• Sweden's news in English

Why Swedish women rule planet pop

The Local · 30 Apr 2014, 07:39

Published: 30 Apr 2014 07:39 GMT+02:00

If you look around the Swedish pop landscape today, one thing becomes obvious – it is dominated by the female of the species. The most recent successful Swedish export, Tove Lo, who we've been banging on about for a year, has just hit the UK top ten with her debut single, Habits.

Tove Lo - Stay High (Habits Remix)

Last year's big exports included Icona Pop, the female-fronted NONONO and Frida Sundemo (all tipped by thelocal.se). Only the cheesy country-house of Avicii has kept the flag flying for Swedish men.

This year's most eagerly anticipated Swedish albums are almost all due from women. Robyn, Lykke Li (see below) and First Aid Kit will all drop albums over the next couple of months. It's not just the fact that women are making popular, big-selling albums either. All of the above have enjoyed critical acclaim too – these are artists making seriously good pop, music that will have a long shelf-life.

First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining

Men, conversely, are not faring too well. Apart from the estimable Håkan Hällström and Jose Gonzales, and the creaking bones of Kent, perhaps, men just aren't making very interesting music. Indeed it appears to be male artists who seem to be mainly responsible for the cheesier, less imaginative, pop hits – Darin, Robin and Erik Saade all spring to mind here.

Why is this happening? Why is it women who are revitalizing pop music by ripping it up and starting, seam by seam, to construct something new, exciting, and ultimately, innovative? And why are men being left behind?

One of the reasons is that most of the new breed of women are writing their own music and their own lyrics. These women address sex and love in new ways. Not in the clichéd way of male artists, who seem to have run out of gas when it comes to writing about relationships. For the likes of Tove Lo and Lykke Li writing about sex isn’t something to be feared but to be tackled head on and with crippling honesty. Both Lo and Li share a kind of desperation that not only feels authentic, it feels new.

With the music itself, women also seem to have the courage to try different things. Perhaps inspired by some of the wondrously unconventional music produced by Karin Dreijer of The Knife and Fever Ray, female pop artists such as Alina Devcereski and Robyn don't slip easily into stereotypes – their music sounds like nobody else's. Crucially, however, they always remember the importance of a big, fat tune. As Gothenburg singer Frida Sundemo says, “I definitely feel like it's women's turn to claim some space in the music industry. Not only as singers but as songwriters, producers and musicians as well. I guess I share this feeling with most women in the business and hopefully our efforts have now started to pay off.”

Robyn & Röyksopp - Do It Again

The interesting thing is that where Sweden goes, so the world follows. Today, a greater proportion of women than men complete upper secondary education in Sweden. Significantly more women than men also participate in adult education. Women comprise roughly 60 percent of all students in undergraduate university studies and almost two-thirds of all degrees are awarded to women. Sundemo agrees that Sweden's focus on women's rights is paying off: “I've really felt the winds of women's rights blowing in Sweden lately.”

Women are enabled and emboldened in Sweden, so Swedish pop is unlikely to become less female-heavy. The same could well soon be true of the global pop market. Where does that leave men? Behind the mixing desk, perhaps? Strumming a guitar in a session band providing music for a female star? But making great, original pop music? No, Swedish sisters are doing that for themselves.


Lykke Li

I Never Learn

LL Recordings ****

Lykke Li is fast becoming Sweden's most fascinating pop star. 2008's Youth Novels was sparkling electro pop writ large, while 2011's Wounded Rhymes moved towards 50s and 60s-tinged indie rock. I Never Learn, the third in Li's trilogy about life for a modern twenty-something female, is different again, a collection of utterly heartbroken ballads that veer from the forlorn sparseness of Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone through the Phil Spector-meets-Rihanna pomp of No Rest For The Wicked to the rain-drenched, tambourine-driven sob of Never Gonna Love Again.

Li has tried to disguise her pop smarts with a coat of heavy melancholy but be warned – the songs here are every bit as addictive as those on her first two albums.

Lykke Li – No Rest For The Wicked


Also out:

Rebecca & Fiona

Beauty Is Pain ***

Uneven but occasionally brilliant electronic pop from Stockholm duo.

Rebecca & Fiona – Candy Love



Frida Sundemo

May 7th, Södra Teatern, Stockholm

Sundemo promotes her terrific new EP of glacial pop, Lit Up By Neon.

Frida Sundemo – Drawn To You

Paul Connolly








Related articles

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swedish lifestyle pulls in record foreign tourists
Tourists in Stockholm this summer. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Swedish lifestyle pulls in record foreign tourists

4 hours ago

The rainy summer did not stop foreign tourists from flocking to Sweden in record numbers, according to key statistics released on Tuesday afternoon.

