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MELODIFESTIVALEN 2014

MELODIFESTIVALEN

Yay or nay to Sweden’s annual Mello meltdown?

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!

Yay or nay to Sweden's annual Mello meltdown?
Helena Paparizou at the Thursday rehearsal for Saturday's show. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
Melodifestivalen 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. 
 

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MUSIC

LISTEN: Who’s in the running to represent Sweden in Eurovision

Ben Robertson has been following Melodifestivalen around Sweden for the past six weeks. Ahead of the final on Saturday, here are his thoughts and predictions on the 12 remaining songs competing to represent Sweden at Eurovision 2020.

LISTEN: Who's in the running to represent Sweden in Eurovision
Finalist Paul Rey performing during the earlier heats. Photo: Naina Helén Jåma / TT

Victor Crone – Troubled Waters

This is Victor's second Melodifestivalen appearance, after taking part in 2015. He also represented Estonia in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019.

Despite a different songwriting team, Troubled Waters builds on that same 'Avicii-lite' sound that's bound to be popular on radio stations across the country and makes it a great show opener.

Ben's view: I prefer this song to Storm, and Victor's voice sounds strong. Pleasant if not particularly groundbreaking.

Prediction: Feels like the kind of song lots of people will like but few will love. Competing to beat Robin Bengtsson, another male soloist in the lineup.

Paul Rey – Talking in my sleep

Paul Rey has tons of global musical influences, born to a Finnish father and Chilean mother and having spent years in the US recording music with Quincy Jones and Snoop Dogg. He is the only artist of the remaining 12 making his Melodifestivalen debut.

This is a very modern take on the ballad; gone are the overblown dramatics, key changes and power vocals – instead Talking In My Sleep holds a simple hooky melody that builds through the three minutes on stage.

Ben's view: A perfectly functioning song that builds nicely. My biggest question mark is about the ability of the artist rather than the song to emote and tell the story effectively.

Prediction: Likely to score better with the juries than the public vote. Sneaking into the top five would be a great achievement.

The Mamas – Move

The Mamas helped John Lundvik win Melodifestivalen last year with Too Late For Love. Three of them returned to perform Move which gives the pop-gospel smashup we were all expecting. Expect big vocals and something danceable for all aged from three to 93.

Ben's view: The Mamas are great performers, although I wish the track was just a bit less generic, especially in the post-chorus.

Prediction: Top five seems likely, it would be a surprise to challenge for the win however.

Mohombi – Winners

Mohombi is back in Melodifestivalen after his 2019 song Hello that became a favourite in preschools across Sweden. Mohombi left life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a teenager to move to Sweden, and has forged a musical career spanning both the European and African continents with success.

Winners is a pop song track with a slightly oriental mix, especially within the verse. Expect plenty of charming the camera from popular Mohombi during the three minutes on stage.

Ben's view: A fairly anonymous song saved by Mohombi's presence.

Prediction: He's too popular to be last, surely?

Hanna Ferm – Brave

19-year-old Hanna Ferm competed last year in Melodifestivalen with Hold You, a duet with Liamoo.

Brave is on the quirky end of pop, with frantic phrasing and hooks that sink into your vocal chords after just a couple of listens. You will be whistling along.

Ben's view: This isn't for me. I may sing along, but I'm craving a deeper meaning and spend the three minutes wondering what Hanna is being Brave about.

Prediction: Top half but unlikely to be challenging.

Mendez feat. Alvaro Estrella – Vamos Amigos

Mendez came to Sweden from Chile along with thousands of other families during the 1980s. He grew up in Farsta outside of Stockholm and fell into a community of crime and drugs, but music was his release. He was in the final of Melodifestivalen 2018, finishing last, but finished second in 2002.

Mendez's musical career has taken him to stardom here in Sweden but also back home in Chile with many other stops in between. This song unsurprisingly has many elements in it from the second wave of Latin music infiltrating Western pop, with Mendez rapping alongside Alvaro, also of Chilean upbringing, singing the chorus.

Ben's view: There are a few nice melodies in here, but nothing that hasn't been done before and likely to get lost in this final field.

Prediction: Juries were the reason Mendez came last in 2018. This should score better with them than that effort, but not being last will be a success for this duo.

