Why Americans should care that Sweden won ESC

By now we all know that Sweden won the 2012 edition of Eurovision Song Contest, and will be hosting the contest next year. But beyond the superficial news value, Americans need to take notice of Sweden’s continuing ascendancy in pop music and how it’s reaching our shores in unexpected ways.

Sweden and Loreen bring home the 2012 ESC trophy

Sweden and Loreen bring home the 2012 ESC trophy

Before ABBA brought home Sweden’s first ESC victory, the home country attitude toward pop culture was embodied in the concept of “lagom”. Lagom means “just enough”, the Goldilocks-esque quality of not being too big, too flashy, too noticeable, or too successful. Swedes were perfectly happy having a comfortably successful place in the world without standing out, UNTIL…! The thought that ABBA was recognized as a world-famous phenomenon in pop music suddenly allowed Sweden to think of themselves as a world leader in music, instead of part of the pack. But the natural Nordic reticence still manifested itself in their preferred presence behind the scenes. For every famous artist export like ABBA, Roxette, Ace of Base, The Hives, Robyn, down to current sensations Avicii and Swedish House Mafia, there are hordes of other Swedes making their marks in American music as songwriters and music producers.

Swedish pop music is now as much a part of America as (German) hotdogs, (Italian) pizza, and (Mexican) tacos. American artists like Britney Spears (“Baby One More Time”), Kelly Clarkson (“Since U Been Gone”), Pink (“So What”), Katy Perry (“I Kissed A Girl”) and Lady Gaga (“Just Dance”, “Poker Face”) owe some of their greatest hits to Swedish producers and composers.

Sweden’s victory in the latest Eurovision is like a coronation. The rest of Europe, via their much-derided Song Contest, has acknowledged that the style of instantly accessible and unforgettable pop music that has its roots in Scandinavia is the gold standard the rest of the world now aspires to. In that light, the most remarkable Eurovision achievement this year is the fact that of the 42 national entries, a full 10 songs were written or co-written by Swedes. And every single one of those entries made it through the semis to the ESC grand final.

So Loreen brought home the 2012 crystal mike trophy to Stockholm in May, and her “Euhoria” has already become the most successful chart hit Eurovision has produced in a generation. But Swedish music has already conquered the world, and the 2012 ESC victory is just the latest proof of that.


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