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Previewing The Melodifestivalen Final: The Songs, Artists, Opinions and Predictions Written by on March 11, 2022

Ahead of SVT’s Melodifestivalen Grand Final, Ben Robertson, gives us the low-down on Sweden’s choices for this year’s competition.

Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, is coming to an end. The five prior weeks of competition have eliminated twenty-eight songs to twelve searching for the ticket to Turin in Italy which is hosting the finals in May.

As always, the show has been a hit in Sweden, with over 3,000,000 viewers each week and over 500,000 voters in each show. The songs have also been a hit alongside the entertainment, with Spotify charts featuring seven of the top 10 being tracks taking part in Saturday’s final.

But who will Sweden send to Eurovision this year? That decision will be made up by a 50/50 combination of the Swedish voting public and eight international juries that will announce their votes during the final itself. Ben Robertson goes through the twelve artists, their songs, and how he thinks they will do in the show in this run down.

Song 1: Klara Hammarström – Run To The Hills

Klara Hammarström is probably best known to Swedes as a celebrity turned pop star. She was one of eleven siblings on the SVT show Familjen Hammarström which showed amongst other things her horse riding passion. This marks her third Melodifestivalen entry in a row, and most recently finished 6th with radio hit ‘Beat of Broken Hearts’.

Run to the Hills’ marks a departure from her previous work in combining a pop production with a folk melody that, when combined, sounds exactly like many people’s expectations of Eurovision in a nutshell. This will be a big hit on the schlager dancefloors for years to come.

I predictably love this song in a way that I probably shouldn’t, but I know how big this is going to get in the circles of the Eurovision community. What I will say in the nicest possible way is that I don’t think the three minutes on stage come together well enough to ultimately be a Eurovision contender – it craves a lot of energy from the singer and Klara’s routine has to prioritise her singing, sacrificing movement in this difficult number.

Klara was underrated last year and finished 6th in last year’s final. This year she comes in with high expectations and a song that is her best in her three competition attempts. It is the current Spotify number one but I think this is more realistically in a battle for third place.

Song 2: Theoz – Som Du Vill

While it’s likely that Theoz isn’t well known to the average reader, he is arguably one of the most well known people in Sweden if you ask any teen. With over 2 million followers on TikTok, Theoz has started a pop career after making his breakthrough for his dance moves. Eagle-eyed viewers may recognise him from appearing in Melodifestivalen 2018, where as an under-aged performer he danced on LED screens behind Samir and Victor as they performed ‘Shuffla’.

Musically ‘Som Du Vill’ challenges nobody. This is a prime example of a genre I describe as ‘cookie-cutter Melfest’ – three minutes of predictable pop music with the obligatory hand clap section, slick dance routine and a title phrase that will penetrate and corrode your brain for weeks to come. No customary key change though, this is far too cool for that.

While the cookie-cutter Melfest line can be taken as a dig at the song’s genericness, I simultaneously think that the infectiousness of this little melody is a compliment to the task at hand. I haven’t heard a song do it better in a long time and am delighted that it got to the Melodifestivalen final.

Big scores from the younger voters but unlikely to score significantly elsewhere – 7th to 10th.

Song 3: Anna Bergendahl – Higher Power

Anna Bergendahl can’t escape the fact that, since the Eurovision Song Contest expanded and held Semi Finals in 2004, she is the only artist to represent Sweden and never make the Grand Final. However that was back in 2010, and Anna has grown from the teenager she was then, and reached the final in her returns to Melodifestivalen in 2019 and 2020. While Anna is still making music today she is combining that currently with studies to be a doctor.

Higher Power’ has been described as the end of the trilogy of songs that Anna has brought to Melodifestivalen in recent years. They have a cinematic country feel to them with grandiose lyrics that sound incredibly deep but actually don’t make much logical sense. This song is, as Anna correctly describes, slightly darker than the others people may know her from.

Anna’s entry in 2020, ‘Kingdom Come’, was one of my favourite entries that year and would have been a brilliant choice for Sweden. Sadly this doesn’t pack the punch and Anna needed to stop off at the Semi Final en route to Saturday’s final. It’s true for many trilogies that the second episode is the strongest and the final one ultimately ends up as one too many. This is a great example of that

Anna finished third in this competition in 2020, but tenth in 2019. I suspect the final part of this trilogy is going to return to something like that tenth place finish.

