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The Melodifestivalen Final 12: The Performers, Artists, Opinions and Prediction Written by on March 8, 2023 | 1 Comment

We now have the twelve songs for the Melodifestivalen Final and we also have a running order for Sweden’s biggest TV show of the year. Ben Robertson takes you through the runners and riders and his view on each of the competing tracks.

The Swedish Circus has neared its final destination. Melodifestivalen 2023 has completed its journey around the country entertaining millions of Swedes every Saturday night for the past five weeks.

28 songs started the competition but now only 12 remain. They are competing for the chance to represent Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool this May, and to bring a record-equalling seventh victory to the land of pop music exports.

The crazy thing is if you believe the betting odds at the moment then Sweden is considered the favourite to take that victory this year. But which song has got that attention and hype even before it has been selected for Europe? Read on for our guide to the 12 acts on stage, their songs, and which one is expected to win not just on Saturday but also in May.

Jon Henrik Fjällgren, Arc North feat. Adam Woods – Where Are You (Sávežan)

Jon Henrik Fjällgren rose to Swedish fame through Sweden’s Got Talent, where the reindeer herder performed a traditional Sami joik he had written. This year for this fourth Melodifestivalen attempt (never finishing less than fourt previously) he is joined by DJ and music producer Arc North and young Swedish vocalist Adam Woods for this EDM/joik hybrid song.

The song and joik tells an emotional story about Jon Henrik’s daughter, who he was unable to see during the first year of her life. This was due to separation from the child’s mother, who lived in Norway, and a combination of reindeer herding demands and pandemic restrictions making cross-border travel difficult.

My Opinion: I think these genres mash up perfectly and the run into the joik in the chorus is really well crafted. However there is something about the EDM sound that would have been much more current in 2016 and, for a song about a sincere theme, I’d love a little more drama in the live performance. It would be nice to send to Eurovision but I don’t think it’s *the one*

Prediction: I will anticipate good but not sky-high scores from the jury and the televote which will result in a top 5 but not top 1 finish.

Tone Sekelius – Rhythm of my show

Tone Sekelius was famous, mainly as a YouTuber with hundreds of thousands of followers, before her fifth place finish in the Melodifestivalen final last year with ‘My Way’. However, since then she has hosted Paradise Hotel amongst other TV appearances to truly become a well-known character to the Swedish audience.

Much was made last year, both in terms of the story being told and of Tone herself of her status as the first trans artist to take part in Melodifestivalen. ‘Rhythm of my show’ doesn’t have the same political undercurrent as last year’s entry, and is more dance pop with attitude rather than empowering Pride anthem. There’s no need for a message this year beneath Tone’s song, as now Tone is ready to show Sweden who she wants to be.

My Opinion: It’s great if this is the music that Tone wants to perform, but I find it somewhat derivative rather than attitude filled. For a country of the pop music production status that Sweden has this is sub-standard and runs through the motions.

Prediction: Small chance to squeak top 5 if the public support remains high for Tone, more likely bottom 5

Mariette – One Day

Mariette reaching the final will mean that this is the 5th time that she has reached the competition’s final round in all of her previous participations. However, there is a backwards trajectory to her participation history which started off with a 3rd place finish in 2015 before finishing 4th, 5th and 10th in the 2020 final. Mariette qualified in the last available spot to Saturday’s final after finishing in 4th place in the Semi Final at Örnsköldsvik’s Hägglunds Arena.

The song this time around falls somewhere between easy-listening country music and a Disney ballad with a grand orchestral touch to its production. This number is notable on stage for a large 12 square metre platform that the 6 dancers alongside Mariette use for climbing and sliding down during the song’s performance.

My opinion: The diminishing returns competitively to Mariette’s time in Melodifestivalen is justified, and that this staggered into the final ahead of others in the Semi Final is a shame. A bad song this isn’t, but there is no edge to this track, nothing we haven’t heard before, and I doubt Mariette will be performing this song at her gigs in five years time.

