Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Eurotrash or Eurotreasure?" DJ Set 32 Available Next Week

I haven't been posting much to this blog, my site has been in a state of suspended animation, and my journalistic endeavors have been temporarily put on hold as I have been investing hundreds of hours into the creation of a three hour and forty minute long Euro-themed DJ set which will be made available to you next week. I "test drove" it last night in order to sort out various glitches and volume issues, and having just taken that epic ride I can promise you this: it will be worth the wait.

There's nothing like a little marketing to whet your appetite. Here is the (probably) finalized flyer.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Congrats to Slovakia!

One of the better football songs, from Katka Knechtová (who has sung some other pretty good stuff). Comes with requisite African tribal drums and chorus, which seem to play a role in 78% of World Cup songs (no vuvuzelas, though, I'm not sorry to report). ;-)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Best Music Video of the Week

Poland is figuring out their election results right now, but they have already won my approval for top video of the last week. :-)

Ostrava State of Mind

Why should New York City get all the attention? Why not Ostrava, the third-largest city in the Czech Republic?

UPDATE: 29 July 2010 - Well, another (probably stupid) copyright claim has kicked a video off of YouTube--and the timing of that booting is poor considering a newer Welsh parody has emerged that has begun to get press. Fortunately, you can still catch a glimpse of the Czech song here.

Swedish Royal Wedding

Yesterday, Princess Victoria of Sweden married her fitness instructor (i.e., one of the "small people"), Clark Kent, aka Daniel Westling, in a lavish ceremony.

There is an unfortunate tradition of insipid ballad-singing that accompanies wishing a couple well. As an an amateur ethnomusicologist, I submit these two Swedish examples.

Addendum (25 June 2010)-- Might as well add this, right?

...and this. Can you take any more?

Addendum (5 July 2010)-- The hits keep coming. My god, I'm ready to drive a nail right through my eardrums.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Estonia Hears a HU

This article was also picked up by the excellent Baltic Reports.

The music group HU? may be the finest Estonian invention since Skype. Their 2008 debut album Film aspired to be a classy underground effort, but far exceeded those expectations (wrote music critic Erik Morna of Film in Eesti Ekspress, "We've been waiting for this disc for over 20 years”). The album's songs were licensed to TV ads, its music was discussed by Estonia's leading politicians, and its lyrics won them both admirers and enemies (proof that they must be doing something right). The follow-up, HU2, has now arrived, and like its predecessor it is packed with shimmery synth hooks woven through a spectrum of musical styles that ably demonstrate the band's creativity, versatility, and unwavering sense of cool.

I exchanged email with the group's 23 year-old singer Hannaliisa Uusma—sociologist by day and rock goddess by night—to find out more about her life, the band whose name is plucked from her initials, and Estonian pop music in general. This is her first English-language interview.

EorE - Estonia looks set to join the eurozone in 2011. Are you ready to exchange your krooni for euros?

Hannaliisa Uusma - I am absolutely ready!

EorE - How were you "discovered"?

Hannaliisa Uusma - When I was 15 I was a member of an Estonian underground rap band called CSQ. There were four members: me and three boys from my neighbourhood. After that I performed with a rap group called Connected People (Ühendatud Inimesed) once in a while. Chalice—the head of this group—is a really honourable singer, poet, and producer. Chalices's first album came out in 2001. It was revolutionary and fresh, in contrast to the monotonous sounds which had generally characterised our pop scene in those days.

At one point, DJ Critical (producer and DJ in HU?) decided that the girl singing backing vocals to Chalice surely deserved her own chance! A bit later, Leslie da Bass (the author of HU?'s music and bass player) joined us. We worked terrifically together! We were full of inspiration and ideas, and we had the same vision about music.

EorE - So are you Hannaliisa Uusma, or are you HU?

Hannaliisa Uusma - Our band is called HU? True, this letter-combination comes from my initials, but it is the band's name. And jokingly, we can steal some of the spotlight from The Who! ;-)

EorE - Who are those people playing the instruments behind you?

