Saturday, February 22, 2014

Melodifestivalen 2014 Week 3: hitting new lows in Gothenburg

It would appear that I'm not the only one who's unimpressed with Melodifestivalen this year.  Ratings figures published last week show Sweden's most popular TV event is in freefall, and viewers are switching off by the week.  Then there's the Swedish media whose knives are out for presenters Anders and Nour.  So what's gone wrong?

  • The presenters.  When Anders Jansson and Nour El-Refai's names were announced as this year's presenting duo, I thought they were a strange match.  I still feel that way; they do not appear to have much charisma or chemistry.  The Swedish media have also highlighted a drop in the quality of their scripts compared to previous years.
  • The songs.  It's called Melodifestivalen, but just how many memorable "melodies" have we heard this year?  I'm not advocating the return of schlager, far from it, but some good tunes would be nice!
  • The interval acts/sketches: tiresome.
Would this week change my mind about any/all of the above.

But let's get on with the proceedings in Gothenburg's Scandinavium.  Here at EuropeCrazy HQ, mum continues to lose the will to watch a below-average internet stream.  Unfortunately our internet connection isn't up to the job of watching it in HD quality.  

The stream then crashes/freezes and by the time it has recovered, Nour and Anders have swapped clothes. So that is supposed to be funny?  They are becoming increasingly annoying by the week.

One other annoying thing this year is the paint-postcards; neither of us can warm to them at all.

Outtrigger: "Echo"

Very smart staging here, with the band members all in individual cages and the singer kicking off the song as Hannibal Lecter then freeing himself from his straitjacket and his cage.  This is an assured performance and a very good start to the show.  The song isn't too bad (apart from the screaming) and I might listen to it again.

M: Are they well-known?
L: They did a cover of last year's Melodifestivalen on YouTube which impressed the songwriters so much that they wrote this song for them. 

By the end of the song: 
M: Don't like this.  Thankfully he's stopped "singing".  

Off topic, I'm about a year behind the rest of the world as I've just discovered Haim, who were one of those 'next big thing' bands touted by the critics last year.  What does this have to do with Melodifestivalen, I hear you ask.  The next act, EKO, walk the catwalk to a Haim song, so it's a good start.  Unfortunately the group are in that "spot of death" which as in Eurovision guarantees only failure.

EKO: "Red"

M: She looks like Toyah!
L: (!)

This song has a very 80s electro feel and we both rather like it.  I think this is going to be one of the very few songs this year that will make it onto my iPod playlist.  

Mum is no fan of Anders.  "Who is he?  He looks like a politician.  Was he a politician in a past life?"  I explain how in recent years, the male presenter of Melodifestivalen has been younger and reasonably easy on the eye.  Unlike Anders.  

M: He's even too old for me!!

Next on stage, the foregone conclusion of the night.

Oscar Zia:  "Yes We Can"

Another song by Mr Smug himself Fredrik Kempe. It sounds like one of Max Martin's leftovers and conjures up memories of N*Sync, and it's staged like an Eric Saade cast-off. Oscar won't be saying bye bye bye to the contest though. Can he make it to the final? Yes he can.

M: He'll get votes because of his looks.  
L: It's a bit bland and generic for me, nothing special about it.

Shirley Clamp: "Burning Alive"

Wind machines ahoy! We are now in the "death by fashion" section of the evening. Recent song contest history has shown how styling can make or break a song's chances. Shirley turns out to be the Moje 3 of Heat 3. 

M: She is a good singer but that dress....ugh.  Worst looking thing ever.

L: This is a fashion nightmare. We spend the rest of the song talking about how bad the dress is. Probably the whole of Sweden is doing the same, and not actually listening to the song. Therefore, this is not qualifying.

State of Drama: "All We Are".

M: That painting (the postcards) is annoying me. L: This is nowhere near as good as the song they did last year.
M: I'm not interested in hearing about 'last year's song', that is in the past. This one is annoying.
L: The repetitive chorus is really getting on my nerves. Extremely annoying.
M: Probably only took them about 2 minutes to write. 
L: They seem a lot more arrogant this year than they were last year.  Getting a bit full of themselves now. Next!

Cajsa-Stina Åkerström: "En Enkel Sång".

