A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
There is always some matter to discuss or just a song I want to share
Very welcome - I hope you'll like it here!

Friday, December 25, 2015

December 25: Dani

This is it - Christmas day and the end of this calendar. In Sweden or Finland, yesterday would have been the last entry but I include also the 25th. Because I can. And because I want to share one more jewel that never made it to Eurovision.

Not because it was rejected in any national heat. This one won the internal selection held by French television in 1974 and was all set for going to Brighton and collect a lot of points there.

Then something came between Dani and Brighton. Georges Pompidou, president of the republic, died unexpectedly four days prior to the ESC and was buried on the very day of the final. Not a chance that France would take part. Dani had to unpack her bags and stay at home.

I have often found myself wondering how this one could have changed the history of the contest. Hardly a winner - not direct enough for that, I'd guess - but could it have stolen points off Abba? And would the French jury have preferred the Italian ballad instead? The voting could have been much more of thriller had France made it to the starting line.

The message of the song - there's nothing bad with doing yourself a bit of good - is also a good motto for the holiday and for the new year. Cheers!

Dani / La vie à 25 ans (France 1974 preview)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

December 24: Seyyal Taner

It is Christmas Eve, everyone! It is time to be happy. Maybe to dance around if you feel like it. And to be very very happy.

Few people in the world were ever happier than the people representing Turkey at Eurovision in the 1980's. Or the people fighting it out for the right to represent Turkey. They were all happy and never far from breaking out into neck breaking dance routines.

Few people ticked as many boxes in the "happy and dancing"-department as Seyyal Taner did. In 1986 she ended in second place of the national heat with this piece of bounciness. One year later, she went on to win and flew off to Brussels where quite a few people expected her to get an unusually good placing for being a singing Turk.

Instead, she famously returned home without a single point. A disgrace. Red card for the juries. (And the colour red suits Christmas very well as well.)

Seyyal Taner / Dünya (Turkey NF 1986)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December 23: Nurlaila

What is the worst kind of bad luck you can have at your national final? Is it perhaps the musical ketchup effect? First comes nothing, then nothing, then nothing and then all at once. And then the bottle is empty.

The Netherlands had had some problems finding really solid entries after their 1993 smash "Vrede" but put great effort into their 1998 final and found themselves with not just one but two fantastic entries.

I think they made the right choice, sending Edsilia off to Birmingham with the remarkable "Hemel en aarde" which secured the best Dutch showing since 1975. But Nurlaila would have been an equally strong choice.

Sounding like a Broadway musical showstopper, "Alsof je bij me bent" was written by John Ewbank who had previously taken part himself in the 1990 Dutch final as part of Shift.

Only a few years later, the Dutch would lose their grip on Eurovision totally and fail to reach the finals on eight consecutive occasions. Too bad they couldn't save Nurlaila for later and bring her out instead of that seemingly endless string of weak entries. That would have been something.

Nurlaila / Alsof je bij me bent (Netherlands NF 1998)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

December 22: Anna Mjöll

One of my universal truths is this: nice is a bad idea at Eurovision. Nice won't do. People enjoy nice things, but nice will never stand out and nice will never win.

Nobody votes for nice.

Iceland has had a bad case of nice for the last couple of years, where most of their entries have been sweet, lighthearted and inoffensive. It goes some way but never far enough.

This little ditty is a good case for my point. Everything here is very enjoyable; Anna Mjöll is a terrific performer whose company feels like a treat, the homemade dance moves, the infectious rhythm that is the result of Blame it on the Bossa Nova meets a geyser or two. I have a very good time for the two minutes and fifty seconds that this goes on.

And - mark my words - at Eurovision this wouldn't have gone anywhere. A few polite points from here and there and that would be it. Anna Mjöll represented Iceland in 1996 with an equally nice entry and ended up in the very middle of the result.

Anna Mjöll / Eins og skot (Iceland NF 1993)

Monday, December 21, 2015

December 21: Nina Badrić

It was such good news when Croatia finally decided to send Nina Badrić to Eurovision in 2012. A long overdue decision. Unfortunately the song she took with her to Baku was good but not particularly direct and she didn't even make it to the final.

Too bad. Nina should have gone to Dublin in 1994 instead. She would have rocked the place. Or would she? There are many reasons why selecting her in 1994 would have been fantastic as well as reasons why it would have been a really bad idea.

The song is really catchy and very contemporary at the time. It would have been one of the most modern-sounding entries in Dublin and one of very few uptempo song. It would have needed a much better stage presentation but that would have been taken care of, for sure.

So why not, then? The biggest answer to that is - of course - that Dublin orchestra. With firm grips around their strings and brass, they would lash out at anything attempting not to sound frightfully old and not stop until the only things left were gloom and ruins.

Nobody in 1994 brought a backing track powerful enough to outdo that orchestra. Could Croatia had been the odd one out? The one upbeat track to sound really good on the evening?

Nina Badrić / Godine nestvarne (Croatia NF 1994)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 20: Arja Saijonmaa

This will be short and snappy and in general just a very direct hommage to a performer that entered national finals for Eurovision four times and would have been a worthy winner on three of these.

("2005? Did she deserve to win in 2005?" I hear you cry. Maybe she wasn't the best but considering the hot mess Sweden sent to Kyiv, she would at least have made the event more fun.)

As for Finland 1990, I will insist - until I go blue in the face - that there is nothing really wrong with the chosen entry. It just didn't work, that's all. I still like it.

But imagine Arja Saijonmaa entering that stage in Zagreb, being the last of 22 participants, and just impose her presence onto everyone present. Preferably with a slightly more elegant stage performance than at the national final.

A top five for Finland? Not unthinkable, good people.

Arja Saijonmaa / Gabriela (Finland NF 1990)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

December 19: Ines

For some years, Estonian tv didn't really get anything right when it came down to selecting an entry for Eurovision. The formerly so successful Baltic state suddenly found themselves doing really badly in the international finals.

