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Sahara Hotnights

Swedish Chicks with their pulse on the American Music Scene

The media love to take random trends and brand them as cultural phenomena. Case in point: the so-called "Swedish Invasion" we are currently in the midst of, wherein an unusually high number of Swedish bands has found a degree of mainstream success in a relatively short period of time. Current Swedish bands you're probably at least vaguely familiar with include: Division of Laura Lee, Soundtrack of our Lives, The Hives and Sahara Hotnights. The irony -- and really, the highly logical explanation -- lies in just how well these bands borrow thick slices of American flavor to find success on our shores. Nothing about the Swedish Invasion is particularly Swedish at all, but our Scandinavian compadres have proven sincerely adept at sniffing out -- and pouncing on -- our most prominent musical fads.

Sahara Hotnights provide a classic microcosmic study. The band, an all-girl foursome from a small village in northern Sweden called Umea, has struck the right chords at all the right times in its young career to gain plenty of American exposure. This relatively recent popularity has translated into decent radio and MTV-play and certainly hasn't been hurt by the girls' smokin'-hot rocker-chick image. The quartet formed the band in 1996 as teenagers heavily influenced by grunge and '70s punk. Success arrived early on, as they developed a strong local following and rose swiftly to the top of the European charts. Their debut full-length C'mon Let's Pretend earned the band two Swedish Grammy nominations and a BMG record contract, which all but guaranteed their imminent leap to the New World.

They arrived just in time for the garage-punk revolution that took place in 2002, and were more than equipped to participate full bore. They released a well-received record called Jennie Bomb and joined bands like The Hives (whose lead singer Pelle Almqvist is, incidentally, the boyfriend of Hotnights' front woman Maria Andersson), The White Stripes and The Strokes in creating the "new rock", which really just revisited the '70s punk sound and added a twinge of glam to spice things up. The Hotnights' greatest contribution -- an attribute that should help keep them relevant -- is their energy. You hear it in their roaring guitar riffs and see it in their lyrics, delivered with loud and funky vocal stylings that fall a little estrogen short of riot grrrl. They take the same energy to the stage and wrap it all up in catchy choruses and big hooks, resulting in music that's memorable and, most importantly, a lot of fun.

The Hotnight captured everyone's attention yet again a few months ago with the release of Kiss & Tell, capitalizing for a second time on the most recent trend to capture America's fancy. Whoever does their forecasting always seems to be right on target. Or just really lucky. This time around, the band slides seamlessly into 2004's return to '80s cool: replete with synthesizers and new wave beats. It's perfectly acceptable to rock out and dance again, thanks to the success of Franz Ferdinand and The Killers, and this trend suits the Hotnights well. It gives them the opportunity to have a blast with their sound, and takes advantage of their slick songwriting skills and pop sensibilities to create some impossibly addictive sexy tunes.

So what's next for the Swedish stars? Just follow America's tastebuds -- you won't find them far behind.