The Evolution of Swedish Pop, From ABBA to Robyn

On June 15, Robyn will release her latest album, Body Talk Pt 1. 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!