Eurovision 2016 – Sweden: ‘If I Were Sorry’ (Frans)

Sweden know about Eurovision, they stage it with panache and, when they want to win, they go at it all guns blazing. Their productions are polished and their hunger is insatiable. Swedish domination at the Contest isn’t just seen in terms of their wins, second, third and fourth places, but also by the number of Swedish songwriters, producers and performers who end up ‘working’ for other countries in the contest. If you see anything that looks or sounds good, there’s a high chance there’s Swedish involvement somewhere.

That dominance has helped transform the competition in the past ten years both musically and visually – Eurovision is a polished affair because of it. But it’s also fuelled a growing resentment towards the country. Some fans complain about the way the Contest is gradually morphing into a Europe-wide version of the Swedish Melodifestivalen. Others, inexplicably, point the finger at the country because of its ongoing success and its runaway winners, as though success at Eurovision is a bad thing. (Be sure to read Jasmin Bear’s Bitter-Swede Symphony: Why We Love And Hate Sweden at Eurovision for more on the subject).

Head of Swedish Delegation Christer Bjorkman certainly hasn’t done himself very many favours this year pointing the finger at former commentator Terry Wogan, blaming him for having spoiled the Eurovision and, in the process, making it difficult for any artist in the UK to seriously contemplate participation. He may be right – it’s a divisive point, especially in the UK – but in the run up to this year’s contest in which Sweden are itching for a second consecutive win, Bjorkman’s comments project him in an arrogant light.

All of that colours my view of this year’s Swedish song. Seventeen-year-old Frans’ ‘If I Was Sorry‘ is an incredibly polished affair, with a distinctive sound which cuts through the usual Eurovision soundtrack far more successfully than Russia’s up-tempo whirlwind. I still struggle with Frans’ contrived voice. He clearly wants me to believe that his vocal affectations reflect a world-weary sense of cool. But the overly-cool twang he uses is so at odds with his age that he ends up annoying me almost as soon as he’s started singing. That’s when the background assumptions, knowledge, hearsay and opinions start clouding my otherwise objective view of the song. I end up at the end resenting the precision taken when producing the track every time I hear it. And that’s why I end up hoping that, like Russia’s song, I hope it ends up lower in the leaderboard, disappointing the great many who assume it has a chance of walking the contest.

I’m not especially proud of that view. I’m just being transparent. Viewers on the Saturday night final won’t have their judgements clouded by such petty gripes as mine. So, fairness will prevail I’m sure.  For me, Sweden’s song doesn’t live up to the hype. The hook is cute but because it never really gets developed (and because there isn’t that much more material in the song) the seemingly constant repetition of that hook makes me get bored with it quickly. If there hadn’t been quite so much hype, then I might have given it a second chance.

Listen to ‘If I Were Sorry’ then listen to a new arrangement of last year’s winner of ‘Heroes‘ seen at Melodifestivalen and see the difference. Last year’s song had a depth to it and a fundamental quality that made it possible to rework into something incredibly touching. ‘If I Were Sorry’, like Russia’s song this year, doesn’t come close in comparison.

Sweden prepares for Eurovision 2013

Last year, Sweden won the Eurovision 2012 with Euphoria. I didn’t like it initially but – just like any Eurovision song – it has grown on me. Now I can’t get enough of the rousing number. That’s the kind of Eurovision fan I am: as predictable as I am fickle.

Sweden’s 5th win was popular and well-deserved. A considerable improvement on Eric Saade’s overblown Popular in 2011 (it skated in at 3rd place) and the nauseating crossover number La Voix from 2009 (21st place). Yes, Euphoria is a far superior number. And, as a piece of TV its a visually stylish affair too. Watch it and make notes (if you’re into that sort of thing).

So, readying themselves for the Eurovision they’re hosting next year, Sweden’s national broadcaster SVT is in the process of making a trailer for their national selection programme Melodifestivalen 2013.

