Håkan Hellström: Indie darling to stadium rocker

Swedish singer Håkan Hellström, one of Gothenburg's favourite sons, released his seventh studio album to critical acclaim on Wednesday, making him The Local's Swede of the Week.

Håkan Hellström: Indie darling to stadium rocker

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.

SEE ALSO: A list of The Local’s past Swedes of the Week

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.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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Inspiring with Instagram: One Swede’s Journey

Antonia Eriksson, 18, went from nearly fatal anorexia to international health guru in less than a year - and documented the journey on Instagram, making her our pick for Swede of the Week.

Inspiring with Instagram: One Swede's Journey
Antonia Eriksson documented her recovery from anorexia - on Instagram. Photo: Antonia Eriksson

The latest picture on 18-year-old Antonia Eriksson's Instagram account (@eatmoveimprove) is a plate full of rice, beans, and meat. The caption: "Carbs make you fat? HELL NO! Carbs make you strong!"

The first picture on her account, just 15 months ago, tells a different story.

"As feared they had me admitted to (the) hospital since the anorexia had gotten so crucial," the caption reads. The picture is of the hospital bed where Eriksson lay, weighing only 38 kilogrammes. Her body was shutting down and doctors feared she wouldn't have lived another day on her own.

More than 10,000 Swedes, mostly women, suffer from anorexia according to data from the Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment, and as many as one in three Swedish women has an eating disorder of some kind.

Eriksson's own descent into anorexia began at the beginning of 2012 after she and a friend counted their calorie intake on a whim. What began just for fun quickly became an obsession, and in September she was admitted to the hospital – where she stayed for two months.

"I think I knew something was up from the very first day, but I didn’t really admit that I had a problem until I was already really sick," Eriksson told The Local. "My dad called the eating disorder clinic in town, and by the point I knew it was dangerous. I had stopped working out because my body couldn’t cope with it."

Eriksson knew something had to change. So she logged on to Instagram.

"My phone was overloaded with pictures of really skinny girls," Eriksson said. The majority of the accounts she followed were what are known as thinspo accounts ("thin inspiration"), so-called encouragement for people who want to lose weight – lots of weight.  

But Instagram wasn’t all negative. That day in the hospital Eriksson also discovered a community of support on the social image site, and decided to reach out.

"I made my first post that day in the hospital," Eriksson said. At first she posted anonymously under the account name @fightinganorexia, wanting support but not wanting to share her struggle with her peers. "I had seen what a huge network there was, and I wanted to be a part of that. Everyone talked to each other and supported each other. And I needed someone to reach out to. I needed someone who understood."

From there Eriksson's situation improved rapidly, and by February 2013 she had reached a healthy weight. She created a new account connected to her identity, wanting to be trustworthy and easy to connect to. Today her account is "fitspo", inspiring people to be fit – and not worry about their weight.

The contrast is astonishing. Every day Eriksson posts images of food – not celery sticks and salad, but "normal food", everything from fried potatoes to porridge to chocolatey desserts. Eriksson doesn't follow a diet, and encourages others not to either. And while she does upload fitness images as well, of herself sweaty and glistening in workout clothes after an hour at the gym, she never shares numbers – neither weight nor calories. 

At the time of writing Eriksson has 28,100 followers, many of whom have struggled or are currently struggling with eating disorders. 

"Today I get over 20 emails a day, and the same amount of messages (on social media)," Eriksson told The Local. "And my comment feed on Instagram is insane."

And she answers all of them, not wanting anyone to feel alone.

"I just want to inspire people. There are so many young girls who feel awful about their bodies today, and I want to show them that they don’t have to. It’s not about your weight, it’s about being happy. You only have one body and it’s not worth mistreating it." 

The battle is not over, as there are still thousands of people suffering from eating disorders  – and innumerable thinspo accounts on Instagram. The thinspo tag was censored on Instagram for a time, but was made searchable again in October last year. Eriksson thinks the social media site needs to take the next step. 

"A site like Instagram has a responsibility to look out for their followers and block dangerous hashtags if they can," Eriksson said. "These thing spread like wildfire. People are in danger and (Instagram) should change the game."

Eriksson's idea of using Instagram as a tool for improvement was not entirely original, but rather inspired by many existing accounts. But it's Eriksson's account which has taken the world by storm. Her story has been featured in media around the world. The Local asked why.

"I think it’s partly just because I’m very open with my story," Eriksson said. "I’ve written all my thoughts, and everything I feel. Not everyone talks about the dark and shameful side of their photos, and I do."

She also thinks timing has a lot to do with her sudden shot to fame.

"The story blew up because it gives people hope. We’re so used to all these negative stories about eating disorders and mental illness. And somewhere along the line comes this positive story, and that catches people," Eriksson reflected. "People need hope. And health is a big topic right now, people can relate and connect. My story just happened to come at the right time."

Solveig Rundquist

Follow Solveig on Twitter.