Monday, May 02, 2016

Notes from National Finals: Melodifestivalen - The Final 12.03.2016

Normally on Melodifestivalen final night I would be at home, laptop connected to the telly, but 2016 was different.  I was on a weekend break to London with faithful travelling companion, only managing to catch the first few songs on my tablet before we headed out to dinner.  I would catch up with the final later though.  Despite my disappointment at the standard of songs in Melfest this year, and the trend towards generic radio hits, I guess it must be said that most of the songs in the final deserved to be there.  But did the presenters?

During this year's heats Gina Dirawi had a different co-presenter every week, as a nod to the past (15 years of the current Melfest format); for the final, her co-presenter was bringing things right up to date.  William Spetz is one of those modern-day bloggers/YouTube celebrities; we have a lot of them over here too, but I can't say how good they are as I'm way out of that demographic.  Anyway, young Mr Spetz was just a little too plastic for me but he did ok I guess.

Thankfully no musical numbers to open the show - just a theatrical reading by Stina Ekblad - and a surprisingly short opening; only 10 minutes!  The postcards featured the various artists having a look round Friends Arena.  By the way, I really liked the backing music to the postcards this year.

1.  "Hall om mig hårt" - Panetoz
They have become a tighter and more professional outfit since their first appearance in Melodifestivalen, with snappy choreography adding to their usual goofy dancing around.  I know a lot of the fan community don't like Panetoz but they do bring a much-needed feelgood factor and they absolutely deserved their place in the final.

2. "My Heart Wants Me Dead" - Lisa Ajax.
Toilet rolls and too-short dress aside, this song had definitely grown on me since its heat and since that time it has booked a place in my annual top 50 chart.  Of course it has a great similarity to Zara Larsson, but that can only have been a good thing, such is young Ms Larsson's growing worldwide popularity.

3. "We Are Your Tomorrow" - David Lindgren.
Unfortunately the title of this calls to mind a cringeworthy charity song, and the best bit about it is him farting around with lasers in the first minute of the song.  No offence to David, he sings and dances well, but he never really presents a strong enough case to represent Sweden at Eurovision.

4. "Kizunguzungu" - SaRaha.
Petra Marklund lookalike Sara brought life and exuberance to this year's contest and 9th place in the final wasn't too bad for an unknown debutant.  And it had a key change, what more does a Melfest song need?  Kizunguzungu was infectious, and fun.

5.  "Human" - Oscar Zia.
Oscar co-wrote this with highly rated duo Smith and Thell.  He's a very attractive young man (I think my mum would have liked him) who came out prior to the contest and said that this was a very personal song for him.  He would go on to win the international jury vote (although not for the first time in Melfest, that was eventually overruled by the televote) and you can see why; the song's dramatic staging and sharp camera angles recalled a music video and seemed to capture the spirit of a modern-day song contest which is about more than just a song.

6. "Don't Worry" - Ace Wilder.
This is another song which fits the modern-day Eurovision template - if it's no longer about the song, but about the whole visual package, then this was definitely the finished article.  From the twirling light-boxes to the fabulous choreography of her backing dancers, every Swedish Eurovision box was ticked.  And what Ace lacks in vocal power she sure as hell makes up in charisma.

Lynda Woodruff time!  Mans Sell-Me-Love! Bjorn Bjorg! Josephine Born-in-a-Bush! Juicy Burger! Nubbe and Helan Gar! This is hope and this is glory!  Some fans may be a bit fed up with this sketch, but she is still one of the heroes of our time :)

7. "Constellation Prize" - Robin Bengtsson.
Like fellow finalist Lisa Ajax, Robin is yet another artist who got his big break on Swedish Idol. And once I got over my initial annoyance at the stupid song title and the similarity between this song and "Stole The Show", I actually began to really like this song a lot, and of all this year's finalists I would hope that he really gets a meaningful career out of this.  My favourite song of the night.  And on a completely shallow note, who could resist those piercing eyes...?

