‘CONGRATULATIONS, I HAVE ARRIVED!’ said Melodifestivalen as she strutted into Stockholm this week. After five Saturdays of competition – not the best competition we’ve ever had, but a competition with winners and losers nonetheless – 28 songs have become 12, and we’re about to find out who will represent Sweden at Eurovision 2019.
With reigning champ and future Grammy winner (and I’m not talking about the Swedish Grammis) Benjamin Ingrosso starting the show alongside BFF Felix Sandman, multiple ESC winners making an appearance, and the välkommen return of Lynda Woodruff, we’re in for a treat tonight without even mentioning the competing songs. It’s the last national final night of the season, and I say bring it on. Are you with me? Yes? Then DÅ KÖR VI!!!
Norrsken (Goeksegh) Jon Henrik Fjällgren
Torn Lisa Ajax
Victorious Lina Hedlund
On My Own Bishara
Ashes To Ashes Anna Bergendahl
Chasing Rivers Nano
Hold You Hanna Ferm & LIAMOO
I Do Me Malou Prytz
Too Late For Love John Lundvik
Not With Me Wiktoria
I Do Arvingarna
Well, Christer Björkman wanted a variety show, and what Christer wants, Christer gets (obviously, when he’s the commander-in-chief of such things). We have joik, big ballads, R & B, schlager, country, anthemic pop, bubblegum pop, dansband and a touch of gospel all in one running order. That’s some serious bang for our buck!
Let’s run down the list and I’ll throw in my thoughts on quality, appeal and winning chances along the way. Add yours to the mix in the comments.
Norrsken (Goeksegh), Jon Henrik Fjällgren This isn’t my favourite of Fjällgren’s three Melfest entries. In fact, it’s my least favourite – number one, Jag Är Fri, was peak joik for me. But there’s always something magical about what he brings to the buffet, and as usual he is the most distinctive act in the final. And he serenades a reindeer, so there’s that. While I do think Norrsken will be a good opener – and as much as I’d love Sweden to send something ethnic to Eurovision again – I don’t think it will win, and I’ll be surprised if it takes out a top three place like both of JHF’s previous entries have done. 7/10
Torn, Lisa Ajax I hate to repeat myself (I repeat, I hate to repeat myself) but here’s another artist on their third try who has an inferior song up their sleeve instead of being third time lucky. I know people will be outraged that I prefer both My Heart Wants Me Dead and I Don’t Give A to Torn, BUT I JUST DO OKAY?!?!? Having said that, this is a solid song – but it’s too repetitive, Lisa never seems to nail the big attention-grabbing note, and her styling doesn’t suit the song or the staging. All these little missteps worry me. 7/10
Hello, Mohombi A decent percentage of the Swedish population + me = the biggest (and perhaps only) fans of this. I’ll admit that Mohombi’s falsetto in the first semi final wasn’t exactly flawless, but besides that I think this entry is getting too much hate. The staging is cool and entertaining, without copycatting Heroes too much; the song is contemporary, dynamic and catchy; and Mohombi is very telegenic (that’s me trying to say he’s hot without actually saying he’s hot). Wave a magic wand over those wavery vocals, my friend, and this will be a package you can be proud of. 9/10
Victorious, Lina Hedlund The Party Voice of 2019 is without a doubt this track, and because there’s no way it’s going to win tonight (or even come close), I’m happy to have it add something classically Swedish and a little bit Alcazar to the final. It might come off even more dated than it is right after Hello, but Lina sells it like her life depends on the commission and looks incredible doing it. I know 40 isn’t ancient, but I don’t look half as stunning as she does and I’m still years away from turning 30. You go, girlfriend. 7/10
On My Own, Bishara The Mohombi Effect strikes again, with Bishara being another act I would have sent DTF á la Sweden, but who has been the topic of a heap of hate talk. That’s all kinds of wrong for starters, since he’s only 16 and this is his very first stage/broadcast experience. I think he’s done brilliantly so far, and shown star quality that might see him return to Melfest when his career’s matured. This is a great debut, the lyrical content VS age debate aside (I do agree – there’s no way Bishara should be saying stuff like ‘I don’t know how to live without you baaaaby’ when he’s barely LIVED). Personally, I’m hoping Spotify streams and the ‘Aww!’ factor suggest a top five finish for On My Own. 9/10
Ashes To Ashes, Anna Bergendahl Nobody has a better narrative heading into this final than Sweden’s only Eurovision non-qualifier. Her 2010 rise and fall feels like it happened yesterday, but it’s been almost a decade – and Anna was worth the wait. Ashes To Ashes is far from being a favourite of mine from these last songs standing, but the themes of redemption and resurrection ring so true with her story that I can’t help getting behind it. And I love the stage foliage and Anna’s amazing sparkly catsuit feat. cape. If she ever gets invited to the Academy Awards for some reason, an outfit repeat will be necessary. 7.5/10
