How much more, I hear you ask? Well, including the abovementioned Dansk Melodi Grand Prix and Melodifestivalen shows, there are TEN different semis and finals taking place tonight. TEN, I TELL YOU! *hyperventilates into a paper bag*.
In less than 24 hours, there’ll be two more entries to add to the existing Eurovision 2016 pile – plus one from Italy that may or may not accompany its performer to Stockholm (since 2011, Italy’s chosen artist has held on to their SanRemo song for ESC purposes more often than not. But never forget Nina Zilli). There’ll also be numerous qualifiers and non-qualifiers crying across the continent, either out of happiness or total devastation. What fun!
Here’s a rundown of le madness:
- Estonia’s Eesti Laul – the first semi final
- Denmark’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix – the final
- Finland’s UMK – the second semi final
- Hungary’s A Dal – the first semi final
- Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin – the second semi final
- Italy’s SanRemo Music Festival – the final
- Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – the sixth show (meaning there’s only fifty-seven to go!)
- Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the second semi final
- Switzerland’s Die Entscheidungsshow – the final
- Ukraine’s Still Irritatingly Untitled Selection Process (seriously, what are they calling it in the Ukrainian TV guide?) – the second semi final
I’ll leave the faster-moving, more ambitious and generally less lazy Eurovision bloggers to cover each and every event, while I focus on a) Austria’s freshly-picked entry from Friday night; b) the delights of DMGP; c) Ukraine’s televised battle for the final, final positions; and…um…am I forgetting something?
Oh, yeah. MELFEST!!!
Saving the best for last, and beginning with the letter ‘A’ for Austria, I’m going to get cracking.
AUSTRIA: Wer singt für Österreich? Mon ami, it’s Zoë!
I’ll be straight with you (although there’s nothing wrong with being wonky from time to time) – Austria was not on my NF radar this season. As a working woman, I’m time poor (but not financially poor, which is nice) and only set aside time for the NFs that I’m certain are worth sticking with from start to finish. Unfortunately, Austria’s WSFO didn’t fall into that category.
I hadn’t listened to any of the competing songs prior to last night’s final, and as of this very moment in which I’m typing this sentence, I haven’t listened to the song that is off to Stockholm – Zoë’s Loin D’ici (of COURSE the Austrian entry is in French. How predictable. #sarcasm). I’m about to, though, and you’ll be witness to my first impression of it. My hopes aren’t high, seeing as I wasn’t a fan of Zoë’s 2015 entries…but then again., Austria must be keen to keep themselves as far away from the nul-point zone as possible in 2016, right?
Not that much effort is required to do that. Anyway, I’ll BRB. It’s Loin D’ici listening time!
Hit the ‘Mute’ button, and this is all very pretty and magical and ESC 2013 Zlata-esque, if Zlata had been the bride at a woodland-themed wedding held in a 24-hour-gym (that’s my on-stage treadmill reference, by the way). Turn the sound on, and the location of the wedding abruptly switches to a Parisian nightclub circa 1995 – and I’m not interested in attending, even if there’s an open bar and a bevy of hot groomsmen.
To travel from Rise Like A Phoenix to this in two years is a bit of a fail on Austria’s part. And the most irritating thing is that, had Loin D’ici been in ballad form rather than trashy, tacky Eurodance form, I wouldn’t be bitching about it like this at all. One mistake of the song constructional kind, and I’m afraid it’s another nul point-score from me. Well, perhaps I’d give the melody and performance a little something. But this is 2016, and the fact that this song makes Ooh Aah, Just A Little Bit sound cutting-edge makes me kind of mad.
But that was a first impression, guys. Give it a month or so, then get back to me.
Let’s move on to something exponentially more appealing at the moment.
DENMARK: Will they win Eurovision again (again) on Swedish soil?
Don’t hold me to this, but…at this point, I think they’re in with a decent chance. Eurovision 2015 saw Denmark mortified on an international stage after they failed to qualify for the first time since 2007. Off the back of that embarrassment, they’ve lifted their pre-Eurovision game via a line-up of ten songs that range in quality from good (at worst) to fantastic (at best).
This is the first time in forever that I’ve been excited about DMGP – I’m practically peeing my pants at the prospect of the Danes taking their pick (practically…not actually, mind you). I could ramble on about how top-notch their options are until the credits roll on Eurovision 2050, but instead, I’ll get on with some reviewing, ranking and predicting. I’m pretty sure that’s what you came here for.
