My Top 5: Swedish Songs

The Pop-Up Choir's ladies in red

Ladies in red at rehearsal

This is a guest post from Sophie, one of our Alto 1s – she’s second from left in this frankly ridiculous piece of coincidence from our last rehearsal, when most of our sopranos and altos managed to come dressed as the Pantone chart for red! Anyway, Sophie is a cracking DJ and really knows her tunes, so exactly the right person to introduce our new My Top 5 series, where you can find out more about the awesome people who make up our choir. Over to you Sophie!

My favourite song that we sing at Pop-Up is our version of Heartbeats by The Knife, an electronic pop band from Sweden. Technically, our version is a version of fellow Swede José González’s cover, but personally I find José’s interpretation a little weedy and whimsical. When we sing I imagine The Knife’s pounding dance beats backing us up.

The best thing about singing Heartbeats is the lyrics. A sad yet realistic look back at a brief affair, the song is packed with wonderful imagery. I get excited every time about reaching the lines “You knew the hands of the devil/ and you kept us awake with wolf’s teeth/ sharing different heartbeats in one night.” I’m not entirely sure what’s going on there, but it sounds both sexy and terrifying.

I believe that the Swedish are the best nation in the world at pop music (closely followed by the Scottish: there’s something about cold Northern climate which produces incredible songwriters). All the Swedish musicians I love the most combine deeply romantic and heartfelt lyrics with melodies that make you want to fling yourself onto the dancefloor. Here’s my top five:

5) I’m A Marionette – ABBA

Obviously Sweden has an advantage in the pop wars, as it’s the home of the World’s Greatest Pop Band, ABBA. (That’s an objective fact, don’t even try to argue). So much has been written about the might of The Winner Takes It All that I decided to pick a lesser-known favourite: the jaunty yet creepy I’m A Marionette.

4) I Follow Rivers – Lykke Li

This was a perfect soundtrack to the gorgeous French tale of teenage love and heartbreak, Blue Is The Warmest Colour. Sad dance music is the best of all the genres.

3) Emmylou – First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit are Swedish sisters who harmonise beautifully in songs which sound like they’re from the American South. And they were born in the Nineties! Ugh, talented young people. I want to hate them, but then I listen to songs like Emmylou and realise I actually want to adopt them and make them sing me to sleep every night.

2) A Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill – Jens Lekman

I’m a sucker for songs which mention other songs. A Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill is Jens Lekman’s nostalgic ode to Warren G. Wouldn’t you just love to have been at this party?

1) Dancing On My Own – Robyn

Dancing On My Own isn’t just my favourite Swedish song: it’s probably the greatest song ever written by anyone from anywhere. It’s an upbeat disco song from the perspective of a girl watching the person she loves dancing with a new girlfriend in a nightclub. Her heart is breaking and she can’t stop staring, yet she just keeps dancing anyway, and I like to think the dancing makes her feel better. THAT’S THE WHOLE HISTORY AND POINT OF POP MUSIC, ENCAPSULATED IN 4 MINUTES AND 7 SECONDS OF PERFECTION. Well done Robyn, you’re a goddess.

Honourable shout-outs to Roxette, The Cardigans, Dungen, Niki & The Dove, The Concretes, Stina Nordenstam, Icona Pop, Europe, Ace of Base, The Wannadies, Peter Bjorn & John, Loreen, The Hives and many more. One day I will travel to Sweden and weep joyfully on a dancefloor.


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