Right, the beginning of February! That usually means a truckload of semis and yet the only one we have written in stone on our calendar would be Melodifestivalen, getting preference over MGP’s & UMK’s anytime. But why exactly? Sure, this year would have that extra something as the Swedes have got a title to defend but in the meantime other broadcasters around Europe are finetuning their national selection and upgrading it to MF level. So why bother?
The answer is simple: MF is alive in Sweden, people love and talk about it and that is why we love it. The pitfall in this story is of course that the succesful formula that is MF can get a bit tiresome as it’s starting to look like we get the same recipe over and over again which makes the appetite disappear a bit. Or it could just be that we simply cannot put our finger on what the Swedes will or won’t select and we’re simply frustrated.
Anyhow, we’re at it again and I clearly wasn’t the only one to be surprised at how soon MF was here again: the first broadcast was filled with technical errors, from cameracrew being visible on screen over reruns without phone numbers to finalist’s reveal on screen when poor Gina Dirawi was still getting the tension going nicely in the arena. The technical crew had one too many coffee breaks it seems. This was all professionally erased come semi 2, as one would expect from SVT. The show’s still so well put together it puts a lot of countries to shame (hallo, RTBF & VRT?!?!).
Not entirely due to the presenter this year I have to say. In past years I usually loved the duo or trio leading the circus, even though I had some frowns at the ready for the occasional singer joining (Marie S., Måns Z. – with Sarah D-F. as exception of course), but this year I’m rather underwhelmed and that’s all due to Danny, challenging Dima Bilan when it comes to having the biggest ego in the universe of Eurovision. The countless references to his silver medal last year are only slightly irritating, the many attempts to flatter the blonde stud simply pathetic – the interval act in semi 1 as a highlight, however cleverly put together it may have been. Just start presenting and leave your ego at the door please. And Gina Dirawi: still love you.
Musically we got exactly what we expected in semi 1 & 2: a very diverse menu, which I presume either confused the voters to pieces or made their choice easy as hell.
In semi 1 we were slightly confused ourselves, being bombarded with some peculiar choices. The ode to Paris we got from Jay-Jay Johanson sounded very Björkesque, but we did wonder why he went for Paris instead of (just thinking out loud here) Stockholm for a change and why that insipid key change had to be included. And the combination of Ingeborg & our own princess Mathilde that is Anna Järvinnen left us slightly flabbergasted with her well sung fragile ballad. Not to mention the cheery African influences in the ode to Shakira we got from Mary N’diaye. But no, nobody can pull an Av Ugglas like Av Ugglas and there were other, more traditional formulas to vote for. Like the Coldplay-light we got from Eric Gadd. Or the umpth attempt by the inevitable Fredrik Kempe that was screamed to Andra Chansen by Bananarama-gone-bad Cookies’n Beans. The finalists in semi 1 are undisputed however. Young David Lindgren is back for revenge and, like his compadres Eric Saade and Danny, he managed to make voters like his new attempt rather than having them longing for his previous one. I for one especially liked the visual tricks on screen, I wonder if SVT is rehearsing those for ESC itself. Will Lindgren win in Stockholm? To early to tell, but maybe his attempt isn’t fresh enough (anymore). Unlike what we got from YOHIO, a skinny androgynous being that looked like it got transported straight from an animé feature. And it seems he/she is indeed Big In Japan, which I can imagine as Japanese are simply nuts for this kind of freaky stuff. Not that we got something freaky on a musical level, his/her song sounded like it escaped from the back catalogue of Europe. But the overall concept worked, his/her voice and way of singing came as a surprise and his/her look is rather overwhelming. We’ll just have to wait and see if the effect of Japandrogeny will wear off come the final.
Semi 2 had the same routine in store: 7 completely different genres battle it out for Stockholm. Not that Anton Ewald sounded unfamiliar as he picked up where David Lindgren left off, be it with less live vocals (cheat!) and a slightly less slick routine. Felicia Olsson on the other hand sounded like a light version of Adele (which is giving her way too much credit, I do realise) and provided us with a bit of James Bond meets Anna Bergendahl, while troubadour Joacim Cans choked on the more adventurous parts of his springy song.
And just when we wondered where that good old powerschlager was we got a double portion of it from Swedish House Wives (what’s in a name), strutting their stuff all over the place. great verses but rather cliché chorus, and those solo parts were not all that. Still, it’s a mystery to me why this didn’t do anything while the likes of Carola (even if that was 2006) or Sanna Nielsen (more recently) only have to click their fingers and make the final. I’d rather have had SWH move on to Andra Chansen than the sugersweet duo Erik Segerstedt & Tone Damli, standing so close together it got a rather comical effect. So beige in song, vocal rendidtion and performance: I yawn.
Didn’t yawn @ the Banan – I rather rolled my eyes, accompagnied by a heavy sigh and a whispered “you have got to be FUCKING joking”. Last year was enough of a joke for me and I was happy to see Sean Banan fail the way he did but alas he’s back with a vengeance and the worst part is Sweden lets him. I’m crossing fingers he won’t doanything of importance in the final and Sweden just let him have this one. But I am gladly repeating I simply cannot wait for the day when this kind of joke entry no longer find its place in the world of Eurovision.
Luckily we got some Yang for Banan’s Yin and we’ve got the fantastic Louise Hoffsten to thank for it. A bit of countrypop me likey, especially with a heartfelt harmonica solo somewhere near the end, so this is straight up my alley. Written by members of the team behind Azerbaijan 2011 & 2012 (there are worse references) but completely tailored for miss Hoffsten this song with a message went for the ‘simple but effective’ tactic and by Shivah did it succeed. The message was wrapped in a funny way, never heard a reference to dead fish in a song and we got that aplenty here, but it still hit the mark and the fact that miss Hoffsten is an MS patient makes this all the more effective. My hat off to you, dear Louise. So now I’m rooting for dead fish for Malmö. Anyone who’d have told me that beforehand would have been slapped with a trout.
Curious to see what semi 3 & 4 will bring. More of the same but different in sorta the same but neatly wrapped with a bow and a keychange? Probably. Such fun!