If the only Swedish band you ever know is ABBA, you are missing out on the musical talents of Swedish bands who made it big in the US. In the past several decades, Sweden has been slowly cultivating and developing its songwriters, producers, musicians and DJs in the realm of pop and electronic music. Their music has attracted attention internationally and won them recognition in US music charts.
Sweden has all the ingredients to create international music. Most Swedes speak English as a second language. There is also generous government support for after-school music programs. There are subsidies for professional music endeavors and there is also a booming Swedish music industry to give support to nascent talents. Here are some of the most well-known Swedish bands to acquaint you if you aren’t already familiar with them.
Almost everyone has heard of ABBA. They are the energetic Swedish quartet that took Eurovision by storm in the 1970s. ABBA’s campy pop music is so infectious they are the greatest selling musical act of all time just after The Beatles. Perhaps ABBA is Sweden’s most successful musical act ever and they are honoured in America’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Before Roxette found fame in the US, they were already successful in their native land. The duo comprised two friends, Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle who began performing together as Roxette in 1986. An American exchange student first heard their song “The Look” while studying in Sweden and purchased the 1988 album Look Sharp!, bringing it back to the US to share with an American DJ.
The duo enjoyed success in the US with chart-topping hits like “It must have been love”, “Dressed for success”, “Joyride” to “Dangerous”. Their song, “It must have been love” was featured as a soundtrack of Pretty Woman in 1990. Roxette is the second-best-selling music act after ABBA.
Ace of Base
Ace of Base, a Swedish pop band is one of the first internationally popular bands to incorporate technology in their music. The group began in 1990 and was formed from a school project. In their heyday, the group consisted of three siblings made up of Jonas Berggren, Malin Berggren, and Jenny Berggren with their friend Ulf Ekberg. They were known as Tech-Noir and changed their name after a Swedish magazine panned another band with the same name.
Songs by Ace of Base charted well internationally in the 1990s including in the US where they became Top 10 hits. Some of their well-known hits include “All that she wants”, “The sign”, “Don’t turn around”, “Lucky love” and “Beautiful life”. Malin left the group in 2007, followed by Jenny two years later. The remaining members recruited two new female members as replacement vocalists in 2010. Although the band never disbanded, they were not active since 2012.
The Cardigans, like Roxette, caught attention with their debut album Emmerdale in 1994 on home ground in May 1994. The single “Rise and shine” became a Swedish radio hit and Emmerdale was voted the best album of 1994. Their breakout album in 1995, Life, reflected the Cardigans at their most saccharine, supported by the sunny disposition in lead singer Nina Persson’s vocals. The Cardigans thus became a pleasing pop group with cherry sounds in the alternative era. However, they are a versatile group that is hard to pigeonhole.
Mercury Records signed the group and they released First Band on the Moon in 1996, leaving behind pure saccharine pop in favour of abstract arrangements and rock elements. The single “Lovefool” became a radio hit in 1997 and was featured as a soundtrack on Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet film remake. First Band on the Moon eventually reached gold status in America and was certified platinum in Japan three weeks after its release. After three more albums, the band went on a hiatus in 2006.
Swedish House Mafia
The band is obviously from Sweden and you might know that this electronic music trio is behind house music hits like “Don’t you worry child”. Although they disbanded in 2013, two of the former members are now working under the name Axwell and Ingrosso. They continue to churn out progressive house music for mainstream audiences while also keeping the tradition of Swedish pop superstars alive.