It’s all well and truly started again. The six week circus with not a big top in sight. A large scale showcase of what Swedish pop music has to offer in 2013. We’re here. With bells on. Once again.
This morning we hot footed it into Karlskrona for this, the first heat of Melodifestivalen.
The stage is set, and looking almighty. And we plonked ourselves in front of it earlier today, to sit through this afternoon’s rehearsals. Each artist performed their song three times, and here’s what we witnessed;
1. David Lindgren – Skyline
Låtskrivare: Fernando Fuentes, Henrik Nordenback och Christian Fast
Well thankfully, everything that was frustratingly average about ‘Shout It Out’ last year, has been ramped up and sorted out for ‘Skyline’ this year. The two songs are from the same dance floor, but ‘Skyline’ is miles better in terms of….well everything. From the really quite ph’nom chorus, to the big production, and all the way down to the choreography and the styling.
Our only gripe is the dubstep breakdown. Not because we don’t like it (we bloody well LOVE a good dubstep breakdown in a pop track, yes 2 years after everyone else grew tired of it), it’s just a suprise that he’s done it, after Danny Saucedo did it so well last year. Christ even Love Generation did it last year and it didn’t get them very far (unfortch). Plus, the way it’s been presented is just very ‘poor man’s Danny Saucedo’, which we would have thought he’d want to get away from.
A lot of quarters are calling this a guaranteed finalist, but we’re not so sure. We think it would make a good finalist (and we’d love to see it again in Stockholm), but in terms of dance tracks – Michael Feiner & Caisa’s is equally as good, and is performing in a more favourable slot. If that means anything. Still though – we can’t emphasise enough how good that chorus is. And a chorus that good has been many an artist’s vehicle to the final in the past.
Oh, and watch out for the fab camera shot that accompanies most of the second chorus. Well, we loved it anyway. ‘Tis the little things…
2. Cookies N Beans – Burning Flags
Låtskrivare: Fredrik Kempe
Regular readers will know that we didn’t exactly have too much expectation piled upon this, or them. In fairness though it’s better than we thought it would be – even though those figues only translate to it being a 3/10 as opposed to the 1/10 that we expected it to be. Oddly, the verses here are much better than the chorus. Said verses promise at least a hint of a tune, but then the chorus descends back into MOR land. And we’ve never liked residing in MOR land, even for only three minutes. Those that do though, will probably eat this up. It was cooked lovingly especially for them. Needs more seasoning next time though.
We have no idea why they’ve chosen to use pretty much the same stage set-up as the poor man’s Cookies n’Beans, Abalone Dots, used last year for ‘På Väg.
3. Jay-Jay Johanson – Paris
Låtskrivare: Jay-Jay Johanson
Admittedly, this song was never really meant for people with our ‘taste’ in music – but Christ almighty, this was a struggle.
On first listen we thought “hmmm, this might be enjoyable if he sorts his vocal out for the next run through”. But two more run throughs came, and that vocal never was sorted out. Perhaps it was just the fact that we were in the arena and that aforementioned live vocal was inescapable to our ears, and impenetrable for the poor song that lies beneath it. We look forward (in the name of fairness) to hearing the studio version, to see if in fact a good song is contained in there somewhere. For now though, it’s an undisputed racket with no redeeming qualities. If this finishes higher than 8th place tomorrow night, it’s a massive injustice to everyone else in the heat. Well, except for Cookies n’Beans maybe.
4. Mary N’diaye – Gosa
Låtskrivare: Johan Åsgärde, Mattias Frändå och Mary N’diaye
Love this. Love her.
The first listen/watch was a tad disorientating because of the sheer level of WTF going on. But once the song ended and we took stock of what we had just witnessed/heard, well yes – we loved it. The only question is really, will the Swedish televoters afford it the same second thought that we did.
It’s nothing we haven’t ever heard before, both in the world of pop and in the murky depths of national finals for Eurovision. But it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and it’s got an intensely endearing energy to it. Neither her nor her dancers cease to entertain for a second. It’s the perfect wake-up call after the two songs that it follows.
5. Eric Gadd – Vi Kommer Aldrig Att Förlora
Låtskrivare: Eric Gadd, Thomas Stenström och Jacob Olofsson
On paper you wouldn’t expect us to be a fan of this. Nor did we. But against the odds, we really really are! SEE Jay-Jay and Cookies n’Beans – we CAN like a song that was never really meant for us.