In 2003, their seemingly fool-proof system of having international experts selecting the winner had backfired and lead to a dismal placing in Riga. After that, the Estonian public was allowed to chose by televoting for two years, but neither one of their winners made it to the big ESC final. It was time to bring the international experts back.

It could have been a good idea, had they themselves selected more relevant and up-to-date experts. Instead the bunch in question rejected Ines' big comeback in favour of a slick but anaemic schlager that would go on to crash and burn in Athens.

Personally, I can't remember making a longer face at any national final I have ever been to and I still wish for Estonia to send Ines to the big thing for a second attempt some day when the stars align.

Ines / Iseendale (Estonia NF 2006)

Friday, December 18, 2015

December 18: Gruppe Papageno

After scoring their best placing for many a good day in 1989, Austrian tv decided to work a bit harder on their Eurovision involvement and staged a televised national final for the first time since 1984.

If press exposure was what they were after, they got it as the eventual winner first collapsed on stage during the performance before getting itself disqualified a few days later.

It's a bit of a shame that this pre-selection has gone down in history as a bit of a mess due to these mishaps as the general line-up was quite strong. I don't mind the entry they sent off to Zagreb in the end, but Gruppe Papageno would have made a more interesting package.

This piece of Austropop must have made an impact on more people as me as it sometimes pops up on various hit samplers in Austria. Lead singer Stella Jones would later go on to represent Austria in Dublin in 1995 as well as doing backing vocals for George Nussbaumer a year later.

ORF kept the national final format also in 1991 when, unfortunately, most entries were highly mediocre and the winner landed Austria in last place with nul points.

Gruppe Papageno / Papagena (Austria NF 1990)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

December 17: Adam & Eve

The old saying goes that two wrongs can make one right, or something like that. So what happens if you just pile loads and loads of wrongs on top of one another?

Well, this is pretty much what happens.

A song about Adam & Eve and their wonderful life in the garden of Eden, until a certain snake makes an entrance and tempts them with the largest apple ever seen by any human eye.

That very idea in combination with a catchy chorus and THOSE outfits. Whoever thought that colour was skin colour in the first place?

Easy as it is to giggle at this little piece of schlager kitsch one should remember that Adam & Eve were pretty established stars at this time. They had had a number of hit singles and seemed fairly tongue in cheek about their own act.

In fact Eve was the real star of the duo and changed singing partners now and then, but always renaming them Adam for the sake of the act. The way any real star would.

Adam & Eve / Hallo Adam, Hallo Eva (Germany NF 1980)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December 16: Rubic

The 1983 UK final almost saw something virtually unheard of: a former star participant returning for a second stab at Eurovision glory.

"When The Kissing Stops" was written and produced by the team behind Brotherhood of Man, the winners of the 1976 ESC and one of the best selling eurovision singles of all time. Having them return would have been a real scoop for the BBC.

At some point, the winners had cold feet and decided not to perform the entry themselves. Instead they appointed Rubic - another one of those groups made up for the sole purpose of performing in the Song for Europe final never to be heard of again.

They looked and sounded just like the studio musicians they really were and the live performance was nice but unspectacular and nobody even bothered uploading it to YouTube.

But the song wasn't bad at all and Brotherhood of Man decided to include it in their own album after all, using more or less exactly the same backing track as Rubic had. And once again we get a lesson in how much good vocals mean for a song.

Rubic / When The Kissing Stops (United Kingdom NF 1983)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December 15: Vivian & Gry

You could say an awful lot about Denmark in the Eurovision Song Contest but I think we could safely state that being particularly progressive never were their thing.

The average Danish entry is easily accessible, understandable and familiar. Only on very few occasions did they offer us the unexpected or surprising and not always with the best outcome.

In 1985, the regional juries thought it best to repeat the winning formula from the year before and sent Hot Eyes across the water to Gothenburg with another pleasant and safe song. I always liked that one and won't bash it.

But the obvious one for me in the 1985 Danish final is this smashing mother-daughter act. Gry was a well-established star and had already represented Denmark two years earlier, while mother Vivian had tried to win national heats since before Gry was born.

Surprisingly edgy to come out of a mid-1980's Danish final, complete with a pretty avantgarde dance routine. I would give anything to know what the international juries would have made of this one.

Vivian & Gry / Vi ska leve (Denmark NF 1985)

Monday, December 14, 2015

December 14: Sonia & Selena

When looking back on several of the songs making up this series, you can't help asking yourself at times what the people in charge were thinking. How could they miss such obvious pearls and - painfully often - send dismal or pointless entries instead?

I'm not going to get on my high horse here and ask why on earth Spain didn't select this one for Copenhagen. It didn't stand out for me in this version either.

The 2001 Spanish final was reasonably strong and this felt mainly like a jaunty rewrite of a number of already existing songs in the typical vain of easy dance-friendly floor-filling summer hits. Catchy but not outstanding.

How was I - or anyone else - supposed to know this one would later become a smash hit and one of the most popular tracks of the year? The recorded version also had another energy and felt more dynamic. A better package.

Not that David Civera did a bad job, but this song would surely have felt like a welcome breath of fresh air in the pretty tedious lineup of 2001.

Sonia y Selena / Yo quiero bailar (Spain NF 2001)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

December 13: Tajana

There is this nightmare I have had a couple of times that goes along the lines of someone falling ill at the last moment and I have to step in to sing in their place at Eurovision.

It's terrifying since it should be a dream come true but as I enter the stage I realise I don't really know the song. Neither do I know if I can sing or not. No idea what kind of sound will eventually come out of my mouth.

I can imagine that nightmare scenario is pretty much what poor Tajana experienced when opening the 1997 Croatian final, only it was no dream but live television.

The Dora was already in its heyday a few numbers too large for a country like Croatia and there were more entries than there were local quality talent willing to take part. But how this poor girl ended up on stage as badly prepared as this remains a mystery for me. Couldn't someone have stopped her?

