A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
There is always some matter to discuss or just a song I want to share
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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Melodifestivalen 2017: this is it!

This is it - the end of the 2017 Melodifestival season. We heard all 28 songs and saw all the performances and are left with twelve hopefuls that will battle it out for the ticket to Kyiv.

Melodifestivalen has worked itself into a good place with an exceptionally high general level of songs and performances, but maybe it came at the expense of some edge and some originality.

There was always Loreen, of course, but our final lineup is pretty void of surprises. Most of the songs are clearly better than most of the other songs selected for the ESC this year while none of them feels strong enough to win.

But then again - Sweden won twice since 2012 and maybe it is good for them to take a tiny step back this year and leave room for something else. And to come back next year with more quirk and more surprises.

What about tonight's entries, then? One thing is clear: if the international juries have a clear favourite, then they will decide the winner and could possibly fully run over the televote results.

01. Ace Wilder / Wild Child
Ace is my girl and she never lets me down - also tonight she is my personal favourite and the one I secretly hope for the juries to sprinkle their top points over. It seems to totally lack momentum, though, and being the cheerful opener is seldom a way to MF success these days.

02. Boris René / Her Kiss
The first of many songs impeccably put together in order to score a radio hit. This one is happy and inoffensive and would be absolutely nothing without Boris and his energetic presence.

03. Lisa Ajax / I Don't Give A
A sharp young performer like Lisa would really deserve better material than this. Despite the attempt of a climax by the end it never takes off. Not a contender.

04. Robin Bengtsson / I Can't Go On
Contrary to many others, I find this song too generic to suit Robin's personality. He just feels replaceable - like a visitor in his own entry. The song in itself is ok but far from the smash hit I had hoped for. A potential winner, nevertheless.

05. Jon Henrik Fjällgren & Aninia / En värld full av strider
Jon Henrik is very easy to like and this entry has its moments, but above all it would have needed to make its mind up what kind of entry it is. Is it a duet? Is one of them the guest star? If so - who is the guest and who is the star? Not coherent enough but not a bad song.

06. Anton Hagman / Kiss You Goodbye
This is where Loreen was supposed to come in. Instead we have a delightfully charming young man with a guitar. I can deal with that but Anton is here to gather experience, not to win.

07. Mariette / A Million Years
My second favourite to win, but it is not going to happen. Too polished and too chilled. Plus Mariette apparently sang badly yesterday when the juries were listening. But it is a beautiful number and a very good song.

08. The FO&O / Gotta Thing About You
A really solid album track / third single made it into the final and why not? The boys dance well and sing quite well - most of the time at least - and got a radio hit out of it. That will have to do.

09. Nano / Hold On
A brilliant contemporary soul/gospel-flavoured pop song that would have needed a stronger live performance to fully shine. Nano doesn't really have what it takes. A shame.

10. Wiktoria / As I Lay Me Down
She improved her entry from last year and is the big favourite to win. I have a feeling she will, but for me this song outstayed its welcome too soon. After three listenings it just felt hollow and empty. But then again - I never understood the thing about Fame back in the day either.

11. Benjamin Ingrosso / Good Lovin
Smooth and pleasant - another made-for-radio-effort. Despite good vocals and a good performance, this doesn't really seem like a contender at all but could be a surprise in the making.

12. Owe Thörnqvist / Boogieman Blues
The comedy break if you so wish. Owe is a true legend and should have won Melodifestivalen hands down back in his heyday. In 1959 or so. Will come nowhere near a victory but could end surprisingly high up in the televote. Brace yourselves.

So how will this end? This is what I think:
1) Wiktoria
2) Robin Bengtsson
3) Jon Henrik Fjällgren & Aninia

But if I got to choose freely, I'd send Mariette or Ace Wilder to Kyiv. They'd live the place up more than I fear Wiktoria's song will.

As per usual, I will live tweet during tonight's show. Feel free to follow and to talk back at me.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Melodifestivalen 2017: andra chansen

My effort to blog about Melodifestivalen really didn't turn out too well this year - some travelling and then a heavy flu directed my energies elsewhere. And now we are already at Andra Chansen! A bit too late to pick up on the proceedings now, isn't it?

Nah. Not at all. It's a good chance at measuring some of the songs ahead of next week's final.

