Sweden has been churning out some amazing indie + electronic pop artists in the last decade. Robyn, Lykke Li + Icona Pop are just a few acts that come to mind that eschew a cookie cutter paradigm. All of them are quite unique in terms of their fashion aesthetic, artistic direction and in how they court fame (or don’t!) in comparison to their North American counterparts. Add to that a comparative approach to their experimental musical styling’s—and one has to think…is there a Swedish Pop sound?
From Left to Right Robyn Top Right Lykke Li, Bottom Right Icona Pop
Little Dragon’s lead singer Yukimi Nagano who hails from Gothenburg, Sweden has candidly admitted that she’s heard rumblings about a “Swedish scene” but she doesn’t really know what that means? In fact Nagano would readily tell you how influenced she and her band mates are by American R&B + Hip-Hop!
A Swedish EDM scene? Top Left: Swedish House Mafia Bottom: Little Dragon Right: DJ Avicii
When Feist made her 2nd album Let it Die in 2003 there was much ado about the fact that she was Canadian but that she recorded it in Paris. The media’s fascination with trying to equate her new record with the romance of Paris, or the crème brûlée’s and other cliché’s about the Paris ‘sound’, left her rather annoyed. “It all depends on what street you walk down, or who your friends are or how you spend your time…” said Feist to me in an interview many moons ago. “And the funny thing was that [I hardly went out in Paris, and stayed very insular when I made that album,] so the fact that music journalists heard the ‘French influence’ in Let it Die was news to me.”
Cue tape to 2006-2007 and there was a huge deal being made about the cabal of ‘English songbirds’ like Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Duffy, Corinne Bailey Rae, Kate Nash + Adele.
The Way They Were…The English Song Birds of ’07
It could have been argued that Amy, Duffy Adele all had a similar retro sound…but is it really fair to play this comparison game? Who does it benefit? The artist? Or is it a tactic used to spoon feed an untapped audience? All music journos (guilty as charged!) have played the comparative or geography game once upon a time too many, but in today’s competitive digital landscape with click bait run amok—a ‘hook’ or ‘slant’ sometimes means the lifeblood of ones piece.
I think artists are the sum of all their parts and not necessarily just where they have lived or where they choose to record an album. Two people can have VERY different experience at the same party in the same city on the same night! I think trying to bulk one city or one country together towards a musical movement is probably the result of lazy music journalism. Sometimes it is a valid label—there have been many concept albums made based upon a place or its influence on the artist (think the Beatles + India!) and there is no doubt that in the early 90’s there was a very real Seattle sound—but it’s not a one size fits all moniker. I’d sooner say there is a Stockholm scene or a sound, rather than try and lump an entire country into its own sub-genre. *Lykke Li + Little Dragon are not from Stockholm.
But on that
note tangent there is a new artist from Stockholm, Sweden whose album has become the soundtrack tied to memory (I love how music can do that) in my personal tapestry of Spring 2014. *Not all segues are seamless, apologies, dear readers!
On May 3rd I was at the kick-off event for Toronto’s Canadian Music Week (CMW). Due to bad weather, the evenings performing artist MIA was reassigned to a small club venue as opposed to the original outdoor free concert. It was MIA’s smallest venue performance she’s done since she started out + lucky for me I was front row when I was treated to her opening act, Elliphant. I couldn’t decipher her accent, I was convinced it was either German or Swedish and a quick Google search told me she was from Sweden. Aha!
She came out with this song 1st ‘Music is Life’, and let’s say she had me at ‘Hallå’.
She was extremely rough around the edges—looking like she just did 50 bong hits and hadn’t showered since X-mas, but I really liked her music! Her baby doll rasp combined with dance pop mixed in with some Hip-Hop, Dancehall + Reggae had me so intrigued! The comparisons to MIA were obvious, but Elliphant definitely had her own flavor going on.
I enjoyed her whole set list, but didn’t get fully hooked until I started listening to her music online and started watching her eccentric music videos. Elliphant’s album A Good Idea was released in late 2013 in Sweden exclusively, but only until recently has the rest of the world (including myself) caught on! Her album is still only available in tactile version in Sweden, but her album can be found on iTunes here. She’s worked with everyone from Diplo to Skrillex and Katy Perry is said to be a big fan.
Below are just a sample of the singles from A Good Idea that I adore, but really you should download the entire album—it’s mad brilliant!
So what have we learned today kids?
Is there a Swedish pop music movement happening? Is Stockholm, in particular a hot bed for forward-thinking pop music talent?
It sure seems like it, and I haven’t even mentioned the onslaught of other great artists who simply aren’t at the international level as the aforementioned—yet. One aspect that has to be fueling this deluge is the support by their government for independent artists through the Swedish Artist Council. Other Swedish mainstays like Nordic Playlist + Spotify have further helped to propel Scandinavian artists abroad. *Spotify is now currently available in Canada!
So, yes…without making any sweeping generalizations, there seems to be an exorbitant amount of Pop/Dance music coming out of Sweden lately, and consistently so, ever since the 70’s when Abba turned it out with their original brand of Europop Disco.
And just take a guess what city they were from?
…And cue Dancing Queen in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Relative newcomer Tove Lo (she’s written previous hits for Icona Pop + Cher Lloyd) dropped her poptastic album Queen of the Clouds [Universal/Island] at the end of September. Yes, she hails from Stockholm, Sweden and she’s the hottest artist of le moment, joining Katy Perry to open on the Australian leg of her world tour—a huge coup for an emerging artist.
Download the album or heaven forbid grab yourself one of those CD thingamawhats? This album is all La Di Fricken Da + then some sugar.
XOXO The Pop Culture Rainman™