Category Archives: Sweden

Sweden: First Semifinal Results

As expected, it was an exciting first Semifinal in Växjö, Sweden, where Melodifestivalen veterans and newcomers kicked off the Grande Dame of National Finals in style.  Country, schlager, comedy, and metal faced off against each other, with two songs proceeding “Direkt till Globen” (straight to the Finals at the Globen Arena on March 10), and two moving on to the Second Chance, or Andra Chansen, round on March 3.

Moving on directly to the Final are:

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Preview: Melodifestivalen Semifinal One

To the delight of schlager fans worldwide, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen kicks off on Saturday with its first Semifinal, to be held at the VIDA Arena in Växjö.  Normally the home of the Växjö Lakers ice hockey team, the arena will host the first live show of one of the most highly-anticipated National Final events of the Preselection Season.  Two songs will qualify directly to the Finals at the Globen Arena on March 10, and two will pass through to the Andra chansen (Second Chance) round on March 3.  Read the rest of this entry

Eurovision 2011: The Best of the Rest (Part 8)

Ok, we’re winding down to the end of our country-by-country list of 2011’s also-rans: the songs that should-have/would-have/could-have gone to Germany if the people had voted differently/if the juries had taken their bathroom breaks at a different time/if the networks had been bribed by a different record company (just kidding!  I think…).

Sweden: As almost any self-respecting Eurovision Fan would know, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen is considered one of the biggest events of the National Final calendar.  Its position in recent years as the last of the national selections means that it’s basically the final stop before the big event in May.  It tends to get higher viewership numbers in its homeland than Eurovision itself does, and ESC fans the world over flock to the Globen each year in order to watch the final firsthand.  This year’s Melodifestivalen certainly did not disappoint, with 32 songs competing over four semifinals and an “Andra Chansen (Second Chance)” round for the chance to redeem Sweden’s Eurovision hopes after a tough crash-and-burn last year.  As we all know, Eric Saade not only came out on top this year with “Popular“, but he gave the Swedes their highest placement on the ESC scoreboard since their victory back in 1999.

Eric faced some stiff competition, however.  Danny Saucedo’s runner-up “In the Club” got quite a bit of attention.  The track ended up as #2 on the Swedish Singles Chart, and Danny even got to read out Sweden’s votes this year at Eurovision.  (Eric had that honor last year; maybe it’s an omen of good things to come for Danny?):

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Follow Up Single Time!

As is customary in the days following Eurovision, many of the artists that we have come to know and love from their participation on the ESC stage realize that there is, in fact, life after the world’s largest musical competition.  (Granted, the same can’t necessarily be said about the bloggers you have come to know and love, who still cling to every fiber of their time in the Press Center!).  Whether an artist is a newcomer on the scene or a professional with an established career, it’s only natural that new singles follow on the heels of the Grand Final.

Italy’s representative Raphael Gualazzi released his album “Reality and Fantasy”, and since its release in February it has reached #1 on the iTunes Jazz charts all over Europe.  (It’s also available on iTunes in the US, and I give it my personal ESCInsider seal of approval!)  Raphael’s keeping the momentum up releasing the follow-up single to “Follia d’Amore/Madness of Love”, “A Three Second Breath”.

We also have a pair of releases from Greece’s artists.  Rapper Stereo Mike is currently working on a radio edit for his song “Μπορώ/Mporo (I)”.  Taken from his new album “Ανέλιξη (Evolution)”, Mike actually decided to release “Μπορώ” after asking his Facebook and Twitter followers what his next single should be.  He’s currently in the studio remixing the track, but here’s the full album edit: 



Not to be outdone, Loukas Yiorkas also has a new single out.  Teaming up again with composer Giannis Christodoulopoulos and lyricist Eleana Vrachali (the pair behind “Watch My Dance”), Loukas has unveiled his next track, “Για Πρώτη Φορά/Gia Proti Fora (For the First Time)”.

Sweden’s bronze-medalist Eric Saade has released the follow up to “Popular”, the highest-scoring Swedish Eurovision song since their 1999 victory.  Eric will be releasing his new album, “Saade Vol. 1” at the end of June, but “Hearts in the Air” will actually be the album’s third single, after “Still Loving It” and, of course, “Popular”.

