Plastic Sweden

Today, July 3rd, is International Plastic Bag Free Day. Plastic pollution is a man-made global catastrophe. Around 500 billion plastic bags are used on a global scale – most of them littering the planet and having a negative effect on the environment, wildlife and human health. Plastic bags can take up to 500 years before they decay properly.

A staggering 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year. At least 8 million tons of this ends up in the sea every year. Scientists estimate that more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are currently floating in our oceans.

International Plastic Bag Free Day was introduced to encourage people to choose paper over plastic, to go on plastic bag scavenging outings and to recycle.

In Sweden, in May 2020, a tax was added to plastic bags in shops. After 8 months, the statistics showed a reduced consumption from 83 bags per person to 55. The EU goal is to reduce this number to 40 by 2025.

In November this year, Sweden will introduce additional tax to plastics intended for one-time use, such as food containers and mugs. In 2024, there will also be a total ban on cups and containers that contain more than 10% plastic.

So, think about anything small you can do to help today. Take a bag with you to the shop. Take a mug to your local cafe. Don’t put your fruit and veg in a plastic bag at the supermarket. Cook at home, don’t buy take away. Reuse. Recycle.

The Svenssons go to the gym

I was cleaning up some old posts in my blog, and found this one from almost 10 years ago! I thought it was worth sharing. It’s takes us back to times gone by – when tourists came to Stockholm and when public spaces were open without restriction. And when I went to the gym!

I work out at my local gym in a nearby hotel. The gym is used by local residents and hotel guests alike. It’s a small gym, long and narrow, with enough room for one treadmill, a couple of step machines, a few weight machines and a free weights area. Being small it gets easily cramped, so it’s necessary to show respect for each other and cooperate so everyone gets the most out of the space available.

This weekend I was there on my own. It was a paradise. I could move freely about the gym without considering the needs of anyone else. It was a rare pleasure.

Until, hotel guest Mr Svensson walks in. The hotel also has a small plunge pool and Mr Svensson is ready for that. However, he’s decided that a little exercise on the step-machine would be good first. Dressed only in a pair of swimming trunks, bear-breasted and bare-footed, the sweaty 70-year old Mr Svensson climbs onto the machine and starts excersing. Gym etikett? Forgetikett. Half-naked and out of breath, Mr Svensson seems to have no sense of dignity or consideration.

I manage to ignore Mr Svensson, half successfully, when daughter and son-in-law Svensson come in and climb onto the machines beside him. They begin to converse. Loudly. The musical they went to last night was sooo good. Stockholm is sooo stressful. People even run on the escalators. I focus on my arm curls and try to banish them.

I consider myself a person who is able to focus. In most situations. Even Swedish country folk criticising the big city doesn’t penetrate my focus. But then it happens. Grandma Svensson arrives, dressed in an outdoor coat and comfortable boots. In her arms, she carries granddaughter Svensson, a year-old baby, who she proceeds to put down and allow to crawl all over the gym floor.

This rug rat, the loud conversation, the naked step machine grandad all prove too much for me, so I leave. My work-out is finished.

On the way home, I try to analyse the situation. Why did they think it was ok to behave that way in a gym? They clearly had a sense of entitlement.

I don’t know the answer but I am glad of one thing – I am glad I wasn’t in the plunge pool.

Sex working in Sweden

Today, June 2, is International Sex Workers’ Day. It is celebrated today because on 2 June, 1975, 100 sex workers occupied the Sant-Nizier Church in Lyon, France to express anger about their exploitative living conditions and work culture. The Church was brutally raided by the police forces on 10 June. This action became a national movement and the day is now recognised in Europe and worldwide.

In 1999, Sweden was unique in the world with the introduction of a ‘Sex Purchase Act’. The act makes it illegal to purchase sex but not to sell it. Under this law, it is the customer that is the criminal but not the sex worker, who is considered to already be in a vulnerable position. The law is based on the principle that prostitution is an act of violence against women. The ‘Swedish Model’ has been duplicated and adapted in the other Scandinavian countries as well as Canada, Ireland and France.

The Swedish Sex Purchase Act stands as a complete opposite to the laws in Germany and the Netherlands where the purchasing of sex services is legalized. Proponents of the Swedish law would at this is why Germany and the Netherlands have become European hotspots for sex tourism and trafficking.

However, many organisations, including Amnesty International, WHO and Human Rights Watch oppose the Swedish model. They suggest instead that legalization improves the sex worker’s access to health care, their ability to report crime and ability to organize themselves in, for example, unions. They also claim that the sex worker is not always a victim of the situation and that the Swedish law forces them into risky behavior and contributes to their poverty.

