In 1974, a little-known Swedish pop act won the Eurovision Song Contest with a rendition of their English language song, Waterloo. Propelled by the success of ABBA, many Swedish musicians went on to top global charts for decades. What explains this extraordinary musical output from a nation of just 10 million?
Swedes are so good at music because of a rare combination of political, cultural, and economic factors. Sweden is rich and well-integrated into global trade and culture networks. It also has a rich folk music tradition and provides generous state support for early childhood music education.
This article will describe popular musical tastes in Sweden and list some of the Scandinavian country’s most famous musical exports, many of whom are household names.
What Kind of Music Do Swedes Listen To?
The kinds of music that Swedes listen to are very diverse and span the range of contemporary musical tastes. Pop, rock, and heavy metal are some of the most popular genres. However, hip-hop and electronic music artists have also started gaining larger followings in recent years.
ABBA’s success was built on the strength of the Swedish folk music tradition, which lays particular emphasis on strong melodies. Swedes love to sing and regularly enjoy doing so in large numbers. Their melodic strength and widespread English language proficiency have helped Swedish music travel well internationally. 
As a rich, advanced capitalist society, Sweden is also well-integrated into global trade and culture networks. Swedes have good exposure to the latest trends in arts and culture and are also known for being trendsetters in related fields like technology and product design.
Finally, generous state support for early childhood musical education means that many Swedes can choose to pursue their musical passions for longer than citizens of most other countries.
These varied factors make the Swedes a sophisticated and diverse musical audience. Their sensibilities are a good representation of contemporary musical tastes filtered through a strong regional sensibility. In keeping with global popular tastes, pop and rock are the most popular musical genres in the country. 
Sweden is also wealthy and generous enough to support a richer and more complex musical scene. Over the years, many genres besides pop and rock have risen in popularity. One of the great surprises has been Sweden’s voluminous output of high-quality heavy metal music.
Beginning as an underground scene, Swedish heavy metal has grown to become internationally influential and well-regarded. Today, the country produces one of the highest numbers of metal bands per capita of any country in the world. 
Swedes have also had early access to the best music production and distribution technologies. Both Soundcloud and Spotify have Swedish roots. So, it isn’t surprising to note that EDM and other dance and electronic music acts are also popular in the country.
Finally, Sweden today is much more ethnically diverse than it has ever been. These changes are reflected in the rising consumption of genres like hip-hop, soul, and music based on cultural styles reflective of newer immigrant populations.
What Bands Are Popular in Sweden?
Both Swedish and international bands and artists are popular in Sweden. At any given time, Swedish charts are likely to include the latest international releases as well as popular local artists. Pop, rock, metal, hip-hop, and electronic bands and artists are all popular in the country.
Swedish musical tastes reflect the latest international tastes while still having a regional bent and good representation of local artists. On any given week, the charts will likely include popular international pop acts and local artists. They may also cover various genres and be inflected by immediate global listening trends.
For instance, a list of the most popular songs in Sweden in the last week of June 2022 included a track by the recently deceased Swedish rapper, Einar, a single from English pop musician Harry Styles’ latest album, and a Kate Bush track that had just appeared on the soundtrack for the popular TV show Stranger Things. 
What Swedish Bands Are Popular Internationally?
Sweden is most popular internationally for producing stellar pop musicians, such as ABBA, Roxette, Ace of Base, Lykki Li, and Robyn. It has also produced legendary metal bands, including Bathory, At The Gates, Opeth, Entombed, and Meshuggah, and EDM artists like Avicii and Swedish House Mafia. 
It took a few decades, post the ABBA breakout, for Swedish acts to make their mark globally. The incredible global success of ABBA played a big part in this Swedish renaissance, both as an inspiration and in terms of creating networks of technicians, studios, and venues to make, play, and distribute Swedish pop music.
The 1990s and 2000s saw many Swedish acts make their mark on the global pop scene. Bands like Roxette, Europe, Ace of Base, The Cardigans, Dr. Albans, and Rednex, and individual artists like Robyn, Lykki Li, Tove Lo, and Zara Larrson stormed global music charts in this era.
The country’s most remarkable musical export is a less well-known, if even more incredible. The Swedish songwriter Max Martin has written more number one hits than any songwriter in history, save John Lennon and Paul McCartney. He’s written songs for huge artists, including everyone from Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys to Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift. 
As the local music scene has evolved, genres besides pop and rock have also grown in prominence.
The Swedes are highly influential among fans of heavy metal music. The Swedish metal scene started out underground in the 1970s, met with global acclaim with the iconic band Bathory’s development of a uniquely Scandinavian Black Metal sound, and is today the most popular genre of music in the country after pop and rock.
Today, Sweden has a vast and varied metal scene. Some estimates suggest that the country has 37 metal bands per 100,000 population, among the highest in the world. Besides Bathory, its most famous names include:
- At The Gates
- The Hives
More recently, Sweden has become well-regarded for its dance music artists. These include acts like:
- Swedish House Mafia
- The Knife
Sweden’s extraordinary musical output can be traced to its great wealth, global connectedness, rich musical traditions, and robust state support for early childhood music education.