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Do Swedish Pop Stars Do It Better?

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    SeinaboSey-photo-Patricia-Reyes

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    You’re definitely into Swedish music – even if you can’t name a single Swedish band post ABBA or a pop star that’s not Robyn. How do we know this for sure? If you’ve found yourself humming any of Taylor Swift’s ear-worms, singing some Rihanna in the shower or tapping an insouciant foot to one of Katy Perry’s biggest chart hits, you’re unofficially a fan of Swedish songwriting.

    Swedish producer Max Martin is the well-documented, but limelight-shy, ghostwriter on some of the biggest American pop songs of all time. In fact, his sense of Jantelagen, the Scandinavian disdain for individual celebrity, makes him an ideal puppeteer. Martin, who co-wrote half of Taylor Swift's 1984 album and The Weeknd’s "I Can’t Feel My Face", was also behind Britney Spear’s iconic “ . . . Baby One More Time” and “Oops! . . . I Did It Again” anthems. In fact, Martin's songwriting has made American pop music what it is today, delivering Swift's first number one hit in 2012 with "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together".

    There are a litany of other Swedish hit-makers including Mikkel Eriksen and Tor Hermansen who are behind some of the biggest chart-toppers of the last decade. It might be shocking for all the Beliebers and Navy fan-kids out there, that their idols’ illusion of creative control is maintained by the fig leaf of a songwriting credit, and that their idol's songs are in fact being penned by middle-aged, leather-clad Scandi blokes in plush LA studios.

    Thanks be then, to the new guard of Scandinavian pop stars who are stepping into stage centre to bring Swedish music the recognition it evidently deserves. Where does all this talent come from? In part, it may be down to Sweden’s excellent state-sponsored music-education programmes (30% of Swedish schoolchildren go to publicly funded after-school music programmes), maybe there's something ion the meatballs, maybe they just know something we don't. Whatever it is, we're listening... Here's our guide to the best female pop stars coming out of Sweden and Denmark.



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    Elliphant

    If you like MIA, Ellinor Miranda Salome Olovsdotter, better known by her stage name Elliphant, will more than likely be your cup of tea. The Swedish singer, songwriter and rapper releases her forthcoming sophomore album, Living Life Golden, this month. The album will feature collaborations with Azealia Banks, Major Lazer, Twin Shadow, and, of course, her long-term collaborator Skrillex.

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    Seinabo Sey

    Daughter to Gambian musician, Mawdo Sey, of a group called Ifang Bondi, Seinabo moved to Stockholm by herself when she was 15 after landing a place at a music school. She started to share her early demos as part of experimental R&B duo Def Chronic online before spending a year as a hype woman for Swedish rapper Afasi. Now she's one of Sweden's most promising pop stars. Last month, Sey invited 130 black and mixed race women on stage with her at the Nordic nation's Grammy Awards – a statement that was compared to her idol, Beyoncé's Super Bowl performance.

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    Zara Larsson

    Like all truly modern pop stars, Larsson came to fame via a TV show – the 2008 season of the talent show Talang, the Swedish version of Got Talent. Her 2013 album, Introducing was certified as Triple Platinum. Her MNEK collaboration, "Never Forget You" is climbing the Billboard Hot 100 and last week she visited BBC Radio’s Live Lounge to perform a cover of Bryson Tiller’s massively successful single Don't, that's not to be missed.

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    Her international touring schedule is full and her music video with Major Lazer and DJ Snake for their song "Lean On" has a cheeky one billion views on YouTube. Why the fuss? The Grimes-a-like Danish punk-pop princess is a style icon as well as hit-maker. Her girlish voice and sport-goth style are best exhibited in the video for "Kamikaze", where we see her riding on top of a car in Kiev, wearing a Nike sports bra and billowing cream culottes with a face full of Givenchy jewellery.

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    Mapei

    The Liberian-American born Jacqueline Mapei Cummings, grew up in Stockholm but moved to Brooklyn aged eighteen. After beginning as a rapper, she's since staked her claim as a singer/songwriter with her 2013 single "Don't Wait", which she performed on The Letterman Show. A version featuring Chance the Rapper was released in March 2014.