Words by Laura Studarus
Most countries would have hung a “mission accomplished” banner shortly after a band like ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest. Not Sweden. A known musical hotbed, the country seems to outdo itself with each new crop of young talent it produces. If you’re looking for fresh tunes, here are the fourteen Swedish artists most likely to be ruling our earbuds in the year to come.
Somewhere along the line, we all got it into our heads that Swedish music = soft and dreamy. Not so, says Elliphant. The Stockholm songstress mixes in hip-hop, rap, and dubstep influences until the whole thing starts sounding so down and dirty it would make ABBA blush. Listen close, you can practically feel the dancehall sweat.
Like your chill-out music with a side of soul? Try Naomi Pilgrim. Once a backing singer for Lykke Li, Pilgrim came into her own with Rainmakers, a lithe collection of pop imbued in equal parts with a melancholy spirit and tropical flourishes. (Thanks, in part, to her childhood in Jamaica.) Check out her single “No Gun,” a tune that takes Alanis Morissette-style irony to new heights.
Tove Lo is the emotional firecracker we wish we could all be. Taking credit for everything from screwing up a relationship to throwing up in the bathtub, she’s the exact opposite of a manic pixie dream girl. Thankfully, Lo bundles her faults into a pop package so shiny you can almost see your own reflection in its gleaming refrains.
Erik Hassle has Sweden’s soul/R&B thing on lockdown. (Thank goodness a love of Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett turned him away from a career as a professional footballer!) His debut EP Somebody’s Party is the work of a mercurial talent, able to transition from a slinky grove to a seductive croon with nary a whiff of Auto-Tune. “Pathetic?” Hardly.
SAY LOU LOU
Elektra and Miranda Kilbey, better known as Say Lou Lou, make airy, downtempo pop laced with tales of heartache and 1990s-evoking synths. This is music at its most dangerous — so riddled with earworm pop-hooks and easily sung choruses that you will have no choice but to annoy those around you by with your impromptu karaoke versions. Proceed with caution.
THE ROYAL CONCEPT
The Royal Concept’s single “On Our Way” was recently featured on Glee. From whistling, to a driving percussion session to infectious vocal harmonies, rarely will you find a more television-ready anthem. Hit repeat and savor your youth.
Sure, Zedd’s newest single was lovely, but what really caught our ears was his guest vocalist Miriam Bryant. At only 21, the Gothenburg singer-songwriter has already mastered the art of the conflicted (yet jazzy) vocal slur. Sure it’ll probably earn her more Adele comparisons than she’s comfortable with. But if you’re going to be likened to someone, you could do worse than pop royalty.
Sure, we all fell for NONONO the moment we heard “Pumpin Blood.” But who knew that a band that wrote a single containing that much pop perfection would have more left into them for a follow-up? The trio’s Pumpin Blood EP is an exercise anthemic pop perfection, aimed at the head and heart in equal parts. With a full-length on the way, we can’t wait to hear what’s next.
Linnéa Martinsson (better known as Lune) makes music filled with tales of love and fizzy synths that hit the brain faster than a glass of champagne. It’s both sad and strangely beautiful. We just have one question: will you please tour with Say Lou Lou?
Frida Sundemo’s fairytale soprano is likely to sweep you away, but the heart she wears on her sleeve has been broken by reality. “What if this is it, a glitch in the system?” the Gothenburg-based singer wonders against a swelling bed of synths. The answer isn’t so much blowing in the wind as it is buried by a glorious cascade of ones and zeros.
Marlene was born a few years too late to cash in on the 1990s, but that’s not going to stop the Stockholm singer from dragging the decade’s ethos into the new millennium. With a diva-like voice that Mariah might envy, Marlene struts through her high-energy pop — no doubt winning a few hearts along the way.
Rumor has it that Beldina was recently in the studio with Pharrell. We can understand the attraction. Like the “Happy” singer, Beldina has the ability to find the soulful underbelly of even the sunniest of hooks.
Swedish House Mafia who? Electronic duo Cazzette are here to get the party started. The Technicolor dance anthems of their recently released album Eject are so big it’s a wonder that a single country can hold ‘em.
XOV (otherwise known as Damian Ardestani) takes the best bits of The Weeknd and Robyn, and mixes them together into a dark pop package. And by “dark” we mean really dark. (Selected song titles: “Lucifer,” “Ku Klux Klan” and “Blood Honey.”) Of course, given his smooth-as-silk falsetto, it might take a few spins before the heaviness of his themes fully penetrates.