Stories Behind The Songs: The Cardigans - My Favourite Game

The 1990s were great for alternative rock and 1998 was no exception. The New Radicals came out with 'You Get What You Give', Catatonia gave us the brilliant 'Road Rage', and of course, there was the evergreen hit 'My Favourite Game' from Swedish group The Cardigans. But the song that came out was very different to the one it began as.

'My Favourite Game' - spelled with the correct version of "favourite" as well, always nice from a foreign band - was first just its chorus, which singer and songwriter Nina Persson says "married the music so quickly that you couldn't tear them apart". The verses were then written so as to give the song an overall theme, but at this stage, though the lyrics (which were about a failing relationship) were complete, neither the sound nor the style of the song were finalised. Though the makings of a good song were obviously there, Svensson said the band knew there was a single-worthy idea in the song, but that "it wasn't working at first".

As it was being written, 'My Favourite Game' was envisaged as a slow country/rock shuffle track, and guitarist and songwriter Peter Svensson presented it as such when he played it to producer Tore Johansson on his acoustic guitar. It was after this presentation that Johansson displayed the importance of producer; having heard Svensson's orignal version, it was Johansson who suggested that he double the tempo, making it a far more upbeat track and completing changing the song's dynamic and feel. This in turn allowed space for the now-iconic guitar riff to be added in, and voila - the song was complete.

Despite the song's origins, it's difficult to imagine it as a shuffle song. The beat drives this song; the drums really propel it through the verses, with the fuzzy bass holding the chorus together. The idea that it could be slowed right down doesn't really compute, and we should all thank Tore Johansson for his input. Indeed, the band themselves did after admitting that without his help, the song just wouldn't have worked, certainly not as well as it did.

And it did work well. It hit #3 in Sweden and became particularly popular in the UK, where its peak chart position of 14 does it a disservice to how widely it spread. In addition, it reached the top 40 in many European countries (including a #1 in Greece) and New Zealand. In the USA, whilst it never appeared in the Billboard Hot 100, it did reach #16 in the more specialised Modern Rock Tracks chart and its appearance in the Almost Round 3 skate video also indicates a transatlantic popularity. Coincidentally, its appearance on The Cardigans' album Gran Turismo was coupled by an inclusion in the video game Gran Turismo 2.

The Cardigans were a bit of a one-hit wonder, and no other track of theirs has made the impact that 'My Favourite Game' did. It's a lesson in how songs develop, and how bands often need the input of someone on the outside - a producer, an engineer, even another artist - to really perfect their ideas. This ties into our article earlier this week, in which we explained the importance of recording studios and how they play a crucial part in the career of a band. Had The Cardigans done this in their bedroom with no producer, 'My Favourite Game' would not have been a worldwide hit. Another win for the studio.

One-hit wonder songs are always fun and 'My Favourite Game' remains popular to this day, regularly featuring on radios such as Absolute and XFM. That it started out as a shuffle song is very odd indeed, but Johansson's input gave us an alt-rock song that sounds as fresh today as it did in 1998. It's a very, very good song, and one that deserves its place in the annuls of rock.


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