XTRA Flashback Friday: Grattis Carola!

Another Thursday, another XTRA Throwback Thursday. We are taking you on a journey through Europe and beyond, a journey through the history of the contest. But Carola’s birthday is only tomorrow and one does not stand up for the Queen of Sweden (sorry Silvia) for the sake of article series. So for this occasion, we shall make it a Flashback Friday and honour the one, the only, the Carola Maria Häggkvist.  For this week’s theme I will be featuring one of Carola’s ESC entries and see what my dear colleagues think of it. 

When you rose to stardom over night…

Carola was born on 8 September 1966 and grew up in Norsborg, one of Stockholm’s suburbs. From the very early age she loved to sing and perform, for which she made quite few enemies in her elementary school class. Aged 11, she appeared – and won – a TV talent contest Nya ansikten (New Faces), where Stikkan Anderson (the ABBA’s “godfather”) was in the jury. She discovered Christianity at the age of 13 through a Christian group, who visited her class. Couple of years later, a priest allegedly warned her to “get ready” because “God would soon use her for the whole of Swedish people”. And soon enough, she won Melodifestivalen with Främling, getting maximum points from every single jury (which has not happened either before or afterwards in the whole MF’s history) and selling almost a million copies of her debut album. She also ended up making TV ratings’ record as ESC 1983 is still the most watched TV programme in Sweden of all time and breaking audience records in her summer tour after Eurovision.

A life full of storm-winds

8 years later, she won Eurovision after a nail-biting voting and after a rule paragraph, which made her a winner (and believe me there are people out there still begrudging her that win, but we don’t bother about them this time). During her career she has released many bestselling records and made many Swedes’ childhood soundtracks. At the same time, she has made quite few enemies because of her Christian faith (especially within the Swedish tabloid press and also LGBT community). However, she is still among the biggest music superstars in Sweden. I would like to focus on her 2006 entry “Invincible”, but in its Swedish version. So – entering “Evighet”!

She came, she saw, she won.

After her 1991 Eurovision win, Carola did everything she could to distance herself from Melodifestivalen. It was only in 2000, when she returned as one of that year’s co-hosts, but through the years that followed, her competitive side started to tingle again. She almost made the line-up in 2003, but was disqualified for refusing to perform her potential song (När löven faller) herself. But after the 50 year anniversary show Congratulations (where she was one of the presenters and also performed in one of the medleys), it was clear – Carola was back in Melodifestivalen as a competing artist! Immediately after the press conference in November 2005, she was proclaimed as the one to beat.
Fast forward to March 2006 and to the performance above. Suddenly everyone’s song was pale in comparison to Evighet. Suddenly everyone in the line-up was reduced to nothing more than an amateur. Suddenly, she was in the middle of the media storm again for refusing to answer LGBT radio journalist’s questions on her stance of homosexuality. This minor scandal was 0.01% of hope for the rest of the line-up to snatch that win instead of her. Of course it didn’t happen. She landslided the televote (after finishing second with the regional juries) and won. Evighet, an ABBA-inspired schlager stomper made #1 (her first singles #1, crazy enough) and it was evident, that Swedish public indeed missed their Carola. Many people say that she song is nothing special, but that Carola makes it fantastic.
I meanwhile, fell in love with it ever since I first heard the Windows Media audio on the SVT’s website back in early March 2006. When Carola won the final, I was ecstatic. The whole year was about no one, but her in my world. Of course I bought the album, Från nu till evighet, which I played to death – still do, to be honest. It’s hard to explain why I love “Evighet” that much – it’s this sense of instant euphoria, with a chorus so anthemic you just have to sing along. The whole keychange (which only Carola can make it sound so effortless) makes it even better and Carola’s stage presence and charisma is something not many artists stand a chance against. It’s not for nothing, that her track record in Eurovision is so great. Many, MANY former winners have tried coming back for that second shot at glory and so many of them have flopped. Carola meanwhile has managed to achieve a top 5 result in every decade she took part in. Which makes me think it’s time she comes back to MF and shows many younger acts how it’s done. By the way, I almost never listen to the English version, “Invincible”. I mean it’s fabulous and all, but for me, the Swedish version is still the best one by far.

What the others had to say…

Oh Carola… Yeah, I can’t help loving this lady. That voice to me is out of this world. Her performances only got better as time evolved. Främling was cute, her winner was amazing, but then came Evighet, which, in Swedish, may have been one of my all time Melodifestivalen favourites. Can’t say I don’t love the English version though, but in the bloodbath that was 2006, Carola drowned a little. Nevertheless, she deserves a happy mention.
I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of Carola’s but I did love her winning Eurovision entry. “Invincible” was also incredible, especially with those live vocals. As Nick said, 2006 was a bit of a bloodbath and maybe in another year she would have achieved an even better result.
Everyone that knows me knows that I’m not really a schlager guy but Carola’s vocals truly make a classic pop composition come to life. As far as her Eurovision entries go I appreciate both, but I truly have a soft spot for the Swedish version of “Invincible” titled “Evighet“. Happy Birthday Carola and keep on making amazing music.
What do you think about Carola? Do you listen to her music apart from her ESC entries? Which is your favourite song by her? Let us know in the comments below and follow us on social media under @ESCXTRA. 

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