Sunday, February 06, 2011

Melodifestivalen 2011: Deltävling 1, Luleå 05.02.2011

Or: The Idol Factor, modernity, and the opening shots in the battle for Melodifestivalen's soul....!

Yes it's that time again. Last night saw the first of this year's semi-finals, and the first destination on the MF-tour was the northern city of Luleå. Just minutes before the show, there was buffering and breakdowns in the webstream but happily once the show began, we got a faultless stream which luckily didn't break down.

Much as I love it, the problem with Melodifestivalen these days is that there's too much time spent on comedy sketches, and it sometimes feels as if the actual songs themselves are secondary to the rest of the show. Just like the Eurovision Song Contest itself, the intro went on for a bit too long and it was 15 minutes before we got to hear any of this year's contenders.

The show began with this year's hosts, Rickard Olsson and Marie Serneholt, being inducted into a 'secret society' of previous MF hosts including Petra Mede and Anders Lundin. Then Rickard and Marie launched into a medley of MF classics, with new lyrics. These days to be an MF host you need to turn your hand to singing, dancing and comedy in addition to presenting the show.

There were another couple of comedians involved this year (feel free to insert joke here about Carl Bildt and the return of that jacket). No, I actually meant the two comedians sent on a mission by none other than the Swedish foreign minister, and whose interviews with each artist formed this year's pre-song 'postcards'. So I'd better get on to the songs, as this post intro is getting almost as long as last night's :)

1. "Try Again" - Dilba.

I liked this, although the staging of it was all wrong, and her outfit was horrible and did her no favours whatsoever. At one point I got the feeling that she maybe regretted this whole thing. The song itself was nice and modern and dancey and reminded me of Therese/The Attic which is no bad thing. However her vocals were far too low in the mix and were swamped by the pre-recorded backing vocals throughout, and I had serious doubts about whether she was singing live at all. Despite her established reputation, Melodifestivalen doesn't make any allowance for reputations of course.

2. "Me and My Drum" - Swingfly.

A major surprise here, as rap doesn't usually go well at MF, but this happy rap number blew away those memories of Frispråkarn and his cardigan from 2010's heat 1. It was maybe a little messy with the drumming cheerleaders, but Swingfly - an American rapper based in Sweden but who doesn't speak Swedish! - sold the song well with his boom-chicky-boom! Then the icing on the cake: Christoffer Hiding singing the chorus, which has a killer hook. And being completely shallow here, he is probably even more gorgeous now than when he was in Idol a couple of years back!! I was very impressed with the energetic performance, and at that point had it down for a possible Andra Chansen contender.

3. "Something In Your Eyes" - Jenny Silver.
That something in your eyes may be a bit of glitter from Ms Silver's dress :) It was "me and my microphone stand" to start with, but happily she ditched the stupid prop - what is it with this lady and stupid props?? - anyway she got into her stride with hand movements, hair-tossing and all the things which have the schlager community in raptures. (Jenny has become their new schlager drottning). She performed the song very well, with a high degree of professionalism, although I feel it's a bit too similar to many of the songs which have been chosen to represent Sweden in the past, which were influenced by a certain band from 1974...! I thought this was a cert to go to the final.

4. "On My Own" - Jonas Matsson.
One of this year's webbjoker winners, so we were familiar with it already. However, the staging of the song was pretty stupid and could have done without the deckchair and the kisses and putting on the jacket. I thought it could have been staged with more simplicity. In contrast to Jenny's polished performance, I thought he came over as too inexperienced and his vocals were a bit ropey at times. Live vocals! That was the first time that I thought anyone was singing live. The song was quite catchy and likeable though, in a Jason Mraz/Jack Johnson/Joshua Radin kind of way. (What's with the letter J and acoustic pop????). But I had it as a non-qualifier.

