We may still be in the middle of the pandemic, but the people need their entertainment, right?! Maybe now more than ever, when we can’t get to any live events… So Melodifestivalen will bring the party to the Swedish homes on six Saturdays, starting on the 6th of February and climaxing with the grand final on 13th March, when Sweden will have found a worthy representative for Eurovision.
The corona precautions in the production are strict and there are back-up plans for back-up plans in case somebody falls ill. Instead of the usual touring circus, all the action is taking place at Annexet in Stockholm. And as there is no audience, the stage design has gone pretty wild, with the sole aim of making it all look amazing on the TV screen. The stage is a long catwalk with LED screens on every side, and there is a low ceiling with lights and mirrors. The cameras can sweep around and bring us unexpected angles. So be prepared for some eye-candy and of course the best TV production you can find in Eurovision land.
The actual Eurovision Song Contest may very well have to be based on “live on tape” performances sent by each country instead of being performed live in Rotterdam, so the Melodifestivalen performance of the winner may just end up being the one that Europe gets to see.
But let’s get down to the participants of the first heat, which is looking rather strong in advance.
All artist photos courtesy of SVT / Jan Danielsson
1) KADIATOU – ONE TOUCH
Kadiatou was the runner-up in Swedish Idol season of 2018 (incidentally the same year Nathalie Brydolf was on the show). She has released a few songs since then, but this is really the first thing the masses will see from her since Idol. Kadiatou brings us a modern dance pop banger, that has been likened to something like Dua Lipa‘s earlier work. The song has been penned by Melfest royalty (Joy Deb, Linnea Deb, Anderz Wrethov and Jimmy ‘Joker’ Thrönfeldt) and of course she is bringing on a dance crew of cool girls whipping around with their long braids. Based on rehearsals, here’s hoping Kadiatou will gain some confidence and poise for the performance, to live up to the energy of the great pop tune.
2) LILLASYSTER – PRETENDER
This year’s Melfest brings us not just one but two actual rock bands. The first one out is Gothenburg’s Lillasyster, who usually sing in Swedish, but have now switched to English for the contest. For a pop nerd like myself, the band is best known for their awesome cover of Rihanna‘s Umbrella. For their Melodifestivalen debut the band has teamed up with the songwriter behind all of Dolly Style‘s hits and a couple of other Melfest entries, Palle Hammarlund. But the tune is still absolutely real hard rock, at least once the more low-key acoustic guitar of the start turns into something louder and prouder. The stage show promises us fire and an abundance of lights.
3) JESSICA ANDERSSON – HORIZON
A true Melodifestivalen veteran, Jessica Andersson is competing for her eighth time. She has also represented Sweden in Eurovision with the duo Fame back in 2003. In 2018 she charmed the crowds with her Party Voice and now she is back with an up-tempo tune with some gospel influences thrown in. That has of course been the recipe for Sweden’s two latest ESC entries, but it gets another dimension as it is rather more unexpected from Jessica. Her dress with 70 meters of fabric steals most of the attention in the stage show as she is rather stationary herself. And of course there will be a horizon symbolizing the light and the hope that is waiting for us.
4) 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 him extra points in my book). He is back with another fine pop tune in the vein of the likes of Ed Sheeran or Lewis Capaldi. Since we saw him last, Paul has become a father, and most naturally the song is about that missing piece that has made his puzzle complete. The staging is clean and stylish, focusing on Paul and his message.
5) 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 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.
6) NATHALIE BRYDOLF
The only ballad of the evening comes courtesy of Nathalie Brydolf, who is making her proper debut after her stint on the 2018 Swedish Idol (when she was a personal favorite of mine but ended up on the sixth place). After that some people may have seen her on TV on The Bachelor in 2019 (not me, though), but this brings her back to the fold with the first music she is releasing. The beautiful song is featuring basically just Nathalie and the piano, giving her plenty of space to shine. The staging is classy and Nathalie is really coming through the lens with her presence and emotion. Worth noting among the songwriters is Etta Zelmani, who is making a fine pop career in her own right.
7) DANNY SAUCEDO – DANDI DANSA
Danny Saucedo is rather the superstar of the Swedish pop scene, and let’s face it, you would not have seen him back in Mello if it wasn’t for Corona cancelling all his fabulous stage shows. 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 his Melfest bangers. The staging is rather fun, borrowing from Jamiroquai in Virtual Insanity. The whole package is still likely to get him to the final, even if the song by itself doesn’t give that wow effect. If this were to win, sure hope he will keep the lyrics in Swedish.
Tune in on Saturday the 6th of February at 8pm on SVT1 or or SVT Play – viewable online from anywhere in the world!