Saturday, March 01, 2014

Melodifestivalen 2014 Week 4: Alcazar glitter and Tomas folks it up in Örnsköldsvik

After the all-time low of Heat 3 we weren't expecting much.  So it was no surprise that Melodifestivalen continued in the same vein with a rather pointless, sport-themed opening act.
Mum: I'm not impressed.  There is always something.....demented about this show, don't you think?
The beleaguered hosts take to the stage in black, mourning clothes, which is presumably a comment on their performance so far this year.
M: Oh, not him again!  He has NO personality!!
But hopefully things are about to improve.  There's a giant glitterball in sight, which signals the arrival of the mighty Alcazar.  Unfortunately my internet connection is still not up to the job so it's a pixellated version of their fabulousness. 
Alcazar: "Blame It On The Disco".
The song I was most looking forward to this year turns out to be a bit of a disappointment.  I would never usually use the words 'Alcazar' and 'disappointment' in the same sentence, but I guess there's a first time for everything.  It's an inferior version of Stay The Night, with weaker verses, but being Alcazar, they perform everyone else off the stage.  But I'm wondering just how much of this is live and how much of it is Memorex (one for the older readers here!). 
L: This, I think is probably their weakest song that they've done in the contest.
M: Oh, I know them!  What was that song they did...?
L: Not A Sinner Nor A Saint.  That was an absolute classic.
M: That should have won Eurovision.
L: It's still good to have them back though.
IDA: "Fight Me If You Dare".
Ah, the dreaded second spot in the running order. 
L: This is going to be the week when everything sounds like something else.
M: I've heard worse.
L: It's quite a good performance of not much of a song.  And it won't qualify.
Janet Leon: "Hollow".
I tell mum all about Janet being in the contest last year with blonde hair and a better song.  Now she's back with a new image, but her live singing hasn't improved any since last year.  And in the style of many a Swedish song contest entry, the whole thing is brought to its knees by f****** stupid background dancing. 
M: This song sounds very familiar.
L: I'm cracking up trying to think what one.  But whatever it sounds like, this song's going nowhere.
Anders is back on stage and my mum just can't take it any more. 
Ammotrack: "Raise Your Hands".
L: Tonight's full of songs which sound like other songs.  This is doing nothing for me. Thoughts?
M:  This is not much of a song.
L: I'm not feeling this at all.
We both agree that it's been a poor year. 
Then G:son appears on screen and mum recognises him! 
M: Oh that's him....
L: ...yes, the guy who looks like grandad from Mrs Brown's Boys :)
M: He's in this a lot, isn't he?
Josef Johansson: "Hela Natten".
Josef is a new name to me but seems to be this week's "death by fashion" candidate.  Think Nordic jumper pattern as designed by someone who's taken far too many drugs.
M: He's got very interesting hair. 
L: Indeed!  And at last, a song in Swedish, thank goodness.
This is the first song which really had me sitting up and taking notice tonight.  There are little shades of Christer Björkman's 1992 entry, but despite that, this song's actually quite good and he performs it very well.
Linda Bengtzing: "Ta Mig".
In a little nod to this year's ESC hosts, she takes to the catwalk to Rasmus Seebach's "Natteravn".  I explain to mum that Linda is another one of the Melodifestivalen schlager legends on a comeback.  It may be a more 'modern' song for her, with its pulsating drumbeats, but it's not particularly memorable.  Neither of us are particularly impressed by the song and chat through it.
M: What a strange outfit.  And look, there's another man in a bun!
L: I was expecting a lot more from her - this song doesn't really have a hook and I can see it missing out on qualifying.
Ellinore Holmer: "En Himmelsk Sång".
The weekly 'solo female singer with a ballad near the end of the running order'. A ballad which, for some reason, reminds me of Molly Sanden's "Så Vill Stjärnorna".
M: That outfit looks as if she's going to do some Irish dancing.  And I don't like that dress.
L: This is the type of song which could qualify, although like everything else tonight it is not a great song. 
M: She has a nice voice, but the song's not up to much.
And finally...
Anton Ewald: "Natural".
'Second year syndrome' and a pre-contest favourite based on the draw position.  I remind mum that she liked him last year.  She can't quite remember him but she likes what she sees. 
M: I like his mirrored jacket.
L: He's stolen last year's choreography! 
The song's not in the same league as "Begging" and already I'm struggling to remember it.  And although his live singing has only improved slightly, he would definitely struggle without all those taped backing vocals as I mentioned in a previous post.  But never mind all that, because mum is ever so slightly in love with Mr Ewald. 
Songs over, interval acts time.  And finger puppets.
M: Finger puppets would be better presenting this thing.
Time for 'melodi no.9' with Anders and Nour, possibly the worst interval act of this Melfest season, and that's saying something. 
M: He reminds me of someone out of the Wurzels.  This p**h has been going on for far too long.  Get the good-looking guy back on.
Resultat time part 1.  Anton, Linda, Ammotrack, Ellinore and Alcazar to the next round of voting. 
Unfortunately there is no place for Josef, who has truly been killed by fashion.  He finishes in 7th place, behind the 6th placed I.D.A. and in front of Janet Leon, who's last. 
Now to the main interval act of the evening, which I had also been looking forward to.  I've been a big fan of Tomas Ledin for 34 years - yes! - since he made a serious impact on this impressionable teenager in 1980 with those leather trousers :)  But we are all 34 years older now, although Tomas is ageing very well.  A medley of his Melodifestivalen songs will do just nicely, but even here there is a problem.  Tomas recently released a folk/acoustic album - a genre of music I can't be doing with at all - and this week he has chosen to perform his medley in that style.
L: What the folk!!!
M: Does he always make that kind of music?
L: NO!!!!  He's more of a pop/rock singer, but he's just made a folk album.
M: This is a bit too boring.  I can't believe what I'm watching here.  I thought you said he was good.
L: He is, and they are great songs in their original version, but I don't like this style.  If he folks-up "Just Nu"...
Well, he does.  But even though I disapprove of this style of reworking, Tomas' interval act is still the best thing on this week's show by a mile, and exposes the modern day Melodifestivalen for what it is - a once-unmissable event which has gone stale and is in serious need of a major revamp.  And, crucially, some great, memorable songs, which have been missing this year.  
Eventually after about 3 hours, it's resultat time.  It's Anton till final.
M: Yesssss!  He's my toy boy.  He is a nice looking guy although the song is very similar to a lot of others.
Ammotrack and Ellinore get the tickets to Andra Chansen, so two Melfest 'veterans' Alcazar and Linda are in that cliffhanger situation.  One will go to the final, one will miss out.  A big cheer goes up at EuropeCrazy HQ - it's Alcazar who are going to the final!  I'm delighted for them, even if I'm still not loving the song. 
The Swedish press reported Linda Bengtzing's distress at missing out, and I doubt if she will be back again.  It would appear that outwith the schlager/fan fraternity, Sweden no longer feels the love for traditional Melodifestivalen artists like her and Shirley Clamp.  Yet on the other hand, Alcazar and Sanna Nielsen are not only bucking that trend, but are now favourites in the betting odds.  Could this be the year when one of them is 'rewarded' for their years of Melodifestivalen service, just like Lena Philipsson 10 years ago? 
So it's all over, with only Andra Chansen and the final to go.  I never thought I'd see the day when I stopped caring about Melodifestivalen and turned down the chance to watch any of it. but I've decided to give Andra Chansen a miss.  None of the songs particularly inspire me, and there is the small matter of two competing finals - Eesti Laul and the Romanian national selection - which I'll be watching live instead. 
(photos courtesy of Aftonbladet and SVT)

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