Never mind all the explanations about why Melodifestivalen is so popular, and just be aware of one thing: over a third of Sweden’s population was tuned in to it on Saturday evening. That’s why this is an important show, and why people care about what happens in it, and to it.
And if Saturday’s show has set the tone for the next few weeks, then Melodifestivalen in 2012 is in rude health (and that isn’t a reference to Thorsten Flinck groping Gina Dirawi’s bum).
First out was Sean Banan, demonstrating this year’s way of introducing the acts by having them parade through the crowd on the way to the stage – the perfect way for him to arrive. I’m not sharing the delight Sean that many others are, but Sean den förste banan was a fantastic way to kick off the show – full of energy and a definite crowd-pleaser. For me, the sight of a grown man picking his nose and acting like a daft teenager is a bit lame – but the kids at home will have loved him. As far as novelty records go, this is one of the better ones in terms of structure (sorry, yawn), and the chorus was great. I’ve said this before, but special mention must go to Rickard Engfors for bringing a schlager sensibility to the performance. Sean’s andra chansen placing means he won’t be sitting at the top of the iTunes chart just yet – but it will happen. And good luck to him.
Having to follow Sean were Abalone Dots, who didn’t get off to the best of starts by having to club through the audience to get to the stage. What worked for Sean really didn’t for three country girls and they looked terribly uncomfortable. That said, their sweet song was lovely. But that was it.
Biggest surprise of the evening was The Moniker finishing last. No one was predicting that (and don’t go pretending you did). Why did it happen? After displaying his novelty side on last year’s Oh My God, this was Moniker proving that he isn’t just for laughs (no one apart from Daniel was laughing by the end). And I surprised myself by liking it so much. Maybe he was trying just a bit too hard to embrace serious?
The schlager show really started as soon as Afro-Dite strutted their way down the runway while we watched a pep-talk that consisted of slapping each other’s arses. That is such a great tip, I’m going to suggest it for my next editorial team meeting. Anyway, on stage we had three schlager dames in coordinating schlager pastel glitz pumping out the very finest old-style schlager. This was Schlager. With that capital S. All three were clearly having great fun in their performance (choreography imported from a decade ago), but who cares if it’s old-fashioned? Enough people were obviously entertained to give it fifth place. I loved every minute – if Sean Banan has a place at the Mello table, then Afro-Dite are certainly allowed to sit down as well.
No matter how many people try to explain the concept of Dead By April’s sound to me, I will never get it. Strangely out-of-date boyband with something called ‘growl’ crowbarred in? Like the worst kind of mash-up, I have no idea how this is popular (or want to understand, to be honest). But it was a crowd-pleaser, and purely for the novelty value, I’d love to see how Europe reacts to it.
Marie Serneholt was perhaps a surprising choice to have in the line-up, given that she was last year’s co-host. But she seemed happy enough to be on the other side of proceedings as she performed in her gold catsuit. If Afro-Dite were ‘out-of-date’, then Marie wasn’t exactly light years ahead of them with Salt & Pepper. I don’t even mean that as an insult, I really enjoyed it. For me, it was the ‘weakest’ performance (of an evening where all eight songs were on a level so far above all the other Eurovision pre-selections they were looking down from the stratosphere), but sixth place isn’t that bad. Marie was visibly disappointed with the result, and now she’s moving on to be a judge in TV4’s X Factor I doubt we’ll be seeing her back in competition in the next couple of years, so hopefully she’ll be back with a score to settle later on.
Thorsten Flinck’s televised breakdown continued apace with his barefoot and snus-tooth-stained performance off-set by the application of a ton of foundation giving him the appearance of wearing a death mask. The song all the anti-Melodifestivalen brigade were probably voting for (why bother?), this made it to andra chansen, and I won’t be surprised to see it in the final.
And then Loreen arrived. Much has been made of Loreen’s perceived reluctance to take part in Melodifestivalen this year, but here she was, sauntering up the runway in her floaty robes, smiling away. Euphoria, written by G:son and Boström is an great song. A really great song. But I’m not sure it progresses Loreen’s sound past My Heart Is Refusing Me and Sober, and if it caused Loreen to doubt the idea of a return, then I’m not surprised. Nevertheless, Euphoria is a stomping dance number, and the addition of Loreen’s shattering vocal abilities elevates it into something very special indeed. The performance, inspired by the film Memoirs Of A Geisha, took it even further, and was properly challenging. Even so, Loreen’s direkt till Globen wasn’t a given, unfortunately – when it arrived, it was one of those schlager moments to remember.
Away from the competition, Edward af Sillén’s set pieces were absolutely brilliant. Small jokes, like SDF’s attempt at doing the reprising herself with a guitar (“Ding-a-ding-a-ding-ding-diiiiiiing” – CUT), and Helena Bergström’s tears (she has a reputation for crying in all her films) were great. Sending Gina Dirawi into the green room to chat to the guests was inspired – comparing bingo wings with Afro-Dite, revealing that Marie Serneholt had been helping her with her hosting – and cooking – skills, and then getting her bum patted by Thorsten Flinck (the front pages were sorted at that point). But then there was the main feature: Hela Sveriges fest – roughly translated as ‘everyone’s invited’. With the alternative title of Inte bara bögarnas fest – ‘it’s not just for the gays’, it sent up everything, from the artists to the breathless press and blog coverage (guilty as charged).
So with Loreen through with Dead By April, and Thorsten Flinck joining Sean Banan in Andra chansen, it was only a semi-schlagerfiasko from our perspective.