The Local List
Five unique backpacker hostels in Stockholm
A room in Stockholm's Långholmen prison. Photo: Långholmen prison

Five unique backpacker hostels in Stockholm

November 19, 2014

From prisons and boats to renovated jumbo jets, Stockholm has some unusual backpacker joints. The Local's Oliver Gee - himself a seasoned traveller - spent a night at five of the top rated locations on review sites, to see if the hostels in his adopted home city lived up to the hype.

Greenpeace mulls Vattenfall plant takeover
One of Vattenfall's plants in Germany. Photo: Patrick Pleul/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images/TT

Greenpeace mulls Vattenfall plant takeover

5 hours ago

It might sound like one of the environmental group's protest stunts, but Greenpeace insists it really does want to buy up a series of brown coal mines and plants offered for sale by Swedish power company Vattenfall.

Swedish striker confirms talks of Zlatan-the-movie
Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Swedish striker confirms talks of Zlatan-the-movie

6 hours ago

Sweden's national star footballer and Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirmed on Tuesday that he is in talks to turn his life into a movie.

Nobel Prizes 2015
Who are the 2015 Nobel Physics winners?
Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B McDonald. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Who are the 2015 Nobel Physics winners?

8 hours ago

Two scientists will share the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics, judges in Stockholm announced on Tuesday. But who are Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B McDonald?

Nobel Prizes 2015
BLOG: Sweden's Nobel Prize in Physics 2015
The Nobel Prize in Physics being announced in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

BLOG: Sweden's Nobel Prize in Physics 2015

12 hours ago

Scientists from Japan and Canada will share the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics. The Local live blogged the key moments from Tuesday's announcement in Stockholm.

Housing 'crash' on cards warn top economists
A new apartment block in Barkarby, just outside Stockholm. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Housing 'crash' on cards warn top economists

14 hours ago

Property prices have doubled in Sweden over the past ten years and the country’s National Institute of Economic Research (NIER) is warning that the market could soon end up crashing.

Nobel Prizes 2015
BLOG: Sweden's Nobel Prize in Medicine 2015
The winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine announced in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

BLOG: Sweden's Nobel Prize in Medicine 2015

1 day ago

The 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine has been awarded to three researchers from universities in the US, Japan and China. The Local blogged the key moments from the announcement in Stockholm.

Police face bomb threat in southern Sweden
Swedish police investigating in Nässjö on Tuesday. Photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT

Police face bomb threat in southern Sweden

13 hours ago

UPDATED: A police station in Nässjö, just south of Jönköping, was cordoned off on Tuesday morning as bomb squad officers travelled 180km from Gothenburg to investigate a suspicious object.

The Local List
Five questions before buying a Sweden home
Here's what you need to know before buying a home in Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/SCANPIX

Five questions before buying a Sweden home

April 23, 2015

The Swedish financial watchdog recently scrapped plans for new mortgage rules, meaning you can still buy a home in Sweden and never pay off the full loan. Here's The Local's guide to the five main things you need to know before taking your first step on to the property ladder in the Nordic country.

Nobel Medicine Laureates 2015
Sweden mourns Nordic Noir legend
Business & Money
Five essential tips for buying your first home in Sweden
Property of the week: Tumlehed, Gothenburg
How to never miss your favourite features on The Local
Blog updates

2 October

Editor’s blog, October 2nd (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi everyone, If you have been reading about Sweden in the international media this week, you would..." READ »


24 September

Checklist for your Swedish writing (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej hej! I thought I should share a checklist that I have made for my students. Enjoy! Spelling Did..." READ »

Analysis & Opinion
Why Sweden's 'six-hour day' is bogus
People-watching: October 2nd-4th
Sponsored Article
Stockholm International School: helping expat students feel at home
Swedes cash in on new bank notes
Meet the winners of Sweden's 'alternative Nobel' prize
Sponsored Article
Swedes 'know more about sex' than Brits
The secret to more travel for less
Rise in wolf attacks on animals in central Swedish town
Sponsored Article
11 reasons students pick Stockholm University
People-watching: September 30th
Sponsored Article
#LifeChangingOptions: Change lives with birth control
IN PICTURES: Sweden's new notes
How much do you know about Sweden's Cinnamon Bun Day?
DEBATE: Is joining a Swedish startup always worth the risk?
Why Sweden has launched sex books for disabled teens
Refugee protestors clash at Sweden's Lapland border
Property of the week: Mellby, Simrishamn
Sweden top for cancer survival rates
DEBATE: Can moving to Sweden make you more feminist?
IN PICTURES: What the supermoon looked like in Sweden
People-watching: September 25th-27th
Should empty jails be used to house refugees in Sweden?
Sponsored Article
Rugby in Scandinavia: an expat love story
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at: