Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Melodifestivalen 2012 - Deltävling 1 - Växjö, 4th February

So, what conclusion can we draw from week one of MF? Well, it appears to have been a success, although where would we be without a bit of controversy? The one story which has dominated the Swedish tabloids in recent days has been the outrage following Thorsten Flinck's butt-grabbing antics. Between that and Sean Banan's nose-picking, the males of Melodifestivalen did not do themselves any favours on Saturday night.

Unlike the ladies....the all-female, multi-talented line-up of presenters Sarah Dawn Finer, Gina Dirawi and Helena Bergström did a great job on their first Saturday night of the season. Sarah sparkled in her stunning gold glittery dress, Gina's been hailed by the Swedish tabloids as "the new Bjorn Gustafsson" and as for the performers - there has only been one name on everyone's lips since Saturday night - Loreen.

But let's go back to the start. MF in recent years has threatened to become less of a song contest and more of a comedy night. Happily this week they got the balance right, and after a short introduction it was straight to the songs, no messing about. The big change this year is that the 'postcards' are extremely short, and more time is devoted to the artists now entering the stage from the audience via a passageway/catwalk. I can only agree with Scandipop's comments in this excellent post http://www.scandipop.co.uk/?p=8889 that it can be a bit embarrassing for some of the performers involved.

The show kicked off with the ego-maniac Sean Banan, who I'm not particularly a fan of, however after a couple of listens the chorus of "Sean Den Förste Banan" had wedged itself in my brain. Even my mum, who I had forced into watching the first 45 minutes of the contest, conceded that this had a very memorable and catchy chorus and was a qualifier. Although to what stage of the contest we still couldn't be sure.

The same could not be said for the overwhelmingly beige Abalone Dots, as "På Väg" lacked a memorable hookline but was nevertheless more pleasant than I'd expected.

Having listened to The Moniker's 2012 effort "I Want To Be Chris Isaak" I'd concluded that I liked it a bit more than "Oh My God" which quite frankly got on my nerves. However, it's still a long way from great. Lots of name-dropping, but mum got in there quickly with her view that the chorus was just too repetitive. "Repetitive choruses can be quite common in MF" I advise her, but she just wasn't having it.

We both perked up with the long-awaited return of Afro-Dite to the contest, 10 years after they won MF. And they're still looking and sounding great, although over the course of the night I'd been questioning just how much of the on-the-night vocals were live, and how much were "Memorex" (if you're of a certain age you'll remember that one!" "The Boy Can Dance" may have been more 1979 than 2012, but it deserved at least a spot at Andra Chansen.

I had mixed feelings about Dead By April. On the one hand, I always appreciate the idea of credible artists and rock bands taking part in Melodifestivalen. Yet "Mystery" seemed to be such a disjointed song, but the enduring popularity of this Linkin Park style with added growling, and the "difference" of the whole thing ensured that it was a definite qualifier.

As I didn't see Marie Serneholt's "Salt and Pepper" in full, it would be unfair to pass comment. First thought: telephone call from Agnes Carlsson, she would like her gold catsuit back. Second thought: it really does sound like a second-rate version of "The Boy Does Nothing", as many others have commented. Marie was good, but good isn't enough. If she ever comes back to MF, she needs to be great. By this point, mum had lost interest and went back to her newspaper.

Of course in the great contradiction that is Melodifestivalen, you don't have to be great to qualify. You can be 'rank rotten' (as they say in our part of the world) and still make it. All you have to be is a famous actor - and when I hear him 'sing', now I know why he is an actor. But I'm not Swedish, and I don't 'get' Thorsten Flinck. The minute he started 'singing', mum looked up from her newspaper, said nothing, made her 'WTF???' face and started watching, with a continued look of disbelief. "Jag Reser Mig Igen" took awfulness to a whole new level.

From the ridiculous to the sublime? As with her 2011 entry last year, Loreen's song had an unremarkable verse but it exploded into an anthemic memorable chorus. Her other-worldly performance loaded with intensity took "Euphoria" up-up-up-up into the stratosphere and even screamed "possible winner". Again I had my doubts about the amount of live vocals here, or at least that's the way it sounded at this end. Maybe if you were watching on television rather than on the web it might have seemed different. Mum wasn't impressed - "it just sounds like a lot of other songs" - but I tried to explain that this was on another level from your usual Melodifestivalen entry. I do however have mixed feelings about this song: it's not a great song, but I've got a strong feeling that this could actually do very well indeed if it was selected for Sweden, as they've finally cracked on to the idea that 'performance' is worth a great big chunk of the Eurovision vote.

Due to other commitments on Saturday night I missed the musical number by the three presenters but am reliably informed it was very good. I got back in time for the 'Tredje Chansen' segment which brings a little of the "Så mycket bättre" feel to this year's contest - radical reinterpretations of previous entries which didn't make it out of their heats. This week it was the turn of The Soundtrack of Our Lives - never in a million years did I think we'd ever see a band like that at MF - performing Dilba's "Try Again". I wasn't really impressed on first listen - maybe I need to "try again" (groan) to see if I like it.

Results time! Loreen and Dead By April to Globen, and Sean Banan and that abysmal Flinck song to Andra Chansen. Looks like it could be this year's "Snälla Snälla" and I really can't stand that song. But then again, maybe all the controversy regarding his behaviour may kill off his chances?

On the evidence of Saturday night, it would appear that the times they are a-changing for Melodifestivalen. Heat 1 may not have been a great one, but it was better than expected...and it was certainly not lacking in diversity - where else would you find rap, country, pop, metal and electro-rave in one TV show? Forthcoming heats may bring more familiar territory for the schlager fans - or will there be more surprises to come?

All photographs are courtesy of www.svt.se.

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