Chasing Rivers, Nano Before the first semi, it seemed ridiculous to think that 2017’s televote winner wouldn’t make the final straight away…but here we are, with Nano only scoring his ticket to Friends through Andra Chansen. I actually think this song is on par with Hold On in terms of musical kick-assery. But Nano himself has been off his game for both performances so far, producing average vocals and lacking the down-camera charisma of Mohombi/Bishara/Wiktoria etc. His fate wasn’t to come back and win, clearly. I do hope he joins the three-timer club though – he’s definitely got more to give than this. 8/10
Hold You, Hanna Ferm & LIAMOO It took me a while to warm to this – maybe my standards were too high as a huge fan of both Hanna and LIAMOO. Whatever the case, I have warmed. At this point it’s in my top three of the evening, and I do believe it would make a worthy winner. Hanna is perfection in every department (vocally on point, engaging and drop-dead gorgeous…kind of like myself *flips hair*) and while LIAMOO did fade into the background a bit during the semi performance, rehearsal footage suggests he’s stepped it up and made sure this pairing is a force to be reckoned with. The song is great, the staging is simple but effective, it has broad appeal…all in all, I’d say Hold You is the biggest challenger FTW if we put aside the odds-on favourite (who I’ll get to in a minute). 9/10
I Do Me, Malou Prytz There’s a string of awesome songs in this lineup that starts with Hold You and ends with Not With Me. Am I about to say that I Do Me is the exception? To quote Malou’s stylistic inspiration Cher Horowitz, as if! This is actually right up there in my Melfest 2019 ranking, and I’m still pleasantly surprised it went direkt. It’s so much fun to watch and listen to while marveling at the fact that Malou is younger than Bishara (mind = blown). I adore everything about it and would happily have it win the comp in my fantasy land. 9/10
Too Late For Love, John Lundvik It’s not too late for me to love you, Lundvik, because I always have. Granted, I’d never heard of him before he was announced as a 2018 participant (except in passing re: that Royal Wedding thing) but he arrived last year and has somehow managed to arrive in an even bigger way this year. My Turn was a top-notch (albeit talent show winner) ballad, but trying something upbeat has paid off for John, and in my mind will most likely earn him an engraved plaque on that godawful Melfest trophy. The warmth, charisma and joy he and his backing singers are bringing to the comp is second to none. 9/10
Not With Me, Wiktoria I have a major girl crush on Wiktoria. More so on her hair than anything else (which Bilal Hassani has shown me I could purchase for the right price) but I do think she’s altogether beautiful and talented, and that Not With Me is another quality comp contribution from her. There’s nothing I don’t like about it, unless you count the lyrical clichés which I think are canceled out by her impassioned performance, sleek styling and of course, the Ruth Lorenzo rainfall. I mean, how are you supposed to be properly heartbroken if it isn’t pouring down? Girl is singing in the rain and it is working for me. 9.5/10
I Do, Arvingarna Hasse Andersson…Owe Thornqvist…Rolandz…and now Arvingarna. These guys are occupying the traditional throwback space in this final, and I have no complaints. Songs like I Do would be sorely missed from Melfest (by me, at least) if they never popped up. And since we know this isn’t going to threaten for the win, what’s the harm in shamelessly bopping to dansband pop performed by four middle-aged men with millennial hair? Sounds like a nice way to round up the competitive part of the night to me. 6/10
Who I want to win
To cut a long story short…oh god, I CAN’T cut it short! I’ve just realised how many acts/songs are standing out to me, even though I know some of them aren’t possible winners. If I was held at confetti-cannon-point and forced to choose three, I’d go for Wiktoria, Hanna & LIAMOO and John Lundvik…and then I’d overpower my captor so I could mention Mohombi too, with Bishara and Malou as wildcard backups.
I do want to say that, while I was desperate for Dance You Off to win last year because it had The One written all over it (I may have shed a tear when my dream came true) I don’t feel the same sort of fire about anything in this year’s final. I have feelings, but not feelings so strong that I’m going to cry with happiness again. Maybe next year.