I'm not familiar with her work but I'm guessing that like many of the 'older' artists in Melodifestivalen, she's not in it to win it but to use it as a shop window for her new material.  Cajsa-Stina walks the catwalk to "Wild World" which gets mum's approval.  She looks like a blonde Sandie Shaw, and performs her 'simple song' on the satellite stage.  Very well staged with everyone waving little lights and a ticker-tape finale.  

M: That was quite nice and might do well.
L: I think there's too many other potential qualifiers tonight though.

Unfortunately, this week's show is dying on its a*se, but look who it is! Only Bjorn Gustafsson to the rescue, hanging from gymnastic rings, and indeed hanging around just a bit too long and overstaying his welcome.

M: Who the hell is this?
L: Remember when Salem was in the final with "Keep On Walking", well, he was the other guy on stage with him.  And he once memorably appeared as Swedish jury spokesperson in Eurovision, awarding 12 points to Sweden. He is a very famous comedian in Sweden.
M: Well I don't think he's very funny.
Bjorn is also of course the guy who did the interval acts a few years ago and became very famous as a result.  But now the whole thing just looks like a desperate attempt to salvage a very poor show. Bjorn finally flies off, as does Mum who has had enough and is off to gather her thoughts and escape the tedium.

Ace Wilder: "Busy Doin' Nothin'"

Another song by the Debs - it's a very busy night for them - and Melodifestivalen debutant Ace is walking the catwalk to Hollaback Girl. Which sets her up nicely for what surprisingly turned out to be one of the surprises of the night.  Although she's still a bit iffy vocally, and the sentiments of the song a bit dodgy in places, this has grown on me and I think I'd listen to it again after the contest, even if it is clearly "influenced" by Icona Pop's I Love It.

Dr Alban and Jessica Folcker: "Around The World" .

They look good in their white outfits, and it's not as car-crash as the 1 minute clip, however the good Doctor fails to prescribe a top class performance. Jessica is great though and it's a pity that she's dragged down by the substandard 'singing'.

Mum returns in time for the recap and the rest of the show. The interval act this week, "Sochi The Musical" may have had the best intentions but went right over my head. There are people on stage in gold skin-suits; mum thought they were naked ("nothing would surprise me about this show"). There was some good old fashioned Sweden-Norway rivalry, and Gustafsson is back again, dressed in a gold siamese-twin Olympic skinsuit with Nour. And then he goes and does something very, very stupid indeed. One word - #gropegate.

Top 5 time, with Outtrigger, Ace Wilder, State of Drama, Oscar Zia and Dr Alban and Jessica Folcker going to the next round of voting. Shirley 6th place, Cajsa-Lisa is 7th, and the song which probably impressed me most this week, "Red" by EKO, finishes last.

There is a silly football-themed sketch, a guy peeing, and a big wheel out of control. Quite frankly, you have lost me by now.

M: What's this got to do with anything?

Then there is a little tribute to Alice Babs, who passed away a few days ago.

As expected, Oscar Zia is on his way direkt till Friends.
M: It's his looks what won it!
L: As I said earlier, it's like a wee Max Martin cast-off.
M: Sounds like a lot of other songs. Pretty ordinary.

It's the two rock bands, Outtrigger and State of Drama, who go to Andra Chansen.
M: "All We Are" is sh*te. And you can put that in your blog post.

But who's going to the final? Only Ace Wilder! Dr Alban and Jessica's car-crash number ends up in 5th place. Mum missed "Busy Doin' Nothin'" when it was performed earlier, but she's quite amused and likes Ace.

M: Chain-gang onesies! This is alright. Very modern.

Above: winners Ace and Oscar celebrate reaching the final. 

Heat 3 was hailed as a triumph for pop over schlager and rock, and the most obvious evidence yet of a shift in the voting demographic for Melodifestivalen. It will probably be the last time that we see Shirley Clamp at the contest, as she is yet another of the 'veterans' to fall victim to televoting, and the rise of the contest's new generation. Melodifestivalen needs new blood, but it would be nice to have a mix between the old and the new in the contest. It doesn't bode well for my beloved Alcazar this weekend :(

When it comes to presenters, Melodifestivalen also needs new blood.  Bin the comedians and give the gig to, say, Lena Philipsson or Sarah Dawn Finer.  It's a song contest after all, not a comedy night!  (although that's debatable a lot of the time...!) 

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