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MY 500th POST!!! Marking a milestone with the Melodifestivalen Favourites Tag <3

Hej och välkommen to my 500th post! I’m not kidding – there’s no crappy attempts at clickbait from me (this time). I’d say something like ‘Who would’ve thought there was that much Eurovision-related stuff in existence to be written about by someone who aspires to but has no hope of reaching the popularity status of WiwiBloggs?’…but we all know there’s enough discussable Eurovision-related stuff to last a lifetime. Especially when there’s another ESC, JESC and NF season for both every year.

In summary, there’s a 99.9% chance that I’ll be composing Post No. 1000 in about eight years’ time. Hopefully it has a less boring intro than this one.

Anyway, I know we’re in the midst of the 2017 national final season right now (with the German final taking place on Thursday and an action-packed weekend creeping closer), but I thought this milestone of a massive amount of ESC ramblings needed to be acknowledged. And, as my numero uno NF Melodifestivalen started on Saturday – the final of which I’m attending this year and that’s SO EXCITING I SIMPLY MUST USE CAPS LOCK – I’m going to celebrate Melfest-style. Someone hand me my rhinestone-spangled catsuit!

Basically, there’s a fun tag that’s been floating around Facebook lately (at least, in my feed) and it’s as simple as this: you name your favourite Melfest entry for each year that you’ve followed the comp. I thought I’d choose mine according to all the Melfests that have happened while I’ve been (apparently) busy blogging 499 times – 2010-2016. Then I realised that’s the exact period I’ve been following the show for anyway. It’s fate. So here we go…a.k.a. NU KÖR VI!!!

 

PS – As this is a tag, I tag each and every one of you reading this to list your favourite Melfest songs from your years of keeping tabs on the five-week extravaganza. Even if you just joined the party in 2016, let me know which entry was your most-loved last year.

 

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2010 | You’re Out Of My Life by Darin

The first Melfest to take place after the birth of Eurovision By Jaz (a birth that was not only painless but actually enjoyable, no drugs required) was fantastisk. Well, the final was – I have to admit, there were some questionable entries in the semis. But damn, Sweden, THAT FINAL! Even so, I can narrow the field down to my personal favourite song faster than most Ukrainian men can run on giant hamster wheels. The hugely successful runner-up of Idol 2004, Darin is my most beloved Swedish soloist in the history of Swedish soloists, and his one and only (to date *crosses fingers*) Melfest entry was the pinnacle of pop balladry in my opinion. If the music doesn’t move you, then check out the wind machine usage, which nearly moved the man himself off the stage and into the wings at supersonic speed. Sadly, it didn’t blow Anna Bergendahl, Salem al Fakir and Eric Saade away and out of the running.

Andra Chansen Kom by Timoteij

 

 

2011 | My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen

I’m going to break some bad news to you right now by saying that *SPOILER ALERT* this is the only time Loreen will appear on this list. Who knows – her 2017 Melfest entry Statements might end up in a Top 10 of mine in the future, but for now, it’s all about Loreen Vol. I. The first time we saw her compete, she made it into Andra Chansen but not out of it (I know…crazy, right?!?). The dance-pop dream with a hint of disco that is My Heart Is Refusing Me, though, was a winner in so many ways: from the catchiness, explosive chorus and overall cool factor to Loreen’s weirdly wonderful red top (I have been trawling op-shops in the hope of finding something similar ever since, and may eventually resort to feeding a plain red sweater into a document shredder). Because this track is more complex and unpredictable than Euphoria, I ever-so-slightly prefer it – and it’s far and away my favourite song served up to us by Melodifestivalen 2011.

Andra Chansen Popular by Eric Saade

 

 

2012 | Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky

It’s a good question. Why should you start a fire? I guess if you’re out in the wilderness and will freeze to death if you don’t rub some sticks together and get a flame going, then it’s probably a smart idea. But I’ll leave the extenuating circumstances of fire-starting at that, since they have nothing to do with my unconditional love for this song. Lisa, whose songwriting credits include boss-as-a-Billy-bookcase hits for herself and the likes of the Backstreet Boys (we have her to thank for Shape of My Heart), had a tough task topping the ten finalists of Melfest 2012. She ended up finishing second last – which wasn’t that shocking – but I for one think Why Start A Fire? is stunning. A mystical synth riff gives way to lush layers of music and vocals that, when they’ve run their course, make you (and by ‘you’, I mean ‘me) feel relaxed and re-energised – rather than exhausted, because you’ve just listened to something loud and watched a performance with more gimmicks than Sanna Nielsen has filled out Melfest application forms.

Andra Chansen Soldiers by Ulrik Munther

 

 

2013 | You by Robin Stjernberg

At last – the first Melfest year of my blogging career in which my number one competing song went on to win the whole thing! Against all the odds, too. Robin’s NF story is the ultimate underdog tale of a ridiculously good singer who entered what was a pretty weak edition of Sweden’s crowning TV glory (as they were hosting Eurovision in 2013, however, they can be forgiven for not trying too hard to produce an epic host entry). He didn’t manage to go direkt, instead ending up in Andra Chansen and making most of us count him out FTW. Then he did win, making him the first non-direct finalist in the existence of the AC round to do so. And he did it with an awesome, heartfelt pop anthem with one heck of a hook (you-ooh-ooh-ooooooooohhh, in case you were wondering). You also boasts a money note that, when Robin belted it out on the Malmö Arena stage, was powerful enough to produce a pyro curtain. I assume it was his vocal strength that did it, rather than your average pyrotechnics consultant backstage somewhere. Don’t burst my bubble.

Andra Chansen Bed On Fire by Ralf Gyllenhammar

 

 

2014 | Undo by Sanna Nielsen

Speaking of your one true NF love taking the trophy home (along with an ‘Admit One’ ticket to Eurovision) – it happened to me for the second year running in 2014. Undo marked Sanna’s seventh Melfest participation, following mixed results for her in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2011. It didn’t take seven of anything to have me hooked though. So much so that, despite having been Team Empty Room when it came to Sanna’s best entry, it wasn’t long before I’d bumped her ’08 runner-up down to the runner-up position on my list (my mental list…I don’t have a physical paper Sanna ranking). Undo, for me personally, is peak pop power ballad perfection. The soft vulnerability of the first verse, the break between the second and last chorus and the finish contrast goosebumpingly (I hereby decree that a proper word even though Spellcheck wasn’t a fan) with the simple but powerful choruses – and Miss Nielsen nailed every note, every time. This may not be a popular opinion, but I definitely think she won Melodifestivalen with her strongest submission. Nothing else would have scored her a bronze medal at Eurovision – not even Empty Room.

