Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Notes from National Finals: Melodifestivalen 2015 - 14.03.2015

So after four heats and one second chance contest, how did I feel about this year's Melodifestivalen? Disappointed.  There were very few songs which had an immediate impact on me, and fewer which I would expect to listen to after the contest was over. What the resurgence of Magnus Carlsson (going all the way to the final with "Möt mig i Gamla stan") also suggested to me was that the people of Sweden may have had enough of the attempts to modernise the contest and want to get back to the comfort of good old schlager.  There was something for everything though, even if it wasn't always ideal.

So....the last national finals evening of 2015, and a big decision. SVT or STV?  Melodifestivalen or Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway?

Just joking of course....the real big decision was a scheduling nightmare, as SVT and NRK chose to put on the finals of  Melodifestivalen and Melodi Grand Prix on the same evening.  Having listened to the MGP finalists beforehand I decided that there wasn't enough there to keep me watching live, but I would catch-up later on.  And despite 'abandoning' the live heats this year I still have some loyalty to Melodifestivalen.

After a 'previously on' recap it was time for the first musical number of the evening.  Which meant yet another national final appearance by the one and only Conchita Wurst along with Robin and Sanna singing The Final Countdown. (Christer Bjorkman was a substitute Conchita in the rehearsals!). And of course where would we be without a rendition of good old Rise Like A Phoenix.

Regular readers of this blog will be well aware that I usually persuade my mum to watch Melodifestivalen with me.  Since her illness last year her memory can fluctuate so she doesn't really remember what Melodifestivalen is about, to start with: "Is this some kind of talent contest?" However she does agree to stay for the annual Swedish song contest bonanza....

1.  "Groupie" - Samir and Viktor.

M: Are they rappers?
L: They are not singers.  Tabloid celebs, reality stuff type of thing.
M: I guessed they weren't singers!

Of course "Groupie" is not about groupies, but it's about group-selfies.  This is very much "of its time" a bit like Nick Borgen's "World Wide Web" back in the day, so in years to come we'll look back with some amusement at how dated it all was.  And then, to labour the on-trend point, they bring out a selfie stick.  I despair.  This has probably overstayed its welcome by 2½ minutes.  But often when I say that about a song, those are the ones which eventually grow on me.

And as if all that's not bad enough we now have the much maligned Filippa Bark.  She's been "interviewing" the contestants over the weeks and received a lot of criticism from the Swedish press. I don't find her funny, although maybe that's because I'm not a native Swedish speaker, but I don't get that type of humour.

2.  "Building It Up" -  JTR.

It's the "slot of doom" in the running order for the Aussie-Swedes.  I don't really get the hate for this, but that's not to say I like it much either.  It's generic 5SOS and 1D boyband pop, it sounds as if all their songs were put into a blender and came up with this. Apart from the catchy chorus hook line it's just....nothing.

M: You should be giving it up. How true.
L: Oh no...now there's a rap. This song is far too mundane and outstays its welcome. The staging is also too busy.

Mum has now gone off to sleep.

Sanna meanwhile has changed into a pink princess gown.  Most of the internet doesn't like this dress, comparing it in similar terms to Yohanna's blue 'toilet roll holder' effort.  However I rather like this. I'm a sucker for frills. (and you can sing that to the tune of "Sucker for Love" by Pauline, Melfest 2010).  Sanna also has new haircut especially for the final.

3.  "Make Me (La La La)" - Dinah Nah.

The winner in the Andra Chansen duel of death against Dolly Style.  Again the draw doesn't do her any favours, but this is a dynamic dance-pop song with a vibrancy lacking in many of this year's entries.  This song enjoys some fanatical support from some of the ESC community but mum has now woken up and only wants to talk about Dinah's pink hair.

4. "Jag är fri (Manne Leam Frijje) -Jon Henrik Fjällgren.

