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Eurovision reloaded: Istanbul 2004: My Top 10

Much prolonged, but it’s finally time to count out my top 10 tracks from Eurovision 2004. The top 10 is always a tough group to pick, but I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out, even if the top 3 really didn’t have much separating them.

Eurovision Song Contest Istanbul 2004 logo

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United United Kingdom

James Fox – Hold On to Our Love

#16 in the Grand Final

British entries haven’t had the best reputation in the last decade, though they’ve got nothing but themselves to blame most of the time. They needed to bounce back after 2003’s humiliating nul points finish, and while this wasn’t a total disaster, it did highlight that the UK’s glory days would take more effort to maintain.

I vaguely remember this guy from Fame Academy, and while this didn’t do a lot for me at the time, I’ve really grown to love it. It’s cheesy and MoR, but that chorus really works for me. It’s the sort of chorus you’d sway along to if you’d had a bit too much to drink, and as old-fashioned as it sounds, it certainly didn’t shame the UK.

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Croatia Croatia

Ivan Mikulić – You Are The Only One

#12 in the Grand Final

Balkan ballads are a funny thing, I don’t know what makes me love one and snore through another. I think if there’s a bit of the mystery that Eastern Europe holds for me, and a bit of melodrama and an ear-catchingly unusual melody (to Western ears), that’s a good start.

Ivan sings his way through what I can totally understand most people for thinking was a pretty tepid midtempo. But the chorus really sticks in my mind, maybe it’s his accent as he belts out “You are the only waaaaaannn”. He’s just got a curious tone to his voice, maybe his breathless vocals remind me a bit of Enrique or something. Weird as it is, I’m still fascinated by this.

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Cyprus Cyprus

Lisa Andreas – Stronger Every Minute

#5 in the Grand Final

Barbra, is that you? Teenage Lisa bravely kicks this off with a cute acapella segment. It’s a pretty dated song, like a schoolgirl singing a Carpenters track, but her voice is so pretty that it’s hard for me not to get all sentimental.

OK the vocals weren’t 100% in the semi-final, but she certainly held her own against more experienced vocalists on the night and gave Cyprus a top 5 result that hasn’t been matched since. Shame they were STILL beaten out by Sakis’s midriff in the end.

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Ukraine Ukraine

Ruslana – Wild Dances

#1 in the Grand Final

It was clear from the first performance that Ukraine were looking to raise the bar with the performance this time around as they blew the cobwebs out of the semi-final. A photo-finish secured Ukraine their first Eurovision victory, just pipping Serbia & Montenegro in the last few sets of votes, who had beaten Ukraine in the semi-final.

It’s a largely unintelligible tour-de-force with battle horns, crazy Xena Warrior Princess outfits and bags of energy. Ruslana was a thoroughly likeable character, who would later be instrumental in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution after a rigged election later that year. A memorable winner that demonstrated that winning Eurovision wasn’t as formulaic as it seemed.

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Russia Russia

Julia Savicheva – Believe Me

#11 in the Grand Final

I’ve always had a soft spot for this track, with a melancholic disco tragedy vibe about it. The verses are pretty mid-tempo but those choruses really have a great sound to them. Just as well, because the lyrics are a little lost in translation at times.

Her vocals weren’t amazing live sadly, perhaps victim to nerves, or a rather OTT dance routine involving multi-coloured dancers and multiple lifts. The choreography was iffy in places, and she looked like an uncomfortable Avril Lavigne, but there’s a great Russian pop track at the heart of this.

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Bosnia Bosnia and Herzegovina

Deen – In the Disco

#9 in the Grand Final

Oh lord, how did this happen?!? Moments like this are why I love Eurovision. Fiercely heterosexual Deen tried his best to get some chemistry with the female dancers for the more deluded viewers, but all said and done this is a fantastically full-on Eurotrash disco masterpiece.

There’s not a huge amount to it lyrically, it’s just about loving music in a disco, with a frankly astonishing hi-NRG dance routine. His vocals might sound a bit weak, but it all feels like that’s how it’s supposed to be. He hits the notes despite the frantic choreo and struts confidently around underneath that awesome mutant disco-ball. A real joy, even though Europe were never going to be totally on board, but 9th place is a great achievement for something like this.