Romania’s Hotel FM (led by British-born David Bryan) has released their next track, following “Change”.  I had the chance to hear a brief acapella version of “The Gathering” while I interviewed the guys back in Düsseldorf, so hearing the full arrangement was pretty cool.  Judge for yourself:

Finally, Estonia’s Getter Jaani has released a new duet with Koit Toome (a fellow ESC-alum, from 1998).  “Valged Ööd (White Nights)” is a poppy summer song that seems to be a seamless continuation from “Rockefeller Street”.  Getter’s only eighteen years old, and when she was appearing on Eesti otsib superstaari, she performed a pair of songs by Miley Cyrus, so this sort of upbeat pop seems to be just her thing.

New Videos from Serbia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom

Adding to the list of new videos for this year’s ESC competitors are new clips from Serbia, Sweden, and the UK. 

Although Serbia’s Nina will be singing “Caroban” in Serbian, a new video has just popped up with her singing the English-language rendition, “Magical”.  The swinging-60’s vibe remains vibrant and sweet, and Nina’s just cheek-pinchingly adorable!  (Very Twiggy-meets-Edie-Sedgwick!)

Next up, Sweden’s Eric Saade has released an official preview video for “Popular”:

The lesson in this clip?  All of life’s problems can be solved via a dance-off. 

And finally (for now, at least), the United Kingdom’s representatives, Blue, have unveiled a new video for “I Can”:

It’s not a secret that I love this song, so having the boys release a second video was an unexpected treat!  Furthermore, the BBC aired a special on Blue’s preparation for Düsseldorf, “Eurovision: Your Country Needs Blue“.  With appearances by Cliff Richard, Lulu, and others, it’s a pretty cool peek into what goes into putting a Eurovision entry together.

Until next time!

Eric Saade’s "Popular" for Sweden

Melodifestivalen (a.k.a. the Mother of All Preselections) just wrapped up from the Globen Arena in Stockholm, after four Semifinals, a Second Chance round, and a Grand Final.  Tonight, we saw classic schlager (in both English and Swedish!), rockabilly, and even a song that may have, in fact, been a lost track from the Magical Mystery Tour.  But after votes were tabulated from eleven international juries and the Swedish public, the winner was 20-year-old Eric Saade with “Popular”:

Eric, despite his age, is already a pretty well-established performer.  He actually placed third in last year’s Melodifestivalen with “Manboy“, which then proceeded to reach #1 on the Swedish Singles chart.  Fredrik Kempe, the songwriter behind “Popular”, has contributed two songs to Eurovision in the past: 2008’s “Hero” and 2009’s “La Voix“.  However, Sweden has seemingly underperformed over the past few years.  They haven’t made the Top Ten since 2006, and failed to reach the Final last year for the first time in their history of Eurovision participation.  Eric is undoubtedly adorable, and might take away a small handful of the “screaming pre-teen fangirl” vote from Blue, but I wouldn’t personally count this as a major player in this year’s event.  At the very least, though, it’s an entertaining three minutes, and knowing Sweden’s recent penchant for barely changing the Melodifestvalen staging for Eurovision, I’m looking forward to seeing if the Swedes are able to bring their show to Germany, shattered windows and all.  (I’d hate to be the singer that goes after “Popular”…or the cleanup crew, for that matter!)

The Weekend Preview, 2/10

We’ve got another busy weekend ahead of us, so let’s dive right into what we can expect from all over the Eurovision world over the next few days!

On Friday, Azerbaijan will finally make their decision on who they’ll send to Germany this year.  Their preselection process started back in mid-November with 77 candidates, and they’ve finally been narrowed down to five final performers: Aynishan Qulieva, Ilgara Ibrahimova, Eldar Gasimov, Ilhama Gasimova, and Nigar Camal.  It’s still a bit unclear how the song will be selected; last year, the top three candidates sang three different songs, and while the winning performer was selected the night of the finals, the winning song wasn’t confirmed until over two weeks later.  Considering Azerbaijan’s penchant for flexibility on their preselection processes (their dates have been moved around many times, for example), who knows what answers we may find tomorrow night, or what questions will remain!

Also on Friday, Ireland will pick the artist and song that they hope will bring the nation to the top of the Eurovision heap for an eight year.  Brief snippets of the songs were released last week, but they were heard in their entirety for the first time just today.

