February’s here and that means SVT is ready for another round of the party that is Melodifestivalen. Europe’s largest selection for Eurovision is upon us again and boy will we have known it. After an impressive internet campaign with a real trailer and an online MF for the most popular songs that failed to reach the final in the last decade the Real Thing started yesterday. And that’s how producer Christer Björkman and his team try to sell MF this year: as the show case for the Swedish music scene. Ambitious or pompous? We’ll know it in a few weeks time.
The first semi played the game by the book anyway with 8 songs in very different genres, a fact the three female hosts came back on quite a few times. It all seemed to have a bit of a more serious perspective than in previous years with a rather businesslike start of the show and the absence of introduction movies with a scenario – instead we got an overview of the participants’ resume while they made their way to the stage. Easy accessible in other words, without too much fuss and the reason behind it all was revealed during the interval act. With the underplaying title “Not only a party for homosexuals” the three hosts made it clear in a very witty way that this was a show for every single person in Sweden: young and old, white and less white, blonde and not so blonde – insert other obvious references. Dipped in a bucket of humor and covered by a layer of glitter it prevented the pink community to feel insulted as the message was very clear: arm in arm, all for one and one for all. Mission accomplished, this queen thought it was a marvellous take on things and laughed his proverbal ‘rumpa’ off. Take a look yourself here!
But back to business: were the selected songs as representative for the music business as SVT promised they would be? In other words: would they be able to survive outside the Eurovision bubble? A question that becomes more and more relevant in any national selection and with a mission statement like that certainly in MF. The answer is as of yet unclear because last night’s mix of styles leaves a couple of questions unanswered.
Sean Banan got to do the kick-off and I suspect only the Swedes, with a background knowledge of this still-in-puberty lad and his rather specific sense of humor, were able to savor this the way mr. Banan intended it. Us poor foreigners were left to judge this on musical and vocal merit and then only the electroschlager chorus was somewhat convincing. My personal favorite was the melancholic countrypop from Abalone Dots but it was all too clear this wasn’t nearly instant enough, in musicality or lyrical feel, to have a decent impact. The Moniker was back for revenge, a situation we’ve seen before in MF by artists who do well a certain year and much like those predecessors they got ahead of themselves and fell flat on their faces. Too arty farty for their own good, even though I do like their take on melodic pop. The Afro-Dite trio was back as well, ten years after their victory, and they still packed the same disco sound. Well sung and a sure party starter but it really is too been-there-done-that to shake any of our worlds I fear. Much unlike the Linkin Park rock we got from the boys of Dead By April! That impressive roaring by Jimmie Strimell blew me away and while it may not be the most attractive sound it surely sticks. Too bad the lead singer couldn’t keep up when it comes to impact and the song itself isn’t all too memorable either. But contemporary, yes. Something pop princess Marie Serneholt tried to be as well but her Satellite copy lacked a bit of spice, something she claimed to want herself – how ironic. A bit of personality please! Something actor-director-musician Thorsten Flinck certainly doesn’t lack. I imagine he can go overboard quite quickly but he hit the nail on the head in his theatrical rendition of the dramatic Jag reser mig igen – as if he was the Swedish version of Nick Cave. Intriguing but perhaps a tad too specific for the Eurovision bubble? Definitely happy too see him, and a surprising G:son, think outside the box.
That’s what Loreen did as well in her performance. Much like The Moniker she was back for revenge but she dosed her quirkiness and made the entire concept work, even though it was a tad too artistic for her own good. It made her somewhat flat dance song interesting though but it start-stopped one time too many for my liking. And a bit of practice on pronunciation wouldn’t hurt her chances me thinks.
Not an overwhelming start but I’ll save my judgement for the final – just curious to see if Björkman and his team are able to live up to their promise. Judging by yesterday’s finalists I’d say the Swedish televoter is playing along nicely.