After tonight’s fourth heat in Sweden, four more acts are still in the run to represent the country at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Two went straight to the final while another two gets a second chance. Three acts are out.
Welcome back to Malmö, the host city of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest. Tonight, seven acts competed for one of the four spots that secure them at least one more performance on live TV and in front of an enthusiatic audience that follows the Swedish national selection, Melodifestivalen.
1 The songs
2 The show
3 The result
4 Sweden’s six Eurovision wins
Frida Öhrn – We Are One
This is Frida’s fifth Melodifestivalen apperance, but she is yet to reach the final. She is alone on stage this time with two backing singers outside the stage. The colours are kept in orange, purple, red and gold. It’s an up-tempo pop song with a bit of resemblence to glam-rock. Frida herself is dressed in purple and pink.
William Stridh – Molnljus
We continue with a debutant in Melodifestivalen. William is not new to the Swedish audience though as he took part in Idol a few years ago, and finished 5th. It’s a rather quiet song, though it does provide a little up-key. The performance is mainly kept in blue, black and white with a neon ring appearing on stage and smoke used as well. Just like Frida, William is also alone on stage. William was dressed all in white, casually and formal at the same time. A rather pleasant song.
Nanne Grönvall – Carpool Karaoke
Welcome to a Melodifestivalen legend – and the first of two former Eurovision participants in tonight’s heat. She was a part of the trio One More Time that finished third at the 1996 contest. This is a rock-pop song with full speed on. One really need to hold the breath to get a grab of this. It’s song in Swedish, just like William’s entry just before, but it goes so fast that many viewers probably won’t even notice it. Nanna has six dancers with her on stage. Nanna was in pink and black in this performance were a glass table turned into a car! Did anyone say Grease Lightning btw?
Victor Crone – Troubled Waters
Last year, Victor Crone represented Estonia at the Eurovision Song Contest. He finished 20th with the song Storm. This is his second participation in Melodifestivalen after reaching Second Chance round in 2015. It’s a laid back pop song with a guitar that gives it a bit of a country feeling – on the chorus though, we do hear a few really high notes. He manage, but it does sound like he is on the edge of his vocal range. He is alone on stage, but it doesn’t look empty with the light show and the projector effect which makes one think of the 2015 Swedish winner Heroes. Victor was dressed all in black with silver chains hanging from the trousers. A good performance.
Ellen Benediktson & Simon Peyron – Surface
Both Ellen and Simon have previous Melodifestivalen experience, and they even both took part in 2014. Now they are together for the first time. It’s a rather quiet duet, but the chorus is rather rememberable. There is just the two of them on stage in the performance kept mainly in turquoise and blue. Plenty of smoke was added to set the atmosphere. It was a very serious song with a just as serious performance, but it did seem like the couple had the chemistry, that is so important for such a duet.
Jakob Karlberg – Om Du Tror Att Jag Saknar Dig
On to the third song tonight in Swedish! He is Melodifestivalen debutant, but not unfamiliar with music competions on TV as he took part in Idol in 2011. Jakob has two musicians with him on stage; a drummer and a electric bas player who also provides backing. He himself has an electric guitar with him for this performance where the colours used are purple, yellow, blue, pink and red. It is a pop/rock song with a few hints of a Beatles inspiration. Both Jakob and the bas player has a little routine with a slight movement with one foot, otherwise they stay in the same place – on each their podium.
Hanna Ferm – Brave
We welcome a familiar face from last year’s Swedish selection. Hanna came third in the final of Melodifestivalen 2019 in a duet with LIAMOO. This time she is all alone on stage in a performance with a lot of use of smoke and wind mashines. It’s a contemportary pop song with a power chorus that includes high notes. Am I the only one who thinks it sounds like it’s pushing Hanna’s vocal abilities to the max? The song is strong though, and should continue in the selection. She is dressed in a tight short dress with a long tail at the back. The performance is mainly kept in blue and pink.
We kicked off at 20:00 CET. The show took place in Malmö Arena, which some might recognise from the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest. Back then, Emmelie de Forest took home the trophy for neighbouring Denmark. Tonight, no trophy were handed out, but four acts are still in the competion with a chance to win it.
