45 years of ABBA: Five reasons why Sweden still dominates pop music

As ABBA The Museum opens a new exhibition dedicated to the lauded Mamma Mia! movies, SI News take a look at just why Swedish musicians - from ABBA to Avicii - are so darn good.

45 years of ABBA: Five reasons why Sweden still dominates pop music
Photot: Pål Allan/ABBA The Museum

Last week marked 45 years since ABBA  first appeared on the stage of the Eurovision song competition, belting out their now iconic tune ‘Waterloo’. Forty-five years later, Sweden’s reputation in pop music is just as significant.

Formed in 1972 by couples Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog and Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, ABBA’s unforgettable melodies are still as popular as ever. The band’s tremendous success showed Swedish musicians that they too could reach worldwide success.

But how has a small country in the Nordics  become so good at pop music? SI News dug deeper to find out why.

The Swedish government is behind the country’s music success

The Swedish government supports musicians through the Swedish Arts Council. The council funds those in the early stages of their careers by allocating grants to performing arts every year. These days, many international artists such as Katy Perry, Madonna or Lady Gaga, to name just a few, perform songs created by Swedish producers and songwriters working behind the scenes such as Max Martin, Shellback or RedOne.

Swedes speak English very well

Swedes tend to speak English very well, having grown up watching movies or TV series in original English withSwedish subtitles. Studies show that Swedes are the best English speakers in Europe. Writing lyrics and performing in English undeniably helps with reaching international success. Swedes also recognise that because the market is relatively limited with only 10 million Swedes, English is the way to worldwide fame.

Sweden is a technology hotspot

Swedes are famously forward-thinkers and early-adopters of technology, and so quickly adapted to the  development of the digital music industry. Sweden has the highest number of recording studios per capita in the world and is leading music distribution with companies such as Spotify or Soundcloud.

Swedes love music competitions

Melodifestivalen and the Eurovision are taken very seriously in Sweden (if you haven’t already noticed!). Melodifestivalen is the annual song competition which determines who will represent Sweden in the Eurovision contest and each year gathers roughly 4 million national viewers. Swedes are clearly very good at picking a winner too: Sweden has produced six Eurovision winners starting with ABBA in 1974 and is second only to Ireland in terms of Eurovision winners.

ABBA’s legacy remains active

ABBA is still as popular today as they were 45 years ago. The glitzy foursome ruled the 70s and early 80s with their catchy tunes and are still one of the most successful bands of all time — having sold 375 million records around the world. It’s no wonder that ABBA The Museum saw fit to open a new exhibition dedicated to the success of the Mamma Mia! movies.

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Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.