My Brain is Mostly Song Lyrics

This Leads to That and Around in Circles We Go

May 23, 2014 | 3 comments


My thought process is not always straight forward. More often than not, it takes me round in circles or jumps from one thing to another without obvious connections, and it takes me forever to get to the point. These random rants often start as a discussion with Em about something that weren’t really related to where we ended up. It usually also involves numerous youtube videos to illustrate my point.

A while ago we had one of those discussions that ended up with me having to send her a very long email with lots of links and follow ups and explanations.

I don’t even remember what we initially talked about, but somehow we ended up talking about Swedish musicals. You don’t think it’s one of those topics you so easily end up discussing? Well, you’d be surprised how often it happens in our home.

One of the best musicals I’ve seen live is Kristina från Duvemåla (Kristina). The music and lyrics, which by the way are written by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson from ABBA, are absolutely beautiful. The story itself is based on The Emigrant books by Vilhelm Moberg. They depict the mass emigration from Sweden to North America in the mid 19th Century.

When I think of it, me not being a Swedish resident anymore might have been how we ended up making the leap to Kristina.

One of my favourite songs is from Kristina. It’s called Du måste finnas (You Have to Be There). Kristina sings it in the second act and it is about her starting to doubt that God exists, after she miscarriages and becomes ill. In the original production (which is the one I saw), the role of Kristina was played by Helen Sjöholm. She happens to be one of my all-time favourite Swedish singers. This video is of Helen performing the song in Swedish. Don’t worry if you don’t understand Swedish. The video has English subtitles. They are just a rough translatation, word by word, so not rewritten to flow well. If this sounds too complicated, skip to this video of Helen singing the official English version, with the score played by the Swedish Radio symphony orchestra.

It’s just as amazing, but I prefer the Swedish lyrics. Swedish can be such a beautiful language and this song really highlights it.

Björn and Benny also wrote the music for one of my other favourite musicals, Chess (from 1986). It was originally written in English with lyrics by Tim Rice but a Swedish version premiered when I was in high school. I saw it multiple times, and I also saw an English version in Bristol when I lived there. It’s one of those rare musicals where the songs are equally good in Swedish and English.

Pretty much every song in Chess is amazing, but Anthem is probably one of my favourites. It’s not a duet (there are lots of duets in this musical) but it is a love song (there are lots of those to) that the character Anatolij sings about his home country. For me, this song is kind of up there with Edelweiss from Sound of Music. The guy singing in the video (Tommy Körberg) is actually Swedish. He played this role in the original West End production, and reprised the role for the Swedish version.

Random trivia: the female lead in the Swedish version was played by Helen Sjöholm. These two together are all kinds of awesome.

Nobody’s Side is another amazing song from Chess, here performed by Elaine Paige (who did the original female lead). The title of this song was translated to “Leave No Doors Unlocked” and it might possibly be the best translation of a song from a musical to Swedish. Ever.

On the surface, this musical is just about a game of Chess, but it’s strength is really in all the various characters and the interplay between them. The Arbiter might not the best of the songs, but I really like this character. For the original studio album recording, The Arbiter was played by another Swedish guy, Björn Skifs, who (yes, you guessed it) also is one of my favourite Swedish artists. You might recognize him from the group Blue Swede who had a huge hit with a cover of Hooked on a Feeling in the 70’s. I prefer when he sings in Swedish.

This brings us to another love song. Helen Sjöholm and Björn Skifs performed När du älskar (When you love) on the most Swedish TV show of all Swedish TV shows (Allsång på Skansen). The lyrics to this song are beautiful. The chorus roughly translates to:

Winter melts away and becomes spring when you love
Nothing can stop your river
You do not care about what you receive because you love
The love is strong in your blood
I want to be the first you reach when you love
When you love, when you love, [please] love me

Finally, I just have to mention this performance. It’s not from a musical, but it’s definitely a love song. This duet was commissioned for the Swedish Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding in 2010. It was performed during the wedding ceremony by Björn Skifs and Agnes. It is beautiful (and in English so you all can fully enjoy it), but I think it would have been even better if Helen had sung it instead of Agnes. Don’t you agree?