Tonight’s programme is as follows:
- Rays of Sunlight by David Jay
- Heart Shaped Hole by Simone
- Breakaway by Bracelet
- Blue Horizon by Sophia Nohr
- The Wrong Kind by Veronicas Illusion
- Soldiers of Love by Lighthouse X
- Who Needs A Heart by Kristel Lisberg
- Break It Good by Jessica
- To Stjerner by Muri & Mario
- Never Alone by Anja Nissen
I never thought I’d say this, but I CAN’T EVEN when it comes to how great this final is. It’s on par with a Melodifestivalen final, for Emmelie de Forest’s sake! Those of you who think I’m exaggerating are wrong. Or have differing musical tastes. One of the two.
It was a tough task for me to narrow these ten down to a top three (a Superfinal Á La Jaz), but I struggled through just for you. #knightmealready.
- Heart Shaped Hole This is Simone’s third DMGP entry, and if the stars align, it could be third time lucky for her. This song is INCREDIBLE. A dynamic, spine-tingling and completely contemporary ballad, it’s like a musical marriage between Sia’s Chandelier and Helena Paparizou’s Survivor – and it’s a marriage that will definitely not end in divorce. It could, if I may be so bold/stupid to make an outrageous prediction, end in a Eurovision win. You (might have) heard it here first.
- To Stjerner My boat is a-floating whenever this song comes on. Danish-language R & B is a distinctive genre that always draws me in, and as such, Muri & Mario have scribbled their way into my affections. I get serious Drake vibes here – Hold On, We’re Going Home is the key touchstone – and that’s all part of the charm. In a crazy, Simone-less parallel universe, I’d be begging Denmark to select this.
- Never Alone Despite Anja being an Aussie, I don’t want to enjoy this, as an Emmelie de Forest non-fan (in case you weren’t aware, Emmelie co-wrote Never Alone and performed it herself live a bazillion times, which almost got Anja booted from the competition). But it’s pretty darn good at the end of the day. I do think the title is overused in the lyrics – there are other words besides those two, de Forest. But I will begrudgingly admit that this is a DMGP danger.
That’s my terrific trio singled out, but for the record, I also love Breakaway, The Wrong Kind and Soldiers of Love. Heart Shaped Hole and Never Alone are the frontrunners heading into the comp, meaning DMGP should be re-titled ‘The Battle of the Blondes’ for 2016. But which blonde, if any, do I want to out-blonde the other blonde? And who’s the most likely winner? Let’s have a prediction session and see.
Who SHOULD win If Denmark want to qualify comfortably and probably finish on the left side of the Stockholm scoreboard, they should tell us all that we’re never alone approximately a hundred times in three minutes by sending Anja. However, if they want to win Eurovision for the third time on Swedish soil since 2000 – and make us all forget about the Anti Social Media Incident – there’s only one choice to be made. One choice, and three words: Heart Shaped Hole. If it’s not an ESC winner, it can easily pull an Undo and push the Danes onto the podium. That’s assuming that Simone, having ditched the distracting dance moves from the Stay Awake days, is vocally up to the task here and now. Anja, THE voice of Australia, will deliver in that department – so I think a lot depends on Simone’s performance tonight (including my will to wave a Danish flag i Globen).
Who WILL win If the scoring was based on views of the official preview videos, Simone would be victorious, followed by Anja, with Muri & Mario coming in third (poor David Jay hasn’t had much attention at all as the least-viewed act. I think we can safely say he won’t be jetting off to Stockholm, unless he’s coincidentally planning a holiday there in May). But it’s not. A combo of televoting and jury voting will determine the top three of the ten, and from there, it’s the power of the public in play. With that in mind, I’d put my krone on the superfinal consisting of Simone, Anja, and either Veronicas Illusion or Lighthouse X. The juries will adore Anja, and Simone if her vocals are up to par. I can’t see them rating Muri & Mario too highly, although I would like to see the pair make it to that final stage. Bracelet would be my outside pick for a superfinal spot. When three – whichever three it may be – become one, I suspect that one will be Anja, as Simone carries more risk in terms of performance and positioning. But that Battle of the Blondes is going to be a fierce one, so don’t count your Scandi superstars before they succeed (or not). In the left-hand corner, we have the two-time super finalist who’s gone from strength to strength and wants the victory more than ever before on her third try. In the right, it’s the Aussie reality TV champ who boasts powerful pipes and a songwriting team feat. a Eurovision winner. Unless they form a last-minute duet and perform You’re Never Alone Even Though You Have A Heart Shaped Hole (Tee Hee), someone has to lose. Sadface.
Okay, that’s enough rambling re: Denmark. I’ll just close with a PSA: For every occasion on which Simone doesn’t win with a stunning ballad (basically, just this one) a part of Jaz dies. Save the Jaz. Vote Simone.