Despite the criticism, the Swedish law stands strong and does not look like it will be changed anytime soon. It seems that most Swedes agree with the law, based on the belief that nobody has the right to buy another person’s body.

What do you think?

Swedish hits 10+++++

Sweden is one of the world’s largest exporters of pop music and has a huge industry of songwriters and musicians. In previous posts, we’ve looked at singers and artists who are Swedish. And there are many more who weren’t mentioned, such as Robyn, Zara Larsson, Neneh Cherry, Leila K, Army of Lovers, The Hives, Alcazar, Tove Lo, Mabel, to highlight a few notables.

However, in today’s tenth and final installment we shine the light on all those songs that have Swedish hit makers behind them, even if the singer wasn’t Swedish.

Sweden’s most famous hit-maker is probably Max Martin. This song-writer and producer has created hits for artists such as Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Backstreet Boys, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and the Justins Timberlake and Bieber, to mention a few. Hits such as Hit me Baby One More Time, I Kissed a Girl, I Can’t Feel My Face are his. Consequently, his net worth is estimated at 2.1 billion crowns and he has won songwriter of the year 11 times. He has written 23 Billboard number 1’s, surpassed only by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In September 2010, he had four songs in the top 5 at the same time. In 2016, he was awarded the prestigious Polar Prize, Sweden’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize for music. The prize recognised his achievements as a prolific song writer and producer.

Another Swedish hit-maker is Redone. With roots in Morocco, he is the writer and producer behind Lady Gaga, with hits such as Just Dance, Poker Face and Bad Romance under his belt. Other than Gaga, he has produced Jennifer Lopez, Usher, Enrique Iglesias, One Direction and Nicki Minaj to mention a few.

A third Swedish hit-maker is Shellback. He works closely with Max Martin and has written songs like Pink’s So What, Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off and Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger. With Martin, he also wrote the mega hit Can’t Stop The Feeling for Justin Timberlake. After Max Martin, Shellback has the record for the most number 1 hits on the Billboard charts written by a Swede. He is still active although suffered a burn out a few years ago.

Thomas G:son is another Swedish song-writer who moves in very different circles than the three mentioned above. He is the king of Eurovision and is the Swede who has had the most songs represented in the domestic and international Eurovision Song Contests – 56 in total. His songs have been sung by iconic Swedish singers such as Carola, Kikki Danielsson and Charlotte Perelli. His only winning song in the finals is, however, Euphoria sung by Loreen.

Swedish hits 9: Euphoria

Sweden is one of the world’s largest exporters of pop music and has a huge industry of songwriters and musicians. Today we look at the Eurovision-winning dance hit ‘Euphoria’ by singer Loreen. As she represented Sweden with this song, I assume you knew she is Swedish?

Euphoria won The Eurovision Song Contest in Baku in 2012 and holds the record of receiving the maximum 12 points from the most countries. After the competition, the song hit the number 1 position in 20 countries. It even charted at No. 3 in the Eurovision-skeptical UK – the highest chart position for a non-UK Eurovision entry since Johnny Logan in 1987 with Hold Me Now.

Euphoria has been described as the best pop hit of the decade by music journalists. In 2012, Loreen won the MTV European Music Award for Best Female Artist. The YouTube video has been viewed almost 50 million times.

Loreen is an active artist today and has released a lot of music. She is known for her integrity, her slightly-mad performances, her wailing tones and her political activism. Although she has achieved success in Sweden, Euphoria remains her biggest international hit to date.

Swedish hits 8: Now You’re Gone

Sweden is one of the world’s largest exporters of pop music and has a huge industry of songwriters and musicians. Today we look at the Euro dance hit ‘Now You’re Gone’ by singer, producer and DJ – Basshunter. Did you know he was Swedish?

In 2006, Jonas Erik Altberg, known as Basshunter, released a song in Sweden called ‘Boten Anna’. The song became a massive hit and reached number 1 in Sweden and many other European countries.

In 2008, an English version was released. The title was ‘Now You’re Gone’, and it shot to number 1 in the UK and is the second longest Swedish song to remain in that position on the British chart. Only . ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ has been number 1 longer. Eventually he was dethroned by Duffy’s mega hit ‘Mercy’. The YouTube video to ‘Now You’re Gone’ has been viewed over 200 million times.

Basshunter was more famous in the UK, and around the world, than many Swedes might realise – in 2010 he was asked to participate in the British Celebrity Big Brother. In the end, he came fourth. He carried out several sold-out tours in Europe, UK, NZ and Australia. He also performed at the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

Although he released 6 albums, he never achieved as viral a success as ‘Now You’re Gone’.