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Belarus Belarus

Aleksandra and Konstantin – My Galileo

Did not qualify, #19 in Semi-final

Highest non-qualifier here, and I get why it might have floundered a bit, but my God, this is the lightest most uplifting bit of ethno-pop I think I’ve ever heard at Eurovision. Not sure how to describe it… speed new-age? I’m still astonished that this is in English, I dare you to decode more than 10% of the words without the internet.

What does “My Galileo” even MEAN? Anyway I don’t care, treated as a foreign-language track it’s totally magical, heartwarming and of course totally doomed. I’ve just seen the music video for the first time, what the hell? Is she controlling the solar system? What an enigma!

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Belgium Belgium

Xandee – 1 Life

#22 in the Grand Final

It’s not easy being a Belgian Eurovision fan, consoling yourself that at least you aren’t a Dutch Eurovision fan. For there have been disappointingly few times Belgium have had justice served in their favour. OK they haven’t been amazing, but at least Kate Ryan should have qualified in 2006. Xandee at least didn’t have to qualify for 2004’s final, with Belgium’s Sanomi missing out on a second Belgian victory the year before by only 3 points.

Still, let’s not dwell on that, nor the fact that Xandee came a sad 23rd in the final. What we have is a powerfully-performed Europop titan. My only criticism is that it sounds pretty dated now, in the great way that trancey-pop music from that region was great at the time, like Ian Van Dahl and Lasgo etc.

It sounds a little more like a tampon advert soundtrack than those acts, but Xandee gives it her all, with a frantic arm-waving dance routine. Some great camera shots from behind the stage too, it just all came together for me.

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Sweden Sweden

Lena Philipsson – It Hurts

#5 in the Grand Final

A golden rule of Eurovision is never to rule out Sweden. The adoptive motherland of the contest, they (usually) give it their best every year. This time it’s Schlager superstar Lena’s turn with a minimal routine of her doing everything she can with a mic stand.

This is classic Schlager heartbreak, with that campy wry smile from Lena doing her best drunk inappropriate aunt persona. I must admit I thought the Swedophiles made a bit too much of the microphone dance, but it’s such a solid pop song that it’s difficult not to get taken in.

I’ve loved the handful of Lena songs I’ve heard so I’ll certainly look into her when I get a chance. She worked the crowd in Istanbul, and was rewarded accordingly.

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Albania Albania

Anjeza Shahini – The Image of You

#7 in the Grand Final

I know! I was surprised too! The usual suspects normally nab my favourite entry of the year, but Albania has quietly amassed several hot little tracks, the first of which being their debut that – until this year in Baku – was their biggest hit.

Starts off timidly enough, with Anjeza and a simple piano kicking off a light uptempo beat. It’s got quite an unusual melody, but it builds so beautifully, until that “Queen of the world of make-believe” line that still hits me when I hear it.

The harmonies the backing singers in the choruses really add some richness to the vocals that Sweden and Belgium missed out on. Her vocal performance might not have been quite as assured as Lena’s, but she was enjoying every second, and so was I. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, that slightly unhinged final burst finishes on a high.

I might weigh the success of this one more on the studio version than Sweden’s, but this is still such an adorable song after hearing it so many times.

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Well I hope you all enjoyed all that. I think I might post some of the latest contests up before I do another vintage year. Before we know it, the 2013 entries will start pouring in, and I won’t have time for anything else!

What is your favourite song of the contest?

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Album: Absolute Schlager (Part 3)

Finally time to resume the last leg of that Absolute Schlager CD. It has been a lot of fun (by and large), but I must say CD3 isn’t the best of the bunch. Not that it’s bad, just not as great as Disc 2 in my opinion.

10 ABBA – Waterloo – Well no introduction needed here, one of the crown jewels in the history of Schlager, winning the 1974 Eurovision and launching one of the biggest bands there’s ever been. It’s very easy for this to be overexposed, as so many of ABBA’s big hits seem to be, at the expense of several great songs in their repertoire. But this is a classic for a reason, and is as timeless as ever. I just love the resignation in it, like “what’s the point fighting this?”, it just has that lovely “oh bollocks to all the drama, let’s just have fun” feel of an office party at the end of a difficult year. Or something.

06 Björn Skifs – Michelangelo – Bit of an odd choice on paper, from a man who represented Sweden twice at Eurovision, they select this 5th place Melodifestivalen entry. Has the same 70s naffness of Waterloo, but not that magic spark, it just feels a bit dated to me, and there’s not really enough to the chorus to get me too into it.

