Last FM Top Ten

Musical Favourites for 2013 – The Year of Oskar Linnros

As I’ve sat down to look at the most commonly played tracks for the year, I’m kinda surprised it’s the song “Plåster” by Oskar Linnros. Not that I dislike the song, but I kind of imagined there were other songs I’d played more often the year.

That said, I’m using as my guide, and while it’s pretty good at picking up the music I’ve scrobbled, it’s not an entirely accurate guide to my listening preferences for the year.

That qualifier aside, these were the Top 4 songs I listened to in 2013.

1. Oskar Linnros – Plåster

2. Agnetha Fältskog – Dance Your Pain Away

3. Oskar Linnros – Hur dom än

4. Oskar Linnros – Det är inte synd om dig

For me, the real musical discovery of the year was Jonas Holmberg.

I wrote a blog post about him in August, saying…

After a couple of listens, I bought his two albums of Swedish language versions of jazz and pop classics, and they have been barely off my music player over the last two weeks. I’m listening again tonight. He has a beautifully clear voice and diction (good for improving my Swedish), sings with passion, and is backed by some wonderful instrumentation. Even if you don’t speak Swedish, his two albums are really very, very listenable. I’ve recommended him to my friend Grant (also a Swedophile) who was mightily impressed. From what I can see, Jonas performs semi-regularly around Stockholm, and occasionally has appeared on Swedish television. Hopefully the next time I visit Sweden, he’ll be performing somewhere, as I’d love to hear him perform live, and not only on recordings.

If I’d discovered Jonas before August, I’d guess this would have not been the year of Oskar Linnros after all.

Another great “discovery” this year was Carmen McRae’s version of Sounds Of Silence. Not a new song, or a new version, but I heard it for the first time in an ABC Shop, and it quickly became a firm favourite.

For pure sentimental value, this was another favourite from 2013.

Foto:Cecilia Jansson

Jonas Holmberg

Just because I have the complete recordings of ABBA in my record collection, it doesn’t mean I stopped listening to new music in 1982. But that’s what online music stores often presume.

I have stored most of my music collection on Google Music, and I’ve also bought a fair few albums via the Play Store. But because there’s a large number of ABBA recordings stored there, it seems like the only recommendations I get are for The Carpenters, Billy Joel and the like. As my tastes in music are much, much broader, it frustrates me the algorythm (or whatever it is) assumes I would only want to purchase similar music.

But of course, I’m not “normal” in that sense. For many people it seems like music is like a haircut: at about the age of eighteen to twenty five they settle on what they like, and stick with it for life. Although genetics have forced me to compromise on the issue of haircuts, I continue to listen to new and varied styles of music. For example, I really like a lot of hip-hop, which separates me from many people my age.

Occasionally, though, the Play Store manages to get it right, and recommends something I really like. Thus, I have a new Swedish musical obsession. His name is Jonas Holmberg. He was one of those “Recommended Artists” in the Play Store, and so I decided, on spec, I would have a listen.

After a couple of listens, I bought his two albums of Swedish language versions of jazz and pop classics, and they have been barely off my music player over the last two weeks. I’m listening again tonight.

He has a beautifully clear voice and diction (good for improving my Swedish), sings with passion, and is backed by some wonderful instrumentation. Even if you don’t speak Swedish, his two albums are really very, very listenable.

I’ve recommended him to my friend Grant (also a Swedophile) who was mightily impressed.

From what I can see, Jonas performs semi-regularly around Stockholm, and occasionally has appeared on Swedish television. Hopefully the next time I visit Sweden, he’ll be performing somewhere, as I’d love to hear him perform live, and not only on recordings.

You can listen to some samples of his work on his website.

My favourite is the track, “Allting börjar om”.

Vapen och ammunition

Vapen och ammunition

I’ve spent the night listening to the wonderful album, “Vapen och ammunition” by the Swedish pop/rock band, Kent. Given the news events of the last few days, it’s interesting that “Vapen och ammunition” translates as “Weapons and ammunition”. Perhaps subconsciously, it was an album that I was drawn to because of the title, though more likely, it’s simply because it’s a good album which I like very much, and which has become a firm favourite over the last decade.

