Monday, February 27, 2012

Congratulations Bret!

As a long-time Flight of the Conchords fan I was delighted to see the lovely Bret McKenzie win an Oscar last night for his song "Man Or Muppet" from the latest Muppets movie.

Now that would definitely impress Murray at the band meeting :)))

The Playlist: January-February 2012

"The Boy Can Dance" - Afro-Dite: one of the very few songs in this year's Melodifestivalen which I'll continue to listen to after the contest.

"Stay" - Tooji: an absolute cracker representing Norway this year. Modern beats blended with eastern rhythms = success! (hopefully).

"Shapeshifter" - Rikke Normann: I really enjoyed following the Norwegian national finals his year and even though I didn't really enjoy the performance on the night, this works very well indeed on record.

"You and I" - Minnie-Oh: a cracking wee song from the MGP. She's charming and captivating and very different, and I hope we see her again in the contest in the future.

"Take Our Hearts" - Jesper Nohrstedt: I'm probably calling it this year's "Yes Man" with a considerable post-(D)MGP life on my playlist.

"Remedy" - J-Son featuring Salem Al Fakir: these are exciting times for our main man: recently married, baby on the way and soundtracking it all is this joy-filled rap/pop crossover collaboration with rapper J-Son.

"Live Tomorrow" - Lena Philipsson: I'm not really a fan of Laleh but I'm enjoying Lena's version of this song, the sentiment of which is very appropriate at this point in time.

"Hugarro" - Magni Asgeirsson: he gave his typical passionate performance of this rock ballad in the Icelandic final, but of course it was Jonsi and Greta's year.

"Somebody That I Used To Know" - Gotye featuring Kimbra: yes I know it's pretty ubiquitous by now but on the plus side, it's not Someone Like You or Jessie J :)

"America" - Le Kid: for some reason I've got right into this song again. Just a pure pop song, nothing more and nothing less.

"My Own Worst Enemy" - Robert Pettersson featuring Helena Josefsson: It's very James Bond-ish and dramatic so it's very appropriate that it's a Swedish movie theme, with distinctive vocals from the Takida frontman.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Melodifestivalen 2012: Deltävling 4, Malmö 25.02.12

All three presenters were in place this week, and the show began with a salute to the returning Helena - a parody song with a nod to Bjorn Ranelid's number from last week. Heat 4 is traditionally the toughest of all, featuring some of the strongest candidates and big names.

First on stage was one of MF's biggest names of all - Charlotte Perrelli, making her comeback 4 years after "Hero". Much was made of the height of the heels, the cost of the lighting effects and that glittery dress. Apparently the whole thing was expansive as well as expensive, as it appeared it wouldn't all fit on the smaller stage at Andra Chansen. So Charlotte was in it to win it, or at least to go #direkttillgloben. That was all very well, but what about the song? Sorry Charlotte, but "The Girl" was nothing special, and all those fancy effects didn't really come across watching on TV via a webstream. Oh and Fredrik Kempe still has the most slappable face in Sweden.

OPA! took to the catwalk to the sounds of "Opa Opa" (can you see what they just did there??). Mum cheered up at this one probably for all the wrong reasons...."it reminds me of the old fashioned kind of thing you used to get in Eurovision, all those old Greek songs!" Yes, but even Greece doesn't send stuff like this anymore. Aww, bless them though. This is probably the biggest audience they'll ever get.

Still have very fond memories of "1000 Miles" by H.E.A.T. which is probably the best rock song ever in Melodifestivalen. I'd have loved to have seen them back again, especially now with Erik as their lead singer. In the meantime we had to settle for 2011's interval act Dynazty, who if I recall were mentored by Peter Stormare. Their song "Land of Broken Dreams" was written by schlager legend G:son - strip away the guitars and this is very much a schlager song. It was also rather good, if not great. Mum liked their hair.

And now to the campest thing of the evening. Oh look - it's Lasse Holm! For younger readers, he was like the 80s MF songwriting equivalent of Fredrik Kempe. I explained to mum who Lotta and Christer were, and I totally expected her to hate their song. So imagine my surprise when she ended up swaying along to the great lost Julio Iglesias song, "Don't Let Me Down", only stopping to yell "Beatles rip-off!" at the chorus, referring to the Beatles song of the same name. Is my mother developing latent schlager tendencies? It was a very warm and likeable performance and was a definite qualifier.