09 Carola – Evighet – Now THIS I know, or more precisely the English version “Invincible”. A pretty gay day in Athens when this former winner returned to represent her country in 2006. It’s a powerful pop song, but I never really got on board with her vocals, I guess they are an acquired taste but they seemed a bit shaky to me. The song is a triumph though, and I do recall some top-class flag waving at the time. It reversed Sweden’s Eurovision fortunes for a year, coming 5th, but it was a long time before they’d reach this high again (though in my opinion, Hero is much better).

08 Lena Philipsson – Kärleken Är Evig – 1986’s Melodifestivalen runner-up, and a rather lovely pop song. Obviously DRIPPING in 80s production (and that album cover really is beautiful…), but still really quite nice. Not really comparable with the later Lena output I’ve heard, but that chorus is lovely and memorable.

09 Shirley Clamp – Att Älska Dig
– Coming 4th in 2005’s Melodifestivalen, this is a pretty lush dancey-pop track. Actually puts me in the mindset of Sash!, which is a good thing in my book, I think that’s mostly the production though. I love the chorus, not dissimilar to Carola’s Evighet the following year. I don’t recall hearing a lot of Shirley, aside from her 2011 MF entry (one of several she’s made over the years). This is really great though.

08 E.M.D. – Baby Goodbye – I’ve recently discovered that my latest favourite Danny Saucedo is a member of this pick’n’mix of Swedish Idol entrants. It doesn’t really sound a lot like his sort of stuff. It’s catchy and I love the production, but it doesn’t quite fire on all cylinders for me. The harmonies are a bit of a waste, they all sound the same! Key change as always makes everything better.

10 Agnes – Love Love Love – Oh god I love this woman. Or what I’ve heard anyway, Release me was a triumph, as were the other singles from her Dance Love Pop album. I’d heard of this song quite a while ago but I don’t think I’d heard it before now. It’s really a dream, she’s sick of waiting for the one and just wants love NOW. That chorus is glorious and heartwarming. It might have only come 8th in 2009’s Melodifestivalen, but it’s honestly one of my favourite discoveries from this whole Schlager CD set.

06 Tomas Ledin – Det Ligger I Luften – Back to 1979’s Melodifestivalen now, with this 2nd-placer. After a ropey start, it gets into a surprisingly disco tempo. It doesn’t stay that good though, it quickly turns into something I’d imagine from a ropey 80s movie. I don’t like his strained shouty voice really, this doesn’t do a lot for me

06 Anna Book – ABC – Hmm, was she some child-star? Sounds like she was only 15 when this was a 5th place finish in 1986’s Melodifestivalen final. I don’t really see the appeal, her vocals are alright but the tune is quite annoying, and the cringey faux-rock-pop backing doesn’t really help things. I do like the fact that she had an album called Killsnack though.

06 Malta – Sommaren Som Aldrig Säger Nej – Ack, what’s this, folk music? I wanted fun dancepop, not Simon and Garfunkel. Apparently this was 5th in the 1973 Eurovision, though the wiki page for that final seems to have forgotten that…? Things brighten up a bit, but this isn’t really much to write home about. This even beat ABBA’s first Eurovision entry “Ring Ring”, but I suppose if Waterloo hadn’t happened, who knows what the world would like now (probably destroyed).

08 Chips – Dag Efter Dag – More 80s cheese now, but a bit more singalong naffness to it. Sounds like several songs of that time, and this didn’t exactly light up the Melodifestivalen that year (did she just sing Faloola??). But it’s quite fun, another sort of Christmas party song, I can’t quite put my finger one what it reminds me of, but it’s all good.

07 Pernilla Whalgren And Jan Johansen – Let Your Spirit Fly – I really loved Pernilla’s 2010 entry, and this is still rather good (just not so much). A pacey midtempo, it’s all a bit happy clappy and schmaltzy, it weighs the song down a bit too much to get me too excited. Nice enough but I’m sure it would have floundered a bit had it gone one better and represented at the 2003 Eurovision contest.

