Five years ago I was obsessed with European pop music. Mainland Europe was excelling at both the traditional Europop (or more accurately Eurodance) sound and all the other genres that make up pop. But nowadays I’m as likely to find my new favourite song in the UK or US as in the Swedish, Dutch or Polish charts. I am sad to say that European pop music has declined massively in quality in recent years, but I don’t actually think the Europeans themselves are to blame.
In the late 2000s, the music that I’d been enjoying for years suddenly became mainstream. Unlike some music fans who hate to share their favourites with the masses, I was thrilled. Some of the world’s biggest artists, including Madonna, Gwen Stefani and Rihanna, were taking inspiration from my favourite songs! I was excited to see urban artists also take note of the trend, as this allowed dance-pop music to have mainstream success in the US, which had been unheard of for the previous decade.
When the rest of the world imitated the sound that Europe had been known for, it would have made sense for European artists to gain international fame. European songwriters and producers became more sought after than ever, but now their music was in demand for the biggest artists in the world, there wasn’t much left for the European artists who would have got all their best songs in the past. For example, while Swedish pop boy Darin was once RedOne’s close collaborator, the songs they recorded together after RedOne became a worldwide mega-producer were quite underwhelming.
The Europop-inspired tracks that found worldwide success were also different to authentic Europop. They were less intelligent and usually disguised as urban music to allow them to at least pretend to be cool. And that is the big difference between mainland Europe and the English-speaking markets: in Europe a song can be popular without having some pretence of coolness. In the UK and US, even in these times of pop being an acceptable favourite genre, it still needs to be potentially classifiable as another genre to get past the music press or the playlisters at radio stations.
Seeing their opportunity to reach international audiences, European artists started copying the new Europop-inspired sound. Only those such as David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia, whose music already happened to fit this sound, had worldwide hits. The others, such as Da Buzz and Cascada, lost sight of what was great about them in the first place, and haven’t released anything I’ve even deemed worth writing about in recent years. Some who had a stronger sense of identity, such as September, managed to balance the new trends with their own sound and continued to make good music, but it hasn’t led to much success.
This week’s Eurovision win by Loreen demonstrated how Europeans can claim back what is truly theirs. Euphoria is a trance-pop song comparable to Titanium by David Guetta, but it adds to that template the qualities that I loved about Europop in the past – warmth, intelligence, drama and a great pop song at its heart. There’s no rapper and no autotune but it’s still proven massively popular in the UK as well as the rest of Europe.
But Euphoria reaching no.1 on the UK iTunes chart doesn’t seem to be enough to encourage the music media gatekeepers to give up their obsession with cool. Eurovision may not be cool, but Euphoria fits right in with the sound of Radio 1, and any other mainstream track which achieved such impressive overnight success would at least merit being added to the C-list. Today the new playlist was announced, and Loreen was nowhere to be found. She is equally absent from Kiss FM, Capital and all the rest. Although she has come over to the UK for a round of promo, I think she’ll be lucky to end up in the top 3 on Sunday and there’s no chance she’ll have the first Eurovision-winning no.1 in 30 years, as I’d hoped.
While the British media’s snobby response to Loreen has been quite depressing, the song’s success and mere existance is encouraging. Euphoria sets an example of how a song can keep up with current trends, while still displaying the qualities that Europeans love. And Euphoria’s popularity with the British public, despite the lack of media support, demonstrates that if a pure pop song is good enough it can achieve success in the UK, and undoubtedly the other English-speaking countries too. I hope that other European acts will follow Loreen’s lead, because I’ve really missed the Europop I used to love.