As its tradition in Sweden, we opened with the hosts singing surrounded by plenty of dancers. The show followed a little pre-recorded clip. The theme for all of this was Brandsta City Släckers’ 2002 Melodifestivalen entry Kom Och Ta Mig.
After welcoming the audience and the TV viewers, first participating song started after just 11 minutes. This is very different from Ukraine, who started their national final two hours prior to this Melodifestivalen heat, and had first participant on stage after 48 minutes! Is that a new national final record? Anyway, back to Sweden. After 50 minutes, all songs had been performed and it was time for a reprise, and the Swedes to vote.
Melodifestivalen might have a lot of heats, and the language might be a challenge to some foreigners, but still; it’s easy to follow their national selection as the format has stayed the same for many years. We are talking about a country that likes to change the Eurovision Song Contest, but when it comes to their national selection; we aren’t seeing many changes. They think it’s pretty perfect as it is.
With that in mind, welcome to their usual format with two founds of voting. First round iliminated the two acts that finished 6th and 7th. Second round, selected two directly through to the final, another two for the Second Chance heat and the poor 5th place who leaves the competion as well.
We Are One
Ellen Benediktson & Simon Peyron
6th – 7th place
6th – 7th place
Om Du Tror Att Jag Saknar Dig
Sweden’s six Eurovision wins
Ireland holds the record with a total of seven wins, but Sweden is catching up. Since the last Irish victory in 1996, Sweden won three times placing them with six wins.
1974: ABBA – Waterloo
1984: Herreys – Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley
1991: Carola – Fångad Av En Stormvind
1999: Charlotte Nilsson – Take Me To Your Heaven
2012: Loreen – Euphoria
2015: Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes
Last year, Sweden was represented by John Lundvik and the song Too Late For Love. He finished 5th. In the video below, we’ll take you back to the country’s last victory in 2015:
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Go_A has won this year’s Vidbir final and will represent Ukraine at the 65th Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam. They won a combination of the jury and public televote to be crowned the winner of the selection show. Do they have what it takes to give Ukraine it’s third win at the contest?
It started off as thousands, then it became 16, then 6 and now the winner has been chosen and one act, Go_A, will make their way to Rotterdam later this year to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest. As always from Ukraine there were some interesting performances. Unlike previous years where viewers have come to expect to see the same faces almost year after year, this year Vidbir has showcased mostly new talent.
1. KRUTЬ (Krut’) – 99
Krut’ has brought a very nice ballad to the selection this year, it’s very different from anything that Ukraine has brought to Eurovision before. Throughout the song Krut’ is playing the Bandura, a traditional Ukraine folk instrument which can have anything between 31-68 strings. The song almost sounds like a lullaby, it’s about letting go of your sadness, wiping your tears and your fear and rising above it. Krut’s staging of the song matches the official video where a series of hand drawn figures move across the backdrop of the stage. 99 topped the score board in the first semi-final, earning the top score from both the jury and televote. This is a lovely song and I have no doubt this song would qualify for the grand final and i’d be confident enough to say that it would earn a top 10 place. Even though there have been a few slower songs already announced by other countries, I still feel that this track does stand because of it’s message and it’s charm.
2. Jerry Heil – #VEGAN
Holy moly guacamole. #VEGAN is definitely a marmite kind of song, people either love it or hate it. Jerry’s performance was colourful, energetic and on trend though I fear it might be too marmite for Eurovision. Though it’s probably my least favourite song from this year’s vidbir final I do think that this song is fun enough for fans in the arena to get behind this, but I fear that viewers from home would see this type of song as a novelty act. Would it qualify for the final? Yes I think it would but would it get better than a top 10 finish? Probably not.