Unlike the next song, "Goosebumps" by Hanna Lindblad. She entered the stage to "Dansa i Neon" - now that's a lot to live up to. Mum started singing "...and it was so yellow" in response to her horrific giant yellow snood which actually detracted from the performance and the song. It took a while for "Manipulated" to grow on me but it eventually did. I doubt if this one will, which is a bit disappointing considering that Linda Sundblad was involved in writing it.

We were both a bit more receptive of "Kyss Mig" by the unknown Axel Algmark. I'd even forgotten his name. "Axel somebody" says I, "Axl Rose?" mum offered. But he was probably more Hakan Hellstrom, and he put a lot of energy into his catchy performance. Mum liked his dancing. It was never anywhere near a qualifier but at least he perked the evening up.

Only for Lisa Miskovsky to take things down again. "Why Start A Fire" (like Molly Sanden's song, it's another MF entry in search of a question mark) had good songwriting credentials - co-written by Aleksander With - however both of us got very bored with it very quickly. Simple and very effective staging though, and probably will be one of the very few massive radio hits of this year's contest. And the strange thing about it was that listening later, I actually remembered the song more than expected. It may be a grower after all...

So on to the final song in this year's competition, and the main course of the evening. I've been a long-time supporter of Danny Saucedo over the years doing this blog, and still think he was robbed last year. But there is a "but" coming, and I didn't really know how to say this, but "Amazing" didn't quite live up to its title on Saturday night as there were problems with Danny's usually perfect vocals. Although Danny's stage performance is as always professional, visually stunning and there's just enough gimmicks to get by. Well if Eric Saade had the breaking glass, Danny & co can do glow in the dark suits, right?

Yet another tedious comedy sketch - time to put the kettle on - then five songs to the "superfinal" - no real surprises here - Danny, Charlotte, Lotta & Christer, Lisa and Dynazty. This week's Tredje Chansen song was last year's "The Hunter" originally performed by Melody Club, and reinterpreted on Saturday night by the Stenhammar Quartet featuring the wonderful Sarah Dawn Finer. I'm glad she has been able to use her vocal talents as well as her impressive presenting talent this year.

Vi har ett resultat time. A tense and anxious few minutes, before the first big shock of the evening - Lisa to Globen. She is an established artist in Sweden after all, so we shouldn't really be too surprised. Lotta and Christer/Dynazty to AC - and even more tension as it was between Danny and Charlotte for a place in Globen. Drum roll......DANNY!! An uh-uh-uh-amazing result, although there is yet another "but" coming. In the cold light of day, stripping away the lighted suits and the flashy routine, the actual song falls well short of my expectations. It's all very now, very Chris Brown/Swedish House Mafia, but to be completely honest I want a spectacular song to match the title and the routine. If it is selected to represent Sweden it could be the big contemporary international hit that the ESC is crying out for. But it is not a classic song.

Young Mr Saucedo doesn't just need to turn up at Globen for qualification to be assured. Nope. For there is the small matter of a certain Loreen, whose performance of "Euphoria" has already provided one of the contest's most unforgettable moments. It's shaping up to be a nailbiting contest, one of the closest in years...and I've got a feeling that Loreen is doing to win it!!

(all of the above photos courtesy of

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: January-February 2012

Never thought I'd say this, but it's actually been a pretty good start to the year so far in TV land. And the best thing of all, for everyone suffering from Forbrydelsen withdrawal symptoms is that the new year brought us a new Danish TV show to love.

Firstly, though, to "FORBRYDELSEN II" (BBC4) which actually finished before Christmas but I recorded all the episodes on my digibox and watched them over the space of one week back in January whilst trying to recover from that horrible gastric-cold-virus thing.

Initially I didn't think I'd like it as much as the first series. How wrong could I be. It may have been half as long as the first series, but was every bit as gripping with its twists and turns. And no, I didn't guess the killer's identity before it was revealed either.