Hannaliisa Uusma - Leslie Da Bass is a songwriter and bass player. DJ Critical (also known as "Bert on Beats") is a producer and DJ. Kristjan Oden plays the drums and Sigrid Mutso—who is actually a classical singer—is rocking on the keyboards. I am responsible for the vocals.

EorE - Who writes most of the material?

Hannaliisa Uusma - The main songwriter is Leslie. Film featured some other songwriters [also]. My good friend and old music mate Chalice was the author of two songs. And Sten Sheripov wrote the song "Linnasuwelaul". This song is definitely bright and full of sweet emotions. I believe it will live for many years in the hearts of the Estonian audience.

EorE - What is the songwriting process for HU?

Hannaliisa Uusma - Just three of us work together in the studio: Leslie, Critical, and me. Leslie writes all the lyrics and music at home. The next day we normally meet in Critical's studio. Leslie hums something. I catch it and let it through my brain, heart, body and soul. If it fits me, I add my own ideas and colours. Then it's Critical's turn. [The rest of us] go home, but he has to stay in the studio and work hard with recordings and beats!

EorE - How would you describe Estonia's music scene, and how do you fit into it?

Hannaliisa Uusma - Our success shows that we are fitting. Our pop scene was very unfashionable for a long time. Really "juicy" music was only in the underground. Critics have said that HU? spiced-up the Estonian mainstream pop scene with a fashionable sound. Many people have said that this was the key to our success. People were thirsty for modern sounds.

The last two years have been a time of change in our pop music and club culture. Suddenly, we are surrounded by more and more world-class local pop music. For example, bands like Vaiko Eplik & Eliit, Malcolm Lincoln, Pop Idiot, and Mimicry. The paradigms and generations have changed. And god damn, I'm really happy about it!

EorE - Who are Heini Vaikmaa and Kare Kauks, who are credited as guests on your new album?

Hannaliisa Uusma - They are the very best part of our old school pop music scene. Their creations have inspired and influenced our music a lot. Now we have had a great opportunity to make music together on our newest record. This is a great pleasure and honour!

EorE - Were the 1980s a major influence on your sound?

Hannaliisa Uusma - The 80s have definitely influenced our music. [80s music] was around me in my most formative years. It is strongly and maybe even unconsciously deep in my brain.

On our second record we have many nuances which also reflect the 90s. I think the next volcano in the world's pop music is the sound of the 90s. There was a lot of awful 90s pop, but also many extremely bright nuances. It is important to try to transform those good sides into modern pop-music.

EorE - Are you full-time HU'ers?

Hannaliisa Uusma - Most of us are working in different fields ["day jobs"]. I am a sociologist. Leslie is the owner of an advertising company. Kristjan is a designer also. After the working day, music is a brilliant opportunity to put the performing suit on and to rock out, to find inspiration, and to be passionate. It's like a creative orgasm. :-)

EorE - What songs do you most look forward to performing live in the coming days?

Hannaliisa Uusma - In performance, my favorites are "Riia Tallinn Vilnius", "Varas", "Tähed", "Sa meeldid mulle" , "Nõiaring" and "Kosmos". The last three are from our first record.

EorE - "Miks ainult mõni asi on nii hea?"—I love this song. What does the title mean?

Hannaliisa Uusma - It means: "Why Are Only Some Things So Good"? I also like it. It features Kare Kauks.

EorE - I presume I am missing out on a lot by not understanding the lyrics. :-/

Hannaliisa Uusma - Lyrics are the really important part of our music. This is the reason why we are at the same time so loved and so hated. People have written protest letters about us. But at the same time our albums are the most wanted and most sold in Estonia. Politicians have quoted us. The President of Estonia has said good words about our music. With Film we won most of the prizes in the Estonian Music Awards. Our concerts are sold out. We have been in the top of the local charts with both of our albums.

