For those non-Europeans reading, the Eurovision Song Contest is an annual contest in which most European countries (usually over 40, including a few most consider to be outside geographical Europe) send an artist and a song to perform in a massive contest watched by tens of millions of people worldwide. The entries vary massively in style, and effort, and has long been seen as a celebration of camp and pop music. I think that’s a generalisation, it’s certainly got those things, but there are some great songs not conforming to that template each year, and it’s often an eye-opening (and eye-popping) display of national cultures and trends.
How each country selects its entry is up to them, and some pull out all the stops to try and secure a win. Apart from a trophy, the winning country gets the opportunity to host next year’s show. Azerbaijan won for the first time last year (use Google Maps), so Europe’s eyes are on this former Soviet state to put on a great show.
It’s time for Sweden to start selecting its Eurovision representative for this year’s contest in Baku, so that means it’s the return of the massively popular Melodifestivalen. While the UK seems to put little-to-no effort into their selection process, with ‘unpredictable’ results, Sweden’s selection campaign is the most-watched show of the year there. The format is simple: 4 weekly heats of 8 songs are performed, the top 2 go straight to the final, the next two go to “Andra Chansen”, a second-chance heat in which the top 2 also get through to the final. 10 finalists perform and the winner represents Sweden in the contest. Scoring is a combination of public votes and a selected jury vote, and even songs that don’t win can go on to be huge hits.
So… finally I get to my point. Heat 1 happened last Saturday, and the first batch of eight songs were performed in Växjö (unexpectedly pronounced more like “vik-wa” when I looked it up). So what was on offer?
06 Abalone Dots – På väg – What a strange name for a group! Bit of a sad-sounding Swedish ballad, quite folky. The chorus (I guess?) is quite nice, it’s almost country music, or like The Corrs (with rougher vocals). Can’t say this does a lot for me really, nice enough but I’m not bothered if I don’t hear this again.
08 Afro-Dite – The boy can dance – Well I’ve heard of these after my Absolute Schlager listen-through, and these are returning Melodifestivalen winners, having been Sweden’s 2002 entry. While I never really got into that song, this is more of the same, but with present-day production values I find it a less tacky song. Not that it’s not tacky, it really IS. The sort of nu-disco sound that I’ve heard plenty of from Alcazar… I kinda wish they were doing this instead though. Good but not many points for originality.
02 Dead by April – Mystery – Oh dear, NO! I’m all for being open-minded to new sounds, and the guy’s falsetto vocals are nice enough in a sort of Linkin Park style, but that SHOUTING MAN really sums up everything I hate about this genre, how can people listen to this?? Shame really, I’m sure it could have been a reasonable rock-pop crossover without it, in the same vein that Turkey and Georgia have recently sent rock bands and not to make some sort of point. Sorry, hate this one.
09 Loreen – Euphoria – She had a big hit with her 2011 Melodifestivalen entry “My heart is refusing me”, but only limped through to Andra Chansen and didn’t make it to the final. Things are looking more hopeful this time around. I think I might have preferred her earlier song though, this is very good but it’s quite generic. Lucky it’s a great genre for me, strong female-vocalled dance music. The chorus reminds me a little of Danny’s “In the club” song last year, which was great for what it was, but lyrically I don’t think there’s a lot there. Still one to watch, a great entry.
10 Marie Serneholt – Salt & Pepper – I’ve just finished with her debut album as a solo artist after finding fame with A*Teens in the early 00s. This is really fun, I love this. It’s sort of a mix of Alesha Dixon’s “The boy does nothing” and former Melodifestivalen entry “Stop” by Sibel, both of which I really love. She’s a great girl, and the song is really likeable. That bridge is basic as hell “boom boom… boom-boom-boom-boom”, but the salt’n’pepper refrain really is catchy as fuck. It’s not quite as great as Sibel’s “Stop” but it certainly gets close.
06 The Moniker – I Want To Be Chris Isaak (This Is Just the Beginning) – Hmm… another return from last year’s contest, a finalist this time, with what I thought was a really tacky but great song “Oh my god”. This really isn’t anywhere near as good, his vocals just don’t really suit this at all. Just a bunch of name-checks of ancient celebrities, and a pretty moany chorus. Is it supposed to be funny or quirky or what? The joke is a bit lost on me.
08 Sean Banan – Sean den förste Banan – Novelty time now, some full-on eurodance nonsense now, and I rather like it. OK the naff rapping bits don’t do a lot for me, nor does the bridge, but that diggi-diggi-dingdingding chorus really sticks in my mind. This sort of hook is the bedrock of many memorable Eurovision hits, and while you could drive yourself mad thinking of more ‘worthy’ entries to the contest being ousted by crowd-pleasing joke entries over the years, this really is catchy as hell.
05 Thorsten Flinck & Revolutionsorkestern – Jag reser mig igen – Oh god, I just had a flashback to Bjork’s Holographic Entrypoint 😮 my face went pale as the creepy acapella spoken intro entered my ears. Thankfully there is an actual song here too, even if it sounds like the guy is about 1000 years old. I suppose if you are a Swede this might be a rousing lighters-up ballad, but to my ears it’s a vocally painful clod of dad-rock. You can’t expect everything to translate I guess. Pretty painful stuff.
Loreen and Dead by April qualified for the final. Great for Loreen, and worrying for Dead by April, can they rally the anti-vote from pop haters? A terrible waste if they do. Sean Banan and Thorsten Flinck made it to Andra Chansen, so they’ll get another bite of the cherry in a month. Glad for Sean, but Thorsten, really?? Poor hopeless Marie Serneholt though 😦
Keepers for the iPod: Marie Serneholt, Loreen, Sean Banan, Afro-Dite