August 2004 saw the first ever episode of Sweden’s own version of the internationally syndicated Idol TV talent show. And in the twelve years since it’s been running in the country, it’s gifted us with an unprecedented number of truly great popstars, who have in turn released more above par songs than we could ever list on here.
So – as the live shows of the new series of the Idol kick off tonight, we thought that its history deserved some sort of a list. How about a look back at some of our favourite Swedish Idol alumni, and a cracking great tune from each of them? How about picking the best 50 artists to come from the show, and ranking them all?
Whereas in other countries the Idol format died out after a few years (to be replaced by X Factor or The Voice), in Sweden it’s still as popular as ever. And the artists coming from it each year continue to become successful, top level popstars off the back of the show. In 2012, Idol took a break, and was replaced with Sweden’s first series of both The X Factor and The Voice. And while those two formats have replaced Idol in most countries around the world, in Sweden they never achieved the same level of popularity. Both were cancelled after only one series (and more on the artists that the one series of X Factor produced, right here), while Idol was brought back from its year break – and is still bringing in huge viewing numbers for the live shows on Friday nights. Next week, the 12th series kicks off.
Personally, we have no idea what makes the Swedes buck an international trend and continue to favour Idol over the likes of The X Factor and The Voice. Although it’s most probably got something to do with the success that Idol graduates have gone on to achieve outside of the show. And we don’t just mean in terms of record sales. Swedish radio don’t turn their nose up at Idol graduates in the same way that UK radio does with X Factor contestants after their first album. And the Idol tag doesn’t get in the way of perceived credibility either, with people like Linnea Henriksson and Tove Styrke going on to become darlings of P3 Radio despite their career beginnings. There’s also the fact that some of the earlier Idol graduates now feel like genuine pop royalty in Sweden, with Darin and Agnes each going on to have an air of domestic superstar about them. Then there are those who have mixed music with becoming big television personalities – Måns Zelmerlöw and Danny Saucedo. And of course Melodifestivalen goes a long way in assisting the careers of past Idol participants, particularly when they go on to win the whole thing, as Robin Stjernberg, Anna Bergendahl, and others did. Oh yeah, and then there’s the fact that in the time since Idol has started, Sweden have won the Eurovision Song Contest twice – both times with Idol graduates – Loreen and Måns.
So, to mark the new series of Idol, and celebrate the history of the show and the pop music that it’s gone on to give us, here are a whopping collection of fifty artists to come from Swedish Idol. Ranked from 50 to 1, and with an example of each artist’s legacy.
Here’s the accompanying Spotify playlist.
And here’s the countdown;
50: JAY SMITH (2010)
He’s gone so far down the hard rock route since his time on Idol, that we’ve stopped checking in on his career. But his (contractually obliged) winner’s single ‘Dreaming People’ is still a tune, so here he is on our list;
49: SEPIDEH VAZIRI (2008)
For a brief period a few years back, SEP seemed like she was stepping off Swedish Idol with a genuine hope of an international career, with her debut single ‘Galaxy’ receiving a lot of global blog love. It all fizzled out unfortunately, but we LOVED this Gaga-lite slice of POP that she released afterwards (to much less fanfare than its predecessor);
48: ANNA BERGENDAHL (2008)
A Melodifestivalen win, a tonne of public support, and a very promising start to her career, all came crashing down on Anna Bergendahl when she became the only artist ever to prevent Sweden from making the Eurovision finals. There’s one thing you’re not supposed to fuck with in Sweden – and that’s the Eurovision Song Contest. Six years on and she’s yet to recover from it. And she probably never will.
47: MOLLIE LINDÉN (2014)
She earned a coveted slot on the Diggiloo tour, and went on to launch her pop career with her debut single ‘Miracle’ (which has yet to be followed up). But she also makes this list because of the awesome song that came about from our favourite week of the Idol live shows – ‘songwriting week’;
46: SARA SANGFELT (2013)
Sara last year launched her debut EP ‘Tattoo’, but properly arrived to the pop scene this summer with this powerful rock track that showcases perfectly an even more powerful vocal;
45: MARTIN ALMGREN (2015)
The most recent winner of Idol, and he’s off to a cracking great start with his first two singles. Time will tell where he’ll end up, but we reckon a slot in Melodifestivalen 2017 with a country flavoured banger is his if he wants it.
