Popular music in Sweden
|Music of Sweden|
|Media and performance|
|Nationalistic and patriotic songs|
|National anthem||Du gamla, du fria (de facto)|
Swedish popular music, also called Swedish pop music, or just Swedish pop, refers to music that has swept the Swedish mainstream at any given point in time. After World War II, Swedish pop music was heavily influenced by American jazz, and then by rock-and-roll from the U.S. and the U.K. in the 1950s and 60s, before developing into the dansband music. Since the 1970s, Swedish pop music has come to international prominence with bands singing in English, ranking high on the British, New Zealand, American, and Australian charts and making Sweden one of the world's top exporter of popular music by gross domestic product.
- 1 History
- 2 Styles
- 3 Eurovision Song Contest
- 4 Notable musicians and acts of Swedish origin
- 5 Charts and sales
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
With the influx of American G.I.'s into Europe in the 1940s. styles of American music seeded themselves into Swedish culture. Many Swedish dansorkesters ("dance orchestras") played jitterbug, foxtrot, and swing music and other jazz-derived tunes for people to dance to. In the 1950s early rock and roll, as well as country music and German schlager also infused the market, influencing Swedish musicians to build upon these styles, gradually moving them away from jazz, which was turning more toward the avant garde.
As dansbandmusik was taking hold in Scandinavia, it was interrupted by the counterculture of the 1960s, whose influences of left-wing politics and LSD were altering the shape of popular music around the world. In 1967 the first psychedelic and progressive rock groups emerged in Stockholm's Filips club, including Hansson & Karlsson, the Baby Grandmothers, and Mecki Mark Men. These groups were very popular in the Sweden of the late 60s, with television appearances, sold-out concerts, and tours around Europe. Mecki Mark Men even spent three months in the U.S. where they played big rock music festivals with Sly and the Family Stone, Jethro Tull, Pentangle, Mountain, Grand Funk Railroad, Paul Butterfield, and The Byrds. Aside from this music that blended rock, jazz, and folk music with improvisation and experimentation, Swedish progressive rock, or "progg" as it became known, was also fiercely political. Progg bands would go on to support efforts against war and nuclear power, or protest competitive events like Eurovision, stating, "Music cannot be a contest."
1970s: Dansbandmusik and ABBA
The term "dansband" was coined in Sweden in 1976, to sound more modern and tougher than the earlier "dansorkester." The 1970s became the golden era of dansband music, with groups like Thorleifs, Flamingokvintetten, Ingmar Nordströms, Wizex and Matz Bladhs rising to popularity in Sweden. In 1977, the song "Beatles", performed by Swedish dansband Forbes, won the Swedish Melodifestivalen 1977 and finished 18th (last) in the Eurovision Song Contest 1977.
For tax purposes, performers found a loophole in declaring "fantasy" outfits as deductables to one's income, the reason being that it shouldn't be possible to wear the same outfit in your daily life. This led to many bands wearing highly extravagant matched outfits in their stage performances.
On 6 April 1974, Blue Swede went to number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 with their cover of the B. J. Thomas song "Hooked on a Feeling". The combo (fronted by iconic actor/singer Bjorn Skifs) also covered "Half Breed", "Never My Love", and "A Song For You"; as made famous by Cher, The Association, and The Carpenters, respectively. These renditions appeared on at least one "best-of" album, though never officially offered for sale anywhere beyond Europe.
That same day, ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, England, with "Waterloo". It was a big success throughout Europe, and reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100. Over the next few years ABBA had 18 consecutive top ten hits in the UK, nine of them reaching number one. Having sold an estimated 370 million units worldwide, ABBA became the best-selling band of the 1970s. In 1977, "Dancing Queen" became ABBA's only number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100. ABBA and Led Zeppelin are the only acts to have had 8 consecutive UK #1 albums.
Shortly after the release of their seventh album Super Trouper (1980), Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad of ABBA decided to end their marriage, just as Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog had done two years prior. This event did not stop the foursome from working together. ABBA's eighth album The Visitors was released in November 1981. Feeling that the energy was running out of the group, they decided to take a break in 1982; the band members have not reunited since. Fältskog and Lyngstad then both pursued solo careers. In 1982, Lyngstad released her first solo album in English, the Phil Collins produced Something's Going On. This was followed with the album Shine in 1984. Fältskog recorded three English solo albums during the 1980s, Wrap Your Arms Around Me (1983); Eyes of a Woman (1985), and I Stand Alone (1987). After a 17-year hiatus, Fältskog released My Colouring Book (2004), an album of 1960s cover versions. Her latest album A (2013) has been one of her most successful, earning her Platinum status in Sweden and Gold status in the UK, Germany and Australia.
