”Hello, Schlagerfiasko,” says Felix from Le Kid. ”This winter, I had nothing much to do at home in southern Sweden, so me and a friend decided to make a Melodifestivalen quiz app for the iPhone, called the ‘När•Var•Hur – Schlager quiz‘!”
Well, good morning. Here’s a stunning debut for a Tuesday morning. Alex Saidac is storming up the Swedish iTunes chart with We Shine at the moment, and it’s great. It starts off kinda Ke$ha (not grubby, though) and changes into full-on club soon after. This is what we need.
There are four plates of barely touched food on the table before us, and Schlagerfiasko feels really guilty. I’ve been pressing Le Kid into saying something scandalous about Melodifestivalen for about a quarter of an hour, but they’re far too lovely to fall for my shtick. All except Hansi, Le Kid’s manager, that is. He’s eyeing me across the table with an amused smile on his face. As I would also be if I had to listen to this schlager loon asking increasingly deranged questions.
He’s finished his lunch, though.
I apologise for obsessing, and move on to talk about Le Kid’s reasons for being in London. The group have had a ‘cult following’ (if that’s not a cliché) in the UK for some time – part of the Swedish cool gang that certainly doesn’t include the likes of the cheesy schlager stars, eh?
Felix: I don’t know how many fans we have in the UK, but ever since we released Mercy Mercy, there’s been so much more reaction from here than in Sweden. I like to think that we make pop in the best British tradition, but I don’t know for sure.
Johanna: I think we’re attractive. We’re a very colourful, very visual band. In Sweden, we’re used to acts that are ‘poppish’, but also ‘in the box’, as well.
So you’re not very Swedish, then?
Helena: UK bands have an attitude, they’re angry. In Sweden, if you’re angry, you say, “I’m very angry with you!”, and that’s it. Le Kid has an attitude, and we take it as far as we can to make it extreme. Maybe that suits people in the UK more than in Sweden. But of course, in Sweden we’re all very lagom. Le Kid isn’t lagom, though.
Felix: Look at things like H&M – which is fantastic – or Swedish design. It’s all a particular way. Everything should look like a hospital or an astronaut to be really trendy. There should be nothing on the floor, nothing on the walls. Perhaps a weirdly shaped glass table, but that’s it – and that’s why it’s great. And then something like Le Kid comes along, and we say, “No! Can we not just fill everything up with colour? And what do you say to putting a glass unicorn over there in the corner?” It’s much harder to break through that wall in Sweden.
Helena: If the UK accepts you as a band, then Sweden usually follows. “OK, you’re cool now!” It’s like, the British love them, so we have to accept them now, too.
It’s an interesting point of view, and one that comes up again when I move on (at last!) to talking about Le Kid’s new album, Oh Alright!. It’s due for release at the beginning of June, and my four interviewees are visibly excited at the prospect.
Helena: It’s Alright, and you know it! The album is on the presses – all ten songs, which was our aim. [The album also includes Le Kid’s cover of The Killers’ Mr Brightside as a bonus track.]
Felix: Ten songs is the perfect number for an album. When artists release albums with, like, 14 songs on, there are always four songs that aren’t as good as the rest. We have a bunch of songs that aren’t on the album, because they’re not good enough. We could have put an extra 20 minutes’ worth of material on there, but what’s the point? Oh Alright! has ten singles on it, that’s how we see it.
Are you releasing a single before then?
Helena: Yes. It’s a song called America. It’s a little bit different from our other songs, and takes you to another part of Le Kid. We haven’t released any clips of it yet.
Felix: The sound of America is more Pet Shop Boys, too.
Goodness! I wouldn’t have put you with them…
Felix: Well it doesn’t matter. We see it as our sound, and that’s the point. Le Kid wants to do songs that sound like Rihanna, or the Pet Shop Boys, or the Ting Tings, or the Saturdays, or Robyn. Everything is pop. We don’t care if it features a guitar, a string ensemble or synths. It’s pop.
Märta: It’s true – and when we produced the song, we got totally tuned into it.
Helena: When you hear it, you’ll know it’s Le Kid straight away. If you’ve only ever heard Mercy Mercy or Oh My God before now, this completes the picture of Le Kid. America is like our other side.
Do you have a favourite song on the album?
Helena: I love them all!
Märta: I think Kiss Me or Bigger Than Jesus.