The song really isn't bad and a solid performance could have made it a contender. Tajana's performance isn't really solid. It starts shakily, shapes up a bit only to result in one of the most painful key changes I ever heard.

But life isn't just about things that worked out they way they should. Let's take a moment to celebrate what this little song could have been. Brace yourselves and press play.

Tajana / Povedi me (Croatia NF 1997)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

December 12: Guðrún Árný Karlsdóttir

The 2006 Icelandic final must go down as one of the strongest ever. Loads of really great songs and some really fine performances if I remember correctly.

I get why Silvia Night won. I like her madness and her offbeat presence and the humour not quite everyone in Athens managed to detect.

But still. Had it been about the song and the song alone, then this one should have won. This is the one that stayed with me for all these years, the one that just keeping getting better and better.

Exquisitely simply staged and beautifully sung. And a hook to die for.

Guðrún Árný Karlsdóttir / Andvaka (Iceland NF 2006)

Friday, December 11, 2015

December 11: Wenche Myhre

Sometimes in the world of Eurovision you get something thrown at you and realise you just can't defend yourself. Even if you intellectually know something is a cheap trick or plain ridiculous you find yourself melting like butter would in sunshine.

Wenche and her boys dance onto the colourful stage of Oslo Spektrum and I am sold from the word go. From the first second to the last I'm firmly rooted in my happy place.

This is so sparkling and happy and uncomplicated, instantly likeable and adorable. Not even the excessive use of Indian feathers - enough to make Joan Franka blush - is enough to dampen my mood.

Not sure how well the package would have worked in Malmö but that's another problem. How could this not beat Visjoner? Most puzzling.

Wenche Myhre / Du skal få din dag i morgen (Norway NF 1992)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

December 10: Kim Clark

Maybe it's just me but I never thought much of the 1980 UK entry. Prima Donna was a weird collective to me and why would six people perform what was basically a love duet? Strange.

The 1980 Song for Europe had ended in a tie for first position where the juries had to be called back a second time before Prima Donna were appointed to do the job. Most unfortunately both songs in first place were pleasant but meek. The song in third place should have gone to The Hague instead.

I love a little bit of disco-tainted melodrama, sung by somebody performing like her actual life depended on it. Maybe a final touch, some sort of development towards the end or something, could have been what this one needed. But still. Wonderful stuff. (And Switzerland's Paola would never have slept easy again after meeting Kim Clarke, I can tell you as much.)

Kim Clarke / Surrender (United Kingdom NF 1980)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

December 9: Shift

Being bonkers is an underrated quality at the ESC. That breathtaking mix of being bouncy and upbeat and cheerful and very much in the face of audiences.

This little gem from the 1990 Dutch final ticks every single one of these boxes and a few more. Not only does it come in a tempestuous orchestral arrangement - it also has the widest smiles you ever saw and some of the most ridiculous dancing ever known to mankind.

Most adults wouldn't dance like that in public unless they were dangerously intoxicated but I wish more people would. And I wish Shift would have made it to Zagreb instead of Maywood's nice but not too exciting ballad.

Shift / Helemaal (Netherlands NF 1990)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

December 8: Eha

After winning and successfully hosting the Eurovision Song Contest - also being the first former Soviet Union republic to do so - Estonia lost their way and spent many years erring around, lost in the woods, with not much success in any way.

It wouldn't have had to be like that, though. There were always good songs at Eurolaul but some of the years there were international judges who wouldn't know a good song if it punched them in the face.

Or there would be a televote that would come up with equally dubious results.

The Estonian public didn't get anywhere near as excited as they should over this quirky, strutting piece of Kylie-electronica that is really catchy and pretty funny at the same time. It came across better in the preview, I'll admit as much, but it would have made for way more interesting viewing in Kyiv than Suntribe did.

Eha / Gotta Go (Estonia NF 2005)

Monday, December 7, 2015

December 7: D-Family

Most participating countries will have periods of time when they struggle to make an impact on the international final. Latvia flunked in six consecutive semi finals, something that would make most people lose their temper and throw in the towel.

In Latvia, what went wrong was mainly two things in cooperation: an obvious inability to choose the right song as well as the lack of someone who could step in and organise things.

This song sort of proves both points as it is clearly better - as a composition - than the song Latvia eventually sent to Düsseldorf. Catchy and with clear handles in the chorus. Perhaps not an obvious qualifier, but it would have had a chance at least.

However, someone with a good eye for details would have had to step in, execute some good choreography, tell the singer not to do so much wailing and perhaps to rewrite the odd line in the lyrics. Very easily this good song could have been improved further.

And what a good move to have a brass-based song as a contrast to the abundance of violins we had in recent times.

D-Family / Daylight (Latvia NF 2011)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

December 6: Liquid Gold

One of my rules in the world of Eurovision is never to argue with a winner. If a song goes on to win the international final, it was the right choice. Regardless if I like it or not.

Not only do I like Bucks Fizz. I love them. Their discography is very dear to me and I followed their career very closely. I am happy that they won and I am most aware that the rest of their success would never have happened hadn't they won first the UK final, then the ESC in Dublin.

But that knowledge doesn't stop me from loving the runner-up even more. Just like Waterloo is hardly Abba's best song, neither is Making Your Mind Up one of the strongest in the repertoire of Bucks Fizz.

Don't Panic is such a wonderful fluffy disco cake with too much of everything stuffed into the mix. Slightly frantic and totally over the top it would never have won in Dublin but I love it very dearly. Should have been a worldwide hit and that's my final word.

Liquid Gold / Don't Panic (United Kingdom NF 1981)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

December 5: Mieke

Every country has its singing stars. The ones that everybody knows, the ones that are always invited everywhere and the ones whose albums are always met with anticipation and enthusiasm.

Then there is that other large group of singers that sort of make up the larger mass. The ones who sing when the stars are fully booked. The ones that sing in smaller venues. The ones who record songs more in the hope of getting heard on the radio rather than aiming at the charts.

