Petra Marklund is probably better known as September, the Swedish singer who made an international splash with incredibly poppy songs such as “Cry For You” and “Satellites”.
Petra decided to record under her real name and in Swedish for the first time. She also decided on a change in style. The songs on “Inferno” are still very catchy pop with that trademark Swedish production but they are more sophisticated, kind of indie pop.
She has released two singles from the album so far which will give you a good indication of Petra’s new sound, “Händerna Mot Himlen” (Hands Towards The Sky) and “Sanningen” (The Truth).
I first discovered NEO a in 2009 with the amazingly camp poppy song “Flower Power Super Girl” (the name says it all). A stunning debut album followed simply called “One”. In 2010, NEO entered Melodifestivalen with another great dance pop tune called “Human Frontier”. It didn’t win but it definitely helped raise NEO’s profile in Sweden. He repackaged the “One” album, added the Melodifestivalen song and called it “Human Frontier”. I was excited for this second album but it had all the same songs as the first plus one new one which I already had on the Melodifestivalen CD.
So, I had been waiting for a real second album for quite a long time and 2012 was the year. “Reborn” came out early in the year and did not disappoint. Still dance pop, still with NEO’s trademark falsetto but it was definitely a progression from his first album. A little darker, a little more downbeat but still very catchy and very listenable and it has a big sound. It still gets regular spins at my place.
There have been a number of singles released from the album but only two have video clips. “Underground” which I have written about before and “Toxicated Love”, one of the songs used for Stockholm Pride.
If you have Spotify, you can listen to the album below. This is the first time I have put in a Spotify link so hopefully it works.
I discovered this remarkable musical by American group Sparks earlier this year courtesy of an internet surfing session. It is not like other modern day musicals in that it isn’t a juke box musical nor is it one based on a movie. It is a fictional story based on real life film director, the Swede Ingmar Bergman. The combination of music by Sparks and the Swedish connection drew me in.
The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman was originally commissioned by Swedish Radio. Brothers Ron and Russell Mael (aka Sparks) were asked to develop a musical as part of a series to be broadcast on Swedish Radio. The musical had to have a Swedish element so Ron and Russell, both film buffs, came up with the idea of Hollywood trying to seduce Ingmar Bergman into making films there. An unusual idea but one that works very well.
The radio broadcast version was in both English and Swedish. A limited edition Swedish CD was released of only 1,000 copies which appears to be as rare as hen’s teeth. I tried to hunt it down the last time I was in Stockholm without success so ended up getting it via iTunes. An English language version came out later and I was able to get that CD. It was produced for a special one-off performance at the LA Film Festival 2011.
I have long admired Ron and Russell Mael and their work as Sparks. They have had a long and varied career and have never been afraid to try something new. The music in this project is epic and dramatic and I love to play it really loud when I get the chance. There are plans to turn it into a full stage production and eventually a film. I would definitely make the effort to see that.
Here is one of my favourite songs from the musical, “Garbo Sings”. This appears as a fantasy sequence as Bergman is trying to escape Hollywood. Greta Garbo appears as a vision to help guide him back to Sweden. Awesome stuff.
And here are some clips from the LA Film Festival performance.
I first discovered Evan during Melodifestivalen in 2006 with his mindblowing song “Under Your Spell”, a dramatic, almost operatic three minute piece of theatre. I immediately bought the single (back in the day when singles were readily available), the album of the same name as well as delving into Evan’s back catalogue.
Of course, this was back in 2006 and after that – nothing. Well Evan did pop up again in 2008 as the songwriter for Therese Andersson’s 2008 Melodifestivalen entry but then promptly disappeared again.
A ray of sunshine broke through in 2010 when he released a collection of outtakes and demos called “Bonustracks” and a single called “Falling From Grace” which was pretty damn good but then he disappeared again.
Thanks to one of my favourite blogs, Swedish Stereo, I was delighted to discover that not only has Evan just released a new single but an album as well. Called “The Beauty of Your Face”, the album is another collection of mini epic pop masterpieces and it’s been out on iTunes for two months! A quick visit to iTunes and a couple of minutes later, I finally had Evan’s third album and I love the grandness of it all as well as Evan’s amazing falsetto.
This is the video for the single “Out of Control”.
You may recall my recent series of posts where I rediscovered favourite albums of mine that I had not listened to in a couple of years. One of them was “Storybook” by Peter Jöback. Listening to the album again, reminded me of the mystery of Isa Norberg.
Back in 2004, Isa sang a duet with Peter called “Summer Wine”, a cover of the old Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood hit. It’s one of my favourite songs on the album, partly due to the stunning vocals of Isa Norberg according to the album credits. Later in 2004, I saw Peter in concert and Isa joined him on stage for “Summer Wine”. I fell in love with Isa, her voice and stage presence totally transfixed me.
Well, I thought, someone that talented had to have more of a career than singing one duet but I couldn’t find anything with an Isa Norberg. I kept trying for a while but eventually gave up, thinking the mystery would never be solved.
Listening to the album again recently, reignited my love for Isa so once again, I went hunting and this time I turned up trumps. My internet research skills must be a lot better these days. As I discovered, the difficulty I had in the past was partly due to the fact that Isa had been known by different names and her music had covered different styles from schlager to pop to folk to jazz.
So here, for anyone interested is a potted history of the career of Isa Norberg aka Jessica Pilnäs.
Isa was born Jessica G. Pilnäs and it was under that name that she appeared in Melodifestivalen 1995 (Swedish heats for the Eurovision Song Contest) at the tender age of 16. Her song “Jag ger dig allt” (I give you everything) came third and was a hit for the young singer but, rather than commit to a career straight away, Jessica decided to finish school.