First duel:

The FO&O / Gotta Thing About You
Not the immediate pop smash one would have expected from a band desperate to have their big break but this one keeps growing and growing. The over choreographed performance is cute and a fair amount a radio play should be helping to.

De Vet Du / Road Trip
Pointless humour song without any humour. Truly basic in every way. But since it made it this far it must have something, even if this something totally eludes me. Out.

Second duel:

Axel Schylström / När ingen ser
Honestly - I can't make head nor tails of this song. I can't decide if it is a work of genius or simply annoying. That's a quality when it comes to standing out in a song contest. Axel is also most likeable and so enthusiastic about the whole thing.

Lisa Ajax / I Don't Give A
A pretty average mid-tempo pop number, completely ruined by the use of the f-word. It doesn't contribute anything, it's not funny, it's not clever. It just underlines that this team too thought their song wasn't interesting enough in its own right.

Third duel:

Boris René / Her Kiss
Happy and energetic. Sometimes that is all you need to be.

Dismissed / Hearts Align
For being a group working against stereotypes, Dismissed seem to rely a bit too much on people finding it shocking to see men in dresses. The actual song isn't bad but they would be better off focusing on being a band and to do less posing.

Fourth duel:

Anton Hagman / Kiss You Goodbye
Anton shouldn't stand a chance here, being a fresh YouTube talent up with a guitar up against a former winner with the most spectacular stage show of the year. However, he feels fresh and likeable and has a song that is easy to grasp and hold on to. This isn't over yet.

Loreen / Statements
It all looked so promising but when favourites fall, they often fall all the way to the ground. Loreen's song and performance stunned many but seem to have confused many others. Maybe enough people changed their minds for the better, but it feels like the momentum is gone.

So, who will make it to the final? My guess is it won't matter much, only shuffle the cards a bit. The winner is probably already there in the final lineup.

But I think The FO&O, Lisa Ajax, Boris René and Loreen will make it to the final. This is not necessarily what I want (I'd definitely have Axel over Lisa) but my prediction.

The highlight of Andra Chansen? Having the running order for the final revealed at the end. That's what I'm waiting for.

Eesti laul 2017: all eyes on Estonia

It is not more than fair to say that the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest lineup is far from impressive so far. We know half the songs and there are few things to enthuse audiences or to write home about. If Estonia play their cards right tonight, they could easily become one of the top contenders come May.

Twenty songs were whittled down to the final ten that will fight it out in tonight's show. They will be voted upon by the audience as well as the usually totally unpredictable expert jury. The three top placed songs will proceed into a super final where the viewers will have the final word on who is sent to Kyiv.

01. Liis Lemsalu / Running
A very good opening number that above all has a captivating verse and build-up only to leap into a disappointingly flat chorus.
Grade: 2/5 

02. Koit Toome & Laura / Verona
Like the electropop cousin of "Goodbye To Yesterday", this one has the same advantages and the same weaknesses - a bit more chemistry between the singers wouldn't harm - but as a song this is the best one in the running.
Grade: 4/5

03. Whogaux & Karl-Kristjan feat Maian / Have You Now
Musically talented and sophisticated but a bit too laid-back and a tad too forgettable to be a good choice for Kyiv.
Grade: 2/5

04. Lenna Kuurmaa / Slingshot
As always, this ex-Vanilla Ninja star brings in something good and totally reliable. Maybe she lost something in her switch to English but this is still a most solid entry.
Grade: 3/5

05. Daniel Levi / All I Need
Slick voice and slick production in what sounds like a sure-fire radio hit. I'd say it isn't direct enough to work in a song contest where you only have three minutes to impress the audience, but not a bad effort.
Grade: 2/5

06. Elina Born / In Or Out
A slightly stressed feeling and a bit of a risqué wardrobe could work against this one, but if Estonia looks past that there is a good and catchy song performed by a singer who only gets better and better. Should be a contender.
Grade: 3/5

07. Ivo Linna / Suur loterii 
Old-fashioned? You bet. But also well performed by a most beloved singer Estonia has cherished since the 1970's. This could be a surprise in the making but hardly an international winner.
Grade: 2/5

