Swedish popular music

Swedish popular music
Music of Sweden
Media and performance
Music charts Sverigetopplistan
Music festivals
Music media
National anthem Du gamla, Du fria (de facto)
v · Sweden is one of the largest exporters of pop and rock music in the world.[1][2] Many Swedish artists have enjoyed success on the British and American charts and in other English speaking countries.


1970s: ABBA

In April 1974, Blue Swede went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with the B. J. Thomas cover "Hooked on a Feeling". The band was renamed Blue Swede for the US.

In that same year, ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton with "Waterloo". It was a big success throughout Europe, and reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100. Over the next few years ABBA had 18 consecutive top ten hits in the UK, nine of them reaching number one. Having sold an estimated 370 million units worldwide, ABBA became the best-selling band of the 1970s. In 1977 "Dancing Queen" became ABBA's only number one-hit on the Billboard Hot 100. ABBA and Led Zeppelin are the only acts to have had 8 consecutive UK #1 albums .[3]

Shortly after the release of Super Trouper, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad of ABBA decided to end their marriage, just as Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog had done two years prior. This event did not stop the foursome from working together. Their eighth album "The Visitors" was released at the end of 1981. Feeling that the energy was running out of the group, they decided to take a break in 1982; the group have not reunited since Agnetha Fältskog and Ann-Frida Lyngstad both pursued solo careers. In 1982 Lyngstad released her first solo album in English. It was produced by Phil Collins. The song "I Know There's Something Going On" was a huge hit around the world in 1982.[4]

Benny and Björn collaborated with Tim Rice on the musical Chess which premiered in 1986 in the West End of London. The singles "One Night in Bangkok" and "I Know Him So Well" were both huge successes[citation needed].

1980s: Europe, Roxette, Neneh Cherry

In 1986 a hard rock band from Upplands Väsby, Europe, hit number one in 26 countries including the UK with the song "The Final Countdown". The album of the same name also charted around the world and sold over 3 million copies in the United States alone and more than 6 million copies worldwide. The single has sold 8 million copies.

The following year included successful tours through Europe, Japan and the USA. Their next album was Out of This World which produced "Superstitious" as its biggest hit. This album sold about 4 million copies worldwide. In 1991, they released Prisoners in Paradise, which sold only 1 million copies. Europe decided to take a long break in 1992.

In 1986, Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle formed the band Roxette. Four of their songs, "The Look", "Listen To Your Heart" (both 1989), "It Must Have Been Love" (1990) and "Joyride" (1991), all reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.[5][6] Meanwhile, two of their other songs, "Dangerous" (1990) and "Fading Like a Flower" (1991), each peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.[6]

Roxette's Join The Joyride World Tour 91-92 attracted 1.7 million people around the world.[5] In 1993, they became the first non-English speaking band ever to play at MTV Unplugged.[5] In 1995 they became the first Western band to be allowed to perform in China since Wham! in 1985.[7]

In 2003, the duo was honoured with achievement medals by Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf "for appreciated achievements in Sweden and internationally".[8] To date their best selling albums are Joyride (11 million) and Look Sharp! (9 million).[9] Overall, the duo has sold more than 45 million albums and 25 million singles worldwide.[10][11][12]

In 1988, Swedish (but then UK-based) artist Neneh Cherry got her solo breakthrough with "Buffalo Stance". She now (2009) lives in Tågarp, Skåne, Sweden.

1990s: Ace of Base, The Cardigans

The '90s brought a new wave of international success for Swedish pop productions. Swedish pop was represented abroad by the likes of Ace of Base and The Cardigans. There are a number of popular music artists from Sweden from different genres who gained a name in the international music scene in the '90s: Dr. Alban, Leila K, Army of Lovers, Yaki-Da, Stakka Bo, Rednex, Robyn, Eagle Eye Cherry, Emilia Rydberg, Teddybears and Meja.

Dance music

Ace of Base had the world's biggest-selling debut album with 23 million in sales for Happy Nation .[13] They achieved major success in the 90s with popular songs like "All That She Wants" (1993), "The Sign", "Don't Turn Around" (both 1994) and "Cruel Summer" (1998). All four songs reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100; "The Sign" spent six weeks at number one.

