Saturday, 2 July 2011

Top of the Finn-Pops

Have you wondered how many Finnish acts have actually appeared in the UK's top-40 pop charts? Oh, so it's just me then.

Well the answer (since you don't ask) is: not many.

Finland has been far, far less successful than its neighbour Sweden at producing pop that is appealing to an international audience.

Consider the following Swedish acts (top-40 hits / #1 hits in the UK):

      Abba (27/9), Roxette (19/0), Ace of Base (12/1), The Cardigans (10/0), Robyn (9/1), Neneh Cherry (9/0), Basshunter (8/1), Europe (6/1), Eric Prydz (3/1), Eagle-Eye Cherry (3/0), Hives (3/0), Wannadies (3/0), Rednex (2/1), Agnes (2/0), Dr Alban (2/0), Army of Lovers (1/0), etc.

In comparison, very few Finnish bands, singers or DJs have made it into the UK charts. When I resolved to compile a top-10 of Finn-Pop, I soon realised that I would not be able to find 10 Finnish pop acts in the UK singles charts.

So instead, here is...

Finn-Pop's Top-5 Countdown

#5: Lordi

The preposterous Eurovision winners made it to #25 in 2006 with their only UK hit “Hard Rock Hallelujah”. Check-out the spreading wings!

#4: Bomfunk MC's

The breakbeat combo's only UK hit, “Freestyler”, reached #2 in 2002.

#3: Rasmus

The rock band with the pixie-looking singer reached #3 with “In the Shadows” (my personal favourite in this Finn-Pop list) and #15 with “Guilty”, both in 2004

#2: Darude

Trance producer and DJ Ville Virtanen, aka Darude, had a surprising (to me at least) 3 top-40 hits in the UK: “Sandstorm” (#3 in 2000), “Feel The Beat” (#5 in 2000) and “Out Of Control (Back For More)” (#13 in 2001).

#1: HIM

As far as I can work out, at the time of writing, no Finnish act has had a number #1 hit in the UK pop-charts. But on the basis of the number of top-40 songs, the #1 slot in this Finn-Pops chart goes to HIM who had 6 hits: “Buried Alive By Love May” (#30 in 2003), “The Sacrament” (#23 in 2003), “The Funeral Of Hearts” (#15 in 2004), “Solitary Man” (#9 in 2004), “Wings Of A Butterfly” (#10 in 2005), “Killing Loneliness” (#26 in 2006). The German presenter in this clip can't resist a little mention of the state of singer Ville Valo (“it’s not just the lack of sleep and the years of alcohol abuse, it’s also the eye-liner like his hero Ozzy Osborne...”). Ah yes, the old eye-liner excuse...

And that's it!

So I could only find 5 Finnish bands or acts that have made it into the UK's top-40 (notching up a mere 13 hits between them, just one more than Sweden's frankly forgetable Ace of Base!). Other internationally successful Finnish bands (e.g. Hanoi Rocks or Nightwish) seem to have been confined to the specialist Rock Charts.

Why have there been so few internationally successful Finnish pop acts? Is it that popular music for wimps (and Swedes), not for REAL men and women (unlike, say, heavy metal)? What do you think?


  1. Music! That's where I'm a Viking. I think there are a few reasons Finland suffers a low hit generating capability internationally.

    1st Many artists who i think could have a shot still sing in Finnish, that is like swimming upstream. Finnish doesn't have the allure of other languages like Spanish or French. When you sing in Finnish, you say to the world that you are happy with the fame you have at home.

    2nd Finland still needs to make a name for itself in regards to it's impact on music. The US and the UK basically definied pop music. Sweden churned out ABBA and carved out their slice decades ago meaning the world has recognized Sweden as a legitimate hit maker. So the distribution channels are already there and are particularly strong when it comes to poppy female vocalists (could explain Ace of Base?). So in some senses Finland has yet to be tapped. Whether there is anything here to tap is another issue.

    So Finland has a lot of catching up to do. Unfortunately the Internet has changed the music world so much and it's even harder, in some respects, these days as new bands are discovered every 5 minutes and are then forgotten about 5 minutes later. The internet has given us the ability to instantly listen to music from all corners of the world, but has also given us short attention spans and made us fickle.

    But every now and again I see a Finnish group being discussed on the blogs.

  2. In fact I have a challenge for you or anyone. It's a question I like to ask. Try to think of bands, any country, formed in 2000 or later that, you think, really have staying potential. I mean staying potential a la Hendrix, Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Beatles. you know, kids 30-40-50 years from now will be still buying or downloading to whatever device hasn't been invented yet.

    now do it for the 90s. It's an interesting thought experiment.

  3. Two very good comments there, Tuomas! As for your challenge, I admit defeat. I know and love some noughties bands, but can't imagine them leaving a lasting legacy. In fact, if you check out the list of top selling albums in the 2000s (, it's full of artists from the 60s to 90s...

  4. BTW, feel free to recommend Finnish bands on here!

  5. 90s is way easier, because you don't have to play a record company executive.
    Eläkeläiset at least (or maybe not)

  6. A few recommendations:

    Poets of the Fall
    Desert Planet

    Oh, and for learning your ä's, remember Mamba's rather campy summer hit "Vielä on kesää jäljellä"!

  7. Children of Bodom might actually fit the bill.
    Finntroll is fairly epic as well and could stand the test of time.

    Granted, neither is exactly pop music.

  8. T. Brock: I agree, interesting question, and I've wondered about this myself. The Mars Volta perhaps? Far from pop music too, but mainstream pop music these days is mostly forgettable from what I've heard of it. The problem is not the Internet, but the music industry, who are obsessive about copyright and profit and don't have the patience nor balls to filter out the most talented and dedicated artists and actually stay with them and help build their career, instead relying on Andy Warhol's five-minutes-of-fame concept, churning out a constant stream of mediocre, disposable junk, especially dumbed down, pop-influenced forms of rap, punk and dance that are cheap to produce and require little skill from the performers. Musical junk food has always been around, but it has never been this carelessly done, to the point that I consider the more accessible forms of metal the equivalent of older, pre-90s mainstream pop/rock music in our times. Granted, I'm not a musician myself, but my experience with musicians' opinions, from their comments, agrees with my own feeling: Generally speaking (I haven't polled them all), musicians I know can't stand most current mainstream music, or at least don't care for most of it, even though they tend to have a liking for 60s through 80s mainstream.

  9. By the way, I have the distinct feeling that even mainstream musicians, at least some of them, privately prefer to listen to music that is considerably more underground and niche than their own, or at least clearly not current pop/mainstream. In some cases, such as Bushido, Stefani Germanotta or Taylor Momsen, I have concrete indications for my suspicion. If current charts music is so inane that even charts musicians themselves (at least the possibly more talented ones) are tired of it and prefer something much edgier in private, doesn't that say quite a lot? Doesn't it also mean that they are only in mainstream because of the money and fame, not because they believe in it, and that they would play something less safe and harmless if they weren't too afraid of facing opposition?