Ask a Swede for an opinion on Håkan Hellström and you’re bound to get a strong response. His fans adore his heart-wrenching lyrics and his understanding of love, and his critics slam him for his out-of-tune voice and what many see as blatant plagiarism from musical legends like Bob Dylan, Morrissey, The Cure, and many more.
But as they say in Sweden, taste is like buttocks – divided (smaken är som baken – delad).
The 39-year-old Gothenburger released Det kommer aldrig va över för mig (“It’ll never be over for me”) on Wednesday, sending thousands of pop fans (the more hardcore known as “poppare” in Swedish) into rapturous delight.
Hellström’s latest release
The album’s first single, which goes by the same name as the album, has already been viewed over 300,000 times on YouTube – but perhaps predictably, it is not without its critics.
Some listeners have likened the sound to that of US pop band The Killers, especially to their hit When You Were Young. Fans of Irish rockers U2 might even notice a shade of With Or Without You, too. But with or without U2, the song has been lapped up by fans and critics alike, and the singer’s name was the top trending word on Twitter in Sweden all day on Thursday.
IN PICTURES: Five things you didn’t know about Håkan Hellström
Swedish media have given the release overwhelmingly positive reviews too, with one columnist at the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper calling it “an absolutely brilliant album.”
The Expressen newspaper said the album was “definitely one of Hellström’s best, but on the other hand, so are all of the albums he’s made”.
The spotlight, however, is nothing new for the soon to be 40-year-old Gothenburg native and father of two.
Hellström splashed into the consciousness of Swedish music fans in 2000 with the song Känn ingen sorg för mig Göteborg (“Don’t feel sorry for me, Gothenburg”) from the album of the same name.
Hellström’s 2000 hit Känn ingen sorg för mig Göteborg
He’d previously enjoyed success as a drummer, and later a bass guitarist, for Broder Daniel (“Brother Daniel”), a band that truly hit the big time in 1998 after writing the soundtrack to Swedish film Show Me Love (titled Fucking Åmal in Sweden).
In his career, Hellström has won five Swedish Grammis, four for male artist the year, and was even named the Gothenburger of the Year in 2000.
As for Hellström himself, he is showing no signs of slowing, and admits that music is now his only true escape from the real world.
“When you peel everything back, you end up with passion. For me, it’s always been fun, to disappear into a world,” he told the TT news agency.
“It’s just like when you’re playing football as a kid and realize you should have been home two hours ago for dinner,” he added.
“Music is the only place where I can still play, where I don’t have to think about the time.”
Editor’s Note: The Local’s Swede of the week is someone in the news who – for good or ill – has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Swede of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.