So, the rehearsals have started, and I get the chance to hear the songs for the first time. On the Thursday rehearsals each act gets 30 - 40 minutes to rehearse on stage. Most of the time not in the outfits they will be wearing on Saturday, and also without hair and make-up. Sometimes the artists hardly even sing, trying instead to get a feel of the stage and where the cameras are.
1. Begging - Anton Ewald - Big Melodifestival fans will remember Anton as one of the backing singers/dancers behind Andreas Lundstedt's "Aldrig Aldrig" last year. A trained choreographer, this is his first solo performance as a singer. Written by Fredrik Kempe, his song is, like the first song last week, an up-tempo dance number. Slighty more electronic than David Lindgren. Part of the hook in the song is reminiscent of "Dynamite" by Taio Cruz. Anton is a great dancer, looks good, but is the song instant enough on one listen? All in all, a good opener. (And I managed to write a whole piece about him without mentioning Eric Saade. Oh. Damn)
2. Make me number one - Felicia Olsson - Felicia is another MF-newcomer. She stands in the middle of the stage surrounded by huge lamps to sing this soulful ballad. Take Jennifer Brown's Melodifestival entry "Never been here before", add a touch of Maria Haukaas Storeng's "Killing me tenderly" and "Hold on be strong" and you have an idea of how the song is (Maria is also one of the co-writers of this entry). The song isn't quite as Bond-esque as KMT though. 18 year-old Felicia has a great pair of lungs though. Sarah Dawn Finer's younger sister?
Tone Damli apparently has to be back in Oslo later, so her rehearsal with Erik Segerstedt has been moved forward...
5. Hello Goodbye - Tone Damli & Erik Segerstedt - Tone Damli had a big hit with her "Butterflies" in the Norwegian final a few years back, and Erik was/is one of the members of EMD. Erik starts off on the catwalk, before moving back to the main stage, and they then sing on the same mike stand, it looks a bit like a forked tongue. The song is co-written by Måns Zelmerlöw. For some reason the beginning reminds me of Lasse Berghagen's "Min kärlekssång till dig". "Jag har köpt mig en akustisk gitarr...". It's a mid-tempo stomper that builds well. Both Erik and Tone are great vocalists, but is it exciting enough to attract votes and stick out? If you liked Tone's "Butterflies" I think you'll like this. (Oh, now they got rid of the double mike-stand)
4. On top of the world - Swedish HouseWives - I'm sure plenty of people are expecting this song by Pernilla Wahlgren, Hanna Hedlund and Jenny Silver to be a classic schlager number. It isn't that. There are definite schlager elements in the melody and song structure, but the arrangement is much clubbier. Think Lady Gaga meets "Jag vill om du vågar". They start the song on top of stairs made of gold ingots, and are soon joined by four backing dancers. And they have a wind machine!
3. Annelie - Joacim Cans - Joacim is the singer in the metal band Hammerfall, but this is not rock. It is much more early-90's Swedish indiepop with a touch of Swedish folk music in the instrumental break. The first time we have had a keyed fiddle/nyckelharpa since Sarek? Joacim sings well, and it is something different for Melodifestival, but not quite folky enough for my tastes. But definitely top 4 on Saturday. Cans is well known in Sweden, having won the "Körslaget" choir competition on TV4. He also has members of the metal band Sator up with him on stage. Back in the early ninieties they did their own cover of Abba's first Melodifestival song "Ring ring".
6. Only the dead fish follow the stream - Louise Hoffsten - Louise, just like Eric Gadd last week, was a big star in Sweden during the nineties, and is still recording music and playing gigs. Her usual style is rather bluesy, and there is a bluesy touch to this mid-tempo number as well. There is a touch of country in there as well. And a harmonica. It is a comptetent number, and well performed, but again, I'm not sure if it sticks out enough. Louise, who suffers from MS, is a master of eye-contact with the cameras though. Probably the weirdest song title in Melodifestivalen this year, as well.
7. En förlorad sommar - Rickard Wolff - Actor and singer Rickard Wolff performs this ballad in almost complete darkness, with just a piano on the stage. Almost chanson-like, this is the quietest song in this semi-final, with Wolff's characteristic husky, almost whispered voice. This is almost a slower and quieter version of Björn Kjellman's "Älskar du livet". It could either do really well, or follow in the footsteps of Anna Järvinen last week and end up at the bottom of the scoreboard.
8. Copacabanana - Sean Banan - Almost all the other singers in this semi-final are singing in black outfits, so Sean's explosion in pink and yellow really sticks out! If you've heard his entry from last year "Sean den förste banan", you can guess what to expect. There are in-jokes aimed at the world of Melodifestivalen, a huge "Eurovisean" sign in the shape of the old Eurovision logo, it is intensive and mad. The kids are probably going to love it.
Swedish Television are publishing one-minute clips of the songs on their homepage during the day (A green arrow by the article title means there's a clip there). What do YOU think? Comment below!