There were no murder mysteries in BBC4's latest Danish import "BORGEN" (BBC4) but it was equally as gripping as its cult predecessor. Normally I'd run a mile at the mention of 'political drama' but let's face it, the Danes do it much better! A fascinating glimpse into the nature of coalition politics with cross and double cross and political skullduggery, and the basic moral of how power can corrupt even the most idealistic, in this case the prime minister Birgitte Nyborg, the latest brilliant, iconic Danish female TV character. The real fun was spotting the stars of "Forbrydelsen" - both of Sarah Lund's cop partners from series I and II, and even Theis from series I. Oh and there was a Troels, but not that one though. Although that one is in "Those Who Kill" which has now started on ITV3. Haven't got round to watching that yet so I'll write about it in March's round-up.

BBC4 remains my most-watched channel of the moment. "THE STORY OF MUSICALS" - was a very watchable three part series telling the story of the rise, occasional fall, and rise again of the British musical, up until the present day. If you missed it on BBC4 it's getting a quick and well-earned repeat on BBC2.

Another fascinating documentary, this time on BBC2 - if you're one of "BRITAIN'S CHINESE TIGER MUMS", then under-achiever just doesn''t figure in your vocabulary. The programme explored the lives of the mums who timetable every aspect of their child's lives till they reached absolute perfection. One thing seemed to be missing from their lives though - good old childhood fun.

"THE HOTEL" (Channel 4) is back, but this time it has swapped the Damson Dene for The Grosvenor in Torquay. This series may have felt a little too 'staged', with Alan Partridge-type manager Mark and his sidekicks Christian and Alison maybe a bit too aware of the cameras, but despite that it's still a fine old Sunday night guilty pleasure. It all ends tonight, and it will definitely leave a void at 8pm on Sundays.

I'm way too old for the BBC3 demographic but occasionally tune in to some of their documentaries. "BRITAIN'S GAY FOOTBALLERS" was presented by Amal Fashanu, niece of the late Justin Fashanu, the only footballer in this country to come out as openly gay. By the end of the show she still hadn't found anyone willing to admit to being gay in this macho, intolerant, bigoted sport which is still stuck in the dark ages. So what did she do? Well she went to Sweden of course, and found the lovely Anton Hysen whose coming out doesn't seem to have affected his career. Even more fascinating was Amal's exploration of the Fashanu family dynamics, eventually confronting her own father, John Fashanu, over his attitude to his brother's sexuality.

As for Saturday nights, we've welcomed back "WHO DARES WINS" (BBC1) one of our favourite game shows. The format hasn't changed, but that suits us just fine.

It has something in common with our daily teatime treat "THE CHASE" (ITV) - it's a basic quiz show, with no stupid stuff tagged on in the way that most of these modern gameshows seem to go in for. Here at EuropeCrazy HQ we've got a little conspiracy theory going though, that the format of the show makes it practically impossible to beat the "Chasers".

"THE TALENT SHOW STORY" (ITV) focused on the history of talent shows old and new, but being ITV it would always come back to X Factor and Britain's Got Talent, and was really just a subliminal off-season plug for these shows.

I really, desperately wanted to love "NEW GIRL" (Channel 4), the well-publicised new U.S. comedy show. It was OK I guess, but didn't give me enough reasons to stick with it beyond a couple of episodes. The days of a mega-comedy like Friends or Frasier seem to be long gone and the new shows just don't grab the public's imagination anymore. I don't know what the answer is - the new British comedies aren't doing it for me. Before I start coming across like a humourless bore, can I just mention Fawlty Towers, Phoenix Nights, Father Ted, Allo Allo, Flight of the Conchords: the only comedy box sets you'll ever need.

"COPPERS" (Channel 4) has become must-see viewing for a Monday night. It's a fly on the wall series about the day to day work of the police in Nottinghamshire. The coppers themselves have a very healthy and refreshing sense of humour laced with cynicism. Which is ok by me.

However, the Monday night 9pm documentary slot recently threw in a new challenger for our viewing time: "PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN" (BBC2) was another fly on the wall series, this time set in Bristol and following social work staff in Children's Services. It's a hard-working profession which is often an easy target for the media, but this series will hopefully redress the balance and show the reasons why difficult decisions need to be made by hard working staff in the best interests of the children with whom they work.

