Editorials & Opinion

Xtra Debate: Follow the lead of the Swedes?

This week marks the start of the biggest national selection of them all, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen. One of the staples of the season for many, it has managed to acquire a following all of its own above and beyond that of a selection show for Eurovision, and it has paid dividends for the Swedes – they have only been outside the top three once in the last 5 year and have won twice.
Melodifestivalen is a format that some broadcasters have looked towards when expanding their national finals, and many fans look towards when criticising the broadcasters that aren’t. The question is, should more countries be looking towards the way the Swedes do things in terms of their song selection, their musical output or their general attitude towards the contest?
For some fans, the contest would be a better place if more countries did things the Swedish way, whilst for others, this is a nightmare scenario that would diminish the variety and dare we say it, credibility of the contest.
We’d like to know what you think. Should more Eurovision countries be like Sweden? See what two of our editors have to say and make your vote.

Should more Eurovision countries be like Sweden?

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Matteo Manta says “yes”.

I want to start my soon-to-become-a-tirade with saying that this is not a yes on everything.
I don’t think Melodifestivalen is the solution for all the countries, as the current tournée is a result of the evolution of a big event that was cherished by the public already. I wouldn’t ask Hungary to change A dal at all.
At the same time, I don’t think the quite typical nordic dance schlager pop vibe is applicable to all the countries (see: Xuso Jones and his song that sounds like an outtake from Måns Zelmerlöw’s 2007 album “Stand by for…).
What I would take from the Swedes is the approach and process in place: having an open call for songs (I know in bigger countries it would be painful), getting in touch with the authors and working out the best combination of composition/singer…
And then playing hard already on the national final stage.
From Melodifestivalen I’d keep the wide range of songs that the latest years have introduced and the search for radio friendly, but still stageable song that are quality like and will interest the viewer.
At the same time: a lean and not confused process of selection. No twenty shows for the artist and three shows for the song. No five songs final broadcast on a radio station that no one cares about on a sunday morning.
From the Swedish Television I’d inherit the appreciation for detail: it’s not just selecting a singer and sending it to the contest, it’s following it with focus on the performance and how it will look like. It is remembering that PR doesn’t do much for this contest as until the last week of April the only ones aware of what’s going on with the show are the Eurofans. It is standing in the viewing room and not thinking “yeah that will do”, but asking themselves what is still slightly wrong and can be changed.
And it’s having singers who can sing. The only thing missing, at times, is the emotion part (I can’t remember the differences in Sanna’s performance from rehearsals to the final in 2014), but when that’s counted in you have results like Loreen.

Simon Wells says “no”.

This sounds a scary prospect. Not the Sweden bit as such, but I would argue against homogeneity, regardless of which country’s style others are looking to emulate. The contest has seen increased diversity in some regards, but not nearly enough. Hats off to the Swedes for punching well above their weight in the real world’s pop industry, but I would not want a contest where national flavours and quirks are lost because of the one-size-fits-all chart-fodder that usually conjures the most points.
We already see quite a few Swedes musically whoring themselves out to whichever nations will pay for the production and songwriting, but do we need more scandipop? Sure, if you like that kind of thing I see you’ll say yes, but diversity and authenticity should have a stronger footing. I’d love to see stronger (not wholly restrictive) rules about the nationality of writers and performers, but at the same time, I’d like to see the modern music industry more strongly involved in Eurovision and at present Sweden is an inevitable force in that department. However, what worked for them isn’t necessarily the route for all, and other countries should strive to focus on their strengths, not to be like Sweden.
If you’re making the point that Sweden reliably makes a big deal out of its national final and attracts household names to compete, I can’t argue with that. But there’s such a wealth of stunning musical talent in Sweden that you never see at Melodifestivalen. A couple of metal bands playing a song that still sticks to the schlager mould and something with rap in it don’t really represent all that is good and varied about the Swedish music scene. Where are the heartfelt singer songwriters? Where is the infectious electronica and dance music? Where is the twee and kookie indie, or the genuine rock and metal music?
There is no country that has cracked the code to create a well-balanced style of music in its Eurovision events, but looking to Sweden is not the route to find it. At present we have a wide variety of reasonable and terrible national finals that leave us with a melting pot of songs. Surely that is what keeps us coming back?

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