5. "Oh My God!" - Le Kid.
They promised a sugar rush and they didn't disappoint. Bright colours, dancing liquorice allsorts and confetti-spraying cupcakes - what a show! It was certainly the brightest number of the night in every way. The song was well-performed and I thought they'd done well enough for a place at Andra Chansen.

6. "Social Butterfly" - Rasmus Viberg.
I don't think all the vocals on this one were live either. He looked a rather strange little character, dressed as if he was down on the farm :) The song had a slightly ethnic feel to it, and had a very good chorus too. But a non-qualifier nonetheless, although I may play it a few times when I get this year's CD.

7. "Desperados" - Pernilla Andersson.
She's a very established artist now and after all the dance routines and crazy staging, it was time for a bit of simplicity. A country-flavoured song with a bit of an Amy Macdonald vibe to it, it was also the only song in the Swedish language. I couldn't really remember it to be honest, it didn't really have much of a hook. However it was quite sophisticated and I also understood its appeal and predicted a place in Andra Chansen.

8. "In The Club" - Danny.
In the club, the club, oh oh. Basically that's it. However this is Danny Saucedo, who is a very polished performer - he sings well, dances well, looks good and has lots of charisma - and he can certainly sell a song. "In The Club" screams 2011 - as I said in my preview the other day, it sounds like something the Swedish House Mafia might do. The whole thing was very sharp and slick and it was no surprise that he was the night's big winner just as I predicted.

All in all, a pretty good line-up of songs this week. Semi 1 is usually regarded as the "rubbish one", although of course last year's first-week was for me the best of the whole competition, for an extremely obvious reason. This week was particularly fascinating for me as it seemed to demonstrate the ongoing battle for the soul of Melodifestivalen. Where does the contest go from here? The staging and presentation of the contest has come on leaps and bounds over the years, but should the songs become as modern/contemporary as the TV programme has become? Or should there be more schlager? The fact is, Sweden has fallen out of favour at Eurovision in recent years, and Christer Björkman's answer to last year's "schlagerfiaskot" is to ditch the Swedish juries altogether in the final and replace them with international juries in order to identify which might appeal to a European audience. Maybe the problem is the link between MF and ESC: perhaps an answer would be, say, for Sweden to choose its entry in another way, maybe via an internal selection or a different TV show, and leave MF to carry on, independent of ESC.

The answer, if last night's result was anything to go by, is to modernise: two songs which sound as if they just stepped out of the top 40, qualified to Globen - Danny was expected, but Swingfly was a major surprise.

However look more closely and there is, yet again, a link with another massive Swedish TV show: Idol. In previous years, it was Sebastian, Måns, and Agnes. Last year's MF winner, Anna Bergendahl, was an Idol contestant, as was another finalist, Darin. Now we have Danny, who was in Idol, and so was Christoffer, the featured vocalist on Swingfly's song. It appears that the Idol factor has had a major influence on Melodifestivalen and looks as if it will continue to do so. Which may spell good news this year for Sebastian and The Moniker (Daniel Karlsson). But then again it may not, and I could be completely wrong. Probably.

What about last night's interval act? A bit disappointing actually, Peter Stormare playing record producer 'The Hurricane' reinventing Nanne Gronwall as "Nanne Soulwall" who then performed Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing". A bit pointless really, as we'd probably have preferred her singing one of her own songs, or a medley of her previous MF entries would have been even better. Bring back Dolph!

Then, of course there was the moment which got more Swedish press attention than anything else last night. Marie Serneholt reading out the wrong name, briefly raising Le Kid's hopes for a brief moment then smashing their hopes to pieces following the realisation that she had read out the wrong name. I hope this doesn't destroy her confidence as she did a good job last night (and she looked great too - loved that dress). After all she is only reading what is being shouted in her ear from the control room, so they're the ones who should take the blame. Co-host Rickard also did well, and I found him really easy to understand.

Anyway I enjoyed last night's show and am looking forward to next week. Fingers crossed for good songs from Brolle and Christian Walz :)
(all of the above pictures courtesy of SVT)

No comments: