The travelling music extravaganza we lovingly know as MELLO is reaching its climax on Saturday the 12th of March. Here’s your guide to the big final of Melodifestivalen!
Melodifestivalen is a very big deal in Sweden. Even though it is the Swedish qualifications round for the Eurovision Song Contest, it is bigger than Eurovision – with something like four million Swedes benched in front of the TV with the whole family on the final night.
There are 12 songs competing in Saturday’s final, possibly with slightly less variation amongst them than one might have hoped, but there’s plenty to like.
Here’s our low-down of the finalists:
1) PANETOZ – Håll om mig hårt (click to hear)
Who’s this then? A high-energy boyband from Stockholm suburb Jordbro. They made a successful debut in the 2014 Melodifestivalen and already before that had a huge hit with Dansa Pausa. They actually had their start through a youth music project aimed at fighting segreration and criminality through giving the suburban kids a creative outlet. Oh, and the token white guy of the group is Finnish, and as you may know, that’s always a plus point in my book.
What about the song? The show will kick off with plenty of energy and loads of stomping . The Oy, Oy, Oy chants go nicely along with the African-influenced dance moves. Try to keep up! Music-wise definitely a welcome party banger to the final, when the rest of the field has so many slick tunes playing it safe.
Any chance of success? Not much of a chance of being anywhere near the top, I’m afraid.
2) LISA AJAX – My Heart Wants Me Dead (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Winner of Swedish Idol 2014, when she was just 16 (the minimum age limit for that show). Lisa has not made much of a mark after her win, but was given a good welcome in her Mello heat, going straight to the final. Lisa hails from Järfälla, north of Stockholm.
What about the song? This song has been growing on me and it is one of the best of the final in terms of pop music craftsmanship. The song-writers include the team behind last year’s Eurovision winner Heroes (performed by Måns Zelmerlöw) – Linnea and Joy Deb and Anton Hård af Segerstad, collectively know as The Family. And as a Finn I must of course mention that Finland’s own YouTube star Sara Forsberg (aka SAARA aka Smokahontas) has been along for the ride and has a song-writing credit to her name as well.
Any chance of success? The early start number is not working in Lisa’s favour and she most likely has to compete over the same votes with Molly Sandén, and a trio of boys in the similar category.
3) DAVID LINDGREN – We are Your Tomorrow (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Returning to Melodifestivalen for the third time after pretty successful stints in 2012 and 2013. David has a background in musical theatre, including roles in High School Musical, Hairspray and Jersey Boys. At 33, David is actually the oldest in the start field (Ace Wilder is also 33), which kind of sums up how youth rules this year and all the veterans were voted out.
What about the song? This one went directly through to the final mainly on the merit of David being the only guy with an up-tempo song in his heat. The song is pretty corny and clichéd and sounds just too much like Axwell /\ Ingrosso’s Sun is Shining.
Any chance of success? This should end up in the bottom of the pile, the voters have several more appealing options in the heart-throb category this year.
4) SARAHA – Kizunguzungu (click to hear)
Who’s this then? SaRaHa’s given name is Sara Larsson (which understandably would not really work as an artist name in Sweden right now). She grew up in Tanzania and already has a popstar career over there.
What about the song? Well about time Melodifestivalen got its share of Afropop, and that too with such infectious grooves à la Shakira. Very catchy and radio-friendly, makes you want to move your hips to the beat, and as you know, hips don’t lie. So this definitely stands out from the crowd of too many similarly slick tunes. Swedish-Iranian popstar Arash (he with the Boro Boro song) has been involved in the song-writing.
Any chance of success? This should be popular especially with the youngest part of the crowd, who will be over-represented in the app-voting (which gives a maximum of five free votes per artist). Not a winner, but it should do well.
5) OSCAR ZIA – Human (click to hear)
Who’s this then? 19-year-old heart-throb, who appeared in Sweden’s first and only X Factor season in 2012. He competed in Melodifestivalen in 2014 with Yes We Can and actually also featured alongside Behrang Miri in 2013.
What about the song? Oscar has written the song along with the ace up’n’coming Swedish pop folk duo Smith & Thell, who recently signed a deal with the legendary label Def Jam(!). The song itself is quite an anthem in the mid-tempo bracket, and Oscar’s own recent coming-out story may give further gravity to the text. The visuals also go nicely along with the pathos.
Any chance of success? This should definitely be in the top half of the final, clearly a cut above both Robin Bengtsson and David Lindgren, who may be vying for the same votes.
6) ACE WILDER – Don’t Worry (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Ace Wilder returns after making a name for herself in the 2014 Melodifestivalen, in which she ended up on second place just two points behind victorious Sanna Nielsen. Full disclosure: Ace has been a huge personal favorite since her very first single and her finely crafted pop tunes pack a punch that is right up my alley. So I admit a slight bias, but this really is the best one in this year’s competition.
