Who Run the World?
I will be among the first to say that Norwegian+Swedish (there should be a collective term for that…Norswedian?) female solo artists have always been rad. However, mid 2015 has me convinced that they are also growing in numbers. Disclaimer: That might be an increase in visibility. Or simply an aggravation of my feminist tunnel vision? Anyway, I made a compilation of some already-up plus up-and-coming Norswedian women worth hearing out for.
How Silvana Imam balances crude, confronting, anti-racist and anti-patriarchal lyrics with romantic and emotional ones, is nothing short of impressive. The rapper went public in 2013, and has stirred much needed debate ever since. Silvana does mesmerizing live shows, and occasionally performs with the equally awesome girlfriend, Beatrice Eli.
Her hit “Girls” made ze gays, our families and loosely defined extended families, go completely ban-ah-nas. If you haven’t seen Beatrice Eli roll around on that floor with all them girls, it’s about time you do. Girls aside though (riiite), Beatrice Eli has also released an EP and an album since her debut in 2012, proving her to be a solid artist way beyond that one signature song.
Born in 1992, Tove Styrke is one of those people whose talent and confidence can make anyone not born in the 90s have a tiny existential breakdown. But, as life is not in fact a competition (took me some years to figure that out), one can just as well enjoy her effortless attitude, and dance along with her to the amazingly catchy music she makes. Her main hit “Borderline” is both the ultimate earworm and a poetic little treat.
This list would in fact have no right to life if Ane Brun was not on it. In this conveniently invented category of Norwedish, we can luckily avoid the eternal dispute over whether she is Norwegian or Swedish, and leave the focus on how extremely talented she is. Since her debut album “Spending time with Morgan” in 2003, Ane Brun has reinvented and artistically outdone herself plenty of times, moving from mellow acoustics, onto duets, onto danceable orchestra pieces, and everything in between. In the video for her latest single, “Directions”, Ane Brun dances alone in an airplane hangar. It’s pretty darn cool.
I still have a vivid memory of the very first time I heard Emilie Nicolas on Soundcloud. All my thoughts stopped spinning, centering on that new sound only. I looked around the room wanting to shout “are you all hearing this?!” but there was noone around. Shortly after, Emilie Nicolas was the emerging artist in Norway, selling out what sold could be. Her unique voice and dark electronica sound universe captures a nerve between beauty and beast that truly raises the standard for Scandinavian electronica.
Probably (/hopefully/obviously) already known to many, Robyn is the queen of pop. I would in fact deem this non-debatable. Hence, end of discussion that never even commenced. Back in 1995, listening to then 16-year old Robyn’s single “Do you really want me”, I never imagined myself losing it on the dance floor to “Do It Again” almost 20 years later. Thing is: faced with such majesticness, one can simply not resist.
Susanne Sundfør’s music can be described as complex, dark – ceremonial even. Her mystical and narrative albums invoke feelings of something truly grand, something perfectly put together. Three critically acclaimed (hell: praised!) albums in a row – “The Brothel”, “The Silicone Veil”, “Ten Love Songs” – followed by a bunch of awards, has placed Sundfør among the most renown artists in Norway. On top of, (well, technically because of), her success, she has also been able to spark a sizable debate on gender in the music industry, especially targeting the gendering of categories in music award shows. (In her honor: apologies for this binary gendered list, but in the name of limitation and positive discrimination I went with women. Maybe I’ll make a male artist list some other day. Or maybe the rest of the universe will).
Gloomy indie pop princess Lykke Li is maybe best known for her hit “I follow rivers”, featured in movie successes such as Rust and Bone, and not to mention Blue is the Warmest Color (the song to which Adele dances in her own birthday party). Her album “I Never Learn” from 2014 is more depressing, in the way depressive is the new profound. Just maybe not the post-breakup album is what I’m saying (unless, though, you just need to trig all that shit out. Quite sure “Never gonna love again” will do the trick).
Singer/Songwriter Anna Järvinen’s songs are soothing, often acoustic pop pieces sung in Swedish. She has formed part of several bands, including psychedelic jazz/rock band Dungen, but has gone solo since 2007. Lyrics are nostalgic to my Scandinavian ears, and Anna herself seems refreshingly humble and down-to-earth.
Coming from a classical music background, Sandra Kolstad combines piano pieces with darker electronic elements, especially on her 2014 album “Zero Gravity State of Mind”. She maintains an epic, narrative style, and as tunes have become more danceable she has in turn become a substantial name on the Norwegian pop scene. Her music videos are extremely well made, and with the video to “Run Away” she initiated debate over nudity and its link to sexualization in the music industry. It was claimed she had succeeded in making a video containing nudity that even the feminists liked. Who would have thought.
Seinabo Sey’s career has skyrocketed during the last two years, especially after her track “Younger” hit the bigger music scene. I was caught by surprise by how extremely solid her pieces are – she seems like such an established artist despite her very recent entry into the hearts and minds of soul/RnB/electro/pop-loving listeners. She deserves a much bigger audience, period.
Operating in the same universe as Susanne Sundfør and Lykke Li, Aurora Aksnes, or simply AURORA, has released a number of singles that have caused havoc both in Norway and elsewhere. Pardon my subtle ageism here, but SHE’S 19 GODDAMMIT and I can nothing but rejoice that she already is – and without doubt will be – a name to remember on the international pop scene. AURORA will guide us through dark places, but when her pale, angry, spastic ways thou overwhelm, her crystal clear voice will be right there to lead you home to happy.
She self-describes as a “sassy soulmistress”, the energy bundle from Bergen who has powered through most Norwegian festivals in 2015. After several years of back-singing for other artists, she has decided to go solo. And girl is it a great idea! Other people’s relationship preferences are none of my business, but in a land where mistress equals “second”, I’d opt for Miss Tati to be the wife of soul, or hell, why not just be soul itself? Her live shows are perfect for those feeling funky or not-so-funky, cause you will end up funky dancing anyway.
The indie artist who went mainstream with her dance-y dark pop, writes strikingly direct lyrics about love, sex, break-ups and all them destructive things that bring rock bottoms and sky highs. Tove Lo hit the mainstream international stage with her hit “Habits (Stay High)”, and followed up with the album “Queen of the Clouds”. It’s young, it’s random, it is the kind of hit that suddenly has 144 million views on YouTube.
Access the full Spotify playlist here, and please salute the artists you are missing in the comments section below!