(photo: Stina Stjernkvist)

Tonight sees the return of Melodifestivalen. Sweden’s biggest TV AND biggest music event of the year shimmys up and onto our screens, just when we all needed it the most, to light up our very darkest of dark Februarys.

It’s a slightly different contest this year, what with the need for people to not cram into an arena together in their thousands right now. But the concept remains the same. Seven songs battling it out to win the hearts of TV viewers – fleshed out expertly into 90 minutes of feel-good entertainment.

We were allowed to attend a streaming of last night’s dress rehearsal. So if spoilers bother you not, then read on for our ten takeaways from the show (aside from the songs, of course) for you to look out for, below.

To read more about the artists, and to learn how the whole damn thing works, then check out our guide to Heat 1.

And to read more about the seven songs and performances, check out our review of Thursday’s rehearsals.

Now. Here’s a sneak peek of what you can look forward to tonight;

01. Lena Anthem
Lena Philipsson opens the show with not just any number, but with THE best song from her recent album ‘Maria Magdalena’. ‘Lära Så Länge Man Lever’ could well be the greatest Alcazar song that they never recorded – so it’s very fitting that it gets to be showcased at Melodifestivalen. And kudos to Lena PH for getting in that album promo!

02. Where is everyone?!…
The unmistakable truth that there is no audience this year is quite jarring at first – making it feel like a much different show to begin with. But Lena was such a great choice to be the first-week host, that the lack of audience is actually soon forgotten – you’re watching Melodifestivalen in the way Lena Philipsson is commanding you. And honestly, who could argue with that.

03. Lena’s call from Christer
Don’t miss this high-camp and hilarious skit in which a good-humoured Lena says yes to the job of hosting Melodifestivalen.

04. That stage. OMG
Kadiatou’s ‘One Touch’ is the perfect choice as contest-opener – that performance showcases the specially-constructed stage in all its glory. And oh what glory.

05. The Melodifestivalen circus
The artist intros in this year’s Melodifestivalen feel a lot like the Eurovision postcards we see in May every year, introducing each song at the main event. This year, perhaps as a nod to the renowned circus that is Melodifestivalen, they’ve given the traditional Melfest music to accompany said artist intros a circus-themed makeover.

06. Ol’ blue-eyes Lasseman
Many will have you believe that Danny Saucedo is the hot piece of hunk in this week’s Melodifestivalen heat. They are wrong. It’s of course Lasseman Larsson out of Arvingarna. Lasseman is all too aware of this – and treats viewers to a smouldering wink in Arvingarna’s artist intro.

07. Möt mig i Södermalm
In Danny Saucedo’s artist intro, he takes us on a bike ride through his beloved neighbourhood, Södermalm. It’s just about all the sight-seeing you’re gonna be allowed over the next few months, so soak it all in.

08. What a difference a day makes
In Friday night’s show, Danny Saucedo was a lesson learned (one we all learn every year, over and over!) not to dismiss anything based on the Thursday run-through. Last night, his performance was turned on, turned up and brought to life. A world away from what we witnessed on Thursday. Sorry for ever doubting you, Danny.

09. Dansa i bossa nova
Lena Philipsson treats us to one last tango – gifting us with a brand-new version of an old Melodifestivalen classic.

10. The ABBA museum is so last year
While the voting is going on, we’re transported to a wonderful, imaginary new museum concept, that takes us to the dark days of Melodifestivalen 2001, before showing us how Christer Björkman then turned the contest on its head and into a six-week extraveganza in 2002. Open the borders. Take my admission fee. Let me in.

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