I first discovered it through my friend Yvette who spent six months living in Sweden about a decade ago. It was one of the albums she bought while living there, and sang along to in “Swenglish”, finding the most approximate English language lyric that matched the Swedish. “I rack my dog, I rack my bone” was her English language equivalent to “Vi räknar dagar, räknar år”. “We’re counting days, we’re counting years” is the actual translation, though I still often sing, “I rack my dog, I rack my bone”.

When she came back from Sweden, she played the CD and loaned it to me. After a couple of months she asked, “Do you think I could back that Kent CD?”. Yes, I’d hung on to it a little longer than was polite, because I was enjoying it far too much, with its catchy melodies, good instrumentation, and cryptic Swedish lyrics. And, as I later discovered, thanks to Youtube, some really terrific video clips.

Perhaps the most interesting clip from this album, and certainly the most controversial is the song “Kärleken väntar” (“Love Waits”). The clip features a teenage couple who decide they should have sex for the first time. As you watch the clip, you see them fumble their way through the experience, revealing their inexperience in a tender, but also slightly humorous way. I’m still not entirely sure what the lyric is saying about how “Love Waits”, as it’s a phrase commonly associated with a conservative Christian campaign which occurred in the United States during the 80s and 90s.

It seems to me the lyrics from Kent songs are often a little obscure. Sometimes they’re perhaps a little too poetic for my basic understanding of Swedish. The opening line from the song “Dom Andra” (The Others) always touches me, though… “En ensam kvinna söker en man” which translates as “A lonely woman seeks a man”… wow.

But as was noted by my friend, Yvette, you can hear pretty much anything in a Kent song. And I do love this misheard lyric video clip compiled a few years ago.

Although I’ve listened to quite a few subsequent albums by Kent, it’s this one which still resonates for me. I think this was when they were at their musical peak.

In some ways, Kent are Sweden’s answer to U2. They’ve been around since the dark ages, and have gone through various transitions. Sometimes they’ve been cool, other times they’ve been considered quite daggy. A couple of years ago, for example, when my friend Damien’s friend, Joel had a Swedish boyfriend, Damien informed me that Kent were “very unfashionable”. Meh.


80s Music Doco


“Oh my God, you MUST watch it”, I told a colleague earlier this week. She grew up in Sweden and is a major fan of Depeche Mode. I was talking about the first episode of “80s”, a new half-hour music documentary from Swedish TV, SVT. The first episode featured a very early Swedish television performance from the band, during which a rather nervous Dave Gahan stumbled his way through an interview, and even seemed somewhat surprised when the presenter spoke to him in English. The essential argument of the first program was that the 80s began as a battle between synthesiser-pop and hard-rock, and that, in some ways, Depeche Mode embodied elements of both.

Tonight, I watched the second episode. Tonight’s program was about Kim Wilde, as the embodiment of the pop princess (who later became more interested in gardening, having dogs, and raising children) and about the rise of the video clip through MTV. There were some terrific modern-day interviews (in English) with some MTV VJs, as well as Kim Wilde, Howard Jones, Limahl, Midge Ure and others. One of the VJ’s commented they had to travel New Jersey for the launch, as it was the early days of cable. Midge Ure talks about their “accidental” approach to the making of the “Vienna” clip. One of the guys from Spandau Ballet talks about how unfashionably dressed Americans were before MTV exposed them to European fashion. It’s been interesting to watch the last two episodes and to see these performers reflect back on their “time in the sun” thirty years ago.

Oh, and I’ve suddenly liaised I’ve been singing the wrong words to Toto’s “Africa” for thirty years. I’ve realised it’s “I bless the rains down in Africa” not “I guess the rain’s down in Africa” as I’ve always thought it was.

Although there’s a lot of Swedish commentary throughout the program, there’s more than enough English for non-Swedes to also enjoy the program. So if you’re of a certain age, or you just like 80s pop, I’d recommend watching the program.