Who WILL win
At this point, it does seem like we have a clear winner in John Lundvik. He’s far and away favourite with the bookmakers and has been sitting pretty on top of the Swedish Spotify Top 50 for weeks. I can’t imagine the international juries – from Australia, Austria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Israel, Portugal and the UK – leaning heavily in any other direction. John has so much personality and his performance feels so genuine (but still polished), who wouldn’t be won over? I’m convinced that it’s not a question of will he win, but how much will he win by. And if I’m right (it does happen occasionally), I’ll be satisfied, if not fangirling like crazy, when it comes to Sweden’s entry for Tel Aviv.
Side note: John representing Sweden as a performer AND the UK as a songwriter would be a first for anyone from anywhere. Take that, Željko ‘I can only host and be a songwriter at the same time’ Joksimović!
Having said that, he’s not totally untouchable – and if the juries do go in a different direction, and/or the Swedish public’s opinions are widely spread, Hanna & LIAMOO could sneak through and top the table. I wouldn’t put it past Wiktoria or even Anna Bergendahl to pull a shock win out of their nonexistent hats either.
Ultimately, I am sticking with Too Late For Love as my official prediction. And I’ve had a crack at guessing the rest of the results. Laugh at me if you must.
- John Lundvik
- Hanna Ferm & LIAMOO
- Anna Bergendahl
- Jon Henrik Fjällgren
- Lisa Ajax
- Malou Prytz
- Lina Hedlund
That brings me to the end of my last Selection Season post for the year. It’s been a hectic but enjoyable season packed with plot twists, contenders and Ukrainian controversy, and I’ll miss it.
Now we enter what is both a boring and exciting time of the Euroyear: the lead-up to Eurovision itself. I’ll be here on the reg, looking back on the NF season and dropping my ESC 2019 reviews. Before that though, follow me on my socials – Twitter especially, @EurovisionByJaz – so we can watch and commentate on Melfest together.
SELECTION SEASON 2019 | The best of three for Darude, Portugal takes their pick + Swedish second chances
Hello and welcome, yet again, to Saturday night. One more week and I won’t have to come up with different ways of introducing the same thing anymore, woohoo!
We’re still a way away from a complete Class of ESC 2019, with not long to go until it MUST be complete – so prepare for a crazy period of last-minute NFs and internally-selected song reveals. This breakdown from ESC Xtra includes all the important info that I’m not about to repeat. But to repeat some of it, here’s what’s happening tonight:
- Finland Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu, final
- Georgia Georgian Idol, final
- Iceland Söngvakeppnin, final
- Moldova O Melodie Pentru Europa, final
- Norway Melodi Grand Prix, final
- Portugal Festival da Canção, final
- Sweden Melodifestivalen, Andra Chansen round
Then on Sunday we have:
- Serbia Beovizija, final
That’s a whole lot in a short space of time. Are you ready for it? If not, maybe I can ease you in with my previews and predictions for the week, feat. Finland, Portugal and Sweden.
Let’s do this!
It’s finally time for the Finns to choose which Darude/Sebastian Rejman song will represent them in Israel, in a selection process that’s a lot like 2018 only with less Saara Aalto. On the menu are:
- Look Away
- Release Me
Remember how last year, Monsters stood out from the trio of UMK songs and we all knew it was The One? Well, this is nothing like that. I don’t think any one of these three songs is more interesting than the others. As album filler tracks/music I’d dance to mindlessly at a music festival (if I was the type of person to go to a music festival) they’re good. As songs competing against each other with one set to compete at Eurovision, however, they’re all too same-same for my liking. Listening to them one after another is the musical equivalent of looking at this:
There are fans out there loving one, two or all three songs, and I’m happy for them (you know what they say about one person’s trash…not that I reckon these tracks are trash). They just don’t stir any strong emotions in me yet. I also wonder about the chances of Darude’s style succeeding at Eurovision when in a sense it is background music. Not to mention how similar the concept is to Light Me Up from Poland last year…though no doubt Finland will pull off a better performance than Gromee and Lukas did. A pissed-off donkey could provide a better overall vocal.
Look Away is my favourite of the three…I think. Superman is also pretty catchy, but still a bit pedestrian for song about flying, and not walking. Both of those songs have more memorable hooks than Release Me, which for me isn’t competitive enough for Eurovision. I’m wanting one of the others to be chosen this evening. How about you?
Which song will go to Tel Aviv? If I had to narrow it down to one – even though I have zero idea what the Finnish public will like best – I’d pick Look Away, and not just because it’s my personal favourite. I feel like it has a little more potential to push ahead and qualify than Superman or Release Me. Mind you, I mean a little. Let’s not pretend the options are drastically different here!
