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EUROVISION

Which of these twelve contenders will Sweden choose to be its Eurovision entry?

Ben Robertson, a Swedish resident who reports on all things Eurovision for ESC Insight, gives The Local the low-down on Sweden’s choices for this year’s competition.

Klara Hammarström's Run To The Hills will be a big hit on the Schlager circuit for years to come. But is it a winner?
Klara Hammarström's Run To The Hills will be a big hit on the Schlager circuit for years to come. But is it a winner? Photo: Annika Berglund/SVT

Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, is coming to an end. The five weeks of competition have reduced the original twenty-eight songs to just twelve, with each looking for a ticket to Turin, Italy, where the finals will take place in May.

As normal, the show has been a hit in Sweden, with over three million viewers each week and over 500,000 voters in each show. The songs have also been hits too, with seven of the top ten tracks on Monday’s Spotify chart also in the running at Saturday’s final.

But who will Sweden send to Eurovision this year?

Half of that decision is down to Sweden’s voting public and half is down to the eight international jurors who will announce their votes during the final itself.

Here are the twelve artists, their songs, and how I think they will do in the show.

Below is a Spotify playlist of the songs in the final this year, if you want to listen to the entries yourself.

 

Song 1: Klara Hammarström – Run To The Hills

Klara Hammarström (main picture above) is probably best known to Swedes as a celebrity turned pop star. She was one of eleven siblings on the SVT show Familjen Hammarström which showcased, among other things, her horse-riding passion.

This marks her third Melodifestivalen entry in a row. Most recently, she finished sixth with the radio hit Beat of Broken Hearts.

Run to the Hills marks a departure from her previous work in that it combines pop production with a folk melody that, when combined, sounds exactly like the sort of song people expect from Eurovision. This will be a hit on the schlager dancefloors for years to come.

My Opinion: Predictably, I love this song in a way that I probably shouldn’t. But I know how big (or not) this is going to get in the Eurovision fan community. What I will say, in the nicest possible way, is that I don’t think the three minutes on stage come together well enough for it ultimately to be a Eurovision contender. That requires a lot of energy from the singer and Klara’s routine has to prioritize her singing, sacrificing movement in this difficult number.

Prediction: Klara was underrated last year and finished sixth in last year’s final. This year she comes in with high expectations and a song that is the best of her three competition attempts. It is the current Spotify number one, but I think this is more realistically in the battle for third place.

Theo Merz's huge YouTube following probably makes him the most famous person in this year's contest.

Theo Merz’s huge YouTube following probably makes him the most famous person in this year’s contest. Photo. Annika Berglund/SVT

Song 2: Theoz – Som Du Vill

While Theoz probably isn’t well known to the average The Local reader, for the average teen in Sweden, he is arguably one of the most well-known people in the country. With over two million followers on TikTok, Theoz has started a pop career after making his breakthrough for his dance moves. Eagle-eyed viewers may recognise him from Melodifestivalen 2018, where, as an under-aged performer he danced on LED screens behind Samir and Victor as they performed Shuffla.

Musically, Som Du Vill challenges nobody. This is a prime example of a genre I describe as ‘cookie-cutter Melfest’ – three minutes of predictable pop music with the obligatory hand clap section, slick dance routine, and a title phrase that will penetrate and corrode your brain for weeks to come. No customary key change though, this is far too cool for that.

My opinion: While the ‘cookie-cutter Melfest’ line can be taken as a dig at the song’s genericness, I simultaneously think that the infectiousness of this little melody is a compliment to the task at hand. I haven’t heard a song do it better in a long time and am delighted that it has got to the Melodifestivalen final.

Prediction: Big scores from the younger voters but unlikely to score significantly elsewhere, seventh to tenth place.

Anna Bergendahl is back at Melodifestivalen with Higher Power, the last and darkest song in her trilogy. Photo: SVT

Song 3: Anna Bergendahl – Higher Power

Anna Bergendahl can’t escape the fact that, since the Eurovision Song Contest expanded and started to hold Semi-Finals in 2004, she is the only artist to represent Sweden and never make the Grand Final. However that was back in 2010, and Anna has grown from the teenager she was back then, and reached the final in her returns to Melodifestivalen in 2019 and 2020. While Anna is still making music today, she is currently combining that with studying to be a doctor.