Slightly Obsessed

Ola at Schlager Night at Stockholm Pride 2008

Previously on this blog, I’ve written about my slight obsession with Swedish pop star, Ola.

I first discovered his work when he was an entrant in Melodifestivalen, the Swedish finals leading to the Eurovision Song Contest back in 2008. I thought the song, Love in Stereo was “okay”. A few months later I saw him perform live at Stockholm Pride and, again, I thought he was “okay”. He went from being “okay” to pretty fantastic when, two years later, he entered Melodifestivalen with the song “Unstoppable (The Return Of Natalie)” which was one of my favourite songs that year. It’s so incredibly catchy, and he performed it with such great enthusiasm.


In the last twelve months I’ve also become quite a fan of his song, “All Over The World” which I think has a great tune, has fun lyrics, and is well sung.

Oh by the way, there’s a terrific tribute clip made by a Canadian which is very cute.

And then in the last few days, Ola has released via Youtube, his new song, “I’m In Love” which I think has a Gaga-esque quality, and which I’ve had on repeat-peat-peat, repeat-peat-peat-peat for the last few days. A “proper” video will follow soon.

Anyway, I just wanna say that I love the fact that, at 46, and with very broad musical tastes, there’s still time in my life for a good pop song.

Gina Dirawi with Danny Saucedo

Melodifestivalen 2012 #4

Björn Ranelid feat. Sara Li
Björn Ranelid feat. Sara Li

Over the last few days I’ve been gripped by the “controversy” in the Swedish newspapers about one of the artists who could represent Sweden at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. At the centre of the controversy is the song, “Mirakel” by Björn Ranelid, a sixty-something former football player, and academic, who is one of Sweden’s best known authors.

As I mentioned last week, I quite like the song which is a kind of rap/dance number. It’s certainly not a conventional pop song, but I think it’s good fun. As much as I love a well-sung serious heart-break song, I also like music that can really make you smile, and that’s what this song does. It also carries a fairly inspirational “lyric” about the “miracle of love”.

Love is a miracle that overcomes everything.
Love has the world’s largest hands but it weighs nothing.
Love can travel without a passport in all countries.
Love is a playground for children.

Nonetheless, Swedes are divided over the entry, as is noted here

(Ranelid)… is as well known for his incredibly tanned face as for his own and unique – and self proclaimed – language, Ranelidskan. He is controversial, he is different and now he has created a massive debate by singing/speaking his way to the grande finale on March 11. The song is a combination between music and lyrics and it’s probably the most criticised entry ever. EVERYONE seem to hate this song, but still, it made the cut, won the public vote and will now compete again.

“The swedish selection starts to look like a joke…Sean banan, Ranelid! Its terrible. So sad for the real artists that take it seriusly…” writes one fan. The degree to which this has become a talking point is evident on another blog, where a Swedish bloke who normally writes about serious subjects such as archaeology has written about it. He describes the success of the song as a “collective joke” and goes on to argue the song should be disqualified since it re-uses some of the artists lyrics from earlier works.

If that were a real issue, half of this year’s entries should be disqualified :) Many of the works this year are highly derivative. This week’s Melodifestivalen, for example, started off with a song by Charlotte Perelli. Charlotte has represented Sweden twice at Eurovision, having won in 1999 with a complete ABBA rip-off, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of their win with Waterloo. This time around her song hasn’t completely sampled “Mamma Mia”, though it comes pretty close.

Melodifestivalen Magazine
The lovely Tony from Helsingborg sent me a copy of this year's Melodifestivalen Magazine, which arrived in the mail this week, and really brightened me up.

There was also lots of “old style” Eurovision this week with “Allting blir bra igen” (Everything will be fine again) by OPA, which had a Balkan-influenced musical style complete with bouzouki and piano accordian. If you closed your eyes you could have sworn it was an from Greece in the 1970s. Meanwhile, Lotta Engberg & Christer Sjögren, who have also been through Melodifestivalen/Eurovision quite a few times, sang a number which could have equally been from thirty or forty years ago.

