Monday, December 01, 2014


Swedish Global Pop Star Robyn
First, let's rewind:

In 2013 Swedish songwriters and producers had a hand in 34 US top ten hits  and 32 UK top ten hits.

Then, by the year's end, ABBA’s greatest hits album, 'Gold', released in 1992,  surpassed ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ sales, released in 1967, on The Beatles’ own home turf.

Now, a year later, there is still no sign that global youth culture is growing weary of the Swedish sound.

Of course, the European airwaves have for many years now been saturated with Scandinavian hits, especially in the summer. So, it's not as though this music or the talent behind it just exploded on the scene; more accurately it simply took a few decades to entrench itself into the rhythm of American life.

Indeed, in a recent issue of The New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones illuminates that magazine’s readers of the Swedish invasion by asking, “Do you like Swedish pop music? The answer is probably yes, even if you can’t name a single artist born in Sweden.” (The Sound of Sweden)

That’s because evidence of Swedish pop machinations are everywhere, although all of it is easily missed if you don’t know where to look. But dig into the liner notes and you’ll realize that a significant portion of hit songs streaming off that other significant Swedish musical import, SPOTIFY, has as either its origin or primary influence, the aesthetic sensibilities cultivated by a small collection of prolific Stockholm based music producers and songwriters.

 Meanwhile, in other news, and across the world:

Clearly, if the year's top stories are any indication, music may no longer be a catalyst for social change, but it still provides respite from the world's woes and the pressure of daily life.

So how did Sweden come to dominate the zeitgeist? 

In a nutshell: The Beatles broke up; Motown lost ground; Kraftwerk released Autobahn; Blondie got signed; hair bands happened; Kurt Cobain died; the Backstreet Boys had a hit, and the rest is history.

Of course, the last half century of widespread public support and encouragement of music education in the Swedish school system has played no small role as well:

“Sweden actively encourages prospective musicians through its education system... By the time they start school at age seven, kids have learned a great deal about singing and rhythm. Furthermore, many Swedes join choir groups in their teens, regardless of gender or religious affiliation. Sweden boasts the highest number of choirs per capita in the world - a startling 15 percent of Swedes sing in choirs.”  (Why Swedish pop is the best in the world)

In other words, what other countries have done by bolstering educational programs associated with science, technology, engineering, programming and mathematics, Sweden has done with piano lessons, choral groups, contagious melodies and danceable loops.

Fast forward to the present and Stockholm’s Max Martin has now produced more number-one songs than anyone besides Beatles' producer and collaborator, George Martin. And it's certainly no secret to pop fans that the Swedish producer's superlative sonic craftsmanship is one reason why Taylor Swift’s '1989' is the much ballyhooed first certified platinum album of the year. In fact, with the No. 1 debut of Taylor Swift's 'Shake It Off', Max Martin earned his 18th number one hit, placing him in third place among writers with the most leaders in the Billboard Hot 100's 56-year history.

Other artists inspired in recent years by Stockholm’s sonic artisans include a Who's Who of MTV stars, among them:

One Direction, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Mylène Farmer, Usher, The Backstreet Boys, Pitbull, Madonna, Maroon 5, Bon Jovi, Jennifer Lopez,  Enrique Iglesias, Kelly Clarkson,  Gavin De Graw, Pink, Justin Beiber, Ke$ha, Cyndi Lauper, Daughtry, Ariana Grande and Shakira, to name but a few.

One might even suggest that these entertainers are not simply fans of the Swedish Pop Mafia, but dues paying members of it, or that Stockholm's songwriters are so successful because they are not so much intent on writing pop songs as they are implanting ear worms.

America’s own popular power pop producer, Dr. Luke, who has more than than thirty Top Ten credits to his name, culled in the last decade alone, is himself a disciple of the Swedish pop maestro, Martin. 

As a result, it's quite likely that whether the song is sung by Avril Lavigne at the Budokan or Katy Perry on the beaches of Brooklyn, or whether it was recorded and composed in London or Los Angeles, or by a Nord or a New Yorker, no matter, if it's currently at the top of the 2014 pop charts, then its musical DNA can probably be traced back to Stockholm.

Still not convinced in the power of Swedish Pop? Consider this:

  • 1 Billion in pop music sales
  • Global radio domination
  • The reigning music influence on mainstream popular culture
  • The first platinum selling album of the year

Love it or hate it, it's hard to argue with a hit, much less hundreds of them.

–And that’s why The 2014 Critical Noise Sound of the Year belongs to the ubiquitous sound of SWEDISH POP.

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The Critical Noise Sound of the Year goes to that sound source, event, entity, happening or concept which so effectively produces wide response and reaction, whether intentional or not, such that it stirs collective emotion, inspires discussion, incites action, or otherwise lends itself to cultural analysis and resonates across the globe.

Prior Sound of the Year winners include Pussy Riot (2012), The Cry for Freedom (2011), The Vuvuzela (2010) and Auto-Tune (2009)

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