10 Måns Zelmerlöw – Hope And Glory – Oh Måns! I love this guy. The MZW album might have been a bit patchy, and this itself wasn’t really a patch on Cara Mia a few years before, but it’s a pretty hot pop song. Really singable, and a great pop song all round. Might not have quite the catchiness and spectacle of Cara Mia, but this is a great addition to my collection. The key change is super too. I guess this might have floundered a bit in the Eurovision final, I can’t really see it doing much better than Malena’s weak finish, but I enjoyed it anyway.

08 BWO – Temple Of Love – On to an act I HAVE done a brief investigation of, having a few goes at their somewhat samey greatest hits collection a little while ago. I do while like them but there’s something a bit too knowing and calculated for them to as much fun as other acts. Coming 2nd behind Carola in 2006’s Melodifestivalen, it’s catchy enough but hasn’t quite got enough of a hook. A bit like a watered-down Alcazar song without the benefit of female harmonies. It’s good but not incredible.

06 Janne Lucas – Växeln Hallå – A 1980 MF second-placer now, and a bit too cheese-rock for my tastes really, like the male-fronted album tracks you often had to sit through on ABBA albums while you were waiting for the better stuff. Only it’s not even THAT good. The chorus is plenty catchy, and I suppose that schoolgirl chant is alright if you’re into that, but not me. Lots of energy but … *shrug*

06 Chattanooga – Hallå Hela Pressen – Off to 1982, and a definite 80s feel to this. A bit of that sort of alternative rock-chick style to this one, or as close as you can get with a pretty straight-up pop song. It sounds familiar, not sure what it’s reminding me of style-wise, but it’s fair to say it’s not really my thing. Naff guitar solo bits and some pretty ropey harmonies to see us out, sigh.

08 Sarah Dawn Finer – I Remember Love – Oh now I like her, I liked her Moving On song, and this has the makings of a big ballad. 4th in 2007’s MF final, and doesn’t quite have the killer moments to turn it into a great song. Her voice is nice in tone, if a little nondescript. She comes across as being a bit of a showoff pain-in-the-arse in the few clips I’ve seen of her (hello Eurovision vote-giving). It builds nicely but it feels like it’s missing a BIG key change somewhere to really get the drama going, but it just sort of peters out.

06 Jill Johnson – Kärleken Är – Well I wasn’t a fan of her song Crazy in love particularly, but let’s go back to when she represented Sweden in 1998’s Eurovision. She came 10th, about right judging by this. Her voice is nice, but the song is pretty average. Maybe this would have been nicer in 1998, when Lighthouse Family roamed the Earth, and so on. Just sort of pootles along, I’m not really that fussed.

07 Cecilia Vennersten – Det Vacraste – Runner up in 1995’s Melodifestivalen, and seems to have been a massive hit there. It does feel like 1995 now, like an Enya song or something. It’s quite pleasant and floaty, like a Christmas song almost really. But presumably this would have been a hit in Spring/Summer? Who knows, I guess they get a lot of snow in Sweden. It’s alright.

08 One More Time – Den Vilda – Another that made it to Eurovision, this time 3rd place in 1996’s contest, a pretty good showing considering the pedigree of some of these songs. Forget what I said before, THIS is a lot more like an Enya song! Apparently they wrote the previous track too, and are pretty solid pedigree themselves, counting a son of ABBA amongst their number, and Nanne Grönvall in there too. The song has a memorable melody, another Christmassy feel, and it’s quite sweeping and waltzy. Very nice.

07 Roger Pontare – När Vindarna Viskar Mitt Namn – Another Swedish representative, this time 2000’s entry, and what I gather was a bit of an environmental message, dragging on a few eskimos to accompany him onstage. It sounds quite old fashioned considering it’s only 11 years old, but his rough-sounding vocals come across quite well in a strange way. Can’t say I’m too hot on the traditional vocals in the middle-8, but there it is. A bit much really, but it could have sounded like terrible dad-rock if handled differently.

07 Nordman – I Lågornas Sken – Is that a crow? Well at least that was vaguely in key, we are treated to some rather iffy shout-rock now. There’s effort to get into a tune, and mostly they succeed, but I guess this guy isn’t a born singer. It’s a bit strained, and evidently a bit of an alternative vote in 2008’s Melodifestivalen. The chorus isn’t half bad really, but it’s not the most pleasant voice to listen to. Have a lozenge!

