Melodifestivalen: Men mop up in Skellefteå

Sweden was offered an international smörgåsbord of talent as Melodifestivalen went into its third round in Skellefteå. Yet despite the best efforts of American would-be soul diva LaGaylia and the hard-rock charms of Canadian Alannah Myles, Swedish viewers plumped for two of their own - Jimmy Jansson and Martin Stenmarck.

Nineteen-year old Jansson charmed the crowds with his upbeat “Vi kan gunga” (“We can Swing”). His newly bleached hair seemed to underline the fact that young Jimmy was breaking from his usual hard rock fare to offer Melodifestivalen crowds a light, catchy summer hit, which reminded many reviewers of Roxette star Per Gessle.

The incongruity of Jansson’s sunny disposition in the freezing cold of the northern winter did nothing to harm his showing, and the crowds in Skellefteå seemed to enjoy the song as much as viewers throughout Sweden.

To the delight of the tabloids, Jansson declared that if he won at the final in Stockholm he would marry his girlfriend Sandra Dahlberg.

If Jansson grabbed the teenage vote, the more mature ladies were swooning for Martin Stenmarck. Surrounded by a bevy of blonde beauties in jump suits, the 32-year old crooned his way to the final with “Las Vegas”, a seventies-style showtune.

Yet if the seventies theme worked for Martin Stenmarck, it backfired for Jessica Folcker, causing the evening’s biggest upset. Folcker, sporting a hairstyle apparently borrowed from the Cagney and Lacey costume department, couldn’t persuade Swedes to vote for her song “Om Natten” (“About the Night”), which was described by its composers as a “mystical pop song with a Mediterranean touch”.

Jessica told Aftonbladet that she felt “really rotten” about her rejection by viewers, particularly as she had struggled through the song with a sore throat. Now she says she hopes that the song will become a radio hit. In the best Melodifestivalen tradition, Expressen blamed Jessica’s poor showing on her cleavage. Commentator Anders Nunstedt speculated that Jessica’s low-cut dress had sapped her confidence.

“It looked good, of course, particularly in still pictures – but she looked terrified with it on. It was as though the smallest manoeuvre could have had dramatic consequences,” he wrote.

American singer LaGaylia had better luck with her rendition of ballad “Nothing at All”. The statuesque Floridian, who has lived in Sweden for four years, failed to get enough votes to secure a direct ticket to the final. Yet enough people voted for her to assure her of a place in the “Second Chance” run-off competition.

A delighted LaGaylia told Expressen that she was shocked that her song had done so well. “Ballads don’t usually get voted through,” she said, adding that she didn’t fancy her chances of winning the next round.

The other entry to go through to the Second Chance round was NaNa’s “Wherever you Go”. NaNa might not be a household name, but her career as a backing singer for the likes of Britney and Celine Dion means that the 36-year old is likely to be no pushover in the run-offs.

Joining Jessica Folcker in going home empty handed were Canadian hard rocker Alannah Myles and her backing group K2. Josef nearly squeezed into a Second Chance place with “Rain”, an upbeat tune with strong Turkish influence, but was pipped at the post by NaNa and LaGaylia. Meanwhile, the rap of Kwansaa’s “Lovin’ Your Feen” was altogether too much for Melodifestivalen’s audience, who relegated it to an ignominious eighth place.

Sources: Sveriges Television, Aftonbladet, Expressen