8. "Youniverse" - Molly Sandén.
My main gripe with this song is the stupid spelling of its title.  Otherwise Molly gave an excellent vocal performance - I still think and hope she will represent Sweden some day, but hopefully with something less overblown and contrived than this.  Although I have to say that the ending of the song is excellent, chills-down-the-spine stuff.

9. "Put Your Love On Me" - Boris René.
Boris is a kind of Bruno Mars/Olly Murs hybrid, with the commercial appeal of both artists, but also with the appealing underdog-vibe.  His day job is football, rather than singing, and anyone who sings "you got my heart in a litter box" (well it sounds like that anyway) just makes me smile.

10. "If I Were Sorry" - Frans.
This is introduced with a reminder of that awful Zlatan song.  But Frans is now 17 years old and this is his big break at an 'adult' pop career.  "If I Were Sorry" is the anti-"Heroes" with minimal staging and the corniest cockney accent since Lena - although he did actually live in England for a while so it's more authentic I guess - and it's everything which a Swedish Eurovision entry shouldn't be. Not a wind machine in sight.  It's a Eurovision song as sorry-not-sorry hashtag, and he's also tapping into the whole demographic of the Ed Sheerans and the Justin Biebers and the less-is-more acoustic trend. It's more Kedvesem than Euphoria/Undo/Heroes.  Do I like it?  Well...yes, in a way, because there is something natural and unforced about it; and in a year of national finals/selections dominated by Sia wannabes, this turns out to be a very welcome distraction.

11. "Save Me" - Wiktoria.
Where Frans was the lowest of the low-key, Wiktoria Johansson was just trying too hard, suffering from that over-singing disease which blights every talent show going.  "Save Me" managed to tap into the country-pop trend which had been popular over the last couple of years, but left me cold. I could see her back at Melodifestivalen again, if not next year then definitely the year after.

12.  "Bada Nakna" - Samir and Viktor.
In 2016, SVT finally got the message that we're fed up with all the Kempe songs every year as he only had one - yes, only ONE! - song in Melfest 2016.  It's this one.

Samir and Viktor are of course the perfect modern example of fame-over-talent and their vocal ability (or lack of it) seemed more exposed here than on "Groupie".  It wasn't the only thing being exposed though, as S and V targeted all kinds of demographics and took their tops off.  For some reason this reminds me of a song which a national football team would record for a tournament such as the Euros or the World Cup!?!

So, songs over, it was interval act time.  After Jonas Gardell's "schlagerskolan" it was time for last year's Melfest winner - who also went on to win Eurovision - and a reinvented version of "Heroes", slowed down and with children in place of the little balloon-men.  I'm guessing that we'll get something similar at Eurovision.

With Måns having done his thing, it was time for the international jury votes.  Well, where would we be without a bit of Klitos Klitou (!) and also the fabulous Maja Keuc who speaks brilliant Swedish!

By the end of the international jury vote, Oscar, Frans and Ace were top 3.  Whilst the televotes were being counted it was time for a medley of some of Melodifestivalen's greatest hits of the past 15 years, including Mendez, the Brandsta City Slackers, Timoteij, Mariette, Linus Svenning, Sarah Dawn Finer (who is looking great these days!), Magnus Carlsson, Caroline af Ugglas, Andreas Johnson, Nanne Grönvall, Anton Ewald, Kikki and Bettan, Charlotte Perrelli, After Dark.

Oh, and Martin Rolinski.  Still got it, never lost it :)

With our memories jogged it was time to go back to the present for the televoting results.  What immediately struck me was the closeness of the vote.  Frans won with only 68 points rather than the usual over 100 expected of a winner.  He's the youngest winner of Melodifestivalen since Carola - but only 14% of the Swedish public liked "If I Were Sorry" enough to vote it as a winner.  So why didn't the whole of Sweden get behind their entry?  Perhaps they saw the result as a foregone conclusion anyway?  I guess we'll never know.

It would be fair to say that "If I Were Sorry" has not been welcomed by a large section of the Eurovision fan community, who expect Sweden to send a different type of song, sung by a different type of singer.  But it is 2016, and love or hate it, Sweden has sent something very contemporary and I'm predicting a definite top 10 result.  And I'm not sorry, no.

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