07 E-Type – Paradise – Hmm, I hope DJ Sammy’s lawyers were listening here. Coming just 2 short years after Heaven, there’s an uncannily similar song called Paradise with practically the same synth hook. Despite me loving that DJ Sammy song, this guys vocals are just annoying, like a featured vocal from Eiffel 65 or something awful. I like a bit of a shit trance music, particularly from the early 00s, but this really doesn’t do it for me. He looks like a bit of a state too.

05 The Poodles – Night Of Passion – Oh Christ, have we run out of pop music already? I presume this isn’t totally serious rock music, it sounds like a naff parody act. His vocals are pretty dreadful and shrill too, they are laying it on a bit THICK to say the least. Not sure how serious this is supposed to be, but it gives me earache, this is one genre I really don’t like to get into. In Eurovision, this stuff is best left to clueless Macedonians or somesuch.

06 H.E.A.T – 1000 Miles – Another naff rock track, why are they saving all these for the end? Did we even need them at all? Lordi have a lot to answer for, that’s all I can say. This one is a bit more palatable than the Poodles’ effort, and the chorus is fine enough, but it just leaves me cold really, I wouldn’t choose to listen to this again.

06 P-Bros ft Trexx & Olga P – Tingalin – Not really sure about this, from what I can tell from Swedish wikipedia, this was a banned entry from the 2009 Melodifestivalen (for Moscow’s Eurovision final), so a Russian-themed track evidently had some controversial content? It’s a pretty rubbish effort at a novelty track, but I guess it could have at least made an impact. Sweden are above novelty entries though, aren’t they? It’s a pretty bog-standard eurodance bit of nonsense with a semi-catchy chorus, and a bit of Tetris music, it’s almost like a medley with some shitty rapping over the top of it.

Keepers for the iPod: Waterloo, Evighet/Invincible, Att Älska Dig, Love love love, Hope & Glory, Temple of love

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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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Album: Absolute Schlager (Part 1)

As part of my quest to learn a bit more about Swedish pop music, after my positive experiences with their Eurovision selection show Melodifestivalen, I thought I needed to cast a wide net. Happily there’s a rather extensive compilation that was recommended to me, so I’m going through that one disc at a time.

ANYWAY it’s a good start, considering Swedish-language (presumably) 70s era songs are a bit of a niche venture for me, but there was a good variety of tracks on this compilation, and a surprising number that I recognised already.

09 Lena Philipsson – Det Gör Ont – What a fantastic start! Well I was briefly introduced to Lena by Johnkm at the start of the year, with this track, Lena Anthem and Delirium. Someone I’ve heard a lot of chatter about, so definitely someone I want to investigate more. Love that chorus, catchy as Africanized Herpes, and I’m overjoyed to see it won MF in 2004 and did well at Eurovision, DESERVED. Love that key change!

08 Carola – Främling – Only the 2nd Carola song I’ve heard (after Invincible) and another infamous Schlager figure. I love this impression I’ve seen of her as some demonic high priestess of Schlager. This sounds sweet enough though, and it’s obvious that we are rolling back to the 80s. I had only heard this once before, as a weird live mashup duet with Alexander Rybak’s Fairytale. It’s a nice song, catchy and upbeat. Shocked to read it’s the title track to the (then?) biggest selling Swedish album of all time!

08 Charlotte Nilsson – Take Me To Your Heaven
– Now I definitely know this one, 1999’s Eurovision winner. At the time I didn’t really get on with it, and until recently I just found it too retro and camp in an uninspiring way, a bit of a Waterloo rip-off. But it’s really grown on me since listening to this CD. She totally blew this out of the water with Hero, so it’s a bit of a shame that Hero was so hard done-by in comparison. A fun song, but nothing new.

07 Ted Gärdestad – Satelit
– Male vocals? Guitars? What’s going on? Well I had to have some versatility sooner or later. Another Eurovision entry, albeit a less successful one than the ones we’ve had so far. In fact, after reading about this on Wikipedia I wonder how this got such high billing. Anyway, not one for rockier songs, but this has a catchy hook at least. It’s alright.

10 Måns Zelmerlöw – Cara Mia
– OMGZ now we are talking. LOVE this one, and Måns. Better than his follow-up entry Hope and Glory too. Who needs a long verse when you’ve got such a hot chorus? Catchy as hell too, I loved the choreo from his MF performance, and he’s a good performer. OK it sticks to a formula structurally, but it’s simple and effective. Love the middle 8 and inevitable middle 8. Wish he’d done that final glory note live though, that would have been incredible.