One particularly excellent series well worth a mention was "PUTIN, RUSSIA AND THE WEST" (BBC2) which explores the political life and times of the Russian leader, since he came to power. It's gripping viewing, made by the same team which made "The Death of Yugoslavia" (which coincidentally right now I'm reading the book of) and wheeled out some major political bigwigs for their comments on everything from Chechnya, Georgia and Ukraine to political dissidents and spying incidents. It's a very high quality programme which only the BBC could make. Now they really need to make a programme about what Mr Putin is doing in his own country.

One great documentary series well worth a mention: "SICILY UNPACKED" (BBC2) which teamed up an art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon and a chef, Giorgio Locatelli who both share one common obsession - the island of Sicily, with its significant colonial architectural heritage, its no-nonsense food and its darker side. The two guys, despite coming from different fields of interest, were a good match and I think it would be a good idea to reunite them again, maybe to explore the rest of Italy? Or team them up with the "Two Greedy Italians"?

Haven't watched so many movies lately, but one worth mentioning was "LETTERS TO JULIET" (Sky Movies) which was a gentle, old-fashioned undemanding film with lots of very picturesque Italian scenery. Initially I only watched it because I saw Gael Garcia Bernal's name on the cast list but it actually turned out to be quite enjoyable. It was the kind of film which I needed when I wasn't feeling very well.

"I'M IN A BOY BAND" (BBC2) covered some old and very familiar territory about boy bands past and present, but let's face it people, there is no limit to the amount of times we can laugh ourselves senseless at that Boyzone Late Late Show clip.

Oh my beloved "HARRY'S LAW" (Universal) what have they done to you? Series two is all big and glam and it's lost the homely, gritty feeling that made season 1 so special. It didn't explain the office relocation or the reason for the extra staff, the whole Jenna/Malcolm and Adam/Rachel stories were buried, Adam's relegated to a side role and in comes ex-Boston Legal star Mark Valley and a very unlikeable DA character named Roseanna. At least Tommy Jefferson's still around for comic relief, otherwise this show is pretty dead in the water. Which is pretty sad really.

Our Killjoys of the month award goes to RTE for not letting viewers outside Ireland watch its biggest new TV show "THE VOICE OF IRELAND" on the RTE Player. Thus denying us the chance to take part in the latest weekly obsession of the Irish female population - drooling at Bressie ;) and of course enjoying the contestants' musical talents.

"PARENTHOOD" is back on 5* and season 2 carries on in the same vein with its almost improvisational script, and the fast-talking style reminiscent of Gilmore Girls. Both share the excellent Lauren Graham, and despite being a little on the annoying side at times, you still find yourself being drawn in and caring about the characters. I'll be sticking with this one to see how the Braverman family's sub-plots develop.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Melodifestivalen Deltävling 3: Leksand 18.02.12

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Back soon!

I've decided to take a little bit of time out - don't worry, there's nothing wrong, I'm just very busy and don't really have time for blogging at the moment.

The blog should be back on 26th February with a catch-up on the next two Melodifestivalen heats and some other stuff. See you soon.

Swedish Grammis 2012: the winners

The Grammisgalan took place last night, honouring many of Sweden's hottest artists of the moment. The big winners on the night were Veronica Maggio and Lykke Li.

Best Album: Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
Best Artist: Lykke Li
Best Electronic/Dance: Rebecca & Fiona - I Love You, Man
Best Hip-Hop/Soul: Timbuktu - Sagolandet
Best Hardrock/Metal: Graveyard - Hisingen Blues
Best Jazz: Tonbruket - Dig It To The End
Best Songwriter: Veronica Maggio/Christian Walz - Satan I Gatan
Best Song: Avicii - Levels
Best Music Video: Gustav Johansson - Karl X Johan - "Flames (Uncompromised Cut)"
Best Newcomer: Aleks
Best Pop: Veronica Maggio - Satan I Gatan
Best Producer: Masse Salazar
Best Rock: Deportees - Islands & Shores
Best International Success: Swedish House Mafia
Best Lyrics: Veronica Maggio/Christian Walz - Satan I Gatan
Best Innovator: Avicii
Honorary Award - Björn Skifs

Check out the red carpet pics at

which include a few of this year's Melodifestivalen contestants.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Meanwhile over in Norway and Iceland....

