How quickly did that five weeks of preliminary rounds go? It is already time for the Grand Finale of Melodifestivalen, the Pandemic Edition. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 13th March at 8pm CET – this year SVT is treating international fans to actual live commentary in English!
Each show has had different hosts this year, as well as different ways of presenting things, which has lead to some rather uneven shows. Yet there were many memorable skits and interval acts beside the great music. The finale will be hosted by Mr. Eurovision himself, Måns Zelmerlöw, as well as actress/singer/playwright/director Shima Niavarani. These two are total pros, so you can expect them to deliver the goods.
English live commentary is provided as an option for the first time ever, which is a great move since Melodifestivalen is clearly one of the most closely followed national selections among the Eurovision fandom. Bella Qvist will be commenting from backstage in Stockholm, and Olivia Le Poidevin is joining her from Britain.
– It feels good to be able to reach out with Melodifestivalen to fans outside of Sweden, a body of viewers that year after year show their love for the program which has never been returned. With their dedication and their love for the show Olivia and Bella will guide our English-speaking viewers through the night in a fantastic way, says Anette Brattström project manager of Melodifestivalen 2021.
But let us get down to the main attraction, the 12 finalists and their songs…
All artist photos courtesy of SVT / Jan Danielsson
1) DANNY SAUCEDO – DANDI DANSA
Danny Saucedo is of course the superstar of the Swedish pop scene, and to be honest, you would not have seen him back in Mello if it wasn’t for Corona cancelling all his fabulous stage shows. And of course he already has a summer tour and a subsequent Stockholm residency lined up after this, so what better advertisement to sell those tickets… He has of course almost won the competition twice, ending up just behind Eric Saade and Loreen in 2011 and 2012 respectively. This time around Danny says he is not here so much for the win, but rather to show what he’s made of nowadays. The song is more in the vein of something like Eric Gadd‘s funky soul than any of Danny’s Melfest pop bangers. The staging is fun and elaborate, borrowing from Jamiroquai in Virtual Insanity, something that would not really have been possible to do if there was a live audience. The song by itself doesn’t really give that wow effect, but he’s definitely got the whole package here. If this were to win, sure hope Danny will keep the lyrics in Swedish.
2) KLARA HAMMASTRÖM – BEAT OF BROKEN HEARTS
Klara Hammarström made her debut in Melodifestivalen last year, becoming a bit of a fan favorite even though she did not make it to the final. Before that she was known from a reality TV show about her family (with 11 kids, several of whom have been successful in equestrian sports, including Klara herself). She took herself to the final via Andra Chansen, beating another pop act Efraim Leo in her duel. She brings a nice enough pop tune, which we wish would be just a little stronger to match up with her amazing outfit and the explosive LED screens and pyros behind her. She really does look rather like a superhero in her silver-colored armour and thigh-high boots. Would really not have minded aiming my camera at the spectacle.
3) ANTON EWALD – NEW RELIGION
Anton Ewald is one of the pretty boy popstars making a return to Melodifestivalen this year. He made an impact in Melfest 2013 with Begging, but less so in 2014 with Natural. After that he hasn’t really been seen much in Sweden or in the music scene, as he has been mainly working as a model in the US. But now he is reintroducing himself with that flashy smile and cool dance moves. Singing skills… not as much, which became rather evident when he was so overwhelmed with emotion after getting straight to the final, that he did not manage to even mime to the vocal track that went on behind him. Backing vocals are allowed to be on tape even at Eurovision this year, but still, that hiccup will definitely cost Anton some votes in the final. Among the songwriters we need to put focus on Maja Strömstedt, who is making our favorite kind of pop music herself under the name of Maja Kristina. She deserves much more credit than just being named as the daughter of her famous parents.
4) THE MAMAS – IN THE MIDDLE
The Mamas of course famously won Melodifestivalen 2020 with just one point ahead of Dotter – but missed out on the chance to represent Sweden in Eurovision as the pandemic put an end to any Eurovision plans last May. Ashley Haynes, Loulou Lamotte and Dinah Jonas Manna are back with another fine gospel-tinged song, with Melfest 2013 winner Robin Stjernberg in the songwriting team, among others. The staging has a cool effect in the start, that ties this year’s entry perfectly with last year’s one. The Mamas also get to move around much more (than with Move), taking full advantage of not having an audience and getting to use fun camera movements and angles. It remains to be seen how much people will sympathy vote for their missed Rotterdam trip. The novelty aspect has certainly worn off and there is not as much buzz about The Mamas as last time around…
5) PAUL REY – THE MISSING PIECE
Paul Rey had his big breakthrough in last year’s Melodifestivalen, where he made his way into the final. We of course need to mention his credentials as a Sweden-Finn (which you may know gives anybody extra points in my book). Our Pauli is back with another fine pop tune that has drawn comparisons to contemporary favorites like Ed Sheeran or Lewis Capaldi. Since we saw him last, Paul’s life has changed through becoming a father, and most naturally the song is about that missing piece that has made his puzzle complete. The staging is very clean and stylish, putting the focus firmly on Paul and his message.
