Melodifestivalen – six weeks of singing Swedes competing to reach Eurovision

Loreen

Melodifestivalen begins this weekend with a six-week long competition that will grip the nation until March 9th when we find out who will represent Sweden in the 2013 Eurovision song contest. Founded in 1956, Eurovision is the top-ranked program in Europe with 125 million viewers tuning in annually to watch musical performances from roughly 40 nations. Out of 9 million Swedes, an estimated 4 million will tune in to watch the Melodifestivalen final making it the most-watched program in Sweden. This year Melodifestivalen and Eurovision are particularly important to Sweden since last year’s Eurovision winner was our own, Loreen (pictured above) whose fantastic song Euphoria won with an astounding majority of the vote. And since the winning country from the previous year hosts the following year’s competition, the Eurovision final on May 18th will take place in Sweden, in MY city…Malmö!!! 

Swedes seem to have a particular affection for singing, whether it’s toasting “skål” with snaps at Midsommar or a Kräftskiva and singing drinking songs, placing a crown of candles on a young girl’s head for singing in the Lucia procession, or dancing around the Christmas tree while singing and holding hands. The Swedish language has even been noted to be a “singing” language with a distinct melody. So it’s no surprise that Sweden takes its contribution to Eurovision very seriously with perhaps the longest pre-qualifier of any participating country.

melodifestivalenEurovision

The process for Melodifestivalen begins almost directly after Eurovision ends. A field of over 3,000 entries are whittled down to 32 that will compete in the successive six Saturdays of competition starting at the beginning of February. Each weekend the competition takes place in a different city. During each of four semi-finals, eight performers do their best to win the hearts of Swedes. No juries are used in the semi-final rounds, so all votes are cast by televote meaning the public truly decides the winners. The top two contestants in each semi-final advance to the final automatically. The third and fourth place winners from each semi-final get one more try to win a spot in the final by participating in the Second Chance round from which two more contestants will advance to the final based on popular vote. A total of  10 acts will compete in the final round that is decided by 11 judges who contribute 50% of the overall score, with the public contributing the other 50%. In the event of a tie, the public vote decides the winner. Some memorable performances from last year include:

Sean den Förste Banan. This one is in Swedish so I don’t know if people who don’t speak the language will necessarily find the humor in it. Actually, I can see how some people in Sweden may not find it so funny as there seems to be a growing anti-immigrant movement here, but hey, this immigrant got a kick out of it.

David Lindgren’s Shout it Out. I can’t stop thinking that the Shout stain remover people need to consider adopting a portion of this song for an ad campaign.

This one just flat-out scared me, Mirakel, talking about Kärleken (love being a miracle). This one is in Swedish, but I think you will understand what I mean anyway when I say it scared me.

And my daughter’s first crush, Danny Saucedo with Amazing. She was not bothered by the batteries in his pockets like I was. It’s a catchy tune. I would have voted for it if Euphoria hadn’t been in the competition.

Admittedly, I was all for Loreen last year and even voted in the final competition…my first ever televote. Love the song, costume, hair, choreography, wind, lighting, snow, and the guy in black spinning around the stage…an all-around winner that meant a visible disappointment for the “electric” Danny Saucedo (and my daughter) who came in second place.

It will be exciting to see who wins Melodifestivalen this year. I have a feeling the dejected Danny Saucedo will be back, and I’ll be curious to see what he has in his pockets this year (well, ok, maybe not). At any rate, it will undoubtedly be a record-breaking Melodifestivalen and an even more exciting Eurovision with masses of people descending on Malmö from all over Europe for the competition.

Eurovision history began in 1956. It was originally conceived by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) as a “light television program” that would bring countries together through music in a live television broadcast. It is one of the longest running television programs in the world and the most popular non-sports televised event. Eligible countries must be active members of the EBU. You can’t vote for your own country, and the winner is decided by a 50/50 split between televoting and juries.

The most successful Eurovision Song Contest winner of all time is the Swedish band ABBA who won in 1974 with Waterloo. ABBA continues to be a phenomenally popular band and has enjoyed renewed interest with the successful Broadway musical, Mamma Mia, that was made into a movie starring none other than Academy Award winner Meryl Streep. Two other Eurovision success stories are Celine Dion who won for Switzerland in 1988 with Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi, and Julio Iglesias who placed fourth for Spain in 1970 with Gwendolyne.

Sweden first participated in 1958 and has won Eurovision five times. Taking a look at the winning songs/videos is a hoot, particularly for the first three. What does Diggi-loo Diggy-ley mean anyway???

1974 ABBA – Waterloo

1984  Herrey’s – Diggi-loo Diggy-ley

1991  Carola – Fångad Av En

1999  Charlotte Nilsson – Take Me To Your Heaven

2012 Loreen – Euphoria This performance wasn’t nearly as good as her Melodifestivalen performance shown above.

The first world-wide hit, and most recorded song in Eurovision history, was the Italian entry that took third place in 1958, Domenico Modugno’s Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu, better known as Volare.

The success of Volare helped to grow interest in Eurovision. The competition which began with 7 countries that debut season in 1956 has now grown to roughly 40. Although the entries today are largely superficial, pop songs performed in English, the occasional entry refreshingly exhibits obvious cultural influences of its nation such as Armenia’s Apricot Stone (2010), Greece’s Opa! (2010), and Turkey’s Love Me Back (2012). Eurovision is still fulfilling its intial mission as a “light television program” that brings countries together. So this year I’ll be tuning in again and joining in the Melodifestivalen and Eurovision fever. Interesting that I am growing so fond of this long-standing event that I never really knew anything about until I moved to Sweden. I’m becoming more and more Swedish with every passing Eurovision Melodifestivalen.

Note: The first photo of Loreen was obtained from http://minnatannerfalk.com/2012/03/10/let-it-happen/

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Categories: culture, observations, Sweden+

Author:mbnilsson

I'm an American immigrant to Sweden as of 2008. My blog is for people who like food, Scandinavia, or just think Swedes are hot.

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