“Yohio is a good role model,” declared 7-year-old Sigrid after she won a Melodifestivalen drawing competition. “He shows that you can be yourself. He’s challenging the norm and working with cross-gender expression. He’s important because he’s deconstructing heteronormative categories.”
Sigrid should have contributed to The Local’s comments section following the first review of Melodifestivalen 2014, as there seemed to be some confusion about manga-inspired performer Yohio’s reason-for-dressing. But she had it spot-on with her show-stealing contribution - and, as singer and former Melodifestivalen contestant and host Måns Zelmerlöw tweeted, “Sigrid is the best thing that’s happened to Melodifestivalen 2014”.
He’s right. Two shows into the six-week run, we’re in Linköping - but there’s a big issue. And it isn’t the hosts. I share Nour El-Refai’s dry demeanour, and Anders Jansson’s more traditional form of hosting actually works quite well alongside her. It’s the words that are coming out of their mouths that are the problem, as highlighted by tabloid Aftonbladet in its coverage. While some may argue that Melodifestivalen is more Swedish than it’s ever been this year, it’s just not funny. Not that the viewing figures reflect this, of course. 3,364,000 tuned in to watch the first show. But you can readily argue that there’s bugger all to watch on the other side - a classical music concert, a Freddie Prinze Jr comedy, and a US blooper show were all that the other main channels bothered to offer in the same slot.
Writers Edward af Sillén and Daniel Réhn were responsible for many great Melodifestivalen moments - culminating in the triumphant Swedish Smörgåsbord at last year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which even led a British newspaper to publish the lyrics. They’re not involved with Mello this year, which is soberingly clear in humourless sketches about ABBA’s connection to Linköping and the continued antics of Sean Banan (favourite of the kids, apparently - a fact that frankly terrifies me). Anyway: somebody needs to do something - starting by delivering scripts for Nour and Anders with the same flair as for 7-year-old Sigrid.
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Sense prevailed with the voting public for once, though, when the unequalled Sanna Nielsen went direkt to the final with her ballad Undo. This is her seventh time in the competition, and she’s clearly in it to win it this year. Even if you’re not a fan of her ballad-pop (I am, I won’t deny it), no one can say the woman can’t sing. Even if the chorus begins with the line “Undo my sad”, which is as delightful an example of Swenglish as you’ll ever find.
The other old hand (not that he looks it) in Linköping was Martin Stenmarck. He won the contest back in 2005 with Las Vegas, elbowing Nanne Grönvall’s Håll om mig into second place. This was almost a rematch, as Nanne’s sons Charlie and Felix (whose grandfather is ABBA’s Benny Andersson) had co-written the nu-rock song performed by their band Little Great Things. In the end, Martin’s ballad När änglarna går hem (‘When The Angels Go Home’) got an andra chans, while the fairly un-angelic Little Great Things, erm, went home.
Two surprises of the night were former X Factor group JEM also getting a second crack of the whip, and Panetoz’s African-flavoured Swedish-language hip-hop Efter solsken (‘After The Sunshine’) also going straight through to the final.
The highlight: This Twitter exchange between me and my pal Malena Ernman.
@misterjorgensen just listen to la Ernman baby:)— Malena Ernman (@Malena_Ernman) February 8, 2014
The lowlight: The return of Herreys’ minimised by Sean Banan’s gurning.
Next week, we’re off to Gothenburg. In the meantime, give me your best examples of Swenglish song lyrics in the comments.
David Jørgensen is a writer and editor who loves schlager and lives in London. Follow him on Twitter here