The Swedes take their Melodifestivalen seriously, the six week music entertainment bonanza is so much more than just the national Eurovision qualifications. Around three and a half million Swedes are expected to be watching the finals on Saturday, and breaking records in the number of votes given.
This year the playing field looks very even and the final 12 is really looking strong. Heck, the Swedes can evidently even afford to send legendary Eurovision winner Loreen out of the competition and still have several finalists left who could potentially go on to take the Eurovision crown. (Loreen’s Statements was apparently too arty and complicated for the masses. Well, we thought it was simply amazing, but let’s not dwell on the Lorexit.)
The results will be decided by the audience (televoting plus the free app votes) as well as 11 international juries. Catch the action and let yourself be entertained on Saturday the 11th of March at 8pm – on SVT1 or SVT PLAY (viewable abroad as well).
But let’s move on to the finalists!
1) ACE WILDER – Wild Child (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Ace Wilder returns for the third time after making a name for herself in the 2014 Melodifestivalen, in which she finished second. Last year she put on a huge show production and finished third – but the pressure got all a bit too much. So, this year she’s scaled things down to let the song and dance speak for themselves, and she really seems to be having much more fun this time around. Ace Wilder’s finely crafted tunes are in general what I personally feel is pop perfection (and have felt so since her first single release).
What about the song? Wild Child is catchy and gets stuck in your head pretty instantly. It has a real party vibe to it, supported by the fun dance choreography. This is maybe a bit more mainstream than her previous two entries (and fangirl here would have maybe liked a bit more punch like in some of her other songs). But this is still a tune and a half…
Any chance of success? There doesn’t seem to be much of a hype or momentum behind this song with the Swedish crowd, but Ace can definitely gain a lot from the international juries. And the competition really is wide open. Personally, this is still in my Top 2 or 3 of who should win this thing.
2) BORIS RENÈ – Her Kiss (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Boris René is a former professional football player, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He made his Melodifestivalen debut last year and made it all the way to the final that time as well. Between now and then he’s decided to give up his football career at Degerfors IF and go all in for the music.
What about the song? The song pretty much picks up where he left off last year. It is very infectious, groovy and upbeat, much in the vein of someone like Bruno Mars. It will get you snapping your fingers and tapping your feet.
Any chance of success? Not a contender really, will probably end up at the bottom.
3) LISA AJAX – I Don’t Give A (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Lisa Ajax won the Swedish Idol in 2014, when she was just 16 (the minimum age limit for that show). She debuted in last year’s Melodifestivalen and made the final that time as well with a strong entry. Lisa hails from Järfälla, north of Stockholm.
What about the song? The song is a perfectly crafted modern pop tune, that lets Lisa display her impressive set of pipes as well. The most talked about feature of the song is however the repeated use of the F-word. The song has been left untouched for the final, but if it were to win, Eurovision rules are much stricter against foul language… So it would be fun to see how the lyricists would tackle that, since the word is pretty central in the song.
EDIT: In Thursday’s rehearsals, Lisa sang a cleaned-up version of the lyrics, replacing the F-bomb with damn … Turns out this is to show that the song can work in a cleaner version as well, if Lisa were to win and get to represent Sweden. She will use the watered-down version on Friday’s public rehearsals, which is when the international jurys are watching and giving their votes. For Saturday’s final though, the R-rated version is back.
Any chance of success? This is not among the favorites to win, should end up somewhere in the lower half. Her last year’s song was stronger and ended up on seventh place.
4) ROBIN BENGTSSON – I Can’t Go On (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Robin Bengtsson is another one returning after last year’s debut run that took him to Melodifestivalen final. Robin was an “also-ran” in Swedish Idol’s rather forgettable season 2008, but last year’s Mello really marked a new start for his career.
What about the song? Sounds very much like contemporary radio hits, which is not a bad thing at all. Robin and his dancers are looking sharp with their treadmill choreography. Getting him moving this way is a great move, as he is not always a natural mover (based on what little experience I have of seeing him through my camera lens). This one also had the F-word featured prominently in the lyrics, but it’s been toned down to “freaking beautiful” ahead of the final.
Any chance of success? This is definitely one of the contenders to the top positions and the song has been one of the most streamed ones. The OK Go inspired staging is also the slickest of the final. As mentioned before the playing-field is very even and anything could happen – this could even win the whole thing if all goes Robin’s way.
5) JON HENRIK FJÄLLGREN feat. ANINIA – En värld full av strider (Eatneme gusnie jeenh dåaroeh) (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Another returning audience favorite, Jon Henrik made his Mello debut in 2015 and ended up in second place right after Måns Zelmerlöw (who then went on to win Eurovision). Adopted from Colombia to the Swedish Lapland, Jon Henrik had his first breakthrough when he won Sweden’s Got Talent in 2014, with an emotional back story and music based on the Sami people’s joik traditions.
What about the song? It continues with Jon Henrik’s formula for success, combining traditional joik with modern sounds. This time it is all taken up a notch with the help of featured artist Aninia, who gives the song a better pop dynamic.
Any chance of success? This man is hugely popular with the Swedish people, so this will definitely be in contention for top positions. The international juries will be harder to please though. But this has enough exotism to have a chance at succeeding at Eurovision.