3. Go_A – Solovey (Nightingale)
Go_A have brought ethnic chants, flutes and powerful drum beats with their song about Nightingales. Though coming in 2nd place during the semi final 1 results, Go_A has been the fan favourite according to social media platforms. There are elements of the song which remind me of Poland’s Tulia from last year, however that might not be a good thing as Tulia failed the qualify for the final in last year’s contest. Go_A will need to work on their pitching in the closing lines of the song as they have had a tendency to sound a little screachy. There is an element of risk if Ukraine sent this to Eurovision but could be a risk well worth taking. Personally, this is my favourite out of the Vidbir final songs this year, and the instrumental tune has been playing in my head for days. It’s been a while since Ukraine have sent a Ukrainian language song to the Eurovision Song Contest and it would be nice to hear something more traditional from Ukraine as they haven’t sent a traditional sounding song since Jamala won in 2016. This song is full of potential and should easily qualify for the grand final. Though I don’t think it’s a winning song in terms of Eurovision I do think it has potential to do well.
4. David Axelrod – Horizon
David Axelrod has brought a rather generic ballad to Vidbir this year. His vocals leading up to the final have been on point and he has nailed the key change in the final quarter of the song but I feel this would be too bland of a choice for Ukraine who have always had a reputation of sending interesting, strong songs into the contest. Nothing about this song stands out for me. I could imagine that this song would qualify for the grand final but where this would finish on the leader board I don’t know.
5. KHAYAT – Call For Love
KHAYAT is the only contestant to have competed in Vidbir before, he participated in last year’s controversial edition of Vidbir but failed to reach the final. Like Go_A this song has a lot of promise and KHAYAT’s sound is interesting enough that it could finish with a decent score at Eurovision. Last year we looked at how men who have represented Ukraine have earned rather disappointing results compared to the women but KHAYAT could be the guy to change that. I don’t think Khayat would have any problems qualifying for the grand final and like Go_A isn’t a eurovision winner but has the potential to score well on the night.
6. Tvorchi – Bonfire
The winners of the second semi-final, Tvorchi were the last artists to perform. Another different sound that we have not heard yet from Ukraine at Eurovision, Bonfire is a mixture of R&B and Hip Hop with the lead singer having a touch of soul in his vocals. Though the duo have performed well leading up the final, I do feel that this is lacking in some way and won’t capture the audience in the same way that Go_A and KHAYAT would at Eurovision. Bonfire has the potential to qualify for the grand final and do reasonably well. But it just doesn’t stand out for me.
Each of the 6 finalists performed in front of the judges and the live studio audience. Head judge Andriy Danylko was joined by newcomers Tina Karol (2006) and VItalii Drozdov. Serhiy Pritula once again returned as the host. The show was opened Danylko as he slipped into his frock and transformed into his alter ego Verka Serduchka. Serduchka sang a medley of her greatest hits including Tuk, Tuk, Tuk and the famous Dancing Lasha Tumbai. Following the opening number Verka joked that she would re enter eurovision again if she was paid enough. During the interval the audience were treated to a performance by new judge and 2006 eurovision participant Tina Karol as well as 2018 winner Jamala. The show took a lot time to get going with it being on air 45 minutes before the first act performed.
The vote was a 50/50 split between the judges and the public televote, the former being given out first followed by the latter. The results were as follows:
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Poland will conclude their national selection on Sunday, with Lake Malawi star Albert Cerny facing Kasia Deren and Alicja Szemplińska for the chance to represent the country in Rotterdam. You can watch Poland’s national final from 15.15 CET on TVP2.
Slovenia will decide on their act tonight in the Grand Final of EMA 2020. 12 artists will compete for the opportunity to fly the Slovene flag in The Netherlands, with 2014 EMAwinner Tinkara Kovač among the hopefuls. You can watch EMA 2020 live from 20.00 CET on RTVSLO.
Ukraine choose their artist for Rotterdam tonight, hoping to avoid the kind of scandal that prevented their appearance in Tel Aviv last year. Six acts have qualified for the Grand final of Vidbir 2020, with the usual combination of jurors and televoters expected to make the final decision. The show airs from 18.00 CET on UATV.
National Final Heats
Portugal will kick off their annual selection Festival da Canção 2020 tonight, with the first of two semi finals introducing eight acts, four of whom will advance to the Grand Final on Saturday 7th March. Festival da Canção airs from 23.00 CET on RTP.
