I saw Icona Pop when they opened for One Direction last year, and now my only dream is that one day you’ll also get to see a stadium full of teens, tweens, and twentysomethings scream-sing “I don’t care! I love it!” like it’s their own personal manifesto.
That's where Icona Pop thrives; outside of that stadium, and that song, they don't really fit in. Critical acclaim and a solid public reception to 2012’s “I Love It” (featuring Charli XCX) resulted in the song’s placement in Girls, and that earned them further mainstream notoriety. But the rest of their music hasn't really caught on in the same manner. Too big to stay indie, but too one-hit-centric to brand them a Top 40 mainstay, the Swedish duo have nestled into The Upside Down equivalent of the music industry. They exist, their music rules, we know who they are, but they can’t seem to find their footing in our world.
That's never bothered them. At One Direction, the duo threw themselves into each song, performing with the enthusiasm of an artist just happy to be there. And that sent the message that despite their single revolving around the idea of not giving a shit, Icona Pop — as artists and performers — most certainly do. Their go-to track isn’t their mantra, and their career is more than their go-to track.
Icona Pop’s music is digestible enough to be cranked at weddings, but their electro-pop offerings are off-kilter enough to avoid them becoming a Top 40 chart mainstay. If we were to define them as lipsticks, we’d have to categorize them in two: classic red (accessible) and electric blue (niche).
That’s exactly what they’ve done in their new makeup collaboration with Make Up For Ever. In a surprising move, the brand inducted Icona Pop into their Artist Rouge collection, offering the two aforementioned shades as part of a limited-edition series. Back in June, Make Up For Ever announced two new additions to their 46-color spanning Artist Rouge line , courtesy of Icona Pop. Together with celebrity makeup artist Colby Smith, the Swedish duo helped create shades that embodied their tastes as individuals and as a band. Aino Jawo opted for creamy dark blue (Midnight Blue), while Caroline Hjelt went for a rich red (Hot Red). Hjelt’s red represents the accessibility of Icona Pop’s better-known jams, Jawo’s blue appeals to the side of their music (and their listeners) that aren’t nestled between millennial-centric dance parties and bouquet tosses. Both shades fall under Artist Rouge’s two camps: matte finish (red) and satin finish (blue). Red smells a little like strawberries, while blue reminds me of blue Gushers or Gatorade (bless us everyone). Blue needs a little more touching up during the day, while you can safely neglect red for half an hour or so. Both you’ll leave behind on straws or glasses; neither make you want to apply barrels of lip balm after the fact. Both totally embody the duo and the brand’s affinity for vibrant, bright energy; neither are the shrugging emoji equivalent of “Sure, why not.” And neither of them really fit into the current lipstick trend.
Thanks to the Jenners and Kardashians, we’re seeing a barrage of '90s lipstick tributes via mattes, neutrals, or even blacks. But it wouldn’t make sense for Icona Pop to capitalize on any of those because they’re not a trendy band — they weren’t trendy even during the explosion of their first single. Instead, they capitalized on the variety of the Artist Rouge line, whose shades include everything from mattes to purples to sky blue. That’s a crucial creative step. Like, think about it: Icona Pop could’ve used Make Up For Ever’s platform to cling on to what’s already cool in an attempt to align themselves with cosmetic hipness. Instead they did their own thing, catering to their specific tastes as well as staying true to their existing musical narrative. In the wake of “I Don’t Care” madness, the duo’s music is pretty underground again. Odds are, they aren’t going to sell out stadiums anytime soon. The tagline of their lipsticks are: “Life’s a stage.” And if life is a stage in itself, then there’s no need for megastardom or Top 40 auditory ubiquity.
Which is the way Icona Pop thrives. Uniqueness is currency — particularly in music — so by nestling into their own Upside Down™, the duo can continue writing their own musical narrative, unbothered by the lack of massive universal reception as they do their own thing for their own fans on their own (smaller) stage. If all the world’s a stage, then they’ve found their perfect part.