Sweden has a proud, centuries-old tradition of Nordic folk dances and songs that accompany them. It also has a proud, decades-old knack for creating super-famous international pop stars. For a good overview, visit National Geographic’s introduction to Swedish music.
Swedish folk music has a lot in common with the folk of its Scandinavian neighbors–fiddles, accordions, clarinets and a whole lot of dancing. The main Swedish traditional dance is the polska, a partner dance popular all over Scandinavia that has its origins in
the Polish royal court. The most distinct ancient Swedish folk instrument, often used to accompany a polska, is the nyckelharpa, a “keyed fiddle” that musicians play with a bow.
Sweden’s ABBA is one of the best selling bands of all time. Ever. In the whole universe. Formed in Stockholm, Sweden, in the early ’70s, ABBA (composed of two married Swedish couples who used the first letters of their names to compose the name of their group) rocketed to international stardom after their song “Waterloo“–oh my goodness, look at those shoes…!–won the 1974 Eurovision contest. They followed up with an extraordinary string of hits like “SOS,” “Mamma Mia,” “Fernando,” “Take a Chance on Me,” and, of course, “Dancing Queen.” ABBA’s two marriages broke up in 1979 and 1981 and, much to the world’s chagrin, the band broke up in 1983, though they have continued to sell millions of albums a year.
Comparing any other act from Sweden, or from anywhere for that matter, with ABBA isn’t fair, but Sweden does have a habit of producing internationally appreciated bands. There have been many successful post-ABBA popular music artists from Sweden, such as ROXETTE (watch them perform “It Must Have Been Love” on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1991), ACE OF BASE (watch their 1993 video for “All That She Wants“) and step-siblings NENEH CHERRY (watch her perform her 1988 hit, “Buffalo Stance,”) and EAGLE-EYE CHERRY (watch the video for his 1998 hit, “Save Tonight.”)
Scandinavia is undoubtedly, and presumably proudly, the global capital of a musical genre called “bubblegum dance.” What is “bubblegum dance?” Take Eurodance, remove all its dark, brooding chord patterns and its deeply profound lyrics–okay, there are none–put a smiley, bouncing polish on the package and you’ll be pretty close to figuring it out. According to Bubblegumdancer.com, “Your number one guide to the world’s happiest music,” bubblegum dance music, which typically consists of upbeat, high-pitched female vocals and a male singing or rapping in low, quiet tones, “is often playful and child-like. Common singing topics include fantasy characters such as wizards and princesses, and songs about having fun, love, partying, and eating candy.”
While Denmark has more top Eurodance acts than Sweden, such as the most famous act, Aqua, Sweden can boast the most popular–artists known as Smile.dk whose song “Butterfly,” which we know from our CD, became a megahit after becoming the soundtrack of the videogame “Dance Dance Revolution.” (Learn about Smile.dk via
their official website: “A Swedish pop duo consisting of Veronica and Cecilia from Sweden. Their mission is to entertain and create happiness with their catchy lyrics, upbeat sound, tender sensitive ballads, and of course the tracks are bound together by their beautiful voices!” | See a karaoke-friendly video for “Butterfly” | Visit the SmikeDK fansite, “where the sun always shines!”)
By the way, BubblegumDancer.com says, as if having bubblegum dance music itself isn’t great enough, there are many different “sub-categories” of bubblegum dance, such as traditional bubblegum, contemporary bubblegum, bubblegum dance speed, bubblegum macho, bubblegum satire, technobilly bubblegum, and organic bubblegum.