‘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.
In news that will shock no one, it’s Saturday. It’s almost like it comes around every seven days or something! Wild.
On this particular Saturday, ESC NF traffic is pretty high. If you don’t believe me, take a look at tonight’s event list:
- Denmark Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, final
- Hungary A Dal, final
- Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, final
- Portugal Festival da Canção, semi final 2
- Sweden Melodifestivalen, semi final 4
- Ukraine Vidbir, final
Not too shabby, is it? DMGP is shockingly mediocre this year (and so is Melodifestivalen, if I’m honest…what’s up Scandinavia?) but a final is always exciting, and the likes of Hungary and Ukraine are on hand to rescue us from the Scandi-crisis. I’m going to cover a bit of both today – a high and a not-so-high via A Dal and Melfest.
What can I say? I’m always going to make Sweden one of my priorities. But first, Hungary!
This is it! A Dal is at its most anticipated point, now that 30 songs have become eight with one disqualification along the way (for which Gergő Oláh must be very grateful). Here are the lucky last songs standing:
- Nyári Zápor Acoustic Planet
- Szótlanság Bence Vavra
- Holnap Bogi Nagy
- Kulcs Fatal Error
- Hozzád Bújnék Gergő Oláh
- Madár, Repülj! Gergő Szekér
- Az Én Apám Joci Pápai
- Roses The Middletonz
It’s a great final lineup, even if it is missing a few of my favourites (on the other hand, the few songs I disliked have also been disposed of). Before I take a stab at guessing the winner and Hungary’s representative at Eurovision 2019, I want to review what’s left while I still have the chance. From my least-loved songs all the way up to my FTW faves, this is my top eight.
Kulcs kicks off my list…at the bottom. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind it. I’d just file it away under ‘Songs That Are A Lot Like Viszlat Nyár But Not As Good’, and to me that’s not the sort of song Hungary should send to Tel Aviv (particularly so soon after Viszlat). Fatal Error are a little too frantic and noisy for me to rank them any higher.
Next up I’ve got Nyári Zápor, which has surprised me by a) getting this far in the comp, and b) scoring so well with the jury. It’s a nice, feel-good song that I’m happy to listen to in the car or while I’m housecleaning (I vacuum 47% faster accompanied by music, FYI) but I don’t get the hype coming from A Dal’s panel of music pros. Am I continuing to underestimate Acoustic Planet when I say that if they make the “super final” stage tonight I’ll be surprised? Probably.
Szótlanság is another song I thought would have been eliminated by now, but I have to give props to its (performance) props and Bence’s solid vocals. Apart from that I feel like it’s pretty anonymous compared to most of the other songs – Madár, Repülj! and Roses, for instance, are way more distinctive. But it’s still a decent track.
Heading into my top five and the songs I wouldn’t mind seeing in Israel, here’s Holnap. This flew under the radar pre-performance, only to impress a lot of us once brought to life by Bogi. I’m keeping a close eye on it and wouldn’t count it out of winning contention. It’s a simplistic but beautiful ballad, and the fragility of Bogi’s voice is captivating. She doesn’t need to swing from a hoop suspended six feet off the ground to grab attention…but that actually adds value and interest without cheapening a classy song.
Gergő Oláh is lucky to be in the final at all after Hozzád Bújnék replaced Petruska’s Help Me Out of Here earlier this week. I wanted him there all along, so I can’t help being happy that he’s making up the numbers. Of the two traditional ballads in this eight, Hozzád is the more dynamic and powerful one, and Gergő belts it out without breaking a sweat. He won’t win with it, but that’s okay because until he tops Gyóz A Jő I don’t really want him to.
It’s top three time now, and my (hypothetical) bronze medal goes to Gergő No. 2 with Madár, Repülj!. I was confused by this song at first because it’s all over the place structurally and stylistically, but those are the same things I’ve come to appreciate about it. If it goes to Eurovision, it’s sure to be a standout no matter what else is it’s up against. Side note: Gergő is super cute and I want to fly to Hungary expressly to run my fingers through his hair. Is that weird?
Funnily enough, I’ve ranked what I think is the best song in this final 2nd overall (you’ll get an explanation in a minute). I’m talking about Roses, easily the best effort from András Kalláy-Saunders in A Dal since Running. This song is contemporary, radio-friendly, original and has more hooks than a fishing supplies superstore. To top it off, I thought it might be disastrous when The Middletonz performed it live, but they NAILED it. Sadly it hasn’t had a heap of jury support, but the public vote has been strong – so if they manage to make the top four tonight a win isn’t out of the question.
Last but obviously not least is Az Én Apám. This is a sentimental favourite of mine because it’s Joci Pápai and I could not adore this guy more. His song might be more understated than Roses – and basically everything else left in the comp besides Holnap – but there’s something spellbinding about Joci’s musical style, vocals and authenticity on stage that makes my heart beat faster. And if you Google the lyrical translation of Az Én Apám (non-Hungarian speakers) and don’t experience some feels, why the heck not?!? To sum up, Joci’s sequel to Origo in terms of A Dal entries was always bound to be my most-loved track of the NF.
So there you have it. Unfortunately, I have no say in the actual results tonight. All I can do is predict them, which is the logical next step, so here goes.
