Yikes! Second Saturday into February and I haven’t mentioned Melodifestivalen?! “The Melody Festival” is a huge event in Sweden and
cannot will not be ignored! Melodifestivalen is the most popular, maybe most important, show in Sweden. Every year 3-4 million Swedes faithfully watch it (have I mentioned that the population of Sweden is roughly 9.4 million?). Melodifestivalen is tradition since 1959. But what is it!? It’s a competition.
Let’s just say that in 1974 a band named ABBA won the Melodifestivalen. That year Sweden came in first place in Eurovision. The whole purpose of Melodifestivalen is that the winner of the competition goes on to represent Sweden in the international Eurovision Song Contest, which is an even bigger deal… a huge deal, 100-600 million viewers world wide type of a huge deal. Four winners of the Melodifestivalen have also won the Eurovision contest, Sweden has been placed in the top 5 places 14 times. With four wins under its belt, only four other countries have won more often, so Sweden must be doing something right with this Melodifestivalen!
Melodifestivalen is something I’ve heard of but never seen, until now. Having remembered too late, I missed the first installment (Hence the post two weeks into the month) but I made sure not to miss today’s performances. I enjoyed it a lot- more than I expected considering I couldn’t understand most of it. Maybe next year I’ll be able to understand the introductions, interviews, and the comic relief, and all of the songs instead of half. Or maybe I’ll force my husband to watch it with me next week and do some translations (Ya, right! He’s not a fan of the competition)
Every Saturday in February the Melodifestivalen competition continues, and all across Sweden people watch it unfold. Over time and with a bunch of changes to the festival over the years, including the 2002 introduction of weekly semi-finals, the amount of competitors has risen from 5 to 32, thus stretching the competition out for the duration of five weeks instead of a single night of two round elimination. A panel of judges along with a public telephone voting system now determines the semi finalists each week. The semi final show and finale being the most watched segment.
If you are thinking somewhere along the lines of American Idol, you are half right but not really. There are no embarrassing auditions aired (the best part and the only episodes I watch). There are no obnoxious commentary from judges, although there is a few minutes between each performance of the hosts talking about something or other that I can’t understand, seems to be comic relief filler. Each performance is well polished, rehearsed, with set design, wardrobe, back up singers, and back up dancers. Remember this isn’t just a competition for some money or fame, its to become the face of Sweden in the bigger international contest. However there is a trophy – “Den stora Sångfågeln” (The Great Songbird), and of course there is fame. Only days after the Eurovision contest ends does the selection process for contestants and song choices begin for the following year, thus taking 9 months to narrow down the competition for next years Melodifestivalen. There is a mix of begining and experienced performers, songs are not limited by language, but most are Swedish or English, and the genres have become increasingly diverse.
Each of the six shows are aired live, the first four shows consist of eight songs that are voted on solely by the viewers to determine which proceed to the final round or second chance round, which are then determined by judges.
Onto the show!
Tuning in via webcast I was greeted with a count down of when the live show would start, with a photo of the hosts in the background:
After a small amount of talking and joking in the beginning for a few minutes the first performance was on stage rather quickly. It wasn’t until half way through that I realized that it was the hosts in black vests and hats along with two men singing a melody of boy band songs such as “I want it that way” and “Larger than life.” (I’m pretty sure those are both backstreet?) I’m assuming that each show starts with a performance from the hosts.
The audience is waving colorful balloons which makes it feel like a party. It starts with showing photos of each of the eight contestants for the evening. I tried to get screen shots or each performance and jot down some thoughts. Each contestant is introduced by the host and they walk up the catwalk with a voice over and music. I assume the voice over is a short description of each performer, but I wasn’t able to understand it.
The first act was a teenage boy named Ulrik, I assume 16 or 17 since you have to be 16 to enter the contest. He went on stage armed with a guitar, a harmonica, a great voice, messy hair, and stunning eyes. He sang a song in English, “Soldier” which was very catchy and well done. He didn’t dance but he was multitasking instruments, so who can blame him?