In the early 1990s the Swedish dance scene was very vivid. Denniz Pop was Sweden's most wanted producer of that time[dubious ]. In 1990 he produced Dr. Alban's first record "Hello Africa" together with Leila K. The song became a hit in mainland Europe peaking at #5 in Germany.

In 1992 Denniz Pop produced the second album by Dr. Alban, One Love which includes the worldwide hits "It's My Life" and "Sing Hallelujah". .[14] That same year Leila K released her hit single "Open Sesame" (UK #23, Germany #5). This was followed in 1993 by a cover version of Plastic Bertrand's "Ça Plane Pour Moi" (#13 Germany).

1994 saw the release of Dr. Alban's third album Look Who's Talking; the title track was a big hit throughout Europe (Germany #3).[15]

Rednex had several hit songs mixing country music and eurodance. The song "Cotton Eye Joe" was an international hit in 1994 reaching number one in the UK. The ballad "Wish You Were Here" was released in 1995.

The Hellacopters, a garage rock band that was formed by Nicke Andersson, was also formed in 1995.

Swedish pop music

In 1996 The Cardigans released their third album, First Band on the Moon. The song "Lovefool" from that album was included on the soundtrack of William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet by director Baz Luhrmann. It found international success peaking at #2 in the UK Singles Chart. The following album, Gran Turismo (1998), was more electronic in style and contained the hit singles "My Favourite Game" and "Erase/Rewind".

"You and Me Song" by Swedish group The Wannadies was a huge radio hit in the UK and Ireland in the mid-1990s. This song also ended up featuring on the "Romeo + Juliet" soundtrack.

In 2008,swedish group Caramell released a remix of their hit song,Caramelldansen as the Caramella Girls.

Robyn was 17 years old when her pop singles "Show Me Love" and "Do You Know (What It Takes)" were released in 1997. These singles both ended up in the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 .[16]

1998 Meja's second album Seven Sisters was released. It contained the radio hit "All Bout The Money" which was peaked at #12 in the UK. In spring 1999 she recorded the duet "Private Emotion" with Ricky Martin. The song reached #9 in the UK singles chart.

Eagle-Eye Cherry released his debut album Desireless in 1998. Propelled by the hit single '"'Save Tonight" (UK #5, US #6), the album sold over 4 million copies worldwide.

Emilia Rydberg is well known for her 1998-1999 international hit "Big Big World".[17] The song peaked at #5 in the UK.

Andreas Johnson had a UK #4 hit in 2000 with "Glorious".

Swedish Songwriter/Producer Denniz Pop and Max Martin have written worldwide hits for pop artists like Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Celine Dion.

2000s: Alcazar, Eric Prydz

With "Crying at the Discoteque" the band Alcazar achieved success across Europe in 2000. It peaked at #3 in Germany and at #13 in the UK Singles Chart. The following singles failed to reach this success.

The A*Teens were formed in 1998 as an ABBA Tribute Band. The debut album The ABBA Generation in 1999 consisted purely of ABBA covers and was a great success around the world. The album sold 3 million copies worldwide. Singles like "Mamma Mia" (UK #12 1999) and "Dancing Queen" (UK #21 1999) topped the charts in Sweden. Their second album Teen Spirit (2001) contained new songs and was certified Gold in the United States. "Upside Down" from that album became their biggest hit. After two records which were less successful internationally, the band broke up in 2004.

The electronic dance project Antiloop also reached international success; the song "In My Mind" was featured on the FIFA 2003 soundtrack.

Indie pop and rock

In the 2000s some indie bands from Sweden found their way to the international music scene.

Singer Nina Persson from The Cardigans launched a solo project in 2001 under the name A Camp. The lead single "I Can Buy You" was a small hit in the UK peaking at #46. Two years later The Cardigans returned with their album Long Gone Before Daylight, a quieter, more ambient collection of songs. In Sweden it was certified 2x Platinum and they won 2 Swedish Grammy Awards.

José González is a Swedish indie folk singer-songwriter of Argentine descent. His cover "Heartbeats" (originally by his fellow Swedes The Knife) was a hit in the UK singles chart where it peaked at #9 in 2003.

The Tallest Man on Earth is a Swedish Folk singer songwriter. His real name is Kristian Matsson and was born on April 30, 1983.