08. Rasmus Rändvee / This Love
The most temperamental rocker in the line-up that would at least kick Cyprus out the window with ease in Kyiv. An outsider but in no way chanceless.
Grade: 3/5

09. Ariadne / Feel Me Now
A well-written and convincing pop ditty that really would have needed a stronger performance. Young Ariadne is far too polite and insecure to break through the screens, lacking any kind of wow factor.
Grade: 2/5

10. Kerli / Spirit Animal
Estonia's own Krista Siegfrids has never been closer to grabbing the trophy for herself than she is this time. Catchy, quirky and very easily accessible.
Grade: 4/5

So - what will Estonia do? Predicting the jury's verdict - not to mention those famously unpredictable televoters - is like trying to predict what shape the season's first snowflake will have. But here's my shot at a top three:

3. Elina Born
Because she is one heck of a performer and deserves every bit of praise and success.

2. Koit & Laura
Because the presentation could be a bit too cold in the end

1. Kerli
Because it is her turn and she has a better starting position. But this could turn any which way still.

Secretly I hope for my top two to be reversed but any of these three could give Estonia a solid placing in Kyiv. And so could Rasmus and Lenna too.

Eesti laul begins at 18:30 CET and can be seen online here.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Melodifestivalen 2017, semi 2

On a first listen, I wasn't too impressed by the songs in the first semi but then many of them grew on me and at least three of them turned into contenders. So I wasn't alarmed when I felt the same about week two.

Problem is most of the songs failed to grow this time around. This week embodies the problem Melodifestivalen had last year where too many songs were well-produced and sounded slick enough but were also too safe and provoked little or no emotion in me what-so-ever.

This week is clearly weaker and it makes me wonder why SVT let the general level slide already by now. Back in the day, week three was usually the weaker one.

This time around there is just one song I feel really strongly about and it will have to battle it out with some nicely produced fillers. But it is by no means obvious that Sweden will vote the way the should. Here's my prediction for this week:

Out:

Allyawan / Vart har du vart
The big problem when big names with cred enters the ESC is that they have no idea what is needed to make an impression in the short time available. The songwriters are big names in Sweden but will not stand a chance tonight with this soporific mid-tempo piece of dullness.

Roger Pontare / Himmel och hav
Not a bad effort, only very dated and a relic from what Melodifestivalen used to be back in the day. Unless Sweden is caught by unstoppable nostalgia, Roger will make an early exit.

5th place:

Etzia / Up
Happy and instant but also distant and surprisingly cold for its genre. If Etzia can give it gas and the audience falls for the roller-skate dancers it can carry as far as to fifth place, otherwise this will swap places with Pontare.

Andra chansen:

Dismissed / Hearts Align
This band got really poor reviews earlier in the week but this is a pretty decent soft rocker, dressed up in dresses and a gender queer expression. The song sounds like a more inspired entry in a Finnish final and I mean that in a good way.

Benjamin Ingrosso / Good lovin'
I suppose this is what a lot of chart music sounds like today and I like contemporary sounds in the contest. But it needs to be far more engaging than this. Young mr Ingrosso is professional and likeable but is that enough to counterbalance the lack of passion here? My guess is it's not.

Final:

Lisa Ajax / I Don't Give A
I seriously don't think much of this. A very standard radio song that tries to make itself more interesting by a completely unnecessary use of the f-word. Just like Denmark 2014. But Lisa has a very active fan base and that will lift her into the final tonight.

Mariette / A Million Years
I was never a great fan of "Don't Stop Believing". There. I said it. But this year Mariette stepped up and entered the only song I care for this week. It sounds fantastic in its studio version and should knock Benjamin Ingrosso into Andra Chansen. But who knows what sort of mess the heart app voters  could unleash?

Just like last week, I will live tweet during the show before zapping over to Sanremo. Please keep my company there.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Melodifestivalen 2017, semi 1

It's been a while. Honestly, I've been really caught up in blogging in Swedish over at Tobson och alla bidragen - why don't you go there to have a little look as well? - and I've been so slow wrapping my head around the fact there is a new season starting I even missed covering the Finnish final.

I realised I'd be unhappy with myself if I didn't write anything about Melodifestivalen, so here goes. Here are my thoughts about tonight's entries and my attempt at a prediction.

