Swedish Language Blog

Swedish Schlager Posted by on Feb 11, 2010 in Culture

Schlager. It’s a Swedish word that means horribly tacky music. I made that up. Kind of. Schlager music is the song that gets stuck in your head that you kind of hate but know all the words to.

Schlager music reaches its zenith in May when the best of European schlager meets at Eurovision Song Contest. Of course, before we all meet at Eurovision, the best must be chosen from each country. Some countries don’t take this very seriously, for example, Ireland sent a turkey puppet a couple of years ago. Sweden does not send turkeys. Instead, a long running tournament format is set up to decide which of Sweden’s finest schlager artists will be sent to Eurovision. Simply named, Melodifestivalen.

Thirty-two contestants enter; eight perform every Saturday for four Saturdays. Two from each round move on to the final. Two from each round move on to the second chance round in week five. And finally, after five weeks of schlager Sweden is treated to the cream of the Melodi crop in Stockholm. Ten finalists will sing and dance to our heart’s content on their way to Eurovision.

It’s like watching a musical train wreck where no one gets hurt. Your ears will ring a bit, your heart will be pumping, you might even emit an involuntary groan, but in the end, no one is any worse for the wear.

Every year, millions of people watch Melodifestivalen. The first installment of 2010 drew a crowd of three million. That is one third of the country. Swedes will freely admit that they watch Melodifestivalen. They will not, however, freely admit that they enjoy the music. So, despite Melodifestivalen being a music competition, millions of people claim to not like the music at the heart of the competition. But still they watch. One third of the country sat in front of the TV and watched instant classics like Linda Pritchard and her song “You’re Making Me Hot Hot Hot.” Or maybe you prefer some Swedish rap like Frispråkarn with “Singel.” Of course, this year has a little something extra, at least for any fan of Rocky IV. Dolph Lundgren, better known as Ivan Drago, is hosting Melodifestivalen 2010.

Until having witnessed Melodifestivalen in Sweden, I didn’t believe that Swedes could admit the ridiculousness that is Melodifestivalen, yet still watch. I didn’t believe that anyone would watch schlager on TV for six weeks. I didn’t believe that anyone would tolerate schlager music on the radio for even longer than that. I was wrong. Now, I am one of the three million.

If you want to learn more about Melodifestivalen, or just follow the results, check out SVT’s Melodifestivalen website.

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.


  1. Len:

    Åh, det är kärlek och det är vindar, det är ögon och de tindrar, och massa andra trötta gamla klyschor som säger allt och ingenting.

    Det är stjärnor och de brinner, det är världen och den försvinner, och titeln ska sitta som ett slag i magen–det är den värsta schlagern!

  2. Marcus Cederström:

    Schlager in a nutshell.