44: KERIMA HOLM (2004)
Another one who’s yet to properly launch as a popstar, though it’s been twelve years so it clearly ain’t happening for her. But we still stan hard for her vocal contributions to one of the greatest girlband albums of all time – Bratz: ‘Rock Angelz’ (don’t @ us). We also still spin this summer tune from a few years back quite often too;
43: SARON ABRAHAM (2014)
A recent graduate of Idol, she’s since gone on to impress with her first three singles. It’s been a while since we heard anything from her though, and she’s signed to a small Indie label. So we’re hoping that a Melodifestivalen slot rescues her from potential oblivion. And soon.
42: ROSHANA HOSS (2011)
Prior to appearing on Idol, Roshanna was the first member to leave RedOne’s girlband Love Generation. Since then, she’s arguably most famous for being a bit of a socialite, a scene Queen, and being best mates with Molly & Danny. Though last year she finally released her solo debut, this absolute beauty;
41: AMANDA WINBERG (2015)
Runner-up of the most recent series of Idol, Amanda arrived to the pop scene with a bang earlier in the year with her superb debut single ‘Shutdown’. A harder r&b sound than anyone would have imagined for her, we’d love her to carry on down this path;
40: ANDRÉ ZUNIGA (2011)
Launching with a sort of folk-dance style of music, André has since found his feet (and sound) with a more guitar orientated run of pop songs with catchy melodies.
39: MINNAH KARLSSON (2010)
A high profile runner-up from a few years back, she followed it up with a covers album soon after the show. And went very silent for very long. Last year though, she properly launched with this synthpop belter, which we hope was the start of much more.
38: KEVIN WALKER (2013)
A recent Idol winner, the semi-professional footballer Kevin Walker has released a string of self-penned, soft rock numbers. But it’s his hugely uplifting winner’s single that we keep coming back to. It seems more styled on Swedish arena house than the usual winner’s single ballad fodder.
37: SEBASTIAN KARLSSON (2005)
One of the early breakout stars of Idol (he came second to Agnes back in 2005), he’s since gone on to release four albums, have three Top 3 hits, and score two appearances in Melodifestivalen. But it’s been very quiet for him since his last hit single in 2011.
36: ELIN BLOM (2010)
Elin Blom has this year started up the duo, Felin. And based on the strength of their first two releases – things bode very well for them putting out plenty more.
35: ROBERT HANNA (2006)
Rob started up a duo with his brother Nino after he graduated from an early series of Idol. They released a few bangers (and we were sent some even better songs that they never got around to releasing), but they are now making a name for themselves on a much bigger scale, writing and producing for other artists around the world.
34: KEVIN BORG (2008)
A former Idol winner, Kevin went on to release a string of (mostly) ballads. He’s since tried to represent his native Malta at the Eurovision Song Contest, but now alternates between releasing more ballads to his loyal army of fans, and penning tunes for other pop artists.
33: ERIK SEGERSTEDT (2006)
The E from EMD has struggled somewhat since the trio disbanded for good, or at least in comparison to the other two members. But lest we forget what a great pop prospect he was when he came off the show, where he finished runner-up on the third series. His most recent brush with success was this low-key Melodifestivalen hit;
32: JOSEFINE MYRBERG (2014)
Josefine has just gotten around to releasing her debut single, and WHAT an introduction she’s made for herself. She’s signed to Capitol Music, who have a good reputation for nurturing their pop artists in Sweden. So we’re expecting more big pop moments from her in the coming months.
31: ERIK GRÖNWALL (2009)
This Idol winner ditched his (quite starry) solo career, in favour of joining metal group H.E.A.T – where he remained as the vocalist until recently. We expect him to return to music soon, but until then he’s another one with a winner’s single that we never grow tired of;
30: ERIK RAPP (2013)
A relatively new Idol graduate, Erik Rapp launched with two fantastic singles at the end of last year, and it all seemed very promising. He’s been quiet during 2016 though, and his Instagram seems to be more about posing in outfits than recording in studios. Which would be a shame if that’s truly the full picture.
29: MARIE PICASSO (2007)
There aren’t many people in the world who can say they’ve won both Swedish Idol and (the civilian version of) Big Brother, but this lady can. A debut album followed her Idol win, but she tragically had to cut short her pop career to battle with cancer. She returned last year under the new artist moniker Shanta Liora. But our favourite part of her legacy, is this absolute belter that she released the year following her Idol win;
28: ERIKA SELIN (2009)
Her career hasn’t reached the heights of some of the names under her on this list, but her (failed) attempt to represent Ireland at last year’s Eurovision Song Contest, where TIMOTEIJ performed back-up for her, was quite frankly a schlager music pinnacle.
