Lyrically, the song is a graphic depiction of Tove Lo's hedonistic attempts to get over her ex. "It all happened," she grinned to Q magazine. "My habit isn't to go to sex clubs, but I have been. Some people have a problem with me portraying that ugliness, but that's the only way I can write."
Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson is a Swedish singer-songwriter who performs under the name of Tove Lo. Her "Lo" moniker is Swedish for Lynx - a species of wildcat that Nilsson fell in love with at the age of three while visiting an animal park. "I was standing with my face pressed against the glass," she recalled to the BBC. "I didn't want to leave. So my parents started calling me Tove Lo and it stuck."
The word "habits" never appears in the lyric. Titling the song "Stay High" could have hindered airplay.
This song is a remix of "Habits," featuring record production duo Hippie Sabotage. Released as the fourth single from her debut EP Truth Serum, it became Nilsson's first entry on the UK singles chart.
Truth Serum catalogs a failed relationship. "Not my first," Nilsson told the BBC, "but certainly the most intense."
This song was written in the immediate aftermath of the breakup. The account of staying high with banned substances in an attempt to keep her mind off her ex is all true. "I can't lie," Nilsson said. "What I'm singing about is my life. It's the truth. I've had moments where that [drug-taking] has been a bigger part than it should be. It's hard to admit to, and I could filter it or find another metaphor for it - but it doesn't feel right to me."
Nilsson sings in the song's first line, "I eat my dinner in my bathtub." The Swedish singer told Billboard magazine that she sleeps there too. "I always take a bath when I come home drunk, and I sometimes fall asleep, which is bad," she said. "But I always wake up when the water hits my face. So far, I haven't drowned."
The "Oh Oh" that begins the song and is heard underneath the verses is what music-makers call a "vocal hook." It's an identifying characteristic of the song that makes it memorable. By isolating it in the intro, our ears are attuned to it when it comes back throughout the song.
The Bruno Mars/Mark Ronson song "Uptown Funk
" did something similar, opening the song with a "doh-doh-doh" vocal hook that later appears in the mix.
Nilsson studied at the music-orientated high school Rytmus Musikergymnasiet, which is similar to the UK's BRIT School, where she met and befriended the future members of Icona Pop. Nilsson was for a time a member of a music band called Tremblebee made up of students from the school, before leaving to concentrate on a solo singing and songwriting career. She cut her teeth writing songs for Girls Aloud and Icona Pop, before achieving a solo breakthrough with her 2013 tune "Habits." The dark break up anthem generated sufficient Internet buzz to earn her a record deal with Universal.