Andra Chansen Survivor by Helena Paparizou

 

 

2015 | Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw

It was third time lucky for MZW at Melfest, and the third year in a row that the results went my way. Can anyone really argue that Heroes shouldn’t have won the NF when it went on to win Eurovision? That’s a rhetorical question, so don’t try to start something in the comments. The song itself was worthy of winning both contests as far as I’m concerned, being the Avicii-inspired anthem with a karaoke dream chorus that it is. But you can’t mention Heroes and not talk about the visuals that elevated it from great to even greater (and I’m not referring to Måns’ muscles and THOSE LEATHER TROUSERS). We all fell in love with the original stick man – who turned out not to be so original in the end, so he got a bit fatter and wore a different hat for the ESC. We followed his journey from being downtrodden and dragged away by a balloon to having the privilege of fist-bumping his older, flesh-and-blood self (who had swapped overalls for THOSE LEATHER TROUSERS). And that, plus the slick lighting scheme and choreography, made Heroes a flawlessly-packaged entry that ticked every box, both in Melfest and at Eurovision. I love it just as much now as I did two years ago (!).

Andra Chansen Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone

 

 

2016 | Human by Oscar Zia

These days, with 28 songs competing in Melfest each year, I’m bound to like or love at least 25 of them (Swedish songwriters just know how to float my boat). So did I like or love If I Were Sorry? Yes. Was it my ideal winner/host entry for Sweden in Stockholm? No, to tell you the truth. My votes – if I’d been able to cast any – would have gone straight to Oscar Zia, who started out in the show as a backing vocalist, returned a year later on his own, then made a massive comeback – having come out of the closet and evolved stylistically and hair-stylistically – with Human. You know I love (most) modern power ballads, but when a modern power ballad comes equipped with edge and a moody atmosphere like this one, someone’s going to have to haul me up off the floor where I have swooned. As with Måns, what we saw was just as important as what we heard when Oscar had his technically-third try for the Melfest trophy. Storm clouds and intense, quick camera cuts made the performance memorable without the need for an entire supermarket aisle’s worth of bells and whistles. The whole thing was so magical, it annoys me beyond belief that there’s no watchable video of it accessible in Australia (as far as I can tell). So enjoy – or not – the lyric video I stuck here. Closing your eyes and just listening is still an epic experience, after all.

Andra Chansen Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson

 

 

Whew – think yourselves lucky that I didn’t discover Melodifestivalen in 1991 (I was too busy being a baby). As it stands, my waffling on is…well, off, so it’s time for you to list your own favourites. Which Swedish songs have you cheered for the most over the years? Is there ANYTHING we agree on, or is it true that one person’s treasure is another’s trash? I want answers, people!

 

Until next time (the upcoming NF-antastic weekend)…

 

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A (Final) Supersized Serving of Scandipop: My Top 50 Melodifestivalen Entries, 2006-2015! (The Top 10)

Meghan Trainor might be all about that bass, but me? I’m more about that Melodifestivalen. The search for Måns Zelmerlöw’s successor began on Saturday, with Ace Wilder (predictably) and Robin ‘Bedroom Eyes’ Bengtsson going direkt till final, and the duos of Albin and Mattias/Samir and Viktor heading off to Andra Chansen. Melfest has certainly started on a good note (if I may make a musical pun without you throwing yourself through the nearest window), but I suspect the show’s best is yet to come. That makes me even more excited to set my next super-early Sunday alarm, so bring it, SVT!

Speaking of which…I’m doing a bit of ye olde ‘bringing’ myself today. But rather than bringing you two hours of camp, poptastic entertainment feat. several glorious utterances of the phrase ‘Sverige, vi har ett resultat’, I’m FINALLY bringing you the conclusion to my Melfest Top 50 countdown. I guess I can still say ‘Vi har ett resultat’ – it’s just that the resultat in this case is my Top 10 from 2006-2015.

Forty other Melfest entries from that period have graced my list so far. In case you’ve forgotten which, here’s a recap:

  • #11 Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015)
  • #12 Why Am I Crying? by Molly Sandén (2012)
  • #13 This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (2010)
  • #14 In The Club by Danny Saucedo (2011)
  • #15 Try Again by Dilba (2011)
  • #16 My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen (2011)
  • #17 Keep On Walking by Salem Al Fakir (2010)
  • #18 Efter Solsken by Panetoz (2014)
  • #19 Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone (2015)
  • #20 Echo by Outtrigger (2014)
  • #21 Aldrig Aldrig by Andreas Lundstedt (2012)
  • #22 Empty Room by Sanna Nielsen (2008)
  • #23 Better Or Worse by Julia Alvgard (2011)
  • #24 Baby Goodbye by EMD (2009)
  • #25 Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder (2014)
  • #26 Alla by Sofia (2009)
  • #27 Like Suicide by Christian Walz (2011)
  • #28 Temple of Love by BWO (2006)
  • #29 The Boy Can Dance by Afro-Dite (2012)
  • #30 Där Och Då Med Digby Emelie Irewald (2015)
  • #31 Euphoria by Loreen (2012)
  • #32 Yes We Can by Oscar Zia (2014)
  • #33 Living To Die by Andreas Johnson (2015)
  • #34 One By One by Elize Ryd and Rickard Söderberg (2015)
  • #35 Red by EKO (2014)
  • #36 Möt Mig I Gamla Stan by Magnus Carlsson (2015)
  • #37 Around The World by Dr. Alban and Jessica Folcker (2014)
  • #38 Bröder by Linus Svenning (2014)
  • #39 I’ll Be Fine by Molly Pettersson Hammar (2015)
  • #40 För Din Skull by Kalle Johansson (2015)
  • #41 Falling by State of Drama (2013)
  • #42 Sean Den Förste Banan by Sean Banan (2012)
  • #43 Hello Goodbye by Tone Damli and Erik Segerstedt (2013)
  • #44 Begging by Anton Ewald (2013)
  • #45 Stormande Hav by Timoteij (2012)
  • #46 Stay The Night by Alcazar (2009)
  • #47 Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah (2015)
  • #48 Don’t Stop Believing by Mariette (2015)
  • #49 På Väg by Abalone Dots (2012)
  • #50 Jag Är Fri (Manne Leam Frijje) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren (2015)

And if you want to revisit rather than recap, you can check out #50-#31 in detail here, and #30-#11 here.

