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Retro Rankings | Melodifestivalen 2014

It’s February, and that means national final season is about to shift into overdrive. THAT means those of us in unfortunate timezones will be having many late nights/early mornings in the weeks to come, while others tune into Dansk MGP or A Dal or *insert NF of choice here* over their cereal bowls. Then there’s those lucky people who get to experience NF season at a totally respectable prime-time, post-dinner slot on TV. I hate those people.

No matter the situation or dress code (2am in mismatched pajamas WOOHOO!) there are fun times ahead, and the funnest (yes, I am aware that’s not a word) time of all, in my inarguably correct opinion, is coming up this Saturday, live from Sweden. Well, more specifically, Göteborg, Sweden.

Yes, that’s right…Melodifestivalen is (almost) upon us again! Having graduated uni (for the second and final time) on the weekend, with the aftermath being a frighteningly unknowable future, Melfest is the bright spot on my horizon at the moment. I cannot wait to watch Her Royal Amazingness Sanna Nielsen and That Guy Who’s Her Co-Host commandeer the festivities. During the first semi final, said festivities will include the comeback of a Mr. Eric Saade, who’s confident he can Sting his competition into submission and represent Sweden in Eurovision once again.

The show is going to be epic, no doubt, and I thought I’d ring it in by revisiting last year’s also-fabulous edition. This post is a timely one, but it doubles as good filler as we wait until we can do a top 10 ranking of the Eurovision 2015 entries (the thought of doing a top 9 irritates me). It’s one of my famed (AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) Retro Rankings, but rather than using a past Eurovision as the basis, I’m taking Melodifestivalen 2014 and turning it into a personal top 32. Whether you’ve forgotten what last year’s comp had to offer or you’re listening to the album right now and are 110% ready to fight me if I don’t have Ace Wilder on top (which I don’t, sorrynotsorry) I hope you enjoy the following. Give me your top 32, top 10 or just your favourites of Melfest ’14 in the comments. Please?

Before we begin, a brief, alphabetised recap of the comp:

 

And now…

 

#1 | Hela Natten by Josef Johansson – I fell in love with this on the first listen, and I pretty much haven’t stopped listening to it since. It didn’t even get to Andra Chansen, but the soaring, stadium-anthem quality and weighty lyrics make for a winner by Jaz standards. I’ve also become über-attached to Josef himself over the past twelve months, as he’s proved to be a very versatile artist. Check out his post-Melfest singles Blickar Kan Mörda and Tysta Leken (a cover version that I think outdoes the original) for proof.

Man-bun? Check. Ridiculous jumper? Check. Pleather kilt? Check. Outfit I still want to copy? CHECK.

Man-bun? Check. Ridiculous jumper? Check. Pleather kilt? Check. Outfit I still want to copy? CHECK.

#2 | Undo by Sanna Nielsen – Obviously. There will never be a more golden moment for me than Sanna’s marginal win in last year’s comp, after six previous attempts. I’ve always been of the opinion that Undo is her best Melfest entry, and its success at Eurovision is something of a testament to that. Her voice is both pure and powerful, giving the ballad an air of vulnerability and defiance at the same time. I sing it in the car, the shower, the toile-er, I mean, the kitchen…everywhere, basically. Sanna gave me a sad that I actually don’t want to undo.

#3 | Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella – Man, Sweden let some gems slip through their texting-and-dialling fingers in 2014! In an NF of such high quality though, it’s virtually impossible to send every great song to the final. Some would argue that Bedroom is hardly one of those greats, but filthy lyrics and all, I absolutely LOVE it. So what if you wouldn’t want it as your wedding song for fear of offending your great aunt Mildred (and for many other reasons)? It’s an irresistible slice of dance-pop in the vein of Moves Like Jagger, and I reckon it could easily fill any floor with drunk, shoeless guests. You know, if that’s what you were after.

'I must warn you, my actual bedroom doesn't have strobe lights...'

‘I should warn you, my actual bedroom doesn’t have strobe lights…’

#4 | Echo by Outtrigger – For the second time, Melfest made me love screamy rock, which is something I detest as a rule. Dead By April’s Mystery was my musical crush of 2012, and Echo became its 2014 counterpart. I don’t know exactly why I like this so much, but a lot of the appeal lies in the chorus that was made for headbanging. This can be awkward when you’re hearing the song in the middle of a supermarket as opposed to a mosh pit, but rock music ain’t about avoiding strange looks in public.

#5 | Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder – I’ll admit, this would have been the more cutting-edge, daring choice for Sweden to send to Copenhagen. Vocally, it would have been less impressive than Undo, but when a song’s this catchy, I for one am too busy fist-pumping and trying not to fall to my death as I dance atop the nearest piece of furniture to pay much attention to the performer’s vocal chops.

