The Evolution of Swedish Pop, From ABBA to Robyn


On June 15, Robyn will release her latest album,

. The first single, “Dancing On My Own,”follows the Swedish singer’s tradition of layering simple chord progressions under an infectious melody, like in her two previous big hits, “Show Me Love” and “With Every Heartbeat.”

To commemorate the album’s launch, we’ve assembled a chronology of Swedish pop music that has pleased ears around the globe for decades. Sweden is, after all, the world’s third largest exporter of music, just behind the US and the UK. It’s brought us one-hit wonders Eagle-Eye Cherry (“Save Tonight”) and Rednex (“Cotton Eye Joe”). Plus, if you listen to Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, N’ Sync, Katy Perry, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert, Ke$ha or any other similar-sounding acts, there’s a good chance the music you are listening to was co-written by pop mastermind Max Martin. He’s Swedish, too. Our video history of Swedish pop (including more surprises) is after the jump.

Artist: ABBA Song: “Dancing Queen” Year Recorded: 1975 Description: The founding fathers and mothers of Swedish popular music, ABBA got their start in the era of disco, soft focus, and, from the looks of it, when children of all ages could dance in nightclubs. ABBA’s music is still enjoyed today, especially in the hit musical-turned-film Mamma Mia!

Artist: Europe Song: “The Final Countdown” Year Recorded: 1985 Description: Today it might better be known as Gob’s theme song on Arrested Development, but in the mid-’80s, Europe was a big deal. The band sold over ten million albums worldwide, and “The Final Countdown” went to #1 in 25 countries, thanks to a catchy keyboard hook and miles of big hair.

Artist: Roxette Song: “Listen To Your Heart” Year Recorded: 1988 Description: You can’t talk about power ballads without including Roxette. In “Listen To Your Heart,” the Swedish duo of Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle have it all: emotive lyrics, guitar solos, and that absolutely crucial key change.

Artist: Ace of Base Song: “The Sign” Year Recorded: 1993 Description: Viewed as the ABBA of the ’90s, Ace of Base had massive success with “The Sign.” The video features lots of dramatic stares and gestures toward the camera, as well as a succession of flawlessly arranged notes.

Artist: The Cardigans Song: “Lovefool” Year Recorded: 1995 Description: How cute is The Cardigans’ lead signer, Nina Persson? Answer: too. With this song, the Swedish quintet brought their sweetness to the world.

Artist: The Hives Song: “Hate To Say I Told You So” Year Recorded: 2000 Description: Four chords and a whole lotta attitude are all you need to make a rock song. The Hives proved this theorem with their single, “Hate To Say I Told You So.” Elaborate composition is so ’90s!

Artist: The (International) Noise Conspiracy Song: “Capitalism Stole My Virginity” Year Recorded: 2001 Description: Pop music with a Socialist heart, T(I)NC make you want to dance your way toward the revolution. If all politicians had this much vigor, more people might want to listen to them.

Artist: The Knife Song: “Pass This On” Year Recorded: 2003 Description: The Knife is not a typical Top 40 band producing hackneyed MTV videos. They do, however, like getting everyone in the room involved in the celebration.

Artist: Eric Prydz Song: “Call on Me” Year Recorded: 2004 Description: As fun to watch as it is to listen to, this video was made to please. There will probably never be a time when the fusion of sex, relentless beats, and ’80s spandex goes out of fashion. This track went to #1 all over Europe.

Artist: Peter Bjorn and John Song: “Young Folks” Year Recorded: 2006 Description: The first and only animated video (at least, on this list) to feature a musician whistling the main melody, “Young Folks” made PB&J popular across the globe. Apparently the whistling wasn’t supposed to be in the final cut. We’re glad it made it.

Artist: Robyn Title: “Dancing On My Own” Year Recorded: 2010 Description: Our journey ends with the aforementioned new single from Robyn. Listen to the latest from a country that has brought the world so much great music over the years. And we didn’t even get into the heavy/death/black metal stuff!