Och nu, without further ado, here is…

 

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#10 | Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky (2012) 

The overwhelming fan favourite of Melfest 2012 may have been Loreen, but personally, I have more of a soft spot for Miss Miskovsky (among other 2012 alumni). I know, I know – I’m a terrible person, and I’ve just bought myself a one-way ticket to Eurovision purgatory as punishment. But before you consider dropping any atomic glitter bombs on my head, hear me out. I know as well as you do that Euphoria was the right representative for Sweden at Eurovision in Baku, and it’s definitely one of my all-time favourite winning songs. But when I look/listen back at Melfest that year, I find that there’s something about the guitar-driven, electro-tinged Why Start A Fire? – something ethereal and otherworldly – that hits me right in the goosebump generator (wherever that is). Euphoria never achieved quite the same thing. Lyrically intriguing and melodically stunning, Lisa’s self-penned entry had me hypnotised from the first time I heard it in full. Its place on this list is a declaration of love it deserves.

 

#9 | Mystery by Dead By April (2012)

When Outtrigger’s Echo popped up in part two of this countdown, I told you guys I had a thing for Melfest rock. As you can see, I wasn’t kidding. I’m not saying I adore everything about Echo or Mystery (the throat-stripping screams in each track are far from being my cup of tea) but…come to think of it, the screaming is the only thing I’m not a fan of. Mystery made a big impact on me when DBA took on Melfest, and not just because I had an obsessive crush on lead singer (at the time) Zandro (and his tattoos). The song is well-written and was well-performed, with Zandro’s clear-cut vocals contrasting nicely with Stoffe Andersson’s death growls (‘death growls’ = a phrase I never expected would be defined for me by Melodifestivalen). There’s both vulnerability and aggressiveness to be heard here, and that makes for a dynamic listening experience. When you want to rock out, AND lament a lost love or a Netflix-related neck injury (for example) at the same time, Mystery is the perfect outlet.

 

#8 | You by Robin Stjernberg (2013)

Just thinking back to the days when Robin became the first Melfest winner to detour through Andra Chansen has happy tears moistening my eyes – so take everything I’m about to say with a grain of sentimentality. You was one of the most authentic, least forced winners Melodifestivalen has ever crowned. It wasn’t a formulaic cookie-cutter pop song trying desperately to come out on top – it was just one man + a pleasantly subdued neutral palette + a touching-but-not-cloying tribute + THAT VOICE. Oh, and a fire curtain. And all of that ended up creating an unexpected champion, via the most magical voting sequence ever recorded on film. Robin’s win felt so right. You is a song that builds and then builds some more, rising from a solid foundation of acoustic guitar and soft vocals to an explosive (literally, when you consider that fire curtain) conclusion, preceded by a show-stopping note from Robin that declared ‘I’m a contender!’. And shattered glassware from the north to the south of Sweden. It may not have shattered any records at Eurovision, but it will always be one of my most-loved host entries.

 

#7 | Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella (2014)

Aaaaand BOOM (boom boom boo-boo-boom) – just like that, you can say goodbye to sentimentality, and hello to my completely superficial love for a song about sex. Lyrical content such as ‘shoes off in the driveway, shirts off in the doorway, pants off in the hallway’ isn’t exactly the height of sophistication and significance, but it doesn’t have to be when a song’s this catchy. It wasn’t until I heard the Bedroom snippet prior to Melfest 2014’s first semi that I thought ‘THIS is what I’m talking about. THIS is why I devote all the time I’m not thinking about Eurovision to thinking about Sweden’s preselection.’ Because when I’m not weeping into a copy of SCAN Magazine over the raw beauty of a power ballad, I’m dancing wildly in my Bedroom to stuff like this. Alvaro suffers from Eric Saade Syndrome – he’s not a great live vocalist, but he can bust a move and churn out chart hits with ease. His Melfest entry was made for the dance floor, and is basically three minutes of proof that Swedish songwriters should continue to be in constant global demand.

 

#6 | Förlåt Mig by Mattias Andréasson (2012)

Is there any genre that doesn’t sound sensational i Svenska? The first non-English number in my top 10 is also an R & B song, and I don’t reckon it would have made an appearance at all if it’d been sung in English by ex-EMD member Mattias. Förlåt Mig (‘Forgive Me’) is so slick and well-produced in studio, it couldn’t quite live up to itself live (I’m convinced that those Kate Ryan light sabers are a bad-luck charm) which may explain why it didn’t progress past its semi. Or perhaps I’m just the only person on the planet who thinks it’s the shiz, and should have at LEAST made it to Andra Chansen. If I had to single out one thing I really commend about this song, it would be the way it manages not to repeat itself, in spite of its straightforward sstructure. What I mean by that (because that made zero sense) is, while the verses and the chorus and that other bit before the final chorus *forgets everything she was taught about song construction in music class* together form a cohesive whole, they’re all unique. This isn’t a ‘heard half of it, heard all of it’ kind of song – and that, combined with its general awesomeness, gets my fist bump of approval.

 

#5 | Undo by Sanna Nielsen (2014)

There are two kinds of people: those who think Sanna was handed a pity win after her seventh attempt to take home the Melfest trophy; and those who think the time was right because she won with her strongest contribution to the competition. There are no prizes for guessing which camp my tent’s pitched in. I have been besotted with Undo from the moment I met it, and I firmly believe it to be one of Melfest’s – and Eurovision’s – greatest-ever ballads. Helping that mindset along is the fragility Sanna conveyed during each and every performance of the song. Thanks to her crystal-clear voice that is seemingly expelled at the push of a button (I think it’s on the back of her neck, like those Barbie dolls that have “growing” hair), she didn’t really have to focus on nailing her vocal. What she could focus on was making us believe her heartbreak was as fresh in Denmark as it had been during Deltävling 2 back in Sweden. And that, my friends, is what made for the dictionary definition of ‘spine-tingling’ produced by Undo. That and THE MOMENT!!! before the second chorus, which sent the wow factor shooting straight into the stratosphere.