UKRAINE: Three more acts to follow in the footsteps of Jamala, The Hardkiss and Brunettes Shoot Blondes tonight!
Three more, and that’s it. Ukraine’s six-strong final takes place next weekend, and it’s already half-full of epic music. Jamala won the first semi by a landslide with 1944, and having listened to what’s on offer this week, I reckon she’s a shoo-in to win the whole NF. So I guess the qualifiers of this second semi can fight The Hardkiss and BSB for the silver medal.
- Vse v Tobi by Arkadiy Voytyuk
- Crown by Alloise
- Anime by Japanda
- Higher by NuAngels
- We Do Change by Pur:Pur
- Last Hope by Peaks of Kings
- Overload by Viktoria Petryk
- Easy To Love by Pringlez
- Love Manifest by SunSay
This is certainly a weaker semi than the first, but Ukraine have kept the word ‘interesting’ in our vocabularies this week. Here are the three songs that interested me the most:
- Higher It’s always nice when an act changes things up music-wise, rather than trying to replicate their previous almost-win using the same sort of song – and that’s exactly what NuAngels have done with their Courageous follow-up. There’s a powerful gospel feel to Higher, and the fast-paced Rudimental-type beat keeps the energy up throughout. All in all, there’s a lot to like here.
- Love Manifest I’ve completely forgotten what this sounded like, but I know I rather liked it when I was journeying through the nine yesterday. I guess I can’t say it’s memorable, though.
- Overload This is the kind of song I was expecting NuAngels to produce for their comeback track. If they had, it would have been a little more bad-ass. But, even though I think Viktoria can do better than Overload, it does do its job as a dance banger quite well. Not well enough for a promotion to Eurovision, but possibly for a pass through to next Sunday’s final.
I don’t think my personal top three will be mirrored by the actual top three – that kind of thing only happens once every five years or so. On that note…
Which three acts will take the last three tickets to the final? I’m going to keep this short (to compensate for the length of the rest of this post) and say Japanda, NuAngels and Pringlez. If Ukraine is turned off by a band name that sounds like stretchy jelly wrist wear for tween girls, Pringlez may be out, allowing Pur:Pur or Viktoria to slip in.
If you’ve given all the Scandi stuff the flick tonight in order to tune in to the Ukrainian semi, let me know which acts are your favourites, and who you’re tipping for the win.
SWEDEN: Melfest moves on Malmö for semi final number två!
Last week in Göteborg, Sweden scored two top-notch finalists in the form of Ace Wilder and Robin Bengtsson. The rest of the field had its weaknesses, and I expected this second semi to emphasise that even more. Made up of returnees, a former Finnish ESC rep and a couple of fresh faces, it’s a tough and terrific heat on paper…but how about blasting out of a sound system, or when sung on the traveling Melfest stage?
- We Are Your Tomorrow by David Lindgren
- 100% by Victor och Natten
- Hunger by Molly Pettersson Hammar
- I Will Wait by Isa
- Faller by Krista Siegfrids
- Håll Mitt Hjärta Hårt by Patrik Isaksson, Tommy Nilsson & Uno Svenningsson
- Save Me by Wiktoria
The latter will be revealed in a few hours’ time. To my ears, though, having just given the almost-full studio versions of tonight’s tracks a listen, I wouldn’t say it’s a stronger semi than the previous. But there are highlights, and here are mine!
My top 4 100%, Hunger, I Will Wait and Save Me. Swedish + rap = good times as far as I’m concerned. Victor och Natten’s debut is sunny and catchy. Molly PH has sacrificed some 2015 soul for a more mod sound, and it works for her. Hunger is a bit repetitive, but it should allow her voice to shine and make a decent sales pitch to get her somewhere. Isa, too, has changed lanes (and hair colours), rendering her almost unrecognisable as the Don’t Stop girl. She’d better watch out if she ends up singing in the final alongside Molly Sandén, but in the meantime, if she can deliver the vocal I Will Wait deserves, she’s got a great chance of going direkt. Wiktoria is taking control of the country reins after Mimi Werner’s failure to qualify last week, but will she do any better? I hope so, because Save Me>Ain’t No Good.
Who’s going direkt? This is so hard to predict until you’ve seen the performances and songs come together in their entirety. But as I didn’t stuff up my guesses too badly in Week 1, I’ll soldier on and give it another go. It’s Isa and Wiktoria till final in my opinion. Girl power!