The second performance was Five guys with 60’s styled slicked back hair, called Top Cats singing a song in English, “Baby Doll.” They were extremlly energetic while each playing an instrument- piano, drums, guitars, and a cello. Fun old school rock and roll sound while the pianist is standing and dancing while playing and the cello player is standing ON TOP of his cello.
The third performance was a slow paced Swedish ballad by Sonja Alden. She was alone on stage, no back up dancers or singers, no instruments aside from her soothing smooth voice. The set was filled with smoke and lights for atmosphere and a bridge. She wore a beautiful flowing dress that moved in the wind as she sang. Seemed like a classic song, was a bit too slow for my taste.
The Fourth artist was a guy named Andreas Lund, he strutted and danced up the catwalk to a Jay Z song, which I found pretty amusing in his shiny gold and black suit. He sang a Swedish song called “Aldrig, Aldrig” and had a great stage presence and a lot of energy. He had three back up dancers/singers all dressed the same as him but with reversed colors.
The fifth performance was a Swedish song by four young women, blond hair and beautiful- the stereotypical Swedish woman in an Americans eyes. Their set was filled with smoke and they were joined by 3 male dancers. They stayed pretty close to their microphone stands but did break away and move a little bit twice. The unique part was their instruments: Guitar, accordion, violin, and flute- and they all sang beautifully in unison with perfect harmony.
Sixth up was David Lindgren who sang an English song “Shout it Out.” Upon first seeing him in his suit and sneakers fist pumping to the music I thought he was awkward but I was wrong. He was soon joined by four co-ed dancers and he starts to dance along while singing, before you know it he shed his jacket and starts break dancing! It was interesting to see him sing and dance mixing in and even being in back of the other dancers. He was fun to listen to and watch- I was a bit scared to look away after being surprised with Flames shooting from the set and him break dancing.
The Seventh contestant up was Mimi Oh singing a Swedish tune. She was wearing bright yellow and pink along with massive eyelash extensions and doe eyes. She was surrounded by four co-ed dancers but only managed basic movements, slight dancing with mostly jumping and walking. I can’t really recall the song or how she sounded.
Last but not least was the eccentric Thomas Di Leva, I wish I could understand the background information on him, I am guessing it was pretty interesting. He sung a Swedish song and wore a long sleeved, floor lengthed “dress?” with a lightening bolt on the chest and long curly hair. He only sings but has a male and a female back up dancers in white and gold who move somewhat unconventionally. He was the only performer to walk into the audience, shaking hands and singing into the crowd.
All eight performances with some short dialogue and introductions in between took about 45 minutes. Then there is a recap rundown of each performance with a 15 second clip of every song along with which number to call to vote for that contestant.
I expected that to be the end, but the show went on. There was about five minutes of some stuff I couldn’t understand and then it was back to the contestants waiting with some comic relief from the host with a sign pinned to her bottom saying “Do not touch” – too bad I didn’t understand the context.
Apparently the votes are tallied immediately and you only have a few minutes to vote. I expected the results to be reveled next show. Within ten minutes of the eighth song the five songs that are voted to stay are announced followed by a second vote. I found it interesting that the contestants wait on the floor sitting at tables, as opposed to standing on stage.
There is a bonus performance while we wait, a “mash up” with who I can only assume are previous contestants from last year or last week? I was admittedly confused.
And the winner is…..
Ulrik- the first performer! He quickly ran to the catwalk and posed for photos, jumping high with his arms stretched out. He was rushed to the stage to perform an encore of the same song he played before. I thought the winner would be Lindren, the cheers were loudest for him.
I thought it was over but then… to my surprise there was a THIRD vote. What the heck!? Then I recalled reading that there are two semifinalists from each week. The vote was from the remaining four contestants and seemed much quicker. and the winner is….Lindgren! So, my suspicions were spot on. When his name was called his eyes were filled with tears and there was laughter in his voice as he performed his song again. It really felt like a celebration. The winners were given huge bouquets of flowers and posed for photos together.
So, that’s the Swedish Melodifestevalen in a very big nutshell. It was enjoyable and I’ll probably watch it again, however I will certainly skip the hectic gathering of notes and screenshots. Hope you all enjoyed this piece of Swedish Entertainment! Search for “Melodifestivalen” on youtube and watch some clips!