 

#4 | Kom by Timoteij (2010)

Do you ever just sit and think about all of the things you’d never have discovered if it wasn’t for Melodifestivalen? No? Well, I do. And one of the main things I think about is the glorious girl band Timoteij. Their signature blend of Celtic instrumentals and Europop has led to a string of hits, and it all started with Kom (‘Come’, in case you didn’t see that Kom-ing). If this song is any indication, then Swedish-born ethno-pop can totally hold its own against the Armenian/Spanish/Turkish equivalents. The iconic opening riff ignites a sense of mystery that carries on through the rest of the song, interwoven with a pulsing, toe-tapping beat. The chorus is simple, but so effective; the melody is irresistible; and the ubiquitous key change arrives at the perfect moment. And that rolecall of redeeming features doesn’t even take into account the power of Timoteij harmonies (which, when on point, could poke a hole in a house brick). Even in a super-strong Melfest final, it’s hard (for me) to believe this finished fifth, and not higher.

 

#3 | Soldiers by Ulrik Munther (2012)

This track, co-written and performed by Peter Pan Ulrik for his Melfest debut (he’d go on to try way too hard to win the following year, only to end up 3rd again) was THE arena anthem of 2012 – if we’re talking down-tempo arena anthems, as the up-tempo trophy obviously goes to Loreen and her Euphoria. Heavy on instruments – guitars, drums, and a harmonica that gave an authentic bluesy feel to a polished pop song – it relied on sincerity and sing-along power (plus that angelic, seemingly prepubescent face of Mr. Munther’s), rather than flashiness, to harness votes. Remind you of anything? Say, Melfest 2016’s freshly-qualified Constellation Prize? It should. Soldiers is such a great song in all aspects of song…ness (songery?). The melody is memorable, the structure makes for a smoothly-navigated but not-too-predictable three minutes, and the lyrics have substance (but not so much that I have no idea what the manboy in the flat cap is on about). In an epic edition of Melfest, this was my standout entry.

 

#2 | Hela Natten by Josef Johansson (2014)

(No decent videos of this performance appear to be available on Youtube, y’all. Apologies.)

There are certain songs that I gravitate towards because they’re catchy. Then, there are those that make me feel all the feelings that tend to give one goosebumps. Relatively unknown prior to his Melodifestivalen debut, Josef Johansson provided us with a song that was the best of both worlds – a total tune, and a heartstring-puller. That’s what makes Hela Natten (‘All Night’) magic. No, it didn’t get anywhere in its semi, but it left an impression on me that has outlasted the impression left by any other participating songs from 2014 that did progress. The song’s build-up to explosive moments is stellar, ensuring the chorus packs punch whenever it pops up. And the introduction of a choir during the last thirty seconds or so was inspired, giving Josef the vocal support he needed to make the final stretch of the song bigger and (almost) better than the rest. I also credit this song for kick-starting my fangirling of Josef’s subsequent releases, like Blickar Kan Mörda, which was completely different to Hela Natten – i.e. a true testament to Josef’s artistic versatility.

 

And now, after two previous installments of Scandipop-oriented gushing, and my #10-#2 countdown above, it’s time to say hej to what is probably a rather predictable number one.

My favourite Melodifestivalen entry from 2006-2015 is…


#1 | You’re Out Of My Life by Darin (2010)

YEAH IT IS! If you’ve read virtually any of my past posts, you’ll know that ’04 Idol runner-up Darin is my personal pinnacle of popstardom. He’s a bit of a musical chameleon, and I’ve loved every stage of his career – his folksy phase of 2015/16, for instance, has seen me flog his latest album Fjärilar I Magen like my life depends on it. When Darin decided to give Melfest a go in 2010, he was in more of a power ballad phase, and that’s how he came to be partnered with You’re Out of My Life. If Sanna’s Undo is the female ballad to end all other female ballads, then YOOML is its male counterpart. I can’t even describe in detail why I love it as much as I do (you’ll be relieved to learn) – it’s just undying, could-listen-to-it-on-repeat-forever love. So if you don’t understand why I even find this song listenable, and you head down to the comments to say so, don’t expect me to emerge from my love bubble long enough to notice. The rose-coloured glasses have been super-glued to my face by the magnificence of Darin’s attempt to get to Eurovision.

 

Okay…so that was the written equivalent of the London Marathon. If you crossed the finish line, congratulations. If you just scrolled down to see how lengthy this post was and swiftly thought ‘As if!’ upon finding out, here’s what you missed:

  • #1 You’re Out of My Life by Darin (2010)
  • #2 Hela Natten by Josef Johansson (2014)
  • #3 Soldiers by Ulrik Munther (2012)
  • #4 Kom by Timoteij (2010)
  • #5 Undo by Sanna Nielsen (2014)
  • #6 Förlåt Mig by Mattias Andréasson (2012)
  • #7 Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella (2014)
  • #8 You by Robin Stjernberg (2013)
  • #9 Mystery by Dead By April (2012)
  • #10 Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky (2012)

What are your thoughts on my Top 10? Would any of this back-catalogue Melfest music make your shortlist? If not, which entries would? If you’ve got something to say, I’m hanging out to hear it.

While I’m waiting for your words, I’ll be figuring out how to handle the upcoming Super Saturday – one that makes the six-show evening just gone seem sedate by comparison. Join me on the weekend to see if the stress sent me into meltdown mode, leaving me unable to string a sentence together; or if I managed to rank, review and predict in spite of the pressure. If Laura Tesoro is still wondering what the pressure is, somebody had better tell her that it’s THIS FREAKIN’ SATURDAY.

 

Until THIS FREAKIN’ SATURDAY…

 

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MY STOCKHOLM SUGGESTION BOX | Darin for Sweden

The fun-filled days of adding artists to our ‘Destination: Vienna’ wishlists may be over – but that just means it’s time to start speculating which European music sensations might grace Stockholm with their presence. Or, more accurately, making it very clear which of our personal favourite acts from the continent simply MUST represent their country in Sweden, OR ELSE.