Why bother with the finals, anyway? There’s a school of thought Danny Saucedo, the final entry for this week’s Melodifestivalen, is already the most likely winner for Sweden this year. With good looks and a good voice, he is the kind of performer who, like Eric Saade last year, could attract a young audience who would vote for him on the night. I really like Danny. In fact, I met Danny at Stockholm Pride this year when I asked if I could take a photograph with him and my friend. He was very polite, which counts for lot for me.

I loved his entry last year, “In The Club”, and thought that would have had a good chance at Eurovision with that song. But this year? Although he made it through to the final, I think there was a bit of a sympathy vote, as he was out of tune for much of his performance. Anyway, I wish him well, and hope he gets it together in time for the final.

I also hope Björn Ranelid goes on and does well. After the criticism levelled at him by fellow musicians and members of the public this article in Aftonbladet says he thought about withdrawing from the contest, altogether. The article says what convinced him to continue was the desire to support Sara and the songwriter involved, as well as the huge public response. He says he has received about 6,000 letters/emails from people saying they love the song. It would hugely be controversial if he went on to represent Sweden at Eurovision, but not entirely out of the question. I mean, the UK announced this week, they’re sending Engelbert Humperdink, now in his seventies, to the contest this year.

Björn Ranelid feat. Sara Li

Melodifestivalen 2012 #3

If you have any familiarity with Melodifestivalen – the Swedish finals leading to the Eurovision Song Contest – you’re probably aware of Eric Saade who represented Sweden last year. His song, “Popular” was a good song, performed well, though it was criticsed by some for being too derivative of of Boney M’s “Rasputin” and a 1980s Swedish hit by Lili och Suzi.

The previous year, Eric had also entered Melodifestivalen with the song, “Manboy“, a song which incidentally had nothing to do with that famous episode Marlon Brando edition of Southpark. But with a chorus that proclaimed, “Manboy, I can be your manboy”, it wasn’t long before I found that song flooding back into my mind for the third edition of Melodifestivalen for 2012.

“Youngblood, Youngblood, I wanna be a Youngblood” owed a fair bit to Eric Saade. And why not? It was written by the same song-writer, Fredrik Kampe who, once great, now seems to be penning songs by numbers. Sadly. Even the dance routine looked like something from Eric.

Co-incidentally, Eric Saade’s recently dumped partner, Molly Sandén was also in this year’s Melodifestivalen. Hers was probably the standout performance from this week’s show. “I don’t miss your dirty clothes on the floor, so why am I crying?”, she sang with a great deal of passion and emotion.

My favourite from this week was probably Mattias Andréasson, whose song “Förlåt mig” (Forgive me) was also sung with passion and emotion. Sadly. he didn’t make it to the final, and you could see from the look on his face, he wasn’t happy.

Other tracks, like the one by Love Generation was forgettable, were it not for their costumes, and Andreas Jonsson, who has entered several times before once again proved to consistently underwhelming.

The standout track for complete weirdness was “Mirakel” (Miracle) by Björn Ranelid feat. Sara Li. I had no idea who Björn Ranelid was until tonight. According to Wikipedia, he is a very well-known Swedish author.

“You’ve been for a holiday in the sun?”, one of the hosts asked him at one point during the show, a reference to his deeper than deep tan.

“They look like Britney Spears and the older gay guy with a great stash of cocaine she met clubbing one night”, I thought to myself, as they performed their song. Well, not so much a song. She wailed a few disco lines, and he spoke some rather cryptic lines about what love is, and why it’s a miracle. It’s also perhaps a mirakel that the song has made it straight through to the Swedish finals, and perhaps could end up representing Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest. And you know what? It’s quirky enough to actually have a chance of winning. Seriously.

There’ll be another Melodifestivalen update tomorrow. Unfortunately I slept through last Sunday’s live telecast, and so only caught up with it today. I’ll be up early tomorrow at six to watch. Other highlights for tomorrow include another film at the Mardi Gras Film Festival, and I’m actually back on the radio tomorrow from 1305-1600 AEDT on ABC Local Radio digital and online and Radio Australia. No tracks from Melodifestivalen, unfortunately. :)