With Super Saturday underway, one thing became clear - you can't watch everything at once. Especially when you're trying to watch "Who Dares Wins" on the telly at the same time :) Having given Melodifestivalen my full attention for 90 minutes this meant that I couldn't tune into the first part of Norway's MGP final.

It was certainly a diverse line-up - Tooji and Lise Karlsnes' lively dance-pop, Plumbo's folk-rock, Reidun Saether's schlager stomper, Malin's Glee-pop, Nora Foss Al-Jabri's Disney film ballad (written by Christian from A1!), Yaseen & Julie Maria's rap, Tommy Fredvang's rock/pop, Carburetors' metal and Petter and Bobby's country song.

Yes, in the words of the big dude in the cowboy hat, things change. Eurovision's national finals are moving with the times and you can now find some very contemporary songs in the line-ups. When I saw Tooji last week, I immediately screamed "Eric Saade clone!" However his song, "Stay" is much more contemporary than "Popular" and I had a feeling it would do well, although the general opinion in blogland since this year's MGP started was that a win for Plumbo with "Ola Nordmann", a song which would probably have limited appeal outside Norway - was a foregone conclusion. Then the superfinal happened and the voting turned out to be more exciting and nailbiting than we could have imagined. For a little while it looked as if a Nora win was on the cards but towards the end there was a surge of votes for Tooji, his tears began to flow (which was a bit tiresome..) and "Stay" was on its way to Baku! Which I'm very happy about.

So having had one eye on the Norwegian voting, and one eye on the Icelandic final, I could now totally focus on Songvakeppni Sjonvarpsins. The show was moved out of the TV studio into a lovely theatre. Not for them the arenas or balloon-waving of Melodifestivalen or Melodi Grand Prix. Whilst I love them, I also love the refreshing down-to-earth normality of the Icelandic adventure. Heiða and Guðrún Árný, two ladies in floaty toga-style dresses kicked off the show with "Aldrei sleppir mér". There was someone missing from the line-up, as writer Greta Salóme Stefánsdóttir decided to focus her attentions on singing her duet with Jónsi.

Of course I was cheering on Magni Ásgeirsson who delivered yet another passionate performance of "Hugarró". However I was realistic enough to know that he wasn't going to win, as there was one very obvious (and very good) winner.

"Stund með þér" was a nice little interlude by Rósa Birgítta Ísfeld, a little reminiscent of Duffy or Amy Winehouse but completely different too. Although her styling was definitely another "WTF???" moment.

As was "Hey" by Simbi og Hrútspungarnir, which is still unspeakably bad, one of the worst songs I've ever had the misfortune to hear in an Icelandic selection.

Next on stage was Regína Ósk with "Hjartað brennur" which was a pretty decent song although I ranted and raved all through it about wanting Euroband to get back together. Maybe some day...we can dream can't we?

Ah, now to "Stattu Upp" by the energetic (if a little amateurish) boyband Blár Opal. It's probably a better presentation than in the heats, but I still didn't like it enough as a winner. I still can't listen to it without thinking of "Dynamite" by Taio Cruz.

If Stattu Upp was a little too lightweight, then how about something more substantial like, say, Greta Salóme and Jónsi performing "Mundu eftir mér"? It's a strong performance although I' not ashamed to say that I'd have preferred Jónsi singing it on his own. But give Greta her due, she's a serious musician and she adds the all-important ethno-drama element.

Songs over, break followed break, recap followed recap, then for some reason I lost the stream and missed the voting and the announcement of the winner. When I tried to get the stream back on the Icelandic TV website, there seemed to be more recaps, or was I just hallucinating by this time??

Anyway I'm pretty pleased about how Super Saturday went...although very tired after all the multi-tasking!!

