There’s a lot of things Aurora (born Aurora Aksnes) loves. Nature. Game of Thrones. Bergen, Norway, which by the way, the singer says will always be home, despite the fact she’s spent the last few years touring extensively abroad. She also really loves fashion, even if she doesn’t care much for applying rules to what she wears. Aurora’s bright, often oversized stage and video outfits, chosen for their ability to make her feel “wild and free” are a mix of vintage and handmade, often created or altered by her sister. Likewise, her choppy two-layered bob, often adorned with a series of sporadic braids, was also inspired by a sense of freedom.
“I cut it myself with a large, very dull pair of scissors in 2018,” the 23-year-old tells CR. “I love anime and wanted a haircut that didn’t look like anything I’d seen before. I [had] felt so beautiful with long hair-it freaked me out a little-and I decided I’d feel better if I had a stranger haircut; more comfortable.”
It’s that sense of otherness the singer has been cultivating since the release of her debut album, All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend, in 2016. It was a potent collection of fairytale pop songs, including “Runaway,” a song and video that Billie Eilish counts as a source of early inspiration. (“I often send her love in my mind hoping that the world will forever just let her do whatever she wants,” Aurora says of the When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? singer.) There’s a sense of escape to her slickly-produced pop, cultivated by both her pure soprano and songs inhabited by the characters on the fringe of society: the loners, the lost, and even an occasional alien. It’s a potent blend that’s earned the musician a dedicated following, a world-wide collective of fans that she lovingly refers to as “Warriors and Weirdos.”
“We are not fighting against anything, but we are fighting for ourselves,” Aurora says of the name. “I wanted us to celebrate our strangeness and to walk with our heads high knowing that no matter how weak you feel; you can always call yourself a warrior. Because sometimes being a human is hard.”
It’s that idea that Aurora unpacks in her recent release, A Different Kind of Human (Step II). Recorded in a French chateau (“I felt just like waking up in a different world every morning. Unreachable. And untouchable.”), and featuring a fair number of songs written in her dreams, the album-like much of the musician’s work-contains a touch of the otherworldly. But the ideas she unpacks, a thematic extension from last year’s Infections of a Different Kind (Step I), are all rooted in humanity. Who are we as people? Can we experience positive evolution? And, in the touching album title track, what if we’re all just aliens, and death is really just ushering us back to our true home?
“I’ve experienced many different kinds of death during my small time here on earth, and I think this is such a big painful topic, and without music we wouldn’t be able to survive it,” she says. “Not a thousand years ago, and not today. I will write more about this in my future albums, but for now I wanted to dive into it only for a few songs. I like to speak openly about death. I think developing a fear for it is unhealthy, so talking a lot about it keeps me sane.”
But Aurora makes it clear her mission is about joy-not wallowing in the darkness. She points to the excitement of children, and snow, and the kindness she sees in her mother and self as proof that there’s still goodness in the world, even when news cycles may say otherwise. It’s a sense of duality she captures in the lyrics of album single “The Seed,” where she promises “So my tears can be rain/I will water the ground where I stand/So the flowers can grow back again.” Birth, death, and the joy and pain in between is all what make us human, she reasons. All ideas that can be summed up in a single teardrop. Also celebrated in the anthemic album opener, “The River,” her ability to unleash a sea of emotions is yet another item on the list of things the musician treasures.
“I love crying,” she says. “And I think it’s such an important thing to share with the world. It’s such a perfect way for us all to connect too, since we all have tears inside our hearts from time to time. Crying is important, it seems like humans need to cry from time to time just to survive this world. And imagine how much simpler being a human would be if we didn’t have to hide it?”