Tuesday, January 4, 2022

GL.21.13: Ryan Joyce (Part Two)


N Ø R D I C • T R Å C K S

The playlist linked here contains 50 songs by Nordic artists; it represents just one of the rabbit holes I fell down in 2021.

An abridged account of this list’s genesis starts and ends with the Spotify algorithm and “være med deg,” a piece of peppy, guitar-driven pop so undeniably catchy that it was Matt who first fell in love with it, despite the unintelligibility of the Norwegian lyrics.

A more complete explanation would account for my brain chemistry, primed to engage in an endless cycle of medium-term obsessions, and how life in lockdown influenced my screen time and my use of platforms whose content was tailored for me by powerful and sophisticated algorithms. 

But the network of roots from which this playlist sprouted actually connects back to a fifth grade project on Sweden; the half-Icelandic friend from high school who introduced me to the campy magic of Björk, Silvía Nótt, and Eurovision; my 2018 trip to the Faeroes; the vague intelligibility of Scandinavian languages to a Dutch and German speaker; my college a cappella group covering Robyn’s “Show Me Love”; and the unforgettable bliss of an evening of löyly and plunges into the sub-zero Baltic Sea at the Kulttuurisauna in Helsinki.

The songs on this list span genres; they come from recording artists with long careers as pop vanguards, those reinventing themselves for new audiences, and total newcomers. About half are in the Scandinavian languages, others are part of artists’ bids, with varying degrees of credibility, for a piece of the larger market recording in English grants them access to.

A few nod to the sizeable African diaspora that is redefining what it means to be a Swede, Dane, or Norwegian, but Nordic is a slight misnomer, as the list is light on Icelandic, Finnish, Faeroese and Sámi representation. (A goal for 2022, perhaps.)

More than anything, though, the list testifies to the stellar reputation Scandinavian pop has built over many decades, is a love letter to my brain, and shows what we stand to gain by reframing our relationships to what algorithms serve us.

Happy listening and many happy returns for your 2022.


Songs listed by country of origin, then artist. My Spotify Top 100 is cross-referenced, with rankings in braces.



“24 Hours” 

“Here Comes The Night”

  • Needs no description; the EP that makes me hope beyond hope there’s more dancing in 2022.

Arvid Lundquist

“Låt det regna” (“Let It Rain”) {73}

  • “Sunday Candy”—but the reduced-sugar variety. (I’m a sucker for choirs as backing vocals, though.)

Benjamin Ingrosso

“Allt det vackra” (“All This Beauty”) {3} 


  • Ingrosso is…the Swedish Justin Bieber? Child star, more than half his output (all the English stuff, a good chunk of the Swedish music) is drivel, but every so often produces something golden. His EP, En gång i tiden, del 2 (Once Upon A Time, Part 2), is a lushly arranged love letter to 60s and 70s AM radio. The songs handle love, loss, loneliness and old age with a maturity entirely was absent on the EP’s first half. (It’s a shame the two halves share a name, given how tonally different they are.)

    Ingrosso, for all his privilege and polish and pedigree (his mother is a pop star, his cousin is part of Swedish House Mafia), seems deep down to just love making music—behind a mic, he is naturally charismatic and earnest. He delivered two of my favorite “live” performances this year on his TV show, in which he cooks pasta for and sings with famous musicians. (Ingrosso’s father owns a restaurant group). The first was a duet with Thomas Stenström on “Forever Young”—which Ingrosso confessed to Stenström was his favorite song—that left an onlooking Zara Larsson speechless.

    The second, “Det stora röda huset” (“The Big Red House”), is an ode to his grandparents’ home where he would summer as a boy. Ingrosso, accompanied by two bandmates, traveled to the house for the segment, singing to his grandfather and grandmother across the room. There were no dry eyes in the room by the final verse but, given circumstances in pre-vaccine Sweden, the three couldn’t physically embrace. The air-hug his grandmother offers him as the video closes could do anyone in.


“VHS” [w/ Benjamin Ingrosso”] {1}

  • All sultry alto lines. Yes, please!

Daniela Rathana

 “Satan i gatan” (“The Devil In The Street”) {7}

  • Rathana gives Rita-Ora-with-better-pipes vibes, in that she has star quality but seems to fly under the radar. But she goes off on the final chorus of this cover of a Veronica Maggio classic and injects unexpected urgency into the song..

Felicia Takman

“Lagom, vanlig, och lame” (“Average, ordinary, and lame”) {82}; 

“Rulla eftertexten” (“Roll Credits”)

  • Even to an outsider, Takman comes off as the most Scandinavian artist on the list; she seems content making her play to be the biggest fish in the small pond of Swedish pop. There’s a specific Swedish-ness to the frustrated young lover she portrays throughout her album Alla gör slut (Shutting Down): the anxiety of the conformity imposed by the Swedish virtue of striving to be lagom (think “just right,” in the Goldilocks sense) and the resolution to take a vit månad away from her lover (the Swedish expression for gone “dry” for a time). But she’s winking at the listener the whole way through, the lyrical content never superseding the fun.


“sommaren är min och jag kommer tillbaka” (“summer never ended and the damage was mine”) [w/ iamamiwhoami]

  • An experimental pop giant, though this is more melodic and feels closer to Lana than Björk. Collaborated with Röyksopp in their post-Robyn era. An interesting example of how artists approach the simultaneous release of a song in two languages.