The trailer features (in part) a crowd singing a special arrangement of the 2012 winning song such in four parts in a special choral/crowd arrangement. (The video above is behind the scenes footage of the recording not the actual trailer, just so we’re clear.)

The sound peaks a little and it’s a terrible shame presenter-come-pretty-boy-in-a-shower-cap Danny Saucedo insists on introducing the sequence with the phrase “It’s on, bitches!” (Why Danny, why?!!). That said, this short extract illustrates how any good song can withstand a variety of different treatments. Go you, hastily arranged anthemic choir.

Melodifestivalen 2013 kicks off 2 February 2013.

Eurovision 2012: Sweden Euphoria Loreen

Loreen and her fringe (via Eurovision.tv)

Loreen sings Euphoria for Sweden in the Eurovision this year.

Having witnessed the spectacle of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen Final at the Globen in Stockholm this year where this song was selected, Loreen’s song for the country is both familiar and unexpectedly reassuring in equal measure.

I didn’t get to appreciate it at the final and although I see its qualities now, I can’t say I’m as swept away by it as much as I wonder whether Sweden’s production team might hope an international viewer will.

It is good. That can’t be denied. The soundtrack will fill the venue in Baku. And Loreen delivers a good performance. It also has that – in Eurovision terms – ‘other worldly’ quality that whispers the possibility of this track being the outright winner. Personally, Bulgaria’s club(ish) number resonates more even after hearing this.

Sweden will get a place in the final, that I’m sure about. And if Sweden ends up winning the contest, the song will do a great deal for the TV programme’s reputation. People will say, “Oh, that was good.”

Sweden have won the Eurovision four times with Abba in 1974, Herrey’s in 1984, Carola in 1991 and Charlotte Nilsson in 1999. In 2011, Eric Saade punched his way through some stage glass to secure third place with his song Popular.

Eurovision 2012: Sweden’s Melodifestivalen

Melodifestivalen 2012

Hours after the Swedes have watched their 10 finalists for the Eurovision national final and decided on a winner for Melodifestivalen, I’m finding it difficult to summon the strength, enthusiasm or the necessary concentration to pen my thoughts on the whole affair.

This may possibly have something to do with the pre, during and post- show drinks I consumed and the extent to which I  underestimated both the punchiness of Swedish beer and the importance of eating enough during the day before drinking it. I didn’t get much sleep last night and what I did muster wasn’t terribly comfortable. I have been a low-powered blogger for most of the day as a result.

Perhaps I shouldn’t really be surprised. This isn’t just about burning the candle at both ends, or merely because of drinking on an empty stomach. There was something else at play here, I think. Something unique to the Melodifestivalen.

Read More

Eurovision 2011 Reconsidered: Sweden

My circle of (largely gay) Eurovision fans were quick to pick up on one of Sweden’s USPs for this year’s contest: singer Eric Saade cute-boy looks.

Naturally, I overlooked this to begin preferring my the stunning view I had from high up on my self-indignant perch considering nothing more than the music and the dance routine.

Now I look on the live performance from the Eurovision final this year, I find myself zoning in on Saade’s looks. It seems, I’m as shallow as everyone else.

More than that however, is the number itself. Yep, that hook in the chorus does begin to grate by the time you’re skating towards the final refrain and at those points when the intonation is a little off, the melody takes on a near-nursery rhyme characteristic which detracts from the high-octane choreography.

But what worked was the drum track prominent in the mix. It fits with the grand scale of the auditorium, demanding a strong (and at times unusual) dance routine. And it’s that – not the song or the performance especially – which makes the resulting TV engaging to watch. I suspect I may have been a little too swift in naming it one of the defining songs of 2011 however.

In the final tally, Sweden came third behind Italy and winning country Azerbaijan.

The picture used in this blog post has been nabbed callously from the marvellous Eurovisionary.com website. I’m making the assumption they won’t object.