This is my first visit to a Melodifestival event in Malmö since back in 2001, and my first visit to Malmö Arena, which was only built a couple of years ago.
My first impressions are, it's a great arena and perfect for the Eurovision. It's almost like a smaller version of the O2 Arena in London, complete wth LED lights all around the arena. The atmosphere in May will be great, and wherever you are sitting (or standing) in the arena you'll get a good view. And there is a shopping centre next door, so plenty of places to eat for journalists and fans.
So back to this week's songs.
1) Rockin' the Ride - Army of Lovers. First things first. Don't let your gran see this. There hasn't been as much naked flesh on a Eurovision stage since "Be my Valentine" from Ukraine in 2008. The dancers wear tiny leopard-skin bikinis and thongs. And the group sing about as much as the dancers wear clothes. But Army of Lovers, huge in the 1990's, were never known for their live singing. So, what about the song? It is repetitive, almost like a nursery rhyme, but on the other hand it is extremely effective. It drills into the brain. But will the stage show just be too much?
2) It must be love - Lucia Piñera. One of the biggest problems with Melodifestivalen and Eurovision is the tendency of some songwriters to take a popular song, and do "their own version" of it. Sometimes it works, other times the "influence" is way too obvious. Lucia has a great pair of lungs, but the song sounds exactly like Adele's "Rolling in the deep", but with a different melody and lyric on top of the original backing track. You can even sing the "Rolling in the deep" chorus over the chorus of "It must be love". A shame.
3) You - Robin Stjernberg. Robin is another graduate of the Idol school of tv popstars. The song is kinda U2 circa 1987, or maybe an outtake fron the Lion King and the hook is a falsett-wail "Yooooouuuooooouuu" in the chorus. A stadium rock song, but difficult to sing. Robin does it well, but sounds "on the edge" the whole time. Not sure how this will sound on TV. Falsettos don't always work in Melodifestivalen. Ask Jay-Jay Johansson and Magnus Carlsson.
4) Trivialitet - Sylvia Vrethammer. Sylvia has been a fixture of the Swedish showbiz scene since the sixties, and has taken part in the Melodifestival several times, without making a huge splash. At least not as big as her hit "Y viva España". This is a typical Sylvia number. Mid-tempo bossa-lite. Rather similar to Maja Gullstrand's "Här för mig själv", with the odd James Bond chord. Not bad, but not top four material.
5) Bed on fire - Ralf Gyllenhammar. I have to plead total ignorance here. Ralf's music is so completely NOT my taste in music that it is difficult to judge it properly. It's a theatrical, bombastic hard-rock ballad number, which I'm sure will do very well in the contest. It starts quietly at the piano, before the guitars kick in with Ralf wailing away during the chorus. Lots of fire and flames. The last time Sweden hosted the contest, the Swedish entry was sung by a more 'mature' singer with lots of pyro on stage. Could history repeat itself?
6) Jalla dansa sawa - Behrang Meri. Take two scoops of Khaled's "C'est la vie" and one scoop Jessy Matador's "Allez ola olé", and mix it with a bit of attitude from the suburbs and you have this lively entry. One of the most energetic entries in Melodifestivalen this year, expect the audience here in Malmö Arena to go crazy tomorrow night. The song is a mix of French, Arabic, and multi-culti Swedish. Great energy. This could do well, and will be a favorite in aerobics classes all across Sweden during the next twelve months. Allex allez allez...
7) Breaking the silence - Therese Fredenwall. Therese was the winner of a talent competition on the radio channel P4 last year, and her song has a great future there. Mid-tempo radiopop with a hint of Lene Marlin. It doesn't really grab after just one listen, but it is a real grower.
8) Tell the world I'm here - Ulrik Munther. Ulrik came third in last year's Melodifestival with the rather dull "Soldiers". His song this year is much stronger. With a backdrop reminiscent of that used by Olsen Brothers in 2000, this is one of the strongest candidates to the final victory in Friends Arena. It's a mix of Swedish House Mafia, U2, Coldplay... think anthemic stadium-pop. It isn't easy to sing, some of the notes sound a bit strained, and this year the Swedish general public is voting rather strangely this year... So who knows if Ulrik will actually get the spot in the final that he deserves. Fingers crossed.
OK, last week's prediction went completely wrong. Here is another go.
Final: Ulrik Munther
Final: Ralf Gyllenhammar
AC: Behrang Miri
AC: Army of Lovers
Fifth: Robin Stjernberg