If I understood things right, Mieke clearly belongs to the second group. She has been around for many years, she is well liked and she sings well. People like her but she wouldn't sell out a large concert hall on her own.

In 1993, all of that could have changed, had the Belgian jury been more perceptive. Mieke made it through the semi finals with this old-fashioned but seriously well-crafted schlager. Given that the eventual winner scored a meagre three points in Millstreet, Mieke would surely have done better. Maybe that would have upgraded her local star status a bit? It's a good song either way.

Mieke / Waarom zou er vrede zijn (Belgium NF 1993)

Friday, December 4, 2015

December 4: Pastellerna

Sometimes it is just better to keep things simple and not to complicate things. In a celebration of this way of life, December 4 will highlight how pretty things can be when kept simple.

Not that this entry necessarily qualifies as "pretty". You will understand what I mean. They look like the dansband that they are even if they dressed up a bit for the occasion.

The pretty part is the song in itself. Understated but very melodic and with the kind of key change all songs should have at some point.

Pastellerna were quite popular back in the day with quite a few hit singles to their name. As the group took an extended break in 1982, three of its members teamed up with songwriter Monica Forsberg to form the group Ritz (Melodifestivalen 1983 and 1985) instead.

Pastellerna - Idag är det vår (Sweden NF 1978)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

December 3: Anna Vissi

Anna Vissi had quite an OK little career going on in the 1980's. Nothing compared to what she would achieve a few years later when she would turn into Official Queen of Everything and become one of the top players of Greek entertainment.

She entered the Greek final in 1989 without doing particularly well. "Kleo" was a good little soft rocker of a kind that was popular around that time, but the version used here is just a demo and you can tell.

Maybe this could have turned interesting had it been given a facelift and a restyling. Rock songs were in short supply in Lausanne and given there had been a powerful backing track - as that Swiss orchestra wasn't all that rock'n'roll to start with - Anna could have had a chance of scoring heavily from the jurors who couldn't stand yet another ballad.

Anna Vissi - Kleo (Greece NF 1989)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December 2: Carlos & Cândida

Behind the second door of the Eurovision national final Christmas calendar, we find the entry that ended fourth in the 1983 Portuguese final.

Mainly it is there to illustrate my never-ending crush on Carlos Paião who had already represented Portugal in 1981 with the outstanding "Play-Back".

In the meantime he had turned into a big star at home and teamed up with a good friend for a sweet and slightly nationalist duet.

Carlos Paião and the ever-smiling Cândida Branca Flor was a good match and they received thunderous applause by the end of their performance. Unfortunately neither one was about to have a happy end.

Carlos Paião died in a violent car crash on his way home from a concert, only 30 years old. Cândida was deeply affected by the death of her friend and would sink into depression some years later, as her career hit a rough patch. In 2001, she committed suicide.

Carlos Paião & Cândida Branca Flor / Vinho do Porto (Portugal NF 1983)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 1: Cindy Berger

It is December, good people of Euroland! When I grew up, December would be unthinkable without a Christmas calendar counting down the days to the big event. (Truth be told, one was not enough. I would usually have at least four or five different ones.)

So I thought I'd make my own ESC version, so every day until Christmas I will present you a song that never made it to the big international final but that deserves some sort of recognition.

Maybe they are not all good in the traditional sense. Certainly not all of them would have gone down a storm at the ESC. Not of all them should have won their national finals. But the thing they have in common is that I am deeply fond of them.

Today's song does, however, tick all the right boxes. It is excellent, it would most certainly had impressed also internationally and it should have won its national final by a landslide.

Cindy Berger had already represented Germany together with her then-husband Bert and ended in a most undeserved last place. This should have been her grand revenge and her opportunity to show herself in a better light.

A classy song and a classy performance with gravity, presence and dignity.

Cindy Berger / Und leben will ich auch (Germany NF 1988) 

Monday, November 30, 2015

ESC 2016: A 7th victory for Sweden?

When Loreen won in Baku in 2012 I wrote somewhere (not here) that the best thing that could happen to the ESC was to have a hungry and passionate Sweden that could hunt for victory every year and raise the bar for everyone in the competition.

I also wrote that I dare Sweden to snatch the title of having most ESC victories from Ireland within ten years of Loreen's victory. Maybe they could equal the record already next year?

After the 28 acts taking part in next year's Melodifestivalen had been presented, Christer Björkman was quoted as saying Sweden has a good chance of winning again on home ground. According to him the songs are really good and several of them could be potential ESC winners.

I'm glad he feels that way about the songs since the list of performers is a bit... Not disappointing. There are many good names, reliable people, likeable people. People who will entertain the masses. But the big surprises were few and far between.

For my liking, maybe there was one Anna Book / Samir & Viktor / Dolly Style entry too many but then again, I haven't heard the songs. Maybe I'll be surprised.

The biggest positive surprise was definitely Krista Siegfrids being among the 28 chosen ones. It really is a big deal for a Finnish pop act to get into Melodifestivalen.

I'm also glad to see songwriting trio Sven-Inge Sjöberg, Lennart Wastesson and Larry Forsberg back. They wrote many really catchy entries a few years back but had seemingly disappeared until now.

As for winning, then? Who do I think? Without having heard a second of the songs on offer, my bet is that Molly Sandén is the one to watch. The title of her entry is perhaps a bit on the cheesy side but still. I have a feeling this could be her year.

The complete lineup for Melodifestivalen 2016 can be found here.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Tobson takes on Melodifestivalen 1992

This was it. The grand culmination of my childhood love for Swedish finals. The big peak. The first national final I attended live.

I had gone through the roof seeing my native Sweden win the ESC and had originally planned to attend the international final in Malmö, being blissfully unaware of how much those tickets would cost as well as how fast they would sell out. Anyway, the national pre-selection in Stockholm was a good consolation prize.

This was my first time ever at a televised event. I was so excited by everything that was going on. The cameras. The action. The celebrities. The whole ambience felt completely electrified. My entire outlook on the songs in competition is hopelessly coloured by all of this and I will probably overrate every single song (except one).