Who’s off to Andra Chansen? There are three or four acts who could easily end up fighting for an AC spot. David Lindgren and Molly PH are two of them. Krista is another, but I’m not sure if her brand of 2016 schlager is impressive enough to surpass 5th place. My uncertainty means I’m sticking with David and Molly for Andra.
How about you? Are you uncertain, or do you think you’ve got a Melfest prediction worthy of putting money on? Share the love in the comments.
Once again, it’s time for my pre-NF nap, so I’m going to have to bid you farewell. I wish you a happy weekend of viewing (because the craziness doesn’t stop this evening…it carries on through to Monday, thanks Latvia and Georgia). May the songs you want to win be triumphant, unless they’re not the songs I want to win. Selection season ‘tis the season to be selfish, and then complain when said selfishness doesn’t pay off.
Until next time…
Hallå, och välkommen till…um…nope, still not quite at the point where I can string together an entire introduction i Svenska. But I’ll get there. Possessing such a skill would have been ultra-appropriate today, though, given the subject matter of this post. There’s no need for me to explain it to you – the title tells you everything you need to know. Well, apart from one or two or three teeny tiny things:
- Melodifestivalen is far and away my favourite pre-ESC national final (which may be cliché, but I don’t give a crap) so I’ll take any opportunity to celebrate its sheer sensational-ness. I’ve never posted a Melfest ranking before, so with that in mind – plus the fact that the 2016 edition of the show is creeping ever closer – I’m considering this window of time before NF season crazy-time begins as an opportunity more golden than Herreys’ shiny boots.
- I realise that a Top 50 of Melfest spanning 1959 (the year of its inception) to present would have been more spectacular, but there’s just so much magnificent music to choose from, even limiting myself to the last ten years was a challenge. Besides, I’m far more familiar with the entries from 2006 onwards – i.e. the year I discovered the definitions of ‘Eurovision’ and ‘national finals’. You can, however, expect a more vintage view of the comp in the future.
- There are a lot of entries from the last two/three years of Melfest in this first installment of the countdown, but I can assure you that trend does not (completely) continue in the #30-11 and Top 10 episodes. Just FYI.
Now, with that trio of housekeeping points taken care of, let’s get started! I’ve embedded some videos of the listed tracks below, but if you want to see and watch them all in one place, check out this playlist.
Sverige (and everywhere else)…vi har ett resultat.
Well, some of it, anyway.
#50 | Jag Är Fri (Manne Leam Frijje) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren (2015) No, I’m not joiking. As much as I love the standard Scandipop fare Melfest predominantly serves up, it was refreshing to have something on the NF’s most recent programme that managed to be super-Swedish without *Googles the songwriters just in case* having Thomas G:son’s name attached to it. Jag Är Fri could be the theme song for a tourist campaign urging us all to visit Lapland – and it totally works on me. I wonder if I could squeeze in a side trip while I’m i Sverige?
#49 | På Väg by Abalone Dots (2012)
#48 | Don’t Stop Believing by Mariette (2015) If it hadn’t been for the extremely predictable lyrics peppering this track from Mariette – and the presence of Måns + Stick Måns in Melfest 2015, of course – I’d have happily said ‘Si!’ to Sweden sending a cool, contemporary ballad-but-not-quite kind of pop song to Vienna. My favourite thing about this is how dynamic and drama-packed it is, without ever being OTT. It’s got a great melody, and overall, isn’t half as cheesy as you might expect a song called Don’t Stop Believing to be.
#47 | Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah (2015)
#46 | Stay The Night by Alcazar (2009) It’d practically be illegal to put together a list like this and NOT include Alcazar, unless you’re the President of the Anti-Schlager Society. Now, I’m not exactly heading up the Pro-Schlager Party, but I’ve always found Alcazar’s sound-alike Melfest entries to be infectiously irresistible. Stay The Night (the superior version of 2014’s Blame It On The Disco) is so textbook, you could sing it in your sleep even if you’d heard a minute-long snippet and nothing more. But there’s a certain appeal in such familiarity…and in that freaking catchy chorus.
#45 | Stormande Hav by Timoteij (2012)
#44 | Begging by Anton Ewald (2013) One of several surprise successes of Melodifestivalen 2013 (both Anton and Robin Stjernberg failed to qualify direkt til final, only to emerge victorious from Andra Chansen and finish 4th and 1st respectively), Begging became a big success in the Swedish charts too, and I understand why. Produced to perfection and not as derivative as your average dance track, it’s a frantically-paced club banger that I think holds its own without Anton busting many a move to add interest – partly because in studio, his vocals don’t suffer for the sake of enthusiastic pelvic thrusting. Forget about his comeback track Natural (although I personally liked that too)…it was during his debut as a frontman that he had the best musical weapon at his disposal.
