At dinner this evening, a friend accused me of having a Scandinavian fetish. I’ll admit this is true. I’ve never been to Scandinavia, but I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about it. The region has several attractions, including, but not limited to, social welfare, fjords, lots of umlauts, and vikings. Vikings are BADASS. Two nights ago I amused myself with a dramatic reading of The Vinland Sagas, which I highly recommend. Here’s a sneak peek (or should I say, a snæk peek?) at some of their straight-up awesomeness:
“Let us head back/To our countrymen at home/Let our ocean-striding ship/Explore the broad tracts of the sea/… And boil up whales” (97).
That’s right. The vikings boiled up whales. And I bet if Sea Shepherd threw acid at them for animal cruelty, that would have been GAME OVER for the granola-crunching whale lovers. Vikings have no mercy.
Much as I love the vikings, however, I’m obsessed with Scandinavia for another reason altogether. Their music is amazing. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and make the claim that Scandinavians must have a comparative advantage in melody-crafting. Given their resources, the quality of their music is disproportionately brilliant. Check it out. After some math, it turns out that Scandinavia — which I’ve defined as Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland — only accounts for a sliver of the world’s population (approx. 0.36%):
Thanks Excel! So Scandinavians aren’t having lots of babies, but the babies they do have get lots of play space — in terms of land mass, the region does a little better:
Just a little, though (0.7%). So does this mean that Scandinavia is doomed to insignificance, forever a thin blue slice within a great wide pie of red? Of course not! The vikings would turn around and stuff those charts up your häck. Behold, the Nordic ascendance:
Based on clear, universal standards of good taste (read: what I listen to most, according to Last.fm), Scandinavia boasts musical prominence that far exceeds its share of babies and dirt (a whopping 24.5%). There must be reasons for this — do people make better music when they don’t need to worry about their hospital bills? — but I don’t much care, as long as those Swedes keep crankin’ out their twee and electropop.
For those who still aren’t convinced (how could you not be? It’s a water-tight argument! With charts!), I’d recommend some audio-investigation. Besides the obvious favorites (Club 8, Sambassadeur, Acid House Kings — oh, and perhaps you’ve heard of this group called the Knife?), Scandinavia is also responsible for the feel-good brilliance of Vapnet (feel good here) and the disarming vocals of Lasse Lindh (be disarmed here), also featured in bands Chevy and Tribeca. Vapnet’s “E14” offered an instant boost whenever I needed it this finals period — with a sweet, persistent melody laid over infectious brass and sporadic cheering, what’s not to love? As an added bonus, Vapnet sings — when they sing — in Swedish. Ja.
Work Cited: The Vinland Sagas: The Norse Discovery of America. Trans. Magnus Magnusson (!) and Hermann Palsson. London: Penguin Books, 1965.
Note: Charts 1 and 2 based on numbers from the CIA’s “World Factbook”.