Everything You Need To Know About Finnish Popstar Alma

At 16 she wowed the world in Finnish Pop Idol yet a mere five years later is teaming up (and friends) with the likes of Charli XCX and French Montana. ELLE gets the low-down from the green-haired star.

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ELLE meets Alma for breakfast the day her new single Phases featuring French Montana (the guy behind global smash 'Unforgettable') is released. Which sounds like huge news, but is really just another day in the life of this seriously hard-working on-the-rise megastar.

Alma hasn't stopped since she came fifth on Idols (Finland's version of The Voice) when she was fifteen; her EP Dye My Hair and single 'Chasing Highs' have knocked up 37 and 58 million streams on Spotify respectively. And although she's been pinned as Finland's big pop hope, she tries not to think about: 'then it's too much pressure. I'm just here doing my thing.'

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In fact, her Mum only realised the extent of her success when Elton John declared himself a fan and played Chasing Highs on his Beats 1 radio show.

'I think that was the first time that my Mum understood what was going on. Because you know… Elton John.'

We grilled her on fangirling, wild nights out with Charlie XCX and what she does when it all becomes too much…

1. Unforgettable was Alma's song of the summer

When she, (Swedish singer) Noonie Bao and Charlie XCX thought Phases needed a feature, naturally Karim Kharbouch came to mind. None of the team expected anything but he came back quickly, telling them he loved the track.

'You can always try,' explains Alma. 'Like you can call up Rihanna and say 'can we do it?''

'I was kind of scared. I come from Finland and I'm a pop artist and have this crazy hair and he's like an American rap artist, friends with Drake. Then we met and I thought it was going to be really awkward but it was so nice. He was like 'what should I wear? Your style is so cool.''

Plus, he really liked her twin sister. 'That's always a big thing for me,' she explains.

2. Charlie XCX directed the Phases music video…

'It was so easy to work with her because we're such good friends.

But Charlie sat Alma down before they started shooting.

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'She was like 'Alma, if you're going to dab even one time in the music video, I'm going to fucking kill you.' And I dabbed like five times when we were shooting and she was like 'do I need to fucking punch you in the face?"

'Every time we are partying we are just dancing and dabbing. It so embarrassing. It's not cool but it just comes from somewhere.'

3. Together, Alma and Charlie XCX are trouble…

At a house party, Alma gets the booze and Charlie brings the people.

'I had this very expensive Air BnB and we kind of fucking trashed the place. She called everyone. There were so many people. People were jumping from the roof to the pool.

'We woke up and there was a bike in the pool. A big pink bike.'

4. She has lots of drunk tattoos

Alma's twin sister Anna-Livia is a dab-hand at DIY stick and poke tattoos (you use a needle and ballpoint pen) so it's hard for her to stay away.

Alma has 'fuck boy' written on her ankle, a few cats, an alien and 'MARIA' on the watch-face side of her wrist – she got drunk with a Finnish journalist after filming a TV program and they got tattoos of each other's names.

5. But isn't afraid to speak up about women's rights

'I speak everything that's on my mind. I was in Poland and I heard that abortion is illegal there so I went to the biggest radio and I was like 'your government is shit.''

'I just want to be open. I don't know how to be closed. It's hard for me. I'm kind of naïve but I don't care.'

She also speaks up about sexism in the music industry, blaming the people in charge of awarding the Mercury prize for the scant number of women shortlisted this year.

'It must be the people who make the decisions. In this industry I think it's always a problem. Festivals book too many men. But nobody has ever been shit to me in this industry. I've always been very strong and sometimes men think I'm scary.

'I've always been like 'this is what I want.' I've heard from my other female friends and musicians that sometimes it's hard. That producers and people are sometimes like 'ah you're just a woman.''

6. The UK is her happy place

'I just love UK crowds. I've always wanted to have a career in the UK, I've always loved it over here. I think the UK is cool."

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But she also thinks British crowds are weird: 'In the UK I always get bras. People throw bras to the stage. It's quite funny but it's weird.'

PHASES FT. @frenchmontana IS OUT EVEREWHERE! 😈💚🆘

A post shared by ALMA (@cyberalma) on

7. Sometimes, though, she just needs a good weep…

'I have these moments when everything is too much, and I cycle to the forest five minutes from my house and I just cry there. I cry so much. It's very good and then when I come back I feel a bit more relaxed.'

'I can just have a hoodie on and nobody is going to fucking come talk to me. I can just be by myself.'

'I also try to write there. I try to have instrumental music in my head. It's so emo.'

8. She's been dubbed a 'cybergoth reimagining of a young Adele' but doesn't actually know what cybergoth means…

'I don't consider myself a goth but I don't mind. I don't even get that reference. Just listen to my music and I can be whatever.'

She describes her style as vintage, with punk and hip-hop influences. She points to her leather jacket, explaining that it's from a flea market, and though it looks expensive, it was only six euros.

'I haven't bought anything from a store in like two years.'

7. Bright hair is most definitely her Thing

Alma had pink hair when she participated in Idols age fifteen, but since then she's tried loads of colours.

Twin sister Anna (who is also her backing singer) dons the colour too, though she wears it barber-shop short.

Although the song in which she promises she'd dye her hair for love has over 37 million streams on Spotify, she confesses it started as a joke.

'I was in Berlin and I was just writing many kinds of party songs and 'I don't care about anyone' songs and then someone suggested that I should write a love song. For me love songs are cliché like Bruno Mars' 'Catch a Grenade'. I thought of what I wouldn't do for anyone and I wouldn't change. The joke just came and then it became a song.'

8. Alma might be the next big thing but she's just a twenty-one-year-old Belieber at heart

The singer warmed up for Justin Bieber during a gig in Italy but was too shy to say 'hi' and thinks even if they did meet, she'd have been a proper fangirl.

'I would try to be cool but then I would have probably just snapchatted the whole thing like 'I'm hanging out with him!' I would be very awkward. I think my whole life is just a big joke. I do stupid things. All my friends laugh at me all the time because I'm very awkward.'

'But I love everything Beebs does. Even the Christmas songs. I'm like bring it on.'

Aftershow // Emotional babe // broken sunniez @ellenraajala I blame the crazy wild crowd

A post shared by ALMA (@cyberalma) on

9. Oh and about that Rihanna collab...

When she finishes promoting Phases, Alma will start work on her first album. I ask her if she'll ever get round to calling up Rihanna for that feature.

'You never know,' she smiles.

Exclusive to ELLE, watch the lyrics video to 'Phases' below:


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