We need to talk about schlager

rodrigo_rivas_ruiz-music_festival-1089 (2)

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“.




How do you know summer is upon us? The list of sommarvärdar, summer hosts, for the Swedish radio is published! Like every year, I had someone, in this case my co-worker, read up the names for me and said which ones I knew. This year, I recognized eight. It doesn’t seem like I am improving on this self-imposed quiz! My co-workers reactions were hilarious though when I had no clue about people she really thought I knew. “What do you mean, you don’t know Bert Karlsson?”

We were blessed with non-humid weather in Dizzel this week, so refreshing it made me sing all the time at work. I have recently specialised in adapting Swedish schlager and pop to what we do at work, so when lunch break comes around, I sing “Vi drar till Rewe” , and if my extra colleague isn’t showing up in the lunch room, I go to her office and chirp, “Är du hungrig, Johanna, javisst är du det”, fika is preceeded by a happy “Jag går och fikar” . And because my co-worker is also already in summery vacation mode, she peeled her banana yesterday, intonating, “Jeg spiser — en banan”.

This afternoon, we acually took what felt like a class trip – we visited out external colleague who lives in Essen. Yet another town with a reputation in which the term picturesque does not figure. But that only means you get there and get your mind blown by the idyllic landscape presented to you. So. ridicuously. pretty! Including baby geese!


Right: I had baked fika. Left: Behind the scenes of instagramming.

Summer also means I want to use my balcony which is 8 metres long and one metre wide. I started planting stuff last night and made one wrong move which left me slowly inching back into the apartment with serious back pain. Luckily, I have heat wraps, heavy medications and know how to google “ischias exercises”, don’t I sound like an 80-year-old? But it helped at least and I could work today. I could even go to the store tonight and buy three balcony chairs! Club 8×1 is opening tomorrow, I’d say.


When you really want to sit on your balcony but don’t own a car


I’m considering putting up a Turner above my sofa. Any thoughts?

Again and again


photo: Göteborgsoperan

Do you know the Spotify Review of your year? It shows you what you most listened to during the past twelve months. For me, it showed as most listened playlist “Kristina från Duvemåla”, as most listened artist ”Helen Sjöholm“ [lead actress in Kristina] an as most listened song „ Duvemåla hage”.

Last Saturday, my friend Tabea and I took the opportunity to see the musical again. It had moved from Gothenburg to Stockholm and as they only seem to set it up every 20 years, I felt I had to see it again. When I talked to my friends who had been with me when I first saw it in February, many of them said they had also been to Stockholm to see it again. My former boss has actually seen it seven times.

I was cold during almost the entire show. Not because the theatre wasn’t heated (on the contrary) but because I had goose bumps all the time. Next to me was a man sitting whose lips moved with every song. He knew every line.

When I first saw the musical, I was not as familiar with the story or the music so it was a stupendous experience. This time, I had the opportunity to pay attention to little things and just like in February, the four (!) hours passed by in the blink of an eye.

The first time I saw “Kristina från Duvemåla” was before the September wave of countless refugees seeking shelter in Germany and Sweden. While it had already been an issue then, last Saturday, it was perfectly impossible to not see the striking similarities between Kristina and any refugee woman today. I don’t think anyone with a brain sitting in that theatre did not think of the current situation. ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus who wrote the musical, said: ”Kristina sings ”I am a refugee and a foreigner”. If we can open some eyes to what it can mean to be a refugee and a foreigner, then we have succeeded with something important”.

The day after I saw it was the last show they played. Let’s hope it comes back soon.

Hamburg singing


You must regard this blog as a time machine for the next posts. One day, I will tell you of last week’s adventures, the next day, I will suddenly report about what happened tonight. Didn’t you always want to timetravel?

A few weeks ago I heard about “Hamburg singt” (Hamburg singing). It’s like an open choir where anyone can join anytime. There is a band playing, lyrics on large screens, easy, well-known songs and no notes. Basically, it’s the Swedish Allsång på Skansen just that it’s inside a dark church instead of a open-air museum overlooking Stockholm’s skyline in the summer. And then, there might be some more differences, but both events are on Tuesday nights (is this some kind of unwritten rule, by the way? All my choirs always rehearse on Tuesdays and both Hamburg singing and Allsång på Skansen are on Tuesdays. Suspicious!).