Prediction: As the 12th qualifier it is the easy prediction to finish last, and only Mariette’s core fan base (who appear to be older based on the previous results) might be enough to stop that from happening.

Marcus and Martinus – Air

Twins Marcus and Martinus made their first footsteps into fame in their native Norway, where aged just ten they appeared on the junior version of Norway’s Eurovision selection show, MGP jr. From there started a career where they were adored by fans across the continent with sold-out arenas across the continent and a plethora of radio hits to their name. Why are they in Sweden? It’s a complex story but they managed to win Masked Singer Sweden last year and, if you are a record label looking to widen a career, the Swedish market is the biggest in the Nordics and Melodifestivalen the biggest show like it. Plus the songwriters on board for the track ‘Air’ are all Melodifestivalen veterans.

The song is an incredible production of cool radio music. While it might lack the punchy chorus that one would expect from a Melfest number, that is instead replaced by a drop worthy of hitting even the biggest cocktail bars on the continent. However, it must be said, the true highlight of this song are the visuals, with a laser show that will make you at home wonder how on Earth that is even possible.

My opinion: This is an exceptional contemporary track that is destined to be a big hit for the Norwegian duo in Sweden but also elsewhere on the continent. As a Eurovision entry? Not quite what I’m looking for. Underneath the glitzy exterior of this song is a package that runs out of time in the three minutes to have a true crescendo and moment that makes a Eurovision winner. Send this to Liverpool and we will be scoring well from juries from the competent package but once more struggling to emote to Europe (other than Marcus & Martinus’ core fanbase) to bring us to Eurovision victory.

Prediction: Top 3 in the final, though I will controversially expect that the majority of points here will come from the international juries rather than the televote. The duo’s fans are all within the same age category after all…

Panetoz – On My Way

Panetoz are on their third Melodifestivalen appearance and their third time in the Melodifestivalen final. The group has been around since 1997 but their first single came out in 2009, and their work has also involved helping youth in their home suburbs around Haninge get into music. Their big hit was the preschool party favourite ‘Dansa Pausa’ which I’m quietly confident every Swedish child from 3 to 13 has experienced at a birthday party within the last twelve months.

The song doesn’t offer much of a surprise to those familiar with Panetoz’s back catalogue, and you should expect a big clap-a-long number with touches of World Cup anthem to it combined with plenty of Swedish slang and loan words from Africa the Middle East thrown into the mix. The title hook “On My Way-ay-ay” is the part of the song most catchy and you will hear it a grand total of 16 times in the song’s three minutes:

My Opinion: This is run-of-the-mill Panetoz doing what they do. I would love my Melodifestivalen, at least those songs in the final, to be somewhat more special, more creative, but there’s an audience for this and a need for the party it provides to the final.

Prediction: They previously finished 9th and 8th in Melodifestivalen in 2014 and 2016. 8th or 9th again would be realistic

Maria Sur – Never Give Up

Maria Sur is an 18-year-old Ukrainian refugee who came to Sweden when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. Her aunt lives in Stockholm and therefore Sweden was the obvious location for refuge. She was set to be the next-big-thing in Ukraine if you believe the hype after appearances on their versions of X Factor and The Voice, and she seeked out famous names in Sweden to try and get into the music business here. Eventually it was British-American singer Sarah Dawn Finer who found space for her to perform at a big televised concert in aid of Ukraine, and with that a first step into the Swedish music scene. I’ve interviewed  Maria for Swedens’ ‘The Local’, when she was announced in the Melodifestivalen line up.

In terms of the song, this is a Melodifestivalen ballad by numbers. The melody here is striking and Maria sings well, and the chorus pops out and fastens in your head despite the sad “autobiographical” theme of the song. There’s high budget staging here with a mist effect and powerful spotlights that give those ‘winner vibes’ we often speak about in the business.

My Opinion: All of that said, this type of balladry is contrived and lyrically there is so much more deeper insight we could get into Maria’s story beyond the idea of being a fighter and overcoming adversity. Yes it is top-drawer songwriting for the song contest but everything about this is derivative, done-before and would be a right shame to send out to Europe musically speaking.