Sweden airs the fourth and final heat of Melodifestivalen 2020 tonight, with 1995 winner Nanne Grönvall and 2019 runner-up Hanna Ferm among the competitors. Two acts will qualify for the Grand Final on Saturday 7th March, while two runners-up will go to the Andra Chansen round next Saturday. This week’s show airs from 20.00 CET on SVT.
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Victor Crone grew up in Österåker on the very north eastern fringes of Stockholm. It’s the last stop on the Röslagsbanan commuter rail network from the centre of Stockholm; the journey to Central Station takes about 50 minutes. But this little peninsula is a lovely calm piece of Swedish suburbia is a world away from the capital city.
And Victor Crone’s upbringing doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. As a teenager he was playing plenty of Counter Strike and sports, with ice hockey being the one he took most seriously. For a short while he managed to play as a part of Österåker Viking’s team in Swedish hockey’s third tier.
But off the rink Victor’s other passion was the guitar, and took music classes through his school career. But eventually there came a point when only one of those was possible to pursue. At 18 years of age, Victor had an epic choice to make – sport or music.
The hockey career was put on ice.
The City Of Angels
Where Victor ended up was the kind of place many suburban Swedish teenagers could only dream of, Los Angeles. He managed to get the opportunity to write and sing in songs at Capitol Studios, where the list of alumni is basically a who’s who of worldwide superstars; including Britney Spears, Coldplay and Paul McCartney. Victor even had the pleasure of working in the studio next door to Lady Gaga on one such occasion.
He released his first song recorded at the studio under the stage name Vic Heart, ’Hot Summer Night’, which definitely feels at home in the musical soft rock genres across the pond. Other opportunities took him to another bastion of American music tradition, Nashville, and a swing into country flavoured music.
Yet there was to be no breakout career in the music industry stateside – the American dream full of opportunties but nothing that ever fit together. In 2017 Victor released the song ’California’, that touched on his time in the States. That song touches on many themes about being young and being so far away from home, but also the state of mind one is in when your dreams don’t turn out to be reality.
How he ended up in Melodifestivalen for his big breakthrough into the Swedish market happened fast. After returning from America, Victor was asked by Bosse Lundkvist, the manager of Albin (yes, the same Albin from last week’s Melodifestivalen) to record a vocal on one of Albin’s latest songs.
That song, ’Det Rår Vi Inte För’, was written by Albin together with not-yet-Eurovision-winner Måns Zelmerlöw and Behrang Miri, the rapper who made Andra Chansen in 2013 and wanted another go at Melodifestivalen. Victor had just ninety minutes in the studio to record the song, but that was enough for the track to get SVT’s approval and take up place in Melodifestivalen’s first heat in 2015.
Once more did Behrang Miri, with Victor singing on the chorus, reach Andra Chansen. Yet the doors to the final remained closed as ’Groupie’ by Samir & Viktor was victorious in their duel.
Andra Chansen provided Victor Crone with opportunities to stay visible in the Swedish music industry, adding his voice to songs and recording other tracks, but he never broke through again into Melodifestivalen once more… or in any other parts of the music scene. Instead it was small bar gigs and acoustic sessions that were the bread and butter of his musical career. Once more he was limited to third tier action with the premier league opportunities seeming so far out of sight.
A Storm Across The Baltic
Victor’s breakthrough in recent years comes from meeting Stig Rästa. Stig is a stalwart of the Estonian music scene, a regular contributor to its National Final and one of Estonia’s most cherished performers. I had the pleasure to attend his Eesti Laul victory with Elina Born in 2015 with ’Goodbye to Yesterday’. It was effectively a coronation ceremony for the duet, with 79 percent of the vote in a three song Super Final.
Following that Contest, Stig was over in Stockholm trying to write and record new music. Shortly after, Stig invited Victor to hop across the Baltic Sea to Estonia to record music over there. One trip became another, and another, and three years after his first visit ’Storm’ was written and submitted to Eesti Laul… where it was settled in as favourite from the first day through to its victory.
