As the opening beats from “Don’t Say No” by Midnight Boy came from the speakers of my television, for just a brief moment, I was transported back to the 80s and to Brisbane’s (in)famous nightclub, The Beat. Back in those days, Joh Bjelke-Peterson was still the Premier of Queensland, and I was a young man about town who would often head out on Sunday nights with friends to dance to tracks like “You Spin Me Round” (by Dead or Alive), “Relax” (by Frankie Goes To Hollywood) and others. Both the music and lyrics of “Don’t Say No” are highly reminiscent of that era.
It was an unexpected welcome opening for the fourth heat of this year’s Melodifestivalen, the competition which chooses Sweden’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. It was a heat I was anticipating very much due to the Australian connection. Days before Australia went on to announce Guy Sebastian (yawn) would represent Australia at this year’s contest, we already had an Australian connection. The band JTR were born in Sweden, but lived in Australia for about a decade, before returning to Sweden a few months ago. They have an Australian step-father, I understand, and while living here, competed in the X-Factor television show. I thought their song and performance were both quite good, and so was pleased they made it through to the final in a couple of weeks time. Oh yeah, and they lived in Logan City, a place where I associate with “losing my virginity”. :) Another story.
The other “Australian connection” (albeit a slim one, he recently holidayed here) was Måns Zelmerlöw. I’ve been a fan of his for a few years. He sings well, he performs well, and he’s pretty easy on the eye (check out this image on his Instagram account and you’ll see what I mean). The song wasn’t all that memorable, but he performed it well, and the presentation was a little more interesting than the usual stand on stage and perform routine, interacting with animations on the screen.
Aside from those three, there was nothing particularly exciting about the remaining entries. “It’s like it’s still 2009”, my friend Graeme said the other week, remarking the formula has become a little stale with the same song-writers every year, and an apparent cookie-cutter approach to selecting the singers and the songs. After the nightmare of last year’s co-presenters, things have improved this year, with Robin and Sanna being good choices. But what was with the comedy appearance by the contest’s producer, Christer Björkman? My feeling is that he has done a terrific job over the past decade with the contest, but maybe it’s time for him to move on, allowing for a regeneration of the contest.
Having now seen all four heats, I’ve decided my firm favourite is Jon Henrik Fjällgren, the reindeer herder from a Sami community up north. Andra Chansen (second chance) is this week, and then a week later, Sweden will choose its entry for Eurovision. It’s a shame we didn’t go through a similar selection process for Austraia.