Song 4: John Lundvik – Änglavakt (Guardian Angel)

The London-born singer was adopted by Swedish parents growing up in the UK and moved to Sweden as a small child. John’s love of music was combined with a sprint career growing up (including a 100 m personal best of under 11 seconds) and it took a while for him to make his breakthrough from always being the songwriter to being the artist on stage. However Melodifestivalen allowed that breakthrough in 2018, where he finished 3rd, before winning the year after with ‘Too Late For Love’ which finished 5th in the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.

Änglavakt’ is a change of direction for John Lundvik – most notably by its use of the Swedish language. This is a classical romantic piano ballad that succeeds in letting John’s incredible crystal-clear voice be the star of the show.

John Lundvik is one of the greatest songwriters to touch Melodifestivalen in recent years. While this is written perfectly as a medium for John’s voice to take centre stage I feel something so classical needs to surprise in its crescendo more than this song does to be a credible Eurovision choice.

I’ll go against the odds here and predict that John Lundvik will be loved by international juries (who may not understand the rather directly phrased use of Swedish) and John’s loyal voters at home (John won Sweden’s Let’s Dance in 2020). I can see this top half in the final.

Song 5: Tone Sekelius – My Way

Legitimately famous as a YouTuber with over 300,000 subscribers, Tone also is known for musical releases ‘Awakening’ and ‘One More In The Crowd’. ‘My Way’ does sound like a cross between the classic Melodifestivalen and a pride anthem merged into one song. Lyrically the song is somewhat critical of society and challenges people to go their own way and dare to stand out for who they are. The lyric “Make us equal, legal and heard” is probably the most political that a Melodifestivalen song has gotten in years in a show that often tries to escape such drama.

News came out in the build up to Melodifestivalen that this song had been rejected from the show’s 28 songs numerous times in the previous few years. That is very believable, and something about the song’s message and production does feel just a touch dated. However Tone’s surge in popularity carries the song and means that ‘My Way’ fills the space in the final nicely.

Around 9th place, outclassed by other songs in the final show

Song 6: Anders Bagge – Bigger than the Universe

A musical legend in Sweden, Anders Bagge’s appearance in Melodifestivalen has been one of the most anticipated since his name was revealed last year. That’s because Anders is most famous off stage rather than on it. With a long career behind the scenes, most notably in starting a production company that has worked with artists like Madonna and Jennifer Lopez, he eventually made the public spotlight as a jury member on Swedish Idol for many years. Yet Anders has been public about his stage fright, and missing out on the chance to duet with Celine Dion due to it. Most of the Swedish public only got to hear Anders sing for the first time when he appeared on the Swedish version of Masked Singer, where he could disguise who he was while performing.

Bigger than the Universe’ is a rousing mid-tempo song that is a real feel good stomper. It’s a hard song to perform with lots of the song in Anders’ upper register but many people have been blown away by his vocal control since his live performance. The song’s written by some of the biggest names in the Melodifestivalen business, with Anders working with Thomas G:Son and Peter Boström, who wrote 2012 winner ‘Euphoria’ and Jimmy Jansson who in 2020 broke the record writing six of the twenty eight entries that year.

I’m sorry Swedes. I fully understand the symbolism of this song, with this artist, and the outpouring of love for the beloved 54-year-old. But please don’t send this to the Eurovision Song Contest. Anders’ back story will be diluted and this song won’t stand up against more modern alternatives with better stage shows. Furthermore, while musically explosive I have to comment on the English language of the track that echoes Eurovisions of yesteryear.

Anders is likely to win the public vote – and likely by a huge margin. There is a crazily high chance that he will go to Turin. The savour here is going to be the international juries – will they rank Anders suitably low so that he can’t mathematically catch up to the other leaders? I’m predicting a close and tense finish either way.

