10:20 Congratulations to Benjamin Ingrosso, Sweden's 2018 Eurovision entry
We're now closing this live blog. Thanks for following!
We think Benjamin was quite happy with his win.
Photo: Jonas Ekströmer / TT
10:15 All-time voting record
More votes were cast in this year's Melfest final than ever before, SVT says — and lots of those votes helped raise money for charity.
There's a new voting all time high in the #Melfest final! 13.993.975 votes were cast, and 1.961.602 kronor were given to the Radiohjälpen charity.
— Melodifestivalen (@SVTmelfest) March 10, 2018
10:10 Some of the reaction
So, the Swedish institution that is Melodifestivalen is over for another year, and we'll be closing this live blog soon. Thanks for following!
Here's a look at some of the reaction to winner Benjamin Ingrosso, who will be representing Sweden at Eurovision in Portugal this summer.
— Melodifestivalen (@SVTmelfest) March 10, 2018
Let's pack our bags for Stockholm 2019 already y'all #melfest
— Tim ?????????? (@PikaSchleh) March 10, 2018
Has the pop extravaganza convinced you to travel to Sweden?
Benjamin Ingrosso. Giving hope to lads who can't dance everywhere. ❤️ #Melfest
— schlagerfiasko (@schlagerfiasko) March 10, 2018
2016 -> Robin finished 5th
2017 -> Robin won. Benjamin finished 5th.
2018 -> Benjamin won. Mariette finished 5th.
2019 -> Mariette wins?#melfest
— rovi (@eftervinden) March 10, 2018
Some viewers are already making predictions for next year's contest…
Lots of people were pleased to see runner-up Felix's supportive reaction.
FIrst Brexit, now 12 points to Shuffla. In for a penny, Britain… #melfest
— Peter Hayes (@ThatPeterHayes) March 10, 2018
Meanwhile, lots of viewers were questioning the UK's decision-making skills.
10:05 Sweden's Eurovision entry is Benjamin Ingrosso – Dance You Off
There was a huge celebration here at Friends Arena in Stockholm, with Ingrosso's mum Pernilla Wahlgren crying with joy (she's reality TV royalty here in Sweden). Ingrosso won both the international jury vote and the televote, so he seems like a solid choice.
Let us know how you feel about the result, and the contest in general! Here's another look at that winning song. Grattis Benjamin!
10:00 And the winner is…
9:57 The final scores come in
The total votes are now coming in, so how do the finalists feel?
According to SVT, Felix said it felt like “having an ice bucket over his head” while Benjamin said: “My head is empty right now”.
9:50 Swedish self-deprecation
Host David Lindgren is hitting back at his critics through the medium of cabaret.
He performs the closing number in front of projections of headlines in Swedish media about the show’s falling viewing figures this year, while the lyrics describe some criticism of him and co-host Fab Freddie. He has earlier said that some of the criticism, particularly from big names in Sweden's entertainment world, made him cry during the semi-finals.
The number of Swedes tuning in for the semi-finals fell below three million for the first time since 2011 this year, and the Andra Chansen show (Second Chance, when eight runners-up compete for four places in the final) had its lowest viewing figures since 2007 when the format was first introduced.
9:40 Melodifestivalen across the globe
With a few minutes' voting time left, '#Melfest' is a top trend on Twitter in Sweden and Spain. Let us know if you spot it trending in any other countries!
We've been speaking to international fans in the run-up to the contest, many of whom are here in the Swedish capital for the final. And we've heard of viewing parties across Europe and beyond.
British fan Danny Lynch, who is in Stockholm for his ninth Melodifestivalen final, told The Local: “The atmosphere in the arena is amazing, and it’s great to see such a wide range of people, from young kids to grandparents and everything in between. Lots of glitter, balloons and feather boas! There is a huge contingent of international fans from all over Europe, and some from even further!”
9:31 International juries
After the 'mellanakt', a performance by three-time Melodifestivalen entrant Caroline Af Ugglas and musical theatre actress Helen Sjöholm, it's time for the points from the 11 international juries.
They will be responsible for awarding 50 percent of the votes, while viewers' votes will decide the rest.
9:20 Even more feels
Renaida is singing her song again because of the technical problems we mentioned earlier — she wasn't able to hear her earpiece. SVT says the choice to let her perform again is “pretty unique” for Melodifestivalen.
As Mia Stalnacke points out, it's a very un-lagom title.
Pretty sure we're not. We're supposed to have a lagom amount of feels.
— Mia Stålnacke (@AngryTheInch) March 10, 2018
9:14 That's all the entries
We've now heard all 12 songs, and this year's Eurovision entry was among them.
If you're still confused about why this show is so popular in Sweden, especially after that last entry, it probably has something to do with the idea of 'lordagsmys', roughly meaning 'cosy Saturday evening'. This just refers to sitting at home as a family on a Saturday evening, watching trashy TV and eating junk food, and there's also 'fredagsmys', which is the same thing but on a Friday.
9:13 'Ful' or 'full' dance?
