Sunday, 7 July 2013

Spotlight: Brazilian pop-rock singer Cléo!

Best known globally for having the most legendary football team in the world, amongst other things, Brazil is not particularly known for its pop music. In recent years novelty hits Ai Se Eu Ti Pego! and Balada (Tchê Tcherere Tchê Tchê) by Brazilian artists Michel Teló and Gusttavo Lima have become huge global smash hits but London based Brazilian female singer Cléo's music is a world away from those. With her red hair, infectious bubbly personality and great pop voice she makes an instant impression. 

Cléo has just released her first EP, The Unlucky Girl EP which you can buy here. It includes five fantastic pop songs - Unlucky Girl, GRU, Drive, Just Me and In Your Arms. The former is the lead single and is an excellent contemporary pop anthem with a catchy chorus and infectious marching percussion. A promising sign of things to come for this exciting talent, GRU and Drive are slightly rockier songs where Cléo shows off her impressive vocal range, belting out some fantastic notes! Just Me and In Your Arms meanwhile are snappier pop-rock songs. An excellent debut EP, fans of Kelly Clarkson, The Veronicas, Vanessa Amorosi and other confident rock influenced female pop singers will absolutely love Cléo and with some London gigs already under her belt, her career looks to go from strength to strength over the coming months. Watch Unlucky Girl below!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Sweden: Pop powerhouse punching above their weight?

Icona Pop & Charli XCX's I Love It, a #2 hit in Sweden last summer that has been slowly but surely conquering the globe ever since, has gone to the top of the charts in the UK this week, in fact the first major territory where it has gone all the way. Joining it on the current Radio 1 a-list are Avicii's Wake Me Up and Reload by Sebastian Ingrosso. Only British acts are more represented than Swedes on the a-list of the UK's biggest radio station. It all begs the question, how on earth did Sweden become such a heavyweight on the world music scene? There have been 25 UK number ones hailing from Scandinavia, and of these an incredible 80% of those were from Sweden. Those were just the ones fronted by Swedish acts, it doesn't include the many number one hits written or produced by the likes of Max Martin, Dr Luke, Jörgen Elofsson, RedOne and numerous other talented Swedes. 

So how did Sweden come to the forefront of the global pop movement, rivalling and sometimes even bettering the UK and the US at their own game? Perhaps it lies in the Swedish public's continuing love of pure pop music. The Eurovision Song Contest and it's preceding national final Melodifestivalen are more or less the most watched TV shows in the country every year, with up to half of the population tuning in. The Swedes of course hosted a fantastic Eurovision themselves two months ago after Loreen won with the stunning Euphoria in 2012. The Swedish charts are still full of bubblegum pop, the likes of which faded out of view in other countries years ago. Dansband artists can still score huge hit albums regularly (dansband being a genre of schlager/pop music with country and western and jazz influences), where they would be ridiculed anywhere else. 

Looking across to neighbours Norway and Denmark, it's clear that whilst both have produced their fair share of successful international artists - A-Ha, Madcon, Lene Marlin and Röyksopp amongst others for the former and Aqua, Whigfield, The Cartoons, Infernal, Alphabeat and Junior Senior for the latter, they don't have the same global reach that Sweden seem to in general, and their brands of pop seem to be more serious in Norway or more novelty in Denmark, whereas Sweden have the pure joyous power pop genre down to a tee, without coming across as being kitsch in most cases.

It's probably fair to say that ABBA opened the door for Swedish acts to do well globally. After winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton in 1974 with Waterloo, they went from strength to strength to become arguably the second biggest pop band ever worldwide, after The Beatles. 8 of the 20 Swedish chart toppers in the UK are from the super troupers, including classics such as Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and The Winner Takes It All. Further 80s and 90s Swedish chart toppers in the UK came from Europe, Ace Of Base and Rednex whilst duo Roxette managed four in the US, despite never having one here. 

It's since the turn of the century however that Swedish pop has started to dominate once again, in a way not seen since ABBA's glory days. 1999 saw an ABBA resurgence with ABBA Gold going back to No.1, Charlotte Nilsson winning the Eurovision for Sweden with the schlager stomper Take Me To Your Heaven and Westlife and other major pop artists scoring UK chart toppers with Swedish penned songs. In the following years these hits continued with the likes of Gareth Gates, Shayne Ward, Hear'Say and Steps all scoring big hits with songs written by Swedish pop maestros. 

The Swedish dance scene has improved greatly over the past decade and in the last decade there have been UK No.1 hits from dance acts Eric Prydz, Basshunter, Shapeshifters (half Swedish), Crazy Frog (yes, Sweden were responsible for that!), Robyn with Kleerup, Swedish House Mafia and Avicii. The latter looks increasingly likely to score his second UK No.1 in quick succession with new single Wake Me Up, which is already dominating charts worldwide and is released in a few weeks in the UK. Icona Pop, a feisty female duo from Stockholm, are just the latest in a long line of Swedish stars hitting the big time abroad. And that's without mentioning those Swedish acts that went global but never managed a UK chart topper - Loreen, Agnes, September, The Cardigans, Roxette, Nena Cherry and her brother Eagle-Eye, Alcazar, Emilia, Sunblock and Andreas Johnson, amongst many others. 

Producer RedOne practically revitalised pop music in in the last five years, responsible for global smashes such as Bad Romance, Poker Face, Just Dance, On The Floor, I Like It, Remedy, Fire Burning, Poison, Starships and Pound The Alarm. Swedish artists, songwriters and producers are arguably the third most influential on a global scale, only after those from the US and the UK. A pretty incredible feat for a country tucked away in northern Europe with a population of less than 10 million with no logical reason as to why they should have any more influence than their neighbours other than the fact that they live and breathe pop music, and it shows.