Which song would you happily (or begrudgingly) have as Finland’s ESC 2019 entry?
Leaving two semi finals in its dust, the Festival da Canção final has arrived – and here are the eight remaining acts hoping to make O Jardim’s (undeserved) fate a distant memory:
- A Dois Calema
- Mar Doce Mariana Bragada
- Perfeito Matay
- Pugna Surma
- Igual A Ti NBC
- Mundo A Mudar Madrepaz
- Telemóveis Conan Osíris
- Inércia Ana Cláudia
This line-up is an unusual mixture of boring songs and bizarre songs, with one or two in-betweeners. Portugal does have more than one chance to choose something great though, and if the choice was mine it would be centred on these tracks.
My favourites A Dois, Perfeito, Igual A Ti and Telemóveis. That’s in performance order more than anything else, but A Dois may actually be my favourite from this final (and it has nothing to do with Calema being the two most ridiculously good-looking brothers on the planet). The song isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s just the kind of well-produced, easy-listening r&b pop that I automatically adore…so there. Perfeito, on the other hand, is a timeless classic of a ballad that could be more exciting, but makes up for it with grandeur and powerful vocals from Matay that are indeed perfeito.
Igual A Ti is mid-tempo and, in all honesty, middle of the road – yet there’s something about it that I really like, even recognising that it could have represented Portugal at Eurovision in 1997. The chorus is a crown jewel set in slightly dull metal in need of a shine (I’m not going to win any awards for that metaphor, but you know what I mean). Telemóveis, meanwhile, is the song everyone’s talking about and with good reason. More bizarre than anything I’ve ever seen/heard before but so hypnotic at the same time, it’s a statement piece whether you like it or not. And at the core of it, underneath all the face armour and body paint and epileptic choreography, is a kick-ass vocalist who I could listen to all day long.
Predicting a winner This should be easy, given that there’s one song that stands out by miles. Yet I’m not totally convinced Portugal is prepared to send Telemóveis. It would be the bravest possible choice (besides Pugna, which is too strange even for me and didn’t get a heap of public support in its semi final) but with a bunch of safer options, will they take that risk? The jury might stop it in its unconventional tracks. I can see Matay or NBC beating out Conan because their songs have jury AND televote appeal, rather than swaying one way or the other. Matay in particular is the man I’d bet on to win if that’s how things unfold.
Still, I remember this time two years ago when a certain Salvador Sobral was the main topic of Festival da Canção conversation, and he went on and won. Granted, Amar Pelos Dois is way more conventional than Telemóveis, but my point is that both of these male soloists attracted/are attracting the same levels of attention. In 2019, I’d much prefer Portugal to live dangerously and divisively, especially after last year’s last-place finish in front of the home crowd. I can’t see any song from this final being more successful in Tel Aviv than Telemóveis, purely because it’s so memorable. If the ESC juries rewarded it for being artistic and original and the public responded for similar reasons, Conan could do extremely well – whereas the other likely FdC winners would be lucky to qualify. So I’m going to take a risk too and say that it will be Telemóveis that comes out on top tonight. It’s so crazy that Portugal would be crazy not to pick it.
What do you think? Is Conan too unconventional to be chosen or will this be Portugal’s year to make a statement (that doesn’t involve someone making a pompous speech about “music that actually means something”)?
It’s the second-to-last week of Melodifestivalen and time for four acts to get a second chance via Andra Chansen. We lost a few songs over the past month that I think should be duelling it out for a Friends Arena spot tonight (NOT THAT I’M ANGRY ABOUT IT OR ANYTHING *sets fire to the nearest car with Carrie-style kinetic energy*) but they’re not. So I have to suck it up and appreciate what we’ll (hopefully) have in next Saturday’s final once these battles have been won.
- Army of Us Andreas Johnson VS Ashes To Ashes Anna Bergendahl
- Nakna I Regnet Vlad Reiser VS Chasing Rivers Nano
- Låt Skiten Brinna Martin Stenmarck VS Torn Lisa Ajax
- Who I Am Rebecka Karlsson VS I Do Arvingarna
I’m still mystified as to why Andreas Johnson wasn’t paired with Martin Stenmarck, but I guess a) I don’t know how Christer Björkman’s brain works, and b) there’s always some strange match-ups when it comes to AC. In some ways, predicting the results is easier under these circumstances…and in others, it makes it so much harder. But after I’ve told you who I’d like to win, I’ll give it my best shot.
