Scandinavia: home to those Nordic states that have been on our travel bucket list for years, home to Fjords, geysers and of course our favourite flat-pack furniture. But perhaps it is not often we think about the music that derives from this group of nations, well apart from ABBA (duh)...oh and Björk! After those two, we’re left a bit flummoxed and attempt to give the region more credit in its musical artistry, something I intend to do. I tried to broaden my musical genres and in May 2021 when I first listened to Norwegian singer Sigrid’s single ‘Mirror ’, a song of self-confidence, I immediately began to listen to more of her repertoire and Scandipop artists like her.
Scandipop has gained a resurgence in recent years, most notably with the rise of Zara Larrson, Sigrid and AURORA, all of whom have championed a new era that attempts to hand the microphone back to the Nordic. Most fascinating is that all of these artists gained international fame before the age of 21.
This was particularly the case for Zara Larsson from Sweden, who was only 17 years old when she released her catchy chart-topper “Lush Life” in 2015. Since its release, the summer anthem has gained over 1 billion streams on Spotify, so while we may be sick of hearing it within the summer months, it’s hard to criticise its longevity.
Larsson followed this success with songs like the 2018 single “Ruin My Life” which features on her latest album Poster Girl (2021). The album deals with themes of breakup and new found love, perfect for some easy pop listening that diverges from our usual listening. The song “I Need Love” stands out as this heartfelt ballad that describes the sheer desperation to be loved, mirroring the loneliness many of us will often face.
While Larsson is the most commercially successful Scandinavian artist I mention, in my opinion Scandipop does not exist simply to be bought but to be appreciated as a new art form that stands out.
Taking inspiration from avant-garde novices like Kate Bush and fellow Scandi Björk, Norwegian AURORA is an almost ethereal music artist with her signature white hair and delicate crystal-clear voice, laced with a Norwegian accent. Much like her inspirations, AURORA becomes this spectacle on stage and it is hard not to applaud her stylistic choices in both fashion and music, in an industry that is so fraught with being commercial.
AURORA’s ability to challenge the norms of music is something that I find so striking and her newest album The Gods We Can Touch which was released in January 2022, is a powerful experimentation of the eclectic that comments on society, self worth among other current themes. AURORA’s music advocates Scandipop’s inherent uniqueness and how it stands out against music that originates in the US or UK. The album’s second single “Cure For Me” provides us with the important message that we don’t need to be ‘cured’ for being unique.
Fellow Norwegian Sigrid has also enjoyed international success, first appearing on the charts with her 2017 EP Dont Kill My Vibe and subsequently with the major single “Strangers” in 2017, taken from her 2019 album Sucker Punch. Sucker Punch is a truly terrific album, which under the umbrella of being a breakup album, features songs that spur us to find self-love and independence following heartbreak. Sigrid’s success continues to take hold following 3 singles in 2021 and just last month she teamed up with British pop artist Griff to release a new single entitled “Head on Fire”. The song is already proving to be a hit, with over 3 million streams on Spotify and a feature on the Jimmy Fallon Show.
Since listening to Sigrid, I have been immensely drawn to her soft vocals, which mixed with the rough convey both passion and pure joy in every song. Sigrid has become one of my favourite artists and while I am limited in how many songs I can recommend, her touching ballad “Home to You” will personally call to you as a student who is living miles away from their home.
Scandipop is a breath of fresh air from the cardboard cutout music we so often hear nowadays and these artists challenge this indefinitely with their originality.
If you point your ears to the North, you’ll realise ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ no longer.
You can find a playlist of Buchan’s favourite Scandipop artists on The Saint’s Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5wbe6eoo07sW2asCquZoNZ?si=2287f44e46234038