“Badam Badam” {20}

  • A minor moment in layered-vocal chorus history.


“Hear Me Say” [w/ Jonas Blue] {25}


  • She’s primed for a Dave Audé remix in her future.


“Dance For The Hell Of It” {52}

  • This is on the soundtrack to last season of The Bold Type. Need I say more?

Miriam Bryant

“Mitt hjärta blöder” (“My Heart Bleeds”) {2}

“Passa dig” (“Watch Yourself”) 

  • This woman can SING. “Passa dig” is the type of indulgent power ballad meant to be screamed in the shower after a rough day. That general energy transfers well to the cover of “Mitt hjärta blöder.” (My friend Thomas made Miriam sing it for him before he did her eyebrows and he said he released a Trixie-level scream when she was done.)

Molly Sandén

“Nån annan nu” (“Someone Else Now”) {24}

“Noise Cancellation” {8}

  • Ms. Husavik herself had a year! She capitalized on her newfound name recognition not with a play for the international audience, but by treading new ground on the dark-pop path Tove Lo, MØ, and) Charli have cleared for her. Her album, DOM SKA VETA (They Should Know), is driven by the same drunk, self-sabotaging woman-who-should-know-better persona that animated the best pop album of the 2010s, Veronica Maggio’s Satan i gatan. Sandén, though, brings a vocal prowess Maggio doesn’t quite possess; that versatility will let her move in any of several directions from here.

Mona Masrour

“2 STEG” (“Two Steps”) {62}

Oscar Zia

“Ta på mig” (“Touch Me”) {4}

  • A Swedish Troye Sivan, down to the “Dance To This” callout in the bridge of this cute mid-tempo queer bop.

Sabina Ddumba

“Swishers” {12}

  • Plausible buyer for the singles CANDIACE or Kelly Rowland don’t bite on.

Sarah Klang


“Fever Dream”

  • Klang is a very compelling young songwriter. She gives of energy something akin to a combination Phoebe and Taylor’s from their Red duet.

Seinabo Sey

“Rom-Com” [w/ Hannes]

  • A neo-soul darling; could H.E.R. doing a good cover of this.


“Golden Retriever” {95}

Tove Stryke

“Mood Swings” {66}

“Start Walking”

  • Tove is putting Kim Petras (and the other Tove) on notice. Keep an eye out.

Veronica Maggio

“SE MIG” (“See Me”) {53}

“Varsomhelst/Närsomhelst” (“Anytime/Anywhere”)

  • The Holy Trinity of female Swedish pop would probably be Agnes, Robyn, and Veronica. Spotify released four covers to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Satan i gatan, and the songs still teem with life. Her new output feels like where it should be 10 years on from that moment—still that little bit dangerous, desperate, but less chaotic.



“Timezone” {92}

  • All the early 90s schmaltz of O’G3NE/Wilson Phillips in one person, thanks to the production. (No shade.)

Daði Freyr 

“10 Years” {35}

  • Eurovision’s lovable weirdo/loving father/doting husband returns! 8-bit self-portraits for everyone!



“BAD” [w/ Rat City] {17}

  • My shibboleth on meeting a new queer person: do you know who Dagny is?

Jesper Jenset

“Skyt Me I Hjertet” (“Shoot Me In The Heart”)

  • Wild title, admittedly. Sounds like River Cuomo, if he were a piano guy.


“være med deg” (“be with you”) [w/ Coucheron] {15}

“i natt” (“tonight”) [w/ Gabrielle] {83}

  • Ka2 sprinkles his electronic music solo releases with these joyful, poppy collaborations with small Norwegian artists. My favorite find of 2021.




“Harder” [w/ Niilas]

Misty Coast


  • Shades of Chutes Too Narrow: psychedelic and philosophical.



“Passager” (“Passenger”) {45}

  • Like that Ed Sheeran song you like as a guilty pleasure.

Alma Agger 

“Uundgåelig” (“Unavoidable”) 

  • Agger, like KLARA or LOVA, feels one world-class hook away from her moment in the sun. Also, this might be the only song in which every syllable of a Danish word is clearly pronounced.

andreas odbjerg

“i morgen er der også en dag” (“tomorrow’s a new day”)

Drew Sycamore

“45 Fahrenheit Girl” {29}

“Jungle” {5}

  • The world needs more gender-bending pop stars! Her eponymous album, Sycamore, is exceedingly catchy. Sounds like she would take the Caroline Polachek on a Danish version of “New Shapes.” Hoping she gets her flowers soon.


“What If”


“To Timer I Træk” (“Two Hours Straight”)

“Tur Retur” (“Round Trip”)

  • Late 90s/early 2000s U2, but half their age and Danish.


“Leave Me On The Floor” {54}


“Inde I Mig” (“Inside Me”)

“Når Du Går Herfra [Nattely]” (“When You Leave [For The Night]”)

  • Dido, but “Hunter” rather than “Thank You.”


 “Havernes Duft” (“The Smell Of The Garden”) {11}

  • The sort of spoken rock-rap that must be all over the place in an overwhelmingly white country. But Spotify doesn’t lie—clearly, I lived.

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