Results for Sweden
Swedish artist Seinabo Sey may be a bit of an old soul, but her music is breaking new ground. This week, Greg and Jim chat with pop/neo soul singer Seinabo Sey, who just released her debut album Pretend. Sey was raised in Sweden, born to a Swedish mother and a Gambian father (musician Maudo Sey), but growing up, she idolized American pop & R&B stars like Beyoncé, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and Alicia Keys, which is evident in her sound.
A few years ago, she teamed up with Magnus Lidehäll, an accomplished producer who has worked with Katy Perry, David Guetta, Avicii and more. The result really lets Sey's authetic voice shine through.Go to episode 545
Science Friday host Ira Flatow joins Jim and Greg this week to talk about the meeting of science and music.
First, Jim and Greg ask Ira for his thoughts on a story from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Scientists there took pairs of identical and fraternal twins and tested their musical ability against the time spent practicing. Surprisingly, they found that practice doesn't necessarily make perfect. In other words, your ability to play music is based more on your genetic makeup than your hard work spent rehearsing.
Next, our hosts discussed whether or not teenagers should replace A&R staff at the record labels. According to Dr. Gregory Berns at Emory University, teenagers put into an fMRI machine were able to predict whether an unknown song would be a hit, based on the recorded neural responses to the songs being played.
Music scholars will appreciate the next study, which was published in Scientific American. Specific musical intervals such as the tritone and the perfect fifth influence the organizing behavior of people exposed to those different intervals. People listening to the perfect fifth intervals were able to categorize items in a list better than people who listened to tritone intervals. This may correlate to the idea that a distracted mind is actually one that is better able to concentrate.
Ira brings up a Science Friday interview with Charles Limb, a professor of head and neck Surgery. He found that Jazz musicians who played music while in a fMRI machine had language centers light up in the brain. This suggests jazz musicians may have an unspoken language they communicate through their music.
Ira also mentions a Current Biology study that found that there are some people who just don't like music. They have a condition called "Specific Musical Anhedonia." Hopefully Sound Opinions hasn't transferred this condition to any of you listening.Go to episode 466
Elisabeth Vincentelli on ABBA
Forty years ago this month, Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, and Agnetha Fältskog took the stage at Eurovision 1974, decked out in platform shoes and sequined suits, to perform a new song called "Waterloo." ABBA would become the first Swedish act to win the song contest. And while Eurovision winners rarely stay relevant, ABBA proved a huge exception, cranking out hit after hit in the 1970s before disbanding in 1983. But their legacy is complicated, explains Elisabeth Vincentelli. By day, she's the chief drama critic for the New York Post. But by night she's an ABBA superfan who wrote a 33 1/3 book on ABBA Gold, the group's definitive best-of collection (and one of the top-selling albums in European history).
As Elisabeth reveals to Jim and Greg, there's way more to this band than just "Dancing Queen." Both Agnetha and Frida were well-known performers in Sweden before they married Benny and Björn and started ABBA (Agnetha was also an accomplisehd songwriter). Unfortunately, the two couples struggled to maintain their relationships in the limelight, leading to a downward spiral that Elisabeth likens to Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac (with less tabloid coverage). Things finally fell apart in the early '80s. But a decade later, ABBA saw a strange resurgence among punk and gay subcultures, then among mainstream crowds, thanks to the Australian dramedy Muriel's Wedding and Broadway smash Mamma Mia!. The four members have all found success on their own, but Elisabeth has a bold prediction to make… Could an ABBA reunion could be in the works?Go to episode 438
Robyn Body Talk Pt 1
Swedish pop artist Robyn has been making music since she was a teenager. You might think of her as Sweden's answer to Britney Spears. But, she has since gone indie and edgy and began releasing a three part series called Body Talk last year. Part 2 feels like a full album to Jim. He loves her maturity and experimentation, noting that Robyn has even managed to make Snoop Dogg sound original. He gives it a Buy It rating. Greg agrees, and prompts Katy Perryto pay attention: This is how you make smart pop music. He doesn't hear anything as catchy as Body Talk Pt 1's "Dancing on My Own," but also gives the 2nd round a Buy It.