For many years on, nothing could live up to this experience. It would take years for me to feel as excited about a Swedish final again.

Image borrowed from svt.se

10. Shanes / Upp flyger vi upp
Shanes felt like a bunch of oldboys already in 1982 and the additional ten years did them no favours. The obvious filler song in an otherwise solid lineup.
Grade: 1/5

9. Angel / Venus butterfly
What starts out as a pretty dramatic and exciting schlager ends face down in a disappointing chorus with no particular bite or personality. Angel had had a bit hit the previous year but were not a lasting thing in Swedish showbiz.
Grade: 2/5

8. Maria Rådsten / Vad som än händer
One More Time - the band that would score an international hit later in the year with "Highland" and go on to represent Sweden in 1996 - had two songs in the running and two of its soloists were doing one song each while Peter and Nanne watched from the sidelines. This one has good energy but never made a lasting impression on me. Sharp-eyed viewers can recognise Karin Risberg ("Stopp stopp stanna" in 1986) among the backing vocalists.
Grade: 2/5

7. Kikki Danielsson / En enda gång
An interesting attempt to cross-pollinate Kikki with a power ballad à la Scorpions. Kikki does the best she can but in the end, the song would have needed to show more muscles. The end result is well-intended but far too tame.
Grade: 2/5

6. Thérèse Löf / Ingenting går som man vill
The second OMT entry is a quirky and humorous tale of an Interrail gone wrong. Jaunty performance by Thérèse who would leave the group before ESC 1996 but make it to the ESC stage as a backing singer.
Grade: 3/5

5. Anna Nederdal / Ingen annan än du
Time can change so much and this song that I first found mind-numbingly boring is now a bit of a personal favourite. Classy and intimate, almost whispered at first before culminating in a lovely chorus.
Grade: 3/5

4. Lena Pålsson / Jag kan se en ängel
I was surrounded by dansband music as I grew up and Wizex were always among my favourites. Fresh and original and with a thing completely of their own. This juicy little piece marinated in saxophone should have been bang-in-the-final. Extra points for one of the most daring lyrics about sex up until then, something nobody realised thanks to the dansband connection.
Grade: 3/5

3. Christer Björkman / Imorgon är en annan dag
Maybe Christer isn't the strongest vocalist ever but in the right environment he shows how good he is at working whatever he has. In front of the audience at Cirkus he was most convincing and really made this little song come to life.
Grade: 3/5

2. Py Bäckman / Långt härifrån
Like a one-woman hippie colony, Py swept in with an infectious rhythm and an original chorus that sounded very different from everything on offer. The juries understood precious little and today this one is another one of those forgotten classics that would deserve more love from the people.
Grade: 3/5

1. Lizette & Bizazz / Som om himlen brann
Colourful and action packed, Lizette Pålsson teamed up with Bizazz - THE dance company at the time, omnipresent in every entertainment show here was - and should of course have been the winner.  Deemed the winner in a reader's poll conducted by one of the evening newspapers but sadly overlooked by the large record-buying audience.
Grade: 4/5

Not a bad year but lacking in obvious peaks. Most songs are on the same level but there is very little here that would qualify as being unforgettable in any way.

In a parallel universe:
Nobody in this bunch would have altered ESC history, Linda Martin would have won regardless. But I think Lizette could have managed to stir things up a bit, given the lack of convincing uptempo songs on offer in Malmö. She could surely have landed around a 10th place or so, don't you think?

Lizette & Bizazz / Som om himlen brann (Sweden 1992 NF)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

ESC 2016: No Naidoo after all

Image borrowed from eurovision.de

Oh, Germany. So many people were longing for proper news about next year's ESC and now there seems to be something coming up every day.

When Xavier Naidoo was announced as the German representative the other day, reactions were mixed to say the least. Some were euphoric, some outright hostile. I figured that NDR wanted the added publicity that controversy brings and that they knew what they were doing.

Apparently not. Today we had another big announcement: there had been a change of heart and Xavier Naidoo would not represent anyone in Stockholm. The performer himself stated that NDR approached him to represent Germany and that also this new decision came from them and not from him.

If I was puzzled when Naidoo was selected, then it is nothing compared to what I feel now. It seems the strong reactions came as a big surprise for the broadcaster and that someone got cold feet.

How this reaction could come as a surprise to anyone is beyond me. The people selecting him in the first place must have known how divisive he is. It took me less than 45 seconds to understand the full scale of how divisive he is when reading his article on Wikipedia. What had they expected?

If this is what really happened, that a broadcaster talks a big name into doing the ESC only to change their minds and reject him in public as soon as there is criticism, it shows an incredible lack of backbone and I suppose NDR will have a bit of a hard time convincing anyone else to take the bait. Who would run the risk of getting dropped this way? Not everyone could walk away from it as unharmed as Xavier Naidoo.

So. What next? Will NDR try to convince another star to do the job for them? Or will they throw together a national final at short notice? To be continued...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tobson's Wish List: more ideas for Germany

The news that Xavier Naidoo will represent Germany at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest sent shockwaves through the fan community and I can't remember when a particular contestant was as highly debated as early on in the season as this.

I expressed surprise myself but clearly the strategy has paid off so far. A competitor that can unleash as much emotion as this one must be a clever choice.

My guess is that the responsible people are already all smiles and look forward to the great ratings come May and generally care pretty little about the final result. This publicity is a success for sure.

Maybe then they will want to continue selecting established acts internally also for a few years to come? I wouldn't mind seeing any of these getting a shot at the ESC in the future. My knowledge of German pop is far from as extensive as I would have wanted but I believe these acts are pretty well known.

I've had my eyes on Glasperlenspiel for a few years already and enjoy their bubbly brand of electropop. Some of their strongest singles could surely have done well at the ESC, I'm sure.

Glasperlenspiel / Ich bin ich

Another band someone pointed out to me is more indie rock based Madsen, an act that could most probably stand out quite a lot from most things in competition while still being really catchy. This kind of fusion between pop and rock really makes me weak in a good way.