Melodifestivalen 2012 - Deltävling 2: Gothenburg 11.02.12

Unlike last week, we didn’t get straight to the songs but the show kicked off with a brilliant boyband medley by the multi-talented Sarah and Gina who are doing a great job so far this year. No Helena tonight as she was off acting in a play or something? My mum, who’s new to this Melodifestivalen lark, was getting a bit irritated by the long introduction. "When do the songs start?" She asked.

They eventually did, and the first one was "Soldiers" by Ulrik Munther. Firstly I loathe kiddie-pop therefore have completely avoided young Mr Munther’s career so far as I thought he was probably just the Swedish answer to Justin Bieber. So we got a very pleasant surprise on hearing this - he has a very mature tone to his voice. The song is very reminiscent of "All The Right Moves" by OneRepublic and is a real grower, appealing beyond his teen-girl fanbase. Although mum thought he was about 12 years old...."Isn’t there an age-limit for this thing? I thought they didn’t let children compete!"

Sarah and Gina were both beautifully styled this week, Gina in a white fairytale gown and Sarah in a gorgeous black lace dress.

Oh no, it’s Top Cats and "Baby Doll". Mum wondered if there’s a rockabilly revival going on. I try to explain to her that there is a Swedish equivalent of "middle America" which votes for this type of nonsense, although I didn’t see it as a qualifier. Then again my theme song should be "Why Do I Always Get It Wrong". Remember that one, Eurovision fans?

Of course this year the contestants have that pre-song walk (The walk of shame? The green mile?) On to the stage and Sonja Alden walked it in a cape and a robe which she cast off to reveal a pretty pink dress. She also made good use of the little bridge prop on stage and of course the wind machine was fired up :) Mum, who has no Melodifestivalen knowledge beyond hearing me blasting out the odd couple of songs from it every year, immediately loved Sonja’s voice and her schlager ballad. I explain that she’s Melodifestivalen royalty however this might struggle to qualify this week.

There once was a time when Andreas Lundstedt appeared as a solo artist at MF singing in Swedish. But we’ve got so used to seeing him as a member of Alcazar that it’s funny to see him solo/singing in Swedish once again. Dressed in a gold jacket, he performed "Aldrig, Aldrig" which was good but lacked a strong hook unlike so many Alcazar songs.

Melodifestivalen is not just home to established artists but also to unknown acts. Some of these will never be heard of again, then there are others who will take the stage one year as an unknown but will become big-league MF stars on their return. Like Loreen, for example. Then there is the world’s most glamorous folk band, Timoteij, who made their MF comeback to one of the biggest cheers of the night, taking the pre-song walk to AC/DC (!) "Stormande Hav" isn’t "Kom" of course, but it’ll do. I loved the intro, and there was even some mid-song strutting and the obligatory key change. An absolute qualifier.

So, who will be the breakthrough star of MF 2012? After last night, the smart money will be on David Lindgren. He appeared as the young Tomas Ledin in Tomas’ recent ‘Showtime’ run in Gothenburg, and has also been in stage versions of "Hairspray" and "High School Musical". So yes, he can sing. If "Shout It Out" was a stick of rock it would have "Danny Saucedo" written all the way through it - this would be the "To The Sky" song which Danny was originally earmarked to sing this year. It’s the little brother of "In The Club" and had lots of Danny-style choreography. David looks more like a bank clerk than a pop star, however he performed brilliantly and as for the breakdancing....well you didn’t expect that, did ya?? As Sir Terence of Wogan used to say, "this one went big in the hall" and I confidently predicted it to qualify, putting the cat among some very established pigeons this week!

Next on stage, Mimi Oh with "Det går för långsamt". It lacked a strong hook and all that yellow hurt my eyes, but it was an energetic performance although never looked like qualifying. I think we’ll hear more from her though, but I prefer Norway’s Minnie-Oh who won the battle of the "Ohs" this year for me.

Finally, Sweden’s worst-dressed man. I explained to mum that Thomas Di Leva’s been around for years but has never been in MF till now. I also explained that he always wears those kaftan/gown thingies, but he really excelled himself tonight in bad styling. "Ge Aldrig Upp" was a U2/Coldplay-styled anthemic builder with a good chorus but less impressive verses. I felt that he would miss out on qualification despite being a famous and established artist.

Before the votes were counted I predicted Ulrik and Timoteij to Globen and David and Sonja to Andra Chansen.

