‘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.
It’s Saturday once again, and you know what that means at this time of year: it’s an NF fest! Believe it or not, the five shows on tonight are nothing compared to some upcoming Saturdays (but more on that later). Here’s what’s happening in a few hours’ time:
- Estonia Eesti Laul, Semi Final 2
- Hungary A Dal, Heat 3
- Latvia Supernova, Heat 2
- Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, Heat 4
- Sweden Melodifestivalen, Semi Final 1
My focus today is Hungary and Sweden (apologies to everyone else, but a girl’s got to have priorities) so let’s get straight into it. As always, spill as much tea as you like in the comments re: songs/acts/results/predictions. I’m ready for it!
Time flies when a national final is as awesome as A Dal 2019…isn’t that what people say? There’s got to be some explanation for how we’ve arrived at the third and final Hungarian heat already. There are only six spots left in the semi finals, with ten acts hoping to take them.
- Holnap Bogi Nagy
- Az Én Apá Joci Pápai
- Maradj Még Kyra
- Hazavágyom Leander Kills
- Egyszer Mocsok 1 Kölykök
- Run Baby Run Monyo Project
- Help Me Out of Here Petruska
- Forró Ruby Harlem
- Barát Salvus
- Posztolj USNK
My two least favourite songs are listed above, which is a bummer (find out what they are here) but all is definitely not lost! I’ve been eagerly awaiting this heat for a few reasons, and the main one is spelled J-O-C-I P-Á-P-A-I.
Yes, the man who makes magic every time he opens his mouth is back for another crack at representing Hungary – and though it would be out of character for them to send the same person twice (András Kállay-Saunders is not amused), it’s not totally impossible. Or am I just biased because Origo is one of my favourite Eurovision entries ever and I love everything else that Joci has ever recorded? Check out my top picks from this heat and decide for yourself.
What do you know, I’m starting with Az Én Apam! Plot twist. This is my favourite song competing this evening, and though I’m not going to say it’s as amazing as Origo, it’s just as special and emotional – just in a more understated way. I’m praying for Hungary and the A Dal jury to support it, because if Joci goes the way of Olivér Berkes and gets knocked out immediately, HELL WILL HATH NO FURY LIKE THIS WOMAN SCORNED.
X Factor winners USNK are going gangbusters on YouTube with Posztolj (6.7 million views as I type this) which IMO is deserved for anything with ByeAlex’s name attached to it. The song style isn’t my usual “thing” at all but I love it here – the edginess and intensity of the sound against the social media-themed lyrics makes for a cool contrast. Hungary isn’t averse to rap (which I appreciate) and USNK obviously have public vote pulling power, so this seems like an obvious qualifier. Maybe too obvious…
Leander Kills are one of 2019’s many repeat NF offenders. Since they couldn’t win A Dal with Élet in 2017, they shouldn’t win with Hazavágyom. Having said that, however, they are in with a damn good chance and I would be able to get on board with them as AWS successors. There’s something joyful and unique about Hazavágyom that I like a lot, and I expect the live performance to match – and of course, to be as competent as yesyes were INcompetent (WHY GOD WHY?!?) last week.
Kyra is serving up some diva power-pop in the form of Maradj Meg, and I am here for it. I’m 50/50 on whether her performance will be as on-point as it needs to be or a car crash (or somewhere in-between) but I’ll think positive until she proves me otherwise.
My other two faves in this heat are Help Me Out of Here – the less infectious but still appealing sibling of Petruska’s last entry Trouble In My Mind – and Barát, with Salvus delivering a classic slice of Hungarian rock that will probably follow in the footsteps of A Remény Hídjai and Kulcs by qualifying.
Who’s going through?
I’ve got an okay success rate going for A Dal so far in terms of predictions – 4/6 correct guesses for both heat 1 and heat 2. But I wouldn’t mind going one (or two, ideally) better this week. With the risk of opting for the obvious, I’m thinking it will be Leander Kills, Joci Pápai, USNK, Petruska, Salvus and Mocsok 1 Kölykök (my debatable wildcard) who make it to the semi final stage. In other words, I suspect the girl power level will be very low once the results have come in. If there does happen to be some female fierceness in tonight’s top six, I believe it will be courtesy of Kyra.
That’s enough about Eastern Europe for now (no offence). It’s time to talk Scandinavia, specifically Sweden, and more specifically Melodifestivlalen!
Brace yourselves, people, because Melodifestivalen has hit its first destination for 2019: Göteborg! I’m going to spare you guys another questioning statement about how we can possibly be at this point in time again and how fast the months fly by, et cetera. The fact is that we are here again and I’M SO EXCITED. I hope you are too.
There are returnees aplenty taking part tonight, including two 2017 finalists and (of course) Anna Bergendahl, whose claim to ESC fame I’m not going to mention since I think it’s time to move on (even though it gives her the best comeback narrative of the year). Here they are in running order:
- Chasing Rivers Nano
- No Drama High15
- Not With Me Wiktoria
- Mina Bränder Zeana feat. Anis Don Demina
- Mina Fyra Årstider Arja Saijonmaa
- Hello Mohombi
- Ashes To Ashes Anna Bergendahl
On name value, this is not the most thrilling semi for me personally, but the first one is traditionally not supposed to be (Sweden/Christer Björkman believe in saving the best until last, or at least until later). Even so, I have managed to pluck out four favourite songs.