Higher Power has been described as the end of the trilogy of songs that Anna has brought to Melodifestivalen in recent years. They have a cinematic country feel to them, with grandiose lyrics that sound incredibly deep but actually don’t make much logical sense. This song is, as Anna correctly describes, slightly darker than the others people may know her from.

My Opinion: Anna’s entry in 2020, Kingdom Come, was one of my favourite entries that year and would have been a brilliant choice for Sweden. Sadly this doesn’t pack the same punch and Anna needed to stop off at the Semi-Final en route to Saturday’s final. It’s true that, for many trilogies, the second episode is the strongest and the final one ultimately ends up as one too many. This is a great example of that. 

Prediction: Anna finished third in this competition in 2020, but tenth in 2019. I suspect the final part of this trilogy is going to return her to a tenth-place finish.

Song 4: John Lundvik – Änglavakt (Guardian Angel)

The London-born singer was adopted by Swedish parents, grew up in the UK and moved to Sweden as a small child. John’s love of music was combined with a sprinting career growing up (including a 100m personal best of under 11 seconds). It took a while for him to make his breakthrough from being a songwriter to being the artist on stage. However, Melodifestivalen allowed that breakthrough in 2018, where he finished third, before winning the year after with Too Late For Love, which finished fifth in the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.

Änglavakt is a change of direction for John Lundvik, most notably in its use of the Swedish language. This is a classical romantic piano ballad that succeeds in letting John’s incredible crystal-clear voice be the star of the show.

My Opinion: John Lundvik is one of the greatest songwriters to touch Melodifestivalen in recent years. While this is a perfect medium for John’s voice, allowing it to take centre stage, I feel something so classical needs to surprise in its crescendo more than this song does to be a credible Eurovision choice.

Prediction: I’ll go against the odds here and predict that John Lundvik will be loved by international juries (who may not understand the rather directly phrased use of Swedish) and John’s loyal voters at home (John won Sweden’s Let’s Dance in 2020). I can see this top half in the final.

YouTuber and singer Tone Sekelius is popular but her song sounds a little dated. Photo. Annika Berglund/SVT

Song 5: Tone Sekelius – My Way

Legitimately famous as a YouTuber with over 300,000 subscribers, Tone also is known for musical releases Awakening and One More In The Crowd. The first of those songs was used when Tone was describing coming out as gay aged 16, while the latter was the official Stockholm Pride song of 2017. In February last year, Tone came out as trans, and her performance marks the first performance of an openly trans person at Melodifestivalen.

My Way does sound like a cross between the classic Melodifestivalen and a pride anthem merged into one song. Lyrically the song is somewhat critical of society and challenges people to go their own way and dare to stand out for who they are. The lyric “Make us equal, legal and heard” is probably the most political that a Melodifestivalen song has gotten in years in a show that often tries to escape such drama.

My Opinion: News came out in the build-up to Melodifestivalen that this song had been rejected from the show’s 28 songs numerous times in the previous few years. That is very believable, and something about the song’s message and production does feel just a touch dated. However, Tone’s surge in popularity carries the song and means that My Way fills the space in the final nicely.

Prediction: Around 9th place, outclassed by other songs in the final show.

Song 6: Anders Bagge – Bigger than the Universe

A musical legend in Sweden, Anders Bagge’s appearance in Melodifestivalen has been one of the most anticipated since his name was revealed last year. That’s because Anders is most famous off stage rather than on it. With a long career behind the scenes, most notably in starting a production company that has worked with artists like Madonna and Jennifer Lopez, he eventually made the public spotlight as a jury member on Swedish Idol, a role he kept for many years. Yet Anders has been public about his stage fright, and missing out on the chance to duet with Celine Dion due to it. Most of the Swedish public only got to hear Anders sing for the first time when he appeared on the Swedish version of Masked Singer, where he could disguise who he was while performing.

