Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Melodifestivalen 2013 - Deltävling 1: Karlskrona 02.02.13

Euphoria!  Melodifestivalen season is with us again.

It was the first of the Super Saturdays of course, and I had made the decision to skip watching the 3rd MGP heat in Norway and the beginning of the Icelandic final, in favour of the Swedish spectacular. Yet as with many things in life, the looking forward to is better than the event.  So it was this week, with a disappointing start to the six-week saga.

Karlskrona was the venue this week and the show kicked off with a recap of 2012, the VT of Melodifestivalen giving way to clips from Baku and of course the eventual ESC winner, Loreen.  So how do you follow that?  With a spoof version of "Euphoria" performed by this year's hosts Gina Dirawi and Danny Saucedo (complete with his 'Amazing' outfit) of course.

As this week's artists were announced, there was a more muted reception than usual and not for the first time, I thought the audience seemed a little bored.  (As it turned out, they wouldn't be the only ones). But let's get on with the show!

"Skyline" - David Lindgren.

What a difference a year makes.  Last year David Lindgren was an unknown newcomer, but in February 2013 he returned as one of the strongest favourites.  I liked "Shout It Out" and still do, it went on to become a massive radio hit in Sweden and I was looking forward to hearing what he would do next.  Yet for me "Skyline" disappointed on so many levels - you don't expect complete originality in this contest but this song is such a carbon copy of "Amazing", right down to the dubstep breakdown, to the point where the similarity is quite disturbing!  No doubt someone will do a YouTube mash-up of these songs at some point, if they haven't already done so.  And then there was the choreography, which was irritating beyond belief.  I liked Tooji's twirly-hand-movement last year but this has gone too far.

Once again I had connected my laptop to the TV so that I could enjoy Melfest on the big screen.  As usual, mum was watching with me although she does not have an all-year-round interest in ESC-related matters so I had to remind her what Melodifestivalen was all about.  She did remember "Euphoria" though.  She immediately declared "Skyline" to be too repetitive.

"Burning Flags" - Cookies N Beans.

Aha, the first (and probably not the last) sighting of Lord Smug of Smugsville, a.k.a. Mr Kempe.  Which immediately sparks a rant from me about the same songwriters getting so many songs into the contest every year.  I'm not really a fan of this trio although I have to say that bits of the song were rather good, other bits of it weren't.  The song seemed to be channeling Belinda Carlisle at times.  There was some schlager-stomping choreography though.  Mum: "They look quite alike.  Are they sisters?" Me: "No".

Gina has changed out of her Loreen costume into a beige dress.  She wore beige last year too.  I hate beige.

"Paris" - Jay-Jay Johanson.

His name sounds vaguely familiar to me although I don't know any of his music.  I didn't really know why he was doing Melodifestivalen either, unless it's to boost album sales or something.  By this point in the evening mum had abandoned the TV and started reading.  She looked up from her magazine and said "this is boring and tedious.  He looks pretty tedious too".  I can't really remember much about this song apart from "when I walk the streets of Paris" and then him reeling off a load of place names.  It did go on too long, and the applause in the hall was even more muted than it had been previously.

"Gosa" - Mary N'Diaye.

Something a bit more lively now, although it was the horrendous styling-och-consulting-from-hell which had us chatting all the way through the song.  Her walk-on music was "You Can Call Me Al" and I'd rather have listened to that than this song which was basically just gosa gosa gosa gosa gosa gosa gosa gosa gosa gosa gosa gosa gosa gosa  What's it called again?  I liked her though, but she deserved a better song.

"Vi Kommer Aldrig Att Forlöra" - Eric Gadd.

Now to my favourite of the evening, with the best walk-on song of the evening - Phoenix's brilliant "Everything Is Everything".  I've been an Eric fan for a while so was glad to see him do the contest at last.  I'm guessing that he's not doing it for the same reasons as some of the other acts, as being such an established artist he has nothing to prove.  It was funny to hear him sing most of the song in the lower register as we're so used to that familiar falsetto, although this later made an appearance.  "Vi Kommer Aldrig Att Forlöra" was a change from his usual style, a little more pop-rock rather than soul, with traces of Oskar Linnros and Salem Al Fakir in the musical arrangement.  So of course I like it!
Mum: "Who's that old guy?"
Me: "That's Eric Gadd".
Mum: "There are some strange people in this tonight".
Me: "You think he looks strange, wait till you see what's coming next!"

"Heartbreak Hotel" - Yohio.