While the votes are being counted there's a comedy sketch which I really don't get. It also went on a bit too long.

However I did love Gina’s sign on her dress when she was talking to the contestants. After last week’s bum-grabbing incident - she made sure it wouldn’t happen again!
First of the evening’s "WTF" moments when the five acts were announced for the next round of voting. Top Cats???? Why????? Very sad that Sonja didn’t make it, but there now seems to be a schlager-ballad curse in MF I guess.

On to the Tredje Chansen segment. Some good songs this week up for voting, but it was one of my least favourite - "Elektrisk" which was re-imagined this week by DJ Håkan Lidbo. Sorry folks, but this segment just isn’t doing it for me. Good to see Jessica Folcker back again though. Mum didn’t like this part of the show either and was glad when it was over.

Finally, the results. No surprise as Ulrik was the first qualifier to Globen. However, I really don’t understand why Top Cats grabbed an AC place. Oh well....
Timoteij didn’t get that automatic Globen spot either and had to settle for a place in Andra Chansen. They may have got the biggest cheers earlier in the evening, but by voting time there was no doubt who the most popular act of the night was. Shout it out - Melodifestivalen has a new star and his name is David Lindgren, and he’s going direkt till Globen! He certainly deserved a place in the final. Of course I want Danny to win this year (if the song’s good enough of course) however my concern is that Danny and David’s songs may split the vote and kill each other, leaving the way open for another winner.

Mum managed to sit through the full show, however she’s less enthusiastic about "another 4 weeks of this???"

Next week the MF circus is off to Leksand and I’m looking forward to seeing Mattias Andreasson making his solo MF debut. Next week also sees the debut of hotly tipped Youngblood, the return of Love Generation, Molly Sanden and recurring regular Andreas Johnson. However be afraid, be very afraid as Bjorn Ranelid, the man with the tan, will probably provide the week’s "WTF" moment.

(All the above photos are courtesy of SVT)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sweden/Norway/Iceland write-ups tomorrow!

It's been a long exciting trip to Glasgow followed by all the MF/MGP/Iceland stuff...feeling a bit tired after a very eventful evening so I'll do write-ups tomorrow!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Just a minute: Melodifestivalen Week 2 snippets

Haven't really had much time to blog this week and won't be around till later tomorrow but just a quick post about Saturday night's MF heat 2 songs, based on the minute-long snippets.

Firstly I was surprised by Ulrik Munther's song "Soldiers" which proved my lazy comparisons with Justin Bieber to be unfounded: judging by this, it's more Ryan Tedder/OneRepublic. Which is good. Qualification assured. Unlike Top Cats. Really, what's the point? Is there some rockabilly quota to fulfil? This is like the Vauxhall Conference version of "The King". Baby doll, rock n' roll. Hmph. Sonja Aldén is very good of course, she has great vocal control but judging the short clip I can only say her song is good but not spectacular.

Andreas Lundstedt's song is more dancey and less disco than the mighty Alcazar but I liked what I heard although on first listening, not so memorable. It probably won't qualify of course but may go on to have a post-contest life just as "The Boy Can Dance" which is leading my week's playlist as we speak.

I've already prepared faithful travelling companion for Timoteij's song. I've told him it's not as good as "Kom" (but then, what is?) anyway I still think it's a qualifier but in my time-honoured fence-sitting style, I'm not sure where to.

David Lindgren was a major surprise and I'm looking forward to seeing him perform "Shout It Out" in full tomorrow night. Mimi Oh: Not Minnie Oh - wrong name, wrong country - but although this one's contemporary pop-dance stomper will probably fail to make the grade tomorrow night, I can see it having a longer life, at least in pop blogland.

Finally, prepare to be shocked: I liked what I heard of Thomas Di Leva's "Ge Aldrig Upp" but his image and styling is very offputting though. Based on the clips I'm predicting qualification for Timoteij, Ulrik Munther, David Lindgren and Thomas Di Leva on Saturday night, but who's going where I still don't know!

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 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

X Factor is on its way to Sweden.

