Melodifestivalen 2015 #2

I’m quite a fan of the Swedish pop singer, Magnus Carlsson. To be precise, Magnus who was in Swedish pop bands Barbados and Alcazar, not Magnus Carlson (one “s”) who was in Swedish indie band, “Weeping Willows”. I even met him once, briefly, at a bar in Stockholm (see photo below). Although his obsession with recording Christmas albums is something I still don’t understand (beyond the fact they sell well), he can be relied upon for really great pop tunes. His self-titled solo album remains a firm favourite. Along the way, he has released songs in both English and Swedish, and has competed in Melodifestivalen, the Swedish finals leading to Eurovision on several occasions. Thus, when I heard the news a few months ago he would be competing again this year, I was pretty excited.

His song this year, “Möt Mig I Gamla Stan” (Meet me in the old town (part of Stockholm)” is “classic” Magnus Carlsson, and although I like it, and it has made it through to the final, I can’t help but wonder if it’s a bit “old school” to make it through to Eurovision. Over the last decade, with one or two exceptions, the Swedes have tended to vote for younger, more contemporary sounding singers and songs than the classic “key change schlager” songs they’ve been known for many year.

Meeting Magnus Carlsson at Golden Times in Stockholm
Meeting Magnus Carlsson at Golden Times in Stockholm

Aside from Magnus, there were two other songs which stood out for me this week for completely different reasons. Even though they were a bit off tune in their performance, and there’s nothing much to the tune, I thought “Groupie” by Samir and Viktor is a bit of fun, with a lyric that declares the end of the “selfie”. Totally forgettable, of course, but they had a good energy, even if the song was pretty rubbish and they couldn’t really sing. I also really liked “Forever Starts Today” by Linus Svenning, who competed in last year’s contest with “Bröder” also. It’s one of those rousing Eurovision sing-a-long numbers with a killer hook. Linus is a young guy with tats who, in Australia, probably wouldn’t be caught dead competing in a Eurovision pop song contest, but who in Sweden is totally at home.

Other competitors this week were: Emelie Irewald with “Där Och Då Med Dig” (a nice enough ballad); Neverstore with “If I Was God For One Day” (a fairly dated sounding 80/90s power ballad); Marie Bergman and Sanne Salomonsen with “Nonetheless” (a pretty song with lovely harmonies); and Mariette with “Don’t Stop Believing” (pretty good song, powerful, and with a slight Tory Amos feel to it).

Who needs an Australian entry in Eurovision, when we might already have one?

Who needs an Australian entry in Eurovision, when we might already have one?

There’s a lot of excitement today in Australia about our confirmed “wild card” entry in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

I actually seriously think much of Europe would vote for Australia out of “sympathy”/”admiration”/”a sense of fun”, and with the large number of expats in Europe (about 1-million), I genuinely think next year’s contest could be held at the Sydney Opera House.

But of course Australia already has an entry (of sorts), participating in Eurovision in the forthcoming fourth heat of Melodifestivalen with the band JTR. They’re up against a lot of competition, but you never know. And if they miss out, they could be the Australian entry. :) Well, the flights would be cheaper from Stockholm than Sydney.

The article below explains they lived in Australia from 2006, because that’s where their step-father comes from. Brissie, to be precise. But they moved back recently.

This item shows at least one of them has picked up an Australian accent, at least

http://blogs.abc.net.au/queensland/2015/01/logan-x-factor-band-jtr-now-wants-to-represent-sweden-at-eurovision.html?site=brisbaneprogram=612_breakfast

TR är gruppen som slagit igenom stort i Australien. Nu är de redo att ta över Sverige – och Melodifestivalscenen.
JTR består av tre bröder från Alingsås som slog igenom i X-Factor Australien 2013. De slutade på en sjundeplats i tävlingen och slog igenom stort i Australien där tävlingen följdes upp av radioturnéer, albumlansering, miniturné och showcases.
På hemmaplan såg man bland annat killarna i Lotta på Liseberg i somras då de framförde singeln ”Ride”. De var även förband åt The Fooo Conspiracy vid deras show Vertigo i Stockholm och Göteborg. JTR’s första album hette ”Touchdown”.
Trots framgångarna utomlands, ser killarna Sverige och Alingsås som sitt hem. Sedan 2006 har de bott periodvis i Australien eftersom deras styvpappa kommer därifrån.

Melodifestivalen 2015 #1

The “car crash” that was last year’s Melodifestivalen (the Swedish competition which chooses an entrant for Eurovision) hasn’t, so far, been repeated this year. Although the songs last year were reasonably okay, the hosts were terrible. The biggest problem with last year is the hosts seemed to have been under the impression (or were told) they were more important or interesting than the songs. Their seriously un-funny humour (especially the guy) meant I stopped watching the entire broadcast.

This year they’ve tagged a comedian, Robin Paulsson with a singer, last year’s winner, Sanna Nielsen, and it seems to work. The “comedy” mostly has a musical element. Sadly though they’ve brought in another lame comedian in what I think is probably an attempt to broaden the show’s appeal. It’s kinda like the lame “family humour” previously found on “Hey Hey It’s Saturday” I guess. The Swedes seem to have a “thing” for “wise cracking nerd comedians”. While previously they’ve had some wonderful moments from the likes of Björn Gustafsson and Sarah Dawn Finer (as Lynda Woodruffe), there’s something awfully unfunny about this year’s comedian whose name I can’t tell you, as I can’t be bothered to look her up.

