ELECTRONIC POP MUSIC FROM THE NORDICS
From Aurora and Björk to Lykke Li and Robyn - the Nordics have contributed to global electronic pop scene with an impressive line-up of empowering female artists who have not just celebrated international successes, but also re-written industry standards with their unique sound and vision. In this article, we present to you a handful of favorites from each of the five sovereign Nordic states: Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland.
Stockholm-born pop icon Robin Miriam Carlsson, better known as Robyn, hit the scene in 1997 with "Show Me Love" - at only seventeen years of age! The Swedish release made it to the Billboard Hot 100 quickly and kicked off a marvellous career with a real pop bang(er). Numerous GRAMMY-nominations, TV appearances with a wide range of artists and nine album releases over the course of 23 years make up just a small part of Robyn's legacy. The 41 year-old is an avid ally of the LGBTIQ+ community and remains an androgynous style icon for many. Next to her singing career, she is also an electronic music producer, DJ, and songwriter for other artists.
"To be a human being is to have possibilities and choice. We’re the only species that can choose to do something. We’re not simply followed by our instincts. So I feel everyone is creative", said Swedish singer and songwriter Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson in a 2011 interview. The Ystad-born artist channels her own creativity by refusing to be labelled as anything - she will not be defined by her parents' musical ventures, her gender, ethnicity, nationality or age. Following her instincts and reinventing herself regularly within a unique space between sensuality and sadness, Lykke Li is a unique artist by definition.
Genre non-conforming Icelandic music icon Björk has tried on many different soundscapes, styles and roles within musical production. After a decade (!) of playing in bands and other collaborative music projects, Björk Guðmundsdóttir launched her international solo career in 1993, at the age of 17 with the release of "Debut". Despite refusing to be defined by a genre or musical style, and maintaining unlikely boundless creativity throughout her long career, Björk is widely recognized for her contribution to the electronic pop music scene. "Debut" was recognized as one of the first mainstream records to integrate electronic music elements, and many of the Reykjavík-born artist's projects share a theme of exploration of the relationship between humans and technology. Björk is known to be one of the most influential artists of all time, and yet she often feels underappreciated and underestimated, like many women in the music industry. "Women are the glue. It’s invisible, what women do. It’s not rewarded as much", she said in a 2017 interview. Since her eighth studio album, Vulnicura, Björk is known for frequent collaborations with Venezuelan music producer Arca, an alternative star on the rise and non-binary transgender woman. It is not simply for her iconic style, sound, and personality that Björk has become a queer icon, but also thanks to her work with driving LGBTIQ+ forces within the art and music scene.
Nanna Øland Fabricius, better known as Oh Land, gained major international recognition in 2011, with the release of her sophomore album "Oh Land". Her dream-like sound blends orchestral compositions with atmospheric electronica arrangements and has scored her several world tours and songwriting collaborations among the likes of Sia and John Legend. Between pop music and classical compositions, Oh Land embodies multifaceted artistic excellence and diversity.
MØ, born Karen Marie Aagaard Ørsted Andersen in Ubberud, is Denmark's synth-pop star with a punk attitude. She is known for her A-list artist collaborations with international stars like Iggy Azalea and Major Lazer - but should be known for her anti-fascist activist days, feminist lyrics and radically life-loving attitude instead. “I think the most radical thing you can do is be yourself", she said in a 2020 interview with The Fader. She exists within one of the most edited builds on make-believe spaces of the world: the pop music industry, and yet remains true to herself. MØ might just be the most radical artist we know.
Trondheim-born singer-songwriter, producer and DJ Anne Lilia Berge Strand landed her first underground success in 1999, with the release of "Greatest Hit". She released two studio albums in the 2000s, and then took a break from releasing full-length projects for eleven years, musically maintaining an ambivalent position between an underground and well-known artist within the European electronic scene. This year, Annie is set to return with her third album "Dark Hearts", scheduled to be self-released on October 16, 2020. The two singles of the record that have seen the light of day as of now provide a taste of what is to come: an intoxicating mix of atmospherically nostalgic electronica and soft pop vocals.
Aurora Aksnes follows the path of powerful Nordic-born artists before her, combining raw warming instrumentals with hauntingly cold electronic sounds. She began writing music as early as at the age of 12, and some of her oldest songs are featured on Aurora's 2016 debut album "All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend". Her crystal clear soprano voice suits Disney soundtracks and wondrous earthy-yet-alien music videos alike. Aurora's repertoire ranges from radio hit songs to experimental electronic sound worlds, and her equality-empowering world views shape her artistic ventures greatly.
Through her music, self-producing singer and songwriter New Ro explores the borders of electro pop and trance-inspired dance floor tunes. Formerly known as Ronya, Ronja Richardsdotter Gullichsen got signed Warner Music Finland at the age of 16. She went on to release pop rock music as Ronya up until 2015, then changed her artistic persona from easily digestible for a more daring alternative style. While her 2018 release "I Cum" plays by the rules of mainstream synth-pop, her 2020 EP "i o u" dives head first into the deep, intoxicating waters of dance and techno. It was written and produced by herself. On August 21st, she will release the lead single to a long-awaited debut album.
Be it Lykke Li, Björk, Aurora or New Ro, all of our favorite Nordic artists dance to the beat of their own drum, and encourage everyone to do the same. They refuse to be labelled, edited to mainstream perfection, and give in to stereotypical rules of music and are in full control of their artistic output. With influences from outside the mainstream American music industry, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Danish womxn in music have brought a fresh breeze into the charts of the world for decades - and they keep doing just that.