Andersson and Ulvaeus collaborated with Tim Rice on the musical Chess which premiered in London in 1986. Two songs from the musical were hugely successful singles: "One Night in Bangkok" reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100, and "I Know Him So Well" topped the UK singles chart in February 1985.
1980s: Europe, Roxette and Neneh Cherry
In 1986, Europe, a hard-rock band from Upplands Väsby, hit number one in 25 countries (including the UK) with the song "The Final Countdown". The album of the same name also charted around the world and sold more than 7 million copies worldwide, 3 million copies in the United States alone. The single has sold 8 million copies. The following year included successful tours through Europe, Japan and the US. Their next album was Out of This World, which produced "Superstitious" as its biggest hit. This album sold about 3.5 million copies worldwide. These two multi-platinum albums placed Europe as one of the most successful hard rock bands in the world with album sales of more than 23 million records. After the release of Prisoners in Paradise, which sold only 1.2 million copies, Europe decided to take a break in 1992. They reformed in 2003 and produced four albums so far. They continue to record and tour.
Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle formed the band Roxette in 1986. Four of their songs, "The Look", "Listen To Your Heart" (both 1989), "It Must Have Been Love" (1990) and "Joyride" (1991), reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, while two further singles, "Dangerous" (1990) and "Fading Like a Flower" (1991), both peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Roxette's "Join The Joyride World Tour 91–92" attracted 1.7 million people around the world. In 1993, they became the first non-English speaking band ever to play at MTV Unplugged. In 1995, they became the first Western band to be allowed to perform in China since Wham! in 1985.
In 2003, Roxette was honoured with achievement medals by Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf "for appreciated achievements in Sweden and internationally". To date their best selling albums are Joyride (11 million) and Look Sharp! (9 million). Overall, the duo has sold more than 45 million albums and 25 million singles worldwide.
Neneh Cherry performed with several punk bands in the 1980s, including The Slits, New Age Steppers and Rip Rig + Panic, who she recorded three albums with. In 1986 Cherry met one of the founding members of the Buffalo street style, Cameron "Booga Bear" McVey, while working as a fashion model. Cherry took Buffalo to the musical main stage and her personal style has had a big influence on designers, stylists and magazines. Cherry worked with McVey on her debut album, Raw Like Sushi (1989), and the two got married in 1990. Raw Like Sushi experimented with merging hiphop and mainstream dance-pop and was BRIT Certified Platinum four months after release. Cherry's debut, worldwide hit single, "Buffalo Stance" (1988), became her international breakthrough. The song peaked at No. 3 on both the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100. Cherry was nominated for "Best New Artist" with Buffalo Stance at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards and the song was nominated for "International Hit of the Year" at the 1990 Ivor Novello Awards. Cherry's second single, "Manchild" (1989), peaked at No. 2 in Germany, and at No. 5 in the UK, and was a top-10 success in six more countries. The music video was nominated for "Best Video" at the 1990 Brit Awards. Her third single, "Kisses on the Wind" (1989), reached top-20 in seven countries including the US, where it peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1990 Cherry won two Brit Awards, for "Best International Breakthrough" and "Best International Solo Artist", and she was nominated for "Best International Female" in 1991 and 1997. She was also nominated for "Best New Artist" at the 1990 Grammy Awards and for "Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals" in 1995. Cherry's third solo album, Man (1996) featured the single "7 Seconds" (1994), a duett with the Senegalese singer/songwriter Youssou N'Dour. The song reached top-3 on charts in 14 countries including France, where it stayed at No. 1 for a record 16 consecutive weeks on the Singles Chart. It won "Best Song" at the 1994 MTV Europe Music Awards and was nominated for "International Hit of the Year" at the 1995 Ivor Novello Awards. The album's third single, "Woman" (1996), reached top-20 in five countries including the UK, where it peaked at No. 9. In 2014 Cherry released her first solo album in 18 years, Blank Project, which was nominated for the Nordic Music Prize "Album of the Year", and in 2015 she was inducted into the Swedish Music Hall of Fame (in swedish).
1990s: Ace of Base, The Cardigans, Robyn
The 1990s brought a new wave of international success for Swedish pop productions. Swedish pop was represented abroad by the likes of Ace of Base and The Cardigans. There are a number of popular music artists from Sweden from different genres who gained a name in the international music scene in the 1990s: Dr. Alban, E-Type, Leila K, Army of Lovers, Yaki-Da, Stakka Bo, Rednex, Robyn, Eagle Eye Cherry, Emilia, Teddybears and Meja.