Prediction: But on the flip side, it is the narrative of Maria’s story that is the most powerful selling point here and the big question mark is how much the Swedish people want to show that same solidarity to Ukraine through sending Maria to Liverpool. Maria is the wildcard here therefore and probably the biggest contender for the victory, even if on song alone it should deserve to rank in the middle.

Smash Into Pieces – Six Feet Under

Rock band Smash Into Pieces founded in 2008 but it took five years before the group was signed by a recording company. Outwith their back catalogue featuring songs with tens of millions of streams the group also have played on tour alongside Evanescence, Within Temptation and Starset. Their qualification to the Melodifestivalen final was such a surprise they have had to cancel some of their gig opportunities around Europe this week.

This is a modern interpretation of rock rather than classical, with a particularly futuristic feeling to the song both audibly and visually. Lead singer Adam describes this number as coming from his “worst life crisis” but hopes that it will also “inspire others that there is a path to change.”

My opinion: This is a nice addition to the Melodifestivalen lineup but I am somewhat surprised by how successful this song has been since it qualified from heat 4 (it hit a peak of 2 on the Swedish Spotify charts). The pumping pre-chorus is as good as this gets but I do find the chorus a little bit lacking in energy given what the song builds up to.

Prediction: Streaming data suggests a high public vote placing, but I suspect mid table with the juries and probably a placing around 4th in the final table.

Kiana – Where Did You Go

Kiana turned 16 on the night of her Melodifestivalen heat performance, although she has previously been in the Swedish public’s spotlight after performing on Talang (Sweden’s Got Talent) here and finishing in 2nd place. As well as singing Kiana is an excellent dancer, skills that she picked up from her mother who is a professional dancer coming from Perth, Australia, where Kiana spent the first few years of her life.

Where Did You Go’ is an uptempo pop song that has shades of the 90s about it, especially in the sounds of the post-chorus. Yes it might be rather repetitive in the chorus (the title is sung a whopping 35 times by both Kiana and the backing vocals) but it is a hook that’s going to get itself stuck in your head. Hats off here for Kiana who shows off a great vocal range in the three minutes with dance moves to match.

My opinion: The song runs out of time in the three minute time limit but the build from verse into the chorus and Kiana’s vocal quality shines through. She’s the star of this package.

Prediction: There’s an off chance that this song scores well from the international juries in the final who will reward Kiana’s ability as a star of the future, but her finishing position is likely more 4th to 8th than challenging at the top. The real prediction is to look out for Kiana returning to Melodifestivalen in the future, and challenging next time for the victory.

Nordman – Släpp Alla Sorger

A mixture of folk music and pop, the duo Nordman were founded in 1991 and during the 90’s sold over a million albums across the country. They have been iconic for their use of the nyckelharpa, an instrument involving keys and strings together, where pressing the keys alters the pitch of the corresponding strings.

This song is so incredibly Nordman, and was written for the duo by perennial Melodifestivalen songwriters Jimmy Jansson and Thomas G:Son for the pair to make a return. This number pays tribute to a song style they have perfected and has a rousing, sing-a-long quality to it and one can imagine this working great dancing around the maypole on a boozy midsummer day.

My opinion: It’s a very decent Nordman track. However the song isn’t going to be as big as their hits from a generation ago and the package on stage is not as exciting as one would like it to be. Fine addition to the Melodifestivalen final but it won’t be going any further than here.

Prediction: Poor jury score backed up by a decent public vote from the band’s fans to finish mid table

Loreen – Tattoo

Loreen made a breakthrough in the music scene through the Idol programme but is infamous in Sweden for one song and one song only, ‘Euphoria’. That song won not just Melodifestivalen but the entire Eurovision Song Contest in 2012, bringing the show to Malmö the following year and being a huge radio hit spending ten years at the top of ESCRadio’s ESC 250. However there’s only been two albums since then and a previous Melodifestivalen attempt that missed the final in 2017, so the press wondered if the high expectations that match the artist would be fulfilled.

