Fact: In Sweden, it is illegal to make bad music.
Okay, so this may not be empirically true, but it is a reality that the Swedes are known for exporting pop of the very highest quality. In my ongoing series, Amazing Things I’m Listening to From Sweden, I discuss the best Scandipop that’s been quietly slaying your faves.
Andreas Wijk – Like My Style
Andreas Wijk is a Swedish fashion blogger and model who looks like, well, a Swedish fashion blogger and model. (Photographic evidence here, here, and here. Please try not to kill yourself.) In typically life-isn’t-fair fashion, though, Andreas is additionally endowed with some impressive vocal gifts: A smooth, likable voice that would fit perfectly among, say, the boys of The Wanted. His debut single, “Like My Style” â€” and indeed we do, Andreas â€” is a surprisingly self-assured little pop bauble that sounds like Erik Hassle as produced by Dr. Luke. While there may not be a lot of crossover potential here, the combination of style and “Style” (see what I did there?) should be more than enough to attract the attention of teh gayz â€” who are, as we all know, the only listening audience that really count.
Beldina – Here We Go
The dopest bassline I’ve heard this year comes courtesy of Beldina Malaika, a Kenyan-Swedish neo-soul songbird whose new single, “Here We Go,” has been generating buzz all over the place. Instrumentally, it’s a nice throwback to 2007-era Justice, even if it does tread the well-traveled lyrical territory of prepping for a G.N.O. It doesn’t have the punk theatricality of Adiam Dymott or the twee levity of Asha Ali, but Beldina’s sound is slick, polished, and modern. I’d call it a welcome addition to the canon of Sweden-by-way-of-Africa vocalists.
Lykke Li – Sadness is a Blessing
Lykke Li’s sophomore effort, Wounded Rhymes, is a stunning hour of dark-as-pitch pop, but I’m particularly drawn to what’s slated to be the second UK single: “Sadness is a Blessing.” The track is both sad and majestic, without any of the preciousness that colored Youth Novels, and this confidence points to the artist’s developing sonic maturity. After all the brash swagger of “Get Some,” it’s refreshing to see Lykke return to a place of vulnerability.
Erik Hassle – Stay Away
I consider Erik Hassle the unsung hero of the Swedish pop scene. Sure, his music veers further toward the MOR pop-rock vein of The Fray or Snow Patrol than the icy electropop promulgated by Robyn and September, but I expected that this would result in a warmer international reception than the one he’s received; if a song as infectious as “Hurtful” can’t get radio play, then there is truly no justice in the world of music programming. “Stay Away” is the second single from his latest EP, Mariefred Sessions, following the MuuMuse Approved “Are You Leaving,” and it’s similarly melancholy, but with more strumming guitars than chilly synths. The fact that Mariefred Sessions went to #1 on the iTunes Sweden album chart the day it was released is a small consolation for this criminally underrated act.
Sara Lumholdt – Enemy
No shade to Eric Saade, but this was my favorite track to emerge from this year’s Melodifestivalen. It doesn’t hurt that Sara Lumholdt was once one-fourth of the epic bubblegum pop group A*Teens â€” alongside her better-known blonde counterpart, Marie Serneholt â€” and also performed circa 2007 under the pseudonym Sara Love, releasing a truly epic trash-pop single called “Glamour Bitch.” (Seriously.) History aside, “Enemy” swagga-jacks the hell out of Jordin Sparks‘ “Battlefield,” from the chord progression to the love-is-violence extended metaphor, and that is not a bad thing. So what if it’s derivative? It’s catchy, melodramatic, and highly listenable.