I’ve just arrived home from the final dress rehearsal for Melodifestivalen, the Swedish final for the Eurovision Song Contest.
I’ve been following Eurovision for many years and Melodifestivalen quite solidly for the last three years. In fact last year, I even organised a screening of Melodifestivalen at a pub in Sydney. I really like the way the Swedes have maintained an interest in the entertainment value of Eurovision, whereas the English, for example, have all but abandoned the competition, treating it as a joke. I think this may reflect some deep underlying cultural issues the English may yet need to come to grips with as part of Europe, but that’s another story.
And in timing this trip, I was pleased that I could coincide it with the competition. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get tickets for the final as they sold out within minutes, but I did get tickets for tonight’s final dress rehearsal. For me, it’s been a twenty-four-hour Melodifestivalen experience.
Having decided I couldn’t bear to spend another night with Tatu, I headed out last night with a spirit of adventure. Predictably, I ended up at Torget where DJ Jeanette was playing “glad pop” (happy pop) which included a fairly large dose of songs from this year’s Melodifestivalen. The songs which got the greatest response were “Manboy” (by Eric Saade) and “Headlines” (by Alcazar). Judging by the crowd’s response, “Headlines” could have done reasonably well in the Melodifestivalen final. But of course, it wasn’t to be. The bar was hip and happening last night, with an influx of English pop music fans. I overheard one of them say, “We could be in London”, a reference to the popularity of schlager pop and scandi pop nights there.
I’m not sure how busy it normally is on a Thursday night, but I did notice one Swedish bloke look around in wonderment at the sudden arrival of so many people.
I also wondered what the Swedes make of this almost anachronistic interest in their pop music from people outside Sweden. Do they think it’s odd? Do they think it’s quaint? Do they put it down to the “camp factor”? Do they explain it to themselves in terms of ABBA? Or do they just think it’s great their music is recognised as good? When I’ve mentioned to some Swedes that my visit here was timed for a number of reasons, including Melodifestivalen, you can see on their faces a sense of confusion.
I overheard two Swedes talking to an American about Melodifestivalen and Eurovision. “In England, they have just one contest to decide who will represent them at Eurovision. But here in Sweden, we have four, five, six events to make that choice.” To explain why there’s such interest outside Sweden is fascinating. There’s a PhD in this, I’m sure, or at least a five-minute radio interview.
And then tonight, as I waited in the nearest pub to Globen, a visiting UK DJ came on, announcing he would play your favourite schlager songs. So of course I requested “This Woman” by Anna Sahlene from a few years ago. “Here’s a song for a bloke from my part of the world”, he announced to the bar. Of course, I corrected him, and seconds later the bar manager came over, announcing he too was Australian. He has been living here for about ten years, and of course, is married to a Swedish woman. We chatted for a while about life in Sweden, the ex-pat scene, and so on. And then it was time to head over the path to take my seat for the dress rehearsal.
I won’t go too heavily into the detail of the show, as I know friends back in Sydney will be watching it over the weekend.
But I’ll make a few general observations.
I actually enjoyed all of the songs, bar one. Some because of the song, others because of the performance. And the performances were great. I was amazed at how much effort all of the performers put into their three-minute song.
I was amazed at how smoothly it all ran. Unlike some Australian television productions I’ve been to see, there appeared to be no one running around in a flap, there appeared to be no crises, and it all just seemed to happen smoothly and flawlessly. Even with complicated things like the “shower scene” for Eric Saade’s Manboy, the stage got wet, it was dried, and the show continued.
And I found it fascinating to see the reaction of the crowd to the different songs and performances. If this audience is anything to go by, as well as the “jury voting system” they used to tonight, Pernilla Wahlgren is likely to give Eric Saade a real run for his money as the favourite to win.
There were also a couple of special moments, including a brief performance by Nanne Gronvall as part of One More Time, and by Shirley Clamp, another favourite Swedish singer of mine.
At the end of the night, there was an opportunity for the media to chat with the performers and take photographs. Maybe next time…?