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13 February, 2017

Sweden – the kingdom of pop

Did you know that Sweden is the world’s biggest exporter of pop music? When I have tweeted this on several occasions for sayitinswedish.com people have responded with ‘no, that’s definitely America’ and such comments. I agree that this statement is very bold, since Sweden’s population just went over 10 million (whereas the USA has about 300 million). If you look at these numbers, there is no doubt that Sweden has contributed a lot to the music industry for such a small country. Keep reading and I will tell you why!

Did you know that songs like ‘Can’t stop this feeling’ by Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it off’ and ‘Last Friday night’ by Katy Perry were composed by the very same Swede that dominated the charts in the 90’s with songs for basically all the big boy-bands, for Britney Spears, and later for artists like Avril Lavigne, Pink, A-Ha, Ke$ha, Justin Bieber, Maroon 5, and  so on?

This one guy, Max Martin, has written so many songs that it is unlikely that you would go a day listening to the radio without hearing his songs all over the world.

We also must not forget Denniz Pop, who together with Max Martin also contributed to the great success of Swedish-written music in the 90’s.

Swedish music all over the world

Furthermore, there is a huge deal of Swedish artists that have gained international recognition over the years and some even gained cult status. Of course, I’m talking about ABBA but we also have Roxette, Ace of Base, Robyn, Zara Larsson, Avicii, and many more.

Sweden isn’t just a nation of pop music but also plays in the highest league, when it comes to jazz, hard rock, and metal music.

Music of all genres

The Swedish jazz musicians were, especially in the 60’s, very highly ranked abroad and a huge deal of the world’s leading bands in the harder genres come from Sweden. Here you’ll find bands like Europe (Who has never heard ‘The final countdown’?), In flames, Sabaton, Dark tranquility, Soilwork, Arch enemy, Amon amarth, Opeth, Meshuggah, Hammerfall, and so many, many, many more.

I have yet to mention all the great songwriters and artists that are well known only inside Sweden or the Nordic countries and those are a pretty big deal. This article would run far too long if I went down that road but to help you get an understanding for Sweden’s musical greatness, I am curating a couple of Spotify playlists, which you can find links to here:

Swedish music lists

The question you are probably asking yourself right now is: how did this happen? I think the reason Swedes are so ‘literate’ in music is due to the fact that we have got government funded music and culture schools. Thus a lot of Swedes sing in choirs and/or can play an instrument at least with basic proficiency.

Furthermore, there is a culture of collective singing and dancing (for Christmas and the Scandinavian holiday ‘Mid-Summer’) and collective singing in form of sing-a-longs. There are several TV-shows, in which the audience is invited to sing-a-long and the lyrics are broadcast as subtitles and game shows dedicated to music.

The Eurovision Song Contest

Did you ever hear about the Eurovision Song Contest? That huge European music contest, that is larger than the Super Bowl? When the Swedish national song contest starts in February and the song and act is selected to represent Sweden in the ‘ESC’, it goes on for a whole month. The show tours around Sweden and basically all news outlets report about this almost exclusively.

So there you have it: music is a huge deal in Sweden and this has spilled over our borders and Swedish music (even though, at first, it doesn’t seem like Swedish music) is enjoyed all over the world.

In Sweden we call this ‘det svenska popundret’ – ‘the Swedish pop wonder’ and if Elvis Presley was and remains the king and Michael Jackson the king of pop, then Sweden is truly the ‘Kingdom of Pop’ – or rather the ‘Kingdom of Music’.

Written by Joakim Andersson

Joakim is a Swedish musician, YouTuber, Podcaster, and entrepreneur who calls himself an enjoyer of life. He is the founder of Say It In Swedish, which is a podcast, web and mobile app, and YouTube channel that teaches modern Swedish in a fun and easy-going way for free. Check it out at Say It In Swedish.

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