My top four
Hello, Hello! Mohombi is bringing his A-game to this semi and I am so keen to see him perform. There’s something about this song I get just from the teaser that suggests it could do more in the comp than a lot of fans expect it to. Factor in staging that echoes Måns Zelmerlöw’s for Heroes and you’ve got an entry worth watching out for.
Mina Bränder is the good old ‘Swedish-language radio pop song that Jaz likes but nobody else does’ á la Stark last year. As such I expect Zeana and Anis to crash out of this semi, but only after I have bopped along to their three minutes – especially the chorus, which has a strong scent of Melfest 2005 about it.
Neither Chasing Rivers nor Not With Me seem like they’re the best song their artist has competed with, but as expected both are strong. It’s particularly hard to get a feel for Chasing Rivers by only hearing a minute of it, but it has promise. Wiktoria is trotting out all the heartbreak clichés this time, but because Not With Me reminds me a lot of Isa’s I Will Wait and this is Wiktoria we’re talking about, I have to get behind it.
I know this is a top four, but I have to mention Anna’s Ashes To Ashes. It slips into my 5th place based on the jarring similes that make up the lyrics (like a this, like a that…it’s OTT for me, I’m afraid) but the melody is memorable and her voice is as distinctive as it was in 2010. Lycka till.
Who’s going direkt?
Nano and Anna Bergendahl. It’s hard to tell just how impactful Chasing Rivers will be from the snippet alone, but I think Nano is enough of a force to be reckoned with to place top two tonight…even if Hold On was too much to live up to. Anna might not get the fairytale ending at Friends Arena that she’s after, but I believe she will be there in March. I’ve seen her stage outfit and she deserves to win this semi based purely on how stunning it is.
And who’s off to Andra Chansen?
Wiktoria and Mohombi. If Wiktoria doesn’t go direkt, it’ll be her first time having to fight for a place in the final, but I have a feeling it’ll be her OR Nano to Friends straight away – not both. Mohombi is an artist I was excited about heading into this, but he took me by surprise with the vibe of Hello – I was expecting Bumpy Ride Part II (which wouldn’t have been a bad thing). He did win the rehearsal poll, and if he goes direkt I’ll be psyched…but it’s touch-and-go between the big players in this line-up.
Who do you think will advance to the final or to AC from this first Melfest 2019 semi? Place your (hypothetical) bets in the comments below!
Tel Aviv: Reactions from the week that was
It’s time for me to share my thoughts on what’s happened in the world of Eurovision 2019 since the last time I did the same thing. Three artist announcements and two songs await!
Austria Paenda has been decided as the artist who’ll attempt to top Austria’s surprise 3rd place from Lisbon. She’ll be singing the unreleased Limits, and somehow I’m getting the same feeling from the song title alone that I got from the likes of City Lights – like I just know it’s going to be good. As for Paenda herself…let’s hope she’s more successful than the last blue-haired competitor from that geographical region.
Czech Republic Barbara Mochowa had the voice and (to an extent) the song, but Lake Malawi have something extra – an element of fun and very questionable lyrics – that got them over the line to become the Czech entry for Tel Aviv. We might come to realise this was a mistake, but for me right now I’m pretty pleased about it. Let’s face it, anything that came after Mikolas Josef was going to be a letdown in some way. I would happily have him represent his country every year, particularly if he keeps bangers like Abu Dhabi coming.
Finland My beloved Robin may have turned the ESC ticket down, but world-famous DJ Darude did not. And so Finland brings us the DJ + vocalist combo that we got from Norway in 2017 and Poland in 2018. Fingers crossed Darude and Sebastian Rejman model themselves more after the former than the latter. They’ll present their three potential entries on March 2.
France Against all odds (by which I mean Seemone) Bilal Hassani is France’s chosen one, and I couldn’t be more excited for him – and for myself because Roi is a JAM. I loved his performance in the Destination Eurovision final and I’m glad it was the French public that got their way. Haters back off!
Malta The X Factor concluded with Michela Pace crowned champion and automatic ESC artist for Malta. There’s not much to say at this point other than yes, she can sing, so for Ira Losco’s sake give her a good song.
What’s next for NF season?
- 5/2-8/2 Italy (Sanremo Music Festival, Nights 1-4)
- 8/2 United Kingdom (You Decide, Final)
- 9/2 Australia (Australia Decides, Final), Hungary (A Dal, Semi Final 1), Iceland (Söngvakeppnin, Semi Final 1), Italy (Sanremo Music Festival, Final), Latvia (Supernova, Semi Final), Lithuania (Eurovizijos Atranka, Semi Final 1), Montenegro (Montevizija, Final), Sweden (Melodifestivalen, Semi Final 2), Ukraine (Vidbir, Semi Final 1)
- 10/2 Romania (Selecția Națională, Semi Final 2)
Next Saturday? HOLY CRAP. I’ll be over on the Gold Coast in the Australia Decides audience, so look out for me if you’re watching on TV or online. You’re welcome for the time difference that will allow you to watch our NF without missing any European ones.
Until next time (when I’ll review the Aussie songs and much more),