Sunday, February 07, 2010

Melodifestivalen Deltävling 1: Ornskoldsvik 06.02.10

Sitting in front of the computer, watching the minutes and seconds ticking away on SVT's website ...and then nothing but a frozen screen. Happily it got going again just in time for the return of the schlager divas - Nanne, Charlotte Perrelli and Sonja Aldén who kicked off this year's Melodifestivalen party with "Holding Out For A Hero" (as opposed to Charlotte's "Hero"!) I wondered if their guest appearance was to appease all the schlager-traditionalists who thought that Christer Björkman had gone too far in modernising the contest this year? And another thing - can Ms Perrelli's skirts get any shorter???? Their song heralded the arrival of none other than Swedish Hollywood action hero Dolph Lundgren on a motorbike!

This year, one presenter is replaced with three - Måns Zelmerlöw, Christine Meltzer Lind, and Dolph Lundgren. A strange combination, and my initial thoughts on Dolph were - why? But last night it all made sense, and Dolph was the revelation of the evening! His interval act rendition of "A Little Less Conversation" mixed with karate was hilarious. (I thought his Swedish-American accent was pretty funny too!)

Seemingly the ironic style of previous presenters Kristian Luuk and Petra Mede has also been replaced by a more straightforward presenting style for this year's competition. The presenters each took turns at introducing the songs.

I also liked Måns' attempt to explain the changes in the voting system this year with that neat little diagram!

So, on with the contest. This year's pre-song postcards are in comic book style with some background information about the artists, followed by short interviews with the artists themselves. But what about the songs?

1: Unstoppable - Ola. A.K.A. "The Return of Natalie", who, apparently, is coming back for more. A very catchy pop song with instant appeal and which will be one of the major radio hits to emerge from this contest. I liked this!

The stage set was based around a mosaic-style design which changed for every song and didn't seem too intrusive. I liked the blue lighting during Ola's song and the pyrotechnics at the end!

Completely shallow thought here : what has happened to Ola in the two years since "Love In Stereo"? He looked fabulous then.....

2: A Place To Stay - Jenny Silver. In retrospect, this never looked like a qualifier but I thought that had more to do with her outfit and that stupid big gimmicky silver hand, both of which were just wrong, wrong, wrong. This was actually quite nice and subtle and hypnotic and there have been worse songs at MF, but it totally lacked any hook and didn't go anywhere.

3: "You're Making Me Hot-Hot-Hot" - Linda Pritchard. This promised so much but just left me cold-cold-cold. She was better than the song, (and her hair is brilliant too!) and although she pulled out all the stops to deliver a spectacle (and more pyrotechnics), the end result just reminded me of the five or six post-Paparizou wannabes who clutter up the Eurovision Song Contest every year with their mock-Shakira nonsense. We don't need another one.

4: "Road Salt" - Pain of Salvation. Based on the pre-contest one minute clip, I'd expected it to erupt into a Metallica-style classic rock ballad. It didn't, and accordingly lost my attention very quickly and my thought at the end of the song was - "is that it?". On the other hand, the simplicity of the performance set it apart from most of the other songs and yes, this is probably this year's "Snälla Snälla" after all.

5: "The Saviour" - Anders Ekborg. Don't you think the first verse was reminiscent of "Day After Day" (Azerbaijan's debut from 2008) or was it just me? Anyway this had some gimmicky staging and that chorus...."Il salvatoreeeeeeeeee". Still makes me think of "Just One Cornetto". It was all a bit Fredrik Kempe-by-numbers, (although not a Kempe song) and far too derivative of "La Voix". Happily the Swedish voting public, on this occasion, were far too smart to be fooled.

6: "I Did It For Love" - Jessica Andersson. Jessica was conservatively dressed (unlike most of the female artists on show tonight) with her hair tied back, standing still, giving a subtle and reasonably controlled performance of a very traditional ballad. It's all a million miles away from "Kalla Nätter" and "Kom" both of which for me were far, far superior to this 'heard it all before' song. Another blue-lit stage setting...and a key change. By that point I had this one as a definite qualifier, although it left me cold.

7: "Singel" - Frispråkarn. Poor old Frispråkarn in his cardigan, touting for business at 'Hotell Singel". All that staging didn't compensate for the fact that, although this is not the worst rap song ever, it was doomed from the beginning and would never have qualified in a million years.

8: "Keep On Walking" - Salem Al Fakir. Salem, alone on stage sitting at his piano, looking lovely as ever in a grey suit and white shirt, deliverered a flawless performance of a stunning song. With a key change too (something you don't usually get in his songs)! Good lighting and staging also. This was probably the moment when Salem truly crossed over into the mainstream and into the hearts of the Swedish people. Apart from the obvious merits of "Keep On Walking" which is more complex than anything you'd expect in Melodifestivalen, Salem has a unique ability to reach out and emotionally connect with an audience. And the audience responded right back....

This year's new voting system meant that the song with the most votes went automatically to Globen. Once the phone lines closed, five song titles were read out.

"Road Salt"
"You're Making Me Hot-Hot-Hot"
And then....
"Keep On Walking" (YEEEEESSSSSSS!!!!!)
"I Did It For Love"

One of these had the highest votes.....

"KEEP ON WALKING"!!!!!!!!!! Salem direkt till Globen.

At that point there was such a massive explosion of joy at EuropeCrazy HQ which shook the room when I jumped up and down with excitement!!!!!

Then Salem gave a reprise of "Keep On Walking" which is a real grower. By the time the final comes around, hopefully everyone should love it! (although on the down side, the later songs will be more fresh in the mind of the Swedish voters) However I am so happy that Salem has made it to Globen.

Salem's appearance in Melodifestivalen has also raised his profile significantly in Sweden, which was proved by statistics published on Friday that he had more Swedish media articles written about him during MF week than any other artists appearing last night. Then there is the international recognition: that one appearance last night will have gained Salem many new fans from outside Sweden - so it's about time that he was finally launched internationally!

Thankfully the stupid duels and the pointless international jury have been ditched at this stage of the contest. The next round of voting would determine the second Globen qualifier and the two going to Andra Chansen (where the duels will return).

Results time again....

"Unstoppable"! Really delighted about this as it was my second favourite song of the night.
"Road Salt" and "I Did It For Love" to Andra Chansen.

Apart from a very satisfying result, I thought Måns did very well on presenting duty and as I said earlier, Dolph was great. I was less impressed with Christine, maybe it was just the webstream but she seemed to be pulling some strange facial expressions (!) and she was a bit shrieky at times. My opinion may change - after all I wasn't keen on Petra to start with and grew to love her, so anything is possible, but I feel she lacks the sufficient personality.

The presenters seem happy enough anyway....

All in all, a fabulous start to Melodifestivalen season. Episode two next Saturday....

P.S. A great big boo-hiss to SVT who have in typical killjoy fashion, destroyed any video evidence of last night's 4 qualifiers turning up anywhere on t'web :(


Adrian said...

It is really annoying that I can't watch any of the songs! I missed it, I wanna see!

Doesn't Måns look lovely in his jumper?

EuropeCrazy said...

Yes I'm pretty p****d off too, that SVT have gone all killjoy on us yet again and denied us the opportunity to watch it on SVT Play. Apparently they do it to give all the qualifying songs a fair chance.

On the other hand, 'search and you shall find' ...that's all I'm saying :)

Adrian said...

I have sought and seen the four I'm allowed see. I quite like Linda Pritchard (though I take your point it's nothing new).

Just a fierce display of strutting, hair and a great powerful choreography.