Johanna: Yes, that’s the newest song, we only finished it about three weeks ago.
That’s an interesting title, and quite familiar…
Märta: Yes, it’s a quote by John Lennon.
Johanna: It’s a song about love.
Märta: Perhaps we might have to take that track off the album when we release it in the US, though…
Felix: It’s an amazing quote, isn’t it? Why not use it? The song is not about us being bigger than Jesus. It’s that our feelings of love are bigger than Jesus.
Märta: Yes, it’s all about the emotion.
Felix: And it’s kind of romantic. It’s not that provocative when you look at it that way.
Helena: It’s a great line, too. When you look back at it from a historical point of view, what Lennon said was quite cool.
So it’s coming out across Europe? We find it quite hard to get hold of your stuff on iTunes here in the UK.
Märta: That’s why we’re here in London! We’re working on that.
Felix: We are releasing it everywhere, starting in Denmark.
Helena: Denmark was really quick to accept us.
Johanna: They’re very pop-friendly there. They have Alphabeat, who we supported a year ago.
So the Danish scene is quite different to Sweden, do you think?
Felix: In Sweden, it’s the exception when songs from people like Mika, Marina And The Diamonds, La Roux or Scissor Sisters get successful. But in Denmark, that’s what’s played on the radio all the time, which is amazing. They can’t make songs, but they know good songs!
Märta: A lot of Swedish acts are popular in Denmark, though.
It’s really interesting to hear who you like and who influences you. Robyn is the only Swedish act you’ve mentioned, and she’s heavily influenced by American sounds.
Helena: Well, I’m always on Spotify looking for new Swedish music. It’s just that in Sweden, everyone wants to produce Swedish music, but not listen to it!
Felix: We do like many bands, especially those from the UK. There’s also acts from the US, like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and The Killers, who are great, but sound like they should be from Britain, not the States! In Sweden, I love The Knife.
Johanna: I love Miike Snow.
Felix: And The Sound Of Arrows. So we do listen to Swedish music. It’s just a shame that we can’t call them pop.
Märta: You know, Hurts is that kind of pop band. They’re definitely pop, but have great lyrics and music you can love.
Johanna: And their image is amazing.
Märta: In Sweden, it seems like you have to decide what side you’re on. If you’re indie, you can do that, but if you’re mainstream, you have to do something else.
Felix: So basically, your guitar can be out of tune and you can’t sing, but you can be really good. Or you can sing Manboy.
Märta: Why can’t you just produce good music?
Felix: It might be that we’re not as good at speaking English in Sweden, but there’s a gap. In the UK, it’s not strange to be like La Roux, Marina And The Diamonds or Little Boots. It’s OK to make pop music without being labelled as stupid. I don’t mean to sound negative, but that’s the way it is. We are good at making music in Sweden, but for some reason, we only listen to you guys.
It was quite a surprise to realise that soft rock, like Nickelback and Takida, is huge in Sweden, too.
Helena: Oh, it’s really depressing, isn’t it? Soft rock! I agree. That’s the difference between switching on the radio in Sweden and Denmark. We seem to have a lot of sad people playing guitar.
Johanna: My home town of Eskilstuna – where Kent is also from – is a real music town. Everyone plays music, but with guitars and things in their hair. They’re feeling!
Märta: Then they go off to the factory to work.
Johanna: It’s a bit depressing, but also charming.
Felix: In a world where everyone is healthy, you wouldn’t choose to be a doctor. In a world where no one eats, you wouldn’t choose to be a chef. In this world, people get sick, so you need doctors. I want to be a doctor, because Nickelback is still on the radio in Sweden. We need to cure that, and that’s why Le Kid exists.
Märta: We need to save people!
Johanna: So we are bigger than Jesus after all!
I’m glad to hear it. OK, you’re food’s cold now, so I need an exclusive before you throttle me. Give me anything.
Märta: We’re working with Kate Ryan right now. Her first single is out soon.
Felix: Kate’s in the studio, and we left Anders [Hansson] with her to do all the recording!
Johanna: And Helena and I are Kate’s backing singers!
Felix: These two have done backing vocals for Agnes, Malena Ernman, Emilia… They know what they’re doing.
I don’t doubt that. Thank you.
Felix: There’s one or two exciting things in the pipeline, but we can’t tell you about them.
