Swedish Language Blog

The evolution of Swedish pop part 1 Posted by on Mar 9, 2010 in Culture

Modern Swedish pop music has been around for almost four decades on the international scene. We can all agree that it started with ABBA in 1974 at the Eurovision Song Contest. They put Sweden on the map in the music industry. But it has been quite a ride since then, and believe me when I say that the Swedish audience is maybe the hardest to please for a Swedish band. And you can either like ABBA or not but there is hardly anyone (from rockers to ravers) who wouldn´t know at least one ABBA song by heart. You roll your eyes whenever you hear the name of them but you are so proud of course.  And now it is cool with vintage if you know what I mean. For example Europe form 1983. We tend to rediscover bands like them today in Sweden.

I remember that one of my first ever concerts (besides a Björk) was a Roxette concert. What was the text all about in The Look? No one really knew it but it became a huge hit. I went to the concert with my mother because she wouldn´t let me go on my own. I was only twelve and so embarrassed. But she loves to rock out every now and then. Now, I am 30 and I think: You are one of the coolest moms I have seen!!! There weren´t any special concert effects like these days, but it was an amazing experience at that early age. The era was also “The golden days of MTV Europe” in my opinion. When it was all about music and not meaningless “reality shows”. If those shows about reality I´d rather keep my headphones on!

I guess people have an ambivalent feeling about Roxette in Sweden or let´s say the “majority” of people think that Per Gessle is embarrassing when ever singing in Swedish with his own band. However, everyone knows his songs like the following video proves it: Sommartider (Summertimes). But we got to give Roxette some credit for an international success and several number one singles world wide. And we should not forget, that you can´t be a prophet in your own country.

In the end of the 80s beginning of the 90s “the wind of change” came to Europe. Euro pop aka. Euro trash, rave, house, trance took over the continent. For me it all started with Neneh Cherry. She had many big hits through the years like Buffalo Stance, Manchild, 7 seconds with Youssou N´Dour and they all hold up even today. She has been a very cooperative artist. She works mainly as a DJ today and she is a forty something grandma. She is still cool. Another female artist from Sweden is Leila K. She got very popular both in Sweden and in the UK in the early 90s. She made several hits like Got to get, a cover on Ca plane pour moi or Open Sesame.  She came from a very strict family and she had hard time making her parents accept her singing carrier. Unfortunately her carrier turned out to be a short one because of different private issues.  Thanks to her and Ace fo Base that we have a vivid music scene in Gothenburg today in my opinion. It all started there. They created somehow more interest in other cities than Stockholm. Since then there have been loads of Swedish bands from Gothenburg. If you ever come to visit Gothenburg and like festivals, the WOW (Way out west festival) in august is the place to be. I saw last year an oldie there.  The former dentist of Nigerian origin Dr. Alban. He performed with Robyn. And don´t forget what he sings about :-)! He had some major pop hits in the 90s like It´s my life and Sing Hallelujah.

In 1991 two very controversial videos came out. Crucified and Obsession by the band Army of Lovers. But the controversy was just about to begin. They were outspoken, sexual and provocative. Pretty soon they became one of the most popular bands of this time period. They had several mega hits even later on like Sexual Revolution and King Midas.  

In 1992 the public eye turned towards Hisingen island (Sweden´s fourth largest island and also a part of town in Gothenburg). Ace of Base released its first singel. They became the third largest Swedish group and sold approximately 60 million copies. Sweden did it again. They had even the US in front of their feet. All that she wants, The sign, Living in Danger (I found a live video from the first ever MTV European Music Awards just a few years after the Berlin-wall had come down. MTV Europe chose the city for its first ever award show in 1994.). I like statements like these.

In 1993 I just couldn´t stop listening to this track in my Walkman. Remember the Walkman? I think, I had it in my mini-bag haha! That was rather 80s though. The group was a kind of one-hit-wonders. The guy in orange Henrik Schyffert is an active comedian nowadays on Swedish TV. Whale – Hobo Humpin Slobo Babe. It must have been the rocky beats. Another short-life band was Stakka Bo, but one of the guys Johan Renck has made a very successful international carrier as a video director. He has worked with Suede, Madonna, Kylie, Beyoncé, All Saints, Robbie Williams, and The Cardigans. And that is where we continue….

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  1. Christian:

    When I was younger, I knew a lot of A*Teens songs -.- Some of them were ABBA covers, though 😛 I’m not even Swedish 😀

  2. Emilio Quintana:

    I´m not interesting in mainstream music. Swedish pop is great because of indie: http://www.swedesplease.net

    This post is very dissapointed.

  3. Anna:

    I bought “the big L.” album by Roxette when I was 9. I learnt english by singing to the lyrics! I remember at the time, I thought that “ran” in “I ran a long long way from home” was a spelling mistake! (I didn’t know past simple at the time. Didn’t even know what I was singing). I’m not swedish either.
    Right not, I’m 28 and I love ABBA. I also like cardigans. Btw, I only like swedish pop, for a very mysterious reason. I don’t listen to pop, in general. I prefer soul and jazz for example. But Roxette, well, they’re a “big love” for me!!

  4. Olof:

    The Knife
    Jose Gonzales
    and the greatest of them all:
    Peps Persson

  5. davinia:

    I think Rock&Roll in Swedish is one of the best in the world, it will be interesting to check the genre besides pop

  6. Tibor:

    Hi Emilio!

    This blog post is more informative than it is about music taste. I like indie too, but in the begining of the 90s there were hardly any significant Swedish indie bands on an international level. This is only part one so wait and see. 😉

  7. Tibor:

    Hi Davinia,

    I agree with you. I just wish we had more days in a month :-). I chose pop (it is a wide genre) this time. However it is mainly pop tracks that most of the people remember….so that was also a reason. If a genre becomes popular we can count it as mainsteam in my opinion. Whether it is pop, rock, rave, electro or indie och rock&roll…etc. in different periods