Album: Absolute Schlager (Part 2)

Sorry for the delay on the next instalment, but if it’s any consolation this second disc of Schlager was pretty great, and I’m definitely enjoying myself so far. There’s the usual scattering of tracks I’d already heard of, but mostly unknowns from a variety of time periods. A few stinkers in the batch but otherwise very good.

If you are just joining us, I’m introducing myself to the joys of Swedish pop music via this extensive compilations of Schlager hits!

08 Carola – Fångad Av En Stormvind – Kicking off with a winner, no less. The infamous Carola is back on the block with this lovely bouncy 80s number (from 1991). Not much I can really add to it, sounds just like pop music of that period, just in Swedish. We aren’t so different are we? How lovely. Doesn’t sound much like a winner but it’s very good all the same.

08 Herreys – Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley – Another winner, and I’m more on board with this one. Or I was until I saw the single cover on Wikipedia, yikes… Still has that sort of naff 80s charm, saxophones, vague guitary band music, but enough synths to transform it into an out-and-out pop song. I just like the melody here, and that chorus is quite difficuly to shake once you’ve heard it a few times.

10 Malena Ernman – La Voix
– Now we’re in more solid territory for me, 2009’s contest was probably my first loon contest, and as ever, Sweden sent something striking. This ice-white-haired siren, bursting into some devastating operatics for the chorus. I think the ropey vocals on the verses didn’t help this one at all, but it is still a shame it didn’t perform better on the night. That final eye-popping high note is still a wonder to behold, she even looks surprised to have arrived there herself! Joyous.

10 Charlotte Perrelli – Hero – If ever a situation called for a 17/10 score, this is one. The former winner may have scared Europe into thinking she was an alien, particularly with that ill-advised black & white effect at the start (how DID they do that?). But this is a triumph of pop music, with that chugging beat and amazing chorus. That key change is a thing of beauty, particularly twinned with the laser show we got in Belgrade. She gave it everything, but her mid-table finish that year was one of the worse injustices in recent Eurovision memory. Still fantastic.

09 Friends – Lyssna Till Ditt Hjärta – Now on to a modern Eurovision entry that I don’t remember, from 2001. Coming 5th, it’s a pretty fresh-sounding pop song, with a really great tempo, and a tried-and-tested sound for the chorus. Sounds like an ABBA song I can’t quite put my finger on, but definitely not a bad thing. Key change is well executed, and sits well, even after Hero.

10 Alcazar – Not A Sinner Nor A Saint – Well Alcazar have been the main beneficiaries from my Schlager voyage so far, and I’d pegged this as one of their better moments. Melodramatic with a capital M, and came 3rd in 2003’s Melodifestivalen, which is a shame as this would have been a much better entrant than the eventual choice by Fame. Key change just amps it up to ridiculous levels, really a fantastic effort. Hate that boom-boom-boom-boom at the end though.

09 Lena Philipsson – Dansa I Neon – I feel like I’ve heard this before, I wonder where I could have… A bit of a random inclusion, coming 5th in 1987’s Melodifestivalen, and doesn’t appear to have been that huge a hit. Either way, Lena has impressed me so far, and I love this dark synthy-pop number, still sounds pretty good by today’s standards. Actually reminds me of Steps’ You’ll Be Sorry when they hit the chorus now I think of it. I’ll look out for a Lena hits collection once I’m done with this CD.

07 Fame – Give Me Your Love
– The Swedish representative for 2003’s Eurovision, edging out Alcazar’s aforementioned track. Not a great result really, this is nice enough, and still did the business, coming 5th in the contest, but it leaves me a bit flat. Uses the old tricks I’ve heard in too many pop songs now, more shades of ABBa certainly. It’s just a bit BLAH.

08 Svenne And Lotta – Bang En Boomerang – Speaking of ABBA, partly written by Benny & Bjorn, this was a Melodifestivalen hopeful in 1975, the year after ABBA swept the board with Waterloo. It sounds like it could easily be an ABBA song, partly because I first knew it as a track off ABBA’s “Waterloo” album. It’s a lovely song, doesn’t really differ much at all from the ABBA version, though that’s no insult. Charming.

