The last couple of years of the twentieth century may have seen Madonna falling in love with everything English – she married one of us, she bought and sold houses all over London until she settled in her current pad in a location about as central in the capital that you can possibly get. She also nicked a chunk of our accent, drank our ale and wrote books about our roses – but the UK wasn’t the only European destination that she fell head over heels for.
No, for every jellied eel she (probably never) eats, she can also be said to have tried a herring, for Madonna‘s love affair with Europe also extends north east from London across the North Sea to Sweden…
Pre-1998 the most interesting thing you could link Madonna and Sweden together with was opening her European Blond Ambition Tour at the Eriksberg Stadium in Gothenburg in June 1990. She used the days before the tour re-started to rehearse – ever the professional. Together with an exclusive Swedish competition attached to current single ‘Hanky Panky’ to win tickets, that was about as interesting as Sweden and Madonna got.
Fast forward 8 years however and all that changed!
1998 saw her return to Viking land for the TV show Sen Kväll Med Luuk (Late Night with Luuk) where she gave one of the very rare performances of ‘The Power Of Good-bye‘. She later headed to Stockholm for the 2000 European Music Awards where she performed ‘Music‘ at the Globe Arena and started the worldwide trend of slapping names across your chest – she chose to pick Kylie!
1998 also saw Madonna team up with Jonas Åkerlund for the first time when he directed her legendary ‘Ray Of Light‘ video. Their collaboration has lasted for getting on for a decade now, with him going on to direct the videos for subsequent singles ‘Music’, ‘American Life’ (yes, that one) and ‘Jump’ and of course took the helm for both ‘I’m Going To Tell You A Secret’ and ‘The Confessions Tour Live’.
Jonas isn’t the only Swede to take the helm for Madonna’s videos – Johan Renck took the reins for ‘Nothing Really Matters‘ and ‘Hung Up‘ inadvertantly providing us with two of her most memorable looks, and more Swedes, The Traktor Team were responsible for ‘Die Another Day‘ – what many consider to be her last big budget video clip.
The ‘Confessions On A Dance Floor‘ album saw Madonna moving the Swedes from behind the camera into the studio, with a third of the tracks on the album having Scandinavian fingers fiddling her knobs and co-writing. ‘How High‘ and ‘Like It Or Not‘ came to life from a collaboration with Christian Karlsson, Pontus Winnberg and Henrik Jonback, the first two more famously collectively known as Bloodshy & Avant. Hit single ‘Get Together‘ was the product of Madonna’s collaboration with Anders Bagge and Pär Åström – professionally known as Bagge & Peer.
Of course, the most famous Swedes involved in the album were Benny and Björn – the writing half of ABBA – whose permission to allow Madonna use the sample of ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Man After Midnight)‘ in ‘Hung Up‘ set the album and it’s lead single down the multi-platinum road that 2005’s success all stemmed from. This was famously only the second time ABBA had given permission for any of their songs to be legally sampled, but at a price – they are credited with 50% of the song’s copyright – it could be argued this is more to do with their commercial negotiation clout than how fundamental the sample was to ‘Hung Up’s melody! But who can imagine ‘Hung Up’ without it? Madonna, of course, later paid tribute to the ABBA ladies on her Confessions Tour reproducing exactly one of their iconic stage outfits for her performances of Erotica and Lucky Star, and draping herself in a cape emblazoned with the title of the band’s most famous song:
Madonna’s Swedish fetish (Swetish? ) doesn’t stop there! She has been remixed by Swedes (Axwell, Bloodshy & Avant etc), her yoga teacher is a Swede and as surely anyone with the slightest interest in popular culture will know – she has recently collaborated with the massively successful Swedish retailer ‘H&M‘ and been not only the face of H&M for their 2006 campaign…
…but of course launched her debut clothing design range throughout stores worldwide this year! So, what can we say? That Madonna, she’s as Swedish as a fresly pickled A herring, today
Many thanks to the Tribe’s very own Viking for the inspiration.