Bigger than the Universe is a rousing mid-tempo song that is a real feel-good stomper. It’s a hard song to perform with lots of the song in Anders’ upper register but many people have been blown away by his vocal control since his live performance. The song’s written by some of the biggest names in the Melodifestivalen business, with Anders working with Thomas G:son and Peter Boström, who wrote 2012 winner ‘Euphoria’, and Jimmy Jansson who in 2020 broke the record writing six of the twenty-eight entries that year.

My Opinion: I’m sorry Swedes. I fully understand the symbolism of this song, with this artist, and the outpouring of love for the beloved 54-year-old. But please don’t send this to the Eurovision Song Contest. There, Anders’ back story will be diluted and this song won’t stand up against more modern alternatives with better stage shows. Furthermore, while musically explosive I have to comment on the English language of the track that sounds like the type of triteness that sadly the Eurovision Song Contest used to have in abundance and has only recently been shaking off.

Prediction: Anders is likely to win the public vote, and likely by a huge margin. There is a crazily high chance that he will go to Turin. The saviour here is going to be the international juries. Will they rank Anders suitably low so that he can’t mathematically catch up to the other leaders? I’m predicting a close and tense finish either way.

One-time Eurovision concender Robin Bengtsson is back in the Melodifestival final this year with Innocent Love. Photo: SVT

Song 7: Robin Bengtsson – Innocent Love

While Robin didn’t bounce immediately to stardom after appearing on Swedish Idol in 2008, once he got his Melodifestivalen opportunity, he succeeded in delivering hit upon hit to the Swedish public. His qualification direct to Saturday’s final means he shares the record for qualifying directly to the Melodifestivalen final, reaching the final in 2016, 2017 and 2020. Oh, and in 2017 he won the whole thing and finished a not-too-shabby fifth place in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv.

This song is a hybrid of two different styles. Firstly there is the modern Swedish slickness attached to this arena pop song and makes it an easy crowd-pleaser. However, the instrumentation of this takes huge influence from the 1980s, helped by the insanely rapid 170 beats per minute.

My Opinion: There’s something that’s very easily identifiable as easy Saturday night entertainment with this – with a toe-tapping rhythm, charismatic singer and clap breakdown exactly where one expects it. However the 80s throwbacks have been perhaps overdone in recent years and I crave more of a song representing Sweden than to go through the motions, as this one does.

Prediction: Robin’s previous Melodifestivalen results were fifth, first and eighth. I can see another eighth place coming up, or perhaps even worse.

Faith Kakembo sings her song "Freedom".

Faith Kakembo sings her song “Freedom”. Photo. Annika Berglund/SVT

Song 8: Faith Kakembo – Freedom

Faith Kakembo was born in Uganda but moved to Sweden aged just one year old. Now aged 36, day-to-day she works as an anaesthesia nurse in Jönköping. In 2019 she was discovered through winning the local round of the national P4 Nästa competition which is a common first step on the ladder for many up-and-coming artists. This appearance got the ears of SVT on Faith and she took part in Melodifestivalen in 2020, finishing 5th in her heat with ‘Crying Rivers’

Faith Kakembo’s song Freedom is a strong ballad with RnB influences. The song preaches about a world full of hope and warmth with a text that Faith describes as “deeply moving”. As the song grows Faith is joined on stage by a backing choir singing live – unusual in modern Melodifestivalen where only the lead vocals need to be sung there and then.

My opinion: The heat that Faith Kakembo qualified in was really close-run, with Faith only just securing the second place with the tiniest of margins. Sadly, in this field of pop stars and huge names, Faith’s story and message is going to play second fiddle to the others taking part with songs with more impact and voices that cut deeper.

Prediction: International juries are the only thing that could save Faith from last place in the final.

Song 9: Liamoo – Bluffin

Liamoo, an artist of Nordic and Filipino roots, made his big breakthrough in Sweden as the winner of the 2016 edition of Idol. Combining a smooth ability to rap with a clean commercial pop voice, he’s been one of the biggest successes of the Idol franchise this decade. In Melodifestivalen terms he has already tried twice to represent the nation, with a 6th and 3rd place finish to his name.