Madsen / Lass die Musik an

This example is perhaps less about Michelle herself who already had a shot at representing Germany at the ESC but more about highlighting what can happen when you let people from a pop environment write modern schlager. Peter Plate made up half of the hit duo Rosenstolz - one of my absolute top favourites to sing for Germany if it wasn't for the sad fact that they disbanded.

Michelle / Paris

If you want a sweet young pop male - and sometimes you do - I'd recommend Tim Bendzko. His appearance is possibly a tiny bit too ethereal for a contest like this but on the other hand, the surprisingly low key entries can sometimes break through the international wall of sound.

Tim Bendzko feat Cassandra Steen / Unter die Haut

After years in the popular band Ich + Ich, Adel Tawil made a most successful solo album that took off well on the German market. He had a connection to the 2014 Club concert that gave Elaiza a spot in the German final and I'm frankly surprised NDR didn't approach him instead of Xavier Naidoo. Maybe they did?

Adel Tawil / Weinen

And then the obvious one, then. Of course Queen Helene Fischer would fit Eurovision like an immaculately manicured hand in an expensive glove. All she would need was the perfect song. And the guts. She would have quite a lot to lose. And also an awful lot to win if she managed to expand her career outside the German-languaged territories once and for all.

Helene Fischer / Atemlos durch die Nacht

ESC 2016: Xavier Naidoo for Germany

After a few years of large national finals - as well as a big fat nul pointer in Vienna - German television has announced that they are going for an internal choice for 2016.

The singer they appointed is Xavier Naidoo, arguably one of the biggest names on the German market and a highly successful performer with a string of big hits - solo as well as in group projects.

His song for Stockholm will be selected in a special show where the tv audience will get to choose their favourite out of six potential entries.

I'm not surprised that ARD went for a change in their selection modus. Their national finals in 2014 and 2015 didn't quite work and the entries selected failed to enthuse an international audience.

If I was in charge of shaking up a national final, I would do the same. I would convince one strong candidate with experience and a large following and let this singer perform all songs in a national final. That plan is a good one.

But as I read up on Xavier Naidoo himself, my enthusiasm fades. His political activities has lead to him being labeled as a "Christian fundamentalist" one day, as an antisemite the next. He believes today's Federal Republic to be illegitimate, he advocated conspiracy theories surrounding the 9/11 attacks and was widely accused of spreading homophobia with a hidden track on one of his albums.

Why would you want to provide an international platform for anyone with this track record? If ARD wanted a performer with personality, integrity and a large following there are plenty to choose from. Why him?

If they want controversy as a part of their publicity plan, I think they are about to have a lot of it.

Xavier Naidoo (Germany 2016)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tobson takes on Melodifestivalen 1991

Back to Malmö for another stab at a successful national final. Previously, SVT Malmö had made two weak national finals resulting in good international showings as well as one really good final whose winner went on to achieve a modest placing at the ESC. Would it be possible for them to combine these elements and both make a good show and find an ESC smash?

Malmö had engaged their biggest star to host the event: Harald Treutiger had had an enormous breakthrough hosting the game show "24 karat" and was a popular choice with his relaxed style and dry wit.

His presence was needed in order to sell the show. The standard of songs was fair, not to say quite good, but it was becoming clear that it was increasingly difficult to convince established stars to take part.

On a personal note, I will never forget how smitten I was with the cute backing singer Jens Friis-Hansen and how upset I was when he wasn't allowed to travel to Rome with Carola. Oh, well...

Image borrowed from svt.se

10. Diana Nuñez / Kärlekens dans
In accordance with tradition, there would be at least one song that seemed to be selected mainly because it had a connection to the region of Scania. This one had the added bonus of being written by the same man who had written the original music for 24 karat as well. Well sung and sort of nice but not very interesting.
Grade: 1/5

9. Tove Naess / Låt mig se ett under
Originally written for Carola, this was another pleasant ballad that sort of floated past the listener without leaving any lasting impression. Another good singer that had a little bit too little to work with.
Grade: 2/5

8. John Ekedahl / Stanna du i dina drömmar
A welcome attempt at quirky and original that falls a bit short partially due to a weak performance, partially because the direct influence - Orup & Anders Glenmark - is so obvious and so directly copied from the original.
Grade: 2/5

7. Jim Jidhed / Kommer du ihåg mig?
Former heavy metal vocalist Jidhed was one of the hotter names in the lineup and his song became a major hit afterwards. Not bad, just a bit bland. And it didn't grow old all that gracefully.
Grade: 2/5

6. Sharon Dyall / Ge mig ett svar
Another one to be filed under "Interesting failures". This one sports a surprisingly groovy beat and an elegant verse but the chorus never takes off. Sharon Dyall wore a skin-tight and very short golden dress that created a public outcry and was remembered far longer than the song.
Grade: 2/5

5. Laila Dahl / Annie
A light-weight but cheerful little pop song, delivered with a wide smile and a good voice. Maybe the input from some choreographer could have proved helpful but it is hard not to like this one at least a bit.
Grade: 3/5

4. Jessica / Änglar
I always had a soft spot for this one. If the voice is big, then the hair is enormous and this one possibly still goes down as the best attempt at gospel influences in a Swedish final, managing to whip up a real feeling of church and hallelujah in the end. Also proof that it is actually possible to repeat your chorus many times without getting tedious.
Grade: 3/5

3. Pernilla Wahlgren / Tvillingsjäl
According to the press, the final would be a two horse race between Carola and Pernilla Wahlgren, performing a song written by Lena Philipsson. One aggressive flu came in the way and Pernilla failed to even qualify for the super final. Which is of course a scandal. Would have deserved a high placing as well as becoming the hit single it never was.
Grade: 4/5

2. Towe Jaarnek / Ett liv med dig
An almost ridiculously well-crafted ballad that starts elegantly before building and building into one final burst of a chorus. Despite the Big Bag label's efforts to launch her, Towe's career failed to ever take off properly and this song remains her main moment of glory.
Grade: 4/5

1. Carola / Fångad av en stormvind
Game over. Carola storms the stage and blows everyone away. Literally. Perhaps not the perfect song, but a perfect vehicle for Carola's new image and her recently earned dancing skills.
Grade: 5/5

Malmö managed to get their equation together and crafted a good show as well as finding an ESC winner. Their reward was to host the Big Thing the following year, something they did as well as they could, possibly proving that an ESC final takes a bit more than a national final.