Our new record is still quite recent and I don't yet know how the audience is going to react. But the reviews have been very approving.

EorE - "Protest letters?" What sorts of controversies did you stir-up?

Hannaliisa Uusma - We have one song from Film called "Depressiivsed Eesti väikelinnad" ("Depressive Estonian Towns"). It was a very sensational song. Suddenly, we heard that a local association of small towns had written a public protest letter against us. Briefly, their statement was that our lyrics about these little towns were an overreaction and that the towns are not so depressive as we had said. There followed a long public and even political discussion in the media about social life in local small towns. It is still continuing.

EorE - I love that you sing in Estonian. Has this been a subject of discussion within the group, though? Can an Estonian musician do all right marketing oneself to the 1.3 million living in one's own country?

Hannaliisa Uusma - Well, a major part of our songs are in Estonian. But "backstage" we also have some interesting new stuff in English.

EorE - Do you perform outside of Estonia?

Hannaliisa Uusma - We have had some offers. Let's see how things go!

On the Web:

HU?'s Facebook page
Mindnote, HU?'s record label
Mindnote's YouTube Page

HU? tracks on YouTube:

"Miks ainult mõni asi on nii hea?"
"Depressiivsed Eesti väikelinnad"
"Sa meeldid mulle"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Slovenia vs. Croatia at the World Cup

Croatia failed to qualify for the World Cup. Their neighbors (and former Yugoslavian brothers) to the north, Slovenia, unexpectedly did. This Slovenian flag from the World Cup in South Africa reads, "Greetings to Zagreb." Thanks to Urška, who found it here.

Slovenia must beat the USA on Friday in order to have a shot at advancing beyond Group C. It seems reasonable to assume that England will win its next two (Algeria, Slovenia) and that Algeria will lose its next two (to England and the USA). Under those scenarios, a tie score on Friday between Slovenia and the USA will not be enough to allow the plucky little upstart to advance.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Football Has Arrived in America

At last, the World Cup is huge in the USA. Eight years ago, at the Brewhouse Cafe in Atlanta (perhaps the premier soccer-watching venue in this city), only a small and devoted group of nerds showed up to watch the finals (I among them). Today the place was a madhouse. Standing room-only, packed like sardines, sweating so much in the rowdy crowd that MY FINGERS PRUNED as we cheered ourselves hoarse to England vs. USA. Spectrum of race and gender represented, hundreds on the premises--maybe a thousand--all screaming themselves silly when Robert Green made an error for the ages.

Deafening chants of "The queen is a slut" and "Fuck BP" induced tears of joy as I realized that America had finally produced its first real football hooligans. Thrown ice cubes and splashes of ice water delivered by whirling towels and cupped hands were greeted by all with pleasure as each drop of water seemed to lower our soaring body temperatures by 10 degrees in the sweltering tent.

Brewhouse was not ready for the massive crowd; some serving areas ran out of beer half an hour before the match, lines were immobile. So a friend and I bought a six pack across the street and smuggled it in easily. Brewhouse made no money from us, or probably many other patrons today. Tip to Brewhouse: lots of cans, quick and easy to dispense (ditch the pours), no broken glass.

I never had imagined that in my own lifetime I would witness the explosion of football in the states. Absolutely amazing.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

10 Days with Europe's Top 10 Pop Music Scenes. #1.

Number 1: Estonia. 14.17% GREEN (14.17% of that country's charting songs earned top marks on my spreadsheet)

Yoda once said, "Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For we shall soon establish that my size has little bearing on my abilities. For the size of one—" and on and on he droned. But he had a point. Estonia, a nation of 1.3 million, tops my list.1

Estonia borders Russia by land, but Finland is just a short hop across the Baltic. Estonia caters to a small Russian music scene, but it is clear that on a cultural level Estonians relate most to their Scandinavian neighbors (by contrast, Latvia and Lithuania feature far more Russian product on their charts and Russian attitude in their own songs).