Bluffin fits perfectly into the Swedish music scene – and one can imagine it as a playlist staple in gyms and shopping centres across the country for the weeks and months to come. The sound is current and gently uptempo with Liamoo flipping between his natural singing voice and falsetto with ease.

My Opinion: While Liamoo was claiming pre-contest that this was outside of his comfort zone, this feels exactly like the kind of number I was expecting him to bring to the contest. I love the pulse of this but I think it is just too slick for its own good – the kind of number that everybody likes but struggles to get votes from people in a 25 song show across Europe in May.

Prediction: Liamoo’s previous entries finished sixth and third in the Melodifestivalen final. Likely to finish in that range, with more chance of being higher than third than lower than sixth. Would be a shock winner however. Will likely score well with juries and voters at home.

Song 10: Cornelia Jakobs – Hold Me Closer

One could argue that Cornelia Jakobs is a relative newcomer to the Swedish music scene with just a handful of singles out and a debut album yet to be released. However, the 29-year-old was thrust into the limelight as a teenager with the girl group Love Generation – the brainchild of megahit producer of the time RedOne, which came to Melodifestivalen in 2011 and 2012 to minor hit success.

Cornelia’s Melodifestivalen entry this year is an organic mid-tempo pop song that many compared to Lana Del Rey for the realness and raw emotions that come across. Hold Me Closer tells the story of Cornelia at the end of a romantic relationship, begging her lover for just one more night together.

My Opinion: My first listen to this song was arresting, and I was struck off-kilter by the switch from the light orchestral introduction to the electronic beat that kicks in during the second verse. However, the movie soundtrack-esqueness of Cornelia’s heart-on-the-line performance with a voice that always feels like it will crack at any time just lifts everything about it. A pleasant rarity in Melodifestivalen and something more than worthy to represent the nation in Turin.

Prediction: This song is considered favourite to win the international juries that make up half of the scores. Whether it wins will depend mostly on whether this can get enough votes from the Swedish public. While Cornelia did win the first heat, that was the show where the voting app failed to work, and thus Cornelia’s chance of getting votes from all age blocs is uncertain. It would be a shock if less than third with the Swedish public, but you can toss a coin to decide if this goes to Turin or not.

Cazzi Opeia is a successful songwriter in the world of K-pop. Photo: Annika Berglund/SVT

Song 11: Cazzi Opeia – I Can’t Get Enough

While Cazzi Opeia has a back catalogue of releases as an artist that is far from the biggest part of her CV. Instead, that lies within her recent success as a songwriter in the world of K-pop, writing songs that combined have achieved over 4 billion Spotify streams and topped the Billboard charts numerous times. She also is writing the song for the state of Oklahoma in the inaugural American Song Contest which begins later this month

Cazzi’s song, while being staged with bright rainbow effects that take influence from a non-Swedish colour palette, is three minutes of pure pop. What I Can’t Get Enough brings new to the table though is a killer beat that works amazingly well driving on the motorway or rocking out at the nightclubs.

My Opinion: This gets a thumbs up from me as an addition to the final – a worthy track that comes from the Melodifestivalen semifinals after succeeding in being an earworm in the weeks that have passed its heat. That thumb will be staying well away from the voting button on the Melodifestivalen app however.

Prediction: Mid-table

Hip-hop duo Ali Jammali and Sami Rekik sing “In i dimman”. Photo: Annika Berglund/SVT

Song 12: Medina – In i dimman (Into the fog)

The hip-hop duo of Ali Jammali and Sami Rekik made huge waves in the mid-2000s and amassed over 200 million streams on their hits together. Together as Medina they created a music genre that they describe as haffla from the Arabic word meaning party (both Sami and Ali have Tunisian roots). This sound they describe as a mix of reggaeton, hip-hop, house, pop, and dancehall.

The song In i dimman is a true mix of all these styles and, when combined, it becomes a party anthem. Lyrically the song spreads a message that now it is the time once again to party like tomorrow doesn’t exist.