In a parallel universe:
Nobody else in this final would have been anywhere near victory in Rome, that much is clear. Towe Jaarnek would have drowned in a sea of ballads and no one else had that thing the international juries seemed to be looking for. Possibly the most important factor is Carola's attack and determination: even though her song lost most of its sophistication thanks to the mess that was the Italian orchestra, she performs like it didn't matter. And that's why she won in the end.

Carola / Fångad av en stormvind (Sweden 1991 NF performance)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Look who is back! (It's Australia.)

So it has been announced that Australia will take part also in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. The country whose participation was a "one-off", a "special occasion to celebrate the 60th edition", didn't have to wait long to be upgraded to a regular participant.

First of all: splendid news. Welcome, Australia! They did really well on their first participation and I hope they will keep the quality up. Australia's huge interest in being part of this european manifestation is fascinating and flattering and I am more than pleased to have them among us.

Then there are a few things about this whole thing that I am less impressed with. None of them concern Australia as such but here goes.

Upgrading Australia to a regular participant means a few rules go out the window. In order to participate, a broadcaster needs to be an active member of the EBU. In order to be an active member, you needed to be within the European Broadcasting Area or a member of the Council of Europe.

This little paragraph could be pretty handy to have if or when some countries knock on the door and want to participate. Countries that have financial muscles but could be seen as morally questionable. Let's not throw around names here, but the ones that have been frequently named have all fallen short when it comes to this precious paragraph. How can you deny any country the right to participate now?

There was talk a few years back to implement some sort of moral codex that participating countries would have to live up to, but as far as I know that never came to anything.

The EBU had better come up with a really convincing and waterproof explanation why Australia would be worthy of an exception and stress that the rule otherwise is very much in place.

Another thing the EBU might want to think through properly is what it means to them to be trustworthy. Is it important for them to come across as transparent and sincere? To stick to your words? Or is it fully acceptable to state something as fact while you know it isn't true?

"The only possibility for Australia to take part in 2016 is in case they win in Vienna". I don't know how many times I saw that stated, emphasised and underlined during the run-up to the 2015 final. I don't recall Australia winning and yet - here they are.

It would be nice knowing that the things communicated as facts are actually true. It doesn't look good when you can't be sure if their press releases are true or smoke screens. Fair play, please.

And welcome back, Australia.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Tobson takes on Melodifestivalen 1990

I said I would go through the Swedish finals of the 1980's and with the 1989 edition the eighties effectively ended. But my childhood/adolescent love and admiration and appreciation of the contest would linger for a few years more, so I decided to extend the series to contain the Melodifestivalen finals of my mental 80's instead.

And that leads me back to Gothenburg, where the 1990 final was held. Their approach to the whole thing had shifted a bit and tried to connect with the younger audience that their recent rock shows had attracted by having the youthful Carin Hjulström take over the presenting.

There were even some attempts to bring the sounds of newer generations into the lineup, with mixed results. And then there was the big comeback: Carola would sing in public again after several years of low profile and Bible studies.

Picture borrowed from aftonbladet.se

10. N'Gang / Vi vill ha värme
This was the most obvious attempt at appealing to a younger audience. This rock band tried to be hard and street and cred but lands in a deserted wasteland somewhere between rock and schlager without really being either one. Three minutes of empty posing.
Grade: 1/5

9. Loa Falkman / Symfonin
It isn't really good but it is fascinating: a rather pompous opera star performing an equally pompous dansband aria in a mix curious enough to make several jaws drop. Became a major commercial success after the contest and is today fondly remembered for its entertainment qualities. But not good, no. Not as such.
Grade: 1/5

8. Edin-Ådahl / Som en vind
Two sets of brothers sang heavenly and that was what the juries wanted. Apparently. This song always passed me by, it did at the time and it still does. It has its moments, it is well sung. But it is also pretty bland and pointless.
Grade: 2/5

7. Lotta Engberg / En gång till
Lotta Engberg was still a real household name and possibly the Queen of the Svensktoppen chart. This song fall well into her standard repertoire but was too lean and too meek to make any bigger impact in a contest like this. Well performed but lacking in profile.
Grade: 2/5

6. Peter Jöback / En sensation
A seemingly most self-assured young man entered the stage; dancing and flirting with the camera but as he fell through in the voting, Peter Jöback would prove way more sensitive than most reviewers thought at the time. He would slowly but steadily build himself a name as one of Sweden's top singers but this MF fiasco was to remain a sensitive issue for many years afterwards. Not that it really was a fiasco - a likeable little song that is a tiny bit too superficial for its own good.
Grade: 2/5

5. Lizette Pålsson / Sången över havet
Lizette was named the only serious threat to Carola by one of the evening newspapers and was reportedly very disappointed as she failed to live up to expectations. This is a pleasant, traditional schlager anthem of a sort that perhaps felt a little bit too old for the juries.
Grade: 3/5

4. Elisabeth Andreasson / Jag ser en stjärna falla
People keep mentioning "Kärleksmagi" from 1984 as the song where Bettan sang badly but nobody seems to remember this time when she used up her voice during rehearsals and had nothing left to give during the live show. The song is good but unfortunately turned into some sort of rock entry as the orchestra was unable to reproduce the hard, electronic sound of the studio version.
Grade: 3/5

