On Saturday March 13th Swedish television will have its largest event of the year, with the final of Melodifestivalen taking place.
The previous five weeks of Saturday night primetime entertainment have seen 28 songs whittled down to 12, with only one of them getting the right to represent the nation at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest. There is no Friends Arena sellout for the show this year, with Covid-19 restrictions meaning all shows have taken place without an audience at Annexet, part of the complex of arenas by Globen in south Stockholm.
The Local asked Ben Robertson to give us a run down of the twelve finalists and who he is tipping to go all the way.
Song 1: Danny Saucedo – Dandi Dansa
Danny Saucedo is one of the biggest names in Swedish showbusiness. A star performer with years of concerts and glitzy dinner shows to his name, it was little surprise that he was the pre-contest favourite. He has been hyped before, having the same status in 2012 when he eventually finished second to Loreen, who won the Eurovision Song Contest with the song ‘Euphoria’, after he finished second in 2011 and third in 2009.
Danny’s comments before the competition about not being in-it-to-win-it made sense when ‘Dandi Dansa’ was revealed. Musically this is a little funky number that gets your toes tapping, but doesn’t set the world on fire. On stage Danny performs the song in what appears to be a moving day nightmare of cardboard boxes waiting to be unpacked. Creative yet oh-so-Swedish in its minimalism.
My opinion: The main selling points of this track are Danny’s ability to charm and camera and swish around the stage flaunting his bucketloads of charisma. Musically though it relies on a repetitive hook and while cool, it is weaker and less competitive than his previous work. That being said, it does introduce a new style for Danny to the masses, which was why he took part in this competition in the first place.
Prediction: Loyal fanbase will see him in the top half, but I’d say third place is the upper limit.
Song 2: Klara Hammarström – Beat of Broken Hearts
Klara Hammarström makes this year’s Melodifestivalen final after being knocked out in her debut in last year’s heat. Klara’s a well known face to many TV viewers having appeared on SVT’s TV show ‘Familjen Hammarström‘, which followed the life of her family and her 11 siblings. In addition to music, Klara is also an elite show jumper with Swedish championship medals and representing Sweden in the pony riding European Championships on her resumé.
‘Beat of Broken Hearts’ is the type of song one can imagine playing over the credits to the latest teen drama. The uplifting pop ballad is big in production value with epic percussion, a firework curtain at the moment you expect it, and a superhero-esque costume that Klara needs three people to help her squeeze into.
My opinion: It’s one of my favourite hooks of this year’s contest and possibly the song in my head most often of the 12. However much I enjoy it, I don’t think there’s a spot for this in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Prediction: Bottom half
Song 3: Anton Ewald – New Religion
Anton Ewald may be recognised by Melodifestivalen followers as he has competed in the show’s final in both 2013 and 2014. Why the long absence? Well most recently Anton, who is a classically trained ballet dancer, has been out in Miami modelling. Some people have all the luck.
Anton’s song ‘New Religion’ is about the addictive pleasure of lust and love, with the intense feelings that come with that being intensely pursued by both Anton and his partner in crime. Unsurprisingly Anton has choreographed the number himself and this song features mesmerising turns, twists, and just a couple of crotch grabs.
My opinion: As a song I find this a grating number, and my only rationale for how it qualified was that Anton lulled the audience into thinking it was amazing by his flawless smile and impeccable dance moves. In singing he is nowhere near as talented and the Final lineup will make that difference clear.
Prediction: It is hard to imagine many people voting for Anton when there’s far bigger names in the pop market in the final, and the juries in the final are unlikely to save him. Fair chance of being last.
Song 4: The Mamas – In The Middle
The defending champions are back! For the first time since 2004 the Melodifestivalen winning artist came back to try and do the double. It makes much sense that this has happened this year, the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 was cancelled and therefore The Mamas never got their chance to entertain Europe with their song ‘Move’ which won the competition last year. The Swedish-American gospel trio started off as backing singers for John Lundvik, who won the competition in 2019, and a win on Saturday would see them singing the winners’ reprise for the third time in a row.
Those looking for a copy of their last year’s winner will be disappointed, this track is less punchy than ‘Move’ and instead would fit into something like The Greatest Showman. The key to the track though is the focus on The Mamas’ excellent voices and harmonies that make the heart glow warm.
My opinion: It’s impossible not to like The Mamas. But I don’t particularly love ‘In The Middle’, and given the year we have had I find this just 10 bpm too slow and never quite hitting the crescendo it needs to.
Prediction: One cannot underestimate a huge public vote for The Mamas after last year’s drama, nor a high jury vote from the excellent vocals. Yet momentum for a victory appears to be waning, so perhaps a solid and respectable top 5 result will be the outcome here, but no more. But then I said exactly the same thing last year.
Song 5: Paul Rey – The Missing Piece
Starting off as a hip hop artist, and previously being signed to an American record label, a 27-year-old Paul Rey came to Melodifestivalen last year as a relatively unknown name in the country he grew up in. His ballad then, ‘Talking In My Sleep’, got through to the 2020 final, finishing sixth, and was one of the bigger hits that emerged from last year’s competition.
