Saturday, March 12, 2011

Melodifestivalen Final 2011: Vann rätt låt?

Nej. (IMHO)

After the past 5 weeks of anticipation, excitement, drama and disappointment, it was finally time for one of the TV highlights of a Europop-fan's musical year: Sweden's Melodifestivalen final, 2011.

Irrespective of how your own favourite song does in the competition, you can't deny that SVT always brings such high production values to this competition, which leaves most other Eurovision national finals standing, or inspires imitation as the sincerest form of flattery (yes I mean you, Norsk MGP!). The 2011 final was no exception, although as the years go on it gets tougher to keep it all fresh.

The show began with this year's hosts Marie Serneholt and Rickard Olsson (who I thought did a very good, if unspectacular job this year) on top of Globen, singing a version of "Up Where We Belong" with lyrics in Swedish adapted to the theme of the event.

Onwards into a packed Globen, with balloons being waved in the air, and the hosts being lowered on stage to a special MF version of Duck Sauce's "Barbra Streisand" only this time mentioning the hosts' names. I don't think this was such a memorable beginning, and it was equally silly having the dancing chavs in babygro-suits to announce the arrival of the acts.

I've seen some criticism on internet message boards of the 'bumbling interrogators' employed by Carl Bildt, he of the wonky jacket, on a mission to restore ESC success to Sweden. However I've grown to accept them and I thought that many of tonight's postcards were rather funny.

Oh look! There's Fredrik Reinfeldt (PM) in the audience. Can't ever see the day when dodgy Dave Cameron will turn up at ASFE, do you??? :O

Nu kör vi! (About time too! 15 minutes into the show)

First on stage: Danny Saucedo. And so what, if "In The Club" just consists of "In the club, the club, oh oh"? This was the song I wanted to represent Sweden in 2011. In a Eurovision Song Contest which appears to be finally drifting away from its old schlager roots into something more contemporary, I thought this would have been a good, modern entry for Sweden, with the potential for a wider international success. It was a professional performance from Danny and his backing dance crew, however I still had my reservations about the reliance on pre-recorded backing vocals throughout the song, and how it would go in a 'completely live' setting? Nevertheless it was my favourite of the evening.

A complete contrast next, with Sara Varga's "Spring För Livet". This was one of the songs which made it out of last week's Andra Chansen. By the way, I didn't have time to write my Andra Chansen review last week, but if you'd followed my foolish predictions on Twitter on the night you'll know how wrong I got it. I'll reiterate here that the AC format is very frustrating, as it often prevents the 'right' song from qualifying at the expense of the 'wrong' one. So the top half of the draw last week presented a particularly tough contest, where Sara Varga triumphed over the songs by Jenny Silver, Love Generation and Loreen, all of which would be worthy of a final place. But I'm not really complaining about Sara being there either... This song has certainly had a major impact over the last couple of weeks and it was, I thought, a very emotional performance from Ms Varga.
You know never to expect a good draw position for the Andra Chansen qualifiers, so the other song to qualify from last week was drawn next. You will also know what I think of "Oh My God" by The Moniker: that it didn't deserve a place in the final, and is probably one of the most annoying songs to be performed on a Melodifestivalen stage in recent years. The only redeeming thing about this was the curly-haired piano player, but then again you won't be surprised about that ;)

A new feature this year as friends and family of the contestants were interviewed before each performance. So before Brolle (Jr) took to the stage, Brolle (Snr) was interviewed! His son will have done him proud, with yet another powerful and passionate performance of "7Days and 7 Nights". So the song isn't his best - but did he really deserve last place? I doubt if he'll ever compete again in this contest though.

From a first-timer to a 'repeat offender': fan fave Linda Bengtzing. I previously said in a blog post that Linda is probably one of the contestants who is the most desperate to win Melodifestivalen. Although I still hated her yellow outfit, her enthusiasm was infectious and she gave a very energetic performance which she seemed happy with. However, I can't see her back at MF in the future, unless she comes to terms with the taking part rather than the winning.

I'd reckon that of all the contestants in this year's final, winning probably mattered least of all to Nicke Borg? Nevertheless all the tricks were employed to grab voters' attention in "Leaving Home", including the audience waving glowsticks, Anna Bergendahl-style.

As I said in my preview, "Me and My Drum" had grown on me over recent weeks and so I was looking forward to seeing it being performed again in the final. Before the song though, a scene-stealing performance by mini-Swingfly, little Camron, who stole the show when his mother was being interviewed!

The performance of "Me and My Drum" was a little messy, but it was three minutes of sheer fun. Whilst most of the contestants are caught up in a tense battle to win - fuelled, it has to be said, by the Swedish print media - Swingfly & co. just went out there and had a good time. Boom chicka boom chicka boom boom boom indeed. It may not have made it to Dusseldorf, but a top 20 place in the EuropeCrazy 2011-50 (only eight months away folks!) is guaranteed. And well done Christoffer - I'd love it if this inspired you to make some new music.

Another 'veteran' of Melodifestivalen and a big favourite within the schlager community, Sanna Nielsen, was back in the contest this year with "I'm In Love". Sanna fans, you're probably not going to like this, but I feel she comes over as a bit of a schlager-fembot, lacking in any warmth, whenever I see her on stage. (Which is a bit strange as I've seen her interviewed on other shows and she seems to have quite a good sense of fun). Thankfully she'd ditched the glittery bolero cardigan thingy, but I didn't like her hair at all. She sang very well and was rewarded with top marks from the Ukraine, Greece and Ireland juries putting her in 3rd place by the end of the international jury voting round.