Five years later in 2000, Jessica signed with Sony Records. The record company dubbed her Isa, thinking that were too many Jessicas on the market. As Isa, she released an album called “Pretender” and two singles – the title track and “Everything I Do”. Isa toured with the likes of Robyn and sold well in Japan of all places. This album was very much contemporary pop/R&B.
Here is Isa performing an acoustic version of “Pretender” during a promotional tour of Japan.
Pop wasn’t really Jessica’s thing and she didn’t like being told what to do by the record company so there was no follow up. Jessica got married and started a family. She also studied medicine. Although she was spending her time bringing up her children and studying, Jessica still kept her hand in, guesting on records by Peter Jöback, Bengan Janson, Vacuum and Nils Landgren.
Thanks to Elin, here is Jessica as Isa Norberg (Norberg being her married name) performing “Summer Wine” with Peter Jöback.
And this is “Love Earth Cry” by Vacuum featuring the stunning vocals of Jessica Pilnäs.
Nils Landgren released a Christmas album in 2008 and Jessica provided the vocals for “A Child Is Born” performed here on a Swedish TV show.
Stepping back a moment to 2005, as Jessica Norberg, Jessica joined the group Mormors Visor as lead vocalist and released a Swedish language album “Sådan är kärleken” (Such is love), a mixture of folk and jazz. A really quite beautiful album. Click on the image below to go to the group’s MySpace page and listen to some of their songs.
Now lets flash forward to 2011. Jessica has finished studying and is now a qualified doctor. She feels ready to get back into music and has recently released a brand new album called “Bitter and Sweet”. Jessica’s first love is jazz and this album highlights her jazz voice. A mixture of original songs and covers done in her own inimitable style. Here is her jazz version of the Eurythmics hit “There Must Be An Angel” which is truly brilliant, as is the rest of the album.
The best thing is that almost everything that Jessica has done is still readily available. All three albums (as Isa, Mormors Visor and Jessica Pilnäs) are up on international iTunes as are the Peter Jöback, Vacuum and Nils Landgren collaborations. I was able to order Jessica’s latest from Bengans and my friend, the Best Judge, was able to pick up a copy of the Isa album for me on a recent trip to Sweden.
Well I had to include an album from Peter Jöback and I have been itching to listen to this album again for a while now. Unlike most of my other Peter-loving friends, I tend to prefer his pop material but I do like to indulge in his more theatrical stuff from time to time.
The idea behind the “Storybook” album was big songs with a story. Songs from stage and screen. And Peter chose well – well known songs mixed up with lesser known gems. This really is a great album.
My one beef (and I’m being mean-spirited here) is there is an instrumental track. As beautiful as it invariably is, “Theme from Schindler’s List” has no vocal. I realise that the album is also a spotlight for Gothenburg’s Symphony Orchestra and this is their track. Actually I should stop being selfish and give credit to the Orchestra for the amazing musical backing they give Peter throughout the album. They really add a touch of class to the proceedings and allow Peter’s strong voice to shine even more.
I have quite a few favourite tracks, including “Always On My Mind”, “I Who Have Nothing”, “I Don’t Care Much” and “Summer Wine”. Peter’s version of “She” has become the definitive one for me and is a favourite among Peter’s fans.
Lets see what I can find on You Tube to give you a taste of this album.
“Always On My Mind” has been recorded by so many including the Pet Shop Boys. Peter’s version is the more traditional one and his voice does lift this up into the stratosphere.
Here is an incredible performance of “She” at an athletics gala.
I really wanted to share “Summer Wine” with you. I found it but someone has put a slideshow of Michael Landon from “Bonanza” to it. Still, you can hear Peter’s voice in duet with Isa Norberg. Isa is really quite wonderful too. I have tried to find out more about her with no success.
“I Who Have Nothing” is one of those great songs and Peter’s version is easily the definitive one for me (sorry Shirley). Actually, a duet between Peter and Shirley Bassey on this song would be nothing short of amazing.
A Swedish album for day two. “Alla mina ansikten” translates to “All My Faces” and shows different sides of Nanne. Rockier, harder and a lot more personal. Unfortunately, this was Nanne’s least successful album commercially which is a shame since it does contain some excellent songs.
There is one English song on here, “Men”. Nanne sang this song in the British pre-selections for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2001 but failed to qualify. It doesn’t really fit on this album but it is a bit of light-hearted fun and provides a counterpoint to the rest of the album.
The lead angle was the totally theatric “Svarta änkan” (aka “The Black Widow””), one of my favourite Nanne songs. Another favourite is “Jag har inte tid”, “I Don’t Have Time”, a song about a woman who is too busy for family and friends and even death itself.
“Hatar, älskar” or “Hating, Loving” is a song with a punch. It is about her relationship with her alcoholic mother and is deeply personal. The title song is about self doubt and anxiety. “Fördomar” (Prejudices) was written for Nanne’s many gay fans and is about prejudice and intolerance.
Relistening to the album after many years, it does come across as disjointed and maybe just a little too dark for audiences back then. As I said it does have some excellent songs and is worth a listen. The original version of the album does flow a little better than the rejigged version that came out the following year. The song order had been juggled around (unsuccessfully in my view) and another song added which really didn’t fit.
Okay, now for some videos. First up is “Men” as performed in the British Eurovision pre-selection. Nanne was very sick at the time. Being a real trouper, she knew the show had to go on.
Here is Nanne performing “Svarta änkan” in that amazing outfit that would put Cher to shame.