azerbaijan before she went to Iran to study comparative literature at the University of Tehran. Once the family arrived in Sweden, Laleh claims to have learned Swedish in only eleven days.
Beginning her career in acting, she had a major role in the Swedish movie Jalla! Jalla!, directed by Josef Fares, which was a big success at the Swedish box office in 2000. Laleh moved to Stockholm in 2010 following a short stint in Skellefteå. She has until 2011 become known for her reluctance to give interviews, but has after that year been more visible in interviews, talk shows and other TV programs, something that has benefited her career.
2003-2005: Early career and Laleh:
Laleh began her music career in 2003. She founded her own production and publishing company 'Lost Army' and signed a recording and distribution contract with Warner Music Sweden before recording her first studio album. The sound of her early songs have been compared to adult contemporary artists such as Sting and Seal. She wrote, performed, and produced her self-titled debut, which was released in the spring of 2005 and saw a percentage of the proceeds go to charity. It became the highest selling album of the year with a recorded seventy-one weeks in the top sixty and reached number one on the Swedish chart. Critical praise was heaped on the album upon its release, although some noted that the album was too sprawling and genre-hopping. The first single from the album was "Invisible (My Song)", which peaked at number seven in Sweden in February 2012. Follow-up "Storebror" failed to chart, but next single, "Live Tomorrow" had even greater success than "Invisible" and ended up at the top of Sveriges Radio P3's radio show "Tracks" (Trackslistan) for several weeks. It peaked at number twenty on the Sverigetopplistan and also charted in Denmark. During 2005 she won numerous awards, including at the Swedish Grammis, where she received seven nominations and picked up three wins, including Artist of the Year, Producer of the Year, and New Artist of the Year. She was also nominated four times at the 2006 P3 Guld Awards and won Newcomer of the Year and Best Female Artist.
2006-2010: Prinsessor and Me and Simon:
In 2006, Prinsessor ("Princesses") was released and peaked at number three on the Swedish album chart. The album stayed on the chart for twenty-nine weeks, but failed to yield any charting singles, despite four releases. Unlike its predecessor which won numerous awards, Prinsessor, was met with mixed reviews from Swedish critics, who saw the album as far too sprawling and sensed a loss of her "uniqueness".
After taking a break, Laleh returned to release her third studio album in 2009, Me and Simon. It contained a more folk pop sound than previous rock or soul-tinged tracks which has been attributed to the surroundings of moving from a big city to the northern Swedish town of Skellefteå in 2006. One of the nature reserves in the town was her inspiration for "Bjurö klubb". It was met with mixed to positive reviews by Swedish critics. The first single released from the album "Simon Says" peaked at number forty-one on the Swedish Singles Chart. Due to strong downloads from the album, the first track from the LP, "Big City Love", also charted at number thirty-two. It was later released as a single in May 2009 but failed to return to the chart. Two further releases, "Bjurö klubb" and "Mysteries" failed to chart at the time.
During these years, Laleh toured in several Scandinavian countries, Britain and Germany but has previously hinted that she is hesitant to launch overseas, saying she wants to be more prepared and develop fully as an artist.
2011-2012: Så mycket bättre and Sjung:
In 2011 she took part in the second season of Swedish reality TV show Så mycket bättre (So much better) on TV4. The show puts well-known Swedish musicians up against each other to create new interpretations of the other artists songs. She participated along with Timbuktu, Eva Dahlgren, Lena Philipsson, E-Type, Tomas Ledin and Mikael Wiehe and soon emerged as the favourite with her cover versions regularly topping the Swedish iTunes download charts and the official Sverigetopplistan downloads chart following the release of the weekly compilations of the week's covers from the show. Laleh's cover of Eva Dahlgren "Ängeln I Rummet" (Angel in the Room) reached number six on the official Swedish Singles Chart whilst topping the downloads chart in December 2011 to become her most successful song in Sweden to date in terms of peak chart position and until the release of "Some Die Young" sales too. Similarly her renditions of Tomas Ledin's "Just Nu" (Right Now) and Timbuktu's "Alla vill till himmelen men ingen vill dö" (Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die) peaked at number 25, whilst "Here I Go Again" peaked at number one on the digital chart. During the showings of Så mycket bättre, Laleh broke a Swedish digital chart record by having ten songs on the top sixty list, including nine inside the top 40, as a number of catalogue songs returned to the chart, including the first placement for "Bjurö klubb". Additionally two interpretations of her songs by other artists appeared, bringing a total of twelve songs with her involvement in the chart at once.Tolkningarna (Interpretations), an extended play of all of the songs she performed on the show was released digitally on 25 December 2011 and was also bundled with the physical release of her following studio album.
Her fourth studio album was originally due to be released in December 2011 to coincide with her appearance on Så mycket bättre, but was postponed due to scheduling difficulties with the show. The name, artwork, release date and track listing of the album were announced in December. Sjung ("Sing") was released on 25 January 2012 across Scandinavia to positive reviews, with "Some Die Young" serving as the lead single, released three days earlier. The album peaked at number one on the Swedish chart for four weeks, and also charted at number one in Norway. The single peaked at number nine on the Swedish Singles Chart and number one in Norway for eight consecutive weeks. "Vårens Första Dag" was released as the album's second single in May 2012.
A tour to promote the album was performed with fifteen dates across Sweden beginning in March and concluding in April 2012., and one event in Oslo, Norway. The tour was successful, with generally sold out venues, with the Gothenburg concert with 6.400 attendants as the top event. She did a festival tour in Sweden and Norway during the summer of 2012. She performed at the memorial concert for the victims of 2011 Norway attacks and the Nobel Peace Prize Concert, both in Oslo.
In July 2013, it was announced that Laleh had signed with Universal Music Germany. Her first release in the territory is a re-worked version of "Some Die Young", due to be issued on 30 August 2013. Colors, her first international LP will follow in the autumn with a mixture of newly recorded tracks and previously released songs. A new music video for "Some Die Young" was created for the German release.