Top 5 Artists From Stockholm

By Adil Siddiqee

Home to furniture titan IKEA and pop sensation ABBA, Sweden is a force to be recognized. This week, we’re examining the nation’s most iconic musical giants and their legacy on today’s pop culture. And yes, ABBA is on top of our list.

ABBA

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You’ve come far as a band when a musical based on your greatest hits runs for 14 years. One of the best-selling music acts of all time, legendary Europop outfit ABBA decimated worldwide charts from 1974–1982 with singles like “Dancing Queen”, “Waterloo”, and “SOS” launching them into superstardom. The band’s trademark blend of groove, melody, and occasional kitsch is best exemplified in Arrival, an album that captivated a global audience — probably including your parents — and prompted universal critical acclaim.

It’s hard to sell how popular ABBA was, given their reluctance to tour and minimal presence in the states, but they were really popular. Really, really popular — their songs were so popular that someone went along and made an entire musical based on it. Mamma Mia! grossed over $2 billion worldwide during its run — and spawned a film rendition in 2008 that was so successful they made ANOTHER one last year. We’re talking about a band that hasn’t recorded a new song in 35 years: the word ‘timeless’ comes to mind.

Opeth

Opeth may have been the biggest death metal band in the world at some point in the 90s, and they’re probably one of the biggest prog rock bands in the world today. To survive nearly three decades of a shifting genre — especially one as schizophrenic as metal — is no easy feat, especially when you decide to throw blues and jazz influence into the mix (and a fully acoustic album in between). The band’s dense, high-effort songwriting has met widespread acclaim, with albums like Blackwater Park and Damnation receiving accolades from both underground and mainstream publications.

Be it the decades of touring/headbanging/growling or the wisdom that comes with the years, time has softened the group’s sound, shifting them away from skull-crushing metal riffs and transitioning into folk-tinged progressive rock. That the band hasn’t lost much of their fanbase during this evolution is a testament to their long-maintained prevalence in alternative music.

Max Martin

Can’t recall his songs? You’ve definitely heard them somewhere. This isn’t hyperbole — if you’ve listened to any popular music in the past twenty years, you’ve heard a song or ten of his at some point. The songwriter behind “…Baby One More Time”, “My Life Would Suck Without You”, “Shake It Off”, “Can’t Feel My Face”, almost every Katy Perry hit and tons of other chart-toppers, Max Martin may be the most iconic songwriter of the 21st century. If the numbers weren’t enough, here’s more numbers: he’s won five Grammys, ten ASCAP Pop Music Awards, and 22 Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits.

To succeed this consistently in a genre as eclectic as pop music is the mark of a genius, and to succeed so often is the mark of a juggernaut. Martin hasn’t missed a track on the Billboard since 2009 — and last year, continued his streak with several songs off Ariana Grande’s Sweetener and Taylor Swift’s Reputation.

Swedish House Mafia

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One of the biggest house artists to tour the planet, Swedish House Mafia ruled the electronic soundscape during the early 2010s. Tracks like “Don’t You Worry Child”, “Miami 2 Ibiza”, and “Save The World” may very well have impacted the genre irreversibly — SHM protégé and fellow Stockholm DJ Alesso has repeatedly cited the group for his and many other house artists’ success today.

In a genre as fickle as electronic music, it’s often difficult for even the most explosive acts to maintain relevance, especially when a catalog loses its playability within the year. And after leaving the stage in 2013, the trio was expected to fade — but the three decided that earlier last year, “it was time” to reunite. Following an incredible surprise show at Miami’s UMF, the group teased a 2019 tour, and perhaps new material… it seems that leaving a legacy once wasn’t enough.

Robyn

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Scandinavia and electronic are as perfect a duo as Scandinavia and black metal. From one of those ends hails Robyn, who hasn’t left the top of the electropop summit since the self-titled Robyn in 2005. With popular earworms like “Dancing On My Own”, “Call Your Girlfriend”, and the more recent “Honey” under her belt, the singer/songwriter has earned a reputation as a venerable workhorse.

Robyn’s discography is a collection of consistent hits — the self-titled followed by Body Talk parts one and two are pristine collections of top-shelf dreamy dance numbers and futuristic synthpop anthems. It’d be a disservice to chalk up her success to Max Martin’s former mentoring: after all, she’s the one behind last year’s Honey, and the sickly-sweet project may be her best one yet.

Edward Chao