Swedish hits 7: Wake Me Up

Sweden is one of the world’s largest exporters of pop music and has a huge industry of songwriters and musicians. Today we look at the infectious dance hit Wake Me Up by legendary Swedish producer, songwriter and DJ – Avicii.

Written by Avicii et al, Wake Me Up was released in 2013 and was the highest charting dance track of the decade. It peaked at number 1 in 22 countries and was in the top 10 in many more. This thumping dance song was the first ever dance/electronic song to sell over 4 million copies in the USA. The vocals on the track are written and sung by American soul singer Aloe Blacc.

In 2014, the song passed 200 million streams on Spotify, making it the most streamed song ever at that time. To date, the song’s YouTube video has been watched almost 2 billion times!

Avicii, whose real name was Tim Bergling suffered from depression and committed suicide in 2018. He left a legacy of many hit songs such as Hey Brother, Without You and Addicted to You. As such he is the fifth most successful artist from Sweden in terms of record sales.

In May 2021, Stockholm’s Globe Arena changed its name and is now officially called the Avicii Arena. This isn’t only a tribute to Avicii but also a symbol for an initiative that works to prevent mental illness among young people throughout the country. Avicii Arena will be the beacon of hope and meeting place for the initiative. Hopefully it will help to wake us all up.

Swedish hits 6: All That She Wants

Sweden is the third largest exporter of pop music after the USA and the UK. Today we look at Sweden’s third most-selling band of all time, Ace of Base, and their biggest hit All That She Wants.

Ace of Base were a 2 men, 2 women construction in classic Abba style. Three of the members were siblings and they took their name from the fact that they rehearsed in a basement. The single All That She Wants was released in 1992, and hit the top of the charts in thirteen countries including UK and Australia. It sold platinum in USA.

The song was written by Jonas Berggren and Ulf Ekberg and was part of the album The Sign, which is one of the most successful debut albums of all time. It was the first album to ever spawn three number 1’s on the USA Billboard chart – The Sign, Don’t Turn Around and, of course, All That She Wants.

The song’s lyrics say ‘all that she wants is another baby, she’s gone tomorrow’ and depict a promiscuous woman looking for another lover. It’s has a predatory tone that doesn’t really age well, today it could be accused of ‘slut shaming’.

That said, Ace of Base’s music has influenced many of today’s artists. Stars such as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Robyn and Clean Bandit have all cited them as sources of inspiration.

Swedish hits 5: The Look

Sweden is the third largest exporter of pop music after the USA and the UK. Today we look at iconic duo Roxette’s biggest hit – The Look. You knew they were Swedish, right?

Swedish double act Roxette had numerous number 1 hits including ‘It Must Have Been Love’, ‘Joyride’, ‘Listen to Your Heart’ and ‘Dressed For Success.’ However, it was their 1989 hit ‘The Look’ that became their biggest – marginally. Topping the charts in 25 countries, the song was the biggest selling song of the year and their first US Billboard number 1.

Roxette consisted of Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson, both from small towns in southern Sweden. Per Gessle wrote The Look and the song has been covered by several artists and in several languages including Cantonese. According to Gessle the strange lyrics of the first two verses were just scribbled down for something to say and then somehow were never changed. That explains weird lines such as ‘she’s a juvenile scam’, ‘tasty like a raindrop’ and ‘kissing is a colour’.

Roxette is Sweden’s second most successful music group of all time, after Abba. However, both singers also had successful careers outside of Roxette – Marie as a soloist and Per mostly with his Swedish-singing pop rock band Gyllene Tider.

Marie Fredriksson died in 2019, aged 61, from health issues relating to a brain tumour diagnosis. She left behind her a legacy of strong hits, and the lasting image of this leather-clad woman with cropped peroxide hair. She certainly had The Look.

Swedish hits 4: Cotton Eye Joe

Sweden is the third largest exporter of pop music after the USA and the UK. In this series, I will include hits that you may not even know are Swedish and ones that are so Swedish, they almost smell of meatballs and aquavit. Today we look at legendary euro dance country song Cotton Eye Joe. Did you know it was Swedish?

Cotton Eye Joe was released by Swedish euro dance band Rednex, and based on the traditional American song Cotton Eyed Joe. The year was 1996, and the song reached number 1 in 15 countries, scoring gold in the USA, platinum in Sweden and the UK, and double platinum in Norway and Germany.

Although the Rednex released other singles, Cotton Eye Joe was by far their biggest success. Band members Mary Joe, Bobby Sue, Ken Tacky, Billy Ray and Mup were really called the very Swedish Annika Ljungberg, Kent Olander, Arne Arstrand, Jonas Nilsson and Patrik Ardenberg. They dressed as cowboys, chewed on straw, danced on hay bales and took the world by storm.