The Eurovision Song Contest saw Victor record a 19th place in the Grand Final. There was relief at making it through to Saturday night, but also a disappointment with the final result. But there was success at home that did beat his expectations. The Swedish televoters placed ’Storm’ in second place (after KEiiNO) and, even before Victor was even chosen to sing at the Song Contest, ’Storm’ was a hit on radio stations across Sweden.
Now was the opportunity to launch that Swedish career that had never before been possible.
Fighting Through Troubled Waters
After Eurovision 2019, Victor originally wanted to take a break from the limelight, but his record company had other ideas for him. ’Troubled Waters’ was one of a couple of songs that ended up on his managements desk, and he was persuaded to play in a demo. After waiting a couple of months the itch came to make the song into a proper hit. Victor got in touch with the writers (Benjamin Jennebo and Dino Medanhodzic, the latter who is also part of the team responsible for ’Bulletproof’) again to perfect the lyrics and release the song. But then came the idea to send the song into Melodifestivalen, and of course there’s no better place than Melodifestivalen to catapult oneself into Swedish music’s top flight.
This song though is more demanding than ’Storm’. The staging requires millimetre precision through its opening movements and Victor is far more energetic on the stage. Vocally as well this is a tough song with a huge range, and Victor feels he can only sing the song maximum 4 times a day. It also demands emotional storytelling. ’Troubled Waters’ is a positive song, but to get to that positivity you, the listener, must keep going through the tough times first.
”When I perform I hope people feel joy and get energy from the song. The story and concept is always to the listener as I always say but, be on your way, on your way home. You might be going through hard times but, you are on your way, you will get there.”
Come Saturday night Victor Crone will finally be there himself, in the limelight, and ready to front another Melodifestivalen song that’s going to take Sweden by storm.
When I think youth centre I’m thinking hoodies, slang and chillin’ out with mates. When I walked into Navet, Luleå’s youth centre just off the high street, I see exactly that – teenagers who are just hanging out somewhere warmer than the sub-zero temperatures outside. Except when I arrive there are half a dozen of them, all arm in arm, on a karaoke machine belting out ’Alla Flickor’ by Linda Bengtzing.
I’m watching in disbelief.
This karaoke evening is one of many special highlights they have at Navet during Melodifestivalen week. I had just missed the quiz but there’s also a bar with alcohol-free Melfest themed cocktails and a huge selfie board being prepared for a dress up party. My preconception was that these teenagers would be the hardest-to-reach group for all things Melodifestivalen, but here they are embracing it as every other group in Sweden.
As I was leaving, all those who took part in the day’s activities got a special treat. A free and very well appreciated ticket for the Friday night rehearsal.
The cocktail list available at Navet, Luleå’s Youth Centre (Photo: Ben Robertson, ESC Insight)
It’s moments like this that make me love the atmosphere when Melodifestivalen turns up in smaller towns. The previous week in Gothenburg you would see the odd billboard here and there, but otherwise the Melodifestivalen bubble was just that – another event coming into town and then heading away again.
Yet this was only the third time in Melodifestivalen’s nineteen years that Melodifestivalen came to Luleå, and it transforms the town. The high street shops have special offers and window displays, the local gym Bodypump and spinning classes run to the beats of BWO. Even the local church choir runs a show of Melodifestivalen themed music.
What is more special though is how the Melodifestivalen becomes something for the local children. As part of hosting Melodifestivalen the town was able to host a Welcome Party with free access to all. At the event in Luleå’s that included characters a short artist meet-and-greet as well as SVT’s favourite children’s characters and a maze. Held in the 2,700-capacity Luleå Energy Arena, the building is packed with schoolchildren from all over town and that maze had a waiting time of over an hour.
It’s wonderful to see Melodifestivalen take over a town. But for Luleå, with a population of around 75,000 in their council area, is hosting such an event financially worthwhile?
