The lack of success for Norwegian popular music in Sweden has been like an unjust, unalterable destiny that we have learned to live with. But, verging on a miracle, a Norwegian band currently occupies # 3 on the Swedish charts.
From afar, i.e. beyond the Scandinavian peninsula, it might seem a matter of course that a good neighbour's music from time to time does well on a country’s sales charts –and Swedish bands frequent the top of Norwegian charts almost as often as do American and British acts- but the fact that a Norwegian record outsells Sweden’s domestic favourites Kent as well as national love Bruce Springsteen, is nothing less than sensational.
How could this happen? What has changed the mind of Sweden’s staunchly anti-Norwegian pop music consumer? The answer is a band whose latest record lured an influential Swedish critic into stating the following: 'Party Animals' is just that, a party monster, the record you dream of playing at planet Earth’s final, roaring party before the Apocalypse”.
The band in question is Turbonegro, self-labelled “the biggest underground band in the world”, or more recently –perhaps in a desire to perform a categorical leap- “the smallest mainstream band in the world”. Such hubristic denotations are an intrinsic part of the band’s image, and a very effective one, for they are becoming closer and closer to reality. The chart position in Sweden is indication of a band ascending, just as they themselves claim, from the height of the underground, to a firm position in the mainstream of popular music.
Turbonegro enjoys cult fame and notoriety across the world, and their fan club, Turbojugend is as dedicated, if not more so, than that other infamous “Jugend”. But this status is nowhere near having an impact on the charts in the huge mainstream markets in America, Europe and elsewhere.
So however great the cult status across the globe, the current third place in Sweden is unprecedented for this band in terms of commercial impact. At the same time it is surprising regarding the Swedish market’s traditional repellence towards Norwegian popular music as such.
But the band’s recent success in Sweden cannot be explained –as it can, in part, at home in Norway – as a rebound the band’s globally rising cult status. A better explanation is, perhaps, looking at the point we have made from the start: that some proper attention for Norwegian music in Sweden is overdue.
Thanks to Swedish oblivion towards Norwegian music, as well as a fair amount of arrogance, including the (correct) self-conception of belonging to a different league of pop music altogether, no serious Norwegian band could expect to become successful in Sweden (barring massive global success first).
Turbonegro, however, are as much of a joke as they are serious artists, and precisely for this reason one might imagine how Swedish critics and consumers have lowered their (national) guard, allowing themselves to endorse this satirical cult band and their irresistible punk rock.
By keeping the escape door of irony ajar, Swedish critics now allow themselves to call a Norwegian band “the ultimate party music”