Ace at the point of realisation: she wasn't busy doin' nothin'.

‘Wait, what? What do you mean I’m NOT busy doin’ nothin’?’

#6 | Around The World by Dr. Alban & Jessica Folcker
#7 | Survivor by Helena Paparizou
#8 | Red by EKO – If the idea of a lite, 80s synth version of Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love is up your alley, then you probably enjoyed this as much as I did. EKO won their way into Melfest via the pre-NF contest for new talent, and while they continued the tradition of those winners failing to qualify from their semi final, they found a fan in me with Red.

#9 | Efter Solsken by Panetoz
#10 | Yes We Can by Oscar Zia – Once upon a time I was obsessed with High School Musical, and as this song has ‘Disney Original Movie soundtrack’ written all over it, I can’t help giving it the thumbs up. Less Disney is the scandalous mention of dancing in underwear and letting the people stare, which sounds a bit like a strip club-type situation. But that’s not a bad thing, since it stops things from getting too sickly sweet.

#11 | Love Trigger by J.E.M
#12 | Natural by Anton Ewald
#13 | Bröder by Linus Svenning – Linus is back this year and singing in English, but I doubt his song will carry as much meaning and emotion as Bröder, which gets me right in the feels every time. As Yoda would most likely say if he were a Melfest fan, lovely song this is.

#14 | Hollow by Janet Leon
#15 | Aleo by Mahan Moin
#16 | Blame It On The Disco by Alcazar – Yes, it was Stay The Night with a different title, but that song did fairly well for them in Melfest, and this one did even better. I guess it’s true that if something isn’t broken, don’t bother to fix it. Here we have classic Alcazar, i.e. cheesy disco-pop with an obligatory key change (or five hundred) and it’s one heck of a guilty pleasure.

Alcazar's motto: peace, love, and a s%#tload of sequins.

The Alcazar motto: peace, love, and a s%#tload of sequins.

#17 | När Änglarna Går Hem by Martin Stenmarck
#18 | Ta Mig by Linda Bengtzing
#19 | Set Yourself Free by Little Great Things
#20 | All We Are by State of Drama – This band brought the standard of the 2013 comp up a little with Falling, but in a stronger year with a weaker song, they couldn’t come back with a bang. All We Are is competent, but pretty bland.

#21 | Burning Alive by Shirley Clamp
#22 | I Am Somebody by Pink Pistols
#23 | Glow by Manda
#24 | Casanova by Elisa Lindström – I really disliked this the first time I heard it, and I’m not about to gush over it now. However, I will compliment how happy, cute and energetic it is. It’s like a quokka in song form.

Any excuse to use a picture of a quokka will do, so here's one I prepared earlier.

Any excuse to use a picture of a quokka will do, so here’s one I prepared earlier.

#25 | To The End by YOHIO
#26 | Fight Me If You Dare by IDA
#27 | Songbird by Ellen Benediktson – This is not my preferred style of music at all, and apparently it wasn’t Ellen’s either since she’s returning with something different and more ‘her’. For me, this is a case of knowing the song is well-written and generally good, but not being able to connect with it.

#28 | En Enkel Sång by CajsaStina Åkerström
#29 | Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
#30 | En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
#31 | Bygdens Son by Sylvester Schlegel
#32 | Hallelujah by The Refreshments – Can somebody please explain to me Sweden’s preoccupation with rockabilly? Perhaps it’s just SVT’s quest for variety, but every year a track like this sneaks into the lineup and leaves me scratching my head, and more often than not, hitting the Mute button.

 
Well, that’s that, and now I’ve shown you mine, you’re welcome to show me yours! If you’re up for it, also let me know who you’ll be cheering for in Melodifestivalen’s first semi on Saturday night. I’m Team Saade with a little Behrang Miri on the side, but who knows which artists will produce gems that I’ll be fawning over in a year.

 

Until next time…

nsig

 

Vote, vote, vote for the winner! Of Melodifestivalen, that is…

Hello there. So, in my last post, I promised that Melodifestivalen madness would take over my next ramble, with a poll AND a top 10 focused on what is the most Eurovision-like national final around. I intend to keep that promise, however…now that the Melfest final is full up for another year, I couldn’t resist getting my poll on early, for reasons such as a) I don’t want to be the absolute last person to do it; b) I want to give you guys more time to vote; and c) I seriously need help predicting the winner of this year’s comp, and I figured this might help with that. I’ll add my Top 10 Melfest entries of the last five years into this post later in the week, but right now, let’s get our poll awn, y’all!