'Fuldans' means 'ugly dance', but an extra 'l' would turn that into 'drunk' dance. These are two words which are all too easily mixed up, just in case any of our readers are using Melodifestivalen to improve their Swedish skills.
9:09 Rolandz closes the show
We're not really sure how to explain this one, which means 'Ugly Dance', so just watch the song. If you're not streaming the show, here's the semi-final performance.
9:00 Benjamin Ingrosso
This is one of the favourites and Ingrosso gets a huge cheer from the audience, but there has also been criticism that the staging and backing vocals would be tough to transfer to the Eurovision stage, where everything has to be live.
As we mentioned earlier, Benjamin comes from a Swedish pop dynasty. The 20-year-old is already on his third entry to Melfest, and he won the children's version 12 years ago. You also might recognize him from the TV series Wahlgren's World, a reality show following the life of his mum Pernilla Wahlgren, which is something like the Swedish answer to Keeping up with the Kardashians.
8:57 Why so much English?
Only two of this year's 12 entries are in Swedish, and those are the two novelty acts: Samir & Viktor, who we've heard, and Rolandz, who will close the show.
It's been years since Sweden's sent a Swedish-language act to Eurovision, and that's a shame as lots of international fans have told us that Melodifestivalen inspired them to learn Swedish.
“I fell in love with Sweden on my first trip to Stockholm and it inspired me to start learning Swedish, which I’m pretty good at now, I think!” British fan Danny Lynch told The Local. “I’ve also been thinking of moving here soon, so Melodifestivalen has definitely had a huge impact on my life!”
Shima van Straijlendorff, who is based in Barcelona, also credits the show with huge changes in her life: “Mello has made me learn Swedish and love all things Nordic. If five years ago I only understood 'Tack' or 'Grattis', now I am able to understand roughly 40 percent out all the conversations and jokes on the show,” she said.
“I even signed up for Nordic Society back at university in Scotland, in order to brush up my Swedish. Looking back, I'm glad that my love for Eurovision and Melodifestivalen has pushed me beyond my limit and be a better version of my self.”
8:50 Technical problems
Renaida had some technical problems with her performance earlier, with her earpiece not working, and it's not clear if she'll get to perform again.
Some people on Twitter are suggesting that Renaida should be allowed to perform again after her technical issues. This is a question for the head of contest at #Melfest, we'll have to wait to see if they give any order about this during the show.
— Melodifestivalen (@SVTmelfest) March 10, 2018
Host David Lindgren said after her song “you were amazing, nobody noticed” — he had similar technical problems in the Melodifestivalen semi-finals in 2013, SVT says.
8:45 Samir & Viktor
One of just two songs in Swedish this year, reality TV star Samir and fashion blogger Viktor are at Melodifestivalen for the third time.
It's a very summery tune, with choreography that's a step up from their previous performances, which mainly involved messing around in a paddling pool (or maybe a step down, depending on your opinion), but the pair's main appeal is that they're in the contest to have fun rather than produce a brilliant song. Which is sort of the point of the whole competition.
Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
8:34 Jessica Andersson's party voice
Melodifestival veteran Jessica’s bop is all about giving a voice to women, and it's bound to go down well with schlager fans.
Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
8:32 My Turn
Some background to this song: John Lundvik’s career has been built on paving the way for other artists’ success. He’s written songs for several big names, and even penned a tune that was sung at Prince Daniel and Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding. So the dramatic ballad announces the transition from songwriter to singer.
Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
8:30 'Who wrote this?'
OK, for the non-Swedish speakers, in that sketch host David Lindgren was poking fun at himself and the criticism he's received for his performance of host during the semi-finals.
In the sketch, he was using scripted notes to have a conversation with his unimpressed wife, and asked “Who wrote this? Seriously!”
Viewing figures have been down this year, and Lindgren has said he thinks it's “important” to address his critics.
8:25 Repeat offenders
Plenty of the entrants are old hands at televised singing contests. Our third contestant, Martin Almgren, won Swedish Idol in 2015, and fellow Mello finalists LIAMOO and Renaida competed the following year, with LIAMOO in first and Renaida in sixth place.
Meanwhile, lots of the participants are veterans of Melodifestivalen itself. It’s fairly common for artists to come back year after year and build their entire career around the contest; the europop equivalent of the career tributes in the Hunger Games, just with glitter and dancing instead of a fight to the death.
As we said earlier, Mendez has entered previously, while Samir & Viktor and Mariette are both on their third try. Felix entered last year as part of boyband FO&O, with Benjamin also competing in that contest (and his mum performed in Melodifestivalen several times). But the most experienced Melfest entrant is Jessica, who's entered seven times and actually won back in 2003, when she was part of the duo Fame.
8:20 Artist intros
Something you might notice about Melodifestivalen is that everyone is very, very happy. Whereas reality TV contests in the UK and US often rely on dramatic intros, sob stories, and judges that border on bullies, Melodifestivalen prefers to stick to what it knows best: feelgood, cheesy pop. (And over-the-top staging).
