Why Sweden has been annoying you for years

Lee Roden
Lee Roden - [email protected]
Why Sweden has been annoying you for years
Already heard enough Justin Timberlake for a lifetime? Blame Sweden. Photo: Martin Meissner/AP/TT

There are few things more tedious than the overdone pop hit. You know the kind: catchy and enjoyable the first time you hear it, but after repeating from every shop, car and club there is, it soon morphs into a nightmare. Did you know that one country is to blame for it all? Here's why Sweden has been been annoying you for years (and making a fortune while doing so).


Song: Toxic by Britney Spears

Culprits: Bloodshy & Avant

In 2003 Britney Spears still ruled the world, and not a hair on her head had been shaved. That year marked the release of arguably her catchiest – and after enough repetition, one of her most annoying – hits. There’s no denying Toxic is an expertly crafted pop song, but by the 100th repeat the hook (you know the one we mean) starts to something like a dentist's drill driving into the skull.

Swedes Pontus Winnberg and Christian Karlsson are to blame. The duo, also known as Bloodshy & Avant, produced and wrote the song, which was originally offered to Kylie Minogue (who rejected it) before Spears snapped it up.

It became a huge hit, earning Gold certification in the USA and earning Winnberg and Karlsson a hefty pot of gold in royalties. By 2007 they had made 60 million kronor ($7 million) from the record, and with plenty of airplay since, that figure will certainly have grown. 

Song: Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 

Culprit: Shellback

The song that could have made whistling a crime punishable by death, Moves like Jagger was everywhere in 2011, its summer release and simple but effective refrain combining perfectly to guarantee seemingly endless airplay.

Karl Johan Schuster, also known as Shellback, was one of the key architects. Both a co-writer as well as a producer of the hit, Shellback was hailed as “brilliant” for coming up with the tune by Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine. No wonder considering the success it brought the band.

It gave Shellback plenty of success too, going to number one in the USA and eventually being certified 6x Platinum in the country by shifting over six million units, which no doubt helps to pay the bills. The Swedish writer and producer normally works in tandem with an even more successful musical compatriot (more about him later), but not on this track.

Song: Bye Bye Bye by NSYNC

Culprit: Kristian Lundin

Yes, there really was a time when Justin Timberlake was little more than a member of a Backstreet Boys clone that included a guy who was genuinely called 'Lance Bass'. That was still the case in January 2000, when NSYNC dropped the single that would eventually become their first number one on the US pop charts.

Repetition and alliteration are the keys to Bye Bye Bye, or rather, a Swede was the key to figuring that out. Kristian Lundin co-wrote and produced the track, eventually being nominated for a Grammy for his work on it. The album it was on sold a record 2.4 million copies in its first week alone and eventually went 11x Platinum, so we’d imagine the Swede is quite happy to have knocked out this obnoxious pop number.

Song: Poker Face by Lady Gaga

Culprit: RedOne

One of the highest selling singles of all time, Poker Face was the song that solidified Lady Gaga as a superstar, going to number one in just about every country you can think of and being certified 10x Platinum in the USA by 2015. All but the biggest Gaga diehards would admit that the tune was a tad overplayed at its peak though, the borderline unintelligible “muh-muh-muh-muh” and stuttering “ face” hooks not quite so pleasing on the ear by play number ten thousand.

Like it or loathe it, none of that could have been possible without Nadir Khayat, better known as RedOne, who co-wrote and produced the song. A Moroccan-born Swedish citizen, his story is a rags to riches fairytale, which included spending time homeless in Sweden after he moved there aged 19 to pursue a career in music, and even a spell selling vegetables at the well-known market on Stockholm’s Hötorget.

RedOne had to work tirelessly for almost 20 years before he made it big with Lady Gaga, but with an estimated net worth of around $20 million, it was probably worth it. He was also behind only marginally less annoying Gaga number Just Dance, and has gone on to combine with Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez and Enrique Iglesias to name a few.

Song: Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake

Culprit: Max Martin

For proof that the Swedish art of writing digestible, certain-to-be-overdone pop is alive and well, look no further than Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling, undisputed winner of this summer’s PLEASE NOT AGAIN award for being played to death by every nightclub DJ around with access to a Spotify playlist.

Already 3x Platinum in the USA only four months after its release, the song was co-written and produced by Shellback and, more importantly, Max Martin. The latter is, hands down, the king of writing and producing pop hits, with no less than 22 Billboard Hot 100 number one singles to his name, with the hits stretching back from 1999 through to the present day. Notably annoying highlights include Britney Spears’ ...Baby One More Time, Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl and Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood.

All joking aside, there’s no denying the brilliance of the writers on this list, and even more so when it comes to Stockholm-born Martin. The Local profiled the mysterious Swede earlier this year, so take a read through that, then just dance, dance, dance. Oh dear.


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