6) CHARLOTTE PERRELLI – STILL YOUNG
The ultimate schlager diva is back with actual schlager! Charlotte Perrelli is of course a two-time Melodifestivalen winner and she took home the big one as well, winning Eurovision Song Contest back in 1999 with Take Me to Your Heaven. Her most recent stint at Melodifestivalen in 2017 was something of a disappointment for the Melfest fans, who didn’t get behind her singer-songwriter ambitions. This time she returns with a luxurious schlager show with extra everything, including übercool vogue poses and catwalk feels. This is totally what people want and expect from La Perrelli…
7) TUSSE – VOICES
Tusse is the most hyped artist in the final and the bookies have him as a clear favorite to win the whole thing. He won the Swedish Idol in 2019 and made an impression with both his vocal chops and his natural talent for performing. The experience in front of the cameras really did show, when the 19-year-old made his debut on the Melodifestivalen stage and booked his spot straight to the final. The songwriting team includes very strong names: Anderz Wrethov, Joy Deb, Linnea Deb, Jimmy ‘Joker’ Thörnfeldt… It is a somewhat dark electro pop mid-tempo song that has been compared to something The Weeknd might do. The song is motivational and talks about freedom and getting your voice heard. Tusse’s strong presence is flanked by an all-black dance group, which looks powerful in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.
8) ALVARO ESTRELLA – BAILA BAILA
Alvaro Estrella is back after last year’s appearance with Mendez that took them to the final. Alvaro has of course competed in Melfest also in 2014 and he’s also been seen dancing behind Eric Saade in Popular and Danny Saucedo in Amazing, among others. He has a almost the same songwriting team as Tusse befor him (Anderz Wrethov, Linnea Deb, Jimmy ‘Joker’ Thörnfeldt), but the feel of the song is completely different. The happy-go-lucky Latin-influenced song is rather cliched and generic, with the lyrics throwing in some beginner’s level Spanish. The stage show of course builds on dancing, what else can you expect with a song called Baila Baila…
9) CLARA KLINGENSTRÖM – BEHÖVER INTE DIG IDAG
Clara Klingenström is debuting in Melodifestivalen this year with a song she has penned together with Melfest veteran Bobby Ljunggren as well as David Lindgren Zacharias, who has co-written a lot of Darin‘s more recent hits. And the craftmanship shows in this fine tune. Clara made her way to the final through Andra Chansen, having made a genuine impression on the people with her pure emotion. Clara did not need a big stage show, but rather we saw her alone on stage, looking très cool in her pink hair, short glittery dress and Doc Martens – and wielding her guitar. She clearly meant every word she sang, about taking control of her life again and not needing that abusive person anymore. Clara really has something special about her in a live setting, even without an audience.
10) ERIC SAADE – EVERY MINUTE
Eric Saade doesn’t really require any introductions, having broken through with Manboy in Melfest 2010 and going on to win the whole thing with Popular in 2011. Reaching third place in Eurovision cemented his popularity with the Eurovision fandom. Having released somewhat more mature and downbeat pop in Swedish recently, he is now back in Mello with an English-language pop effort. The sound is contemporary electro pop with dark undertones. The change in Eurovision rules allowing pre-recorded backup vocals has been used to great advantage (well it’s been allowed in Melodifestivalen before as well, but the Eurovision version has had to recreate the backup vocals live). The staging is streamlined and effective, looking like a music video, a bit like Drake‘s Hotline Bling or even Christine and the Queens in Tilted. Eric is the second most tipped winning candidate after Tusse, and he would certainly bring another decent result for Sweden at ESC.
11) DOTTER – LITTLE TOT
Dotter was of course the one we had been waiting for the most eagerly out of this year’s participants. After charming the Swedes and the Eurovision fans alike last year with her Bulletproof, and ending up just one point behind the Mamas, Dotter is now bringing us another amazing song and number. Johanna “Dotter” Jansson has written Little Tot herself with her fiancé Dino Medanhodzic and the song is pure pop perfection, taking unexpected turns and surprising you when you thought you knew where it was headed. Everything is absolutely ON POINT in this pakage: the song, the performance, the styling, the dancers, the confident attitude and the popstar aura. The song’s theme is topical and deals with climate issues, telling the children not to be like us when they grow up. I know I have my rose-colored fangirl glasses on, but this would absolutely make Sweden proud in Dotterdam.
12) ARVINGARNA – TÄNKER INTE ALLS GÅ HEM
Melodifestivalen of course needs a dose of dansband music, the most Swedish of genres. Arvingarna have actually won Melodifestivalen with their classic Eloise way back in 1993 and they had a good turn in Melfest 2019 with I Do. So now they are back with another happy and very catchy song, about something many of us are missing these days – going out and partying ’til the wee hours of the morning. For their staging they have really made use of the elaborate stage construction and so many camera angles you are sure to get confused about what direction they are facing. This is the perfect happy party song to close the evening’s proceedings with.