February 1 — “Happy Meal II” by The Cardigans

The Cardigans

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Happy Meal II” by The Cardigans (1996, from the album First Band on The Moon). In our continuing effort to shine some light on Sweden, we’re going to step back in time. Not to ABBA, but to The Cardigans. Okay. A small step back in time. The Cardigans are a pop band from Jönköping, who got started in 1992. They worked pretty hard for several years, getting a huge break with the mainstream hit song “Lovefool” in 1996. After a period of success, they went on haitus in the new millennium. They came out of hiding, but after a couple of records, they went on haitus again. They’ve been on that hiatus since 2007, but have not called it quits. In fact, there’s a suggestion that they might get something restarted soon.

From the “ask the band” section of their website, Magnus Sveningsson said in November of 2011:

I ( well all of us) have been away for a very long time. But something´s about to happen. 😉

The Cardigans were successful in Sweden and Japan with their first record, but they were virtually unheard of in the rest of the world until they released their second record —Life— in 1995. That record had different versions released in Sweden, The US, and the rest of the world. Each version has its own running order and each version has exclusive tracks. Normally, this is neither here nor there, but I mention it because the US version of Life has an exclusive track that’s an early version of today’s song. You might not notice the difference on first listen. The music is exactly the same. The running time is the same. The lyrics are almost the same. There’s just some slight changes in the verses. They’re slight differences, but I think it makes a different tone.

It’s a song about a woman preparing for a date for which she’s cooking a meal. She’s thinking kinky thoughts, and in the Life version, it’s kinda like she’s setting it up hoping that it’ll end in sex.

Arrange the books in order
Clean up the small table by the sofa
Arrange my clothes in order
Shape up the place just before our meeting
The dinner we’ll be eating
Wine that we’ll be drinking
Kinky thoughts I’m thinking
All because of you

The chorus is the same in both versions. The first part of the second verse is a little different in Life:

Prepare a meal I can make
Sing funny songs while it’s in the oven
Then take a bath with bubbles
Shape up my things just before our meeting
….

Now, listen to today’s song and pay attention to the differences. On First Band on The Moon, the girl in the song takes a much more active role in the seduction. She’s gonna make sure that she has sex that night.

“Happy Meal (II)” by The Cardigans

The first verse is almost the same, but not really at all:

Arrange my books in order
Make up some nice stories to amuse you
Make things look smart and easy
Shape up the place
Hungry for the meeting

Chorus is the same, then another change:

Prepare a meal with candles
Sweet wine and strings chosen for the purpose
Then shape up my face
Eager for the meeting…

See. In the Life version, she’s happy about the date, but a little nonchalant about it. In the First Band on The Moon version, she’s “hungry” and “eager”. Not for food, though. And she’s specifically picked some alcohol and classical music to get it going. Instead of preparing a meal that’s easy enough for her to make without messing it up, she’s chosen something for the occasion. That girl put much more thought into the meal and ultimately into the seduction than the girl in the early version of the song.

In both versions of the song, the chorus tells us that she’s found a partner, a new friend. No one can be happier than she. The dinner was a success and we all go home happy.

It’s a great pop song. Nothing complicated about it. Nothing fancy with the music. It’s just a good song. If you really want to know the part that brings a smile to my face, it’s in the second verse when she’s going on about taking a bubble bath while dinner is in the oven. It’s the bit when she says “bubbles” and there’s a little echo there. I don’t know why I like it so much, but I do.

This band wasn’t hurt at all by their looks. They were a very good looking bunch. Especially that Nina Persson, who had the looks (blonde hair, blue eyes, pale skin, tall-ish, thin frame) that Americans think all Swedish women have. Of course, they also wrote some excellent pop songs. Their legacy, though, will be that “Lovefool” song and the fact that Nina Persson was crazily beautiful. And she probably still is.

The Cardigans released a total of six full-length records. While I only know Life and First Band on The Moon, and haven’t even heard any of the others, I know that many of their songs are as good or better than the one that people will remember them by. This is one of those songs.

It looks like the vinyl of First Band on The Moon is out of print and rare, because copies are going for about $90 USD. CD copies are in print and

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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