Being methodical and looking at the scores from the heats helped me guess last week’s qualifiers pretty accurately, so I’ve done the same this time with the semi scores. If you do it too you’ll end up with these guys as your frontrunners:
- Joci Pápai 36 jury, 9 televote = 45
- Acoustic Planet 37 jury, 8 televote = 45
- Gergő Szekér 34 jury, 9 televote = 43
- Bence Vavra 34 jury, 8 televote = 42
- Bogi Nagy 34 jury, 8 televote = 42
Joci is in prime position despite receiving a slightly lower jury score than Acoustic Planet. Because his public vote score was higher, if both acts make it into the final four with 100% televote deciding the winner, Joci will have the edge. Gergő is a safe bet to accompany Joci and/or Acoustic Planet to that last decider, having had jury AND televote appeal at each point of the process.
This is where it gets tricky. Bence and Bogi can’t be separated based on their semi results, except to say that Bence placed equal 2nd in his semi while Bogi placed 3rd (but that just speaks to a more competitive second semi). And we shouldn’t assume that another act entirely – and I’m thinking of The Middletonz when I say this – won’t rise in the jury’s eyes on this occasion and score themselves a spot in that all-important four. If Roses does do it, the public backing is there (with a 9 on the televote in its semi) to potentially win. As annoying as it is, however, the jury is more likely to roadblock it while paving the way for something they’ve liked better previously.
Let’s get down to business. I’ve made my decision (after way too much INdecision) and this is the top four I’m going with:
- Joci Pápai
- Acoustic Planet
- Gergő Szekér
- Bogi Nagy
Once the A Dal jury input becomes irrelevant and it’s all about that public vote, there’ll probably be a battle between the male soloists. My heart wants Joci to win again and take his magical self to Tel Aviv, but my head is saying it’s Gergő who’s going. And you know what? I won’t have any complaints about that. In fact, if Hungary chooses a song that isn’t Kulcs/Nyári Zápor/Szótlanság, I’ll have the opposite of resting bitch face – and if they choose Roses/Az Én Apám/Madár, Repülj!, I’ll have a new no. 1 in my Eurovision 2019 ranking so far.
But yes, I’m officially predicting victory for Gergő Szekér. How about you?
Moving on to the last straightforward Melfest semi now, and…well, it’s been an underwhelming edition of the show to say the least. I’m easily pleased as Eurofans go and have liked most of the entries. But at the same time, there’s been hardly anything to love with a passion and literally nothing that has made me sit up, take notice and proclaim it The One for 2019.
I’m actually concerned that Sweden could be looking at a 2013-esque result off the back of last year’s televoting disaster. The upper right side of the ESC scoreboard would be a win for some countries, but not for a country that has only finished outside of the top 10 once and won twice in the last eight contests. But I might just be getting ahead of myself.
Let’s look at tonight’s seven. For all I know, The One is right here:
- Stormbringer Pagan Fury
- Känner Dig Anton Hagman
- Torn Lisa Ajax
- I Do Arvingarna
- On My Own Bishara
- Kärleken Finns Kvar Ann-Louise Hanson
- Too Late For Love John Lundvik
It’s a deltävling full of familiar faces, with Anton and Lisa already having competed against each other in the 2017 final. Lisa came out on top then, and I’ll tell you if I think she’ll do the same now or not after I’ve mentioned my personal favourites from this semi.
My top four Too Late for Love, Torn, On My Own and Känner Dig. I knew John Lundvik and Bishara (with Benjamin Ingrosso backing him as a songwriter) would be my 4th semi highlights as soon as their names were announced. That’s because I loved Lundvik last year; and because Bishara is adorable in every way, and as an Ingrosso fangirl from way back their collab was made for me. Lundvik going uptempo and Bishara sticking with what works for his voice/image is working for me so far.
Lisa Ajax is another artist I’ve cheered for previously in Melfest, and though I prefer I Don’t Give A to this latest entry (which you can tell was originally meant for Loreen), I think Torn could be more successful for her. It’s a moody ballad with sparse verses and a belter of a chorus, and I’m curious to see how she handles it live. There won’t be any toilet paper hanging from the roof or useless but pretty raincoats this time, that’s for sure!
And yes, I enjoy a bit of Anton Hagman even if nobody else does. I mean, if he butchers Känner Dig tonight we can just hit mute and look at him, right?
So, who’s going direkt? John Lundvik and Bishara. But take this with a grain of salt because I actually have NO IDEA. Turning to either the odds or the rehearsal poll (which was topped by these two) isn’t helpful when you consider how wrong those indicators have been for the last few shows. I think this prediction is more of what I want than what I’ll get – but Lundvik is a safe bet and the most likely to go DTF. Bishara could be too JESC, or could score well with tweens, teens, mums and grandparents all over Sweden. Based on rehearsal reports I’m not convinced Lisa will have more mass appeal than he does.
Who’s getting a second chance? Arvingarna and Lisa Ajax with the possibility of a Pagan Fury curveball. Arvingarna has their Melfest/ESC history and nostalgic brand of musical Prozac to stand on, and I think they could actually squeeze straight in to the final…but I’ll leave them with AC. Lisa could blow everyone’s minds or underwhelm, and that’s the kind of risky business that deserves a compromise (though I’d happily have her in the final in a way that Wiktoria would not). If one of these guys only gets as far as 5th place, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Stormbringer slip in to Andra Chansen instead.
And that concludes this monster of a prediction post in which I didn’t actually do much predicting. It’s not always the fun part, to be honest.
Let me know what YOU think will happen tonight, anywhere and everywhere in Europe. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram @EurovisionByJaz, for catty selection show comments and first impressions of the songs for Tel Aviv as they come along. I’ll follow back if you like to talk about Eurovision and send me some freshly-baked cookies!