Scandinavian Pop

Continuing the legacy

Kristen Wangsness

Kristen Wangsness

Scandinavia is a longtime exporter of funky pop music. Stockholm’s ABBA took over the ‘70s from the moment they won Eurovision with their song “Waterloo” in 1974. The dynamic duo Roxette dominated the ‘80s with their single “It Must Have Been Love” and “Listen to your Heart,” which have both been covered and remixed countless times. Ace of Base, who sprung from Gothenburg in the ‘90s, were four siblings who topped the charts with tracks like “All That She Wants” and “Don’t Turn Around.” Northern Europe continues to be a hotbed for innovative, experimental, and undeniably catchy pop music. Here are some contemporary Scandinavian pop highlights.

Queen of the dance-pop genre, Robyn has the dance skills to match her music. She experiments widely with the production of her songs, which vary from painfully honest love songs to confidence-building anthems. She is also one of the few people who can make a mullet look effortlessly stylish.

Karen Ørsted of Copenhagen makes electropop that sounds like an edgy dream. Her debut album dropped earlier this year, and each track lived up to “XXX 88,” the surreal track she made with Diplo in 2013.

Say Lou Lou
These identical twins are as Australian as they are Swedish, having grown up living between the two countries. Their music features harmonized vocals over lush and cinematic production. In addition to their own creations, their discography includes beautiful covers and collaborations with artists such as Chet Faker.

Lykke Li
Hailing from Stockholm, Li’s songs range from mournful ballads to retro-tinged pop and soul. Lykke Li has a penchant for dressing in black, matching the overcast tone of her music.

Nervous Nellie
This indie-pop group from Stockholm is comprised of two sets of brothers. Their music is reminiscent of the kind of dreamy pop exported from Sweden in the ‘80s mixed with the acoustic pop the country’s known for today.

The Knife
Two siblings from Gothenburg make moody electronic music with lyrics as cryptic as the artists themselves, who avoid media and refuse to attend award ceremonies. They also run their own record company, Rabid Records.

Other talented Scandinavian artists to check out include: Icona Pop (who’ve got a discography to match their formidable Charli XCX-penned single “I Love It”), Mr. Little Jeans (check out her electro-cover of Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs”), Fallulah (her excellent album: “The Black Cat Neighborhood”), Niki & The Dove (who claim the top two songs on my iTunes most played: “The Fox” and “The Drummer”) NONONO (surely you’ve heard their anthem “Pumpin’ Blood” in a commercial or department store). The list, and the legacy of Scandinavian pop music, goes on and on…