Song 7: Robin Bengtsson – Innocent Love

While Robin didn’t bounce immediately to stardom from appearing on Swedish Idol in 2008, once he got his Melodifestivalen opportunity he succeeded in delivering hit upon hit to the Swedish public. His qualification direct to Saturday’s final means he shares the record for qualifying directly to the Melodifestivalen final, reaching the final in 2016, 2017 and 2020. Oh, and in 2017 he won the whole thing and finished a not-too-shabby fifth place in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest held in Kyiv.

This song is a hybrid of two different styles. Firstly there is the modern Swedish slickness attached to this arena pop song and makes it an easy crowd pleaser. However the instrumentation of this takes huge influence from the 1980’s, helped by the insanely rapid 170 beats per minute.

There’s something that’s very easily identifiable as easy Saturday night entertainment with this – with a toe-tapping rhythm, charismatic singer and clap breakdown exactly where one expects it. However the 80s throwbacks have been perhaps overdone in recent years and I crave more of a song representing Sweden than to go through the motions as this one does.

Robin’s previous Melodifestivalen results were 5th, 1st and 8th. I can see another 8th place coming up, or maybe even worse.

Song 8: Faith Kakembo – Freedom

Faith Kakembo was born in Uganda but moved to Sweden aged just one year old. Now aged 36, day-to-day she works as an anaesthesia nurse in Jönköping. In 2019 she was discovered through winning the local round of the national P4 Nästa competition which is a common first step on the ladder for many up-and-coming artists. This appearance got the ears of SVT on Faith and she took part in Melodifestivalen in 2020, finishing 5th in her heat with ‘Crying Rivers

Faith Kakembo’s song ‘Freedom’ is a strong ballad with RnB influences. The song preaches about a world full of hope and warmth with a text that Faith describes as “deeply moving”. As the song grows Faith is joined on stage by a backing choir singing live – unusual in modern Melodifestivalen where only the lead vocals need to be sung there and then.

The heat that Faith Kakembo qualified from was a really close run thing, with Faith only just securing the second place with the tiniest of margins. Sadly, in this field of pop stars and huge names Faith’s story and message is going to play second fiddle to the others taking part with songs with more impact and voices that cut deeper.

International juries are the only thing that could save Faith from last place in the final.

Song 9: Liamoo – Bluffin’

Liamoo, an artist of Nordic and Filipino roots, made his big breakthrough in Sweden as the winner of the 2016 edition of Idol. Combining a smooth ability to rap with a clean commercial pop voice, he’s been one of the biggest successes of the Idol franchise this decade. In Melodifestivalen terms he has already tried twice to represent the nation, with a 6th and 3rd place finish to his name.

Bluffin’ fits perfectly into the Swedish music scene – and one can imagine it as a playlist staple in gyms and shopping malls across the country for the weeks and months to come. The sound is current and gently uptempo with Liamoo flipping between his natural singing voice and falsetto with ease.

While Liamoo was claiming pre-contest this was outside of his comfort zone, this feels exactly like the kind of number I was expecting him to bring to the contest. I love the pulse of this but I think it is just too slick for its own good – the kind of number that everybody likes but struggles to get votes from people in a 25 song show across Europe in May.

Liamoo’s previous entries finished 6th and 3rd in the Melodifestivalen final. Likely to finish in that range, with more chance of being higher than 3rd than lower than 6th. Would be a shock winner however. Will likely score well with juries and voters at home.

Song 10: Cornelia Jakobs – Hold Me Closer

One could argue that Cornelia Jakobs is a relative newcomer to the Swedish music scene with just a handful of singles out and a debut album yet to be released. However the 29-year-old was thrust into the limelight as a teenager with the girl group Love Generation – the brainchild of megahit producer of the time RedOne, which came to Melodifestivalen in 2011 and 2012 to minor hit success.

Cornelia’s Melodifestivalen entry this year is an organic mid-tempo pop song that many compared to Lana Del Ray for the realness and raw emotions that come across. ‘Hold Me Closer’ tells the story of Cornelia at the end of a romantic relationship, yet begging her lover to have just one more night together.

My first listen to this song was arresting, and I was struck off-kilter by the switch from the light orchestral introduction to the electronic beat that kicks in during the second verse. However, the movie soundtrack-esqueness of Cornelia’s heart-on-the-line performance with a voice that always feels like it will crack at any time just lifts everything about it . A pleasant rarity in Melodifestivalen and something more than worthy to represent the nation in Rotterdam.