27: LINDA PRITCHARD (2008)
Two under the radar stints at Melodifestivalen somewhat stunted the launch of Linda THE VOICE Pritchard’s career. But she’s released a full album, and a few big pop tunes since. She’s gone quiet on the pop front recently, but will perhaps return to it when her new baby (congrats Linda!!!) is a few years older.
26: ELIN BERGMAN (2013)
Soon after Idol, Elin signed with the same management as Ace Wilder. She launched last year and has gone on to release four impressively strong, mature pop tunes.
25: MOA LIGNELL (2011)
She won the hearts of a nation at her Idol audition when she sang a self-penned melodic gem ‘When I Held Ya’, on guitar. She didn’t go on to win her series, but naturally that song was her (huge) debut single. She’s yet to release anything to capture the public’s imagination in quite the same way, but she’s still releasing music and regularly gigging around the country.
24: ALICE SVENSSON (2008)
An Idol runner-up whose pop career was admittedly short lived. But she’s relatively high up our list because she put out one of the best dancepop gems that any Idol graduate has ever managed to get their hands on – this Pitchline produced, tears-on-the-dancefloor masterpiece;
23: MATTIAS ANDRÉASSON (2007)
The M from EMD attempted his own solo career after the band split. But all that was overshadowed by the success he’s achieved post solo career with Albin. Both as songwriter and producer of his biggest hit ‘Din Soldat’, and as one half of the duo that they’ve now become.
22: CLARA MAE (2009)
Straight off from finising on Idol, Clara Hagman was hired by Jonas and Ulf to be one of the two new members of Ace of Base. They recorded and released the brilliant ‘The Golden Ratio’ album, but to little (ok, zero) commercial success. Clara has since relaunched herself as Clara Mae, and shows a lot of promise with this current release;
21: GABRIEL ALARES (2013)
After his time on Idol, Gabriel released a couple of self-penned rock tinged tunes (including the banger below), but he’s gone on to achieve far more success as a songwriter for others. We’re still holding out some hope for a return to Gabriel the popstar though, and he was rumoured to be a dead cert for this year’s Melodifestivalen.
20: EDDIE RAZAZ (2009)
After graduating from Idol and forming the duo Rebound with fellow Idol finalist Rabih Jaber, Melodifestivalen 2013 was supposed to be the big launch of this guy’s solo career. Instead it completely killed that career stone dead, when ‘Alibi’ languished at 6th place in its heat. A follow-up single was released, but stalled on a meagre 16,000 Spotify streams, and he was then dropped by his label. It’s a shame, as we heard a few of his unreleased songs, and they were pretty fantastic. There’s some hope for him though, as he recently hinted on Instagram that he was back to making music again. He’s an engaging performer with a big talent, and we’d love to see him back on stage.
19: ROBIN STJERNBERG (2011)
From Idol runner-up to Melodifestivalen winner in the space of eighteen months, Robin’s been let-down somewhat by his disappointing rate of one single release per year since 2014. But those singles, plus their predecessors, have all been above par. So we’re always going to be getting very excited for the next one. And his incredible voice should see to it that he’s making music for some time to come.
18: LINNEA HENRIKSSON (2010)
One of the most commercially successful Idol graduates, and arguably second only to Amanda Jenssen in terms of critical acclaim, Linnea has been all too quiet over the last couple of years. But we reckon that’s just because she’s crafting a masterpiece of an album with which to blow us ALL away. Plus, after Danny Saucedo takes his turn this year, we reckon she’ll be the next Idol graduate to get given a stint on Så Mycket Bättre.
17: CAZZI OPEIA (2009)
This lady enjoyed relative success after Idol, as an alt-dancepop diva and a regular on the club PA circuit. A bit of a break followed that, but she’s re-emerged as an even stronger dancepop starlet – this time accompanied by the legendary Jonas von der Burg on production duties.
