It seemed to be an age of glitter and glamour where the disco ball was hanging high and the flared trouser was donned with pride. Cult classics like Abba’s Dancing Queen or Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon were blaring in the local discotheque. Europop was in full swing. Dance orientated and fun-filled, it is unsurprising that even after the break-up or retirement of many of the artists, their music remains infinitely memorable.
Europop may be seen as a musical appeal to establishing European culture beyond its counterparts. Abba’s Benny Andersson spoke of the music he listened to when he was young during his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, citing the influence of blues music from eastern Russia, to Finland as well as Scandinavia: ‘It’s definitely in the Swedish folk music, you can hear it in the Russian folk songs, you can hear it in the music from Jean Sibelius or Edvard Grieg from Norway, you could see it in the eyes of Greta Garbo and you can hear it in the voice of Jussi Björling.’ Whilst it may be a stretch to say that there was an outright rejection of British and American music, there was a plea in European music to fashion itself away from the British or American musical monopoly, forming its own identity.
Liberative and lavish, Europop was even a reaction against political austerity in some parts of the continent. The Spanish disco scene boomed after the death of Francisco Franco and his Nuevo Estado in 1975, ending the musical censorship which even included the likes of peace-loving songs like John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. This shortly followed the emergence of artists like Baccara with their chart-topping ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’ reflecting a newly liberated Spain.
Whilst the fizz of Europop may have fallen flat in end of the 1990s, many of the music producers responsible for mass pop culture today are currently are European. The Swedish producer and industry legend, Max Martin was responsible for the teen pop sensation Britney Spears offering her the song ‘Baby One More Time’. Yet this song did not feel American at all, set in C minor this was a radical break from the major keys that dominated pop. Martin was also responsible for artists such as Backstreet Boys, ’N Sync, and Katy Perry, crediting the Swedish public-school system for much of his success (even forming the Swedish Glam Rock band, It’s Alive, whilst there).
With the ever-shifting landscape of pop-culture, the impact of Europop seems to be a distant opium dream, yet its influence today is still profound. Beyond its aesthetic value, music appeals to both a national sense of identity that is pertinent given the current state of British politics, but also the bigger national collaboration that happens behind the scenes that we may not be aware of.
Anna de Vivo