Album: Absolute Schlager (Part 1)

As part of my quest to learn a bit more about Swedish pop music, after my positive experiences with their Eurovision selection show Melodifestivalen, I thought I needed to cast a wide net. Happily there’s a rather extensive compilation that was recommended to me, so I’m going through that one disc at a time.

ANYWAY it’s a good start, considering Swedish-language (presumably) 70s era songs are a bit of a niche venture for me, but there was a good variety of tracks on this compilation, and a surprising number that I recognised already.

09 Lena Philipsson – Det Gör Ont – What a fantastic start! Well I was briefly introduced to Lena by Johnkm at the start of the year, with this track, Lena Anthem and Delirium. Someone I’ve heard a lot of chatter about, so definitely someone I want to investigate more. Love that chorus, catchy as Africanized Herpes, and I’m overjoyed to see it won MF in 2004 and did well at Eurovision, DESERVED. Love that key change!

08 Carola – Främling – Only the 2nd Carola song I’ve heard (after Invincible) and another infamous Schlager figure. I love this impression I’ve seen of her as some demonic high priestess of Schlager. This sounds sweet enough though, and it’s obvious that we are rolling back to the 80s. I had only heard this once before, as a weird live mashup duet with Alexander Rybak’s Fairytale. It’s a nice song, catchy and upbeat. Shocked to read it’s the title track to the (then?) biggest selling Swedish album of all time!

08 Charlotte Nilsson – Take Me To Your Heaven
– Now I definitely know this one, 1999’s Eurovision winner. At the time I didn’t really get on with it, and until recently I just found it too retro and camp in an uninspiring way, a bit of a Waterloo rip-off. But it’s really grown on me since listening to this CD. She totally blew this out of the water with Hero, so it’s a bit of a shame that Hero was so hard done-by in comparison. A fun song, but nothing new.

07 Ted Gärdestad – Satelit
– Male vocals? Guitars? What’s going on? Well I had to have some versatility sooner or later. Another Eurovision entry, albeit a less successful one than the ones we’ve had so far. In fact, after reading about this on Wikipedia I wonder how this got such high billing. Anyway, not one for rockier songs, but this has a catchy hook at least. It’s alright.

10 Måns Zelmerlöw – Cara Mia
– OMGZ now we are talking. LOVE this one, and Måns. Better than his follow-up entry Hope and Glory too. Who needs a long verse when you’ve got such a hot chorus? Catchy as hell too, I loved the choreo from his MF performance, and he’s a good performer. OK it sticks to a formula structurally, but it’s simple and effective. Love the middle 8 and inevitable middle 8. Wish he’d done that final glory note live though, that would have been incredible.

07 Arvingarna – Eloise – Is this CD really just Eurovision & Melodifestivalen entries wall-to-wall? Surprised to see this made it to a Eurovision, and even did well, finishing in the top 10. Not really my thing particularly, sort of falls into a gap between having a vintage sound and having all the bells and whistles of a modern entry, difficult to pin down to a genre. Like the harmonies and the chorus does stick in my head, but not one I’m in a rush to hear again.

08 The Ark – The Worrying Kind – Now this one I DO recognise, and I’ve really cooled off on this one since 2007. It’s a pretty basic catchy track, but I guess it boils down to how much you like that glam rock sound. I guess I don’t like it that much. It’s good for what it is, but no way should this have gone to Helsinki instead of Cara Mia.

10 Alcazar – Stay The Night
– Now Alcazar I’ve been aware of for years, since their successful assault on the UK charts, but I haven’t really explored them more. I’ve listened to the Greatest Hits disc on Disco Defenders a lot over the last month, and I really love them now! This is a particular highlight, really tight harmonies, amazing chorus, totally everything-and-the-kitchen-sink production, and a dizzying key change. Amazing. Have they really split up? Bloody typical!

08 Kikki Danielsson – Bra Vibrationer
– Another unknown artist for me, singing another unknown Eurovision entry from 1985. Christ, I just looked at her Wiki page, she looks like a cavewoman version of Chiara. I dread to think what happens when her bra vibrates. Anyway, much like the other vintage songs I’ve heard so far, this is nice enough, upbeat and fun, but not much else I can comment on without knowing Swedish. Never gives up that great rhythm though.

07 After Dark – La Dolce Vita – Another MF song, but this doesn’t really do it for me. Just something lacking here, not sure what. It is catchy nonetheless, I did keep revisiting that chorus in my head several times this week. Actually maybe I’m being harsh, it’s pretty good, but the production is a bit too generic really.

09 Linda Bengtzing – Jag Ljuger Så Bra – Another familiar name from recent years of Melodifestivalen, though she wasn’t one of my favourites this year. This is much better though, it’s like an amped-up modern version of Kikki’s song, relentless rhythm, lots of fun energy. She’s singing her heart out for most of it, you wonder if a key change is even possible, but she MAKES IT POSSIBLE. Really like this.

08 ABBA – Ring Ring – Oh now having just done ABBA’s back catalogue, this is now quite familiar. I really liked this first time around, and still enjoy it. Probably the best display of their promise as a group before their big breakthrough with Waterloo, and a highlight of their first album. Vocals are a bit shrill at times, but still a great pop song. PS I know it wasn’t technically ABBA at this point, but shut up.