I decided that my colleagues at work would benefit from a team building event and, the self-appointed feel good manager that I am, I asked everyone to come to Hamburg singing. Because humans love to sing even if they keep saying they have a bad voice and cannot sing, everyone joined. So tonight, I found myself in a Free Protestant Church (there were three churches within 300 metres which is also suspicious) with about 350 other singers. Three hundred fifty! The choir leader was quite a bit of an entertainer and the band surely created a party atmosphere. I must say, however, that the sounds of the bands and the clapping were so loud no one ever managed to hold the second voice, and – also due to the choice of songs – a lot was just bellowing. At least they played ABBA in the end, . “But I have a talent, a wonderful thing, cause everyone listens when I start to sing”.

Week Song #43: Med ena foten utanför

You know when you hear a song at a particular time and even though you never liked it that much before, it suddenly speaks to you and becomes your favorite for some time? This one works for work and life.


Jag mår bra och det blir vackert/och lika sorgset som förut. 

Melissa Horn is, by the way, an artist I highly recommend: for those who want to learn Swedish, for those who want to find deep meaning in simple texts, for those who like a beautiful voice, for those who long for the “She is singing about me!”-moment. Melissa Horn’s songs all sound the same and yet all very different. 

Work Week Song #42: Money, money, money

Well, it was only a matter of time until this ABBA song came up, right? I am sure many others have used it before for similar purposes. This week, it was my favorite activity to think aloud how many hours of work a lunch, a concert or a flight equals. I should have recorded the reactions.

I work all night I work all day to pay the bills I have to pay
ain’t it sad/and still there never seems to be a single penny left for me/that’s too bad.

Lucia times

This week, we started singing Lucia songs in the choir. You might think it is early to start singing Christmas songs (Lucia is an advent tradition), but really it is only four weeks to our first concert.

I really like the Lucia tradition. Last year I made it to six concerts in 40 hours. The Swedish choir in Hamburg sings Lucia every year so many choir singers are very experienced with the songs. When our choir leader asked us to start off with “Sankta Lucia”, we all sang along and suddenly, I got such an extreme Christmas feeling that I started looking for snow to fall outside. (And right now, sometimes, temperatures still range at 20 degrees!) Music and certain songs always put me right back to the time they belong in. When I hear Värmlandsvisan, pictures of Spring Ball 2013 pop up in my head, when someone plays Händerna mot himlen, I am back on my way to work in Stockholm 2012. And “Nur noch kurz die Welt retten” puts me back into my Bremen apartment.

We are singing seven Lucia concerts during two weekends. Yesterday, our choir leader said IKEA had asked if we could sing two more at their store on the day we already sing three concerts in the church. I said I’m in. Because it is my mission in life to bring Lucia to everyone! 😉

Do you want to come? I think you should:

I want to you come for your own sake because you need to experience this.

I want to you come for your own sake because you need to experience this.


Introducing: Heling Agency

Ingrid's phone on the table is playing, "Så länge skutan kan gå", her favorite because of the vanitas-element

Ingrid’s phone on the table is playing, “Så länge skutan kan gå”, her favorite because of the vanitas-element

On Tuesday, we were obdiently sitting in our church benches, practising every spring song Swedish culture has to offer for our spring concert. It feels like we are literally singing every song you are supposed to sing in Swedish spring and I can say I highly approve, partly because I have to learn all the Uti vår hage and Sköna maj and partly because I think they are excellent representatives of Swedish traditional music for the concert. Because that is what we want: to transport Swedish heritage to the public. I highly recommend attending our concert on May 24th. (Yes, I mean you too, Felix!)

So as we are sitting there and I am concentrating very hard on getting the alto voice for Sommarpsalm right, the choir leader starts talking about advertising the concert. “We’ll need a nice poster”, she says and immediately looks to me. “I think you’re good with these things. You should do it”. I am puzzled that she thinks I am the best person to do it and now in retrospect, I understand: the choir leader has seen the notices we made for my apartment hunt, and she did not know that this was a joint effort of the incredibly talented Ingrid and me. I accept the task only to say, “If my dear friend Ingrid over there helps me, sure”.