Sometimes Estonia and Finland seem to be participating in a music-exchange program. Estonia's Y2K-era Eurodance hitmaker Caater partnered a lot with Finland's K-System, and in 2006 Finnish metal legends Nightwish chose to unveil their new singer at a secret gig in Tallinn.

But Estonia's artists are pursuing their own weird and wonderful agenda. They remind me a bit of the quirky introverts in Iceland's music scene. However, the Estonians seem to be having more fun.

Throughout Europe you see too many MCs who continue to party like it's 1999, bland rock bands rewriting the same old tunes, beautiful young women warbling torturous confessional ballads, and how many leggy girl groups does the world need, anyway?

Estonia, by contrast, keeps looking ahead (their leggy girl group, Vanilla Ninja, threw in the towel years ago), and they tackle things with a spry spirit of inventiveness. They are fond of electronic sounds, and so am I, hence my chart bias. Consider one of my favorite songs, the HU?'s "Sa meeldid mulle," which, in addition to exhibiting the verse/chorus/verse appeal of a catchy pop song, might also be the most beautiful drum & bass tune I have ever heard.

Their music scene's independent streak befits a country that, in going its own way, has become the clear economic leader of the Baltic region (they will adopt the euro in 2011). Estonian software developers gave us Skype. Estonia's March 2007 parliamentary elections "were the first in the world to include voting via the Internet."2 3 Estonia is also "the least religious country in the world" which, from my atheistic perspective, is also appealing.

So it's time you hugged an Estonian—if you are fortunate enough to find one.

The following list includes an Estonian Idol winner warbling something more appropriate for a NYC art band, a Eurovision song contest entry that sounds like something cooked-up by Brian Eno, and two groups featuring hot chicks and violins. Heck, I even tossed in a song from a former Vanilla Ninja-er.

Birgit Õigemeel - Moonduja
Glow - Kui möödud sa (Feat Kelly)
HU? & Kare Kauks - Miks mõni asi on nii hea
Laura feat Tafenau - Lihtsad asjad
Lenna Kuurmaa - Rapunzel
Malcolm Lincoln - Siren
Mimicry - Right Back Home
Urban Symphony - Päikese poole
Vaiko Eplik & Eliit - Kosmoseodüsseia
Violina - Sellel ööl (feat Lenna Kuurmaa)

1 A future essay will examine the relationship between size of population and the quality of a country's pop music scene.

2 Nations in Transit (2008 Edition). Freedom House. p.221

3 Newsweek's Steven Levy, in a Washington Post piece called "Pay Per Gig" published 30 January 2008, wrote that "in terms of penetration, we are in 24th place -- behind Estonia -- in the international broadband competition." I really hate that sort of writing. It attempts to shock the reader into saying, "We're behind ESTONIA!??!" when the reader 1) probably knows nothing about Estonia and 2) if he or she did, would realize that it is quite reasonable for that country to have a decent level of broadband saturation. The real point, of course, is that the USA is in 24th place--but why piss on Estonia to drive that home? Perhaps this is why Newsweek's fortunes have fallen so far in 2010. See also Michael Moore's condescending treatment of Slovenia in the movie Sicko, where he announced with comparable dumb incredulousness that the USA was "just slightly ahead of Slovenia" in terms of the quality of its health care.

The rest of the best:

#2: Finland
#3: Croatia
#4: Slovakia
#5: Bulgaria
#6: Sweden
#7: Lithuania
#8: Ukraine
#9: Slovenia
#10: The Netherlands

Monday, June 7, 2010

10 Days with Europe's Top 10 Pop Music Scenes. #2.

Number 2: Finland. 12.24% GREEN (12.24% of that country's charting songs earned top marks on my spreadsheet)

The Finns are famous for their metal music scene, which garnered Euro-wide attention when Lordi became the least-likely band in Eurovision history ever to win the contest. The Finnish metal scene supports several subgenres, including Viking metal and folk metal. Nightwish are one of the most popular metal bands in Europe, although their diction is sometimes a bit off.