It’s no surprise that Paul is back in the competition to see if lightning strikes twice. This ballad is perhaps more subtle than last year’s song, and in a world away from the flamboyance Melodifestivalen normally entails, the song fades out to a quiet finish. For those wondering who Paul’s missing piece is, this song is about his daughter born in the past year.
My opinion: I prefer this to Paul’s last entry, and I find the emotion of this comes across so much better. A worthy finalist. Don’t think it is special enough to take the ticket to Rotterdam however.
Prediction: Expecting more jury points than votes from the public, and to end up in the bottom half.
Song 6: Charlotte Perrelli – Still Young
Charlotte Perrelli is an icon in the world of Melodifestivalen, and took home the title on her debut in 1999, and then went on to win Eurovision in Jerusalem that year with ‘Take Me To Your Heaven’. She returned to Melodifestivalen with ‘Hero’ in 2008, and again won, yet despite being hotly tipped she was only mid-table in the Eurovision Song Contest final that year. Two other Melodifestivalen attempts in recent years haven’t come close to the final, but this time Charlotte has made it once more.
‘Still Young’ is exactly what you would expect from Charlotte Perrelli, a true schlager classic with plenty of strutting towards the camera and flamboyance in abundance. The subtle hints to Abba are there and there’s a fabulousness about this that speaks out to Charlotte’s generation, that you are still young and can be out enjoying life to the fullest.
My opinion: ‘Still Young’ is intentionally a dated sound, and still this is an empowering number. But we who follow the contest regularly can sniff when these songs are classics that live on for years, or just work in this time and space. I don’t see this filling the dancefloors in a decade’s time in the same way her previous two winners did.
Prediction: Lower reaches of mid table, probably around 6th to 8th. In competition with Arvingarna with the older public, but should score higher with the international juries.
Song 7: Tusse – Voices
Tusse Chiza was born in Congo and as a child his family left due to war. On the journey he made he was separated from his parents and he ended up in Sweden alone. Since 2015 he has lived with a family in Tällberg, Dalarna, and appeared on televised talent shows Talang and Idol, the latter competition he won in 2019.
‘Voices’ is very much the type of pop track that could be written for an Idol winner – it’s uplifting and powerful and gives plenty of room for the Tusse’s clear vocal to resonate. Yet underneath that is a darkness, and a message to ‘forget the haters’ and be one of the many voices making a difference on the planet.
My opinion: This is one of those songs that I admit just isn’t for me. Lyrically there’s an attempt at a deep message, but without a coherent structure in the story from verse to chorus for the narrative I look for in songs. I find the chord loop one that has been heard many times before and the key change at the end trite in its predictability.
Prediction: All that said for my opinion, I know full well how well produced the number is and how successful this type of music is in the Song Contest. Juries are asked to vote based on who they think will do well in Eurovision, and this is such an obvious candidate in that regard. Given it is also top of the streams on Spotify out of the competitors that favourite status seems justified, and would be a surprise if he doesn’t win.
Song 8: Alvaro Estrella – Baila Baila
What’s with the Latin rhythms you may wonder? Well Alvaro Estrella has them pumping through his Chilean blood, although he was born north of Stockholm in Sollentuna. Alvaro’s had a career in music for many years, be it as an artist, backing singer or working in theatre. This marks his third entry into Melodifestivalen, and was a finalist last year with the song ‘Vamos Amigos.’ Also on stage, just like last year, is his dancer wife Vicky.
Anybody with even a passing knowledge of Spanish can take one look at the title of the song and can imagine what to expect. This is a saucy slice of Latin flavoured rhythms all packaged into simple feel good pop music. However this song has all the authenticity of Taco Friday, a completely Swedish interpretation of the genre without any of the spice to give it the kick it needs.
My opinion: This is a joyous three minutes but sadly a song derivative in nature and something we’ve all heard too often in both the real world and in Melodifestivalen itself. Fully understand those who enjoy this, but I crave my Song Contest to push boundaries and take songwriting and performance to the next level. This just repeats what we’ve already had.
Prediction: Out of the 12 acts in last year’s final, Alvaro came 11th. Similar result expected.
Song 9: Clara Klingenström – Behöver Inte Dig Idag
Making her debut in professional music in 2019, Clara Klingenström is a relatively unknown 25-year-old singer-songwriter from the island of Gotland. Whatever happens on Saturday entering Melodifestivalen has already given Clara her biggest break, with ‘Behöver inte dig idag’ within a week becoming her most played hit on Spotify.
The song ‘Behöver Inte Dig Idag’ (Don’t Need You Today) is written about a previous relationship, and one that Clara has told the media had turned sour, and she did not leave the relationship as soon as she should have done. Clara is alone on stage with her electric guitar and the power of this comes from an emotive performance and a lyric that many can relate to.
My opinion: I find this an interesting Melodifestivalen entry, and am very glad it exists. One of my favourite Swedish artists is Melissa Horn and many of the press, myself included, can hear similarities in the storytelling on stage. The main difference being the extra push this has with an electric guitar instead of an acoustic. That said, lyrically this doesn’t touch me in the same way as a Melissa Horn track, lacking the metaphors that started a love for the Swedish language.