07 Arvingarna – Eloise – Is this CD really just Eurovision & Melodifestivalen entries wall-to-wall? Surprised to see this made it to a Eurovision, and even did well, finishing in the top 10. Not really my thing particularly, sort of falls into a gap between having a vintage sound and having all the bells and whistles of a modern entry, difficult to pin down to a genre. Like the harmonies and the chorus does stick in my head, but not one I’m in a rush to hear again.

08 The Ark – The Worrying Kind – Now this one I DO recognise, and I’ve really cooled off on this one since 2007. It’s a pretty basic catchy track, but I guess it boils down to how much you like that glam rock sound. I guess I don’t like it that much. It’s good for what it is, but no way should this have gone to Helsinki instead of Cara Mia.

10 Alcazar – Stay The Night
– Now Alcazar I’ve been aware of for years, since their successful assault on the UK charts, but I haven’t really explored them more. I’ve listened to the Greatest Hits disc on Disco Defenders a lot over the last month, and I really love them now! This is a particular highlight, really tight harmonies, amazing chorus, totally everything-and-the-kitchen-sink production, and a dizzying key change. Amazing. Have they really split up? Bloody typical!

08 Kikki Danielsson – Bra Vibrationer
– Another unknown artist for me, singing another unknown Eurovision entry from 1985. Christ, I just looked at her Wiki page, she looks like a cavewoman version of Chiara. I dread to think what happens when her bra vibrates. Anyway, much like the other vintage songs I’ve heard so far, this is nice enough, upbeat and fun, but not much else I can comment on without knowing Swedish. Never gives up that great rhythm though.

07 After Dark – La Dolce Vita – Another MF song, but this doesn’t really do it for me. Just something lacking here, not sure what. It is catchy nonetheless, I did keep revisiting that chorus in my head several times this week. Actually maybe I’m being harsh, it’s pretty good, but the production is a bit too generic really.

09 Linda Bengtzing – Jag Ljuger Så Bra – Another familiar name from recent years of Melodifestivalen, though she wasn’t one of my favourites this year. This is much better though, it’s like an amped-up modern version of Kikki’s song, relentless rhythm, lots of fun energy. She’s singing her heart out for most of it, you wonder if a key change is even possible, but she MAKES IT POSSIBLE. Really like this.

08 ABBA – Ring Ring – Oh now having just done ABBA’s back catalogue, this is now quite familiar. I really liked this first time around, and still enjoy it. Probably the best display of their promise as a group before their big breakthrough with Waterloo, and a highlight of their first album. Vocals are a bit shrill at times, but still a great pop song. PS I know it wasn’t technically ABBA at this point, but shut up.

07 Tomas Ledin – Just Nu – Another Eurovision finalist, but a distant 10th to Johnny Logan in 1980, and deservedly so. It’s alright, it’s not to full-on guitar rock, a lot of focus on the beats and vocals. I like those little piano flourishes throughout. Again, 30 year old Swedish rock isn’t really my genre of choice but for what is it, it’s still pretty good.
08 Shirley Clamp – Min Kärlek – OK another infamous figure, I’ve only really heard this year’s Shirley’s Angels track and that Band Aid cover I think. Came second to Lena in 2004’s Melodifestivalen final, which I think is fair enough. It sounds pretty good, memorable and plenty of big notes. Aside from the key change there’s not a lot of variation, but still pretty solid.

09 BWO – Lay Your Love On Me
– Now I’m a lot more familiar with these, a few tracks every now and then, and a proper listen-through of their Pandemonium hits collection. My criticism of them would be that they’re a bit of a one-note group at times. 3rd in 2008’s MF final, they would have been a good representative but they really had to make way for Charlotte Perrelli that year. This is a pretty standard BWO template but one of their better efforts I think. Something leaves me a bit cold with them, but this is a great pop song.

08 Pernilla Whalgren – Piccadilly Circus – Throwback time, to 1985’s MF final. What a lovely track, reminds me of some theme tunes to Japanese anime shows, very cutesy and light. I have to give credit for that eye-popping high note that just keep going UP, amazing. For a 26-year old song, this is still pretty charming. She can still bring it too, I loved her 2010 entry for MF.

