Three weeks in and I'd have to say that Melodifestivalen 2012 hasn't been a vintage one by any means. Don't get me wrong, I love the weekly extravaganzas, always have and always will, but on the whole the songs have mainly been disappointing by the contest's standards. Where are the memorable songs? Has the "melodi" gone out of Melodifestivalen?
Nevertheless the contest has an extra dimension for us this year as (a) I'm watching it on the TV screen and (b) I've managed to convert my mum to becoming a fan!
So now we're both sitting comfortably, let's begin!
Gina and Sarah - who are really doing a great job, aren't they! - started the show with a silly, fun song about how to pronounce their names. Gina's stylist obviously had the night off, as she was dressed in an unflattering sack in a colourless colour. At least Sarah got it right, wearing a nice black velvet dress. Helena was missing again last Saturday, although I don't really think she adds anything to the show.
For anyone who forgot how smug Fredrik Kempe looked, we got a reminder before song 1 as he was introduced as co-writer as "Youngblood" by Youngblood. The current fashion for awfully young boybands (hello One Direction!) has not escaped the Swedes, so Sweden's latest boyband made their MF debut in Leksand. When it came to the chorus I just thought youngblood, youngblood, you can call me youngblood. It was a little too reminiscent of Manboy for my liking, however it was a very lively start to the evening with the boys singing, dancing and waving burning torches around. Mum was a bit more favourable about it than I was, but we both saw it as a qualifier.
This year's webbjoker winner, Maria BenHajji had a well-staged ballad "I Mina Drömmar" which she sang very well even if it was all a bit been-there, done that. Ballads are not faring very well anymore at MF and if the far superior Sonja couldn't qualify this year, then Maria would continue the poor-performing trend of the webbjoker which I could see being scrapped after this year. There was a very funny moment after the song when Gina had to go round and put out all those candles :D
Of all week 3's artists, I had probably looked forward to Mattias Andréasson the most, but had been rather disappointed by the pre-contest one minute clip of "Förlåt Mig". On the night, the full song didn't change my mind. A very contemporary mid-tempo r'n'b number, which isn't really my thing, and a bit forgettable. Mum was impressed by his good looks but not by the song. I did explain to her that like many other artists who go into MF, Mattias wasn't in it to win it but using it as a very handy launchpad for a solo career/new album.
Love Generation! Now you just knew that they'd put on a show and give it their all. Mum thought "Just A Little Bit" was alright, although 'just a little bit...repetitive'. As for their distinctive zebra-style catsuits, mum said..."they obviously ran out of the costume budget as they didn't have enough material for the other leg". For me, the song just wasn't as good as "Dance Alone" but it might sneak onto my iPod after the competition.
Now to this week's 'unknown/credible artist who you wouldn't expect to see in Melodifestivalen'. Carolina Wallin Perez was much more low-key than some on stage this week. Straight away I declared "It sounds like a Kent song!" and spent the rest of the song trying to imagine Jocke Berg singing it. The drumming backdrop was simple but effective, although the song lacked a distinctive hookline. The EuropeCrazy HQ fashion police weren't so happy with the white dress/pyjama combo.
Beginning to lose count of how many times Andreas Johnson's been in Melodifestivalen. Mum wasn't too familiar with him but she immediately declared "Lovelight" her fave song of the evening, although "it reminds me of something else". "The Beautiful Ones" by Suede, perhaps? Or "Road Rage" by Catatonia? Anyway it's very lively and upbeat and he was definitely guaranteed a qualifying place.
Despite me going on about how this is such a poor year for Melodifestivalen, mum reiterates her comment of past weeks that "The standard of songs in this contest is much higher than what would ever represent Britain". I cheerfully remind her that she might want to eat her words when a certain Mr Ranelid takes to the stage...
But first, Molly Sanden. I explain the back story of Swedish pop's golden couple - Molly and Eric - and how they split up so here's a big breakup ballad, "Why Am I Crying". Very effective lighting effects for this one. Yes she's a good singer with a big voice, but unfortunately the song is a bit too shouty and squealy for us. I'm not a ballad fan as you know, but I prefer them low-key and restrained (hello Sonja Alden). Oh and look! The wind machine. I'd wondered where it had got to. Mum's decided that she didn't like this song at all.
And now to the, er, "highlight" of the evening. If Bjorn Ranelid was British, he would be knighted for his services to the tanning industry. This man has been all over Swedish celeb-reality shows over the past couple of years so it was inevitable that MF would be the biggest showcase for this attention seeker's, um, talents. Basically, "Mirakel" was 3 minutes of talking - not rapping, but talking, think Telly Savalas doing "If" set to a Cascada-style beat with ex Caracola Sara Li singing the Cascada-style chorus, culminating in "kärleken kärleken kärleken oj oj oj!" The most bizarre thing I've probably ever seen at Melodifestivalen in all the year's I've been watching it, and believe me that's saying something.
Still don't like those comedy sketches with all the characters.
Youngblood, Molly, Andreas, Mattias and Ranelid to the super-final. Hmm...
Although I've been none too impressed by the interval acts this year, probably Sirqus Alfon's remake of Roger Pontare's "Silverland" was probably the first one which worked for me.
Vi har ett resultat time. Molly till final, Youngblood and Andreas to Andra Chansen, and finally, that "song". Truly a "WTF" moment indeed.
Markus Larsson in Aftonbladet later tried to defend Bjorn Ranelid going to Globen, not because of the song, but for the entertainment value. It's "vote for the worst" all over again - it's John Sergeant in Strictly, Wagner in X Factor, Willy Björkman in Let's Dance. There are too many novelty acts in this year's Melodifestivalen - firstly Thorsten Flinck, now this. But what if it wins? Maybe Sweden should then operate a Sanremo-style selection process: let the Swedes vote for any old rubbish but send something decent to Eurovision.
(all photos above are, as ever, courtesy of www.svt.se)