the last decade the world has witnessed Sweden entering charts and
ears with everything from Army of Lovers to Roxette, from Cardigans
to Kent and beyond. Ultimately becoming the number three music exporter
(only behind the US and the UK). Those chart successes were no thanks
to Stina Nordenstam, though. Although she appeared amidst a whole
wave of female artists (Lisa Nilsson, Rebecca Törnqvist, Lisa
Ekdahl...), she proved to be quite the rare bird.
— • —
with the large majority of the new singstresses debuting in the
early '90s, Stina Nordenstam sung in English from the start. And
has continued doing so.
language to make sense, it needs to communicate and I didn't have
that when I was growing up so it was easier to develop my musical
language in English, which also has the advantage of being a more
profound language than Swedish, with a richer musical heritage."
was born and raised in Stockholm. Her parents were of conservative
upbringing, reacting by joining the Communist party. And Stina was
left somewhere in between. Then she discovered music and used it
as an escape.
— • —
wasn't really interested in anything, not even living, because I
was severely depressed until I was 20. I was sealed off, I didn't
have one healthy relationship until I was 20."
later she broke completely with her family.
through school and fraternising with a more diverse crowd of students,
Stina entered a small jazz community in her late teens. She played
in bands but were soon bored with having to use the same material
over and over. And started making her own songs, discovering her
voice in the process.
— • —
singers like Billie Holliday or Chet Baker comes to mind, when listening
to Stina's very intimate and almost private way of singing. Inventing
her own distinctively muted vocal style also bore something in common
with jazz artists such as Miles Davis.
first album was released in 1991. It was made possible through her
winning a local competition, with the recording of an album as the
first prize. "Memories of a Color" reflected Stina Nordenstam's
detailed interest in musical arrangements paired with lyrics of
a stark emotional intensity. Feelings of loneliness and dark moods
abound, maybe in part reflecting Stina's own life.
resulting sound had more than one critic compare her to Rickie Lee
Jones, another singer-songwriter dealing with emptiness through
a fragile, personal voice. Others have mentioned Björk, the
determined Icelandic fairy.
— • —
the lines of Björk Stina ventured into more troubled musical
territory with her third album. "Dynamite" features a
more aggressive sound, replete with distorted quitars and processed
saw the release of "People Are Strange" (*). A cover album
was hardly a thing expected from such an independent artist as Stina
Nordenstam. But listening through the CD, one notices quickly that
this is something out of the ordinary. Stina has herself explained
that she thinks an interesting cover is a song that isn't too good,
only "half bad" but with something that she can take further.
she certainly did. Rod Stewart's "Sailing" and Prince's
"Purple Rain" comes out as completely new songs, processed
through Stina's deceptively fragile voice and arrangements mixing
industrial sounds against orchestral strings.
— • —
anyone feeling the urge to dance - don't use Stina Nordenstam's
music. She doesn't do dance music. Neither does she tour. Or lets
herself easily be interviewed. In fact her public persona has been
close to inexisting for the whole of her career. Her low profile
has not been of any help getting her music on the airwaves or getting
her popular with the record companies (although she has been in
high demand as a session vocalist for other artists). If that was
what she wanted.
only thing I want is to live an exciting life. I don't want anything
else. I don't want success, I don't want money. That's all i want."
she obviously wants her music to speak for itself. Which it does,
in volumes. Stina's narcotic sense of melancholy and musical innovations
have made her many an admiring review. And she has created a fervent
cult following of people trying to get to know this "modern
Greta Garbo" a little bit better. Which in this case is a challenge
worthy of its comparison. //
— • —
(*) Fellow musician Tori Amos, working in a similar style as Stina,
entitled her 2001 album "Strange Little Girl". And this
was yet another take on the concept of cover albums. Strange coincidence...