For me, profiling a potential Eurovision rep is basically an excuse to ramble on about an artist I adore for an exceedingly lengthy amount of screen space…and in case you hadn’t guessed, that’s what I’ll be doing today. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Way back in the lead-up to Eurovision 2015, I was hoping for Finland’s participant to be Robin Packalen, and for the UK to select The Saturdays. Sadly, neither of those wishes came true. But I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself off and decided to angle for another of my favourite artists to aim for Eurovision 2016, via an article full of flattery. And I couldn’t start this season’s so-called suggestion box with any other nation but our host, Sweden!

Given their recent run of results, I don’t think Sweden really need my help in order to choose a great entry, but they’re getting it anyway. My ideal pick for the Land of Loreen is an artist I’ve been fangirling over for years, and someone who has actually attempted to represent Sweden in the past. I think he’d do a damn good job of it if a second attempt became a successful one – so, if he’s willing, can I/we please have…

 

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WHO? WHERE? WHAT?

Darin Zanyar was born in Stockholm, destination of Eurovision 2016 (that’s got be some kind of sign), twenty-eight years ago – and for eleven of those years, he’s been one of Sweden’s biggest, brightest and best-selling artists. He’s also spent a heap of that time doing double duty as a singer and a songwriter, penning tracks for himself and for a myriad of other musos.

You might not have predicted such a future for him if you’d tuned into Sweden’s first series of Idol in 2004, and witnessed the gangly, softly-spoken 17-year-old audition for the judges with an N*SYNC song (which totally gets my tick of approval).

But, after destroying his competition week after week (competition that included future ESC champ Loreen) Darin became the true winner of Idol ’04…by finishing second. Losing to man who nobody remembers (Daniel Lindström, for the record) turned out to be the launching pad for one heck of a career. It began with a signature on a BMG recording contract shortly after Idol ended, then continued with the release of Darin’s first single in early 2005: ‘Money For Nothing’. The song was co-written by Swedish superstar Robyn, as well as Danish Remee (host of Junior Eurovision 2003 and co-writer of multiple ESC entries, including Anti Social Media’s ‘The Way You Are’) and it earned Darin his first-ever #1 single and platinum certification.

His debut album The Anthem followed, also topping the charts in his homeland – and the trend continued with his second, self-titled album, also released in 2005 (he wasn’t a stereotypical lazy teenager, that’s for sure). Darin spawned three top ten hits, including the #1 ‘Step Up’.

Album number three, 2006’s Break The News, followed suit, but fourth album Flashback was Darin’s poorest-performing release, failing to climb higher then tenth on the Swedish charts. It did, however, feature another #1 single in ‘Breathing Your Love’, a duet with American singer Kat DeLuna.

After appearing as a Melodifestivalen interval act in 2009, Darin made the decision that many well-known Swedish acts had made before him, and opted to enter the comp himself in 2010. Performing one of my all-time favourite songs, ‘You’re Out Of My Life’, he progressed direkt til Globen, eventually finishing fourth in a strong final.

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After Darin’s Melfest participation, he became known as ‘The Lord of the Wind Machine’.

Despite not making it all the way to Eurovision, he bounced back with another #1 album later that year: Lovekiller, which featured his Melfest entry, a (love)killer title track, and his hugely successful cover of Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’. Darin co-wrote eight of the ten songs on this album, including ‘Can’t Stop Love’, written especially for the wedding of Sweden’s Princess Victoria. In 2011, he also co-wrote the winning single of Idol’s Amanda Fondell (who would go on to participate in Melodifestivalen herself).

In 2012, Darin appeared on reality show Så Mycket Bättre (So Much Better), tasked with covering the hits of a bunch of fellow Swedish musicians – and to cut a long story short, he nailed his assignment every week. The following year, he unveiled his sixth studio album and fifth #1 album in total, Exit; and appeared on the Eurovision stage during Malmö’s second semi final, alongside the amazing Agnes. There, he performed ‘Nobody Knows’ – shockingly, another #1 single – and ‘So Yours’. As I cried with happiness.

Fast forward to 2015, and there’s another Darin album on the horizon – but it’s not in the usual English-language, R&B/dance-pop mould. Having made the switch to Swedish and adopted a folksy flavour that fits him pretty well, he’ll release Fjärilar I Magen (Butterflies in the Stomach) in September. At this point, it’s already produced two massive hits in ‘Ta Mig Tillbaka’ and ‘Juliet’. It seems there’s no slowing Darin down, and no pigeonholing him when it comes to the type of artist he is, either. I accept that his music may not be everyone’s plate of IKEA meatballs, but I for one am counting down the days to the drop of album no. 7.

 

SOUNDS LIKE…

That depends on the time period you’re talking about. Early-days Darin was a record company’s dream – young, inexperienced, and therefore profitable putty in their hands. Seeing as he’d taken on N*SYNC for his Idol audition, he was shaped into a one-man boy band, sound-wise. Poppy melodies with an R&B edge and emotive ballads were once the bulk of his repertoire. As time went on, record company moves were made and experience in the music industry grew, and Darin settled on an arena pop/dance pop feel for his albums. Lovekiller was all about big choruses and layers of instrumentation, whereas Exit‘s focus was slickly-produced club tracks.

These days, as I mentioned before, Darin’s taken a completely new direction with his sound. Now writing songs that are heavily influenced by folk music, he’s stumbled upon an authenticity that works very well for him. As much as I love everything he’s produced in the past, I have to admit that his latest few singles have more substance, and tell more of a tale, than any that came before them.

To make this post more Eurovision-related, allow me to give you an indication of Darin’s past and present style based on some ESC entries. If you liked Russia 2006 and Moldova 2015, teenage Darin is for you. If you liked Norway 2012 and Ukraine 2013, try him circa 2010-2013. If The Netherlands 2012 and 2014 + Malta 2014 and Lithuania 2015 = some of your favourite entries, you’re bound to prefer him now. If that makes ANY sense at all.