2000s: A*Teens, Alcazar, September, Play
A*Teens were formed in 1998 as an ABBA tribute band. Their 1999 debut album The ABBA Generation consisted purely of ABBA covers and was a great success around the world. The album sold 3 million copies worldwide. The singles "Mamma Mia" (UK #12) and "Dancing Queen" (UK #21) topped the charts in Sweden. Their second album Teen Spirit (2001) contained new songs and was certified Gold in the United States. "Upside Down" from that album became their biggest hit. After two records which were less successful internationally, the band split up in 2004.
Bubbles was a Swedish girl group, also known as Bless. The group's original lineup consisted of lead singer Mari Caroline Ljungström (born 26 June 1987), twin sisters Patricia and Sandra Joxelius (born 7 April 1987), Jenny (Yenny) Andersén (born 10 October 1988), and Hannah Steffenburg (born 14 April 1988).
2003 saw Bubbles make their media breakthrough by reaching the Eurovision Song Contest final of Sweden with the hit single "T.K.O. (Knock You Out)". Covers, centerfolds and headlines in the papers and in TV everyday for several weeks made them well known throughout Sweden. The largest Bubbles tour ever began on 18 May and ended on 30 September, comprising 35 concerts with a total audience of more than 120,000.
Another band which had success overseas were Play. Their biggest hit, "Us Against The World", sold over 500,000 copies. The song also featured in movies like The Master of Disguise and Holiday in the Sun, not forgetting the Lizzie McGuire series.
The Swedish/Moroccan songwriter/producer RedOne made during the late 2000s had huge success worldwide working alongside Lady Gaga, and later other American stars. He has been nominated eight times and won two Grammy Awards.
Ace of Base had the world's biggest-selling debut album with 23 million in sales for Happy Nation. They achieved major success in the 1990s with popular songs such as "All That She Wants" (1993), "The Sign", "Don't Turn Around" (both 1994) and "Cruel Summer" (1998). All four songs reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100; "The Sign" spent six weeks at number one.
In the early 1990s the Swedish dance scene was very vivid. Denniz Pop was Sweden's most wanted producer of that time[dubious ]. In 1990 he produced Dr. Alban's first record "Hello Africa" together with Leila K. The song became a hit in mainland Europe peaking at #5 in Germany.
In 1992 Denniz Pop produced the second album by Dr. Alban, One Love which includes the worldwide hits "It's My Life" and "Sing Hallelujah". . That same year Leila K released her hit single "Open Sesame" (UK #23, Germany #5). This was followed in 1993 by a cover version of Plastic Bertrand's "Ça Plane Pour Moi" (Germany #13).
1994 saw the release of Dr. Alban's third album Look Who's Talking; the title track was a big hit throughout Europe (Germany #3).
Rednex had several hit songs mixing country music and eurodance. The song "Cotton Eye Joe" was an international hit in 1994 reaching number one in the UK. The ballad "Wish You Were Here" was released in 1995.
Swedish pop music
In 1996 The Cardigans released their third album, First Band on the Moon. The song "Lovefool" was included on the soundtrack of William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet by director Baz Luhrmann. It found international success peaking at #2 on the UK Singles Chart. The following album, Gran Turismo (1998), was more electronic in style and contained the hit singles "My Favourite Game" and "Erase/Rewind".
In 1998 Meja's second album Seven Sisters was released. It contained the radio hit "All Bout The Money", which was peaked at #12 in the UK. In 1999 she recorded the duet "Private Emotion" with Ricky Martin, which reached #9 on the UK singles chart.
Swedish songwriters/producers Denniz Pop and Max Martin have written worldwide hits for pop artists like Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and later Celine Dion, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, P!nk, Avril Lavigne, Leona Lewis and Jessie J.
Indie pop and rock
In the 2000s some indie bands from Sweden found their way to the international music scene.
Singer Nina Persson from The Cardigans launched a solo project in 2001 under the name A Camp. The lead single "I Can Buy You" peaking at number 46 in the UK chart. In 2003, The Cardigans returned with their album Long Gone Before Daylight, a quieter, more ambient collection of songs. In Sweden it was certified 2x platinum and the band won two Swedish Grammy Awards.
