Helena Paparizou at the Thursday rehearsal for Saturday's show. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
It's that time of year again. Melodifestivalen
, Sweden's long road to Eurovision glory, kicks off on Saturday. Love it or hate it, it's impossible to ignore. See why The Local's Ann Törnkvist says Nay!, while Oliver Gee says Yay!
features 32 hopefuls getting ready for this year's sing-offs
. From relative newbie Yohio to veteran singer Cajsa Stina Åkerström. Dang, they even dredged up Dr. Alban and Jessica Folcker from the 1980s and 1990s. Whatever you say about Mello, you can't fault the annual SVT homage to pop music for lack of variety or surprises. Yet The Local's newsroom has hardliners on both sides of the Mello yay-nay divide. When a third of the country tunes in to the Melodifestivalen final, there is one person who won't be among them.
Ann Törnkvist says Nay!
It was never going to happen in my family. Mum an immigrant, dad a former professional classical musician, my brother donning eye-liner to emulate Rob Smith, me with a Kurt Cobain poster above my bed.
"Mello" was just never going to happen. We liked "good" music - Rolling Stones, Purcell, Blur, Depeche Mode. We weren't going to sully ourselves with the selection of a candidate to go out into hostile European territory to defend us!
I do, however, have vague memories of my childhood's Melodifestivalen. Carola's wind machine breaking down ahead of the 1991 final, which she won. I like wind machines. I turn the air conditioner on full blast in the car so I can get a breeze in my locks while I sing and squirm about to... Destiny's Child, Björk, Jay-Z... not frigging Carola, who apart from having a voice as flat as a... eh, very flat thing... once said gays could be cured with prayer. Charming.
There have been times when I wonder if I am a snob. Well, rather, I know I am, but if it steers my rejection of all things Mello? Everyone else likes it, so I gotta hate it? Well.. the truth is that the one or two times I've watched Mello I have remembered not one song. Because the songs suck.
And Oliver Gee says Yay!
I should have known Ann would say it's all about the music, and that was her fatal flaw. Mello isn't about the music.
Let me explain.
You never forget your first Melodifestivalen - mine was three years ago. Granted, it dragged on for eight weekends, so it's unlikely I'll forget it anyway. But there I was, with my girlfriend's family, rugged up in the Swedish winter, watching terrible songs and thinking "Is this for real? Am I really in Sweden and is this really what they do? For EIGHT WEEKENDS IN A ROW?"
But I got into it. Euro-pop brought the family together. And it all culminated in a glass-shattering win for Eric Saade
, who I'd incidentally tipped, so I was especially pleased. I was hooked.
And if you thought he was unforgettable, imagine Loreen the year after. Her song, Euphoria
, created a frenzy. I remember being at a discotheque where they played it four times in one night and people went crazy each time.
It wasn't just because of the song, it was something bigger than that. It was the competition, it was wanting her to win, it was knowing that forgotten Abba Eurovision glory
might be around the corner.
Mello isn't about the music, it's about the mood. It's scuttlebutt fodder, your own personal Jesus, and ammo for small talk with Swedes (and God knows they can use it
Sweden will always have a soft spot for Mello because without it, Swedes wouldn't have Abba, and without Abba, Sweden would still be as mysterious and anonymous as Norway, God forbid.
So turn on your Melodifestivalen this weekend and let yourself be swept up by the madness. Reach out and touch faith.
And as for those snobs who say the music isn't good enough, go and put your earphones in and your Depeche Mode on, and close the door quietly behind you.