16: RABIH JABER (2009)
The other half of Rebound to Eddie Razaz, Rabih Jaber went on to forge himself a good pop career outside of the band, that included a run of dancepop gems on Indie label Ninetone. After recently competing on Persian Idol (almost half a decade after his appearance on Swedish Idol), he’s since reinvented himself by releasing pop numbers with Middle Eastern flavours. But it’s his period of clubland worship that we were most enamored with.
15: MARIETTE HANSSON (2009)
Mariette has gone through three periods of artistry since her time on Idol. But she’s currently enjoying her imperial phase – which commenced with last year’s final of Melodifestivalen. It’s been a steady flow of releases since then, and we’re hoping that she’ll even go on to top the almighty ‘Don’t Stop Believing’.
14: LISA AJAX (2014)
An Idol winner, Lisa followed her triumph with a couple of top quality pop tunes. This year she reached the final of Melodifestivalen with ‘My Heart Wants Me Dead’, and we’re really hoping that she manages to capitalise fully on all the good will towards her right now, and edge herself up to the next level of Swedish pop stardom.
13: ROBIN BENGTSSON (2008)
In a pop career that’s seen him go from Robin Bengtsson to B Robin and then back to a very different kind of Robin Bengtsson, RB is another one who has Melodifestivalen to thank for putting him in what’s currently the most successful phase of his career to date. Two big streaming and radio hits so far this year. And a return to 2017’s contest looks highly likely, we’d say.
12: AMANDA JENSSEN (2007)
No one shook off the Idol tag faster than Amanda Jenssen, and in the space of one album she found herself the darling of the Swedish music critics. She’s been quiet since her successful stint on Så Mycket Bättre, but we reckon she’s got an enormous hit album (yet another one) waiting in the wings to be unleashed very soon.
11: AMANDA FONDELL (2011)
Probably the most marmite artist of the 50, thanks to THAT vocal she possesses, but no one can deny the top notch tunes that Amanda has delivered since her Idol win. The less said about her Melodifestivalen experience, the better. But she bounced back brilliantly with this banger and its parent album;
10: TOVE STYRKE (2009)
Perhaps the most internationally renowned Idol graduate currently, though that’s more down to her being a staple on the most influential music blogs, rather than any real commercial success. As much as we love Tove Styrke as she sounds now though, we can’t help but pine for that first album of hers, when she emerged as the new Robyn.
09: MOLLY PETTERSSON HAMMAR (2011)
This girl took a while to launch her career, but when she finally did, she exploded onto the Melodifestivalen stage with an enormous vocal performance of a big soul-pop number. She’s followed it up with a few more since, and thanks to those vox plus her signature sound, we have her down as one of our favourite artists in Swedish pop music right now.
08: SIBEL REDZEP (2005)
After finishing third on the second series of Swedish Idol, Sibel went on to debut at Melodifestivalen 2008, reaching the final with ‘That Is Where I’ll Go’. An album of angelic ballads followed, lining her up as Sweden’s answer to Delta Goodrem. That was a huge success for her, making the following mis-judged step all the more baffling. Relaunching as an electropop vixen with ‘niche’ material so soon after that album, backfired on her spectacularly. And we witnessed a hugely unfortunate fall from grace. After a few years break, and another relaunch as a dancepop artist (which we loved, but no one else noticed), Sibel now works full time as a session vocalist with the globally renowned Wolf Cousins collective. If you listen very carefully, she’s to be found singing backing vocals on the hits of Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Hailee Steinfeld, and all their ilk.
07: GATHANIA HOLMGREN (2007)
In all honesty, she’d struggle to be recognised walking down the street in 2016. But for a very brief period back in 2009, Gathania Holmgren was lined up to be the next September – working with Jonas von der Burg and signing a deal with Ministry of Sound in the UK. It wasn’t to be unfortunately, but on the strength of the singles that she did get to release, and the leaked album sampler (‘Heart of Mine’ is iconic), we’ll always look back at Gathania’s 15 seconds of fame very fondly.
06: MÅNS ZELMERLÖW (2005)
Where to start with this one?! He’s been around for over 10 years now, and in that time has morphed into one of the most famous people in Sweden, and maybe even the biggest all-round domestic star on this list. He was most recently seen hosting the Eurovision Song Contest (a competition he won the previous year with ‘Heroes’), and a new album is expected this autumn. Everything this man touches turns to gold, and has done for quite some time.
