Melodifestivalen, the big kid on the block, wrapped up this weekend. It was an unusual year in Sweden. Aftonbladet reported decreased ratings and increased criticism; this year Swedish public seemed to tire of the production value. In one respect the Swedes had a point: the production was a little low rent. In previous years we’ve had Dolph Lundgren singing “Eye of the Tiger,” but this year, delicious pastries? However, Christer Björkman’s song choices seemed very much the usual fare: multiple options from Fredrik Kempe, multiple options from Bobby Ljunggren, sentimental favorites from previous years, Eric Saade wannabes, etc.
The comfortable routine was very nearly upstaged by Ace Wilder, a Kesha contemporary, who came out of nowhere to hit #1 in the Swedish pop charts and got within an inch of winning. But, not to worry. In the end, the Swedish voters made a sensible choice. Here’s Sanna Nielsen and “Undo”:
“Undo” is a solid ballad. Songwriter Fredrik Kempe has laced the refrain with a distinctive song hook and satisfying musical resolution, so important considering how many times we have heard songs like these before. It’s successful, and the song stands out in a crowd.
Sanna Nielsen is a sympathetic winner, a solid singer who for years has been a Eurovision hopeful. This was her seventh time competing on the Melfest stage. In her previous attempts, she always made the final (no small feat in itself), but always came up short. Sometimes, as in the case of “Empty Room” in 2008, painfully short. In that year, she convincingly won the public vote only to be spiked by juries who favored Charlotte Perrelli’s “Hero” (and we all know how THAT turned out).
Nielsen is a statuesque beauty, and she’s blessed with a pure tone that’s well suited to big ballads like these. In Melfest she was presented as a solo act. For Copenhagen, where no backing tracks are permitted, it will be a relatively straightforward task to beef up her vocal with backing singers. The Melfest-to-Eurovision transfer should go fairly smoothly. Sweden’s choice, however, was made from the head and not the heart. It’ll do fine for them in May, but I don’t think it’s our next winner.