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The Death And Rebirth Of Swedish Schlager Written by on March 11, 2016 | 1 Comment

Christer Björkman tells us that schlager is dead. His assertion is based on the failure of a few songs he helped select to make it to the Melodifestivalen final this year. Well he’s talking rubbish. Schlager is alive and well and here are The Schlagerboys to put on their sparkly academic hats tell us why.


The fact is that the songs that we were told were “the schlager songs” in Melodifestivalen this year just weren’t good enough.

…But, I Thought You Liked This Year’s Songs?

Yes, we loved After Dark. They had a fabulous performance. Wind-machine, glitter and frock changes. We’ll be dancing to ‘Kom Ut Som En Stjärna‘ at schlager discos for years to come. But it wasn’t a patch on ‘La Dolce Vita‘ from 12 years ago. And sorry Linda, you may have described ‘Killer Girl‘ as “Linda-fucking-Bengtzing!” but it really was just a rehash of your Melodifestivalen entries from the mid-noughties. The chorus was great but you had to wade through a dreadful tuneless verse to get there. We suspect most of Sweden, like us, had lost interest by the time the refrain kicked in. It was great to see Krista Siegfrids hop over the Baltic and take part in Melodifestivalen too, but ‘Faller‘ just didn’t have the energy to become a schlager classic.

The Anna Book fiasco was a huge schlager drama and Björkman held a press conference just before the first heat to announce with his ‘very serious’ face that Anna’s song had actually been submitted to the Moldovan Eurovision selection a few years ago and therefore had to be disqualified. But Anna had a very lucky escape as it’s highly unlikely ‘Himmel för två’ would have even scraped in to the second round of voting. Thank goodness she was able to perform the single to a rousing hero’s welcome on the night, get a number one on iTunes and her face peering out of all the Swedish tabloids the following day.

Melodifestivalen had some golden schlager years in the mid-noughties but Sweden’s music festival has moved on since then. It’s become big business. It’s watched by half the Swedish population. So artists and record companies have upped the ante. They are entering modern pop songs that could be a hit anywhere in the world. Look at Ace Wilder and Frans this year. We don’t pretend to know anything about the modern pop charts but ‘Don’t Worry’ and ‘If I Were Sorry’ sound like the sort of things that would sell by the bucketload and get played on mainstream radio across Europe.

Around Europe there appears to be a shift away from traditional schlager songs chosen for the Eurovision Song Contest . The contest ten years ago was very different in musical style to what it is today, with 2006 providing rousing up tempo schlager-pop from Slovenia, Belgium, Monaco, Turkey, Ukraine, Sweden, Estonia, Malta, Germany, Denmark, Romania and solid schlager ballads with a key change from Greece and Switzerland.

The 2014 and 15 contests saw a new low in schlager entries as Eurovision reflected chart music of the day more than ever. It’s no coincidence that in the UK, the charts for the week following Eurovision 2014 included more Eurovision songs than in any year since 1974. This wasn’t because the public changed their attitude towards the contest or the ease of buying tracks on iTunes; it was because countries changed their attitude towards what song to send. Suddenly we were faced with a modern and relevant Eurovision that some schlager fans had trouble relating to.

The problem is that the schlager selected for Melodifestivalen hasn’t just kept up with either modern trends, it’s ignored the modern relevant schlager sound.

Sweden Has Forgotten Schlager Has Grown Up

Wikipedia tells us that typical schlager tracks are either sweet highly sentimental ballads with a simple catchy melody or light pop tunes. But what do they know? Reading this definition the Swedish 2016 finalist that springs to mind is Franz with ‘If I Were Sorry‘, with Robin Bengtsson and David Lingren also providing ‘light pop’. Indeed Ace Wilder isn’t miles away from ‘light pop’ and Wiktoria has a ‘simple catchy melody’.

They are clearly not schlager. There’s a certain something, a tiny hook, a solid beat, and attitude that modern music needs to feel schlager. And the 2016 finalists are missing that. Light pop? Yes. Schalger? No.

Schlager can still be modern and relevant. Just look at what Helene Fischer is doing in Germany. Helene is an unashamed schlager artist and she sells huge amounts of albums, wins loads of awards and performs in huge venues across Germany. ‘Atemlos Durch die Nacht‘ is modern schlager at its best and that is exactly what we should be seeing in Melodifestivalen. It’s no wonder Charlotte Perrelli performed an “ironic” version of the song with Swedish lyrics as the interval act in the second heat this year. It’s clear there is still a thirst for schlager in Sweden as that performance went down a storm and blew away all the songs that were actually vying for votes that week.

Magnus Carlsson got in to the Melodifestivalen final last year because he chose to update his schlager. ‘Mot Mig i Gamla Stan‘ is a great example of how to take schlager to the final; it’s still ‘light pop’ but it has a heavier sound; it’s miles away from ‘Live Forever’, his last entry that failed to get to the final in 2007. Magnus showed the schlager traditionalists last year how to make a successful transition in to the new decade.

The question perhaps shouldn’t be why Schlager is dead (it’s not) but why Melodifestivalen is not embracing modern Schlager?

The Schalger Heroes Are No Longer Swedish

Sergey Lazarev has just revealed his entry for Stockholm. ‘You’re The Only One‘ is fantastic modern schlager and received over one million views in the first 24 hours. It’s clear that the Russians (with a little help from Greece) can do modern schlager a whole lot better that the Swedes right now.

So our argument is that schlager is not only alive, but thriving and changing. It’s still alive, still beloved, and still the best musical sound on the planet (Ewan, don’t you dare mention that Whining Pooh thing!).

Sweden, do we need to shout it out loud? Schlager is still alive! If the schlager-stars want to get in to the Melodifestivalen final, the old-school Swedish schlager artists need to start making more effort, stop relying on the same sound that worked for them fifteen years ago, and keep up with the Melodifestivalen juggernaut. And maybe rope in Helene Fischer or Sergey Lazarev’s songwriters and producers too while they’re at it.

We’re sure schlager will be back at Melodifestivalen soon stronger than ever and Christer will be eating his words!


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One response to “The Death And Rebirth Of Swedish Schlager”

  1. Richie says:

    Schlager music is such a cliche when it comes to ESC I think. And not what ESC needs to obtain musical credibility with the music industry. What I like about ESC is the musical diversity, not musical generism.

    It seemed more comparable to “general” pop music back in the past though I think, which might be the reason why I – actually – like many of the older schlagers. But I think the more recent MF schlagers sound like bad imitations of what was more “fresh POP songs in the 80s”. There have been less schlagers during the last 10 years of MF. And the few schlagers this year did really badly. Which I think is a good sign, given the evolution of the contest. MF / ESC needs to keep up with current pop / rock trends to stay popular.

    I don’t mind schlager dying – but I might go to the funeral after all 🙂

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