“Actually, I'm turning off #Melfest,” I tweeted on Saturday night, as dancers in gold Lycra zentai suits paraded across my screen. “I'm just not interested any longer tonight.”
My mission, as The Local’s Melodifestivalen correspondent, was to make you care a little about Sweden’s most-viewed television programme. But try as I might, that task has been made extraordinarily difficult by a series that has been, well, a bit rubbish.
The gold suits were part of a humourless skit about the Winter Olympics, culminating in comedian Björn Gustafsson grabbing presenter Nour El-Refai’s breast (or as the papers described it, “bröstchocken”). That was the point I turned off. Not because of the actual incident, but because the entire sketch just represented how tired Melodifestivalen appears to have become. These are funny people – why are they doing this?
The same can’t be said for the music, though. The two winners, surprisingly, were artists whose songs actual young people might actually want to actually buy. Actually. Oscar Zia, 17, had an entertaining update on US boyband NSync’s style (which is fair enough, given that a lot of US pop music is actually Swedish) with Yes We Can. While the real shock came from Ace Wilder, who is 31, but looks 10 years younger. Her Busy Doin’ Nothin’ was a perfect response to the "harder" pop sounds coming out of Sweden right now, and deserved to win.
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Poor Shirley Clamp was competing for the seventh time, and limped to sixth place. Shirley Clamp is one of the reasons I adore (that could change after this year) Melodifestivalen. She’s a veteran who’s prepared to come back year after year and still not win. Yet she battles on. It’s a strange aspect of Swedish musical culture that established performers are prepared to put themselves forward for possible public humiliation.
Their rest of the competition included a bit of "death metal" (not exactly troubling the Norwegian hardcore, though), some norrländska electropop, non-descript rock, and quiet balladry. Then there was Dr Alban, who varied his lyric of “Around the world” with “Around the globe” and redefined the word "cringe" in the process.
I went on to SVTPlay to finish off watching before writing this review, to witness the destruction of Gothenburg caused by father and son Glenn and Anton Hysén. I’m going to assume that it wasn’t a metaphor for this year’s show.
It may be that the point of Melodifestivalen is about the music, but that has changed in recent years. It is now an entertainment show that doesn’t entertain. Saturday night’s show had the second-lowest number of votes since 2002 – so one could argue that the non-musical segments are turning people off (literally, in my case) from the actual music. And when artists’ careers depend on the exposure Melodifestivalen gives them, that’s a real shame.
And then Dr Alban blunders along to destroy my argument about decent music, so what can you do?
David Jørgensen is a writer and editor who loves schlager and lives in London. Follow him on Twitter here