Missing the Poodles?  Or H.E.A.T.?  If you like that style of music (which I do) then this one's for you. Although Yohio, it would be fair to say, is not like the other boys.  Dressed in what looked like one of Ola Salo's cast-offs, this androgynous teenager with the fabulous hairdo defies description.  He's relatively unknown in Sweden, but 'big in Japan' yet after this week everyone will know his name.  It's one of the strongest debuts by an unknown artist in Melodifestivalen in recent years: he sang and performed the song well.  And "Heartbreak Hotel" is written by the Fransson/Larsson etc songwriting team who have written some goodies in the past.
Mum: "He looks like a young Lady Gaga".
Me: "Hmmm....so he does!"
Mum: "I like this.  Best song so far.  Although they shouldn't steal other people's song titles!"

"Porslin" - Anna Järvinen.

From glam-pop overload to something more sensitive.  Anna is one of the more unlikely artists to enter Melodifestivalen.  She's more P3 than Rix FM, you might say.  The Swedish media critics were full of praise for this song after rehearsals, and suggested it could do a Marie Lindberg/Caroline Af Ugglas/Sara Varga-type of result.  Mum immediately liked this and thought it was a nice break from all that had gone before, although she didn't like the chorus.  It was delightfully fragile, and for a Melodifestivalen song the lyrics are pretty stunning.

"We're Still Kids" - Michael Feiner & Caisa.  

Michael's the sax-playing eye candy on the DJ decks, Caisa is the vocally underwhelming frontwoman.  (By the way, did any of you Melodifestival-loving River City fans out there spot the likeness between Caisa and recent cast member Alice, or is it just me?).  Her vocals let the song down, and maybe another singer may have done it justice.  The sax bits were good though, although more 80s-style than Mr Saxobeat.  One more thing though: Swedish House Mafia called, asking if they could have their backing track back.

Songs out of the way, it was on to the voting....and let the technical problems begin!  A blank voting screen was flashed up during the reprise, meaning part of the reprise had to be, um, reprised.  That wouldn't be the last technical hitch of the night though.

At this point, my thoughts on the presenters: well, on the evidence of this week I wasn't too impressed.  I didn't feel much chemistry between Danny and Gina: Danny seemed a little bit tense at times, whilst Gina is very good but to non-native Swedish speakers her deadpan style could sometimes be mistaken for indifference.  It's early days but I get the feeling that Danny's not so comfortable as a presenter.  His strengths lie in his 'day job' of singing and dancing, and we soon got to see him do what he does best, in the interval act, performing "Karl För Sin Kostym" with the help of special guests Kristian Luuk and Lena Philipsson.  By the way, how fabulous did Lena look in that lace catsuit?  That outfit just screamed "never mind the divorce, I'm back baby!"  And then, of course, there was Danny's chest :))  All in all, a very entertaining interval act!!

Sverige...vi har ett resultat. Of the 8 songs performed, five would go on to a further round of voting: Eric, Cookies N Beans, Mary, David and Yohio.  Of course we all knew it would be Yohio, because the result was on screen for all of us to see long before it was even announced.  Yet another technical hitch from SVT - sort it out!

Big shock for the schlager-fans who had expected Michael & Caisa to progress, but they went home in 6th place.  This was also probably a shocker for SVT as given the draw position for the song, I guess they expected an automatic qualification.  Despite the critical acclaim, Anna (7th) failed to make the cut whilst  Jay-Jay was 8th as expected.

But there was still one more interval act to go before the final results were revealed.  A comedy sketch featuring "Ukeleles From Hell" sung by Megahell.  Could they be this year's 'Tingaliin"?

Mum: "This is quite funny".
Me: "Can I vote for this?"

But back to the results.  No surprise that David and his waistcoat and OTT choreography are direkt till Friends Arena (missing Globen already).  Cookies N Beans and Eric Gadd qualify to Andra Chansen, and to nobody's surprise by this point in the evening that it's Yohio who joins David in the final.  He certainly got the most applause and I wouldn't be surprised if he actually won this heat.

Next Saturday, heat 2 will take place in Gothenburg, a place which holds many many happy musical memories for me over recent years :)))) Whether we will get some new ones is up to Anton Ewald, Felicia Olsson, Joacim Cans, Swedish House Wives, Erik Segerstedt & Tone Damli, Louise Hoffsten, Rikard Wolff, and Sean Banan.  Although with Banal, I mean Banan, in the line-up, I very much doubt it!!

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