Swedish hits 1: Waterloo

With the Eurovision contest over, it is safe to say that Sweden’s song won’t be an international hit. Sweden does generally well in the competition, partly because they take it very seriously and partly because they have many talented song writers, singers and musicians. In fact, Sweden is the third largest exporter of pop music after the USA and the UK.

So this has inspired my next series – Swedish hits. 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. The first hit – an obvious choice – is ABBA’s Waterloo.

ABBA represented Sweden in 1974 in Brighton and won the competition. It was Sweden’s first win of six, and it catapulted ABBA into a legendary career. The song itself was a huge international success, achieving number 1 chart positions in 8 countries and the top 10 in countless others.

The song, written by Andersson, Ulvaeus and Anderson was originally given the much worse title of ‘Honey Pie’. The song was voted the best Eurovision song from the competition’s first 50 years and has somehow come to symbolise the contest because of its catchy tune, memorable lyrics and ABBA’s camp outfits.

Waterloo wasn’t ABBA’s most successful song however. Dancing Queen is their undeniable biggest hit, followed by Super Trouper and Knowing Me Knowing You.

After a decades-long hiatus, ABBA has announced that they will be releasing new music this year. This has been met by ecstasy from fans all over the world. Let’s hope that the songs are not a disappointment and that Abba finally faces its waterloo.

Sweden chooses its song for Europe

Finally, after six long weeks of televised qualifying competitions, Sweden voted for the song to represent the country in the Eurovision Song Contest. Called ‘Voices’, the song is about everybody’s right to be be who they are and to be heard. The song won far ahead of its nearest competitor.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the winning song is actually the singer. His name is Tousin Chiza, but he is known as Tusse. In 2019, he won the Swedish equivalent of Pop Idol.

The 19 year-old singer came to Sweden as an unaccompanied child refugee, fleeing the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2009. He ended up in the small village of Tällberg in county Dalarna where he still lives today and has an adopted Swedish family. He has been widely criticized for his appearance, as he often wears non gender normative outfits.

This is a moment where the lyrics of the song and the artist are closely connected, which possibly explains its popularity and success in the competition. Tusse sings:

There’s fire in the rain
But we’ll get up again
We’re thousand miles apart
But we’ll overcome
I’ll never let you down
World is turning us around
But I feel it in my heart
Let’s make a brand new start
Can’t stop us now, forget the haters
Get up and live and make it matter
There’s more to life so go ahead and sing it

It’s certainly a song that is a product of its time and it remains to be seen if the message resonates with the voters of Eurovision.

On 22 May in Rotterdam, Sweden will get the answer, and we will see if Tusse is Sweden’s 7th winner. If so, Sweden joins Ireland as the country with the most Eurovision wins since the competition began.

6 reasons why Swedes take Eurovision so seriously

We are in the middle of the Eurovision qualification rounds (known colloquially as ‘Mello’) in Sweden – three weeks in, three weeks to go. This extended selection period occupies every Saturday night for 6 weeks, and results in the song and artist who will represent the country in the big final in Israel.

People gather up and down the country to have ‘Mello’ parties. Social media and traditional media are full of comments about the bad quality of the contestants this year (and every year). People are raging that the wrong songs are voted to move on in the league table.

Nobody, and I mean nobody takes their Eurovision (ESC) more seriously than the Swedes.

But why is that? Here are a few theories:

Brightening up the winter blues. Mello comes during the deepest, darkest, dreariest time of the year. The glittery colourfulness of Mello brightens up February and early March, when nothing much else happens.

Reliving the glory days. ABBA’s legacy is a constant reminder to Swedes that they once reached long-lasting global fame and it all started at ESC. Every year is a hunt for the next big thing, when the international light will shine once more on this little country in the north.

Organized ‘religion‘. Sweden is, relatively speaking, not a religious country. So the human need for organising ourselves into a collective manifests itself in other ways. Hockey and football become a form of organized religion. And ‘Mello’ is another variation on the same theme. Ask Swedes why they like Mello and many use the word ‘folk fest’ – a ‘national party for the people.’

Swedish traditions. Sweden is a country that is good at holding on to traditions – crayfish parties, snaps songs, semla cream buns, Easter trees – to name just a few. Therefore it is easy for this society to absorb, and structure, new traditions. Halloween is now a thing here. So is Valentine’s Day. So Mello becomes another tradition and slots nicely into the national calendar.

Vicarious extrovertism. Swedes are not generally known for being outgoing and extroverted, although there are of course exceptions. This means that Mello becomes so attractive, as it’s an opportunity for Swedes to live vicariously through the ‘crazy’ performers who dance around in sequins and funny outfits. It’s also an opportunity to push your own boundaries and wear a glittery hat or a pink feather boa. And all under organised, acceptable conditions.

Love of music. Because some Swedes actually like the music.

Which theory is most accurate do you think? Do you have another theory?

A crucial night for Sweden

Tonight is the end of a gruelling six weeks. Tonight an important decision is made in Sweden – a crucial decision some might say. Tonight, millions of Swedes gather together to jointly arrive at their conclusion. From North to South, East to West, amongst mountains, by lakes, on islands and in cities, Swedes crowd around their TVs to watch the biggest show broadcasted in the country. This is bigger than royal weddings, political funerals or sporting events. This is huge. Tonight, Swedes decide who should represent them in this year’s Eurovision Contest.

Choosing a representative takes 6 weeks in Sweden. 5 weeks of semi finals, a second chance competition and then the final. It’s a combination of tradition and torture.

But tonight it is all over and Saturday evenings are finally released for other entertainment. In a puff of glitter, the winner is chosen by public vote and jury and then it is all over. Apart, that is, from the after party, the post analysis and the pre programs for the approaching Eurovision Contest in May.