 

DISCOGRAPHY

  • The Anthem (2005) feat. ‘Money For Nothing’ and ‘Why Does It Rain’
  • Darin (2005) feat. ‘Step Up’, ‘Who’s That Girl’, ‘Want Ya!’
  • Break The News (2006) feat. ‘Perfect’, ‘Everything But The Girl’, ‘Desire’, ‘Insanity’
  • Flashback (2008) feat. ‘Breathing Your Love’, ‘See U At The Club’, ‘What If’
  • Lovekiller (2010) feat. ‘Viva La Vida’, ‘You’re Out Of My Life’, ‘Can’t Stop Love’, ‘Lovekiller’
  • Exit (2013) feat. ‘Nobody Knows’, ‘Playing With Fire’, ‘Check You Out’
  • Fjärilar I Magen (2015) feat. ‘Ta Mig Tillbaka’, ‘Juliet’

dardisc

 

THE HIT LIST

‘Money For Nothing’ It’s not a musical masterpiece, but you’d hardly expect that from a seventeen-year-old’s first single. What is it, then? So 2005, and so much fun.

 

‘You’re Out Of My Life’ It couldn’t win in a top-notch edition of Melodifestivalen, but this beautifully-crafted ballad did win my heart FOR LYF.

 

‘Lovekiller’ Neither power nor passion is lacking in this not-so-cheery number. The chorus hits hard.

 

‘Astrologen’ A Så Mycket Bättre cover of a Magnus Uggla track, this atmospheric reworking is gorgeous. I genuinely prefer it to the original (sorry, Magnus).

 

‘Nobody Knows’ Well, that’s not true…we all know if we were watching Eurovision 2013’s second semi. Anyway, this is a top-notch dance anthem with a super-energetic tempo.

 

‘Ta Mig Tillbaka’ Simple and sentimental, this has been a big hit for Darin in 2015, suggesting that many of us can identify with wanting to go back in time every now and then *sniff*.

 

WHY EUROVISION?

If they stopped partying for a second in the wake of their Eurovision 2015 win, Sweden may have offered their condolences to host country Austria on their worst-possible result – all the while expecting a different outcome for themselves when they take over hosting duties next year. There’s no way SVT’s main man Christer Björkman will want to see Sweden on the bottom of the scoreboard, either on home ground or anywhere else. If Darin were to enter and win Melfest 2016, I have no doubt he’d put a smile on Christer’s dial by finishing in a galaxy far, far away from Nul Pointsville. Here’s why.

  • He’s a seasoned performer with countless live performances and tour dates under his H&M-brand belt. He’d have no trouble dealing with the media, intense rehearsals or the pressure to not faceplant on stage in front of thousands of people.
  • He’s got great live vocal chops, having been the runner-up in a TV talent contest. And, since he made it to the final of Idol when he was a teenager, there’s no doubt he could handle competition as an adult.
  • He’s tried to represent Sweden before, so he’s obviously not averse to adding ‘Eurovision participant’ to the Employment History section of his resume. His appearance as an interval act in 2013 is also proof of this.
  • He’s already known to Eurovision fans as a result of that interval act, which could give him some support to start off with (á la Conchita).
  • What with his current folk-flavoured fixation, he could serve up a host entry that stands out – particularly if it’s in Swedish, which we haven’t heard on the ESC stage since 1998.

PS…Darin’s new album drops on September 25th. That’s conveniently after September 1st, after which any song publicly aired or published can theoretically enter the following year’s ESC. So do the right thing, Darin – take the best track from Fjärilar I Magen that hasn’t been released as a single pre-September, and enter Melfest with it!

Update…What I meant to say (having forgotten about the ‘no publishing/airing before Melfest itself’ rule SVT are fond of, until I was reminded in the comments) is do the right thing, Darin – bask in the success of your new album, and then write a brand new non-album single to enter Melfest with. Is that really too much too ask?

 

BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE!

If you’re keen for further info on Mr. Zanyar (which is unlikely, since I’ve forced so much of it on you today that you probably never want to see or hear his name again for as long as you live); or if you just want to see photos of him gazing thoughtfully into the distance with the Swedish sun shining on his stubble, then there’s no shortage of places you can visit to get your fix.

Official Site | YouTube | FacebookTwitter | Instagram

 

Well, I’ve had my say. Return the favour?

Who do you want to see competing in Melodifestivalen next year? In the hope, of course, that they’ll go on to become Sweden’s 2016 host entrant?

 
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EBJ’s top 10…Melodifestivalen entries of the past five years (+ keep voting for the 2014 winner!)

Hej, children of the universe. I’m assuming that’s how Molly Smitten-Downes would address anyone she came across, although I’d say we were more like children of the Euro-verse. But I’m not here to talk about the freshly debuted UK entry for Copenhagen (that’s what my reviews are for). Nope, as promised, I’m here to celebrate Melodifestivalen just days before the 2014 final takes place in Stockholm. It’s going to be a hotly-contested comp this year, with any one of three, four, or even five songs being possible winners, which means, IMO, that Melfest is back to its former glory. You know, the kind of glory that exists in countries that haven’t just won Eurovision and really aren’t keen on winning again.

Although the 2013 final was strong, the standard in the semis was pretty low. This year, it was much higher, meaning we’ve lost some gems along the way. That’s happened on many occasions over the years. I have literally shed tears over the loss of Melfest entries at the semi stages. So, to be relevant rather than random AND revisit some of these gems, today I’m revealing my top 10 Melodifestivalen songs, 2009-2013 (because, as I have mentioned before, covering the past ten years plus is too darn difficult). There are some in this list which did make it past the semis, with a few doing very well indeed. But I’ve found that a great deal of my favourites were clearly not Sweden’s favourites at the time. Check out the lucky ten and let me know whether any of them are your personal favourites, or if I officially have the worst taste on the planet (if you’re going to say that, however, word it nicely).

 

PS – I chose not to include any songs that won Melfest and went on to Eurovision, because I see those more as ESC entries to be included in other lists. I also have not included any songs from the 2014 edition, because they’re still so fresh and can’t be compared to songs I’ve been listening to for, like, ever.

PPS – If you haven’t yet voted in my poll to see who will win MF on Saturday, you can find it at the end of this post, and I will bow down to you and do all your bidding if you have your say. Voting closes on Friday, so hurry and help me predict the winner!

 

Now, on with my top 10 Melfest entries of the past five years, beginning with #10.