#43 | Hello Goodbye by Erik Segerstedt & Tone Damli (2013)
#42 | Sean Den Förste Banan by Sean Banan (2012) GUILTY PLEASURE ALERT. I never wanted to enjoy this – even considering my crappy taste in movies and books, it should have been too low-brow for me – but what can I say? I’m easily swayed by an ear worm, and SDFB is nothing if not one heck of an ear worm. Also, bananas are my favourite fruit, and Sean has a penchant for them too, so…there’s that.
#41 | Falling by State of Drama (2013)
#40 | För Din Skull by Kalle Johansson (2015) The pre-comp Svensktoppen Nästa winners always get a raw deal in Melfest, methinks – never advancing anywhere (they’re lucky if they don’t come last in their semis). Still, I’m always a fan of their entries, and Kalle’s is no exception because it is adorable, dammit. Retro-flavoured pop doesn’t always float my boat, but För Din Skull (For Your Sake) is tinged, rather than soaked, with a slightly Sixties flavour, which lends itself very well to the Swedish language. I also really like the sound of Kalle’s voice, so all in all, this entry is sounding good, sugar (to me, at least).
#39 | I’ll Be Fine by Molly Pettersson Hammar (2015)
#38 | Bröder by Linus Svenning (2014) Before he informed us that Forever Starts Today, Linus proved that you don’t have to opt for a ballad if you want to move people – move them straight to the nearest box of tissues, in this case. Written for him by Fredrik Kempe about the death of Linus’ brother (hence the title), Bröder is far more rocky than most tributes to a lost loved one. It does start out in ballad territory, giving you a chance to notice how pretty the melody is, before upping the ante and turning hard(er)core. I loved Bröder from the first listen, felt the emotion behind it, and practically jumped for joy when it scored a second chance and made it to the 2014 final.
#37 | Around The World by Dr Alban feat. Jessica Folcker (2014)
#36 | Möt Mig I Gamla Stan by Magnus Carlsson (2015) A year ago, I would NEVER have considered including this song in my top fifty. After all, it was Magnus “I Can’t Feel My Face (Because of all the Botox)” Carlsson crashing Melfest yet again, with yet another been-there-heard -that schlager number. All of those things remain true, but the song has wormed its way into my brain and affections over time. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly superficial, all I want out of my music is a catchy tune. On that, Möt Mig I Gamla Stan delivers, and y’all can bet I’ll be singing the shiz out of it when I’m actually wandering around Gamla Stan.
#35 | Red by EKO (2014)
#34 | One By One by Elize Ryd & Rickard Söderberg (2015) Robbed of a place in Andra Chansen last year (IMO), this poperatic confection worked to a degree I didn’t expect. Sure, Rickard comes off a little too showy to be taken seriously at times, but Elize’s vocal saves the day, and the two do manage to mesh for the most part. One By One itself has a nice mix of light and shade, verses that are as interesting as the choruses, and a show-stopping money note from Rickard, prior to chorus no. 2, which gives me goosebumps.
#33 | Living To Die by Andreas Johnson (2015)
#32 | Yes We Can by Oscar Zia (2014) High School Musical met Melodifestivalen two years ago, when Oscar followed up his backing-singer-for-Behrang-Miri gig with a song about dancing in his underwear. Well, it was about other stuff too, but that was mentioned – and since it was okay for Lena to divulge the deets of her knickers to millions, I say it was okay for Oscar too. I feel like this entry is a rare one to fangirl over, but if I am one of just a few who’d say yes to Yes We Can, then so be it. This song’s epic! It packs a punch, it’s fun to sing along to…you can really let your hair down and rock out to it. And it reminds me of summer, making it a summer anthem, which automatically makes it awesome.
#31 | Euphoria by Loreen (2012)
Talk about ending on a (euphoric) high! Although, if you’re a massive Loreen fan, you might think seeing her ranked outside of the Top 10 is the lowliest of lows. In that case, don’t worry, because she might just crop up again in the countdown *insert mysterious, cliffhanger-type music here*.
I hope you enjoyed this supersized serving of Scandipop, with some Scandirock and Scandiotherstuff thrown in for good measure, even if you disagreed with some/all of my choices. Once again, here’s the full playlist:
Now’s the time for you to post your own #31-#50, or simply have your say on my song selections, in the comments below. Go on…do it for Christer Björkman.
I’ll be back in a few days’ time with more Melfest goodness – specifically, unveiling the Top 50 from #30 through to #11. As Anton Ewald would (probably) say, I’m begging *pelvic thrust* you to drop by and count them down with me!