José González is a Swedish indie folk singer-songwriter of Argentine descent. His cover of "Heartbeats", originally by his fellow Swedes The Knife, was a hit on the UK singles chart where it peaked at number nine in 2003.
The Tallest Man on Earth is the stage name of Swedish folk singer songwriter Kristian Matsson.
Indie band The Concretes first appeared in the UK Singles Chart in 2004 with "You Can't Hurry Love" (#55) and "Seem Fine" (#52). Lead singer Victoria Bergsman left the group in 2006 and, with Peter, Bjorn and John, recorded the single "Young Folks" the same year. This reached #35 in the UK singles chart, and was re-issued the following year, this time peaking at #13.
On the national scene, Kent are by many seen as the greatest indie band, having sold more than 2 million copies of their albums and repeatedly been awarded best group of the year awards. Håkan Hellström can in some way be seen as a solo artist counterpart, having gained both public and critical acclaim.
Other notable artists include refused, Air France, bob hund, ceo, Dungen, Eskobar, Fever Ray, First Aid Kit, The Hives, Jens Lekman, The Knife, Komeda, Life on Earth, Little Dragon, Lykke Li, The Radio Dept., Shout Out Louds, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, The Sounds, The Tough Alliance, The Field, and Avner.
Successful artists of the 2000s
In 2004, Swedish DJ and producer Eric Prydz topped the UK charts for five weeks with "Call on Me", while its 2007 follow up "Proper Education" was a #2 success. In 2008 Prydz had a hit with "Pjanoo", which also reached #2 in the UK (on download sales alone).
Robyn reappeared in 2007, after an absence of 10 years from the international music scene, with her #1 hit in the UK "With Every Heartbeat". The self-titled album was certified Gold in the UK and Platinum in Sweden. The following singles reached the charts as well: "Handle Me" (UK #17), "Be Mine" (UK #10) and "Who's That Girl" (UK #26). "Dream On", the follow-up with Christian Falk, was originally released in 2006 on his album People Say. It was re-released in the UK in November 2008 peaking at #21. Robyn also collaborated with Norwegian duo Röyksopp for the single "The Girl and the Robot" in June 2009.
Crashdiet are an all Swedish rock/glam metal band starting out in the early 2000s. They released Rest in Sleaze in 2006 which debuted at number 12 in Sweden. Following the death of frontman and singer Dave Lepard the band released two more albums, reaching number three with Generation Wild (2010). Crashdiet are still currently a world touring band.
Basshunter is a Swedish singer, music producer, songwriter and DJ. "Boten Anna" is a song with Swedish lyrics that had some success in continental Europe in 2006. In 2007 it reached number one in the UK with lyrics performed in English under the title "Now You're Gone". In 2008 the second single "All I Ever Wanted" peaked at number two in the UK.
September is a Swedish dance-singer whose song "Cry For You" reached number five in the UK in 2008. In the 2010s, she released two albums under her true name, Petra Marklund, and relaunched herself as a Swedish-language pop artist rather than a Europop dance artist.
Mando Diao is a garage rock band from Borlänge. They were very successful in Europe in 2009 with their song "Dance With Somebody" from the album Give Me Fire. It reached number three in Germany and was a major hit in Europe peaking at number 8 on the Billboard Eurochart Hot 100 Singles.
Another competitor in Swedish Idol 2005 was pop singer Ola Svensson. Although not known in the UK, he is known throughout Sweden as 'A Swedish Success Story'. Ola came eighth on Idol and has gone on to produce three studio albums. He is a Double Platinum Artist with songs such as "Natalie" and "Feelgood". In 2009 he received a Rockbjörnen award, the most prestigious music award in Sweden. Four of Ola's singles have reached number one in Sweden, and all of his own singles charted within the top 5.
2010s: Swedish House Mafia, Avicii, Loreen, Icona Pop, Tove Lo, Zara Larsson
The 2010s started off with the releases and success of Agnes Carlsson and Robyn. Carlsson, the winner of Sweden's Idol 2005, succeeded in Europe and especially the UK market in 2009/2010 with the single "Release Me", which entered the charts at number three and sold over 300,000 copies. It peaked at #6 on the Billboard Eurochart Hot 100 Singles. Carlsson was also signed to Universal Music/Interscope in the US, and started the promotion for the forthcoming album Dance Love Pop during the summer 2010. Robyn returned with her Body Talk series.
2010 also saw the rising success of the Swedish House Mafia, a collaboration between the Swedish DJs and producers Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso. Another DJ, Avicii got a smash-hit with "Seek Bromance", and was ranked as sixth on the Top 100 DJs list. Both Swedish House Mafia and Avicii went on to achieve further chart success in numerous countries.