I’m asking you – yes, you (love that shirt, by the way) – this very important question. This isn’t about who should win Melfest in your opinion; it’s about who you believe will sing their way into the good graces of Sweden and the international juries and head off to Copenhagen in May.

Consider your choice carefully…the correctness of my upcoming prediction depends on it!

Spread the word and get your friends, family, mailman, newsagent and that creepy guy staring at you on the bus to vote for the likely winner. Le results will be revealed prior to Saturday’s final (duh!) so get in while it still makes sense.

BRB…voting myself.

 

A surprising post (not): reviewing + predicting February’s final super Saturday

Hey hey, it’s Saturday! No, this post isn’t about the TV show of the same name that you will know if you’re a fellow Australian. It’s actually about Eurovision (shocking). At last, we have a Saturday that is truly super, with multiple entries being decided and one being debuted. As such, there’s no time to waste with long intros. I’ll make up for that next time with an extra long and extra boring intro, but for now…lights, camera, action!

 

Hungary…for Eurovision victory?  

dal2014

Since they rejoined the Eurovision family in 2011 (when the last memory we had of them was an over-tanned dance machine wearing the tightest pants ever manufactured) Hungary has been on form. Sure, they haven’t constantly hit the highest of heights, but they’ve qualified for the final every year since Kati Wolf of the Bouffant Hairdo, and made top 10-worthy magic with Kedvesem last year (still my one true love). ByeAlex got me excited to see what his country would produce next, and then so did all the fans who said the A Dal lineup for 2014 was über awesome. As such, I couldn’t resist having a sneak listen to the final eight, chosen after quarter and semi finals – despite my earlier decision to leave Hungary as a total surprise. So yeah. I did. And here they are.

  • Running Out of Time by Victor Király
  • We All by Bogi
  • The Last One by New Level Empire
  • Csak A Zene by Depresszió
  • Running by Kállay-Saunders
  • It Can’t Be Over by Fool Moon
  • Brave New World by Dénes Pál
  • A Legnagyobb Hős by HoneyBeast

The video of snippets I watched told me that yes, the level is pretty high. A few of the songs grabbed me immediately, and the rest stroked me gently on the shoulder as if to say ‘you could grow to love us’. If I had to pick favourites based on just a taste, these would be my most delicious picks:

Running Out of Time cute but not cheesy pop with a chorus that sticks.

The Last One – it’s kind of dance and kind of not. The mystery intrigues me.

Running – this guy did very well in A Dal last year, but I like this song much better.

It Can’t Be Over – I do love me some Group Cosmos, but if this wins it could well be the best a cappella entry to have graced the ESC stage.

So who’s going to try and out-score Kedvesem in Copenhagen? I guess a more important question is, should I step back and leave the predicting to those of you who’ve heard the songs in their entirety? I think yes. I would be happy for any of my preferences to win, so let me know below if that’s likely to happen, or if I’m going to have to learn to love something else. How high do you think Hungary can go at Eurovision this year?   

 

Hola, Mira Quién Va A Eurovisión!

That’s ‘Look Who’s Going To Eurovision’, if Google Translate is correct. I have to hand it to Spain for being extremely organised without seeming to be at all. They had their songs, they had their NF date, and we knew nothing about either of them until very recently. Since then, however, we’ve all listened to and passed mostly positive judgment on the five prospective entries, and tonight is the moment of truth. Which one of these ridiculously good-looking Spaniards will fly the red and gold in May?

L-R: Raúl, Brequette, La Dama, Ruth and Jorge, pretending that they don’t hate each other’s guts. Sweet!

L-R: Raúl, Brequette, La Dama, Ruth and Jorge, pretending that they don’t hate each other’s guts. Sweet!

  1. Más (Run) by Brequette
  2. Estrella Fugaz by La Dama
  3. Dancing In The Rain by Ruth Lorenzo
  4. Aunque Se Acabe El Mundo by Jorge González
  5. Seguir Sin Ti by Raúl

We have dance, we have ballads, and we have key changes. We also have a lot of awkward Spanglish which seems unnecessary, but that can be taken care of later (it better be *shakes fist threateningly*). There are great, good, and not-so-good elements in all of them, but there is one that stands out for me. If I had the power, I’d rank them as follows:

  1. Más (Run)
  2. Aunque Se Acabe El Mundo
  3. Estrella Fugaz
  4. Dancing In The Rain
  5. Seguir Sin Ti

Si – Brequette’s the one, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not convinced she could do a Pastora Soler, but her song is the only one that doesn’t put me off with something dated or cliché (such as the painful key change in Raúl’s song). It does bear a resemblance to a certain other song, and if it wins the cries of plagiarism will be heard around the world because that’s what people do these days (just STAHP!) but let’s face it, most songs do sound like other songs in some way (so JUST STAHP!).

