There is ripe aggression embedded in Soleima’s work ─ and she likes it that way.
“Yeah, are roses red and the violets blue? / So what the fuck did you think that you could do?” she sings on the thorny guitar track “Roses.” The rising noise-maker laces together a hip-hop cadence against an emotional backdrop and rips open her heart to expose every throbbing flutter.
Soleima (real name Sarah Mariegaard) borrows her stage moniker from her Danish heritage. It’s a term often used by parental figures to their children of the rebellious sort ─ particularly when they bend the rules. Mariegaard slithers into a public persona that gives her more agency to confront her emotions and those around her who have sought to destroy her. In effect, she has far fewer fucks to give.
Early on, Mariegaard says she was infatuated with hip-hop, namely such trailblazers as People Under the Stairs. Her parents even shipped her off to a West African dance camp to gain cultural and musical wisdom. “I’ve always been in this environment of dancing. It’s a cultural exchange between Denmark and Sukumland in Tanzania. I’m very much affected by the musical traditions and culture from there,” she says.
In her teenage years, she forged a local hip-hop troupe with six of her guy friends and predominantly explored old-school sounds, beats, and textures. Her vocal, distinct and unmistakable amidst the static, upends classic structures for a quirky, modern arena. It was also during this endeavor she learned of her love of singing and writing songs.
“I was playing the piano, and there were two guys rapping. At some point, we wanted someone to sing a chorus, and the guys were like, ‘Oh, you can do it. You’re the girl.’ Oh, how times have changed,” she remembers. “I was really happy this happened.”
Following two EPs, 2017’s No. 14 and 2018’s Bulldog, she found herself floundering in uncertain waters. “The music wasn’t really connecting with me. I had some time where I wrote music but didn’t know if it should be just a single or an album,” she tells Audiofemme. “Then, the songs started to evolve around a certain theme, and that’s when I started to see a line going through them.”
Themes of self-love, retaliation, and reclaiming identity backdrop her debut album, titled Powerslide, a term she repurposes for total emotional disorder. “I was thinking too much about expectations people had about me and to my music. That blew me away from what I really wanted to do. It was internalizing it, but it was so very real,” she explains ─ citing her departure from Danish record label Parlophone Music to a deal with Atlantic Records in New York.
“During all this writing, I started to realize this was going on. There was something in the lyrics and the music. Something in me was trying to tell me something – you know what I mean? That’s when I figured out I wasn’t on the right path and was not listening to myself or taking enough care of what I actually wanted in the music.”
“Some say it’s a powerslide / Reckless self-care,” she warbles on “LuvULuvULuvU,” a dreamy chill-pop moment. Her “powerslide” idea rooted not in the literal definition of the word but a headspace that began slipping away from her grasp. “I was writing with someone, and I came out with this line. The song is very much about losing control and power over yourself. I was saying this word ‘powerslide,’ like the power sliding away from you,” she says with a chuckle.
“The person was laughing at me, saying, ‘Well, that’s not really a thing.’ I wanted to change it, but it kept making sense for me. When you listen to the lyrics more closely, it becomes clear, even though it’s not the right meaning to the word. I then learned what powerslide actually means, and I think it fits my meaning pretty well.”
Soleima wrestles with herself across the album’s entire runtime. “I think I’m going blind / Trying to make it out alive / What’s the price,” she pleads on the opening line of “Heartless.” The dirty beat grinds against her voice, underscoring yet another grim emotional state.
“The whole song is describing that feeling of being low in someone else’s expectations. How can I fulfill what you actually want from me without breaking my neck? What’s very important about this song is that it has this aggression to it. It’s very much a song to myself, too,” she notes. “People are always going to affect you in your life, no matter what job you have or who you are around. They’re going to have ideas about what to do and how to do it. It’s your own job to set the boundaries for what you want or need – not that it’s easy, though. It’s a life-long lesson.”
Even when a song isn’t exactly leaning into a ferocious musical antagonism, the lyrics meet in the middle to take up the slack. “Rain is falling from the marble sky / I wonder why you love me when I’m like this,” she concedes of her sometimes erratic, unreasonable behavior. “We’re Going Home” clocks in at nearly five minutes, but its immersive nature sends the listener into a stupor.
“Everyone will know that feeling ─ when you’re being the worst version of yourself. A pain in the ass,” she says. “There will always be those people close to you who are there afterwards. That’s such a comforting thing to think about.”
Powerslide rollicks from the sticky-sweet Yoshi Flower-featuring “Grind” to the spooky “Hustlin’” to grungy lullaby “STFU” ─ and what is most evident is Soleima’s uncompromising bravado. She carefully teeters between bold vocal chops and searing vulnerability.
Working alongside producers Bastian Langebaek (Jessie Ware) and Jonny Coffer (Panic! At the Disco, Lykke Li), Soleima pulls off an impressive body of work ─ due in equal parts to her innate ability to cut to the core and the result of renewed collaborative electricity. “I met Jonny in London, and we really connected. We have a good process when we write. Bastian came into the picture a bit later, because we needed someone to help us finish a couple songs. Jonny and I aren’t the best at finishing stuff.”
Soleima masters both commercial appeal and artistic integrity, and if there is anything you learn with Powerslide, it should be that life is better lived freely and unapologetically. “This album feels like home. I really want people to feel something. I hope some of my stories will help them recognize these things in themselves,” she concludes.
Powerslide is out everywhere today (March 13). Follow Soleima on Facebook for ongoing updates.