05: OLA SVENSSON (2005)
This man isn’t just a dab hand at churning out the hits, he’s also mastered the art of putting together a stonking great album too. His most recent, ‘Carelessly Yours’, was his finest work to date. And given how long he’s been working on the follow up, we’re expecting that to be even better. Thus far, Ola has managed to achieve credibility and maintain longevity without veering away from pure pop music. And we love him for that. He’s one of the coolest guys in music – without compromising on the genre that took him to where he is today.
04: LOREEN TALHAOUI (2004)
An artist who could well have been number 1 on this list, had she ever gotten round to releasing a second album. We LOVE Loreen – who wouldn’t? And she’s undeniably brilliant. But she’s also frustratingly brilliant too. The success (to put it mildly) she achieved with ‘Euphoria’ should have been very easy to follow up. She has the artistry, the collaborators, and the major label to make it happen. But instead of helping her become a global superstar (or even a continental one), the ‘Euphoria’ effect instead seemed to send everyone involved in making Loreen an artist, into a state of panic. To the point where every sound and every song and every detail, was prohibitively agonised over – resulting in not a lot of new music ever actually coming out. Since the post-‘Euphoria’ album (which was mostly all ready to go anyway) came out a few months after her Eurovision win in 2012, there have been a grand total of three new singles released. THREE. In four years. It’s a situation that’s both unfortunate and unforgivable. And one which has resulted in costing her any sort of an international career. Even Swedish radio don’t class her as the superstar she was four years ago either. And why would they? Overthinking things will usually kill any sort of magic that existed in the first place. And in this case, it’s almost completely killed a career too. Instead of riding the wave that ‘Euphoria’ created, she drowned in it. But we do believe that she’s just about enough of a genius to start over and do it all again from the beginning. IF she can go back to the creative place she was at in late 2011, early 2012…
03: DANNY SAUCEDO (2006)
The beautiful Danny, like MZW, is another one who has transitioned from popstar to all-round entertainer. He’s a singer, a songwriter for other artists, a TV host, a model, a newspaper staple, a household name. He’s also one of the nicest and friendliest popstars we’ve ever met – and that counts for something too. But we’re here for the pop. And HIS pop has been remarkable in that it’s been consistently top quality in the ten years he’s been making it, and in the three different genres he’s put it out as. From bubblegum pop to arena dancepop to P3 friendly soulpop. This autumn he’ll be appearing in TV4’s other major music TV show Så Mycket Bättre. And no doubt achieving a few more massive hits off the back of it too.
02: AGNES CARLSSON (2005)
The winner of the second series of Idol in 2005. Agnes released two albums following her win, but while they were both big for her, it wasn’t until her third album that she truly became the pop icon she’s known as today. ‘Dance! Love! Pop!’ did exactly what it promised with that title, and saw Agnes reinvent herself as an upper level dancepop artist. ‘On & On’, ‘Love Love Love’, and ‘I Need You Now’ were all amazing, but it was ‘Release Me’ that gave her the biggest hit of her career. Not just in Sweden, but all over Europe (including a Top 3 hit in the UK), and reaching number 1 on the club charts in America. She followed up that album with an even better one – ‘Veritas’ in 2012. But aisde from a stint on Så Mycket Bättre in 2013, that’s the last we’ve heard from her. She’s recently been teasing some studio pics on Instagram, so new music is imminent. But we’re clueless as to what sound and style she’ll be going for – the dancepop that she’s most known and loved for, or a more mature sound that Darin and Danny Saucedo have recently found success with.
01: DARIN ZANYAR (2004)
Darin is the OG of Swedish Idol. The first artist to become a big star from the show, he competed in the very first series back in 2004 (he finished in second place – though the winner of that series doesn’t even warrant an appearance on this list). He spent his first decade as an artist releasing killer pop album after killer pop album. And achieving huge hits off each of them. And then last year something amazing happened. He switched his style of music completely on its head, turning into what we described at the time as a one-man First Aid Kit. Gone were the synths and beats, and in their place was a guitar backed singer/songwriter style of artistry. And what’s amazing about all of that is how even with all he had achieved before, in 2015 he still managed to score the most successful album of his career, the most radio support of his career, and the biggest hit of his career too, in ‘Ta Mig Tillbaka’. He’s bigger now than he’s ever been. And that’s staggering to imagine, given how huge he was before. He’s already become a Swedish music legend – and he’s yet to turn 30.
Well just wait until you’ve heard them all played back to back;