Märta: But you’ll be the first to know!
And with that, Le Kid get back to their cold food. They haven’t called since.
Le Kid’s new single, America, is due to be released soon, and the album, Oh Alright!, will be out in June. For a preview of the album, the marvellous Swedish Stereo has collated various clips from around the internet. Have a listen here.
Yes, it was a schlagerfiasko. Jenny out. Loreen out. Linda out. Shirley’s Angels out. And then Love Generation out. A sorry, sorry evening for schlager and pop fans who wanted to see those songs in the final.
And then there was the glimmer of hope that the problems with the voting could have meant the wrong results were delivered. But no. The same outcomes stood.
I’m not going to pore over the results or the events, because you’ll have seen them for yourself, and come to your own conclusions.
So, what does it all mean for Schlagerfiasko? Well, it doesn’t mean much, really.
There’s Saturday’s final, which will be much less schlager – and feminine – than we would like. But there’s the prospect of a hot pop battle between Danny’s Club (on first) and Eric’s Popularity (on last) to look forward to. Sort of.
Then there’s the sport of seeing who will reign supreme at the top of the iTunes chart. As I write this, neither Danny nor Eric are there (three and four respectively), because Loreen is sitting pretty instead. Just like Dilba did after her ‘failure’ at Luleå.
Not far behind her is Sara Varga, while The Moniker is at number five. So the two songs that went through are obviously popular – as you would expect. They are what people wanted to hear. That’s it.
It also proves that Melodifestivalen is as relevant to the music-buying public as ever before, regardless of how anyone may think otherwise. That’s it. Loreen is adored. Jenny has shown a brand-new side to her range. Shirley’s Angels are eager to get in the studio. Linda Pritchard is stronger than ever before.
I’ve had a couple of interesting conversations during the week about the online reaction to Melodifestivalen results outside Sweden, particularly with reference to the essay (it didn’t start off like that, apologies) I published after the fourth heat. It’s interesting that overseas fans are quick to assume ‘mass movements’ that are against schlager, or that the voting public are deciding, en masse, to send a ‘winner’ to Eurovision.
To assume such things is to be very naive about the concept of Melodifestivalen, which is to celebrate Swedish music in all its forms. Read the aforementioned post for more of my thoughts on that, then let’s all move on.
I’m still looking forward to the schlagercirkus to come – it’s Melodifestivalen! Nu kör vi!
So, it’s official: Stella Mwangi is representing Norway at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. And with an overwhelming amount of televotes, not even the close-run jury section of the voting could dent her landslide victory.
It’s no surprise, really. Having dominated the Norwegian iTunes chart for a couple of weeks – even surviving the onslaught of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way that has trounced the competition in other countries – there was little chance of any upset for Haba Haba. Not that it couldn’t have happened, of course. But Stella had something few of the other acts possessed: true star quality. Melodi Grand Prix got an umph as soon as she strode onto the stage – and it could be heard in the ecstatic reaction from the crowd. She’s a deserving winner and will hopefully make it all the way to the Eurovision final.
It did seem that Stella’s main competition would be Helene Bøksle’s traditional-style Vardlokk, but after last year’s relative failure of My Heart Is Yours to attract any attention at Eurovision, perhaps it was inevitable that a change in direction would be taken. Sadly for her, she didn’t make it into the top four, ceding to The BlackSheeps (who looked as though they might challenge Stella at one point), The Lucky Bullets and Sie Gubba.
But it could have been anyone else up there – everyone gave their all, and it was a fabulous show.
Also falling out of the top four was the delightful Hanne Sørvaag, the most schlager entry of the evening. She was a confident performer, and had fun on stage, which is what we want, I think. I did hope that she and Helene would fare better in the voting, but that’s the way things go. Hanne’s a talented songwriter, and I expect to see her around again soon.
It was lovely to see Didrik Solli-Tangen performing My Heart Is Yours again, although I did spend a little too much time laughing at the name of the gay choir (Fagottkor) who joined him on stage. I’m very ungrateful, sometimes.
Just a final note to those naughty Schlagerboys, who got themselves interviewed: Sweden has most definitely not “gone rubbish”. I’m going to tell Christer Björkman what you said when I see him and he’s going to ban you both, not just from Melodifestivalen, but from Sweden itself. That’ll learn you.