Who I WANT to win Anna Bergendahl, Nano, Lisa Ajax and Rebecka Karlsson.
Truth be told, I’m not crazy in love with Andreas’ OR Anna’s songs (as a This Is My Life lover, Ashes To Ashes just doesn’t measure up). But Anna is definitely the more exciting option – when I’m feeling particularly bitchy I have been known to refer to her duel opponent as Blandreas Johnson. Plus, I’m happy to see her perform as many times as possible in that amazing outfit. Where do I get one?
The Vlad VS Nano duel is actually the toughest one for me to take, because I really like both songs and wish they both had a chance to make the final. But my pre-existing love for Nano + the extra power and passion in Chasing Rivers compared to Nakna I Regnet makes the 2017 runner-up my preferred pick.
I like Martin and Lisa too, though his song is one of his best Melfest entries and hers isn’t as good as I Don’t Give A IMO. Still, I’m backing Lisa because I love her and her voice, and despite some shaky moments last week (she didn’t nail the money note, that’s for sure) Torn is a powerful package and gives Wiktoria some competition in the lady ballad department.
Last but not least is the weirdest duel of all, yet somehow the most evenly matched and most unpredictable. Rebecka is a great singer with a solid if not next-level song, but the staging and styling for Who I Am didn’t do it any favours. Arvingarna are here doing what they do best, and while it is vintage (a.k.a. dated) it’s well-executed and full of enthusiasm. I’d be okay with either act winning this one, but I’m more likely to listen to Rebecka on Spotify, so…I guess I’ll go for her over the guys. We always need more girl power in the final, right?
Who WILL win Anna Bergendahl, Nano, Lisa Ajax and Arvingarna. I’m pretty certain of Anna and Lisa, almost there with Nano and honestly, unsure of that last duel. Just when I’m feeling confident I remember the infamous Anton Hagman VS Loreen battle that ended as unexpectedly as possible. Let’s not have a repeat of that this year, Sweden…don’t let us down!
Give me your Andra Chansen tips in the comments and we’ll see who gets it right (it’ll be you).
That’s all from me for now. I’ll leave you to brace yourselves for a busy night and a week full of song reveals, as Eurovision 2019 creeps ever closer (which is exciting and not scary like I just made it sound).
Until next time,
Happy Weekend, and välkommen to the second installment of my Scandi-centric countdown. I’m thinking of this as a gift to you, on what happens to be my birthday (hello there, shameless cry for celebratory wishes). It may not be a quality gift in your opinion, but if it is something you’re keen to unwrap, don’t worry about getting me anything in return (although, a sizeable cheque and/or a new car wouldn’t go astray if you’re feeling generous).
Anyway…let’s get back to Eurovision, and get on with the countdown. My top five Swedish ESC entries EVER *insert dramatic music here* are waiting for your judgment, and I’ll be waiting for your personal top fives in the comments. Don’t leave me hanging, guys – not on my birthday!
FYI, here’s a recap of the list so far:
- #10 – En Gång I Stockholm by Monica Zetterlund (1963)
- #9 – Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015)
- #8 – Den Vilda by One More Time (1996)
- #7 – Euphoria by Loreen (2012)
- #6 – Främling by Carola (1983)
Now, är du redo?
#5 | 1998
Kärleken Är by Jill Johnson
I’m kick-starting the top five with some kärleken – specifically, Kärleken Är, a painfully 90s (not a bad thing), super pretty ballad. Jill Johnson was and is more of a country singer than a pop singer, but quite literally changed her tune for Melfest/Eurovision purposes (in other words, she pulled a Taylor Swift, but in a less drastic manner). Her performance in Birmingham was the last to feature a shred of the Swedish language until 2012 (when Finland sent När Jag Blundar) and her song was penned in response to the death of Princess Diana the previous year. The latter makes it lyrically beautiful and sad at the same time, but despite the sadness (and Jill’s funeral-esque stage garb) ‘uplifting’ is another adjective you could use here. Kärleken Är is a fond tribute rather than a morbid three-minute moan, and that gets my tick of approval. I love the lyrics, the melody, Jill’s voice…all in all, this forces me to feel all the good feels.
