Melodifestivalen at its core is the Swedish show to select their entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, this year being held in Turin, Italy, after the explosive win from rock band Måneskin.
Yet the viewing figures for Melodifestivalen tower over all other major TV events in Sweden – 30 percent more people saw the final of Melodifestivalen compared to the country’s knockout game vs Ukraine in Euro 2020, and even the Eurovision Song Contest itself had just 83 percent of the Melodifestivalen audience. Only the Christmas tradition of watching those Donald Duck cartoons kept Melodifestivalen off the top spot on the TV ratings chart.
What is it that makes this unmissable television to so many? One argument could be that through the winter months there has been little else for family entertainment. However, that ignores the huge level of razzmatazz that Melodifestivalen constantly brings.
What fans have been guaranteed is some of the most beloved Swedish artists in the line-up, as 28 hopefuls have been reduced to 12 for the final.
There’s Robin Bengtsson, the artist who won in 2017 with an uncanny knack to allure and swoon the camera lens with his green eyes. However younger fans have been likely tuning in to see Theoz in action – the 16-year-old famous for his dance moves now commanding two million TikTok followers.
And while the artists are something for everyone, the music they bring also aims to appeal to all – and no, we don’t just mean cookie-cutter chart hits (although oh boy do they exist). The selection process for the 28 competing songs, half by a selection jury and half by Sweden’s public television broadcaster SVT, succeeds year after year in finding hits that dominate the radio through the spring.
While there are no strict quotas on the types of songs, an effort is made to ensure there is diversity in styles throughout and hits in both Swedish and English languages. This year’s line-up has included ballads, rap, rock and popera as well as the genres that are irreplaceable in Melodifestivalen folklore – the traditional dansband and schlager.
The aim is that there is something for everyone to love. Of course, that might mean there is plenty you might not in the process of whittling down 28 songs to one.
There is also the scale of the TV spectacular that adds to the appeal, with bombastic performances promised each season. Melodifestivalen has produced such a legacy of top quality live TV entertainment that many of their former staff are now tasked with setting up the inaugural American Song Contest in March.
This year’s show has taken place in Globen, now named the Avicii Arena, the world’s largest hemispherical building that is one of the most famous landmarks on the Stockholm skyline.
We journalists can write about the symbolism of a return to the Avicii Arena. After all, it was ten years ago that Melodifestivalen was last held there, when Loreen was victorious with Euphoria, a song that won the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest in a landslide, resulting in Malmö hosting in 2013. Euphoria is still today the quintessential Eurovision hit now as it was then, and has topped the annual vote on ESC Radio each year this decade.
However the move to the Avicii Arena, was sadly Plan B in these ever changing times. With the infection rates of Covid-19 in Sweden, the team at Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT decided to scrap the planned tour across the country, saying it would be “indefensible” to travel from city to city in these current times.
Instead, three shows have been at the Avicii Arena before moving to Sweden’s national football stadium Friends Arena in Solna which has a capacity of 30,000.
The cities who have missed out this year, Gothenburg, Malmö, Linköping, Lidköping and Örnsköldsvik, have been promised to host the Melodifestivalen tour in 2023 instead.
A key focus from SVT this year is the community aspect of Melodifestivalen, so viewers don’t purely watch the show but interact with it in different ways. The Melodifestivalen App (available for Apple and Android) which allows viewers to vote completely free is so popular it is speculated that Melodifestivalen has the world record for highest second screen viewer engagement – with 1.2 million Swedes voting during last year’s final.
Furthermore there are increased efforts for dedicated English language coverage this year. Another app, the relaunched Mello United (available for tablets on Apple and Android) is designed for watching together with others.
And to think – all of this hysteria is ultimately for the simple purpose of selecting a three-minute to represent the nation. Yet in the list of cultural institutions that make Sweden Swedish, dancing round the Midsummer maypole, a smörgåsbord for Christmas dinner and huge bonfires on April 30th – watching Melodifestivalen with the family with crisps and lördagsgodis has become a quintessentially Swedish tradition.
To watch the grand final of Melodifestivalen tune in to SVT1 on Saturday 12 March at 8pm. The show is also available to listen on Sveriges Radio P4 and via SVT Play globally.
If you would rather not have to test your Swedish skills you can also tune into SVT Play where Bella Qvist and Olivia Le Poidevin, will be providing English commentary live.
To vote you have three options. The most popular method is to download the Melodifestivalen App, where you are able to cast up to five votes for free to each song. There are televoting options as well, one which costs 3.60 kronor and the other 9.90 kronor. The more expensive number donates all of that money to Radiohjälpen, which is donating all proceeds made from this week’s show to helping those in Ukraine.
Ben Robertson is covering Melodifestivalen 2022 for ESC Insight.