Stockholm 2016

Xtra Review: The Melodifestivalen 2016 Final

National final season is coming to an end, and with it, the biggest of the lot, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen. There’s a lot of pressure on Sweden to deliver the goods this year as not only will the chosen song be the home entry, but they are now just one win away from equalling Ireland’s long-standing record. Can any of the 12 songs on offer do it?
Peter and Simon have listened to all the songs and will give their thoughts. Peter has already heard all of the songs many times and is a big Melodifestivalen fan, and Simon…is not. It will be his first time hearing the songs. Can the two editors agree on a winner?

Panetoz – Håll Om Mig Hårt

Peter: This Melodifestivalen final isn’t exactly short on party songs but this will get Friends Arena banging when it opens the show on Saturday night. I thought that Panetoz’s entry from two years ago was a fillery piece of summer fluff, and indeed that’s basically what this is as it’s not going to be a contender, but yet it’s so much more infectious and fun than their previous effort. You can’t help but smile at this, and whilst the Swedes would never actually pick it, I could see an English version of this doing rather well at Eurovision!
Simon: This feels like something that is conjured up as the theme song to some mid-level sporting event and sinks without a trace, despite some flashy performance at an opening ceremony etc. It’s just a latino pop 1990s backing track with some singshouting over the top. I guess I’m meant to be moved by the rhythm but I’m not going to budge.

Lisa Ajax – My Heart Wants Me Dead

Peter: Lisa makes her Melodifestivalen debut with something that sounds like Rihanna when she used to be good (or Zara Larsson now – oh how relieved thousands of Eurofans are to finally have a reference point for music that sounds like this). It took me a while to warm to this, but the chorus is very catchy and it sounds like it could be a sizeable hit. Lisa also sings it very well, which some people aren’t really giving her credit for thanks to the layered backing vocals.
Simon: Stirling work by the shadow singer that performs every note of the melody louder than Lisa. Why the toilet paper? I rather missed the song here. I have nothing against it but it is mid-tempo standard issue pop and won’t stand out among a large field of entries. Where’s the hook?

David Lindgren – We Are Your Tomorrow

Peter: This one seems to be considerably lacking in love amongst the fans and indeed I can’t see scenario other than this finishing last on Saturday, but it’s actually one of my favourites. It doesn’t even stand out as being particularly dated or not hit-worthy (or else Axwell wouldn’t have had a hit with basically the same song a year ago), but maybe it’s David himself that’s the problem. He does come across as a bit polished and uncool through the whole thing and that’s probably a bit offputting. It’s a shame because this is a catchy number and probably the song most faithful to what Melodifestivalen used to stand for in the line-up.
Simon: David does the squinty-snarly-smile thing marvellously, and he can sing a bit too. Brighter day / your tomorrow / better way / blah blah. A pity the words he’s singing are bland as can be. Is electro-schlager still a thing? Oh.

SaRaha – Kizunguzungu

Peter: This sounds exactly as you would expect it to – the kind of Afro-Scandi sound that’s comparable to Haba Haba by Stella Mwangi. I know that this is the only frame of reference Eurovision fans seem to have for this song, but that may be because this type of song simply doesn’t exist outside the contest. Anyway it’s catchier than it has any right to be, and is a massive guilty pleasure for me this year, but there’s no way Sweden would actually send such fluff.
Simon: If you first in ignorance do some googling to find out that SaRaha is a Swedish-Tanzanian singer, your mind will presume the worst about this confirming to the stereotypes of Nordic pop with an “Arfican twist” and that is sadly exactly what I got. Ouch for the key change. At least it is in some ways a different sound to the rest, but it didn’t exactly hold Stella Mwangi in good stead did it?

Oscar Zia – Human

Peter: Oscar seems like a thoroughly nice chap, but bless him, he really thinks he’s Michael Jackson in this performance and it just comes across a bit…well…Oscar Zia. Everyone involved in this seems to think the song and performance have much more gravitas than they actually do, and the dizzying camera switches and graphics would be much more impressive if there was a better song and singer to accompany them.
Simon: The shadow singers hold out until 30 seconds into the song before leaping to Oscar’s aid, which is rather too trusting of them. In the chorus you can barely hear him and that really helps. It has some energy but the production feels half finished and bland. He needs a good wash and a good vocal lesson.

Ace Wilder – Don’t Worry

Peter: Ace Wilder was on my wishlist for this year and she hasn’t disappointed me with this anthem for young professionals who still get on like students – I can definitely relate to the lyrics as basic as they may be! There’s not much substance to it, but it is instant and a party-starter and would surely be heavily fancied if it were chosen. Sadly though, it seems to have lost all momentum since it qualified from the first head and Ace may be making up the numbers on the night.
Simon: Her previous Melodifestivalen attempt was pretty feisty and she was unlucky not to get the ticket, but this is Ke$ha-lite and too vacuous to garner many votes from a pan-European public and juries. You can’t deny it’s a professional presentation though.

