The Swedish Tune

It’s no surprise that the emergence of Swedish music has appealed to so many self-proclaimed music sleuths who are constantly scouring for untapped artists sure to crossover into the realm of mainstream popularity. For the most part, the culture of Sweden has been identified as a progressive society. Swedes are at the cusp of innovative design and rank high on the list in the world of minimal fashion, boldly influencing and redefining style. A similar influence has emerged in music, propelling the country to the top of the charts on myriad blogs and music magazines alike—so much so, that they have even caught the attention of advertisers.

Take for example, Lykke Li. The petite songstress caught everyone’s attention with her single Little Bit, which landed in a Victoria’s Secret ad. Li even paired up with the likes of Kanye West and Santigold for a track called Gifted, which made little airplay but spread like wildfire across the blogosphere, gaining the songstress even more attention across a larger market.

Back in 2006, the indie-electronic band, The Knife, hit the U.S. market with their off-kilter beats and enthralling electronically generated singing. When they released their track, Heartbeats, which was eventually covered by fellow Swede, Jose Gonzalez, DJs everywhere had bar goers and club kids surrounding their booth, requesting the danceable track. Similarly to Lykke Li, the Gonzalez cover was also tapped by the ad world for a Sony Bravia commercial, Balls, in which millions of balls bounced off the streets of San Francisco while the folk-inspired cover played in the background.

The Knife, who gained popularity in the early 2000s, is undoubtedly responsible for the crossover of Swedish music into the U.S. market. They were even able to receive financial backing from the Swedish Arts Council in 2001, for their self-titled debut album. They received 45,000 Swedish Kronor (SEK), about $6,327. Not much, but definitely a propeller in their establishment. And although their success teetered a few years later, (Karin Andersson Dreijer worked on her solo project as Fever Ray whilst brother Olof Dreijer wrote an opera), they gave other musicians a helping hand when establishing themselves in the American market.

Pop sensation Robyn is one of the more seasoned artists from Sweden who has withstood the test of time with various pop hits like Show Me Love off of her debut album Robyn Is Here, back in 1997. Most recently, her track Dancing On My Own reached international awareness and catapulted the songstress into stardom; she is now a sought-after musician, having just wrapped a summer tour with American singer Kelis in support of her Body Talks album.

One of the newer musicians to get the attention of Swedish music fiends is Miike Snow. American songwriter Andrew Wyatt leads the band, which formed in 2007. The fusion between Swedish band members, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, and an American musician has, in part, helped. Karlsson, who was formerly a part of the Swedish hip-hop band, Goldmine, exposed his talents and extended his network when touring with The Fugees. Eventually he paired up with Winnberg and Wyatt and formed Miike Snow, who are now signed to a major record label, Downtown Records, which also rosters Justice, Mos Def and French First Lady, Carla Bruni. Their song Animal even landed in the trailer for the film Cyrus starring Marisa Tomei and John C. Reilly.

Another Hollywood darling is Jens Lekman, who is no stranger to landing musical cameos in movies. Most popularly, his music graced the soundtrack of the film “Whip It,” directed by self-proclaimed music lover Drew Barrymore. Lekman’s airy and folk-like music has appealed to a generation of optimists, and word on the street is that Lekman now resides in the popular area of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Williamsburg is an indie artist’s Mecca. The musically inclined environment is partial to under-the-radar music, which in turn, helps usher a buzz-band on the radar. Other notable bands having lived or resided at one point in Williamsburg include Grizzly Bear, Panda Bear, Yeasayer, and MGMT.

There is no doubt that music aficionados have latched on to Swedish music with possession. Knowing about the next new artist coming out of the country means you’re at the top of your game when it comes to discovering new tunes. There’s a sense of exoticism associated with the undeniable edginess of their style.

But is the break of Swedish music into U.S. culture just a fad or could they be here to stay? If their success in appealing to advertisers, Hollywood and Brooklynites is any indication, then we can rejoice that Swedes are here to stay.

text by: Karina Cifuentes

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