 

#10 | Baby Goodbye by EMD (2009, 3rd in final)

The three ridiculously good-looking guys who make up EMD – Erik Segerstedt, Mattias Andreasson and Danny Saucedo – have all participated in Melfest outside of the group, but it was together that they were at their most schlager-tastic and suave. Baby Goodbye has been heard time and time again in Melfest (let’s be honest, Manboy and Youngblood are retitled versions of the same thing) but for some reason, I find it the most appealing. I suppose the hypnotic power of the three handsome men singing it could be influencing that opinion a little.

 

#9 | Better Or Worse by Julia Alvgard (2011, DNQ)

Julia was one of two wildcard entries into Melfest 2011, and like the other, she failed to win over the voters. She did win over a certain Australian fangirl in a big way, though (that’s me, in case you were wondering). I fell in love with her unusual synth-pop number instantly after hearing it for the first time, and whilst I knew it didn’t have much hope of going to the final, let alone winning, I was still a walking sadface when Julia ended up 6th in her semi. I will admit, the stage performance featuring those giant lampshades was disturbing, so perhaps that was partly to blame.

 

#8 | Förlåt Mig by Mattias Andreasson (2012, DNQ)

He wasn’t suited up when he went solo, but EMD’s Mattias was still smooth and suave in Year Euphoria – and that was before he’d even opened his mouth to bust out the first line of the slick R & B track that is Förlåt Mig. It’s not the coolest use of light sabers since Kate Ryan (almost) nailed them in Athens that makes me get down to this. It’s the general catchiness and clever construction, build worth waiting for, and the fact that it’s in Swedish, which somehow elevates it for me – perhaps because songs like this often have nauseating lyrics when they’re in English.

 

#7 | Begging by Anton Ewald (2013, 4th in final)

He’s one of a bunch of artists who returned to MF this year, and like the majority, Anton’s come back with a weaker song, IMO. Natural’s just fine, but Begging was the bomb! It took me a few listens to really ‘get’, which may explain why Sweden didn’t vote it straight through to the final, but to Andra Chansen instead. Not only did it emerge from AC alongside eventual winner You, but it out-scored six songs that had been voted straight through. It’s on this list because it manages to be contemporary and mainstream at the same time as being original in its genre…and, of course, because it’s freaking catchy. That’s my main criteria.

 

#6 | Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky (2012, 9th in final)

Miss Miskovsky has penned songs for, among others, the Backstreet Boys – one of my many true loves – so it’s not surprising that I’m a fan of her own music. This effort from Melfest two years ago sounds nothing like a BSB chart-topper, but that makes it no less beautiful. It’s hauntingly so, if I may say so without sounding like a ponce. Whether that’s from the unusual instrumentation, her voice or a combo of both, I don’t know. I just love it. It’s a shame it didn’t do better in the final, but 2012 was a strong year, and Lisa didn’t have crab-dancing in her repertoire.

 

#5 | Aldrig Aldrig by Andreas Lundstedt (2012, DNQ)

Andreas did cheese as part of Six4One at Eurovision, and plenty of it as part of Alcazar (and what do you know? They’re doing it again in 2014!). When he donned a metallic dinner jacket and ventured on stage by himself, there was no cheese to be seen anywhere. Aldrig Aldrig was like the musical love child of Coldplay, Urban Symphony and Donny Montell, and I mean that in a positive way. It had symphony, claps possibly borrowed from the Friends theme song, a mod-disco beat, and, once again it was in Swedish, which instantly made it more exotic in my eyes. Andreas performed it like a boss, and I wouldn’t mind him doing it again some day if he ever manages to shake off those pesky bandmates of his. JKIDOLOVEALCAZARISWEAR!

 

#4 | Mystery by Dead By April (2012, 7th in final)

Am I a rock fan? Not really. Metal (if it ain’t Lordi)? Uh, no. How about songs that incorporate death growls? Forget about it! That was until Dead By April somehow won me over with the gentle verses and irresistible chorus that contrasted so nicely with the aforementioned screaming to form a cohesive piece of awesomeness. If that doesn’t make sense, it’s because I actually have no idea what it is about Mystery that I can’t get enough of – it really is a mystery. The massive crush I had on lead singer Zandro at the time may have played a part. Could it be another case of EMD syndrome?

 

#3 | Soldiers by Ulrik Munther (2012, 3rd in final)

2012 was a seriously amazing year for Melfest, standard-wise. Sweden’s answer to Peter Pan, Ulrik Munther, provided yet another example of that with the rousing, anthemic Soldiers, which I’m sure has won some sort of award for Best Use of a Harmonica. I don’t say this very often, but in this case it’s the lyrics that have a lot to do with how I feel about this song. They are flawless and meaningful, and don’t rhyme ‘love’ with ‘above’, or ‘heart’ with ‘apart’ or any of that cliché crap. It’s genius songwriting, is what it is. I also have a thing for the drumming, which is suitably militaristic and makes me want to march right into Neverland with Peter/Ulrik and play the harmonica for the rest of eternity. Kind of.

 

#2 | Kom by Timoteij (2010, 5th in final)

I’m yet to come across a person who didn’t at least like this a lot, so expect a great deal of criticism if you tell me Timoteij aren’t your cup of tea! The quartet and their respective instruments turned folk on its head by making it pop and making it dramatic. Everything they produce is in this vein and is epic, but Kom is the pinnacle to date. Just try getting that chorus and/or riff out of your head. The song won the OGAE Second Chance Contest in 2010 and made us all wonder what could have been, since things didn’t go so well for Anna Bergendahl.

 

 

Finally *drum roll*, my favourite Melodifestivalen entry of the past five years is…

 

#1 | You’re Out of My Life by Darin (2010, 4th in final)

Beating Timoteij in the 2010 final (despite qualifying below them in their semi) was Eurovision 2013 interval act and my favourite artist period, Darin. He did so with a ballad that gave me goosebumps on the first listen, and still does approximately 10 995 listens later. I’ll admit, the live performance didn’t have the exact impact of the studio version (that money note is a toughie) but it’s still magic as far as I’m concerned. I know hardly anyone will agree with me on this, but know that whichever songs give you the bumps probably wouldn’t do the same to me. YOOML is my personal stunner, and sometimes I do wish it had beaten Anna. And Salem. And Eric Saade. Man, 2010 RULED!

 

EBJ extras: the ones that just missed out…Keep On Walking by Salem Al Fakir (2010); Try Again by Dilba (2011); My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen (2011); Elektrisk by Anniela (2011); På Väg by Abalone Dots (2012); Why Am I Crying? by Molly Sandén (2012); Hello Goodbye by Erik Segerstedt & Tone Damli (2013).

