Performing on Så mycket bättre is Barbro aka Lill-Babs Svensson

Så mycket bättre

Performing on Så mycket bättre is Barbro aka Lill-Babs Svensson

Performing on Så mycket bättre is Barbro aka Lill-Babs Svensson

For the last few months I’ve been watching bits and pieces on Youtube of a Swedish TV show called “Så mycket bättre” (literally, “So Much Better”), a television program where famous Swedish musicians perform the songs of other Swedish musicians.

My attention was first brought to the show by the performance and hit song, “Mikrofonkåt” by September. It was a dance cover version of a rap song by Swedish performer, Petter. The song became a number one hit for several weeks in Sweden. The song has since been translated into English, and will soon be released internationally. I absolutely loved the associated video clip which featured September singing her version of Petter’s original song to him (and to see him sing a long to the song).

But tonight I’ve been watching some other clips from the program which featured a range of Swedish musical legends, as well as some new performers including: Lasse Berghagen, Barbro “Lill-Babs” Svensson, Petter Askergren, Thomas Di Leva, September, Christer Sandelin (from Freestyle) and Plura Jonsson.

The program is a “reality show” in the sense that, according to Wikipedia… “The artists spend eight days together at a hotel in Gotland, Sweden, where each person has a day dedicated to themselves with the other artists performing cover versions of his or her songs. A compilation album was released on December 1, 2010 as CD, digital download and on Spotify.”

As you watch the video clips on Youtube, you see the people are in an old stone house when they perform together.

The two clips which have touched me most tonight have been songs by Petter and Lasse Berghagen.

Although I was aware of Petter doing a version of “Stockholm i mitt hjärta” (a song made famous by Lasse Berghagen as the theme for “Allsang pa Skansen”, the legendary Swedish TV show), I wasn’t aware until tonight that Lasse had responded with a version of “Längesen” by Petter, a song which I really love very much.

The lyrics for Längesen, which I mentioned a few months ago, about a relationship in youth and reflected on many years later are particularly poignant, delivered by an older man (Berghagen)…

“Du var gammal
Jag var äldre
Och nu sågs vi igen
Gått så lång tid så länge sen
Decennier tillbaka
Men jag minns det såväl
Varför kärleken brunnit
Utav olika skäl
Varje gång är som den första gång vi sågs
Även om det är över nu
Allting har förändrats
Men du finns kvar
Allt var svävande men nu så ser ja klart
Jag var ung du var yngre
När vi sågs första gången
Rusade förbi mig snabbt på perrongen
Blev hjälplöst förälskat
Obeskrivligt tagen
Som om jag låg ner på marken och blev slagen
Varje gång är som den första gång vi sågs
Även om det är över nu
Allting har förändrats
Men du finns kvar
Allt var svävande men nu så ser ja klart”

which translates – very roughly – as…

“You were old
I was older
And now we are again
It’s been a long time, long time since then
Decades come back
But I remember it well
Then why has our love burned?
There are different reasons
Every time is like the first time we met
Even thought it is over now
Everything has changed
But you are left (behind)
Everything was suspended, but now I see clearly
I was young, you were younger
When we were together the first time
You rushed past me quickly on the platform
I became helplessly in love
Indescribably taken
It was if I lay down on the ground wand became beaten/smitten (?)
Every time is like the first time we met
Even thought it is over now
Everything has changed
But you are left (behind)
Everything was suspended, but now I see clearly”

And then Petter does a version of “Stockholm i mitt hjärta” which translates as “Stockholm in my heart” which was and is the theme song for the popular television program, “Allsång på Skansen” (literally “Sing Along at Skansen”) which is a bit of a love song about Stockholm as a city.

“Stockholm i mitt hjärta, jag besjunger dig min vän
-samma, samma, du ska brinner igen”

“Stockholm in my heart, I serenade you my friend
-the same, the same same, you will burn again”

So anyway, I hope you liked the clips, because I think they’re both quite special.

And what a lovely idea for a television show. It sure as hell beats the crap that was delivered up tonight on “free to air” television in Australia.

P3 Svea

Why I Love P3-Svea

It was a so-so day at work, and so the first thing I did when I walked in the door – actually, the second thing I did, since the first was grab a glass of wine – was tune in to P3 – Svea.

P3 – Svea is an internet only radio station that only plays “ung svensk musik” (literally “young” but really they mean “new Swedish music”). It’s a reasonably eclectic – and therefore unpretentious – mix within the pop music genre, so you’re likely to hear everything from folk-inspired indie pop to rap and dance.

Thanks to P3, I’ve discovered a whole bunch of Swedish artists I would never have heard of just by following the charts.

The latest discovery tonight was a song called “Arrest Me ’til It Hurts” by a band (? – there’s only one bloke in the clip) called Deportees. The lead singer’s vocal style ranges from Prince to Chris Norman of Smokie.

Deportees – Arrest Me ’til It Hurts [Official Video]

It’s an interesting combination that works, especially with that great Swedish pop sensibility that’s made Sweden one of the world’s top music export nations. Wikipedia notes “The Consulate General of Sweden states they are the third biggest exporter of music in the world, after the United States and the United Kingdom”

Thanks to P3, I’ve discovered some other great performers, including Johan Brogert, Petter and Oskar LInnross, all of whom sing in Swedish.

