It’s been five years since Elly Jackson, the 26-year-old who records under the name La Roux, stormed the pop charts with her ardent voice and Blade Runner aesthetic. “I spent my 21st birthday in the studio,” Jackson recalls. “Then my first album came out, and my life as a young person ended.” La Roux’s self-titled 2009 debut, which included the disco tearjerker “Bulletproof,” turned Jackson into an overnight star, and her signature quiff—a sculpted flame of red hair—became a much copied look throughout the U.K.
Jackson is a perfectionist, which may explain why she’s only now releasing a follow-up. “I won’t get even halfway through a verse if I don’t think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. Otherwise, it goes in the bin,” says the singer, whose Trouble in Paradise arrives in July. But she is, apparently, open to change: Her biker pompadour has been reshaped into a cropped side part, an easier style to keep up. “I wanted my hair to be more free,” Jackson says. “And my music, too.” Jackson recorded most of Trouble with a live band, producing dance tracks like “Sexotheque” that feel looser and less conventional than those on La Roux. “The songs on the first album were very structured,” she says. “This new album is…sexier.”
Jackson’s idea of sexy, of course, has always been her own. “I wouldn’t say I dress like a man, but I do dress in a masculine way,” she says of her androgynous style and affinity for broad-shouldered blazers and biker jackets. “Sexy is not about shagging in the club or drinking from the minibar.”