Prediction: Dark horse on Saturday night. I don’t see international juries giving it a high score, but there’s definitely a momentum for this from the public vote. Top half could happen.
Song 10: Eric Saade – Every Minute
Eric Saade grew up as a host on the Disney Channel and in teen boy band What’s Up!, before making a solo career that has had Melodifestivalen as his launch pad. He has entered three times before, with an average placing of 3rd and winning once in 2011 with the song ‘Popular’. That song won the televote at Eurovision 2011 but was not enough to defeat Azerbaijan for the crown.
Now aged 30, Eric is bringing something more mature than the intense entries of his youth. ‘Every Minute’ has been described by Eric as sexy, dark and addictive, and this is the track topping the YouTube and TikTok charts at the moment. The performance on stage is minimalist to the extreme, with Eric performing on a small white square inside a black box. That said, there’s plenty of attention to detail in this three minute number to make it stand out and ooze quality.
My opinion: As a song alone Eric is correct about the addictiveness, and the ‘oh na na’ hook is an obvious viral sensation. It’s a risky number – so not Eurovision by numbers – and that’s part of its charm and part of its downside. I’d be fully on board with sending this to Eurovision; Sweden’s had a reputation for sending Eurovision numbers that are overly formulaic and this would certainly break that trend.
Prediction: It’s so hard to know what to expect here. Yes, Eric can win, and the viral success this has had, combined with such a unique visual concept means I can see juries and voters at home supporting it. That said, the problem is the sound is so far away from what many fans of the show, especially older voters, will expect. The way the Melodifestivalen app works it is fair to say that the average Melodifestivalen voter would be 45, can Saade get enough points from the older blocs to take victory?
Song 11: Dotter – Little Tot
Dotter is the stage name for 33-year-old Johanna Maria Jansson, with her name, ‘Daughter’, referring to her stage persona being the daughter of Mother Earth. Dotter’s biggest hit came in Melodifestivalen last year, as she finished just one place short of winning with the song ‘Bulletproof’, that now has over 15 million streams on Spotify.
This year’s song ‘Little Tot’ is a clear evolution in sound from ‘Bulletproof’, bringing a more club-style feel in this very danceable tune. ‘Little Tot’ is a song sung to her future children, pleading with them ‘not to be like us’ and to help the planet more than this generation has done.
My opinion: While originally finding the ‘Little Tot’ hook arresting as a native English speaker, actually I’ve come around to thinking that it fits perfectly well here. The production value is high and, when there’s a dance floor available for fans of Melodifestivalen to meet on once more, this will be a huge hit there.
Prediction: Would be surprised if outside the top 5. There’s a potential for juries to like this and have it in the mix for victory, but most of the love for Dotter seems to be coming from abroad, and the public vote should see Dotter fall short again.
Song 12: Arvingarna – Tänker Inte Alls Gå Hem
Arvingarna are veterans of Melodifestivalen, winning on their debut in 1993 with the song ‘Eloise’ and coming a very respectable 7th place in the Eurovision Song Contest. Casper, Lars, Kim and Tommy make up the band whose name means the Heirs, as all of their fathers also played in dansbands just like they do. The Swedish dansband genre is one of the musical styles most iconic to Sweden, often accompanied by swing-style dancing and it is still frighteningly popular here especially among the older population.
The song Tänker Inte Alls Gå Hem (Not Thinking About Going Home) is all about the wishes of the singers to enjoy this night of celebration they are having, and their wish to continue partying on. Without doubt this is a dansband song, but at a slightly higher tempo and is far more performance based and theatrical than just the kind of music you shuffle across the dance floor too.
My opinion: This is a fantastically written number with a brilliant match of lyrics and melody. Arvingarna bring the fun to the stage and while its genre may be out of date, I don’t remember a better version of it in Melodifestivalen. This may be twee and embarrassing to some if Sweden did send this to the Eurovision Song Contest, but I can’t fault this three minutes of fun at all and will get my vote on Saturday. Sometimes, winning isn’t everything.
Prediction: Unlikely to score high with international juries or the children’s sections of the vote, but could very easily win the older age range categories and finish lower mid-table.
The final decision as to who will go to Rotterdam will be decided 50 percent by international juries commissioned by Swedish television, and 50 percent by viewers at home. If you wish to vote you can either ring the numbers on screen during the show or download the Melodifestivalen app, giving you up to five votes per song for free.
The show will be broadcast on SVT 1, starting at 8pm on Saturday March 13th. The show can also be found on SVT Play, in Swedish and for the first time ever with English commentary, and will be also played by Sveriges Radio on P4.
The winner will then represent Sweden in the first Semi Final of the Eurovision Song Contest which will take place on Tuesday May 18th. The plans as of writing this article are still for acts to travel to Rotterdam, this year’s host city, to perform live, but even in a best-case scenario at the moment the audience numbers will be lower and acts will need to stay inside their hotels when not at the venue. Back-up plans exist so that, no matter what happens, a Song Contest will exist this May, even if cross-continental travel proves to be impossible nearer the time.
Ben Robertson is covering Melodifestivalen 2021 for ESC Insight.