06 Style – Dover Calais – A 3rd place entry from Melodifestivalen 1986 now. A bit of a weird one, can’t quite see the appeal, and I’m intrigued what the hell cross-channel ferries have done to inspire a song. The vocals are a bit thin, not really getting into this one. It’s inoffensive enough, but I’ve heard plenty better.

07 Jill Johnson – Crazy In Love – A comeback record now from 1998’s Eurovision representative who returned to come 4th in 2003’s Melodifestivalen (That contest seems to be coming up a lot). It’s alright in a pretty standard Shania-esque country-pop way. Very likeable but I suppose I’ve often found it difficult to take to Country music, particularly tracks like this having a bit of an identity crisis, sometimes preferring to sound like a (sort of) modern pop song. Very nice, but no thanks.

08 Nanne – Håll Om Mig
– Now Nanne is another name I’ve heard plenty about apart from the music. A pretty dramatic entrant, some great sinister strings in there. Ultimately came 2nd in 2005’s contest behind Las Vegas, which is a shame, though it sounds like she had to fight to even get that far, initially being rejected by the Melodifestivalen organisers. Impressive start, would be interested to hear more of her, though I’ve inadverently heard “Highland” by One More Time, of which Nanne was a member, and that was rather good.

09 Amy Diamond – Thank You – Last one for tonight I think, and another infamous name. From what I’d heard, I knew she was either a child star or the anti-christ (how often those two go hand-in-hand in popular opinion). Either way this was her entry in 2008’s Melodifestivalen, and I think it’s pretty poptastic. Catchy and still sounds good (though it’s only been a few years). Memorable and a standout from this selection so far. Not bad considering she was only 15 when she performed this at Melodifestivalen.

07 Andreas Johnson – A Little Bit Of Love – I can feel my nose turning up already, it’s REAL music isn’t it? Well not really, it’s just a sort of naff yesteryear pastiche. The pieces are there, it’s got a simple structure and a catchy chorus, but I guess I just don’t like his voice very much in this, annoying and nasal. I do like that middle 8 about getting married, but that’s about it. Pleasant but … ehhhhh. Not sure if I would have preferred this to The Ark as 2007’s representative, not exactly Sophie’s Choice is it?

08 Rongedal – Just A Minute – Oh god this is catchy isn’t it? I hope Mika’s lawyers were listening, it’s really not much of a stretch is it? Infuriatingly upbeat, but it really has worn me down. I don’t think much to those little 1920’s-style bits, but that’s just a distraction before an even more day-glo key change. Good heavens, I bet there were some haters for this one in 2008’s final!

07 Arja Saijonmaa – Högt Över Havet
– She doesn’t sound in a very good mood does she? A nice change to the cheese I’ve just listened to. 2nd place from the 1987 selection, it’s got something about it, I like her voice and the pronunciation, and it just sounds like I’d imagine 80’s Swedish pop to sound. Shame it came 2nd to that dreadful Coca-Cola song in the end, but I’m not too upset.

06 Lasse Berghagen – Jennie Jennie – Back to the 70s now, not that I particularly wanted to go there! After coming 2nd to Waterloo at 1974’s Melodifestivalen, he managed one better to represent Sweden in 1975. It only managed 8th place on the Swedish-hosted Eurovision, but evidently it had enough about it to endure all this time. It’s all very oompah and traditional, but I’m not really into this that much. I can appreciate its catchiness but that’s about it.

08 Linda Bengtzing – Hur Svårt Kan Det Va? – Another alumnus of Melodifestivalen 2008, quite a year! Another shade of Mika with those verses, sounds like Grace Kelly. But that’s where it ends really, it’s a nice power pop song, I can see why this was one of the wealth of great songs that made the 2008 final. I hear a lot about her, is she some serial MF entrant then?

