The Eurovision logo...a traditional old opening sequence....and Gina and Danny in national dress. Have we fast-forwarded to 18th May - or into the past? The amateurish Swedish stereotype was very quickly smashed by none other than Petra Mede, looking very glam and sounding impressive in French. Well we are in Malmö after all, the venue for the big night in 12 weeks time. But we quickly rewind to 23rd February, and the small matter of choosing another two finalists and the last two qualifiers to Andra Chansen.
If we are underwhelmed by this week’s intro, then it’s about 99% to do with the poor quality stream. Watching with mum as usual, she quickly proclaims that it is impossible to watch (and that’s just watching, she hasn’t heard any of the songs yet, tee hee!). Halfway through Army of Lovers’ appearance, she can’t watch any more of it and signs off with a Eurovision-hating tirade.
So the HDMI cable is disconnected and I’m flying solo this week, just me and my laptop and the internet stream from hell....
"Rockin’ The Ride" - Army of Lovers.
When this year’s contestants were announced, this was the one I was particularly looking forward to. I was a fan of the band back in the day, and Alexander Bard is an absolute pop genius, so I was excited about them reforming. Until I heard "Rockin’ The Ride", that is. A non-song in what is allegedly a song contest, and the best mimed performance since the glory days of Marcel Marceau. It was all about the show, of course, so let's talk about La Camilla's fab wig and head-dress, and as for Jean-Pierre....oh well it's one of those occasions where a picture speaks a thousand words. (!)
"Must Be Love" - Lucia Pinera.
Oh look, it’s "Rolling In The Deep"! Oh, wait, no it’s a song which is, how shall we say, ‘inspired’ by Rolling In The Deep. Or at least the half of the song which I heard, as the SVT stream froze then caused half the song to disappear. No offence to Lucia, but I don’t really think we missed much.
"You" - Robin Stjernberg.
Wow, how good does he look? He’s shifted the pounds and had a bit of a makeover since coming 2nd in the final series of Swedish Idol, but one thing that hasn’t changed is that he’s got a great voice. Which is probably better than the song, which quickly becomes very annoying. Can SVT not ‘do a Belarus’ and have him sing Ulrik’s song if it wins Melodifestivalen?
There followed a sketch involving Sarah Dawn Finer, which has grabbed a lot of attention in the Swedish tabloids since Saturday night: it is allegedly a rip-off of an American sketch from an awards show. I haven’t seen this sketch so can’t comment, but which said tabloids gleefully went on about at length. Either way, the stream was so bad by this time that nothing was making sense any more.
A quick word on Danny and Gina this week: they thankfully changed out of the unflattering opening act costumes, Danny into a nice black suit and Gina in a mock croc-patterned dress. I really loved her make-up this week too.
"Trivialitet" - Sylvia Vrethammar.
No change in the pixellated stream. Sylvia - yes, people of a certain age will remember her from "Y Viva España" whilst more recently she was back in the public eye thanks to "Så Mycket Bättre" - is wearing a pretty white dress of lace, feathers and frills and there are big letters on stage spelling out her name. You might be surprised to learn that even though it was not among the favourites this week, I enjoyed this laid back bossa nova-styled song. But could she not have had a better-looking dancer????
"Bed On Fire" - Ralf Gyllenhammar.
This week is "Hammar time" and now for something completely different. This song, performed by a self-confessed Melodifestivalen sceptic and rock star (he’s the lead singer in a metal combo called Mustasch, who are probably not on many Melodifestivalen fans’ playlist), polarised opinions like no other. On first hearing, and battered by the continuing dire stream, I couldn’t decide if it was either awful or outstanding. Fabulous staging though, in a year where I’ve otherwise found the stage set underwhelming. News Flash: I think I like this. "BUUUUUUURRRRRNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!" Direkt till Friends!!!!
"Jalla Dansa Sawa" - Behrang Miri.
A new name in Melodifestivalen, but a familiar tune. You may know it as "Allez Ola Ole" - sorry, don’t mention the plagiarism word, so let’s just say once again that it was, er, ‘inspired by’ the Jessy Matador song which represented France in ESC a couple of years ago. He’s like a less irritating version of Sean Banan. Which, let’s face it, wouldn’t be hard. It’s got an unforced feelgood factor and a very good chance of doing well...
"Breaking The Silence" - Terese Fredenwall.
Like Elin Petersson last week, Terese was one of the earliest announced contestants this year. Another new name, with a pleasant if unremarkable acoustic number and the wind machine turned down to ‘subtle’ (there hasn’t been much wind machine action this year, has there?), she’s also had a little help from none other than Jenny Berggren as her vocal coach. This was better than I expected, but still not great.
"Tell The World I’m Here" - Ulrik Munther.
So, finally, to the last of this year’s 32 contenders, and the one they’re now tipping to represent Sweden this year. He certainly had the best catwalk song of the night (The Ark’s Calleth You Cometh I) and the staging recalled ‘Da Da Dam’ with its global theme. I don’t want to be ageist here, but I’d have been happier if a slightly older singer was singing this. Yes he’s talented and has a good voice, but he still looks too much like a little boy. The stop-start stream meant that I didn’t catch the full song though.
This week’s interval comedy sketch featured "Carsten Malmquist" in Malmö with a classic 80s-style schlager (and hairdo/costume to match!) - for everyone who’s longing for the good old schlagery days (!)
Results time, and no surprise as Ulrik and Ralf make the 5 qualifiers, along with Robin, Behrang and Terese. Despite their reputation, there is no place for Army of Lovers which, believe it or not, doesn’t really surprise me. They come 6th, with Sylvia 7th and Lucia 8th.
But never mind this week's songs, because finally, here is the moment we’ve been waiting for....the return of the mighty Alcazar - for one night only, firstly performing "Stay The Night" and then they are joined by a special guest - Danny Saucedo! - for "Not A Sinner Nor A Saint" - one of the best Melodifestivalen songs ever. The SVT stream hasn’t improved all night and I take to Twitter to discover that it’s been the same for everyone and it’s not just my internet connection which was rubbish.
I’m glad when it’s all over. Ulrik and Ralf go to the final, which is no real surprise either, although I thought Behrang could have qualified there. He has to settle for a place in Andra Chansen, along with Robin Stjernberg whom I’m pretty happy for, I just wish he’d had a better song.
So that’s it; we’ve heard all the songs in Melodifestivalen. How was it for you? Although I love the contest, this year it has been completely underwhelming. Why? For me, the main problem with Melodifestivalen, as with many of the other national finals this year, is the lack of memorable songs. I couldn’t care less about the ‘death of schlager’ - all I care about is discovering some good new songs which I want to listen to over and over again. Not much to ask for, is it?