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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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MUSIC

What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.

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