Indie band The Concretes first appeared in the UK Single Chart in 2004 with "You Can't Hurry Love" (#55) and "Seem Fine" (#52). Lead singer Victoria Bergsman left the group in 2006 and, with Peter, Bjorn and John, recorded the single "Young Folks" the same year. It reached #35 in the UK singles chart and was re-issued the following year making it #13.

Other indie artists include The Hives, Eskobar, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Dungen, Kent, First Aid Kit, Lykke Li, Shout Out Louds, Fever Ray and Life on Earth.

New successful artists

Sweden has been something of a haven for chart topping music in the end of the 00s. A large number of Swedish acts have reached the upper echelons of the UK singles chart including the aforementioned Basshunter, Robyn, Axwell, Peter, Bjorn & John, September, Agnes Carlsson, Darin, Kleerup and Eric Prydz.[18]

Swedish DJ and producer Eric Prydz had a hit 2004 with "Call on Me" which reached No.1 for 5 weeks in the UK singles charts, [19] while its 2007 follow up ""'Proper Education" was a No.2 success. In 2008 he had a hit with "Pjanoo", which reached #2 in the UK singles charts on download sales alone.

Robyn reappeared in 2007, after an absence of 10 years from the international music scene, with her #1 hit in UK singles chart "With Every Heartbeat". The self-titled album was certified Platinum in Sweden and Gold in the UK .[20] The following singles reached the charts as well: "Handle Me" (UK #17 2007), "Be Mine" (UK #10 2008) and "Who's That Girl" (UK #26 2008) .[21] "Dream On", the follow-up with Christian Falk, was originally released in 2006 on his album People Say. It was re-released in the UK in November 2008 peaking at #21. She also collaborated with Norwegian duo Röyksopp for the single "The Girl and the Robot" in June 2009.

Crashdiet are an all Swedish rock/glam metal band starting out in the early 2000s. They released Rest in Sleaze in 2006 which debuted #12 in Swedish charts, then after the death of frontman and singer Dave Lepard the band released two more albums reaching a high with 2010's Generation Wild which slipped into the charts at #3 but 2007's The Unattractive Revolution fell short at #11. Crashdiet are still currently a world touring band.

Basshunter is a Swedish DJ. "Boten Anna" is a song with Swedish lyrics that had some success in Continental Europe in 2006. In 2007 it reached #1 in the UK singles chart [22] with lyrics performed in English under the title "Now You're Gone". In 2008 the second single "All I Ever Wanted" went #2 in the UK.

September is a Swedish dance-singer whose song "Cry For You" was an international hit (UK #5 2008).[22]

Mando Diao is a garage rock band from Borlänge. They were very successful in Europe in 2009 with their song "Dance With Somebody" from the album Give Me Fire. It reached #3 in Germany and was a major hit in Europe peaking at number 8 at the Billboard Eurochart Hot 100 Singles. [23]

Another competitor in Swedish Idol 2005 was pop singer Ola Svensson. Although not known in the UK, he is known throughout Sweden as 'A Swedish Success Story'. Ola came eighth on Idol and has gone on to produce 3 studio albums and is currently working on the fourth which is planned to be released throughout all of Europe in 2010. He is a Double Platinum Artist with songs such as "Natalie" and "Feelgood". In 2009 he received a Rockbjörnen award, the most prestigious music award in Sweden. Four of Ola's singles have reached no. 1 in Sweden, and all of his own singles charted within the top 5.

2010s: Agnes, Robyn, Swedish House Mafia

The 2010s started off with the releases and success of Agnes and Robyn. Agnes, the winner of Sweden's Idol 2005, succeeded in Europe and especially the UK market in 2009/2010 with the single "Release Me", which entered the charts at #3 and sold over 300,000 copies. It was a hit both worldwide and in Europe it peaked at #6 on the Billboard Eurochart Hot 100 Singles. Carlsson was also signed to Universal Music/Interscope in the U.S. and started the promotion for the forthcoming album Dance Love Pop during the summer 2010. [24] Robyn returned with her album Body Talk Pt. 1.

2010 also saw the rising success of the Swedish House Mafia, a collaboration between the Swedish DJ and producers Axwell, Steve Angelo and Sebastian Ingrosso.