The Finns also appreciate the sort of Eurodum-dum-dance music I like, not to mention straight-up rock 'n' roll.

Some tracks from the last couple of years:

Aste - Poikkeus Sääntöön
Dacia - Liikaa Sulta Odotin (Dance Mix)
Deck Jagger - Gay Clubs Are Better
Jenni Vartiainen - En Haluu Kuolla Tänä Yönä
Stratovarius - Deep Unknown
Turmion Kätilöt - Verkko Heiluu
Uniklubi - Kukka
Waldo's People - Lose Control

The list so far:

#3: Croatia
#4: Slovakia
#5: Bulgaria
#6: Sweden
#7: Lithuania
#8: Ukraine
#9: Slovenia
#10: The Netherlands

Thursday, June 3, 2010

10 Days with Europe's Top 10 Pop Music Scenes. #3.

Number 3: Croatia. 11.11% GREEN (11.11% of that country's charting songs earned top marks on my spreadsheet)

The majority of my three months in Europe earlier this year was spent in Croatia. You've got your beautiful girls, friendly people, and myriad places to enjoy a beer (I recommend paying the relatively steep admission fee in order to enjoy one or three atop Dubrovnik's ancient walls overlooking the Adriatic). I posted several blog entries about my Croatian experiences a couple months back, but for those in need of immediate direction I will emphasize this link to a description of my favorite night out in Zagreb.

Croatia is blessed with plenty of coastline, which is something of a sore point to some of the neighboring countries. "The Mediterranean as it once was," goes the brilliantly accurate (and thus oft-cited) tourist bureau quote. Indeed, it is hard to find reminders of the war-ravaged Croatia "as it once was" only a decade ago. If you wish to wade into that, I highly recommend Slavenka Drakulić's affecting The Balkan Express, a used copy of which you can track down for literally pennies on

Nobody's music better romanticizes the appeal of coastal Croatian living in the former Yugoslavia days than Oliver Dragojević's. Track down a greatest hits collection from this guy.

Oliver made a name for himself at the Split Song Festival (many of his 70s records allude to the festival, usually with the word SPLIT followed by the year the song was performed there). That festival continues to this day, and focuses on Croatian talent (a bit like Italy's San Remo festival). For the more internationally-minded, there is the Soundwave Festival, which was enthusiastically mentioned to me by more than a few Croatians. This July's Soundwave event is already sold out.

Because of the small populations of the former Yugoslav republics and their close proximity to one another, big-name artists don't see much point in touring the entirety of the Balkans, so they often just play Zagreb.

Croatia's music scene is wonderful, but before any of you Croatians out there get too big-headed, let me remind you that not long ago you were doing things like this. ;-)

Some tracks from the last couple of years:

Bijelo dugme - Hajdemo u planine (Karma Remix)
Dus and Kristijan Beluhan - Kao Nekad
Elemental - Nema Ga
Gibonni - Žeđam
Hari and Nina - Ne Mogu Ti Reći Što Je Tuga
Putokazi - Dvojnica
And as a bonus, I recorded some live, more traditional music in Zagreb back in March for your listening pleasure

The rest of the countdown so far:

#4: Slovakia
#5: Bulgaria
#6: Sweden
#7: Lithuania
#8: Ukraine
#9: Slovenia
#10: The Netherlands

10 Days with Europe's Top 10 Pop Music Scenes. #4.

Are you beginning to see a pattern? I promise to reveal all in a future analysis of just how things wound up the way they did. For now, we continue our countdown.