Jim and Greg kick off the show by announcing the winner of the annual Eurovision Song Contest, which Jim describes as American Idol on steroids. Over 125 million people watched Sweden's Loreen take the prize in Baku, Azerbaijan for her track "Euphoria." But it was the Russian Grannies from Buranovo who won people's hearts with their unique party song.
American Idol continues to dominate the pop world, all while it slips a little bit in the television one. Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert has the #1 album this week beating out fellow Idol alum Carrie Underwood. But, this comes after the show aired its lowest rated finale to date. Greg wonders if viewers were underwhelmed by the crowning of another“white guy with a guitar.”Or, are there just too many music contests like The Voice and Duets crowding the airwaves? Does this over-saturation mean that Idol will never produce another Lambert, Underwood, Clarkson or Daughtry? Perhaps. And maybe you say, "Good riddance."
Also in the news, Amanda Palmer just reached a huge milestone in the era of the fan-funded album. Using Kickstarter, the Dresden Dolls singer raised over $1 million for her new album - ten times what she wanted. In return for these donations, Palmer will have to do everything from provide digital downloads to participate in an art sitting. And of course, she'll have to pony up to Uncle Sam as well.Go to episode 340
After making fans wait two decades, Pink Floyd has announced it will be releasing an album of new (mostly instrumental) material in November. The Endless River will be a tribute to Rick Wright, the band's keyboardist who died in 2008, and will be primarly made up of music that Wright, guitarist David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason put together during a session in 1993, leading to the last studio album, 1994's The Division Bell. One name you won't hear uttered…Roger Waters, who departed in the 1980's.
While digital music is taking the rest of the world by storm, CD's are…big in Japan. In fact, digital sales are plummeting in the Asian nation. We discussed this curiosity during our Japanese World Tour last year. And now the New York Times is diving further into this music industry head-scratcher. To be sure, CD sales are are falling worldwide, including in Japan. But they still account for 85% of sales in the country, compared with as little as 20% in fellow World Tour stop Sweden. Jim and Greg discuss the reasons for this including a Japanese desire to“own stuff,”and stalled efforts to bring streaming services there. they still account for about 85 percent of sales here, compared with as little as 20 percent in some countries, like Sweden, where online streaming is dominant.
Having had a tumultuous year, Ukraine has decided not to participate in next year's Eurovision contest. The Eastern European nation came in 6th at the 2014 songwriting competition, which is not too shabby, Greg notes. But the state broadcaster NTU, which finances the entry, said they don't have enough money to do something well.Go to episode 461
Attention American music fans: Spotify has landed. The“freemium”music-streaming service, launched in Sweden in 2008, already dominates music streaming overseas. Not only does it claim 10 million (until now, mostly European) users, but of that ten, a significant 1.6 million are paying subscribers. So why did it take so long for Spotify to cross the pond? For years the service has been negotiating with the big four American record labels to overcome licensing hurdles, leaving the American field open to rival services like Rdio, MOG, and Rhapsody. Greg wonders: Will Spotify - with its vaunted 15 million track catalogue, free music, and free-ish subscription plans - be able to compete with these already entrenched services?
It's not often that a major artist goes out of his way to urge fans NOT to buy his music, but that's exactly what Nine Inch Nail's Trent Reznor did last week, telling his approximately 930,000 Twitter followers to“ignore”a reissue of 1989's Pretty Hate Machine.“A record label bulls—t move repackaging the old version”Reznor tweeted.“Ignore please.”Reissues, Jim notes, are rarely the decision of the artists, who sign away rights to reissue material when they enter recording contracts. But as Greg observes, labels have something to lose too: this is exactly the kind of rip-off that earns them fans' ill will.