Melodifestivalen… Or A Teacher
To find out I spoke to Emma Aludden, the Project Leader from Luleå’s municipality for hosting Melodifestivalen. From the council budget to host the show and the surrounding activities, she believes Luleå taxpayers have had to pay around 300,000 Swedish kronor (around £25,000) for their side of the deal. They’ve used that budget in creative ways to get exposure, for example it’s been the only stop on the tour so far with press goodie bags including plenty of useful gizmos for the winter weather.
This is a significant if not substantial sum to pay, equivalent to employing a newly qualified teacher or nurse. And this has to be considered as a part of Luleå’s growth and strategy for hosting events, especially those associated with the winter season. Following Melodifestivalen Luleå will be hosting the final events of the KPN Grand Prix, the premier Dutch ice skating event and SM-Veckan, a multi-sport competition as varied as rally driving and arm wrestling, arrives the following month.
There’s also a secondary impact economically which is harder to measure but will claw some money back into the town. That is the growth in the city due to visitors coming to the event. Hotels across Luleå were packed and able to charge premium rates for the weekend and much of that will indirectly translate into extra income for local residents that will filter slowly back into the local economy.
Plus there are some things that Luleå haven’t funded as a part of the events. Thursday night is a traditional welcome party for all acts, journalists and for everybody associated with the show. Both Linköping and Gothenburg held events that were ran by their local councils. Luleå’s didn’t include such support. Emma Aludden explaining that ’it’s not the best thing for the municipality to use tax payers money for.’
There is a huge cost though that is not included in this list though. That of the arena. The convention is that the arenas need to be provided free as part of the hosting deal to Live Nation, Sweden’s biggest concert and festival organisation company.
It may seem odd to hear therefore that actually it was Luleå Hockey, the owners of the Coop Norrbotten Arena, who were keen to host and it was them who asked the local council for support rather than the other way around.. What would they benefit from hosting Melodifestivalen for free?
The answer to this question comes from Ida Andersson. Ida is currently a Senior Lecturer in Economic Geography at Örebro University, and previously wrote the academic paper ”Clamour for Glamour – City Competition for hosting the Swedish tryouts to the Eurovision Song Contest”. Her conclusions suggest that the team behind Luleå Hockey would be keen to host Melodifestivalen for the extra opportunities it will provide them in the longer term. Building a good co-operation with Live Nation, for example, may lead to more of their shows coming up to Luleå in later months or years.
Ida explains that many towns like Luleå have a naturally small ’mobilisation capacity’ –in effect the number of contacts available in order to make something happen. The appearance of Melodifestivalen on the scene breaks into the very set social circles of small towns where everybody already knows everybody. Suddenly a wider set of interac tions, and therefore opportunities, are possible.
Infrastructure Is Key
For an arena to feel the benefit to host, it needs to be able to see a long term vision, and to be able to pick up more events in the future. For a city to feel a benefit, they need to have something they can give back to the community. Holding events like the welcome party and giving away free rehearsal tickets widened participation to all residents. After all, Melodifestivalen only comes to Luleå once in a childhood.
This conclusion reaches a very similar end to the recurring saga about which city will host the Eurovision Song Contest after we know who wins each May. Many cities can host, but those that do so successfully and economically viably already have the most important part – the arena.
Luleå’s arena isn’t huge, just 4,200 people could fit inside for its Melodifestivalen heat, but it only exists in Luleå because the hockey team have been so successful (they currently sit a comfortable 1st place in the Swedish league). Without an arena and the infrastructure to have the show, the show isn’t worth fighting to have.
Hosting Melodifestivalen wouldn’t help to put Luleå on the map. However it may have helped to put the Norrbotten Arena on there too.
The Eurovision Song Contest is one week closer, and our playlist is growing with songs winning through National Finals and internal selections being presented. Not only that but we have more news and dates from other countries. Keep up to date with our weekly podcast.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: I Don’t Have It
The latest news from the Eurovision Song Contest with all the weekend results, the MelFest curse is lifted, Ukraine has a lot of layers, and the Italian charts love Sanremo.
Details on Eurovision in Concert, ESPreParty, and Ne Party Pas can be found here.
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