Don Mescall – Talking with Jennifer (written by Ronan Hardiman, Don Mescall)
Nikki Kavanaugh – Falling (written by Christina Schilling, Camilla Gottschalck, Jonas Gladnikoff, and Hanif Sabzevari)
Bling – Shine On (written by Patrick Mahoney)
The Vard Sisters – Send Me an Angel (written by Liam Lawton)
Jedward – Lipstick (written by Dan Priddy, Lars Jensen, and Martin Larson)

Ironically, “Lipstick” is the only song that has been removed from YouTube for copyright reasons.  Why ironically?  Well, first, as its considered the frontrunner in tomorrow’s competition, and second, as a portion of the song was “accidentally” released on Amazon.com too early, prompting RTÉ to make the decision only one third in the hands of the audience’s vote, rather than fifty percent.  The remaining part of the decision will be in the hands of regional juries throughout Ireland.


Malta will hold their semifinal on Friday and their final on Saturday.  On Friday, the 24 candidate songs will be trimmed down to 16 by a 75/25 jury/audience vote decision.  On Saturday, those remaining songs will compete, and the winner will be decided by a 60/40 jury/audience split.  All the songs can be previewed, in their entirety, here.  For Malta fans, there are many familiar faces competing this weekend: Fabrizio Faniello made it to Eurovision in 2001 and 2006, and his younger sister Claudia has tried many times to make it to the event, but often falling just short of the ESC goal.  We also see the return of Wayne Micallef, who presented one of my favorite preselection songs from last year, “Save a Life“.  In fact, out of the twenty-three singers in this weekend’s competition, eighteen have attempted, at some point, to represent Malta in either Eurovision or Junior Eurovision in past years!  Will the victory go to a veteran, or to a new talent?  We shall see…

On Saturday, we’ll see what Belgium has to offer the growing Eurovision field.  In light of the difficult economic times, Walloon broadcaster RTBF came up with an interesting twist on an open call for songs.  Belgians were allowed to submit their songs (in French or English), and the public would be able to pledge money to the entries of their choice.  When a song received €20,000, they would be qualified to go on to the next round (all money donated to non-qualifying songs would be reimbursed).  That money would then go to the further production and refinement of their entry.  Thirty songs ended up making the monetary benchmark, and that was later pared down to fourteen final entries.  A 50/50 jury/televote split will decide the eventual winner.

We will also see Finals in Iceland, Norway, and Finland, continued semifinals in Spain, Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia, and Sweden, and the first semifinal in Estonia‘s Eestilaul.  Of course, I’ll try to bring you updates as often as I can!

Have a great weekend, Eurofans!

The Weekend Update, 2/6

Another weekend has come and gone, with tons of Eurovision news to report!

Norway:
The Second Chance round, or “Siste Sjansen”, has wrapped up, with eight songs battling against each other in a series of tournament-style knockout rounds.  After all of the carnage subsided, we were left with two songs standing, and going to the finals next week.  And they are…
Sie Gubba – “Alt Du Vil Ha” and
The Lucky Bullets – “Fire Below”
Next week is the Norwegian Final…who are your favorites?

Croatia:
Yesterday, the top twelve contestants (including Daria Kinzer, selected as last week’s Wild Card) returned to the stage, fighting for six places in the next round.  Five of those placements were decided last night, while the sixth will be announced on next week’s show. Daria Kinzer, Mirko Švenda, Jacques Houdek, Katica Marinović, and Ana Eškinja.  Next week, those Top 6 performers will try to make it to the Top 4.

Lithuania:
The first round of Eurovizija 2011 kicked off this weekend in Lithuania.  A total of fourteen songs vied for only three spots in the final, and here are the victors:
Monika – Days go By
The Independent – 7th Bus
Sasha Song – The Slogan of Our Nation  (Eurofans might recognize Sasha from his beautiful, yet undervalued 2009 ESC entry, “Love“)

Latvia:
The past few years have not been easy for Latvia in Eurovision…they came in last place in their semifinal in 2009 and 2010, and haven’t made it into the Top Ten since 2005.  Let’s hope that Eirodziesma 2011 puts them back on the right track.  Out of ten contestants last night three were voted through to the finals by the television audience, while two others made it through with the jury’s blessing.
The audience’s picks:
Evija Sloka – Don’t Stop The Dance
Pieneņu vīns (Dandelion Wine) – You Are
Blitze – Hop

And the Jury’s favorites:
Jānis Stībelis – Let It Be Me
D-Family – Daylight

Sweden:
For many people, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen is the absolute ultimate.  Some even feel that it’s become more stereotypically “Eurovision” than Eurovision itself has!  This is the country that’s brought us ABBA, Carola, the Herreys, and Charlotte Nilsson-Perrelli…schlager in all of its glory!  However, over the past few years, Sweden has fallen further and further down the rankings, and they even missed the final last year for the first time since the 1970s.  This year, I think viewers can expect a mix of the classic Swedish style (glitz, key changes, choreography and wind machines) and more current styles (rock, hip-hop, etc).  We’ll see what lands a spot in Stockholm’s Globen Theater, and eventually, what makes its way to Germany.

