Written for Warner Bros. Records in May 2014.
From her provocative lyrics to that name, Ace Wilder wields a series of unexpected twists on the prototype of the modern pop star. A multi-Platinum, chart-topping smash hit in her homeland of Sweden, her breakthrough single Busy Doin’ Nothin’ is an ode to procrastination and an anthem for those drifting through an existence untroubled by the confines of a 9-5 existence. If hardly working beats working hard, the line “I wanna make money while I sleep” is a clarion call to the disillusioned.
The song’s simple message is lackadaisical rather than nihilistic. Yet in keeping with Ace Wilder’s subversion of expectations, the song was inspired by a documentary which examined the cultural shift towards Generation Y. “It stuck with me because people often say I’m laidback,” she says. “Young people today demand more from our employers, and we don’t stay in jobs for as long as our parents did. We’re becoming more centred on our own ego.”
The foundations of such an inspiration were surely set when Ace Wilder studied Social Anthropology while pursuing her music career. In fact, almost everything about her is a little left-of-centre. Her image mixes glamour, energy and bold colours, yet her outlook contradicts with the norm: “You don’t always have to rely on your sexuality all the time. You don’t have to stand in front of a camera all of the time, and lick your lips, pout, and show your cleavage. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but not EVERYONE has to be like it.”
Similarly, her apparently in-your-face attitude is tempered by her observation that it’s a tongue-in-cheek take on easily relatable issues; her music adds unexpected genre elements to her core influences of Eighties pop melody and Scandi electro-pop (another single, Bitches Like Friday, is informed by trap); and her videos go to unexpected places – Bitches Like Friday, for example, looks like a nightmarish hybrid of Miley Cyrus, Aphex Twin and Spring Breakers.
Perhaps such an approach can be explained by Ace Wilder’s unconventional upbringing. Born in Sweden, her family moved to Florida when she was a child. “We grew up thinking we were American!” she laughs. “We didn’t really have any Swedish traditions or friends.”
Her disconnect to her country of birth even extended to her inability to speak the language – she could understand it due to her parents speaking it, but she’d never used it herself. That, together with the upheaval of moving to an entirely new country, made her move back to Sweden at the age of seventeen a challenge. “Oh god, I still haven’t mastered the language,” she admits, half-horrified and half-amused. “Usually I jerk around and speak fluent Swenglish now – I have a hard time saying words in English now because I’ve learned them in Swedish and vice versa. It’s really funny, I speak Swenglish with everyone.”
Initially a dancer, Ace Wilder’s first career was halted by injury. Her mother – a total newcomer to the music industry – called a number of local producers to see if someone could give Ace an introduction to the world of music. That first meeting lead to a management deal, an initial foray into pop as one-third of girl group Paper Moon Dragon, and then a successful career as a songwriter for hire with a series of Top 10 hits in Germany and Scandinavia.
“When you’re writing for other people, it’s a job. Obviously you’re going to write something that you love but you look at it in a colder way – this is an artist who’s looking for this kind of song, so this is what we need to write today,” she explains. “But you always have ideas as to how you’d sing the song, or how you’d perform the song.” Eighteen months ago, a burst of inspiration saw the emergence of her solo career. “One morning I woke up and thought, fuck, I wanna stand on stage and do this for myself.”
Her real name (Alice Gernandt), however, lacked that special pop star spark. Alice was trimmed to Ace – about as rock ‘n’ roll a name as one could imagine – while vocal comparisons to Eighties icon Kim Wilde inspired her stage surname. “But I’m a little wilder than Kim Wilde – so Ace Wilder!”
The coming months will see Ace Wilder building on her initial success with the UK release of the single as well hitting this summer’s Swedish festival circuit and continuing work on her upcoming debut album. She’s gone, she half-laments, from being busy doing nothing at all to being a “grown woman with a babysitter who tells me where I have to be. Oh the irony! But I love it. I’m not going to complain at all.”