My other big complaint last year was the dominance of song-writer Fredrik Kempe. He’s back again this year, having co-composed the winner of the first heat. He has some additional songwriters this year, and it shows, as the song is less predictable than the usual Kempe number. Hey, the lyrics even make sense. I suspect, they probably wrote most of the song, but have used Kempe’s name to attract Eric Saade as the performer, and to gain a place in the contest. The song’s not bad, and will probably end up as Sweden’s entry for Eurovision due to Eric’s popularity with Melodifestivalen voters, but I don’t think it’s as strong as his previous entries.

There were a couple of surprise numbers for me in the first heat. I quite liked the rap song co-written by Måns Zelmerlöw (“Det rår vi inte för” by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone ) and the song by Daniel Gildenlöw “Pappa” (quite touching). But there were some duds as well, such as “I’ll Be Fine” by Molly Pettersson (she was almost off-key), as well as “Hello Hi” by Dolly Style and “Can’t Hurt Me Now” by Jessica Andersson which I thought were far too formulaic.

It will be interesting to see how Melodifestivalen pans out this year. Given the criticism of last year’s contest, I hope they’ve re-invented the competition somewhat, as I think they really need to. As wonderful as Christer Björkman has been running the competition for the last decade or so (he’s done some great stuff), I wonder if it’s time to find someone new to re-invent things?

Song Of The Year – Tove Lo Habits

Of all the new music I saw/heard in 2014, this was the one that stood out.

Yeah, of course it’s from a Swedish artist, and I love the fact she doesn’t try to hide that in her video clip (unlike a lot of other Swedish artists these days who are doing their best to hide their Swedishness by filming their clips in the US).

I love the song musically, as it has a good melody and lyrics.

But I really love the video clip, as it captures both the elements of “the selfie” and the self-destructiveness of youth culture.

I also really love the vulnerability she shows in the clip. Hopefully honest.

Can’t go home alone again
Need someone to numb the pain

PS… Here’s another song from her with lots of Sthlm scenery.

My Swedish is better when I’ve been drinking

Once again I’ve decided my Swedish is better when I’ve had a drink or two, or three or four.

I first discovered this a few years ago at a bar in Stockholm. I was chatting in English with a couple of Swedish guys, and when the topic got around to learning the Swedish language, I discovered my Swedish was far better after a few drinks. We enjoyed a reasonably fluent discussion after the third or fourth beer, as I recall.

The notion was further re-inforced when, after a boozy night in Stockholm, I happened upon a taxi driver who was taking me “the long way home”. I knew exactly where I wanted to go and how to get there, but I guess he assumed I was some dumb tourist from Australia, and so took a left turn when he should have taken a right, which would have resulted in a significantly higher fare. I was able to challenge him, negotiate the “right way home” and ensure he stopped the meter early to compensate.

Deep down, I think the “speaks better when I’ve been drinking” scenario is because when you’re feeling less inhibited due to alcohol, you’re also feeling less self-conscious about your failings, in terms of vocabulary, fluency and that “weird accent”. In short, it becomes more instinctive, and less “thought out”.

The “speaks better when he’s been drinking” scenario happened again the other night. I was walking home (and I’d had a drink or two) and surprisingly crossed paths with a couple of young women speaking Swedish. Our conversation, though brief, was almost fluent, even though I haven’t been to Swedish classes for most of the year, and I’m feeling a bit rusty.

This year has been quite busy work-wise, and I haven’t had much in the way of motivation to go to Swedish class at 8.00pm on a Wednesday night. Put simply, I’m far too tired by the time Wednesday night comes around. I’ll possibly return to Swedish class next year. Or maybe I’ll just keep drinking? :)

Monica Z

The last couple of weeks have been reasonably busy, and so I haven’t managed to immerse myself in the Scandinavian Film Festival as I’d hoped. There was one film, however, I definitely wanted to see on the big screen, having previously seen it only a small screen: the movie about the life of Swedish jazz singer, Monica Zetterlund.

I’d first heard about Monica twenty or thirty years ago, as Frida from ABBA had described her as one of her idols. The story of a jazz singer from a small country town who, in 1960s Sweden, has to find a balance between career and family is a theme in both their lives.

In the time since, I’ve come to know and really enjoy Monica’s work. I think my favourite song of hers is her Swedish language version of “Take 5″: it’s a great tune, sung with passion and energy. The film explains this particular song, and many of her others, comes from Monica’s desire to sing (mostly in Swedish) about things in her life. The film details a meeting with Ella Fitzgerald, where Ella, quite directly tells her not to sing about New Orleans and other such things (the staples of 1950s and 1960s jazz), but about stuff she knows.

Monica’s own experiences of travelling to New York are documented in the film: an early disastrous performance where the show was shut down because her backing musicians were black; and a later more successful show that brings her family and friends to tears. The film documents a difficult relationship with her father who lives in the small town of Hagfors. “Do you have any idea where that is?”, I whispered to Grant. Later, over a drink, we looked it up, locating it in the middle of Sweden, towards the border with Norway. There’s a really funny scene in the movie (which I won’t spoil) about Monica’s personal vow never to return to Hagfors.

I really loved this film. It’s a great story. Great music. Features great performances. And has beautiful cinematography which deserves the big screen. I really hope the film gets a broader cinematic run in Australia.

PS: After watching the movie we went out for a drink and a chat. We joked we should have played the “Monica Zetterlund Drinking Game”. It’s the game where you watch the film and have a drink every time she does. You would end up pretty sloshed pretty quickly. She liked a drink or 25,000, it seems.