08 Lili And Susie – Show Me Heaven – Oh some real Europop now with that intro. A bit odd for this to be in there, since everyone else has at least been a MF finalist, these got knocked out in the first round of 2009’s Andra Chansen against Sarah Dawn Finer. It’s quite full on, but I do rather like it. Looking at Wikipedia they had a 20 year hiatus from Melodifestivalen, so I guess there is some extra context I’m missing there. A pretty cheesy chorus but it’s full-on and lots of fun. Reminds me of Beautiful Life by Ace of Base in parts.

07 Martin Stenmarck – Las Vegas – 2005’s Swedish entrant to Eurovision now, and the start of their least successful period in Eurovision history (aside from Carola finishing 5th the following year). I’m not really enjoying this too much, but then I’ve never much seen the appeal in Las Vegas. The chorus is strong, but I just end up thinking “Why are we singing about this?”, just doesn’t feel like it’s got much to it, it’s just about Yeah! Vegas Baby!! … no thanks. I would much rather have seen Alcazar win their place in contest (though they probably would have flopped with Alcastar)

06 Tommy Körberg – Stad I Ljus – Have we been back to the 60s yet? Well 1969’s entrant is here now, and… well what can I say? It’s very of its time, and while he sings this rather traditional ballad very well, it doesn’t really translate for me. It didn’t even win the contest, and 4 countries won the contest that year! Step it up, Tommy!

06 Björn Skifs – Det Blir Alltid Värre Framåt Natten – Another rather random inclusion if you go by the stats, 1978’s representative which came 14th in the Paris contest. Got a nice familiar 70s feel to it, reminiscent of the production on (among other things, but in my limited experience) Carpenters songs. That’s probably not a coincidence. It’s alright, I like it more than Tommy’s track just played, but still not quite clicking for me.

06 Caroline Af Ugglas – Snälla Snälla – What an odd song, fits in well with the old-fashioned previous tracks, but this is from 2009’s Melodifestivalen, when it was narrowly pipped to the post by Malena’s VOIX. Not sure I’m really enjoying her voice, like some vague relative of Dionne Bromfield or (gasp) the vocal range of Rebecca Foghorn Ferguson. OMG did she just say fuck? Probably not. Her boots are ugly too. Think that once again I might be missing some crucial part of the story here.

09 Sanna Nielsen – Empty Room – Now we’re talking, and while it would have been a lovely entry, it had to settle for 2nd behind Charlotte Perrelli’s Hero in 2008’s contest. A pretty basic power ballad but wonderfully delivered. Some really clunky lyrics here too, which just endears me more. “I can’t even read the news today, everything just reminds me of yesterday”, WELL OF COURSE IT WILL! A walk in the park shouldn’t be that sad, indeed. It’s not exactly a lyrical powerhouse but I can’t help but sympathise with poor heartbroken Sanna. I loved her 2011 entry “I’m in love”, and hope she’ll make it through one day after some near misses.

06 Jan Johansen – Se På Mig
– 4th place from 2001’s Melodifestivalen now. It’s quite a chilled out track, but feels quite dated for a 21st century track, it’s something I imagine Phil Collins or someone coming out with in the early 90s. His voice has got quite a nice roughness to it, but the song never quite gets off the ground, not even a strained key change.

10 Helena Paparizou – My Number One – On a 78-track triple CD, we aren’t going to get many Eurovision winners considering Sweden for all its success has only produced four winners so far. So what the hell, let’s put the Greek winner of the 2005 contest in the mix. Good choice too, it’s a fabulous song, with some amazing lyrics “You’re my passion, my relief, my crucifixion”. When would you hear that in a pop song?? A Europe-pleasing mix of euro-pop and ethno-flourishes, and the first (and so far only) win for Greece in the contest. Maybe it’s not such a loose connection to this compilation, Helena is part Swedish too, and seems to be often mooted as a possible MF entrant, which would bring some more star power to a country that admittedly isn’t short on that.

Keepers for the iPod: La Voix, Hero, Lyssna Till Ditt Hjärta, Not a sinner nor a saint, Dansa I Neon, Thank You, Just a minute, Hur Svårt Kan Det Va?, Empty Room, My number one.

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