8:13 Mendez opens the show
Time for our first song, and it comes from Mendez. The Chilean-born singer entered the contest 15 years ago, but he’s been away from Sweden in the meantime, living in his native Chile where he’s become a reality TV star.
It's a lively start to the show, featuring pyrotechnics, backing dancers, and a catchy tune, if perhaps not the strongest vocals. However, apparently he's promised to tattoo his forehead if he wins the show, so there's that.
Mendez performs Everyday. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
8:05 'We're one together'
Gold balloons, sparkly everything, singing and dancing… Melodifestivalen has started. It all kicked off with a song called One Together sung by our host and Swedish singer David Lindgren, who has competed in Melodifestivalen three times himself.
The lyrics don't make a whole lot of sense, but the themes of love, celebration, and unity really sum up what Melodifestivalen means to a lot of Swedes. Around a third of the entire country's population is expected to be tuning in tonight.
8:00 It begins…
It's starting! Remember that whether you're in Sweden or watching from abroad, you can stream the show online at this link.
We've heard lots of grumbling that the standard isn't quite as high as usual in this year's Melodifestivalen, but who are the favourites to win?
Another hot favourite is Benjamin Ingrosso, who was voted the most likely to win in a survey of audience members at Friday's dress rehearsal, and he also received the most votes in a quick and informal survey of the competing artists by SVT.
But it's all still to play for, and it will be the audience and an international jury who decide. Let us know who you'd like to see represent Sweden on the Eurovision stage in Lisbon this year.
7:50 Running order
Here’s a list of the acts, in the order they’ll be appearing tonight. It's a mix of slow ballads and catchy dance tunes with a faster tempo, culminating in this year's novelty act, Rolandz. Just ten minutes to go now!
Mendez – Everyday
Renaida – All The Feels
Martin Almgren – A Bitter Lullaby
John Lundvik – My Turn
Jessica Andersson – Party Voice
LIAMOO – Last Breath
Samir & Viktor – Shuffla
Mariette – For You
Felix Sandman – Every Single Day
Margaret – In My Cabana
Benjamin Ingrosso – Dance You Off
Rolandz – Fuldans
7:45 Sparkles and signs
The Local was at the dress rehearsal this afternoon, and spotted plenty of sparkly costumes and homemade signs. From where we were sitting, we saw a lot of signs for Samir & Viktor, Felix Sandman, Benjamin Ingrosso, and Rolandz. More on each of the acts a little bit later…
— Catherine Edwards (@CatJREdwards) March 10, 2018
7:35 In numbers
We've mentioned Melodifestivalen is a big deal, but just how big? Here are some stats.
– 12 cameras are being used to film the final from every angle tonight.
– More than 300 journalists are at Stockholm's Friends Arena reporting on the show (including us!)
– 12 lorries have travelled a total of 50,000 kilometres during the six-week touring semi-finals. Together they carried around 200 tonnes of equipment
– 500 movable lights will illuminate the final
7:20 Global appeal
It's true that Melodifestivalen is extremely popular in Sweden, but it's also got a growing fanbase overseas.
The Local spoke to fans from across the globe to find out just what attracts them to the programme.
Some said the show helped them keep in touch with Swedish roots, while for others it simply opened the door to the Swedish culture and language. For some fans, the investment broadcasters put into staging creates an unforgettable experience, while others praised the general inclusive, joyful atmosphere of the show and its fans.
7:00 A quick introduction to Melodifestivalen
For the uninitiated, here’s a quick explanation of what exactly is going on tonight. Readers in Stockholm may have noticed an unusually high number of feather boas and deely boppers in the Swedish capital this week, and it’s all because of the institution that is Melodifestivalen.
The annual music competition chooses Sweden’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, and each year around a third of the country tunes in to watch the live broadcast. Its popularity isn’t a huge surprise; the show has produced six Eurovision victors and countless earworms.
But for a country that prides itself on being ‘lagom’ (not too much, not too little), it really goes all out when it comes to ‘Melfest’. The contest has grown and grown since it started in 1959, and these days televised semi-finals take place in six different cities, and there’s even a children’s version of the show. Love it or hate it, almost everyone in Sweden has an opinion on the pop extravaganza.
The 12 finalists. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer / TT
6:45 Welcome to The Local's Melodifestivalen live blog
Good evening and a warm welcome to our live coverage of the Melodifestivalen final!
Twelve acts will perform for a chance to represent Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest in tonight's show, the culmination of a six-week nationwide selection process. Yes, they take Eurovision pretty seriously over here (some would even say too seriously).
Whether you're in Sweden or overseas, you can watch the show live online here thanks to broadcaster SVT, which is streaming this pop extravaganza globally. You may get an error message at that link right now, but that's because the show hasn't started yet — it kicks off at 8pm, and we'll be bringing you live updates throughout the final.
The Local's Europe Editor Catherine Edwards is running this blog from the press room at the Friends Arena in Stockholm. Get in touch on Twitter and Facebook to let us know where you're watching the final from, which acts you're rooting for, and any other thoughts on all things Melodifestivalen.