This song is considered favourite to win the international juries, that make up half of the scores. Whether it wins will depend most on if this can get enough votes from the Swedish public. While Cornelia did win the first heat, that was the show where the voting app failed to work, and thus Cornelia’s chance of getting votes from all age blocs is uncertain. Would be a shock if lower than 3rd with the Swedish public, but you can toss a coin to decide if this goes to Turin or not.

Song 11: Cazzi Opeia – I Can’t Get Enough

While Cazzi Opeia has a back catalogue of releases as an artist that is far from the biggest part of her CV. Instead that lies within her recent success as a songwriter in the world of K-pop, writing songs that combined have achieved over 4 billion Spotify streams and topped the Billboard charts numerous times. She also is writing the song for the state of Oklahoma in the inaugural American Song Contest which begins later this month

Cazzi’s song, while being staged with bright rainbow effects that take influence from a non-Swedish colour palette, is three minutes of pure pop. What ‘I Can’t Get Enough‘ brings new to the table though is a killer beat that works amazingly well driving on the motorway or rocking out at the nightclubs.

This gets a thumbs up from me as an addition to the final – a worthy track that comes from the Melodifestivalen Semi Finals after succeeding in being an earworm in the weeks that have passed its heat. That thumb will be staying well away from the voting button on the Melodifestivalen app however. Mid-table

Song 12: Medina – In i dimman (Into the fog)

The hip-hop duo of Ali Jammali and Sami Rekik made huge waves in the middle of the 2000’s and has amassed over 200 million streams on their hits together. Together as Medina they create a music genre that they describe as ‘haffla’ from the Arabic word meaning party (both Sami and Ali have Tunisian roots). This sound they describe as a mix of reggaeton, hip-hop, house, pop and dancehall.

The song ‘In i dimman’ is a true mix of all these styles and, when combined, it becomes a party anthem. Lyrically the song spreads a message that now it is the time once again to party like tomorrow doesn’t exist.

I came to Sweden in 2011 so I missed Medina’s musical heyday. While I think it is brilliant for the final’s diversity and for offering something different, musically this gets me to leave the dance floor rather than to join it. Maybe that’s why I don’t get invited to many parties.

Top half with the Swedish public but possibly last place with the international juries, resulting in a mid-table finish.

The Expectations Are High

The expectations for Sweden in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest are always high. The country holds the biggest selection show on the continent (only because Festival della Canzone Italiana di Sanremo isn’t a selection show – Ewan) and the Final this Saturday at Friends Arena will have a capacity of 30,000. Plus you must add to that fact that Sweden is one of the show’s most successful countries in Song Contest history, and is searching for win number seven to join Ireland at the top of the Eurovision medal table.

At the time of writing Sweden ranks third in the betting odds to win in Turin, behind host country Italy and Ukraine who have both already chosen their entries. The speculation is that Sweden could join these favourites if Cornelia Jakobs wins Melodifestivalen this year. However should another artist win, especially the hotly tipped Anders Bagge, then Sweden likely falls out of contention to bring the Contest home once more.

Swedish readers can watch the show you can tune in to SVT 1 at 20:00 on Saturday night and let the two hour rollercoaster pass before your eyes. However internationally a recommendation is to watch on SVT Play where Bella Qvist and Olivia Le Poidevin, Sveriges Radio and BBC journalist respectively, will be providing English commentary live.

Voting is limited to those living in Sweden. To vote you have three options. The most popular method is to download the Melodifestivalen App, where you are able to cast up to five votes for free to each song. There are televoting options as well, one which costs 3.60 kr and the other 9.90 kr. The more expensive number donates all of that money to Radiohjälpen, which is donating all proceeds made from this week’s show to helping those suffering from Ukrainian’s suffering from Russia’s invasion. Last week’s Semi Final saw the most money raised for charity via Melodifestivalen in nearly twenty years, and an all time record is anticipated this weekend.

About The Author: Ben Robertson

Ben Robertson has attended 23 National Finals in the world of Eurovision. With that experience behind him he writes for ESC Insight with his analysis and opinions about anything and everything Eurovision Song Contest that is worth telling.

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