A bit of rockabilly next from the Playtones, with yet another song by Fredrik Kempe (co-writer this time) - "The King". A bit of a "Come Together"-plagiat in the verses don't you think? A lively performance culminating in 'great balls of fire' on stage however I missed much of it due to buffering and other things going on.

And the eventual winner, Eric Saade, complete with leather glove. Warning: do not allow this man near glass, for he will probably smash it and then he won't be very 'popular' then, will he? And let's not forget the health and safety implications - Eric got glass in his eye. Although "Manboy" was a bit silly, it eventually wore me down. "Popular" is also extremely silly, and I don't like it. Stupid lyrics and a little bit too much desperation from young Mr Saade, whose urge to win the contest was clear for all to see. Maybe with all this 'Bieber fever' inexplicably sweeping the universe, it might be a good move for Sweden to send a young man who will clearly appeal to that similar target audience?

I'm trying to find something positive to say here, but it's very difficult. The problem mainly lies with the songwriter Fredrik Kempe. Although admittedly he's had some good songs in MF too - notably "Cara Mia" and "Hope And Glory". Three of the last four Swedish entries have now been written by Mr Kempe, and he also wrote last year's Norwegian entry. None of these songs went on to have much success in the Eurovision Song Contest, so who can blame me for suggesting that "Popular" would be the wrong choice for Sweden?

Following the recent tradition of re-interpretations of the previous year's winning song, it was the turn of rock band Dynazty to give their version of "This Is My Life". It was an achievement for them to rescue this song from the pit of dreariness and turn it into a more acceptable 80s anthemic rock ballad.

The other interval act was a tribute to the much-criticised "Hurricane" character played by Peter Stormare who could not be at the final due to other commitments. The "Harrycanes" Nanne, Lena Ph, Ola Salo and Christer Sjögren, all of whom had been subject to the Hurricane's musical makeovers during the competition, came together to sing what else but the Scorpions' classic "Rock You Like A Hurricane". Sjögren sings the Scorpions - well well well, in the immortal words of the Harry Hill song, "I certainly didn't expect to see that!"

The only other thing I want to mention is.....Ola Salo in a purple catsuit. <3>
Voting time! Unfortunately we didn't get to see the various international jury spokespeople give the votes and instead we got Adam Alsing (hairy Swedish TV presenter and radio DJ bloke) who for some reason was brought in as a commentator last week. Things then rolled along at a cracking pace and here's where the international 12's went:

Russia - The Moniker
Ukraine - Sanna
France - Eric
Greece - Sanna
Malta - Eric
Croatia - Linda
San Marino - Swingfly
Germany - Danny
UK - Eric
Ireland - Sanna
Norway - Swingfly

....which seemed to destroy my theory that Danny would do better in Europe, based on these jury results, however by the end of the jury voting Eric was only 2 points in front of Danny. At this point Eric was in the lead though, so I'll acknowledge he's probably a more representative winner than Anna Bergendahl was, for example. By the way, hasn't she changed?? Her look is now spiky-bob-goth =).

Next came the televoting results, which resulted in The Moniker and Sanna swapping places, ending 3rd and 4th respectively - and when Danny got the 70 points it was all over. 112 points from the televote added to the jury points meant that Eric's song title lived up to its name and his was the most "Popular" song of the night. Well, with the voters anyway.

(I missed the last five minutes of the show and Eric's winning reprise - and before you ask it wasn't because I was sulking at the result, but it was due to a little emergency happening at home, which happily sorted itself out)

Above: the winning singer and songwriter celebrate.

Final result:
1. Popular (Fredrik Kempe) - Eric Saade - 193 points
2. In The Club (Fredrik Boström, Peter Boström, Danny Saucedo) - Danny Saucedo - 149 points
3. Oh My God! (The Moniker) - The Moniker - 124 points
4. I'm In Love (Irini Michas, Peter Boström, Thomas G:son, Bobby Ljunggren) - Sanna Nielsen - 114 points
5. Me And My Drum (Teron Beal, Patrik Magnusson, Johan Ramström, Swingfly) - Swingfly - 93 points
6. The King (Fredrik Kempe, Peter Kvint) - The Playtones - 73 points
7. E det fel på mej (Pontus Assarsson, Thomas G:son, Jörgen Ringqvist, Daniel Barkman) - Linda Bengtzing - 58 points
8. Leaving Home (Jojo Borg Larsson, Nicke Borg, Fredrik Thomander, Anders Wikström) - Nicke Borg - 57 points
9. Spring för livet (Sara Varga, Fredrik Boström) - Sara Varga - 50 points
10. 7 Days And 7 Nights (Brolle) - Brolle - 29 points

Danny was gracious in defeat. He told Svenska Dagbladet: "Eric is a worthy winner. I wish him every success in Europe...I have been doing my thing and not had to make compromises. I feel satisfied, I made probably the best performance I've done in my life."
Please come back again to MF Danny...and win it next time!

(All of the above pictures are courtesy of Svenska Dagbladet/Scanpix)
EDIT 13.03.11: Eric and Danny fail the Mum Test: I played "Popular" to my mum for the first time today and her reaction was: "I don't like that song at all". So then I played her "In The Club" and she said "I don't like that much either, not my taste, too repetitive". She didn't want to hear any more of this year's Melodifestivalen songs, and even though I reminded her of just how much she liked some old (non-winning) entries, she could not be convinced otherwise :((

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