07 Tomas Ledin – Just Nu – Another Eurovision finalist, but a distant 10th to Johnny Logan in 1980, and deservedly so. It’s alright, it’s not to full-on guitar rock, a lot of focus on the beats and vocals. I like those little piano flourishes throughout. Again, 30 year old Swedish rock isn’t really my genre of choice but for what is it, it’s still pretty good.
08 Shirley Clamp – Min Kärlek – OK another infamous figure, I’ve only really heard this year’s Shirley’s Angels track and that Band Aid cover I think. Came second to Lena in 2004’s Melodifestivalen final, which I think is fair enough. It sounds pretty good, memorable and plenty of big notes. Aside from the key change there’s not a lot of variation, but still pretty solid.

09 BWO – Lay Your Love On Me
– Now I’m a lot more familiar with these, a few tracks every now and then, and a proper listen-through of their Pandemonium hits collection. My criticism of them would be that they’re a bit of a one-note group at times. 3rd in 2008’s MF final, they would have been a good representative but they really had to make way for Charlotte Perrelli that year. This is a pretty standard BWO template but one of their better efforts I think. Something leaves me a bit cold with them, but this is a great pop song.

08 Pernilla Whalgren – Piccadilly Circus – Throwback time, to 1985’s MF final. What a lovely track, reminds me of some theme tunes to Japanese anime shows, very cutesy and light. I have to give credit for that eye-popping high note that just keep going UP, amazing. For a 26-year old song, this is still pretty charming. She can still bring it too, I loved her 2010 entry for MF.

07 Andreas Johnson – Sing For Me – I always pause when I see his name, he’s a one-hit-wonder in the UK after 2000’s Glorious that everyone loved for a few months, I recall I even had a copy of Liebling at the time. So it’s weird to think he’s been a pretty active force in MF for a while now. This is pretty generic sing-a-long stuff best saved for Take That fans and people who feeled compelled to prefix things with “Great British”. Sure it’s someone’s cup of tea, after all it came 3rd in 2006’s MF final but as listenable as it is, not for me.

06 Claes-Göran Hederström – Det Börjar Likna Kärlek Banne Mig
– Christ, that’s a mouthful. Well it’s obvious we are further back than we’ve ever been now, and indeed this was the 1968 Swedish entry at Eurovision. It’s very of its time, it’s weird to hear a Swedish language song like this, just sounds like it could easily be anything English from the same period, like Tom Jones or whoever. It’s lasted the 40-odd years pretty well, but not really a keeper for me…

06 Lotta Engberg – Fyra Bugg Och En Coca-Cola – Ech … got to love those simulated steel drums don’t you? Well no, happily we don’t. I didn’t really consider what a 1987 Eurovision entry might sound like, but this fits the bill somehow. Naff tropical novelty, don’t really like this one. Pleasant enough, as all these things are, but that Coca-Cola stuff just makes me cringe.

07 Afro-Dite – Never Let Go – 2002’s song for Eurovision’s show in Tallinn now, and some faux-retro disco froth. I guess production has moved on a lot in the intervening decade, so what must have sounded pretty modern in 2002 sounds a little dated now, like a Supersister track if I’m honest. It’s good really, don’t get me wrong, but I have trouble getting excited about it. What about that abrupt finish too?!

06 Orup & Glenmark – Upp Över Mina Öron
– 1989’s MF runner-up now, and if Lotta’s track is anything to go by, this wasn’t a vintage period. It sounds pretty Americanised more than anything, with a bit of the associated naff retro charm that some tracks from that period carry with them. Not doing much for me though.

06 Tommy Nilsson – En Dag
– And straight onto the song that pipped the above to be the representative in the 1989 Eurovision. Definitely not a vintage year, particularly if this came fourth! It’s not a total loss, even with the Michael Bolton-esque constipated vocals. I do like the final leg of the song when the gospelly choir claps their way in, gives a bit more punch to the finale. Probably came over pretty well on the night, I’ll give him that.

07 Sonja Aldén – För Att Du Finns
– 6th place in 2007’s MF final, starts off a bit like Anna Vissi’s Everything, but doesn’t build into anything as powerful as that sadly. Spends the first half not really developing into much at all, though I do like the middle-8 with the breathy backing vocals. The big chorus at the end isn’t really as big as it should be, lacks oomph really.

07 Christer Björkman – Imorgon Är En Annan Dag
– Bit of an odd one to put in now, it won 1992’s MF final but came a disasterous 2nd last on home turf in the Malmö Eurovision. He’s now pulling the strings behind Melodifestivalen itself as the supervisor of the show. This is a nice enough ballad but I can totally see how it might have failed to grab the attention of Europe. Shame really, but I’m not too cut up.

09 Sarah Dawn Finer – Moving On – Another familiar name, though the first song I at least remember hearing. It’s pretty standard big power ballad territory and she performs it well. Of this CD it’s certainly one of my favourites. The production does get bigger and bigger, but she’s got a big enough voice to match it. Builds to a nice finale, shame it didn’t do better in the 2009 MF but it was a pretty competitive year.

08 Markoolio & Linda Bengtzing – Värsta Schlagern
– This is an odd one, the only one on this CD that wasn’t from Melodifestivalen, and it’s a parody song of Melodifestivalen?? Well obviously without knowing Swedish, this is a pretty convincing cuckoo in the nest, though the MF organisers evidently didn’t see the funny side and barred it from the 2006 contest. Without knowing all this, I thought it was a really fun peppy pop song, what’s not to like?

Keepers for the iPod: Det Gör Ont, Take me to your heaven, Cara Mia, Stay the night, Jag Ljuger Så Bra, Ring Ring, Lay your love on me, Piccadilly circus, Moving on, Värsta Schlagern.

Next: Absolute Schlager CD2

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