It's a programme which passed its sell-by date in the UK a long long time ago, yet for four months of the year we can't escape it thanks to all the (non)-stories in the media. Yes, I refer to the overrated, over-exposed X Factor.

Yet although the U.S. version appears to have flopped, there continues to be an international appetite for the show. The latest country to fall for it is Sweden. I know that "Idol" had gone as far as it could go, but it was a much better format than X Factor, which is all about the judges, and the so-called rivalry between them.

Expressen today revealed the names of the artists who will be on the judging panel on the forthcoming first series of the show -

Orup, Marie Serneholt, Andreas Carlsson and Ison (from Ison & Fille) are the names quoted although TV4 have refused to confirm if the rumours are true.

Meanwhile the rumours are also circulating about who will be appearing in the next series of TV4's "Let's Dance". Latest names suggested are Christer Sandelin and Anton Hysén.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Just a minute: Melodifestivalen 2012 snippets, week 1.

Last night I heard the one minute snippets of the first eight songs competing at this year's Melodifestivalen. I was a bit tired and grumpy and my initial impression wasn't very good.

But it's Friday night now, I'm not grumpy and only a little bit tired, so let's try them again!

1. "Sean Den Förste Banan" - Sean Banan.

I'm not Swedish and I don't live in Sweden, so please forgive me if I don't "get" Mr Banan. Or should he maybe change his name to banal? I just don't understand his popularity. The song /rap itself isn't really up to much, the chorus has a little 'tingeling'-reference. The chorus is very catchy, I'll give it that, and he'll bring a massive stage show It will qualify, although I still can't decide where to.

2. "På Väg" - Abalone Dots.

In advance of the contest, reading about this acoustic/country group didn't really fill me with excitement. Based on the one minute snippet I haven't changed my mind. It's very dull and let's face it chappies, if we're going to fulfil the female folky quota at MF then surely that spot should be reserved for the mighty Timoteij.

3. ""I Want To Be Chris Isaak (This Is Just The Beginning)" - The Moniker.

Oh my God, oh my God...oh wait, new year, new song. It's not as "out there" as last year's annoying song, and on second listening I think it could grow on me. But as Eminem says, you only get one shot and I don't know if there's enough goodwill carrying over from last year to take it further, or indeed if it will be strong enough to qualify.

4. "The Boy Can Dance" - Afro-Dite.

They're even throwing a shake it-shake it for good measure, but on first and second listen my own view is that it's not as good as either "Never Let It Go" (one of my favourite MF winners ever) or for that matter, the underrated "Aqua Playa" although I think I'll grow to like it, maybe even love it. I'm sure they'll put on a disco-tastic show and I'm really looking forward to hearing and seeing them tomorrow night.

5. "Mystery" - Dead By April.

I'm not really familiar with their music, but I'm in no doubt that this is going to qualify. Because a) they're very popular, b) it's totally different to anything else this week, and c) that Linkin Park style is still very popular in continental Europe. With added growling of course, but a quite memorable chorus.

6. "Salt and Pepper" - Marie Serneholt.

There's a lot of love for Marie in blogland and we'd all love to see her do well. However on first/second listen this song is a bit disjointed. Many have compared it to "The Boy Does Nothing", which I like, so I have high hopes for it anyway. And I'm sure she'll put on a good show, but it's a strange week.

7. "Jag Reser Mig Igen" - Thorsten Flinck and Revolutionsorkestern.

Just when you thought Melodifestivalen couldn't leave you speechless anymore, along comes Mr Flinck with (on first/second listen) one of the worst songs ever to grace an MF stage. Biggest shock of all, is that this is a G:son song. No wait....there even may a bigger shock if this qualifies. After all, look how well "Snälla Snälla" did.

8. "Euphoria" - Loreen.

Direkt till Globen, as they say. Wind machine? Check. Intense crawling on the floor and arm-swinging? Check. Her intense performance and big voice drives this out of the ordinary, and the "We Found Love" feel keeps it 100% contemporary.

All in all, a strange week to predict. Loreen is probably an obvious qualifier, but otherwise I genuinely haven't a clue. Sean Banan, Dead By April and hopefully Afro-Dite, although sitting on the fence here you can't write off Flinck and Marie either. Answers tomorrow night!!