Loreen has been clear to state how the song ‘Tattoo’ came first from the songwriters (which includes the ‘Euphoria‘ team) and it was the song that convinced her to return. Yes there are shades of the electronic dance pop that made ‘Euphoria’ so iconic, but this is a tougher listen at a faster BPM and does focus on the artist’s raw power more than the melody, which is also an intense affair.

My opinion: I’ll quote my colleagues in the press room from Schlagerprofilerna for this one. “If Sweden sends anything else to Eurovision we are idiots.” There are no other words here. It might be intense but it draws you in and builds in one masterclass of song production that blows everything else in this competition out the water. Loreen is a great artist but the song is the puzzle to unlock that, and, while a touch less accessible that ‘Euphoria‘, this is every bit of that quality.

Prediction: Winning by a canter. I don’t expect 96 out of 96 points from the juries or televote but it should be very close to that, maybe around 180 when all combined. Then this will go to Eurovision where this song has already slammed Sweden to the top of the betting odds – the betting markets see Sweden as having around a 40% chance of winning their 7th Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, more than double any of the other 36 contenders. You know what, I would not disagree with that one little bit. Get ready for a busy 12 months and a potential battle between Stockholm and Malmö for hosting rights.

Theoz – Mer av dig

With a TikTok following of millions Theoz is a 17-year-old who is singing and dancing sensation here in Sweden. This bizarrely will mark the third time he has graced the Melodifestivalen final, and last year he finished 7th with the song ‘Som Du Vill’ that has accumulated over 12 million Spotify streams. However even when under Melodifestivalen’s 16 year old age limit has he taken part previously, his dancing being used on the LED screens behind Samir and Victor’s ‘Shuffla’ when he was just 12.

Theoz’s track this year is a slice of uptempo pop that fits in the same sonic space as his entry last year, but now heavily spiced by a whistle hook that becomes the main brass section melody in the chorus. This is a catchy little ditty that blasts the stage with pyro as the song reaches its bombastic conclusion.

My opinion: I am a sucker for these cookie-cutter Melfest numbers that are super slick and have a performance of the same energy as the song. Is it the one to send to Eurovision? Absolutely not but I suspect this will be the one that I’ll be listening to post-Contest as much as our winner.

Prediction: Small chance of some jury support for Theoz, but being in Swedish will hurt him. Matching his 7th place from last year will be the aim, more a bonus.

Paul Rey – Royals

The 30-year-old artist Paul Rey is now going to be competing in his third Melodifestivalen final after previous appearances in 2020 and 2021. He has previously been a hip-hop artist and in 2015 signed a record deal in the United States. Paul is from Lund and born to a Chilean mother and Finnish father who met as students there.

Royals‘ is an uptempo anthemic pop song that has an incredibly catchy and powerful post chorus. It’s worth saying that this is a great impactful number for TV, with stunning use of the LED screens and lights that gives a timelessly epic but modern feel to the number.

My opinion: When I spend half the time describing how pretty it is staged, you probably know that I don’t rate it too highly. It is a decent little number but outclassed by the other pop songs in the field in the final.

Prediction: Would be a long shot to finish last as it gets easily forgotten in the crowd on Saturday. He did finish last in the final last time out though.

If you wish to watch Melodifestivalen this Saturday you can do so by watching SVT 1 on Saturday March 11th for the two hour show starting at 20:00. The show is also broadcast on Sveriges Radio and an internet stream is available on SVT Play with English language commentary. The top tip for all viewers who will be online in Sweden that evening is that you should download the official Melodifestivalen app and join what is expected to be around 1 million Swedes in voting for their favourite.

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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One response to “The Melodifestivalen Final 12: The Performers, Artists, Opinions and Prediction”

  1. Shai says:

    Choosing Loreen is choosing style over substance, something you have hoped happen less in Sweden, once they have chosen Cornelia last year.

    And it’s not just slightly less accessible than Euphoria. It’s not really an accessible song.

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