Swedish heavy metal scene

In the late 1980s, early 1990s Sweden became one of the major pioneering countries behind death metal. From Swedish death metal emerged the subgenre melodic death metal which sometimes referred to as Gothenburg metal because of the city in Sweden where it became popular. Famous bands include among others At the Gates, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Entombed, Opeth, Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy and more.

Notable musicians and acts of Swedish origin

Yngwie Malmsteen was musically trained in his native Sweden, though his professional career started in the US.

Janne Schaffer initiated his career in various Swedish acts in the late 1960s, and soon became a much in-demand session-man, playing lead guitar for ABBA both in the studio and live. He also keeps up a successful solo career, merging jazz and folk influences into his playing.

Per-Olov Kindgren is a classical guitar teacher and performer known for his transcriptions of popular contemporary music.

Charts and sales

Top 5 biggest selling Swedish acts

The sales figures are estimated and count together album and single sales.

Rank Swedish acts Sold Genre Years active
1. ABBA 300 million + Pop 1972–1982
2. Roxette 70 million + Pop rock 1986–present
3. Ace of Base 50 million + Eurodance 1990–present
4. Europe 20 million + Glam Metal / Hard Rock 1979–1992; 1999; 2003–present
5. The Cardigans 15 million + Alternative rock 1992–present

Album sales by country

This tables shows the album sales by country. The worldwide album sales are estimated while the album sales for UK,[25] US [26] and Germany[27] are counted by the gold and platinum certifications for the albums in that country. For Germany, the old certifications were used for albums released before September 1999 with Gold (250,000) and Platinum (500,000).[28]

Rank artist worldwide album sales UK album sales US album sales German album sales
1 ABBA 120,000,000 7,160,000 10,500,000 9,800,000
2 Roxette 45,000,000 1,660,000 2,700,000 4,900,000
3 Ace of Base 32,000,000 660,000 10,000,000 1,750,000

Biggest hit singles

The following songs achieved the highest aggregated positions in the charts in their respective years. The following list shows the Swedish hits that ended up in the top 5 end of year charts worldwide.[29]

# Artist Title Year
3 ABBA "Waterloo" 1974
2 "S.O.S" 1975
1 "Dancing Queen" 1976
4 "Fernando" 1976
4 Roxette "The Look" 1989
5 "It Must Have Been Love" 1990
3 "Joyride" 1991
4 Ace of Base "All That She Wants" 1993
5 "The Sign" 1994
3 Rednex "Cotton Eye Joe" 1994

US and UK Number One Singles and the Bigger Hits

This is a list of songs which reached the top of the UK singles chart or the Billboard Hot 100, as well as other notable hits.

Year Title Peak Chart Position Artist




1974 "Hooked on a Feeling" - 1 Blue Swede
"Waterloo" 1 6 ABBA
1975 "Mamma Mia" 1 32
1976 "Fernando" 1 13
"Dancing Queen" 1 1
1977 "Knowing Me, Knowing You" 1 14
"The Name of the Game" 1 12
1978 "Take a Chance on Me" 1 3
1980 "The Winner Takes It All" 1 8
"Super Trouper" 1 45
1986 "The Final Countdown" 1 8 Europe
1989 "The Look" 7 1 Roxette
"Listen to Your Heart" 6 1
"Dangerous" 6 2
1990 "It Must Have Been Love" 3 1
1991 "Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave)" 12 2
1991 "Joyride" 4 1
1993 "All That She Wants" 1 2 Ace of Base
1994 "The Sign" 2 1
"Cotton Eye Joe" 1 25 Rednex
2004 "Call on Me" 1 - Eric Prydz
2007 "With Every Heartbeat" 1 - Robyn
"Now You're Gone" 1 - Basshunter

Top selling Swedish studio and compilation albums

Rank Year Album Artist Sales
1. 1992 Gold ABBA 28 million +
2. 1993 The Sign / Happy Nation Ace Of Base 23 million +
3. 1991 Joyride Roxette 12 million +
4. 1976 Greatest Hits Vol. I ABBA 11.3 million +
5. 1976 Arrival ABBA 10 million +
6. 1988 Look Sharp! Roxette 10 million +
7. 1980 Super Trouper ABBA 7.5 million +
8. 1979 Voulez-Vous ABBA 7 million +
9. 1978 The Album ABBA 7 million +
10. 1992 Tourism Roxette 7 million +


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