The Swedish Death Penalty

The name Bridget Bishop might not mean anything to you – unless you are seriously into history. On this day, June 10th, in 1692 Bridget Bishop was the first woman to be hanged during the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts. In total 19 women were accused of witchcraft and hanged and many others were persecuted. Capital punishment still exists in the USA, with lethal injection and electrocution as the favoured methods. In 2020, 17 executions were carried out in the USA.

In Sweden, capital punishment was legal until 1973, although an execution was last enacted in 1910 on murderer Johan Alfred Ander. The last death penalty was actually given in 1927 but the sentence was changed to hard labour. In 1917, Hilda Nilsson, a child murderer, was sentenced to death. She escaped execution, however, by committing suicide. That meant that the last woman to be executed in Sweden was murderer Anna Månsdotter in 1890.

At the time of its abolition in 1973, beheading was the legal method of execution. Today capital punishment, corporal punishment and torture are all outlawed in Sweden.

Interestingly, 110 countries have completely abolished capital punishment like Sweden. However, over 60% of the world’s population live in countries where the death penalty still exists, such as USA, China, India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Japan.

Swedish National Day – a new king, an old king and a new constitution

On 6 June 1523, Gustav Vasa was crowned king. He was one of the few survivors of the Stockholm Bloodbath, in which his father and 80 other nobles were murdered, Game of Thrones style. He ruled the country until 1560. During his reign, he released Sweden from the Kalmar Union consisting of Sweden, Denmark and Norway. He also turned Sweden from a catholic country into a Protestant one, with the monarch and not the pope as head of the church.

The 6 June is another significant day in Swedish history – on 6 June 1809 the country signed a new constitution. This lay the foundation for Sweden’s current status as an independent democracy. and was in place until 1974. The constitution returned political power to the parliament after King Gustav IV Adolph was deposed in a military coup in 1809. He was the last Swedish monarch to rule over Finland. After him, the crown passed not to his children but to his uncle, Charles VIII. Charles had no legitimate heir, which set into motion the quest for a successor. This was found the following year in the person of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, the first monarch of the present royal family.

For these two reasons, Sweden celebrates its National Day today – June 6th. It was declared in 1983, and was first celebrated as a public holiday in 2005.

Normally, the day is celebrated with various events up and down the country but this year much is cancelled, due to the ongoing pandemic and restrictions on public gatherings.

As a replacement http://www.sweden.se are carrying out a digital event. It can be seen at facebook.com/swedense from 10.00 CET. Check it out!

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 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 3: The Final Countdown

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. The third hit is the classic rock anthem The Final Countdown. Did you know it was Swedish?

The Final Countdown was written by Joey Tempest and released by Swedish rock band Europe in 1986. The song is as synonymous with the band as their 80’s poodle haircuts. It achieved number 1 position on the charts in 25 countries and top 10 in many others. The album, The Final Countdown, sold over 15 million copies and is still today frequently streamed.

Joey Tempest, who’s real name is Joakim Larsson, wrote many other successful songs such as Rock the Night, Cherokee and Open your Heart for Europe, but The Final Countdown was their biggest hit. In an interview Tempest said that the song was inspired by David Bowie’s Space Oddity, although the similarities evade me I have to say.

The band Europe were, and remain, enormously popular and no after ski drinking session, anywhere in the world, would be complete without the iconic tunes of The Final Countdown belting out into the night.

Swedish hits 2: Lovefool

This series is about hits that you may not even know are Swedish and ones that are so Swedish, they almost smell of meatballs and aquavit. In the first post, we talked about Waterloo by Abba. This time we focus on Lovefool by The Cardigans.

This song, written by Peter Svensson and Nina Persson, was released in 1996 and marked the international breakthrough for this Swedish rock band. It was a massive hit in the UK and USA and was featured in the film Romeo and Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Tne Cardigans also appeared in an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 where they performed Lovefool at a graduation party.

The album which contained Lovefool sold platinum within three weeks in Japan, and gold in the US. The Cardigans were a very successful band selling over 18 million albums. They still tour occasionally today. They had several other hits such as Erase/Rewind and My Favourite Game but nothing achieved the huge global success of Lovefool.