“Melodifestivalen is entertainment for those who are bored at home on a night.” Well rejoice, dear Local reader – for Melodifestivalen is over. And I imagine that contestant Yohio, who said the above, is as thankful as you are, given that he was nowhere near victory, unlike last year. When I started to review Sweden’s biggest TV show, I had little idea of how much negativity I’d have to invoke, and probably persuaded many of you not to switch on to SVT1 on a night. The intention was the complete opposite, but 2014 will not be remembered as a fine year for the show, and I had to be honest about that.
However, I am going to be positive about the final show of the series, because it was very good indeed. Entertainment was mostly spot-on, all the artists gave at least decent performances, and there was the obligatory voting fiasco to keep us all glued to our seats right to the end. And with Denmark having its own Eurovision section show just across the Öresund, Sweden can at least know that Melodifestivalen’s final was the very best of fun compared to the humourless, rule-filled endurance test called Melodi Grand Prix (bit of advice for Denmark as it prepares to host the Eurovision Song Contest: when you attempt a gag about the Oscars selfie moment, you don’t have to explain said gag in detail first. We’ll get it.)
The show opened with the ever-youthful schlager star Charlotte Perrelli pretending to be The Little Mermaid (geddit?) before launching into Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen. Not quite the spectacular opening of recent years, but I was taking whatever I was given and making the best of it. Actually, the best Danish joke of the night was when Swedish actress Sofia Helin of The Bridge (Bron) arrived to deliver the points of the Danish jury and declared, “I understand you’ve sent me [to do this] because you daren’t rely on a Dane”. The Danish part of me decided I’d think about being offended once I’d finished my beer and opened another one.
(The second-best joke of the evening for me was the British part of me watching the UK jury give Sanna Nielsen’s Undo only six points. Demonstrating the typical finger-on-the-pulse nature of Eurovision folk here in Britain, the song won the whole contest.)
We also had a tribute to Abba, given that it’s 40 years since they won Eurovision with Waterloo. So we had four past Melodifestivalen winners performing Abba songs, including opera diva Malena Ernman displaying a marvellous Chiquitita. Sadly, no one appeared to have thought to ask anyone to sing Waterloo itself.
It’s been a great year for music in the contest – disagree with me if you like, but it really has displayed a varied mix of what the Swedish public might like to hear. The iTunes chart quickly filled up with Melodifestivalen songs once they were all released, so it’s clear that there is still a lot of interest in the talent on offer. The break-out star of the show was Ace Wilder, the 32-year-old who looks as if she’s still a teenager. Her Busy Doin’ Nothin’ was ultimately only two points behind winner Sanna Nielsen (who was in the contest for the seventh time), and a busy career beckons. Meanwhile, teen heartthrobs Oscar Zia and Anton Ewald both suffered setbacks when Oscar apparently left the arena in tears after failing to do better, and Anton scraped only 18 points. And veterans Alcazar made it to third place. It’s a tough life being a Melodifestivalen contestant.
If I’m asked back to review the show next year (and quite frankly, from the response I’ve had so far, that’s looking very unlikely) then I’m hoping for a lot of changes and some actual FUN. Let’s see what happens. Before that, there’s just the small matter of Eurovision. What could possibly go wrong?
Sanna Nielsen's winning song Undo
David Jørgensen is a writer and editor who loves schlager and lives in London. Follow him on Twitter here