At one point this was a serious contender to represent Sweden.  He's a reindeer herder who won "Sweden's Got Talent" and has a back story which Simon Cowell would kill for.  My main problem with this is that it is a non song and I don't think Europe would get the joiking.  So in talent show-speak it's a no from us. Although on a completely shallow note he is prob the hottest reindeer herder we've ever seen. Not that we have seen many of course so.....

5. "Can't Hurt Me Now" - Jessica Andersson.  

I tell mum that Jessica's a Melfest 'veteran' and has has had better songs in this. Its a country styled ballad. Jessica looks good, but the song doesn't do anything for either of us.
 And for all of us playing Melfest bingo you can tick off the wind machines. Mum is a lyrics person but again she's finding the lyrics of this pretty uninspiring.

6.  "Heroes" - Måns Zelmerlöw.

I'm not sure what SVT are trying to tell us by placing it 6th in the draw rather than the mythical pimp slot, although situated between two 'meh' entries perhaps makes it stand out even more.  "Heroes" is of course an uptempo dance-pop song, many say that it's, ahem, 'inspired' by David Guetta's "Lovers On The Sun" (I actually prefer "Heroes" to that song though) but this is as much about the visual presentation.  Despite a dynamic performance from Måns, the little stick man and his chums never fail to steal the show.  As a potential Eurovision entry, this does have the complete package: good song, good performance, memorable visuals.

6.  "Forever Starts Today" - Linus Svenning.

Linus has finally listened and given us a change of clothes from that scabby old black tunic top (pictured above). He is now in a white t shirt.. This is a Kempe/Aleena Gibson song and if you're marking off the 'Avicii influenced' square on your Melfest bingo card then now's the time.  Mum did actually remember this from last week. Fire and drums are so old hat though, they kind of remind me of the post-Ruslana years.  It's not bad though, although probably also overstays its welcome. At least he looks a bit happier on this song, if only in the knowledge that he is probably guaranteed a guest spot on one or more of the Swedish summer TV shows.

M: This isn't bad.  Although I wish he would wear something different.
L: He already is!

7.  "Don't Stop" - Isa.

In the weeks since this qualified for the final, this song seems to have grown in popularity with ESC fans and critics.  The song certainly has bags of hit potential, and it's time to mark off the 'inspired by Taylor Swift's Shake It Off' square on your Melfest bingo card.  I think we will definitely see her back here in a year or two.  A youthful and energetic performance of a song which is just a little too generic for my tastes.

Mum is not impressed with this one either.

And then Filippa is back on.

M: She's as funny as the toothache.
L: Jon Henrik looks a bit pissed off with her.

8. "Mot Mig i Gamla Stan" - Magnus Carlsson.

I'm enjoying this. He's still got it, and he's bringing back schlager and happy memories of the 'old' Melfest days.  I was so happy that he was rewarded with a place in the final. He totally deserved it. Key change yaaas. Very good.  Mum's asleep again, so no comments on this one.

9.  "Sting" - Eric Saade.

Oh stiiiiink its gonna stink so bad was my first reaction to this song purely because it was one of the main contenders to win.  He doesn't look a day older than when he was smashing through glass boxes in 2011, but his styling is very strange and doesn't do him any favours. The staging and effects are way ahead of many of the other entries but it's all style over substance.  *EDIT: In the weeks after the contest, this song grew on me and now I play it quite a lot.

Mum is asleep again so there are no comments. Although if she was awake she would probably say that he is a good-looking boy; I remember she was very keen on him when he previously appeared in Melodifestivalen.  *EDIT:  Whilst watching the "Inför Eurovision" shows this past couple of weeks on SVT, Mum commented that she thought Eric was good-looking, and I told her that a) I thought she'd say that, and b) I would mention this when I eventually got round to publishing this post. 

10.  "Don't Stop Believing" - Mariette.

