Last year, I wrote about the rapidly rising Solleron, Sweden-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Winona Oak. Oak, who was born Johanna Ekmark has a rather unique backstory: Growing up on the small, Swedish island known to Swedes as the Island of the Sun, the Solleron-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and pop artist spent much of her childhood encountering more animals than people. As the story goes, she grew up as a trained horse acrobat and because she grew up in a musical home, she was encouraged to pursue creative endeavors as much as possible: Ekmark began playing violin when she was 5, piano when she was 9, and she wrote poetry and songs at an extremely young age.
Ekmark eventually moved to Stockholm to pursue a career in music, but a leap of faith that had her attend a Neon Gold Records writing retreat in the Nicaraguan jungle led to her meet Australian-born and based hit making producer and pop artist What So Not. And from this serendipitous meeting, she went on to co-write ““Better” and “Stuck In Orbit,” before stepping out into the spotlight as both the writer and featured artist on the Aussie producer and pop artist’s “Beautiful.”
Adding to a busy 2018, Ekmark covered HAIM‘s “Don’t Save Me” for Neon Gold Records’ 10th anniversary compilation, NGX: Ten Years of Neon Gold before closing out that year with a co-write and vocal contribution to The Chainsmokers viral hit “Hope,” a track that has amassed over 250 million streams across all digital platforms globally — including over 100 million streams on Spotify. As a result of such incredibly early success, the Swedish-born, Los Angeles-based pop artist signed to Warner-Chappell Music Publishing and to Neon Gold/Atlantic Records.
Now, as you may recall, last year, I wrote about the Swedish-born, Los Angeles-based pop artist’s long-awaited debut single, the slickly produced, hook-driven and sultry “He Don’t Love Me,” and the slow-burning and anthemic ballad “Break My Broken Heart.” Both singles managed to further cement Oak/Ekmark’s growing reputation for crating incredibly earnest pop with enormous hooks. Oak ended last year with the release of an alternate version of her last single of 2019 “Let Me Know.” The “Let Me Know (Johan Lenox Stings Mix) ” reimagines the propulsive, dance floor friendly original by pairing Oak’s vocals with a string arrangement from Johan Lenox, who has worked with Kanye West, Travis Scott and Vic Mensa.
Building upon that momentum, Oak released her debut EP CLOSURE through Neon Gold/Atlantic Records last week. The EP’s latest single “Control” continues a run of slickly produced synth pop centered around layers of arpeggiated synths, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, an enormous hook and Oak’s achingly plaintive vocals. And while sonically the song recalls Kylie Minogue and others, the song evokes the swooning and fluttering pangs of new love and the uncertainty, insecurity and obsession it can sometimes bring. “‘Control’ is about meeting someone that makes you weak in your knees and never knowing how they actually feel about you,” Winona Oak explains in press notes. “You make risky decisions, act irrationally and tolerate things you normally wouldn’t. You’re feeling nervous, insecure and are constantly afraid that they are gonna leave you. Oh and this is when you learn – the difference between love and obsession.”
Shot and co-directed by longtime visual collaborator Andreas Öhman and Julian Gillström, the recently released video for “Control” stars Winona Oak as a desperate and hopelessly obsessed woman who stalks the object of her affection, before trying to build a Ken doll-version of him. “For the video, we wanted to target this hopeless feeling with a twisted sense of humor,” Oak explains in press notes.