We need to talk about schlager

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photo: Rodrigo Rivas Ruiz/imagebank.sweden.se

Anyone who knows me a little is aware of my love for Swedish schlager music. One of the very few lists on my Spotify that is always available offline is „Mel-Efter-Fest“. I’m a fan and I’m not ashamed to admit that Linda Bengtzing and Björn Skifs raise my spirits any given day.

What’s Scandi-pop and what’s schlager is hard to discern in the Swedish music scene but something that is certain is that Swedish schlager is very different from German schlager when it comes to the musical models, target group and the lyrics. We need to talk about the lyrics.

Recently, I’ve noticed such an abundance of hilarious lyrics, I felt compelled to draw your attention to them. Because if you’re Swedish, you’ve heard them and gladly sung along and probably never thought about how weird they are. If you’re non-Swedish, consider this yet another of my efforts to further the fame of the Swedish music industry. This list is by means complete of course and I’ll gladly accept additional suggestions.

Dvensk’s List of Hilarious Swedish Schlager Lyrics

Let’s start with a recurring theme that’s – surprisingly not love, but (and it’s up to you to draw your own cultural conclusions) money.  Or rather the lack thereof seems to be a hot topic in Swedish schlager. GES’ Stanna världen en stund is a true example of vardagsrealism, everyday realism:

I have thought about getting a dog/ but it’s difficult with my economic situation/But when she calls me and tells me everything will be fine/the world stops for a while“.

Thank God for that girlfriend, I guess.

Magnus Uggla in Kung för en Dag focuses on the daily troubles of Swedes living in a credit-based society:

If there is something that’s certain, it’s that shit will go down on the 24th [24th: pay day for most Swedes]/I’ll have ten pepper shots, beer, nuts and chips, if you deliver quickly, I’ll give you a big tip/But on Monday, one wakes with indescribable regret and to even be able to pay the rent, one needs to give the stereo equipment into mortgage.“

Lena Ph’s problem is the combination of Swedish consumerism and love. In Han jobbar i affär, she tells us of the shop assistant she fancies:

He wears such nice shirts, he has such great hair./ I hang out at the store where he works sometimes and I’ve bought everything I can there, my house looks like a shop by now. / It would be much better for my economy if it just was us and my clothes“.

Apparently, creating detailed pictures in the audience’s head is an important factor in Swedish schlager. „Nice shirts, great hair“ is a start but GES portrays the character of the song’s protagonist through an even more detailed account of his habits in Jävel på kärlek

I’m not good at football/ I have never jumped across hurdles and ditches/

I am not interested in horse racing/ it’s too expensive and who cares who wins/

I don’t own any tools/ I always take the bus when my car breaks down./

When I invite someone over for dinnner there are no happy faces/all the girls I like sit there and suffer/

But there is something I can do/all the other men can’t/

Tricks and feints no one else knows/Come home with me and you’ll see.“

I do believe that this could serve as a poetic Tinder profile text. You’re welcome.

If GES are the kings, Linda Bengtzing is the queen of original descriptions. From illustrating to how well she can live without the man who left her in Jag ljuger så bra:

I can watch a horror movie and sleep tight without you close next to me/

I can read my newspaper in peace and the bed’s really spacious now/

things could not be better.”

to characterizing the perfect man very thoroughly in E det fel pa mig:

 

I found the man with the right physique, the right chemistry/ who can empty the dishwasher/ he can do carpentry and knows how to pick the right wine to food.“

Total keeper, that guy. Of course, her songs don’t fall short of emphasizing her girlfriend qualities, too, which are – well – unusal. In Hur svårt kan det va she delivers this brilliant sales pitch:

I can be yours, I can be the worst heart attack/

pet your cat, I can do all that and a little more/

here I am, see me, hear me, touch me/how difficult can it be?“

Really, who would not fall for the cat sitter part?

Odd analogies are a success story in Swedish schlager. The legendary band Gyllene Tider, Roxette’s Per Gessle Swedish project, had a hit with comparing the effect of a loved one to that of anti-depressants in Lyckopiller. Expensive ones, mind you, supposedly a callback to the money issues:

It felt like expensive anti-depressants/when she kissed me on my mouth

It felt like expensive anti-depressants/ when she touched my neck

everything was like before and still everything was changed/

can I stay for a while?“

If that isn’t random enough yet, please be introduced to Björn Skifs’ megahit Michelangelo. (Björn Skifs was part of Blue Swede which had a song that started with Swedish men singing „Ugachaka, ugachaka“, so nothing can fret me there anymore.)