You by Robin Stjernberg
You’ve got to root for an underdog, right? Robin’s been on my radar since he lost the 2011 Swedish Idol crown by a barely-there percentage of the vote, so I was pretty excited by and invested in his Melfest entry two years later. Then, when he became the first Andra Chansen competitor to go on and win Melfest, ‘pretty excited’ was eclipsed by ‘out of my mind with ecstasy’. What an awesome host entry Mr. Stjernberg/Fwernber gave us! I was obsessed with You back in the Malmö days, and I’m still bowing down to its greatness – and the majesty of Robin’s vocal range – today, as we look forward to another Sverige-style ESC. You isn’t what some might call a ‘typical Eurovision song’ (repetitiveness aside), and that made it distinctive. It’s another uplifting tribute to a special someone, and I think we can all identify with the titular you-ou-ou-oooo-ou. Adding to the pros of the package was the fact that Robin sung the pants off it, to the soundtrack of a noisily supportive home crowd. And dammit, he deserved some noise. You was an amazing, refreshing alternative to clinical Scandipop (not that I don’t love clinical Scandipop. I really do).
This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl
It’s hard to believe there was a time when Sweden didn’t advance to a Eurovision final – but there was, and that time was just five years ago. Anna Bergendahl’s semi stumble was three things: one, shocking; two, devastating (mostly for Anna herself, and probably Christer Björkman) and three, narrow (Sweden finished five points behind Cyprus’ Jon Lilygreen and his Islanders). Despite a slightly shaky performance that did give off rehearsal rather than real-thing vibes in moments, I believe This Is My Life should have nabbed a place in the 2010 final (though not necessarily at the expense of Life Looks Better In Spring). The song is a stunner, with Anna’s husky vocals providing a nice contrast to her princess tiara and prom dress on stage. My only problem with it is performance-related, though it’s less of a problem than it is a mind-boggling mystery: WHERE DID THE GUITAR GO??? *hires private detective to end my five-year stretch of suffering*.
Se På Mig by Jan Johansen
Sweden definitely went through a ‘less is more’ phase in the 1990s. You could argue that it was impossible to make a performance too ostentatious in a time before 100-metre long Russian LED backdrops and such, and you wouldn’t be wrong – but Jan’s Se På Mig, like Den Vilda after it, was simplistic in comparison to a lot of its competitors. On stage, it was just Jan, his patent leather jacket, a strategically-placed line of backing singers, some soothing dappled lighting, and one heck of a beautiful song. The kind of beautiful song that Anmary went on about in Baku: one that everybody hums, and everybody loves. I repeat, EVERYBODY. Seriously, if you’re anti-Se På Mig, what’s up with your distaste for sentimental, melodically stunning man-ballads? It ain’t normal, my friend. The magic of this song speaks for itself, so I’m going to shut up now and let it.
#1 | 2014
Undo by Sanna Nielsen
I’m well aware that my decision to slot Sanna into first place will make many of you want to Undo your subscriptions to this blog (and if you’re not subscribed, why not? It’s a constant Eurovision party over here!). But, before you throw whatever device you’re reading this on out the window and run screaming from the room, hear me out. Sweden’s 2014 entry being my all-time fave is not just a product of the song quality, but also of its significance being a song by an artist who I’ve loved for years, and who had tried time and time again to represent her country without success. I watched Sanna powerhouse her way through Melfest with this magnificent ballad (in an unflattering jumpsuit, but that’s irrelevant) and win over Ace Wilder by a measly margin, and I was so happy for her I cried a little bit. And that wasn’t the last time she had me reaching for the tissues – my floodgates fairly flew open when she performed in Copenhagen’s first semi last May. Girl was pitch-perfect, hit me right in the heart with her vocal and facial arrows of emotion, and looked like a goddess in a much more flattering outfit than her Melfest getup. Undo gave Sanna 180 seconds to do nothing but impress with her vocals, but it impresses me in other areas too. It has light and shade, strength and vulnerability, and an unforgettable hook (memorable = a two-syllable word that becomes a five-syllable one). Douze for the song, douze for Sanna, douze for a performance that kept the focus on her crystal-clear vocals, and douze for the whole thing being my #1 Swedish entry of all time.
For now, at least. Who knows what Sweden could do to me in 2016?
That’s a wrap on this drawn-out Top 10, and the list is complete (until I change my mind in five minutes). Here’s what it looks like right this second, though:
- Undo by Sanna Nielsen (2014)
- Se På Mig by Jan Johansen (1995)
- This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (2010)
- You by Robin Stjernberg (2013)
- Kärleken Är by Jill Johnson (1998)
- Främling by Carola (1983)
- Euphoria by Loreen (2012)
- Den Vilda by One More Time (1996)
- Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015)
- En Gång I Stockholm by Monica Zetterlund (1963)
Oh, and here’s the fantastisk stuff that just didn’t make the final cut…Waterloo by ABBA (1974); Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley by Herrerys (1984); Fångad Av En Stormvind by Carola (1991); Las Vegas by Martin Stenmarck (2005); Popular by Eric Saade (2011). So now you can’t abuse me for completely, 110% blanking ABBA.