Jim and Greg close out the news with two short items: Ja Rule was sentenced this week to 28 months in prison for failing to pay 1.1 million dollars in taxes. It's yet another blow for a star who hasn't been“living it up”since he started serving two years for criminal weapons possession last month. The New Jersey judge ruled that Ja Rule could serve the terms concurrently. And while we're on the subject of downward slides, Border's Books and Music just hit rock bottom. One of the few remaining large music retailers (anyone remember Tower?), Borders announced Monday that it would close its doors for good.Go to episode 295
Jim and Greg have always insisted that rock ‘n’ roll belongs to the world. In our new series, the Sound Opinions World Tour, they prove it by zeroing in on countries that've made big contributions to global rock and pop. Their first stop is the largest exporter of music per capita in the world: Sweden. Swedish DJ and public radio host Stefan Wermelin is our guide through the country's musical history. Stefan explains that in the '50s and '60s, Sweden was a pop music backwater. Musicians churned out cut-rate covers of American and English hits. The '60s hippie“Progg”movement injected some originality and artistic ambition into Swedish music, but things didn't really change until ABBA hit it big with "Waterloo." According to Stefan, ABBA set the template for Swedish success. The band created big hits by co-opting the best bits of global pop music and stitching them together with meticulous production. That tradition of pastiche continues today with Swedish producers like Max Martin, the man behind a hundred-and-one Billboard Top Ten hits (Britney Spears' "…Baby One More Time" and Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" among them). But today, Sweden's also experiencing an indie renaissance in genres as varied as death metal, dance music, and Americana. Decades after ABBA, artists like The Knife, Lykke Li, Robyn, Opeth, and First Aid Kit are staging a second Swedish invasion.Go to episode 379
Fresh from stops in Japan andSweden, the Sound Opinions World Tour continues south of the border. Public radio's "The Latin Alternative" co-host Josh Norek is our guide to Mexico's music scene. As Vice President of the Latin alternative music label Nacional Records, Norek's had a chance to work with many of Mexico's pioneering rock acts, from Saul Hernandez's Jaguares, to pop-rock arena act Mana. He's seen the audience for Mexican music in the U.S. grow (as second and third generation Mexican-Americans get in touch with their musical roots), and he's seen it get more experimental. Norek argues that Mexico's musical renaissance really kicked into gear with Café Tacvba in the nineties. Tacvba fused genres like ska, metal, and punk with traditional Mexican regional music. Cafe Tacvba sounded Mexican and were proud of it. More recently, DJ outfits like Nortec Collective and Mexican Institute of Sound have adapted the same approach to techno, merging beats and norte~no samples, for example. Norek says Mexico's music scene continues to develop in spite of formidable challenges; drug-related violence has forced artists in cities like Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Tijuana to relocate to Mexico City and L.A.
Jim and Greg round out their Mexican tour stop with a call-in to Sesiones TV host and music journalist Alejandro Franco in Mexico City. Their mission? To find out what Mexican music fans are listening to right now. Franco says that while rockers Zoe are topping the charts, it's Carla Morrisson and Juan Cirerol who are packing Mexico City's hipster clubs. And check out our Mexico playlist on Spotify.
Here are the Mexican artists featured in this episode
- Café Tacvba
- Maldita Vecindad
- Nortec Collective
- El Gran Silencio
- Control Machete
- Mexican Institute of Sound
- Carla Morrison
- Juan Cirerol
After stops in countries like South Africa, Japan, and Sweden, the Sound Opinions World Tour is trekking on. Jim and Greg hop over to Cuba, inspired by the historic changes in U.S.-Cuban relations announced recently by President Obama. Their guide to Cuba's influential rhythms is Ned Sublette, author of Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. Ned tells us that Cuba has been alive with music ever since the sixteenth century. Drawing upon its unique ethnic history, Cuba developed a polyrhythmic style quite different from what emerged in North America. Innovative artists like Arsenio Rodríguez brought Cuban dance music into maturity during World War II. The unshakeable rhythms of the mambo, rumba, and cha-cha-chá filtered into the United States, particularly in the world of jazz – Dizzy Gillespie's collaborations with Chano Pozo changed music forever. Rock ‘n’ roll and the blues also adopted Afro-Cuban flavors. Even after Cuba's isolation following the 1959 revolution, the music never stopped, according to Ned. Nueva trova, for example, a movement led by singer-songwriters like Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés, began to fuse revolutionary politics and idealism with traditional song forms. Cuban rhythms also provided the basis for the global salsa phenomenon of the '70s. Today music in Cuba thrives in both traditional genres and in modern ones like reggaeton. Though he's not personally a fan of the hit 1997 Buena Vista Social Club album, Ned was happy to see North Americans reengage with Cuban artists. With the political changes underway, he expects to see an even more exciting cultural exchange between Cuban musicians and the rest of the world.Go to episode 482