It sounds like a rousing, up-tempo version of one of the better Petra Marklund album tracks. Very uplifting. Our favourite element of it is its production. The drums, and particularly this swirly twirly bit that makes itself known throughout the intro and the post-chorus and which we can’t quite describe or put our finger on (as you might have just guessed).
We wouldn’t go so far as to say we’d want it to qualify ahead of the likes of ‘Skyline’, ‘Gosa’ or ‘We’re Still Kids’. But if we had to listen to it again in the final or (preferably) andra chansen, it wouldn’t be an absolute travesty. Such high praise, eh?
6. YOHIO – Heartbreak Hotel
Låtskrivare: Johan Fransson, Tobias Lundgren, Tim Larsson, Henrik Göranson och YOHIO
This curious little character intrigues us lots and we had really no idea what to expect. But we had high hopes all the same.
What we got was certainly a great visual. The outfit is just beyond both ridiculous and amazing. And in fact the whole visual of YOHIO on stage is one which we couldn’t really take our eyes off. And that’s no mean feat when you consider that his performance style is a little amateur (repeating the same two/three poses and gestures with his hands throughout).
Unfortunately though, the song fell a little flat. It’s not bad. And it’s perfectly enjoyable in an arena setting, with the dramatic strings booming out the way they can only in a stadium setting. But it’s not really something we can envisage ourselves listening after the contest. And that’s a little disappointing, as we were hoping for more.
Others are calling this a definite qualifier. We’re kind of hoping it’s not. Yes there are lesser ‘evils’ in this heat, but there are five much better songs too.
7. Anna Järvinen – Porslin
Låtskrivare: Björn Olsson, Martin Elisson
Anna Järvinen. A really sweet lady giving a hugely sweet performance of a very sweet song.
It’s a fairytale ballad. Bizarrely, we couldn’t get away from the notion that the whole thing is like a cross between Diana Ross & Westlife’s ‘When You Tell Me That You Love Me’, and a lullaby! Perhaps you’ll see what we mean when you hear it.
The Swedish press are calling this odd, and strange – but it’s a big favourite with them too. And while we actually can’t hear anything odd or strange about it, we do agree that it’s extra special enough to be something which has got a better chance than most this week, to qualify beyond its heat. To be honest, though we really like it, we don’t think it’s better than for example ‘I Din Himmel’ last year. And look what happened to that (7th place in its heat). But we’re assuming that Scandinavians are going to go for it even more than we do, or can comprehend. So if you’re an international viewer tomorrow night and feeling the same way, keep that in mind when a runaway result potentially comes in.
Anna is accompanied by a seven strong orchestra on stage, and there’s a beautiful final camera shot of her being framed by the stage’s set-up.
8. Michael Feiner & Caisa – We’re Still Kids
Låtskrivare: Caisa Ahlroth och Michael Feiner
Exactly what we wanted from Michael Feiner & Caisa. A great big explosive dancepop track.
Bravely, this has a totally instrumental chorus. We’re hoping the risk pays off for them, but no Melodifestivalen entry has ever been THAT in-your-face dance, as this one is. Will the Swedes look upon it as favourably as we do?
Performance wise, there’s lots going on. A vocal performance from Caisa, Feiner behind the decks, and a big dance troupe doing their thing beside both artists. Then at the end, Feiner joins Caisa up at the front, the dancers continue to do their thing behind them, and well it all just looks like a great deal of fun really. We want in.
We’re a bit perplexed as to why SVT put this in the same heat as David Lindgren’s ‘Skyline’. The last time they put two similar sounding dancepop songs in the same heat, was in week one of 2011 – with Danny Saucedo’s ‘In The Club’ and Dilba’s ‘Try Again’. And in the end, one of them won that heat and the other finished dead last. We hope that neither David or Michael/Caisa have to endure the same undeserved fate of poor Dilba.
Oh and cynics be quiet – that sax you’ll see Michael playing tomorrow night IS all live.
Heat 1 of Melodifestivalen takes place at 8pm local time tomorrow evening. You can watch it live here, and *we think* SVT will be keeping the show online for 48 hours afterwards.
Until then, SVT have uploaded 60 second clips of yesterday’s rehearsals here. They were essentially just camera and stage rehearsals though, so it’s not really advised to make up your mind about the songs based on those clips.
Once you HAVE made up your mind about all the songs though, you may or not be excited to learn that the Melodifestivalen 2013 CD, featuring all 32 songs, is now available to pre-order from our online store.