Ten hit songs you didn’t know were from Sweden

You'd be surprised by how many international hit songs are sung by Swedes. In fact, we wager that there are many songs that you know and love that you didn't even realize were from Sweden. Here are our favourite ten.

Ten hit songs you didn't know were from Sweden

Let's get this out of the way immediately: If you are a music buff or if you are deeply ingrained in Swedish culture, this is not a list for you. Rather, it's a list for your friends. Your family. Your enemies, even. 

This is a list for those people who, when they hear the words "Swedish music", say "Oh, Abba, yes, I love Abba. Is there anything else, though?" 
Well of course there's something else. Abba was just so big the rest all got overshadowed. 
So, we suggest having a little listen to these songs, each sung by Swedes (in English), and see how many you didn't realize were by Swedish musicians.
For every song you knew was by a Swede, you get 1 point. Feel free to share your scores below. 
1. Rednex – Cotton Eye Joe

Take yourself back to 1994. Remember that smash hit, Cotton Eye Joe? Of course you do, you couldn't escape it. It was number one in eight countries, and stayed top of the charts in Norway for 15 weeks. 15 weeks! Poor Norway. Trivia: In 2007, the Swedish band tried to sell itself on eBay.

2. Icona Pop – I Love It

We don't care… that you didn't know they were Swedish. We love it. Best buds Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo may be based these days in the US, but they grew up in Stockholm. 

Today folks call them Icona Pop. Their break-out hit I Love It reached number 1 on UK charts, number 7 in the US, and number 2 back home in Sweden.

3. The Final Countdown

Almost 80 million YouTube viewers can't be wrong – this is an amazing anthem. Have a listen to that intro. BUT, did you know that the lads from Europe are actually from the town of Upplands Väsby, making The Final Countdown the most interesting thing to come out of Upplands Väsby. Note, the lead guitarist is Norwegian.

4. Peter, Björn and John – Young Folks

This song has, perhaps, the catchiest whistling known to man. Join almost 50 million YouTubers and have a listen. But did you know they're Swedish? They may have caught you out by spelling their name without the ö in Bjorn. This tune has a guest singer, Victoria Bergsman, who's also Swedish.


5. Ace of Base – The Sign

Tokyo girl? No sir. The Sign, which spent six weeks at number one on US billboards, was written by Swedish siblings Linn, Jenny, and Jonas- aka Ace of Base. 

The family hails from Gothenburg, and stirred up the charts with their other single Don’t Turn Around – said to be the inspiration for Lady Gaga’s Alejandro.

6. The Hives – Hate to Say I Told You So

Well…we told you so. The Hives are as Swedish as it gets. The boys of Tick Tick Boom fame are from Fagersta, a town in central Sweden. Their music has since featured in Spiderman films, Lego video games, and Guitar Hero. Now that's a career.
7. Basshunter – Now You're Gone
156 million YouTube clicks. That is insane. That's the population of Bangladesh, which is incidentally the 8th most populous country in the world. This song topped the charts in the UK and the US. Basshunter,  also known as 29-year-old Jonas Erik Altberg from Halmstad, has had success with this song in Swedish too with "Boten Anna".

7. The Cardigans – Love Fool

You’d be a fool not to guess that blonde, blue-eyed Nina Persson wasn’t a Swede. Lovefool climbed to number 2 on international charts, and has its roots in Jönköping.

Persson wrote the lyrics while sitting at an airport waiting for a flight. The pop rock-disco-funk song became The Cardigans' first international hit.

9. Robyn – Dancing On My Own 

Ever wondered why Robyn's lyrics are always just a tiny bit… off? Give the girl some slack, it's not her first language. We can forgive her for some of her more interesting "rhymes". 

The Stockholm-native began her career by voicing an animated Swedish film, but has now moved on to Grammy nominations. Good for her.

10. Roxette – It Must Have Been Love
We weren't going to include Roxette, but our guinea pigs didn't know it was sung by a Swede. This song was Roxette's third chart topper in the US, and was even featured in Pretty Woman. Trivia: the song never topped the charts in Sweden. But it was number one in Norway. Poor Norway.

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‘Don’t wear bright colours’: Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Swedes have an international reputation for dressing well, with Scandi style a popular trend outside Sweden. The Local asked Swedes and foreigners living in Sweden to try and figure out the best tips and tricks for how to dress like a Swede.

'Don't wear bright colours': Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Black is best

When asking several Swedes their top-tips on how to dress like a Swede, many agreed – wear black.

Young professional Tove advises to keep it “all black, minimalist”. Uppsala newspaper columnist Moa agrees: “Wear a lot of black clothes and DON’T wear sneakers or ‘comfortable’ shoes, like running shoes, with dresses.”

Black is a neutral colour and, in general, if you get the neutral colours right you have got a long way in following the Swedish style. 

Neutral colours and a lot of knitwear is a good starting point. Photo: FilippaK/

Stay neutral 

Sweden might be saying goodbye to hundreds of years of neutrality by joining Nato, but Swedish fashion maintains its strong neutral stance when it comes to colour combinations.