My opinion: I came to Sweden in 2011, so I missed Medina’s musical heyday. While I think it is brilliant for the final’s musical diversity and for offering something different, musically this gets me to leave the dance floor rather than to join it. Maybe that’s why I don’t get invited to many parties.

Prediction: Top half with the Swedish public but possibly last place with the international juries, resulting in a mid-table finish.

The expectations for Sweden in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest are always high. The country holds the biggest selection show on the continent and the final this Saturday at Friends Arena will have a capacity of 30,000. Plus, Sweden is one of the most successful countries in Song Contest history, and is battling to get win number seven so that it can join Ireland at the top of the Eurovision medal table.

At the time of writing, Sweden ranks third in the betting odds to win in Turin, behind host country Italy and Ukraine who have both already chosen their entries. The speculation is that Sweden could join these favourites if Cornelia Jakobs wins Melodifestivalen this year. However should another artist win, especially the hotly tipped Anders Bagge, then Sweden likely falls out of contention to bring the contest home once more.

To watch the show you can tune in to SVT1 at 8pm on Saturday night and let the two-hour rollercoaster pass before your eyes.

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, Sveriges Radio and BBC journalist respectively, 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 suffering from Ukrainian’s suffering from Russia’s invasion.

Last week’s semifinal saw the most money raised for charity via Melodifestivalen in nearly twenty years, and an all time record is anticipated this weekend.

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EUROVISION

VIDEO: Three times Sweden poked fun at Eurovision

With Sweden one of the favourites to win Eurovision this year, let's take a look at the times when the country showed up the sheer ridiculousness of the song contest.

VIDEO: Three times Sweden poked fun at Eurovision

Eurovision is often known for eyebrow-raising entries featuring bizarre local traditions or, frankly, eccentric outfits. Although Sweden takes the contest seriously when it comes to its song entries, that doesn’t mean Swedes don’t sometimes celebrate the weirdness of Eurovision.

Love Love Peace Peace

Who could forget Måns Zelmerlöv and Petra Mede’s run as Eurovision presenters in Stockholm in 2016? Zelmerlöw, who won the contest the year before in Vienna, was joined by comedian Mede, who had presented the contest in Malmö three years earlier.

The two performed a sketch titled, “Love Love Peace Peace”, an attempt to make the perfect winning Eurovision song. The clip features former winners Lordi who won for Finland in 2006, and Alexander Rybak, the Norwegian violinist who won for Norway in 2009.

Watch the clip below and see how many references to previous Eurovision entries you can recognise.

 

Tingeliin

In this bizarre clip from Sweden’s Eurovision Song Contest qualifiers Melodifestivalen in 2009, Swedish comedy group Grotesco perform a mid-show sketch full of Russian stereotypes, including Cossack dancers, matryoshka stacking dolls, and a chorus of men dressed like Russian soldiers. The choreography also featured several scantily clad women wearing tight-fitting shorts with a single red star splaying their legs toward the camera in unison.

The clip caused controversy in Russia, after The Local reached out to Russia’s embassy in Stockholm for a comment – a spokesperson called the song “offensive” and “disconnected”, and condemned the sketch in an official statement:

“We do not react to eccentricity by some lunatics whose Russophobia should place them in an asylum rather than on Globen’s stage.”

See the clip for yourself here:

 

Lill Lindfors and her wardrobe malfunction

Lill Lindfors, a Finnish-Swedish singer and comedian, presented the 1985 Eurovision Song Contest in Gothenburg following Sweden’s win the previous year in Luxembourg.

Prior to hosting Eurovision in 1985, she had placed second in the 1966 contest with the song “Nygammal vals”.

In a clip which reportedly displeased the European Broadcasting Union who manage the contest, the bottom half of Lindfors’ dress was ripped off by a piece of set, exposing her underwear.

Lindfors paused, feigning shock, before quickly pulling a new dress down from the remaining top half of her outfit.

You can watch the iconic moment here (narrated by Terry Wogan, the BBC’s Eurovision commentator for many years) and decide for yourself whether it was meant to happen or not:

 

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