Now it’s your turn. Let me know down below which of Sweden’s 55 entries have most tickled your fancy, and tested the endurance of your flag-waving arm! You know you want to…
154. It’s not the number of times Azerbaijan has borrowed a Swedish song to send to Eurovision and done ridiculously well with it; nor is it the amount of occasions on which Valentina Monetta will eventually represent San Marino (at least, we all hope not). It’s actually the number of songs that have competed in the semi-finals since 2004, only to lose out to ten “better” entries. That’s 154 non-qualifiers over ten years, according to my haphazard calculations. Yikes.
Among all those losers could-have-beens are some gems – and sometimes it’s hard to get over the fact that they didn’t make the final. I thought we should take some time to celebrate the awesomeness of what was left behind…whilst simultaneously re-traumatising ourselves by asking ‘WHY, EUROVISION GODS, WHY DIDN’T THEY MAKE IT?’. So here, in reverse to keep you in suspense, are my top ten non-qualifiers, accompanied by some reasons for their non-qualifying. Let me know below which have been your favourites to date, and why you think they failed to make the cut.
Horehronie by Kristina (Slovakia 2010)
Slovakia = not a country with a long and successful contest history. But you should still consider it a big deal when I say that Horehronie is their best-ever entry by my standards. It has everything I love in an ethno-pop song – it’s mystical, catchy, and makes me want to do some weird hypnotic dance whilst covered in foliage.
What went wrong: This was the type of song I expected to qualify, or if not, to be on the cusp. So second-last in its semi came as a surprise to moi. Can we blame the early draw and/or Kristina’s inadequate vocal performance? We can? Great. Done.
Follow My Heart by Ich Troje (Poland 2006)
It didn’t quite live up to Ich Troje’s majestic/heart-warming Keine Grenzen, which did so well at Eurovision 2003, but this song floats my boat for no other reason than IT JUST DOES, OKAY?!? It’s a song you wouldn’t expect to hear anywhere except at the ESC (or in a random national final) and every time I watch it or hear it, I’m all like, *Euroswoon*. Then I think about how narrowly it missed the final and I’m all like, *Eurobreakdown*.
What went wrong: Not a whole lot, when you see how close it was to qualification. Poland were beaten to last-qualifying 10th place by FYR Macedonia, so I’m going to go out on a (scantily clad) limb and say that there wasn’t enough flesh on display.
Complice by Miodio (San Marino 2008)
You (and the entire European continent) say bland, I say bellissimo, because this is an Italian-language ballad with a haunting piano intro and I’m attracted to that sort of thing (in fact, the piano intro doesn’t even have to be haunting). I have no idea what Mr. Miodio is singing about besides the odd word, but that just adds to the mysterious appeal.
What went wrong: Possibly the fact that the only fan of this song was sitting on her couch in a faraway land called Australia at the time, and couldn’t text her little heart out to save it. Not that she (I’m referring to me, guys…in case you didn’t get that) could have made much difference.
Cipela by Marko Kon & Milaan (Serbia 2009)
Oh, Serbia. You never disappoint me song-wise, and I’m always crushed on the rare occasions you don’t qualify…even if it’s your own fault for dressing your representatives in leftover materials from a circus tent-manufacturing factory. That was not the case in Moscow, when your costumes were fine and your song was quirkily awesome. Who else could make a song about a shoe sound this good? Besides Croatia, of course.
What went wrong: The system failed Cipela. Literally. That pesky rule wherein the top nine as per the televote plus one wildcard jury pick would qualify put paid to Marko and Milaan’s (and my) hopes of Serbia making it to the final. It was 13th-placed Croatia that the jury chose to go through.
Igranka by Who See (Montenegro 2013)
I majorly dislike the dubstep breaks that get shoved into every second song to be released these days – seemingly just for the heck of it – but I can get on board with the consistency of 100% dubstep. It took a while, but I LOVE this example now, and it makes me sad that not even something so unique and current could get Montenegro to the final for the first time.
What went wrong: Igranka was probably too left-of-centre (particularly by Eurovision standards) to win over enough televoters who were hearing it/seeing it for the first time. Still, from what I can understand of the highly confusing split results, it seems that the juries were more to blame for holding Montenegro back. Who would’ve guessed.