Number 4: Slovakia. 9.93% GREEN (9.93% of that country's charting songs earned top marks on my spreadsheet)

Despite having been conjoined as "Czechoslovakia" for most of the 20th century, the now-separated Czech Republic and Slovakia cannot be culturally lumped together. A fair number of Czech and Slovak musicians surface on both country's pop charts, but most artists from those countries are more likely to appear on only one chart or the other. Last night I reviewed the last five weeks of both countries' top 100 charts and found that they had only 28% of their songs in common with one another during that period.

Both countries' local music scenes are characterized by a more laid-back, Central European sound, which is to say a greater emphasis on rock and jazz influences--very little in the way of ostentation or flash. One might say that the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia are more inclined to "play it safe" with their pop; I'd say they exhibit class, subtlety, and tasteful restraint. (Of course, as with all music scenes, rowdier exceptions pop up from time to time to liven up the proceedings.)

It's when you also consider the international artists appearing on their pop charts that Slovakia winds up with a definite edge, charts-wise, over its neighbors. I fiddled with music chart spreadsheets in an effort to determine the reasons for Slovakia's superiority over the Czech Republic, and I even examined both countries' demographics seeking clues (perhaps the higher level of "fun" on Slovakia's charts is a reflection of Slovakia's lower average age and higher birth rate?), but I couldn't make any convincing correlations. It seems the Slovakian pop chart is just more enjoyable for me on some subjective level that cannot be quantified. However, I did uncover one demerit for the Czech Republic.*

Some tracks from the last couple of years, plus a bonus 2006 number from Dara Rolins, since it's one of my favorite trash tunes:

Dara Rolins and Robo Papp - Chuť si ťa nájde
Knechtová Katka - Môj Bože
Kristína - Horehronie
PapaJaM - Nemusíš Sa Bá
Zdenka Predná - Kam Má Ísť?

* "In the summer of 2008, the Czech Radio Board terminated Radio Wave, which had catered to a younger audience. Council members’ arguments against the station—based partly on an incorrect translation of one supposedly corruptive song—indicated an overall lack of tolerance for alternative music and lifestyles." (from pages 191-192 of the 2009 edition of Nations in Transit, Freedom House's annual review of levels of freedom in Eastern European and Eurasian countries). The "supposedly corruptive song" was alleged by the Council to be fascist propaganda. It was Scottish rock band Primal Scream's "Swastika Eyes," which, despite the exciting title, is certainly not a fascist song. However, it may be dangerously groovy.

The rest of the countdown so far:

#5: Bulgaria
#6: Sweden
#7: Lithuania
#8: Ukraine
#9: Slovenia
#10: The Netherlands

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

10 Days with Europe's Top 10 Pop Music Scenes. #5.

Number 5: Bulgaria. 9.56% GREEN (9.56% of that country's charting songs earned top marks on my spreadsheet)

If this ranking system were based upon each country's pop contributions to the rest of the world, yesterday's number 6, Sweden, would have been Number 1. But that's not how I'm doing things. Instead, I am looking at the entertainment value provided by various countries' pop charts as a whole, and only from the last couple years, based on how the numbers came out on my spreadsheet of 9000 songs. By those measures, Bulgaria and four other countries outrank Sweden.

Not that the Bulgarian music scene needs apologizing for. It's a lively and varied thing, unabashedly fun and astonishingly varied. The rich diversity of sound may be a byproduct of Bulgaria's geography; it lies at perhaps the greatest crossroads of Europe, bordering such varied countries as Turkey, Romania, Serbia, FYR Macedonia, and Greece. All these cultures are reflected in their music.

Bulgaria's artists are willing and able to tackle anything from rap to breakbeats, and their chalga music is one of the catchier forms of the too-maligned turbo-folk offshoots in the Balkans. (Perhaps chalga benefits from direct contact with the neighboring Turkish music scene. It also packs a lot more percussive oomph than, say, Romania's manele scene to the north.) Sometimes Bulgarian artists mash the ethnic and dancefloor elements together with great finesse, as this--maybe the coolest Eurovision song of all time--demonstrates.*

Like the neighboring Romanians, Bulgarians have an appreciation for catchy dancefloor tracks, but whereas Romania has fallen in love with its own style of icy, minimal techno-pop (and lately has put a few too many eggs in that one basket), the Bulgarians seem to be better-rounded music appreciators.