Generally speaking, in autumn and winter Swedes tend to wear darker colours, as Sharon put it: “lots of beige, grey, black and ivory knits or wool. Jeans black or any shade of blue. Black tights with white sneakers for skirts and dresses”.

“Swedes in general will wear black and navy together which I’ve not seen before,” she added.

However, as the weather gets warmer, things change, as half-British half-Swedish Erik explained: “in summer/late spring Swedes change shape and personality,” adding a bit more colour to their wardrobe.

“Lots of colours yet still somewhat monochrome,” he said.

Most Swedes don’t wear a tie at work. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Follow the news trend, drop the tie

Nils, a reporter and presenter for public broadcaster SVT in western Sweden, does not always wear a tie in front of the camera – and he said his colleagues on national news don’t wear ties either.

“It’s not a must,” he said.

A blue shirt, no tie, top button open, beige chinos and a grey dinner jacket is the look he chose when presenting the evening news a few weeks ago.

Nils Arnell presenting the news on SVT Nyheter Väst. Photo: Nils Arnell/SVT

On a day to day basis Nils, who stressed that he’s “not a fashion expert”, gave the following advice: “As long as you manage to dress in a neat style, you can get away with quite a lot.”

“A white t-shirt and an overshirt work well in most situations and look stylish.”

Stay classy, even in class

Engineering student Erik (not the same Erik quoted previously) recently returned to Sweden from a one-year exchange at Birmingham University, where he noticed a big difference in student style between the two countries.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that on university campus there are so many people wearing work-out clothes, at least where I was”, he said.

“In Sweden, it’s more common to wear jeans than tracksuit bottoms, compared to the UK”. 

It’s also common to see a difference in styles even between departments at Swedish universities. The law and economics departments, for example, tend to wear more formal attire with a higher number of students wearing shirts and polos than, say, social sciences or engineering students.

Many students seem to wear a toned-down version of what they might be expected to wear in their future workplace.

When in doubt, think Jantelagen!

Equality and conformity are important concepts when it comes to many aspects of day-to-day life in Sweden, including the clothes you wear.

This doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same as everyone else, but more that being too flashy or over-the-top can be frowned upon.

This can be traced back to Jantelagen, “the law of Jante”, a set of 10 rules taken from a satirical novel written by Danish author Aksel Sandemose in the 1930s, which spells out the unwritten cultural codes that have long defined Scandinavia.

Jantelagen discourages individual success and sets average as the goal. It manifests itself in Swedish culture not only with a ‘we are all equal’ ethos but even more so a ‘don’t think you are better than anyone, ever’ mindset.

And this is seen in Swedes’ attitude to clothing, too. Flashy, expensive clothing with obvious logos or brands designed to show off your wealth breaks the first rule of Jantelagen: “You’re not to think you are anything special”.

‘Stealth wealth’

This doesn’t mean that Swedes don’t wear expensive clothes, though. They’re just not in-your-face expensive.

Felix, a podcaster from Stockholm describes it as “stealth wealth”, saying that Swedes would have no problem buying and wearing “a black jacket without any tags for 10,000kr”. 

Despite living in Sweden his whole life, he said that it’s not always easy to get the style right.

“I’m struggling myself,” he admitted.

He suggested taking a look at fashion blogger and journalist Martin Hansson for inspiration on how to dress. 

“Do NOT use bright colours,” Felix added.

Birkenstocks with socks. Photo: Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT


Most of those we asked said that Swedes are a fan of white trainers, most commonly Stan Smiths or Vagabonds.

With the shoes being popular all year round for men and women, this can cause issues at house parties – as Swedes take off their shoes when they come inside.

This inevitably results in confused guests at the end of the night trying to figure out just which pair of white trainers belongs to them – and trying to find one missing shoe the next day because someone accidentally walked away with one of yours is more common than you might think. 

Vans trainers are also popular amongst more alternative crowds (black of course). At work, dress shoes are popular in the winter and loafers or ballerinas in the summer.

In the summer months, you’re likely to see Birkenstock sandals on men and women. Most Swedes wear Birkenstocks without socks – unless they’re off to do their laundry in their building’s tvättstuga.

Birkenstocks are also popular as indoor shoes all-year-round, both at home and at work. It is common to have a “no outdoor shoes” policy in gyms, schools and some offices. This is to avoid bringing a lot of dirt indoors, especially in the winter months when there is snow, rain, grit and salt on the streets.

H&M’s then-CEO Rolf Eriksen wears colourful socks at a press conference in 2006. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/SCANPIX/TT

Don’t forget the socks!

As you often take your shoes off indoors in Sweden, your socks are visible.

This has led to an unexpected trend for colourful socks with interesting patterns, which are a great way to break the monotone of neutral colours and conformity by expressing your personality – in a lagom way, of course.

A pair of colourful socks or a playful pattern will get you noticed and likely be a conversation starter at a dinner party.

What’s your best advice for dressing like a Swede? Let us know!

This article is based on the responses we received from Swedes and foreigners in Sweden on what they think you should wear if you want to follow Swedish fashion trends.

If you have any tips of your own which you think we’ve left out, let us know! You can comment on this article, send us an email at [email protected], or get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @thelocalsweden