I felt a little sorry for Linda Bengtzing and Martin Stenmarck, as I watched this morningś fourth heat of Melodifestivalen, the contest which chooses Swedenś entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. Martin has previously represented Sweden at Eurovision and was performing in a song co-written by his brother. Linda has previously entered Melodifestivalen, and has usually done very well. They’re both really great performers, with a wonderful Melodifestivalen pedigree. But, up against the ¨next generation”of Swedish pop performers, and armed only with pretty mediocre songs (to be honest), neither of them failed to make it through to either the “second chance” or the final.
They should have taken a leaf out of the book of Sarah Dawn Finer (one of this week’s co-hosts) who gave it a shot, missed out, and then moved on. I felt the same about Eric Saade last year. He’d entered Melodifestivalen a couple of times, and had made it to Eurovision, so why did he try again, I wondered. I guess part of the answer is because representing Sweden at Eurovision is pretty prestigious. I guess part of the answer is because entering Melodifestivalen also tends to boost your domestic career. If you have a new album, or a new show, there’s a good chance appearing on the show will boost ticket or album sales. Even so, it must be a little humiliating to fail to make it through when other, less talented performers did.
Which brings me to Dolly Style. Their appeal to the tweens pretty much guaranteed they would make it through, no matter what they sang. The problem was they couldn’t actually sing. Yeah, they could hold a note or two in the pretty average 90s/00s dance track , but struggled in the verses. Though not as tuneless as Dolly Style, Frans was another case of a singer with limited talent making it through because of their appeal to a core audience (again teen girls) likely to be watching television on a Saturday night in Sweden, and likely to want to spend a few dollars voting.
So what if you’re not a teen girl? Well, if you’re a fan of heavier, rock music, you wait until the token “rock band” turns up on Melodifestivalen, and you vote for them instead. Or if you’re an older person who waits for the retro-act or the dansband act, and you vote for them. Or you wait for the “comedy” act, and you give them your votes. Though they often talk about the record number of votes they receive for Melodifestivalen each year, I’m guessing it’s the same people voting multiple times.
Melodifestivalen has become increasingly predictable over the last few years. There’s a definite “formula” of acts, made up largely of those who’ve made it through the various television talent contests, a smattering of “old favourites”, and a couple of novelty acts. Occasionally, it turns up something strong eg: Loreen and Måns, but mostly it’s pretty average, and so far, this year, it’s really average. Of all of the songs on this week’s heat, there’s only one I thought was okay – the song by Molly – and even then, I thought the title was totally stupid.
Oh yeah, and what was with the awkward kiss moment with Frans? When it was announced he had made it through one of his songwriters gave him a big kiss on the lips, to which he reacted really strangely/strongly. I’m sure there’s a story there.
That said, the comedy element was pretty funny tonight, as Helena Bergström (and another Swedish actress) made an appearance in drag as a couple of middle-aged gay Eurovision fans whose punchline was to sting the Eurovision anthem. Very funny. And oh so accurate.
It was also good to see Jon Henrik Fjällgren, an entrant in last year’s contest make a return to the stage, and it was great to see a re-appearance from Sarah Dawn, Gina and Helena in their hosting roles.