In 2011 the Swedish indie-artist Lykke Li released her second album Wounded Rhymes, and continued her success from her earlier Youth Novels with singles like "Get Some" and "I Follow Rivers", which topped the charts in Belgium and Romania.
In 2013, Swedish duo Icona Pop reached the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 and number-one on the UK Singles Chart with their song "I Love It". The song was certified gold in the United Kingdom and 2x platinum in the United States, selling 400,000 and 2,025,000 copies, respectively.
Eurovision Song Contest
Sweden has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 57 times since making its debut in 1958, missing only three contests since then (1964, 1970 and 1976). Sweden is one of the most successful competing nations at the Eurovision, with a total of six victories in the contest, only behind Ireland who have seven wins:
- 1974 – ABBA with Waterloo;
- 1984 – Herreys with Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley;
- 1991 – Carola Häggkvist with Fångad av en stormvind;
- 1999 – Charlotte Nilsson with Take Me To Your Heaven;
- 2012 – Loreen with Euphoria;
- 2015 – Måns Zelmerlöw with Heroes.
Sweden is the contest's most successful country of the 21st century, with two wins from ten top five results. In total, Sweden has achieved 24 top five results in the contest. Since 1959, the Swedish entry has been chosen through an annual televised competition, known since 1967 as Melodifestivalen. Sweden has hosted the Eurovision Song Contest six times and is the only country to have hosted the event in five different decades, three times in Stockholm (1975, 2000, and 2016), twice in Malmö (1992 and 2013), and once in Gothenburg (1985).
Notable musicians and acts of Swedish origin
Yngwie Malmsteen was musically trained in his native Sweden, though his professional career started in the US.
Per-Olov Kindgren is a classical guitar teacher and performer known for his transcriptions of popular contemporary music.
Mikkey Dee played drums for British rock band Motörhead from 1992 to 2015. He recorded 13 studio albums with the band and is famous for his long drum solos during concerts. Dee is the current drummer for German rock band Scorpions since April 2016.
Charts and sales
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Top 15 biggest selling Swedish acts
The sales figures are estimated and count together album and single sales.
|Rank||Swedish acts||Sold||Genre||Years active|
|1.||ABBA||500 million +||Pop||1972–1982|
|2.||Roxette||75 million +||Pop rock||1986–present|
|3.||Ace of Base||50 million +||Eurodance||1990–present|
|4.||Avicii||30 million+||House music||2006–2018|
|5.||Europe||20 million+||Glam metal / Hard rock||1979–1992; 1999; 2003–present|
|7.||The Cardigans||15 million +||Alternative rock||1992–present|
|8.||Dr Alban||14 million||-||-|
|11.||Swedish House Mafia||10 million||House / Progressive House||2008-2013; 2018–present|
|13.||Army of Lovers||7 million||-||-|
|15.||Eagle Eye Cherry||4 million||-||-|
Album sales by country
This tables shows the album sales by country. The worldwide album sales are estimated while the album sales for UK, US and Germany are counted by the gold and platinum certifications for the albums in that country. For Germany, the old certifications were used for albums released before September 1999 with Gold (250,000) and Platinum (500,000).
|Rank||artist||worldwide album sales||UK album sales||US album sales||German album sales|
|3||Ace of Base||32,000,000||660,000||10,000,000||1,750,000|
Biggest hit singles
The following songs achieved the highest aggregated positions in the charts in their respective years. The following list shows the Swedish hits that ended up in the top 5 end of year charts worldwide.
|5||"It Must Have Been Love"||1990|
|4||Ace of Base||"All That She Wants"||1993|
|3||Rednex||"Cotton Eye Joe"||1994|
US and UK hit singles
Top selling Swedish studio and compilation albums
|1.||1992||Gold||ABBA||28 million +|
|2.||1993||The Sign / Happy Nation||Ace of Base||23 million +|
|3.||1991||Joyride||Roxette||12 million +|
|4.||1976||Greatest Hits Vol. I||ABBA||11.3 million +|
|5.||1976||Arrival||ABBA||10 million +|
|6.||1988||Look Sharp!||Roxette||10 million +|
|7.||1980||Super Trouper||ABBA||7.5 million +|
|8.||1979||Voulez-Vous||ABBA||7 million +|
|9.||1978||The Album||ABBA||7 million +|
|10.||1992||Tourism||Roxette||7 million +|
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