 

So that’s that…what did you think? Do we have anything in common? Yay or nay, I think we can agree that this Saturday night is one to look forward to. In the latest Melodifestivalen final, one of ten songs will become a Eurovision entry, whilst the others will compete for places on lists like this one for years to come. You can still help me decide which one will come out on top by voting in the poll that I mentioned earlier, and have been bugging everyone on social media etc about for days now. Here it is!

You still have the power to change the results. You won’t win a prize if you do, but it may make you feel superior for a few minutes. #winning?

I’ll be back on Saturday with the final poll results, predictions and other (hopefully) entertaining stuff re: NF season. Takk for reading, and see you then!

EBJ Signature

 

Most-Played…random Europop

Good morning/afternoon/evening etc! I’ve finally recovered from my Christmas food coma and I’m ready to blog once again – no mean feat considering the overload of pudding that had me unable to lift my fingers to type a single word. I hope you guys had a great festive few days, with or without similar repercussions, and that Santa brought you some quality junk.

Today’s topic of discussion actually has nothing to do with Eurovision, although I can’t say I didn’t discover what you’ll read about as a result of my obsessive but totally healthy fixation.** It’s a most-played list of a different kind, factoring in my top songs from Europe that haven’t been sung on an ESC or NF stage. That’s the only rule, so let me know below which Europop-tastic tracks make your list.

 

* Okay, so maybe this ↓ has something to do with Eurovision. Just maybe.
* I think my New Year’s Resolution should be to stop writing such rambly, confusing introductions. 

 

#1 | Korabliki by BiS (Russia)

They may have split up – #sadface – but BiS are still the best thing to have come out of the Russian music industry after Dima Bilan and those adorable grannies. You’ll see quite a few songs from their first and last album Dvuhpolyarniy Mir (Two-Polar World) in this list, because I love it to pieces and play it constantly. Korabliki (Boats) has to be my favourite track. It’s ridiculously catchy and is accompanied by a pretty cool Pirates of the Caribbean-esque video in which the guys aren’t wearing a whole lot.  

#2 | Zasipay by BiS

#3 | Dvuhpolyarniy Mir by BiS

#4 | Zhivoy Tsvetok by BiS

#5 | J’aimerais Tellement by Jena Lee (France)

#6 | Pick Me Up by Emila de Poret (Sweden)

Swedish pop music is, not to generalise at all, amazing. This particular slice has more of an r & b feel than what we’re used to from our Melodifestivalen exposure, but the main reason I like it is the main reason I like the majority of entries in MF every year – yes, because it’s catchy. And believe me, it is great for performing in the shower using a shampoo bottle as a mike.

#7 | Stop! Stop! Stop! By Nu Virgos (Russia)

#8 | Pauza Povtor by BiS

#9 | Cry For You by September (Sweden)

#10 | L’Amore by Sonohra (Italy)

Brothers Diego and Luca won the youth section of the 2008 San Remo Song Festival with this piano/rock ballad, about *shock horror* love. It’s a much more mainstream-sounding song than the traditional Italian ballads that dominate that competition, and seems like something that would have been selected to go to Eurovision had Italy returned at that point. I reckon it could have done pretty well, too.

#11 | Money For Nothing by Darin (Sweden)

#12 | Pop-Korn by BiS

#13 | Vivi Per Un Miracolo by Gemelli Diversi (Italy)

#14 | Hurricane by Rebound (Sweden)

This could easily be an Eric Saade B-side, and like several of his singles and albums, it has topped the Swedish charts. It’s not deep or meaningful and the hurricane simile is kind of nonsensical, but it’s such danceable fun I couldn’t care less (in fact, I rarely care about that sort of thing when it comes to music). I defy you not to be singing along to the chorus by the time the last one rolls around.

#15 | Datascroller by Apparatjik (Denmark/Norway)

#16 | One In A Million by Bosson (Sweden)

#17 | Lovekiller by Darin

This is the title track from Swedish Idol runner-up Darin’s last album, which also featured his 2010 Melodifestivalen entry. It’s another album I’ve played over and over again due to its general awesomeness, which itself is due to this guy’s knack for writing very clever pop songs. Lovekiller is a builder, starting off simple and ending up walloping you in the face with strings and choruses and whatnot.  

#18 | Mr. Saxobeat by Alexandra Stan (Romania)

#19 | All This Way by Amanda Fondell (Sweden)

#20 | Dragostea Din Tei by O-ZONE (Moldova)

I think everyone knows this song, even if they don’t know who sings it, what it’s called or where it came from. Released in 2004, it was one of the most-downloaded songs of the year and had a heck of a lot of people saying ‘numa numa’ at inappropriate moments. If you’re not familiar with O-ZONE, you may not be aware that 1/3 of the band represented Moldova in Eurovision 2006 – that’s Arsenium (Arsenie Todiras) who together with Natalia Gordienko and Connect-R crashed and burned with one of the most hideous contest performances of all time. I guess he should’ve stuck to riding on the DDT fame wave.

 

I’ve showed you mine…show me yours?

 

NEXT TIME: Everybody has a few national finalists they wish had gone all the way. In my last post of 2012, you’ll find out which 10 I think should have been chosen for Eurovision, but missed out. 

 

Eurovision Challenge: Day 7

Favourite song from a national final (that should have gone to Eurovision)

Almost there:

Cara Mia by Måns Zelmerlow (Sweden 2007)

Zavet by Beauty Queens (Serbia 2008)

La Histeria by Marquess (Germany 2008)

Razborka by The Nicole (Sweden 2008)

Breathing by Bryan Rice (Denmark 2010)

You’re Out of My Life by Darin (Sweden 2010)

Or by Chen Aharoni (Israel 2011)

 

But my favourite is:

 Nada Es Comparable A Ti by Mirela (Spain 2009)

So her live vocal is a bit off. So what? The song itself is amazing, and wouldn’t have had to work hard to improve on Soraya’s result (her vocals, may I say, were not exactly worth writing home about). The studio version is one of the most listened to/spine-tingling moment tracks on my iPod. Mucho amor!

Listen to the studio version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ODdQ2A_l1Q&feature=related