Going by the predictions of the masses, tonight is ultimately a catfight between Brequette and Ruth Lorenzo, so it will be interesting to see how the results pan out. I do believe it will be one of the two that ends up on top, and even if that one is Ruth I can make peace with it. What about you? Who should Spain select and who should they steer clear of?

 

Sweden – have they saved the best for last?

It’s hard to comprehend that we’ve already arrived at the last semi of Melodifestivalen. Time flies when you’re enduring the agonizing wait between national finals that are actually final.

The Örnsköldsvik semi includes a lot of returning artists, i.e. Alcazar and last year’s surprise success, Anton Ewald (a.k.a. one of my many future husbands). But do big guns come armed with big songs? Listen and decide for yourself here.

  1. Blame It On The Disco by Alcazar
  2. Fight Me If You Dare by I.D.A
  3. Hollow by Janet Leon
  4. Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
  5. Hela Natten by Josef Johansson
  6. Ta Mig by Linda Bengtzing
  7. En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
  8. Natural by Anton Ewald  

Stefan Mattsson (1)

I think Sweden has almost saved the best for last. This semi’s just a little weaker than last week’s, which I thought was the best so far. The returning artists are bringing it for the most part, and there are a few newcomer surprises too. Here’s my top 4:

Hollow – this is hard to compare to Janet’s last entry Heartstrings, but I think I prefer this. It’s a pop ballad that is less depressing than the title would have you believe.

Hela Natten – say hello to my hands-down favourite of the semi! Josef looks like a younger version of Darin (Swedish superstar/Melfest alumni/my beloved) and his song could have been lifted from a Darin album easily. His voice is different though, and if he’s a good live performer this could be amazing in the arena.

Ta Mig – Linda has swapped schlager for electronic pop with a rock edge, and it works for her. Song-wise, I’d rather E Det Fel På Mig (her last effort) but this has appeal.

Natural – Anton’s Begging was a surprise success last year, and he’s the favourite of favourites in this semi. Natural isn’t quite as original, but it’s a perfectly wonderful club banger. I hope his backing singers are up to the task of carrying him, Eric Saade-style…

Now, to predict. I’ve been trying to figure out why my Melfest predictions always feel wrong no matter how I configure them. I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t know how Sweden thinks, so I’m constantly uncertain. Oh well…embrace the uncertainty!

To the final: Linda and Anton

To Andra Chansen: Alcazar and Janet

I might be putting too much faith in the returning artist gimmick there. We’ll see. I’m actually hoping for yet another favourite + underdog pairing to go straight to the final. Anton and Josef, anyone?

 

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe…

There are a couple of other things happening tonight, but they’re hardly worth mentioning. All we’re getting out of them is THREE MORE SONGS, PEOPLE! Gosh! Why are you being so blasé about it?

Oh wait, that was me.

  • Latvia’s Dziesma final (another one as yet unfollowed by moi) is ready to roll with 12 songs in the running to represent. I’ve never considered Latvia’s NF one not to be missed, and in missing it again, all I know is that one half of PeR obviously didn’t take their Malmö fail too hard, since he’s back already to have another shot. And also that Samanta Tina is becoming the Latvian equivalent of Sanna Nielsen, so if she wins tonight I’ll take it as a good omen for Sanna.
  • FYR Macedonia is presenting their (freshly changed) song tonight after internally selecting Tijana Dapčević around the same time dinosaurs began to walk the earth. Instead of premiering the initially selected Pobeda, they’ll be premiering the English version of Tamu Kaj Što Pripagjam…at least from what I gather. It’s called To The Sky, which I suppose is a better name for a competition song than To The Bottom of the Scoreboard With Zero Points. My fingers are crossed for a gem.
  • Lithuania’s mammoth quest to find their entry/rep continues with show no. 456386858711…haven’t we all lost count? This time, something significant IS taking place, with the song (but not the artist) to be determined. That’s as far as I can see, anyway. It’s Confusion Central over there in Lithuania.

 

Yikes – I think that’s enough to satisfy even the most demanding ESC fan. The only bad thing is that, if you don’t want to fry your brain, you’ve got to choose which NF/presentation to tune in to. Whatever you watch, enjoy it, and may your favourite win! Unless it’s different to mine, in which case stuff you, I want mine to win.

What? Honesty is the best policy.

See you on the other side of Saturday…

EBJ Signature