What about the song? This is the one that really stands above all others as a personal favorite. The song has grown with every listen and it has so many hooks there would be enough to make several of your run-of-the-mill hit tunes. The song-writing team, along with Ace herself, once again includes The Family, i.e. Linnea and Joy Deb and Anton Hård af Segerstad, who were also involved with Ace’s Busy Doin’ Nothin’ and last year’s Eurovision winner Heroes. The visuals with the projections and the cubes are worthy of Eurovision finals.
Any chance of success? This should be up there competing for the top positions and would be a worthy winner, although the audience looks like it’s leaning towards Frans. Placing my hopes with the international jury groups then…
7) ROBIN BENGTSSON – Constellation Prize (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Robin was an “also-ran” in Swedish Idol’s rather forgettable season 2008 and has been releasing some music since 2013 under the name B Robin. This marks something of a new start under his given name.
What about the song? Sounds very much like contemporary radio hits, which is not a bad thing at all. The harmonica is a nice touch and Robin is looking quite dapper. Not sure who came up with the title of Constellation Prize, and not quite sure what they are trying to say with the “wordplay”… I don’t get it.
Any chance of success? The tune should have quite good chances of doing well, but I don’t really see it upsetting the big favorite Frans.
8) MOLLY SANDÉN – Youniverse (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Molly is the biggest star in the final and a veteran of the stage even though she’s just 23. She took third place in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 and has competed in Mello already in 2009 and 2012. She has many hits to her name, including the very influential pop tunes Freak and Phoenix.
What about the song? The song has been very carefully crafted by Molly and her boyfriend Danny Saucedo, so much so that it feels somewhat calculated and a bit “too perfect”. Everything is in the right place, but the number still didn’t cause the wow effect of something like Euphoria from a few years back. But this wordplay is really done much more cleverly than Robin Bengtsson’s.
Any chance of success? Molly was the strongest favorite before anybody had heard any of the songs, but there has not been much of a buzz after the tune made it straight to the final from the last preliminary round. She will get a good position, but winning is not very likely.
9) BORIS RENÉ – Put Your Love on Me (click to hear)
Who’s this then? A professional football player for the Degerfors IF, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
What about the song? The song is very infectious and upbeat, much in the same vein as last year’s Australian Eurovision entry by Guy Sebastian. It will have you snapping your fingers and sit-dancing in the very least. A party tune for the summer.
Any chance of success? No chance of winning, but the song will find its audience and launch his career.
10) FRANS – If I Were Sorry (click to hear)
Who’s this then? Sweet-looking 17-year-old kid, who was even cuter nine years ago when he did that song that went “I love you, Ich liebe dich, Zlatan Ibrahimovic”. The Melodifestivalen tune is his grown-up debut on the music scene.
What about the song? The song is very contemporary and could be compared to the likes of Ed Sheeran. The simplicity of the tune, its production and the performance are in great contrast with many of the other songs in the final that feel heavily produced and polished to the max. This feels natural and that is what speaks to the people.
Any chance of success? The song became an instant favorite of the masses when Frans performed it in the last of the preliminary heats. It is also by far the biggest hit on Spotify. So this is our very likely winner and the song should do well in Europe as well. Sweden is already the favorite in Eurovision betting odds on the strength of this song.
11) WIKTORIA – Save Me (click to hear)
Who’s this then? A total outsider who made it directly into the finals. Wiktoria has had a group called Dash4 with a friend of hers, but Melodifestivalen marks her debut as a solo artist.
What about the song? The song can be described as country-influenced pop and the tune is effectively simple. The visuals are also pretty nifty with projections on Wiktoria’s skin-colored jumpsuit. (But what are the DC Comics people saying about that WW that looks totally like the Wonder Woman logo?)
Any chance of success? The song has received a good place in the starting order, which will help it’s chances, so expect a fairly good position.
12) SAMIR & VIKTOR – Bada Nakna (click to hear)
Who’s this then? One of them is a reality TV star and the other a fashion blogger, and they are both big on Instagram. Those are their main merits on which they are entering already their second Melodifestivalen final in two years.
What about the song? It’s an adolescent party banger about skinny-dipping at Sergels Torg (where locals celebrate hockey victories and such in the fountain). You can expect this to be a sommarplåga that will be played by truckloads of students when they celebrate leaving school. Not many redeeming qualities as far as the music goes, but if you’re so inclined, there’s always the part about bare-chested young men getting wet on stage.
Any chance of success? Absolutely no chance Sweden will send this to represent the country in Eurovision. But somebody up there (read: Mello producer Christer Björkman) likes them, as they’ve received the closing spot of the show.
Photo credit: SVT / Janne Danielsson
You can listen to all 28 Melodifestivalen 2016 tunes on this Spotify playlist: