As the dust settles on the 2022 contest and Eurovision fans stare down the barrel of a long off-season, here at ESCXTRA, we wanted to spend the summer highlighting our moments of appreciation for Eurovision 2022. Up next, we celebrate Cornelia Jakobs’ gratifying Melodifestivalen victory.
A streak broken
Prior to the 2022 contest, Sweden’s recent run of entries had increasingly become an in-joke between fans. As of 2021, the last time the Swedish Eurovision representative was not a male soloist was Sanna Nielsen back in 2014. Of course, the one time they deviated from this by selecting The Mamas in 2020…the contest was cancelled.
Whether or not it was fair to criticise Sweden for sending a string of polished pop songs sang by solo men is debatable, especially when they tended to yield good results (in the jury vote, at least). But knowing how many different types of entries they have sent over the decades – from a showcase of Sami indigenous culture to theatrical popera and glam rock – I understand why viewers were growing wary of how Sweden had suddenly boxed itself in.
Although I was personally unimpressed by the Melodifestivalen 2022 line-up when it was first announced, I remained hopeful that we’d see some more range and genre diversity, or at least some more memorable songs than the previous year.
A religious experience
I had the pleasure of watching the first heat of Melodifestivalen 2022 from the iconic Swedish Church in London. For those who don’t know, Svenska kyrkan i London is a Lutheran church in Central London that has been running screenings of Melodifestivalen in their community hall for the past few years. The screenings are free to attend, with donations optional.
This was my first time attending one of these screenings – which have become a staple in the Eurovision calendar for some. The event is a magical gathering of both Eurovision fans and members of the UK’s Swedish community, some of whom seemed baffled that people know about Melodifestivalen outside of Sweden.
Let’s be honest, this heat was not particularly strong. Besides a handful of enthusiastic Shirley Clamp stans, the audience weren’t particularly impressed by the first six songs. This made “Hold Me Closer” all the more impactful when it came along in the closing slot in the running order. You could feel the electricity in the room, both during the performance, and when it was Cornelia was announced as the first act to go directly to the final.
The vocal had grit, the performance is more intense than ‘Melfest ballads’ tend to be, the staging was intimate and ‘exposed’, the lyrics were almost jarringly candid, and all of these elements made this feel all the more special. Could this be the reset for Sweden that I had been waiting for?
Cornelia’s formidable opponent
Due to the strict rules SVT have in place around finalists not being available to stream prior to all of the heats airing, it was difficult to gauge just how popular “Hold Me Closer” was in Sweden. Even her result in the heat had to be taken with a pinch of salt due to faults with the app voting. There were many tweets and comments from non-Swedish fans praising the song, but this wouldn’t necessarily convert into votes from the Swedish public. I simply didn’t know if Cornelia had a chance of winning.
What I did know was that Anders Bagge was obscenely popular in Sweden, and that he pretty much had the televote in the bag[ge] from the moment he was announced as part of the lineup. He is a household name in Sweden, both as a renowned writer of international hits and a judge on Swedish Idol. On top of that, he came to Melodifestivalen with a TV-ready storyline about triumphing over fears and self doubt.
With both this context and Sweden’s recent track record, it seemed entirely possible that “Bigger Than The Universe” would go to Eurovision. The song was not particularly impactful, interesting or…good, but that didn’t seem to deter Anders’ supporters, who voted in droves. Thankfully, the support of international jurors was enough to bring Cornelia over the line in the Grand Final.
A rocky road to success
Once Cornelia got the ticket to Turin, the narrative turned from ‘can she win Melodifestivalen?’ to ‘can she win Eurovision?’. Although the field was crowded with ballads, something about the rawness and the catharsis of Cornelia’s performance made it stand out from the others. Plus, the stark green light and circle prop gave the staging a memorable, visual ‘wow’ factor.
Although the performance was Eurovision-ready in Stockholm, the lack of satellite stage in the Pala Olimpico would naturally call for some alterations to the staging. What became apparent watching the live rehearsal feed in the Turin press centre was that SVT made what was actually an extremely intricate and complicated staging look effortless.
I am not exaggerating when I say that we barely saw a clean run of the performance until the jury show of the Grand Final. Prior to that, we saw everything from Cornelia’s mic not being on, the cameraman tripping over during the mic chord while holding the ‘steadicam’ (ironic) and stagehands being visible in the shot when the circle prop was being rotated.
Despite this, Cornelia won her semi-final with ease – amassing almost 400 points, and ultimately placing 4th with 438 points in the Grand Final. Now that Sweden have broken their streak of uber-polished pop entries by male soloists and still get a top 10 result, will we see them take even bigger risks in the years to come? I certainly hope so.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of our Moments of Appreciation series next week! Be sure to stay updated by following @ESCXTRA on Twitter, @escxtra on Instagram, @escxtra on TikTok and liking our Facebook page for the latest updates! Also, be sure to follow us on Spotify for the latest music from your favourite ESC and JESC acts.