After practice Ingrid and I sat in my living room upstairs in the church and started brainstorming. We brainstormed so much that we decided we should have a name for our creative duo (because who knows what else we will do in the future) and give ourselves fancy titles. So now we are the Heling Agency for Feel Good. Ingrid is the Art Director (obviously) and I am the Visual Supervisor and Copywriter. We only need to find someone who wants to start paying us, too. 😉 If you need a choir poster, an apartment video, a book on bowls, a new text to an ABBA song, or simply need to feel better, you can hire us.


The other day my computer at work broke (again. I am the IT’s most faithful customer.) so I had to relocate to my colleague’s office. She prefers a room temperature of 16 degrees and listens to the radio while she works. It wasn’t my most efficient day at work. But as we were sitting there, the radio played the song “Jubel” and my colleague said, “Oh, that’s [klingon:de], I like them!” I was very confused and wondered if Star Trek made songs now as well. When the song continued, I recognized it as the French band Klingande which I always thought was pronounced in the Swedish way since, um, well, it’s a Swedish word. But apparently not. On the radio and online it says it’s pronounced the Klingon way. I even did my research on the French wikipedia and read that “Le duo trouve que cette langue sonne bien, à la fois parlé et chanté”, the two Frenchies think Swedish is such a great language to use for music. Well then – Jubel!

(P.S.: Nevertheless the lyrics read in English, “Save me”…?)

I wish I was a Soprano

If Sweden has taught me anything, it is the joy of choir singing. Everyone sings, it seems. It is not something embarrassing to know your traditional songs and you earn your shots at a dinner party by singing before. In Germany, I have recently noticed, not only are there much fewer choirs, it is even seen as something kind of extraordinary. “It’s not weird, but it is special”, as my friend Anja phrased it. Or my colleagues you said, “Oh, you know, Irmgard also sings in a choir”, as if we should hang out together now with our crazy little choir cult.

Even though I really do not have any time these days (all I do is: work – look at apartments and get lost in the city – sleep and then repeat), I made time for the choir rehearsal of the Swedish Church choir this Tuesday because I had very good choir experiences before (basically, joining the Uppsala choir was the best decision I made during my Master progamme). The moment I stepped in, I already felt – schizophrencially – at home for the first time in three weeks. It is really funny to notice that outside the work place, my brain has still not tuned in to German. I still am amazed when people speak German around me, I want to draw my company nearer and say, “They’re Germans! I can hear it!”

So when I went into the Swedish Church and heard all the old ladies chatter in Swedish about the upcoming choir events, it felt very familiar. It got even more so when I went to check out the restroom which actually has Swedish doors! Now you might wonder what a Swedish door is. It’s a door with an instable handle and it is made out of paper. Kind of like this:

ImageThey don’t exist in Germany so I presume the church has imported the toilet doors.

There was another new member that night, a German old lady, who was very friendly and said that if I really do not find a room, I can move into her convent. As a sign of gratitude I acted as a her translator the whole evening because despite the complete absence of any Swedish knowledge  in her brain, she has deemed this choir to be suitable. From what I know by now she is a really cool old lady who does lots of special stuff. Like singing in a choir which is, as we learned, special. It is so special that even the pastor and his wife are in the choir and then a bunch of very diverse members, from pensioners to young almost-too-cool men.

The point of the Swedish Church is to have a choir rehearsing in Swedish and to preserve Swedish cultural heritage, or at least that is what I have understood. To find a capable choir leader who speaks enough Swedish and is willing to lead the choir must have been a challenge, but now they have a nice and strict choir leader who does it. She speaks funny Swedish with a the thickest German accent imagineable and she has apparently decided that there is only one article in the Swedish language and that’s “en”. If you meet me next time and I speak like that you know why. Years and years of trying to learn all the ett-words and now they will be swept from my mind…

Regardless of that her choice of songs were quite lovely and even if it will take a while until anyone will live up to my former choir leader, it was an inspiring rehearsal. I don’t get why people stay at home and watch TV when they can be “special” and sing in a choir instead!


Another great thing about the church and the choir: It’s at Landungsbrücken, probably one of the most beautiful places in Hamburg. Even if my photo sucks.

I wish I was a soprano though. When I decided (yeah, I decided) that I was an alto, it was more of an intuitive choice that proved correct. I had not taken into consideration that the altos almost never get to sing the melody, and nowadays I wish a I was a soprano. Because even if I could find the songs online (Glädjens dag, anyone?), listening to them would make me get used to the melody, not the voice we’re singing, or supposed to sing.

I think I will be back next Tuesday. I miss the toilet doors.