Sweden might be a county of moderation, but Eurovision is a major exception. If anything’s worth doing, apparently it’s worth doing properly. By dragging it out. And out. And out.

The scandalous obsession with Swedish schlager


Sweden has proven itself to be a musical nation – topping pop, rock and dance music charts all over the world for decades. After the USA and the UK, Sweden is the world’s largest exporter of pop music, which says a lot for a country this size. But there’s one type of music we should be grateful for. And by that, I mean grateful that it generally doesn’t get exported outside the Nordic region and Germany. I am talking about the odd Swedish music style called Swedish ‘Schlager’. It is unfathomably and inexplicibly popular in Sweden.

What is Swedish schlager music you may wonder? Let me attempt to explain.

It is a style of popular music The style emerged in Europe after World War 2 as a backlash against American rock and roll. The style uses very simple patterns of music and they are either sweet, highly sentimental ballads with a simple, catchy melody or light pop ditties. Sometimes the songs integrate folk instruments. Often the lyrics are about love and relationships. Titles such as ‘Good Vibrations’, ‘Take me to your heaven’, ‘Captured by a storm wind’ give you an indication.

To get the idea of what schlager is, it’s best to think about the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s more or less that type of music. In fact, the competition and the selection trials are often referred to a ‘Schlagerfestivalen’ in Sweden – the festival of, yes you guessed it, Schlager.

Schlager music might not be intellectually challenging but it is disgustingly catchy. It is old fashioned, simplistic and annoying. But it immensely popular around the  country and is almost always the music that gets played at parties once people have had a few too many drinks and dare to approach the dance floor.

Tomorrow night the trials begin for who will represent Sweden in the international final in Stockholm in May. And Swedes take this very seriously. More people watch these trials than watch televised sporting events or royal weddings. And tomorrow’s trial is already making the headlines. Tragic schlager hasbeen, Anna Book, was disqualified as it turns out her song was involved in 2014 in Moldavia!! Shock! Horror! Poor Anna Book is devastated and the media is calling it a sensational and tragic scandal.

  • People dying in make-shift boats as they flee for their lives across the ocean is a scandal.
  • Gangs of masked men marauding through the streets of Stockholm and attacking immigrant children is a scandal.
  • That over 20% of Sweden’s population vote for a right-wing racist party is a scandal.
  • That young women get groped and physically abused when they are in public places is a scandal
  • That health care, elderly care and education are rapidly deteriorating in Sweden is a scandal

Anna Book being disqualified from a music competition is not a scandal.

Maybe some people are so obsessed with the inanity of schlager and Eurovision that they can’t lift their eyes and focus on more important issues. For me, that’s a sensational and tragic scandal.






Dorky Swedes – Töntiga Svenskar


For all of their advancement in technology, social issues and equality politics, many Swedes are also hiding a less sophisticated side to their culture. Scratch the surface, and its not far to their dorky side.

I’ve often reflected over this when I go to clubs here in Stockholm. Like many venues around the world, Stockholm nightclubs can have more than one dance floor. The dance floors are often divided into music types, for example, techno, house, pop…..and Eurovision. Usually, the Eurovision dance floor is the smallest one, as the club owners probably don’t want to appear unrefined.  But it is usually the fullest of all the dance floors. It is packed with Swedes shaking their stuff and screaching – loudly – to the lyrics of Carola, Conchita and Loreen. It is so unbelievably dorky. And I love them for it.

Let’s change scenario and go to a house party. Hand shaking, polite conversation and rosé wine. All very cultivated. Fast forward five hours when people have knocked down a couple of bottles of plonk. The cool bossa-jazz background music has been changed and a Spotify competition has evolved playing…….Eurovision. Party guests are bopping around to the old-time Euro melodies such as ‘Good Vibrations’, ‘It Hurts’ and ‘ABC’. It is so unbelievably dorky. And I love them for it.

So what’s the deal? Why do the otherwise cool Swedes turn into a bunch of yahoos when they are at parties or  nightclubs? Well, maybe in a world of technology, of digital communication, of stress and demands, Eurovision music provides escapism. Its simple melodies and inane lyrics don’t require any effort or thought. The basic rhythms can just wash over you and, for a moment, you can forget the seriousness of the world beyond.

It’s either that or the fact that Swedes are just dorks when they drink.

Are Swedes masochists?

A quick look at a definition of ‘Masochistic Personality Disorder’ tells us that it is ‘A pervasive pattern of self-defeating behavior. The person may often avoid or undermine pleasurable experiences, be drawn to situations or relationships in which they will suffer, and prevent others from helping them’.

There are a few characteristics:

– they choose situations that lead to disappointment, failure, or mistreatment even when better options are clearly available
– they respond with depression, guilt, or a behavior that produces pain
– they incite angry or rejecting responses from others and then feel hurt, defeated, or humiliated
– they reject opportunities for pleasure

I don’t know why, but my mind jumps to Saturday nights in February/March. The annual torture known as ‘Melodifestivalen’ is broadcast as Swedes attempt to select the song to represent them at Eurovision. People compulsively throw themselves into their sofas and watch the drivel that spews out in front of them. One piece of questionable music after another. They watch attentively, they vote.

And then they complain. They complain about the overriding bad quality. They complain about the winning songs. They complain about the host’s dress or hairdo. They complain that the best song didn’t get through. They complain about the dance routines. They complain on social media, during brunch and when they’re out on their Sunday walk.

But yet, the following week they’re there again watching the next episode of this 6-week long debacle.

So are Swedes masochists? Hell, yes!!