6) ANTON HAGMAN – Kiss You Goodbye (click to hear)
Who’s this then? One of this year’s debut artists, Anton Hagman is an 18-year old who was unknown to the general public before the Mello preliminaries. Pop nerds like myself will however know him previously from a duo called JA and the short-lived Royal Sunset. He has gained a following by posting cover songs on YouTube.
What about the song? The song is probably the most contemporary of the competition, very much like something you will hear on the radio from Shawn Mendes. The easy-on-the-ears tune along with the simple staging with the easy-on-the-eyes young man and his guitar won over the crowds to such an extent, that Anton beat Loreen in the Andra Chansen round duel to snatch his place in the final.
Any chance of success? I don’t really see this in the top fight, but Anton may very well have gained momentum and sympathies through his victory over Loreen. He will also appeal to the important voting power, the young girls.
7) MARIETTE – A Million Years (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Mariette also returns after a successful debut in Melodifestivalen 2015, where she took third place with her strong entry Don’t Stop Believing. Some will also remember Mariette from her stint on Swedish Idol in 2009. She has also been playing guitar for the likes of Ace Wilder and Magnus Uggla
What about the song? This is another one in the anthemic vein Mariette delivers so well with her calm radiance. The song is uplifting, and the performance with dancers on bungee-cords is simply effectful and Eurovision worthy.
Any chance of success? This should be among the songs competing for the win, but like I said it is very tight to call it this year and anything can happen. International juries should love this, but the Swedish audience may not be on board as much. But if you are interested in my own humble opinion, this is the one for me.
8) FO&O – Gotta Thing About You (click to hear)
Who’s this then? The boyband previously known as The Fooo and then The Fooo Conspiracy made a last-minute change to their name just before Melodifestivalen kicked off. One of the members had left the group, taking along one of the Os from the name. The group has gained a large following, without really having a big hit song so far. They opened for Justin Bieber in Globen very early on in their career and have been able to fill the same venue themselves as well.
What about the song? The song has been written by Mutt Lange, whom you may remember from Def Leppard’s sound anno 1987 (Pour Some Sugar on Me), if you’re old enough… So it’s kinda catchy pop with light rock riffing thrown in. The simpler staging in Andra Chansen brought the boys more into focus and helped them beat the novelty act De Vet Du.
Any chance of success? Felix, Oscar and Omar have a strong fanbase coming into the competition and they will get plenty of app votes from the young girls (a very important Mello demographic). But the international juries may be harder to impress. Somewhere around the middle is most likely.
9) NANO – Hold On (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Nano is making his debut in Melodifestivalen. He has gained sympathy with his difficult background of crime and drugs, and how he turned his life around after having children.
What about the song? This song is very up-to-date in its sound and is drawing comparisons to Rag’n’Bone Man’s big hit Human. The strongly deliverd emotional vocals are Nano’s strength.
Any chance of success? This has been an early favorite to win after making it’s way through from the first heat. The song is also one of the most streamed songs of the competition. In betting odds Nano is on top along with Wiktoria. So this is definitely one of the strongest candidates to win.
10) WIKTORIA – As I Lay Me Down (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Wiktoria returns after last year’s successful debut in Melodifestivalen, when she entered as a total outsider and took fourth place with her country-tinged sound. She has had a group called Dash4 with a friend of hers, but last year’s Melodifestivalen marked her debut as a solo artist.
What about the song? Wiktoria continues with the country-influenced pop sound and this time the song is even catchier than last. She also gets to move around this time, which is a plus (last time her show consisted of projections on her jumpsuit, so she had to stand still).
Any chance of success? This is the most popular Mello song on Spotify, and as of this writing at number 3 in the Swedish chart. Wiktoria also leads the betting odds. So if there is one pre-final favorite to be lifted above others, this is it. And I would not mind her winning at all – I could very well see this doing well at Eurovision.
11) BENJAMIN INGROSSO – Good Lovin’ (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Benjamin Ingrosso has music and dance in his veins. His mother Pernilla Wahlgren had her own breakthrough singing in Melodifestivalen 1985, while Benjamin’s father Emilio Ingrosso was her background dancer. Benjamin’s music career is still quite fresh, but the audience knows him already from his winning entry in Let’s Dance (Dancing with the Stars).
What about the song? The song has a soulful groove thing going on, and the performance relies heavily on the dance choreography. Well, the boy sure can dance – and hold a tune while doing it! The song could use something a little extra to make it more memorable.
Any chance of success? The starting field in the final is so strong that this will not end up higher than around mid-way.
12) OWE THÖRNQVIST – Boogieman Blues’ (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Owe Thörnqvist is the oldest competitor ever in the competition, making his Melodifestivalen debut at the age of 87. He is known for his boogie sounds, but he’s done anything from rock to rumba to calypso, as well as revues and comedy shows.
What about the song? The sounds are rockabilly and boogie, as it could have sounded decades ago. The tune is quite charming and took a place directly in the final from its preliminary heat. The boogieman is still going strong, obviously.
Any chance of success? People really wanted to see this in the final, but they are not going to send Owe to represent Sweden in Eurovision. Not gonna happen.
Photos: SVT/Janne Danielsson