21 December

Lolo Zouaï: the revival of American R’n’B comes from France

 

Adored in the USA, the Franco-Algerian singer and producer Lolo Zouaï has yet to release her first album. And yet she already embodies the revival of a multi-cultural and dreamy R’n’B that is as bewitching as her sexy tomboy look.

By Violaine Schütz, Photos François Quillacq, Production Guillaume Boulez

Manteau STRATEAS CARLUCCI, Tee-shirt ÉTUDES, boucles d'oreilles GIVENCHY.

Head held high with a proud look on her face… when Lolo strikes a pose for Numéro in sculptural outfits with her youthful beauty, she looks like a delicious mix of top model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the dragon queen in Game of Thrones and the trouble-making Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. Her cheeky temperament is confirmed when the 23-year old starts confiding in us. Wrapped up in her canary yellow XXL down jacket, at the back of a café in a beautiful Parisian neighbourhood, she warns: “My songs looks like candy, but they're bitter sweet. They’re anti-love songs, because I never fall in love. They contain lots of melancholy and at the same time you can dance to them. My totem animal is the Pokémon Jigglypuff, because he makes people fall asleep by singing with its soft voice but then it gets nasty. A bit like my music, it a sort of gentle witchcraft.

 

“In the same day I danced at a fabulous party and then went home depressed to my tiny flat because I only had seven dollars in my pocket.”

Coat STRATEAS CARLUCCI, T-shirt ÉTUDES, trousers MUGLER, earrings GIVENCHY.

ust like her kawaii avatar, the Franco-Algerian producer living in New York has bewitched the whole world. Her sweet, powerful and poetic voice is one of the most popular on Spotify and YouTube in the R’n’B genre. The languorous track that got her known in late 2017, High Highs to Low Lows, has been streamed nearly 10 million times. In just a few months, Lolo Zouaï has become a genuine phenomenon bigged up by artists like Myth Syzer, Oxmo Puccino, Orelsan and the H.E.R collective. “I arrived in San Francisco at the age of three with my parents who’d got green cards, and I remember that they worked all the time. When I was 19 I moved to New York, via a music school in Nashville, and got lots of little jobs. I did everything: folded clothes in a store, made milkshakes in a burger restaurant and even prepared vegetarian sushi. At the same time, I always carried on doing music. I was convinced that it was my destiny and that it would end up working out. And it did when I finally dared to post my song.”

 

“At high school I wrote rap-punk songs. But I was too shy to play them to anyone. And I hadn’t found my sound yet.”

 

Just a year ago, Lolo was still writing her demos in her small room in Brooklyn, and sometimes she’d be disappointed: I had friends who knew lots of famous people and I ended up with them at parties on yachts and in sumptuous places. My life was made up of highs and lows, moments of discouragement and others of crazy luxury. In the same day I’d dance at a fabulous party, then I’d go home depressed to my tiny flat because I only had seven dollars in my pocket. Once I was wearing a t-shirt bought from a second-hand shop for a dollar and someone asked me who the designer was. That’s where the lyrics ‘They think it so Gucci but it’s 99 cents,’ comes from. Today I still can’t believe that labels like Tommy Hilfiger give me clothes that a year ago I could only dream of wearing.”

T-shirt JACQUEMUS, bra DROME, trousers ÉTUDES STUDIO, boots NEITH NYER, earrings GIVENCHY.

The blonde bombshell could have very easily never been discovered. In the beginning she refused the golden bridges of the big L.A. producers who wanted to format her, throwing more than 50 songs in the trash. “Some of them thought I had no idea what I was doing because I was young and a girl, but I’m not the kind of person you tell what to do. I get that from my mother who has lots of character and is a real worker”, she tells us. A mother who plays the saxophone in her spare time and handed her musical ambitions to her daughter. “I discovered my voice aged 6, I would sing all the time and had the solos in the school choir. My sister and I had learnt piano when we were kids. I always learnt the fingering by heart without being able to sight read, then I took trumpet lessons at school following in the footsteps of my grandfather who played it, and finally I started playing the guitar. At high school I dreamed of taking part in a talent show and would write rap-punk songs but I was scared and very shy. I didn’t have enough confidence in myself to play them to anyone. And I hadn’t yet found my sound.”    

T-shirt JACQUEMUS, bra DROME, earrings GIVENCHY. Production assistant: Barbara Boucard. Hairstyle: Yumiko Hikage. Makeup: Aurélie Deltour from Dior. Special thanks to Studio des Acacias, 30, rue des Acacias 75017 Paris https://studiodesacacias.com/fr/.

NuméroNews