Firefly by Christina Metaxa (Cyprus 2009)
Cyprus has been unfairly overlooked more than once in recent times, IMO. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, but I think 2009 was one of those times. Firefly is still one of my favourites from Year Moscow, just for being so pretty, and starting off very simply before building up to something with more depth. I was a fan of the stage presentation too.
What went wrong: It isn’t the most dynamic of songs. Some would probably call it vanilla. Plus, it’s a tricky song to sing (I imagine…I’ve definitely never attempted my own version in the shower) and unfortunately, some of those high notes got the better of Christina.
San Aggelos S’agapisa by Christos Mylordos (Cyprus 2011)
Well fancy that, it’s Cyprus again! And again, I think they brought it to Düsseldorf and got sent packing in spite of that. The staging of this was like, Azerbaijan-level good, and I think the song worked really well in the live arena setting. Speaking of the actual song, I love the ethnicity of it, the way the Greek sounds, and even the drastic mood swing from piano ballad to rock-with-screaming-lady.
What went wrong: It just wasn’t popular enough, I guess. Cyprus has never qualified with a song in Greek, having done so in English on both sides of 2011, so there must be something too inaccessible about their more traditional choices. That’s a little bit sad.
Lako Je Sve by Feminnem (Croatia 2010)
2010 was a year of casualties, but the loss of Feminnem was particularly painful because it was so unexpected. With this uh-mayzing ballad, I had visions of Zagreb 2011, or at least a top 10 finish. Qualification was never an issue in my mind. Three years and one DNQ later, I’m still shocked, but I listen to Lako Je Sve all the time and wonder what could have been.
What went wrong: There was polish lacking in the performance, which didn’t suit the sophistication of the song. The vocals weren’t quite right at times, the ‘bare’ look the girls were sporting lacked effort, and there was the small matter of that tacky red love-heart at the end. A dodgy performance can ruin a great song, as Blue can attest to.
Stop by Omar Naber (Slovenia 2005)
This didn’t grab my attention at all the first time I saw the Kiev contest. I was still a relative ESC virgin and there were a s#%!load of songs to contend with, so I guess it slipped under the radar. For like, five years. It was the studio version that eventually made me fall in love with it, and appreciate it for being a testosterone-filled ballad with no cheese.
What went wrong: I’m not blaming this, per se, but Omar’s choice of costume was more appropriate for a Friday night at the pub, with the lads, watching some kind of ball sport, than for performing on live TV with millions of people across the planet watching on. I also suspect the screaming lady (not the same one who graced the stage with Christos Mylordos) put some people off/gave them nightmares.
This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (Sweden 2010)
Hello there, one of my favourite Eurovision songs of all time! How you doin’? Not so good because you got left behind in your semi final? Fair enough. This song has always sounded like a winner to me, and it did beat some brilliant stuff (from the likes of Timoteij, Darin and Eric Saade) to win Melodifestivalen, so I feel as if it should have coasted into the final.
What went wrong: The crowd in the Telenor Arena was not amused when Sweden didn’t come out of any of the magic envelopes. It was another near miss, which makes me wonder about Anna’s nervous-sounding vocal. But then, wondering is a bit pointless when it was so close. Maybe nothing went wrong in this case. Things just went better for ten of the others.
Honourable Mentions: La Mirada Interior by Marian van de Wal (Andorra 2005); Era Stupendo by Paolo Meneguzzi (Switzerland 2008); Vrag Naj Vzame by Rebeka Dremelj (Slovenia 2008); Angel Si Ti by Miro (Bulgaria 2010); Love Unlimited by Sofi Marinova (Bulgaria 2012); Mižerja by Klapa s Mora (Croatia 2013).
I’ve shown you mine…now show me yours? Which entries of ’04 to ’13 brought a tear to your eye when they DNQ?
Favourite song from a solo singer
Solo by Alsou (Russia 2000)
Tell Me Who You Are by Malene Mortensen (Denmark 2002)
Heaven by Jónsi (Iceland 2004)
Lejla by Hari Mata Hari (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2006 – technically a band, but as their name is the lead singer’s stage name, and he is practically the only original member, I’m classing their entry as one from a soloist. Plus, wait ’til you see how long my group/band favourites list is…)
Never Let You Go by Dima Bilan (Russia 2006)
This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (Sweden 2010)
But my favourite is:
Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović (Serbia & Montenegro 2004)
There aren’t many songs that still give me goosebumps on the 150, 094th listen (just an estimate). That’s how I know that this is The One! Three minutes of perfection.