Oskar Linnros – Från Och Med Du

Petter – Gör Min Dag feat. Magnus Carlson

Smalfilm – Johan Borgert

As the playlist notes, however, there’s an increasing number of Swedish performers who only sing in English, though others like Annika Norlin manage to combine both English and Swedish language careers. I discovered her Swedish language band Säkert! also thanks to P3 – Svea.

The station has no announcers: it’s an automated station that just plays music.

So yeah… a big thumbs up to Swedish Radio (SR) generally, and P3 Svea specifically for keeping me entertained and informed.

Melodifestivalen 2011

Melodifestivalen 2011 #1

There was only one act in the first edition of “Melodifestivalen” this year who actually sang in Swedish. She had those classic Swedish blonde looks, an unmistakably Swedish name, and a gap in the middle of her teeth to rival Agnetha Fältskog at her prime. Well, before Agnetha’s gap magically closed when ABBA began to reach international fame.

Despite these impeccably Swedish credentials, her song had a Spanish title, “Desperados” and was sung in the style of blue-grass country. I quite liked it actually. Well, kinda.

Although I know English is the international language of Western pop music these days, it would have been nice to have more than just one Swedish language pop song in this frst edition which I watched tonight, thanks to the interweb.

Melodifestivalen, by the way is the Swedish competition which selects an artist to represent Sweden at Eurovision.

Melodifestivalen 2011

Melodifestivalen 2011

I was lucky enough to go to Melodifestivalen last year. I was there for the dress rehearsal on the night before the final. It was a spectacle and a half, as I sat with thousands of others in Globen, the big sports arena in Stockholm. And then on the night of the final, I was in a local gay bar called Torget, experiencing the event in a more intimate environment with a bunch of Swedes. It’s a great competition which I love following, and which I’ll write about from week to week on this blog.

As someone who is learning Swedish, it’s also a great program to watch: the Swedish is simple, slowly spoken, and dealing with pop music (familiar territory for me).

And in my humble opinion, the quality of songs, artists and performances at Melodifestivalen is generally higher than Eurovision itself. That said, there was little this year which impressed me.

In the category of “classic schlager” there was “Unstoppable” by Jenny Silver, and in the category of “classic pop” there was “Oh My God” by Le Kid. And although I quite like Le Kid, especially for their song “Mercy Mercy”, I was a little disappointed with their song “Oh My God” which was, in my view, a little boring and dated.

Two other songs also fell into the category of “boring and dated”: “Try Again” by Dilba had a late 90s Tina Cousens feel about it, while “In The Club” by Danny barely made it into the 00s with its heavy synth sound. Oh that’s right, everything is retro and post-modern these days isn’t it? You don’t actually write a new tune any more, you just listen to old one, sample a bit, and re-release it under your own name. Of course, being as old as I am I wouldn’t recognise most artists these days are being respectful or ironic, not just completely derivative. It’s the “cut and paste generation”, as I’ve become to call them. Anyway, moving on…

Tragically, two of the singers, Jonas Matsson and Rasmus Viberg actually sang significant amounts of their songs out of tune.

Melodifestivalen 2011

I can't understand a word. Can't you speak Swedish?

The lack of “Swedish-ness” in Melodifestivalen was a current theme throughout the program. With each Melodifestivalen there’s usually a dramatic/comedy piece which links the material together. This year, a duo “interrogated” the contestants about suitability to represent Sweden at Eurovision with “their Swedishness” being a recurrent theme. It all came to a head with the artist, Swingfly who is an Amercian by birth, but who has been living in Stockholm since 1991. “I don’t understand a word you’re saying…” he says, or words to that effect, revealing he doesn’t speak Swedish. His song, “Me and My Drum” was okay, though hardly memorable.

Swingfly and Danny made it through to the final. In my view, the best of a bad bunch. Here’s hoping the following weeks will present us with something better.

The highlight, without doubt, was Nanne as the interval act.

Magnus Carlsson from Youtube

You know it’s Christmas in a week and a day…

Magnus Carlsson from Youtube

Magnus Carlsson from Youtube

You know it’s christmas in a week and a day
and I just can’t figure out what to give away
So I just wrap myself in paper for you baby

“Wrap myself in paper” by Magnus Carlsson has been my favourite “Christmas song” for the last few years.

I discovered it at about the time I discovered the broader Magnus oeuvre and, although it’s camp and cheesy, I LOVE IT.

The music is fun, the lyrics are playful, and Magnus sings it in just the right tone.

In case you’re wondering why I’m posting today and not tomorrow – “it’s Christmas in a week and a day” – it’s because the Swedes mostly celebrate Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. And since Magnus is Swedish, I’m assuming that’s the day he’s talking/singing about.

Here’s a super-camp version recorded at an “in store” by Magnus at a shopping centre somewhere in Sweden…

And here’s a full version on Swedish TV…

The jolly season is approaching fast
Giving us a reason to be happy at last
I just wanna give you
The best that I have got
And it’s yours to keep
Waiting under the tree

You know it’s christmas in a week and a day
and I just can’t figure out what to give away
So I just wrap myself in paper for you baby

And then the christmas is past and long gone away
I’ll be right in your arms with a card that says
That I love you -
Merry christmas to you baby

We’re far from strangers
You’ve got a special glow
When we’re making angels in the beautiful snow
I just wanna give you
the love of my heart
And it’s yours to keep
Waiting under the tree