Michelangelo, can you please pick up the phone/

can you come here and bring your easel and paint my girlfriend?/ […]

If he could show the world how you smile, Mona Lisa would request to be taken down“.

First, didn’t Da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa? Second, what does he even mean calling him on the phone? Third, nevermind, the melody is catchy and the compliment is flattering. (If you don’t consider that Mona Lisa doesn’t actually smile.)

But Swedes are not all about being nice. GES’ songs Hon är min (posessive already in the title, meaning „She is mine“) is full of mean insults to chase away the love rival, including pinning mental illness on him:

You stand there and stare with your mouth open like a dog/

the way you behave nobody wants to go out with you/

sometimes I think it would be good if a doctor told you to go home/

and take some more pills“.

Ouch.

Productive Saturday

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Recently, I have been wondering a lot about how I managed to be so active and do so many things when I still lived in Sweden. I literally participated in everything [in my opinion] cool going on in Uppsala and in Stockholm, I’ve visited every museum and cinema and was on top of things. Mind you, I did do that alongside working and studying at the same time, so it can’t be that I just had sooo much free time. Nowadays, I pass my free time with cleaning, grocery shopping and tax declarations, but every once in a while, I retrieve some of my exploratory spirit and it makes me so very content when I manage to do something out of banal daily routine. Like today when I cleaned and took a trip to Benrath Palace and hosted a little Melodifestivalen party and now I even blog about it.

My friend Henrike and I went to the Benrath Palace because a) the weather was sunny for the third day in a row (a sensationan unheard of in Dizzel!), b) the new app “Duu” by the local newspaper suggested a guided tour through “Hidden Rooms” c) I had obtained a coupon booklet for new inhabitants of Dizzel where you get discount on local sights. The bad part was only that the newspaper’s app never mentioned you had to sign up for the tour which was quickly fully booked so we had to take the regular tour which was also interesting (isn’t everything historic awesomely fascinating?) but sadly, we didn’t get to go inside the attic or see the false ceilings. We did however see a palace that took 20 years to build and then never was used by their owners, Prince Elector Carl Theodor and his wife Elisabeth Auguste because Düsseldorf was too remote (their words, not mine…)

The palace now belongs to the city of Düsseldorf and I guess it’s not the worst crib to have, actually. They’ve invited the Queen and Mahatma Gandhi there and forced them to put felt slippers over their shoes to preserve the precious floors.

We learned that because this was a pleasure palace, there were no signs of power or potency but instead the lions greeting the visitors lay peacefully like kittens and the rooms were decorated with godesses, girl angels (rather unsual) and the seasons. The palace has only six rooms and a hall and the Prince and Princess resided on the ground floor which is very uncommon as the belétage (on the first floor) is usually reserved for the blue-blooded. But in a summer house like this, they wanted to emphasize the nearness to nature so that Elisabeth Auguste could step out of her bedroom through the window to her private garden.

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A true event manager, I kept thinking about how you could arrange festive events here

We got home to my place just in time before my Swedish co-worker and her mom sought Melodifestivalen-asylum with us. Her mom was visiting from Stockholm and wanted to see the final of the Swedish preselection for Eurovision. Tonight was actually the reason I scrounged the flat screen tv from my stepdad: it is 100 times cooler to watch Melodifestivalen on an actual screen than on my mini laptop. Henrike and I rearranged my living room furniture in order to make it easy to watch. The entire two hours I was bemused by the fact that most people always have their sofas positioned so that the tv is the center. (I realize I sound like an egghead.) In any case, watching Melodifestivalen like a real grown up was a true pleasure even if the wrong person won, I mean, obviously Ace Wilder had the most Eurovision-compatible song? But I suppose Sweden does not actually want to win again as it is a costly victory.

My closing pondering is this: Have you ever realized how many snacks you have at home when you think you have nothing to offer? I could feed a children’s birthday party with the left-overs!

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I realize the mattreses and bunting behind the screen don’t look too grown-uppy