Melodifestivalen 2011 #1

There was only one act in the first edition of “Melodifestivalen” this year who actually sang in Swedish. She had those classic Swedish blonde looks, an unmistakably Swedish name, and a gap in the middle of her teeth to rival Agnetha Fältskog at her prime. Well, before Agnetha’s gap magically closed when ABBA began to reach international fame. Despite these impeccably Swedish credentials, her song had a Spanish title, “Desperados” and was sung in the style of blue-grass country. I quite liked it actually. Well, kinda.

Although I know English is the international language of Western pop music these days, it would have been nice to have more than just one Swedish language pop song in this frst edition which I watched tonight, thanks to the interweb. Melodifestivalen, by the way is the Swedish competition which selects an artist to represent Sweden at Eurovision.

I was lucky enough to go to Melodifestivalen last year. I was there for the dress rehearsal on the night before the final. It was a spectacle and a half, as I sat with thousands of others in Globen, the big sports arena in Stockholm. And then on the night of the final, I was in a local gay bar called Torget, experiencing the event in a more intimate environment with a bunch of Swedes. It’s a great competition which I love following, and which I’ll write about from week to week on this blog.

As someone who is learning Swedish, it’s also a great program to watch: the Swedish is simple, slowly spoken, and dealing with pop music (familiar territory for me). And in my humble opinion, the quality of songs, artists and performances at Melodifestivalen is generally higher than Eurovision itself. That said, there was little this year which impressed me.

In the category of “classic schlager” there was “Unstoppable” by Jenny Silver, and in the category of “classic pop” there was “Oh My God” by Le Kid. And although I quite like Le Kid, especially for their song “Mercy Mercy”, I was a little disappointed with their song “Oh My God” which was, in my view, a little boring and dated.

Two other songs also fell into the category of “boring and dated”: “Try Again” by Dilba had a late 90s Tina Cousens feel about it, while “In The Club” by Danny barely made it into the 00s with its heavy synth sound. Oh that’s right, everything is retro and post-modern these days isn’t it? You don’t actually write a new tune any more, you just listen to old one, sample a bit, and re-release it under your own name. Of course, being as old as I am I wouldn’t recognise most artists these days are being respectful or ironic, not just completely derivative. It’s the “cut and paste generation”, as I’ve become to call them. Anyway, moving on…

Tragically, two of the singers, Jonas Matsson and Rasmus Viberg actually sang significant amounts of their songs out of tune.

The lack of “Swedish-ness” in Melodifestivalen was a current theme throughout the program. With each Melodifestivalen there’s usually a dramatic/comedy piece which links the material together. This year, a duo “interrogated” the contestants about suitability to represent Sweden at Eurovision with “their Swedishness” being a recurrent theme. It all came to a head with the artist, Swingfly who is an Amercian by birth, but who has been living in Stockholm since 1991. “I don’t understand a word you’re saying…” he says, or words to that effect, revealing he doesn’t speak Swedish. His song, “Me and My Drum” was okay, though hardly memorable.

Swingfly and Danny made it through to the final. In my view, the best of a bad bunch. Here’s hoping the following weeks will present us with something better.

The highlight, without doubt, was Nanne as the interval act.