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The History of Swedish Pop Music
by Alex Cosper (3/24/13)


Sweden's popular music has contributed prominently to the international scene since the 1970s, although the nation's own pop recordings trace back to the early days of recorded music. During the 1920s one of the most well known jazz artists from Sweden was Charlie Norman. The influence of American rock and roll in the 1950s inspired artists such as Jerry Williams. In the 1960s country music infiltrated the country starting with the Hillbilly Five. While almost all Swedish pop music had been sung in English for decades, the first native artist to gain popularity singing in Swedish was Pugh Rogefeldt in the late sixties.

The influence of the Beatles led to a sixties hit group called the Hep Stars, who earned the nickname "The Swedish Beatles." One of the members of this band was keyboardist Benny Andersson, whoc would team up in 1972 with guitarist Björn Ulvaeus of the Hootenanny SIngers to form ABBA in Stockholm. They added Björn's wife Agnetha Fältskog amd Benny's future wife, the classically trained Anni-Frid ("Frida") Lyngstad. After they won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with the song "Waterloo," ABBA rose to international fame, hitting top ten in the United States and top of the charts in several countries. They went on to sell over over 300 million records worldwide, acvcording to The Biography Channel (UK), making them the most successful act from Sweden and one of the best selling worldwide artists of all time.

Swedish band Blue Swede topped the American charts in 1974 with their cover of "Hooked On A Feeling." They would only have a few more hits such as their cover of "Never My Love," but ABBA would prevail with a string of global hits such as "SOS," "I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do," "Mama Mia," "Fernando," "Dancing Queen," "Knowing Me, Knowing You," "Take a Chance On Me," "The Winner Takes It All" and "Lay All Your Love On Me." After both couples split up, the group disbanded in 1982 but Benny, Björn and Frida resurfaced in the 1984 hit "One Night in Bangkok" by Murray Head. During their ten year run, ABBA tapped into various styles such as pop, rock, disco and electronic music. Later their songs were used in a long running Broadway musical called Mama Mia!

As ABBA was beginning to put Sweden in the international music scene, the Swedish Recording Industry Association, known in Sweden as Grammofon Leverantörernas Förening (GLF), launched its music charts in 1975. By the late 1980s a Swedish pop group that picked up where ABBA left off was Roxette, featuring Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle. Their 1989 single "The Look" was a number one in the United States and was a worldwide smash. They had several big follow-up hits such as the ballads "Listen To Your Heart" and "It Must Have Been Love" then the upbeat pop hit "Joyride." The duo resurfaced in 2011 after a ten year break with an adult contemporary song called "Radio." The most significant rock band from Sweden from the 1980s through the early 1990s was Europe from Stockholm. Their 1986 hit "The Final Countdown" was an international hit. Neneh Cherry was born in Stockholm but grew up in New York and began having big hits in 1988 with "Buffalo Stance," which blended rap with electronic music.

The 1990s became an explosive era of one international hit after another coming from Sweden. After Roxette took a break, the next ABBA-like artist that emerged was Ace of Base from Gothenburg. They had several smash dance hits including "All That She Wants," "The Sign," "Don't Turn Around," "Beautiful Life" and their cover of "Cruel Summer." The band Army of Lovers from Stockholm formed in the eighties and had a string of dance hits including "Crucified" in 1991. Although born in Nigeria, Dr. Alban (Alban Uzoma Nwapa) broken out of Sweden with the 1992 hit "It's My Life." Stakka Bo from Uppsala blasted onto the charts in 1993 with "Here We Go." In 1994 Rednex mixed techno and bluegrass with the dance hit "Cotton Eye Joe." The Cardigans from Jonkoping began having hits in the mid 1990s with "Love Fool." In 1997 Robyn from Stockholm had some dance hits including "Show Me Love." Neneh Cherry's half brother Eagle-Eye Cherry, son of trumpet player Don Cherry, had a big alternative hit in 1998 with "Save Tonight."

In the 2000s once of the key dance artists has been Eric Prydz, a DJ originally from Stockholm who moved to Los Angeles and had the 2004 smash "Call On Me," a reworking of the Steve Winwood recording "Valerie." The song "Jerk It Out" by Swedish band The Caesars first appeared in a 2002 snowboarding video called Afterbang. The for the next several years it kept popping up in other pop culture products such as video games and a 2005 iPod TV commercial. Another song recorded by the band called "We Got To Leave" became the theme for the TV show Confessions of a Matchmaker. Guitarist Joakim Åhlund is also a member of the hard rock band The Teddybears. Other artists from Sweden have included the ABBA tribute band A*Teens, Basshunter, Leila K, Wannadies, The Concretes, Taken By Trees, Kent, Jenny Wilson and Swedish House Mafia. One of the most eclectic bands from Stockholm has been Dungen, who incorporates folk, rock, jazz and psychedelia in their music.

See also:

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