Tension builds as Sweden gears up for Melodifestivalen final

All of Sweden is abuzz with anticipation of the year's big television event: the Melodifestivalen final, in which the country's musical standard-bearer will be selected for the Eurovision Song Contest .

Nothing draws more Swedes to their TV screens and the weeks of build-up have, as usual, been given a shot in the arm at the last minute by a healthy dose of controversy.

This year, as every year, allegations that the selection procedure is fixed have added another dimension to the contest, pitting the artists against the organisers, the public agains the secret juries and good, old-fashioned songsmithery against commercial interests.

Earlier in the week it emerged that juries around the country would not simply report back the results of the local public telephone vote. Instead, they would be adding their own music industry experience into the mix, with their opinion carrying as much weight as the public’s.

But on Friday, Melodifestivalen maestro Christer Björkman increased the tension by admitting that he would guide jury members in their voting.

“I give the jury certain leading words that they should think of – like hit potential and Helsinki,” said Björkman on Swedish Television’s ‘God Morgon Sverige’ programme.

But he went even further, suggesting that it might be conducive to Sweden’s chances of winning the whole contest if a certain type of song was chosen.

“There are rumours that there is a lot of pop, rock and up-tempo this year among the other countries. So if you come along with the right ballad and you’re on your own then it could go very well,” he said.

That will be music to the ears of Sarah Dawn Finer, Sonia Aldén and Tommy Nilsson, who will all be performing ballads. But Måns Zelmerlöv was unimpressed by Björkman’s opinion.

“I think he’s wrong but he can think that if he wants,” said the former Idol star to Aftonbladet.

The Ark’s lead singer Ola Salo was similarly unimpressed.

Ola Salo, lead singer of favourites The Ark, was unimpressed:

“Can he really say that?” he said.

Nevertheless, Salo, whose band are the final act to perform, will be confident.

The Ark were voted favourites by some stretch in a survey carried out by Aftonbladet and, perhaps more significantly, their song, ‘The Worrying Kind’ is riding high at the top of the iTunes Sweden download chart.

The final of Melodifestivalen 2007 will be shown live on SVT at 8pm on Saturday.

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