There's Rona Nishliu-esque hair.  Wind machines.  Floating drapes.  And a 'Let it go, let it go'. Her performance is different class, if musically a little like Loreen on sleeping pills (!) and there is a key change.  This is certainly a lot classier than some of this year's entries and does the business but my main concern is that this would probably get swamped in Vienna by other ballads and warrior princesses. But she is very good, it must be said, and I wouldn't bet against her coming back again.  *EDIT: She's going to be reading out the Swedish results this year so she's definitely now well-integrated into the Melfest family!

12. "Guld Och Gröna Skogar" - Hasse Andersson.

After Hasse made it out of Andra Chansen, Sweden was in the grip of Hassemania.  And, finally, so was EuropeCrazy HQ.  "Guld..." is so defiantly old-fashioned but crucially, his performance radiated pure enjoyment, something which often gets lost in Melodifestivalen artists' often ruthless and cynical race to the top.

Songs over, interval act time! And one big question....

What's the meaning of Stonehenge?  The Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis went viral 2 years ago with that other big burning question "What does the fox say?".  I'm a bit puzzled why SVT is going for a Norwegian act rather than a Swedish one, but there is some Swedish input here - a guest appearance by Lili and Susie.  Some people didn't expect the '18 certificate' lyrics and themes in an interval act on a family show.  This song is pretty bonkers, but do you know what? I enjoyed it!  I do have a soft spot for Ylvis though, they're quite cute aren't they :)

Time for the international jury vote. 

Måns is a resounding success with the international juries, it's 12s all the way from Estonia, Italy, Armenia, France, Slovenia, Cyprus, Belgium, Netherlands and Austria (with Conchita announcing the Austrian votes).  Some variation in the voting from Israel (12 to Mariette) and if you need any reassurance that the UK jury is as out of step as usual, our country's jury awards 12 to Jon Henrik,

The traditional reworking of the previous year's winner can always be a bit hit or miss.  Dirty Loops' version of "Undo" was a bit of both for me.  A 1980s-Prince-style funky workout - with lasers!! - started well but, as is becoming a theme this evening - overstayed its welcome and became rather annoying.

One last song from Sanna and Robin, who have done a rather good job of presenting this year's contest and have been a massive improvement on last year's disastrous duo.  And now - big fanfare - the golden envelope, with the televote results.  Which, in the time-honoured fashion, sees the voting percentages converted to points.  Mariette is 4th, Eric 3rd, Hasse 2nd which means that Måns has won the televote....and the whole competition!  So it's 3rd time lucky for Måns and he will now finally get the chance to represent Sweden at this year's Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna with "Heroes".  I am very happy with this, because I think "Heroes" will give Sweden a better result than any of its other Melfest competitors this year.  It has to be said though that the 'gimmick' - the little scene-stealing stick men projected alongside Måns on stage - will probably overshadow the song.

It is very hard to divorce the song from the distinctive staging, even when you're listening to the audio version you automatically visualise that staging (well I do anyway) and so it will either be raining 12s or the song may be punished by the juries for its over-reliance on the visuals.  It won't be long now until we find out!


1. Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes (288 points)
2. Jon Henrik Fjällgren – Jag är fri (Manne leam frijje) (139 points)
3. Mariette – Don’t Stop Believing (102 points)
4. Hasse Andersson – Guld och Gröna Skogar (78 points)
5. Eric Saade – Sting (77 points)
6. Linus Svenning – Forever Starts Today (59 points)
7. Isa – Don’t Stop (56 points)
8. Samir & Viktor – Groupie (49 points)
9. Magnus Carlsson – Möt Mig i Gamla Stan (28 p)
10. JTR – Building It Up (25p)
11. Jessica Andersson – Can’t Hurt Me Now (23p)
12. Dinah Nah – Make Me (La La La) (22p)

*EDIT* Since this post was written, there has been a plagiarism scandal, as the little stick man from "Heroes" was found to be, um, 'inspired' by a similar figure in a video by French performance artist A DandyPunk. So it's back to the drawing board for a new figure to replace him.  I wonder if it will affect the end result???

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