In addition to their own country's music, the Bulgarian music charts also introduced me to such diverse non-Bulgarian fare as Alexandra Burke's "All Night Long (Cahill Edit)" and Kasabian's "Fire." Even a popular South Korean pop star called BoA landed on the Bulgarian chart recently. And despite the usual homophobia one unfortunately comes to expect in Southeastern Europe, the Bulgarian people are not afraid to court a little controversy on their music charts.

Some tracks from the last couple of years:

Deep Zone Project - DJ Take Me Away
Kamelia - Useshtam te oshte
Mastilo - Dumite
Miro and Krum - V Edno Ogledalo (Salma Ya Salama)
Upsurt - Doping Test
Ustata and Sofi Marinova - Bate Shefe

* They came in 5th.

The rest of the countdown so far:

#6: Sweden
#7: Lithuania
#8: Ukraine
#9: Slovenia
#10: The Netherlands

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

10 Days with Europe's Top 10 Pop Music Scenes. #6.

Number 6: Sweden. 9.19% GREEN (9.19% of that country's charting songs earned top marks on my spreadsheet)

A Swede once told me that Sweden, more than any tropical destination, was the land of sun-worshippers, because after the long, dark winter nobody appreciates the return of the sun more. Perhaps that explains Sweden's love for sunny pop (and the frequent use of reggae beats in their pop tunes).

Every Swedish pop group stands in the long shadow of ABBA, but Eurovision's only truly successful band is far from the only well-known Swedish export. Consider Ace of Base and Roxette (which, despite short careers in the U.S., have sustained a loyal following in Europe) and, to a lesser extent (time will tell), Alcazar and Robyn. But that's just looking at the surface. Behind-the-scenes, Stockholm producer/songwriter Max Martin may become as huge a cultural influence as ABBA, having written an astonishingly large number of top 40 hit songs for many American artists.

There seems to be some sort of partnership between the Swedish recording industry and Disney (perhaps distantly related to Max Martin's early work with former Mouseketeer Britney Spears), judging from the appearance of Swedish pop groups on Disney soundtracks (including Play [which have recently regrouped] and The Merrymakers), and the propensity for Disney stars to rework Swedish tunes (such as Hilary Duff, who offered a craven, G-rated take on Swedish singer Sahlene's delightfully raunchy "The Little Voice"*). In other marketing tie-ins, most of us Americans are familiar with Teddybears' "Different Sound" thanks to its effective use in an Intel advertisement which, judging from this, had some pop cultural traction.

I wish I could describe each of the dozens of great Europop artists of Sweden's recent past, but that would be an especially exhausting exercise. Suffice it to say, whether tackling pop dance, rap, rock, heavy metal, or even jazz, Sweden's music artists are always ready to unleash The Big Hook. OK, there have been some misfires as well, but still...

Here are a large number of good/interesting Swedish songs from the last couple of years:

Adiam Dymott - Miss You
Aextra - Himmu and Höll
Agnes [Carlsson] - On And On
Alcazar - Stay the Night
Jazzattacks - Bootleg
Mange Schmidt - Ledig
Maskinen - Dansa med vapen (feat. Marina Gasolina)
Melody Club - The Only Ones
P-Bros feat DJ Trexx and Olga Pratilova- Tingaliin
Sabaton - Cliffs Of Gallipoli
Salem - Astronaut
The Sounds - No One Sleeps When I'm Awake
Veronica Maggio - Måndagsbarn

* "The Little Voice" was written by Patrik Berger, a Swede, and Kara DioGuardi, an American who is now best known as an "American Idol" judge.

The rest of the countdown so far:

#7: Lithuania
#8: Ukraine
#9: Slovenia
#10: The Netherlands