What happens when you take one good pop thing and match them with another good pop thing? For us, it's magic.
That's what happened when rising producer and singer MNEK and Sweden's NO.1 popstar Zara Larsson decided to work together on the unbeatably beastly banger "Never Forget You" (which, handily, you can also hear in the PopBuzz stream).
What "Never Forget You" manages to do is capture emotive lyrics and match them with production that goes HARD.
Both MNEK and Zara Larsson are formidable characters, who aren't afraid to speak honestly about their lives and careers. So when we went down to Tape in central London to meet them we though the only way we'd survive was to get them to do all the talking and, essentially, interview each other (with some guidance from us, obvs)...
Zara Larsson: Would you call your music style pop?
ZL: What is it, then, about pop that you're drawn to?
M: The reason I love pop is that it gives you a chance to do anything. It's so broad and can be interpreted in so many different ways. Pop can be the base of what you're doing but then the sub-genres can be R&B or hip hop or electronica or dance. If I was doing straight R&B, or straight anything else-
ZL: - You'd have a small selection of songs that you could do.
M: Exactly that.
ZL: After five albums of proper R&B it all starts to sound the same.
M: What was it that you liked about working with me on "Never Forget You?"
ZL: For some reason, some unknown reason, it just works with some people, you know? It really clicks and by the end of the day you have a great song. I really felt that, and some people don't really get what I want to sing about or the kind of vibe and I felt that you were always on point.
M: Well thank you.
ZL: How old were you when you got into producing? You're very young now, but you're very talented.
M: This is rich coming from you!
ZL & M: [Laughs]
ZL: But producing you have to actually spend time learning to produce. I just sing; I don't need to practice it for hours and hours.
M: I started making beats when I was, like, nine.
ZL: No way!
M: I just skipped riding a bike and other things that kids do. I decided to make beats, and I'd do it on software that you'd find on cereal boxes. It was my thing. What got me into it was the fact that I loved music so much and I was always fascinated by how it was made. I'd learned a bit about the theory and I could sing, so I was like, "I want to make beats".
ZL: When did you realise that you were pretty dope at it?
M: I don't know. I guess when I signed my publishing because there was more than one person saying that I was ok [laughs].
M: Are you forgetful?
ZL: Uh, yeah. Some things, like with my friends or boy friends, they will be like, "Oh, well you said this nine months ago." I'm like, "NO!" I don't forget that. But I'm very clumsy and I forget things all the time. It depends what it's about. What about you?
M: I can be. I think that you really are in control of what you want to remember sometimes. Especially in school. When I was revising for tests I was like, "Right, if I wanted to I could actually remember this and I could store it in my head." But clearly it didn't interest me enough to stay in there.
ZL: What's the craziest thing you've ever written a song about?
M: I had written a song about masturbating and it wasn't very good. I played it to me A&R and he was like, "Erm, I'm not sure the idea of a boy w*nking is very attractive, so no." I was like, "I'll take that."
ZL: Was it really obvious?
M: The song was called "Touch Myself".
ZL: The subject is pretty cool though, as no one really writes about that.
M: Honestly though, it's prettier when a girl talks about masturbation, but when it's a guy it's not. What about you?
ZL: I have around 20 songs about sex, but it's not crazy to me. They're just nice songs. I haven't really written something crazy. Maybe for my upcoming album, but not yet.
M: For you, what makes the perfect album?
ZL: It's really hard to define a good song because when you hear one you're just like, "This is a good song." It's just something that makes you want to move or something about the song that moves you, the inside of you if you know what you mean. I'm a sucker for a great track that blows you away combined with really dope lyrics and great melodies.
M: And that's the ingredients for a great song!
ZL: Yes! Sometimes the track is ok, the melody's amazing and the lyrics are fine. But if you combine them together you have a smash, or a banger. That's what you want your whole album to be like. A1 on everything.
M: I agree. But I love the album. One of my favourites is Janet Jackson's Velvet Rope. I love that album because from start to finish it's a journey. You can't listen to it in pieces.
ZL: Right! I feel like that with Dr. Dre's new album. Its hard to hear where it starts and ends. It's a journey. You really want the whole experience. It's like, do you want a Katy Perry album with 10 super singles or do you want your album to be a body of work? You know?
ZL: What's the longest a Snapchat story should be? I have no limits.
M: I use it really sparingly. I don't mind a long Snapchat story if it's good. I've had so many that are 90 seconds long and it's just selfies. This is ridiculous.
ZL: I could be 100 seconds but you have to be funny. If it's just a bunch of selfies then it's not cute.
M: The condom. Tell us about the condom.
ZL: Well, I posted a picture of my leg with a condom on it, literally rolled up to my knee. It wasn't an extra large or anything. It was a regular, extra thing maybe? I don't know why I did it, but there was just something in me really wanted to put it on my leg [laughs].
M: What was the caption?
ZL: "To all the guys saying 'my dick is too big' take a seat." I saw that we had a lot of condoms after a trip to the clinic and I was like, "We don't need all of these", so let's play around. I was home alone and I remembered having girl friends tell me that boys would say, "Baby, I can't wear condom my dick is too big." I just looked at my leg and thought, "It may be big but not like this!" Then Buzzfeed picked it up and Nicki Minaj wrote about it. It was weird but it was fun. I never expected it to be a big thing.
ZL: If the song, "Never Forget You", were an animal what animal would it be?
M: I think it would be a bear. I say bear because it's this big creature but the fuzziness of the bear comes from the sentiment of the song, yet the song is really big.
ZL: I think a wolf because it's really like [makes pathetic wolf noise].
ZL: It's kind of dangerous but it's really cute. It's fuzzy and it lives in snowy areas.
M: It's a warming banger for the winter months.
M: Finally, Zara, where do you expect the next year to take you?
ZL: You know what? I just want to have a successful album release. And, of course, I'm very happy that I started of in Sweden, but it makes my expectations high as everything went so well there. It seems that people love what I do. It's hard because I have to rebuild everything again, you know?
ZL: But that also makes it exciting, too. It's nerve wracking because you never know. When I release something in Sweden I sort of know it'll get played on the radio and it might do well. But in America or the UK it's scary for me. I expect it to be successful and expect people to actually buy it and listen to it. Basically, that it won't be a flop. That'd be a disaster. I just don't want it to flop! But you're having success in Scandinavia, too.
M: It's crazy! I'm blown away by all the success I'm having outside the UK. It's very humbling. I had a show in Stockholm a few days ago and it was awesome to see people singing along to songs. I love my music reaching people all over the world.