Robin Bengtsson – Constellation Prize

Peter: This was my surprise of the year. I wasn’t expecting to like it, but this sounds like a genuine international hit, which surely would have been one of the favourites from the get-go if a bigger name were singing it. It’s simple, but very immediate and while it has taken a back seat in Sweden to certain other contenders, I think this would absolutely be their best shot at victory out of the bunch.
Simon: Someone should have told him he’d look better without the fake tan. I guess this was a bland pop song on someone’s laptop that had no fate until it was decided to Kygo-it-up, which gives it a hook but it feels clumsy. Actual LOL for the first harmonica moment. And wow how he plays it so well without touching it later on! Robin’s voice sometimes sounds good but there are some real bum notes, highlighted by the fact the shadow singers are simultaneously hitting the right ones.

Molly Sandén – Youniverse

Peter: Right so I never bought the “Molly is a huge booking in huge demand” line that we were fed at the start of the competition, but she clearly has quite the fanbase as that’s the only way to explain this half-cooked Euphoria sequel qualifying with such ease. I like her voice, she’s clearly an experienced performer and the staging is nice and atmospheric, but the song itself is just a bit nothingy.
Simon: The verse has something promising about it, but the chorus feels like it was thrown together to fill the gap it is obliged to occupy, rather than having anything to make of itself.  It’s nice to hear a voice that doesn’t need the shadow singers though. The last chunk is uncomfortably Euphrorian, but it is the best vocal of the show.

Boris René – Put Your Love On Me

Peter: I like the High School Musical back-story of Boris the professional footballer moonlighting in Melodifestivalen alongside Linda Bengtzing and After Dark, and he’s clearly having a ball. The song is a fun song performed well, but there are others in here that do the same thing better and I think this is a bit out of its depth now.
Simon: A catchy little chorus and a worthy hook from Boris, which gives some traction to a song that is otherwise textbook Scandipop in structure and production. I don’t mind this you know! Is it about feelings or about oral sex? I’m not sure.

Frans – If I Were Sorry

Peter: This is the kind of whiney, faux-sincere bullshit clogging up the charts at the moment thanks to Sheeran, Bieber and the like that I absolutely despise. Frans just comes across too immature for the lyrics he’s singing and an unappealing performer who has clearly been to the Lena Meyer-Landrut school of accents. It’s everything that flies in the face of what my beloved Melodifestivalen used to be about, and there are so many other songs in the final that could be hits in their own right without aping something that’s already big. He’s going to win by a mile. Gobshite.
Simon: Frans performs like he’s the kind of kid for whom his teachers very much look forward to an opportunity to discuss some matters at parents’ evening. He has, however, quite thoroughly read the how-to-make-girls-buy-vote text book about half-hearted singspeaking that has stood Ed Sheeran et al in good stead. Annoyingly it is catchy, and there are some actual lyrics, even with decent grammar in the title!

Wiktoria – Save Me

Peter: Save Me is a rare example of a song in one of these competitions that gets the country-dance sound just right. It’s subtle but it’s catchy and builds well. Wiktoria is clearly very talented, but she really doesn’t get a chance to show it while she’s stood still and letting the projections do the work. I really think they should consider completely changing the staging should this make it to Eurovision, which it won’t.
Simon: I guess Wiktoria’s dress is intended to distract from the lack of variety in this song, although what there is isn’t bad at all. It does feel quite a long three minutes though. A very decent vocal however, although when the Aguileraish bridge comes through I was expecting a grandstand finish, which never quite came.

Samir & Viktor – Bada Nakna

Peter: Samir and Viktor do exactly what we expect of them and give Swedish students another anthem to make tits of themselves to at Freshers’ Week. Obviously it won’t win, but it’s already become a massive hit, so good for them.
Simon: This song was surely written for a couple of middle aged old boys with heartily strummed acoustic guitars and heartily fluffed beards. But instead it got the football chant and six-pack treatment, but I don’t think that really saves the day. The kitchen sink (well, at least some dodgy plumbing) has been thrown at the staging, but it still feels like drunken karaoke.

So who is the winner?

Peter: Sadly, there’s only one answer to this. My personal favourites are Robin and Ace, both of whom I think would do well at Eurovision in May (although the latter may attract some criticism for Swedes window-dressing a basic song with elaborate staging again), but this contest belongs to Frans. I hate it, but it’s gathered up too much traction now for it to go any other way. It probably will do well at Eurovision, and if it does legitimately manage to become a hit then more power to it, but it’s not for me at all and it will be disappointing to see so many songs I like fall by the wayside.
Simon: I really really don’t know who will win, and I’m not super excited about hearing one of these for the next two months either! I think I will just pick Molly because it will make some people very happy and at least she’s a strong singer. There are more chartable efforts in the mix, but they just feel like not-quite-there versions of previous hit songs. Where have we wondered that before…?
Disagree with our editors? Make sure to us your thoughts on this year’s finalists via our Twitter, and don’t forget to come back at 20:00 CET tomorrow (Saturday) night for live coverage of the big final!

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