ESC 2010 Reviews: Sweden
Out of the nearly fifty different nations that have taken part in Eurovision over the years, it’s hard to imagine a country taking the contest as seriously as Sweden has. They’ve entered 49 songs, and have won a total of four times (not to mention one silver and four bronzes). Over one third of their entries have taken a Top Five placing. Their preselection, Melodifestivalen, is viewed by nearly four million Swedes yearly, one of the most popular programs of the year. They do NOT mess around with the ESC.
And why would they? They’ve got a great record in the contest, and an even better reputation. They entered Eurovision in 1958, and despite a few shaky early entries, they quickly found their place. Their 1966 song (complete with one mouthful of a title), “Nygammal vals (Hip man svinaherde)/New-Old Waltz (The Hip Swineherd)” performed by Lill Lindfors and Svante Thuresson, blended jazz into an old Swedish folktale about a princess who switched places with a pig breeder. They took a well-deserved second place to Austria that year.
It was in 1974, however, that Sweden claimed its rightful spot as King of Eurovision. After a few years of attempting to win Melodifestivalen, a little-known quartet from Stockholm finally hit it big with a song referencing Napoleon.
ABBA’s “Waterloo” hit #1 in the singles charts all throughout Europe (even in the United Kingdom, which gave no points to the song on ESC night!), and it charted in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). During Eurovision’s 50th Anniversary Special a few years back, it was rated the Best Eurovision song of all time, beating classics like “Volare”, “Diva”, and “Eres Tú”.
Sweden’s other victories followed the same sort of formula as “Waterloo”; upbeat pop numbers that drill themselves into your cerebral cortex like a Dremel. Their 1984 victory, “Diggi-Loo, Diggi-Ley (I’m not going to even bother translating this one…)” took three strapping blond brothers, put them in golden shoes, gave them choreography and a nonsensical chorus, and they walked out with a victory.
Carola’s “Fångad av en Stormvind (Captured by a Stormwind)” was a perfect piece of early-nineties sugary pop, complete with vocal acrobatics, a key change, and a wind machine. Carola was no stranger to the ESC stage; she came in third back in 1983 with “Främling (Stranger)”, and she returned in 2006 with “Invincible“, scoring a fifth place finish. She’s the Queen of Schlager, and the world of Eurovision tends to bow to her supremacy and hyperactive vibrato.
Another repeat player in Melodifestivalen and Eurovision is Charlotte Perelli (née Nilsson), who won Sweden’s most recent title, with 1999’s “Take Me To Your Heaven“. She came back two years ago with “Hero“, my friend Slaviša’s favorite song from that year. I didn’t love this song, honestly, until recently, when I heard an great mix between “Hero” and Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face”. (This is one of many reasons why I love YouTube so very much…)
Last year, Sweden decided to go for Popera. Melodifestivalen selected Uppsala mezzo-soprano Malena Ernmann to sing “La Voix“, a complete departure from Sweden’s normal schlager-pop (but Malena’s facial expressions are priceless in the performance video!). Sadly, like entries from the past few years, it failed to crack the Top Ten!
Albania is typically the first nation to select their song, with late December’s Festivali i Këngës. Sweden, however, is traditionally the last country to announce their song. This gives them enough time for the audience to familiarize themselves with the songs (many of which become local smash hits), but I think that a side affect of this is that Swedish voters are able to see what’s en vogue with other countries. Like Belgium’s Tom Dice, and Cyprus’s Jon Lilygreen, Sweden will be sending a young singer-songwriter with a guitar. Like Malta’s Thea Garrett, Portugal’s Filipa Azevedo, Georgia’s Sophia Nizharadze, and Latvia’s Aisha, the singer will be a single female, singing an introspective ballad. Blend all of the songs together, and what do we have?
Anna Bergendahl is only eighteen years old and will be performing “This Is My Life” in her trademark red Chuck Taylors on the Eurovision Stage. It’s the first ballad to represent Sweden in over a decade, and it’s favored to reach the Top 10, if not the Top 5. Anna’s voice is very unique, almost reminiscent of a Shakira-type throatiness at points. As Sweden can truly do no wrong in Eurovision’s eyes (and it’s in the heart of the Scandinavian voting bloc), the song is a lock to sail through to the final.