Unfortunately, due to the Swedish broadcaster’s rules, once a song has made it through to the next round (or to the Second Chance round, like what we’ve just seen in Norway), those semifinal videos are made unavailable to the public, in order to keep songs that qualified early from having a significant advantage over those songs selected in later rounds.  While irritating for bloggers like myself, I understand where SVT is coming from.  What I can tell you, however, is that the two songs that qualified directly to March’s final are:
Daniel Saucedo – “In the Club” and SwingFly – “Me and My Drum”.

Moving on to the Second Chance round (Andra Chansen, in Swedish) are:
Jenny Silver – “Something in your Eyes” and Pernilla Andersson – “Desperados”

I don’t know about you, but I think I need a weekend to recover from this weekend!

The Best of the 2010 Preselection (Part Two)

Continuing on where I left off…

From Russia: “Senza Respiro (Without Rest)” by Antonello Carozza

Remember what I had said earlier about Eurovision fans practically begging Italy to come back into the fray?  Well, every once in a while it seems that an Italian artist will take the initiative and apply for another nation’s Preselection (or, alternately, a country will sing in an entry in Italian, even if there’s no real reason to.  I’m looking at you, Romania!).  This happened in Russia this year, with singer Antonello Carozza (who I really can’t find much more information on, other than a 2006 San Remo Festival performance) coming in a respectable 8th place with his fun, bouncy, sexy, half-spoken, half-sung pop number about the fickle nature of fame and celebrity.  Can you imagine if this song had made it to Oslo?  Between the catchy song, cute singer, the former-Soviet Bloc voting that somehow propelled “Lost and Forgotten” into 10th place in this year’s Final (yeesh…), and the desire to see Italy return to Eurovision…we could have had a major ESC hit on our hands with this one.

 From Finland: “Annankadun Kulmassa (On the Corner of Anna Street)” by Heli Kajo

Ok…if the French film character Amelie were a jilted lover in Helsinki, I imagine she’d be a lot like the impossibly cute Heli Kajo.  The first line of the song translates to “Why do you pass out alone, on Sunday nights, pants down, on the corner of Anna Street?”  Her pain and anger, blended with the innocent sweetness of the song as a whole, gives this fantastic contrast that I know I had to listen to a few times.  By the time the tune builds to its understated climax, translated to “Why do you only say ‘I love you’ after a double whiskey?”, you just want to give Heli a hug and tell her to kick her boyfriend’s worthless ass to the curb.  “Annankadun Kulmassa” came in 6th place in this year’s Finnish preselection.

From Israel…the entire Kdam!
We all know how much I raved about Harel Skaat’s “Milim (Words)” this year, and how I think he was basically robbed (although winning all three of the Marcel Bezençon Awards mitigates the blow a bit).  In the Israeli preselection (or Kdam) this year, there were three other songs that could have easily gone to Oslo.  The four tunes presented were all crafted for Harel, and there really wasn’t a bad one in the bunch.  I think I’ve already mentioned the gorgeous “Le’an (Away)” and its incredible final high note, but the ballad “Le’hitkarev (Closer)” and the more uptempo “Elayich (Towards You)” were also fantastic songs that really highlighted Harel’s range and showmanship.  Israel really has a tough act to follow for the 2011 event; they set the bar incredibly high with this past year’s Kdam.


From Sweden: “Kom (Come)” by Timoteij
As I’ve mentioned before, bits and pieces of a previous year’s winner often come through in the entries vying for the next year’s Eurovision crown.  In the case of Alexander Rybak, we were given a string-heavy, yet upbeat number that balanced folk and pop.  One of the best examples of that in this year’s Swedish Melodifestivalen was Timoteij’s “Kom”.

This fun, summery pop number only came in 5th place in this year’s Melodifestivalen, but it was selected as the Swedish representative for the OGAE Second Chance Contest, where ESC fans from all over the world select their favorite “also-rans”.  “Kom” won by a pretty heavy margin.  Considering that Sweden didn’t make it to the Eurovision Finals this year for the first time since 1976, should Timoteij have represented them, instead?

What were some of your other favorite preselection entries?  Let me know what you think!

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?
http://www.dailymotion.com/swf/video/xcq6jt
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.