When I listened through the minute-long snippets earlier in the week, I felt like a really spoilt and ungrateful child: everyone had written so much about the exceptional quality and while I clearly heard high production values and some promising ideas, I didn't really warm to anything.

It's not you, Melodifestivalen, it's me. As soon as I listened some more and heard the almost full versions, things fell into place.

Out:

Charlotte Perrelli
I love Charlotte, so if she wants to make a toned-down little acoustic number about how lonely it can be being an icon that's fine by me. Nobody will vote for this, but she's still lovely to me.

De Vet Du
There must be a drop of justice left in this world. I know the state of things but you must be able to rely on something. Humour without humour in a song without a song. Not even kids can fall for this, can they? Be gone.

Fifth:

Dinah Nah
Personally I'm not terribly fond of this genre but it will probably make enough people nostalgic enough to keep it in the game beyond the first voting stage.

Andra Chansen:

Boris René
I loved Boris and his warm presence already last year and I still do. This song is pure sunshine but doesn't feel sharp enough to really capture the audience. A good opener and that's it.

Adrijana
The big exclamation mark of the week in my book. Cool and laid back and - if this debutant is not afraid of the cameras biting her - possibly a big surprise in the making. Possibly a contender for straight to final, despite its hopeless spot in the running order.

Final:

Ace Wilder 
Ace was my girl in 2014 and 2016 and I'd love to run with her for a third time. Clearly the song most tailor made for me in this heat. But Ace runs the risk of feeling like old news to the viewers and they could go for something else instead, despite the really catchy chorus.

Nano
Everybody loves a back story. Everybody loves a personality. Game over for everyone else - Nano is tonight's winner. Also a most contemporary song that could far in the international charts.

I will live tweet during tonight's show, please follow and discuss with me.

Monday, May 16, 2016

ESC 2016: Russia vs Ukraine

It's a shame the aftermath of the ESC is so political. It is hard to discuss music when the general tone is harsh and unforgiving.

I am happy that Ukraine won. It is a daring and demanding piece of music and ot your usual happy little pop song. While I would have hoped for something slightly more commercial, I'm happy that experimental and alternative sounds stand a chance in the contest.

Several times when I tried to make this point I was met by the question if I was happy now as LGBT rights in Ukraine are almost as bad as the ones in Russia. I beg your pardon?

This was the year I really tried to keep politics out of this. Russia ditched the hypocritical peace anthems that made me see red in the past so I decided to follow suit and judge them on musical merit.

In my humble opinion the Russian song was good but not excellent while the performance was state of the art, partially very impressive, partially very cold and technical. Add all these things together and I think a third place is a really fair outcome. A result most countries would be really happy with.

Then of course the relationship between Russia and Ukraine is not an easy one. Especially not at the moment. Had a look at the Ukrainian tv news that seemed happier about being Russia than actually winning. And the tone of the many articles declaring Eurovision dead and hopeless, published by Russian "news outlet" RT, is nothing but ridiculous. At least it was nice to see Ukraine scoring highly in the Russian televote and vice versa.

Time to take a deep breath and remind ourselves this is just a song contest?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

ESC 2016: Voting and stuff

Screenshot borrowed from svt.se

If you were one of the 16 countries that received a lower score in the televote it was really easy to lose track and hard to keep up with where your own country eventually landed in the ranking. That is my only criticism of the new voting sequence introduced this year.

The suspense was kept up until the very last second as Ukraine first snatched the until then seemingly dead certain Australian victory and then managed to keep it despite Russia winning the televote. Perfect drama.

Isolating the jury votes also brought back an air of Eurovision what it used to be like back in the day when I fell in love with the contest. Completely unpredictable results, someone gets a 12 from one country only to get nothing from the next.

But again I'd like to raise the same old discussion. Who is really on the jury? And what are they told to reward? Originality is one of the criteria, right?

I'm surprised that my dear Italy didn't get more love from the juries. A real quality pop song with remarkable production values and classy songwriting that was totally ignored by many juries.

Instead the likes of Lithuania and Belgium got a great deal of points. While I'm happy for two usually unlucky participant countries, I still don't see what there is in either song that would trigger such a reaction from experts.

At the same time, the juries held down Austria so much not even a strong televote finish could secure Zoë a spot in the top ten. Surprising.