Dotter – Bulletproof

Johanna Jansson is the Arvika-born artist known as Dotter (Daughter), coming from an image of being a daughter to mother Earth. Despite releasing a few singles since her 2014 debut she is better known as a songwriter.

Together with Dino Medanhodzic and Erik Dahlquist they have loaned influence from Sia for Bulletproof – a big production mid-tempo arena pop number.

Ben's view: I happily admit that this isn't my normal style, but the laser glitter ball effect is fantastic and Dotter has hugely grown as a performer.

Prediction: Currently the favourite, and is getting tons of vocal support on social media, especially from abroad. Would have been a shock victory a month ago, now would be a shock if not in the top three.

Robin Bengtsson – Take A Chance

'Robin won Melodifestivalen in 2017 and his appearance on Let's Dance last year made him even more likeable to the Swedish TV watching audience.

Set in London, this arena singer-songwriter style track has a great clap-a-long verse mixed in with a chorus melody that took me straight to the heydays of iconic Swedish superstars Abba.

Ben's view: Nobody oozes sexiness down the camera as well as Robin this year, but musically this runs out of good ideas by the first minute.

Prediction: Mid-table.

Mariette – Shout It Out

Mariette broke history by becoming the only artist ever to qualify for four Melodifestivalen finals in just four attempts. Shout It Out is a driving powerhouse of a song about letting go of your doubts and trusting your heart.

Ben's view: Mariette is such a strong on-stage character and that drives the song's message home well. That said, musically it doesn't offer anything new and creative to be in Eurovision contention.

Prediction: As Mariette has finished third, fourth and fifth previously… sixth?

Felix Sandman – Boys With Emotions

Felix Sandman has been here before, but his earlier floppy-haired look has been replaced by a bleached and shaven look, and the attitude to match.

Boys with Emotion' is a challenging track, written and recorded in LA and sounding and looking like a piece of MTV circa 1995. This is a song with a central theme encouraging men not to hide their feelings.

Ben's view: This takes a few listens, but I adore the slick production both musically and visually. The message does come across as rather abrupt, but that's partly the point and this is as much art as music.

Prediction: Dark horse for victory. Felix has over 500,000 Instagram followers and a song that I hope a jury will appreciate.

Anna Bergendahl – Kingdom Come

Anna was the only Melodifestivalen winner in Sweden's history not to qualify to the Eurovision final back in 2010.

True to Anna's style with her enchanting voice in focus, this is a frantic clap-a-long track at 148 bpm with grandiose-sounding lyrics that in reality mean very little. Six hunky male dancers in kilts do little harm.

Ben's view: For those in those Eurovision and Melodifestivalen bubbles, this is the song that's going to be filling our dance floors for months to come. Judge us accordingly.

Prediction: It's in the mix. Anna's hugely popular amongst the older Melodifestivalen voters, the question will be if enough children button-bash their apps to push her from top three to victory.

Anis Don Demina – Vem E Som Oss (Who is like us)

Anis Don Demina is here for his third Melodifestivalen appearance after playing saxophone for Samir and Viktor in 2018 and featuring on Mina Bränder last year.

This song is a shoutout to all of Anis' fans with an uncompromising rap and uptempo chorus that's going to be another relentless loop around Swedish preschools for the next year. Learn for yourself the Swedish slang word 'Shurda' – the kind of guy who's part of Anis' fun-loving gang.

Ben's view: Brilliant staging, full of energy and a superb crowd-pleaser, this is a great twist on pop music with local flair.

Prediction: Chanceless with international juries and anybody over the age of 40, meaning it would be amazing if this gets anywhere inside the top ten.

And that's your Melodifestivalen line-up. You can still buy tickets to see the show live or one of the two rehearsals beforehand inside Friends Arena. Alternatively tune into SVT 1 at 8pm on Saturday, March 7th.

You can vote by ringing or sending a text during the show, or you can download the Melodifestivalen app to vote for free.

The winner of Melodifestivalen is set to take part in the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest's first semi-final in Rotterdam on Tuesday, May 12th.

Ben Robertson is covering Melodifestivalen 2020 for both The Local and ESC Insight.

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