07 Andreas Johnson – Sing For Me – I always pause when I see his name, he’s a one-hit-wonder in the UK after 2000’s Glorious that everyone loved for a few months, I recall I even had a copy of Liebling at the time. So it’s weird to think he’s been a pretty active force in MF for a while now. This is pretty generic sing-a-long stuff best saved for Take That fans and people who feeled compelled to prefix things with “Great British”. Sure it’s someone’s cup of tea, after all it came 3rd in 2006’s MF final but as listenable as it is, not for me.

06 Claes-Göran Hederström – Det Börjar Likna Kärlek Banne Mig
– Christ, that’s a mouthful. Well it’s obvious we are further back than we’ve ever been now, and indeed this was the 1968 Swedish entry at Eurovision. It’s very of its time, it’s weird to hear a Swedish language song like this, just sounds like it could easily be anything English from the same period, like Tom Jones or whoever. It’s lasted the 40-odd years pretty well, but not really a keeper for me…

06 Lotta Engberg – Fyra Bugg Och En Coca-Cola – Ech … got to love those simulated steel drums don’t you? Well no, happily we don’t. I didn’t really consider what a 1987 Eurovision entry might sound like, but this fits the bill somehow. Naff tropical novelty, don’t really like this one. Pleasant enough, as all these things are, but that Coca-Cola stuff just makes me cringe.

07 Afro-Dite – Never Let Go – 2002’s song for Eurovision’s show in Tallinn now, and some faux-retro disco froth. I guess production has moved on a lot in the intervening decade, so what must have sounded pretty modern in 2002 sounds a little dated now, like a Supersister track if I’m honest. It’s good really, don’t get me wrong, but I have trouble getting excited about it. What about that abrupt finish too?!

06 Orup & Glenmark – Upp Över Mina Öron
– 1989’s MF runner-up now, and if Lotta’s track is anything to go by, this wasn’t a vintage period. It sounds pretty Americanised more than anything, with a bit of the associated naff retro charm that some tracks from that period carry with them. Not doing much for me though.

06 Tommy Nilsson – En Dag
– And straight onto the song that pipped the above to be the representative in the 1989 Eurovision. Definitely not a vintage year, particularly if this came fourth! It’s not a total loss, even with the Michael Bolton-esque constipated vocals. I do like the final leg of the song when the gospelly choir claps their way in, gives a bit more punch to the finale. Probably came over pretty well on the night, I’ll give him that.

07 Sonja Aldén – För Att Du Finns
– 6th place in 2007’s MF final, starts off a bit like Anna Vissi’s Everything, but doesn’t build into anything as powerful as that sadly. Spends the first half not really developing into much at all, though I do like the middle-8 with the breathy backing vocals. The big chorus at the end isn’t really as big as it should be, lacks oomph really.

07 Christer Björkman – Imorgon Är En Annan Dag
– Bit of an odd one to put in now, it won 1992’s MF final but came a disasterous 2nd last on home turf in the Malmö Eurovision. He’s now pulling the strings behind Melodifestivalen itself as the supervisor of the show. This is a nice enough ballad but I can totally see how it might have failed to grab the attention of Europe. Shame really, but I’m not too cut up.

09 Sarah Dawn Finer – Moving On – Another familiar name, though the first song I at least remember hearing. It’s pretty standard big power ballad territory and she performs it well. Of this CD it’s certainly one of my favourites. The production does get bigger and bigger, but she’s got a big enough voice to match it. Builds to a nice finale, shame it didn’t do better in the 2009 MF but it was a pretty competitive year.

08 Markoolio & Linda Bengtzing – Värsta Schlagern
– This is an odd one, the only one on this CD that wasn’t from Melodifestivalen, and it’s a parody song of Melodifestivalen?? Well obviously without knowing Swedish, this is a pretty convincing cuckoo in the nest, though the MF organisers evidently didn’t see the funny side and barred it from the 2006 contest. Without knowing all this, I thought it was a really fun peppy pop song, what’s not to like?

Keepers for the iPod: Det Gör Ont, Take me to your heaven, Cara Mia, Stay the night, Jag Ljuger Så Bra, Ring Ring, Lay your love on me, Piccadilly circus, Moving on, Värsta Schlagern.

Next: Absolute Schlager CD2

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