3. Sofia Källgren / Handen på hjärtat
According to Lasse Holm, someone had thought up a cool and extraordinary stage show - nicked from Broadway - that would suit this song perfectly. During the first rehearsals it turned out Sofia hated it and was reduced to tears. It all had to be redone in no time which shows. You can tell the show isn't focused and Sofia doesn't sing as well as she could have. That live performance might well have hindered the song from becoming a bigger hit and much like Peter Jöback it would take some years for to Sofia to really establish herself.
Grade: 4/5

2. Lisbet Jagedal / Varje natt
Instead of pretending to be modern (like N'Gang) it is better to go full stop old-fashioned schlager and that's what this hairdresser did. A song tailor-made to be belted out in the shower or any place at all, really. Lisbet would never become a star but made a good career for herself on the dansband circuit.
Grade: 4/5

1. Carola / Mitt i ett äventyr
There it was - the big comeback - and Carola was sparkling. She was impeccably styled, she had a new trendy haircut and a song that really seemed to fit her like a glove. When the juries rejected this, maybe they gave her a blessing in disguise - like what happened to Abba when "Ring Ring" didn't win. One thing was perfectly clear: the Swedes had missed their Carola a lot and in the long run she would be the winner.
Grade: 4/5

After the previous year where some major pop stars battled it out, it was visible that the contest suddenly had much less of a finger on the pulse. Or it would have been visible hadn't Carola's big comeback been standing in the way. What could have been a temporary slip was rather the first sign of the recording industry beginning to shy away from melodifestivalen.

In a parallel universe:
Since the winner only made it to 16th place in Zagreb it is a pretty safe assumption that most of the closer contenders would have topped that. It doesn't feel like Carola would have been a winner there, so it was maybe for the better than she got to wait another year. Maybe a completely reshaped Sofia Källgren in better vocal form could have made an international impression?

Carola / Mitt i ett äventyr (Sweden 1990 NF)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tobson takes on Melodifestivalen 1989

The last three editions of Melodifestivalen hosted by Stockholm had all been more low-key productions, held in a studio or as part of another show, but in 1989 it all turned big. Very big. Possibly too big.

The Stockholm Globe Arena had recently been inaugurated and was about to host the World Championships of ice hockey a few weeks later. In order to make good use of the spectacular - and controversial - new venue, it was decided to host Melodifestivalen there.

Ten thousand tickets went on sale and clearly that was a few thousand more than there was a market for. You don't have to look very close to see loads and loads of empty seats on the night. But the final itself looks spectacular and the songs on offer were generally good and surprisingly contemporary.

10. True Blue / Jorden är din
Lasse and Maggan Andersson - married at the time - were both able and professional studio musicians and backing singers but tried a little too hard to install something into their little song that was never there to start with. Dull and shouty.
Grade: 1/5

9. Catrin Olsson / När stormen går
A clear mismatch between a song that is decent and a singer who would have had a lot more to give in another type of entry. When the final chorus is repeated for the third time all hope is lost and no pretty string arrangement in the world would be enough to save this.
Grade: 2/5

8. Fingerprints / Mitt ibland änglar
A pretty anonymous band wasn't helped by the fact that this is more a bouncy rhythm than a functioning composition. For some reason, the juries saw something in this and placed it third on the night.
Grade: 2/5

7. Cajsa Bergström / Genom eld
Actually a pretty wonderful little song - modest and melodic - that would have needed a much stronger performer to pull it off. Cajsa looked tiny and scared on Globen's huge stage and walked off never to be heard from again.
Grade: 2/5

6. Visitors & Sofia Källgren / Världen är vår
Visitors were quite a popular little synthband that had had some nifty and progressive hits and it was a bit of a letdown to find what a traditional entry they had written for MF. There is no real sparkle between them and young Sofia Källgren, no drama or attraction or friction needed to kick real life into this package. Good but too nice.
Grade: 3/5

5. Lisa Nilsson / Du
Lisa almost got herself disqualified - and replaced by Arja Saijonmaa doing another Lasse Holm entry - because the rules were unclear about when people were allowed to reveal that they had entered songs for MF consideration. She would subsequently turn into one of Sweden's finest vocalists but wasn't quite there just yet and the song - signed Ljunggren-Almqvist-Forsman - is good but not their best. Enjoyable but not outstanding.
Grade: 3/5

4. Haakon Pedersen & Elisabeth Berg / Nattens drottning
Since MF 1988, Haakon had recorded a successful duet with Lotta Engberg and was on the verge of a breakthrough. He was given this Lasse Holm creation that paired a modern-sounding schlager with a few notes borrowed The Enchanted Flute by Mozart. Since then, many people have tried the same trick but it felt very fresh at the time. It didn't age awfully well but was my favourite to win back then.
Grade: 4/5

3. Lili & Susie / Okej Okej
L&S were originally scheduled to perform "Dansa i neon" in 1987 but were deemed too inexperienced. Since then, their popularity had exploded and they had made themselves a solid fanbase. Possibly the jury was a little bit too old to get the hype and held the sisters down in the voting. Despite not being one of their bigger hits at the time, this song had lived on and has in retrospect been upgraded to a classic.
Grade: 4/5

2. Eriksson-Glenmark / Upp över mina öron
Thomas "Orup" Eriksson had had a fantastic breakthrough in 1987 and was perhaps the hottest Swedish pop act at the time. He turned up as a duet together with long-time collaborator Anders Glenmark and together they sold their easy-going but effective pop song like there was no tomorrow.
Grade: 4/5

1. Tommy Nilsson / En dag
If there was anyone who could rival Orup's status as the top pop act, it was Tommy Nilsson. To have both of them take part in MF the same year was like a mad dream, a situation you'd dream of seeing again. Tommy had the advantage of getting a close to perfect song - suited for a pop audience as well as an international jury - that built and built without feeling repetitive. And his backing group, full of local stars, didn't hurt his chances either.
Grade: 5/5

A dream year for SVT with a good lineup, a slick final and several hit singles after the contest. MF would soon be going brutally downhill in popularity but there were still no real traces of that here.

In a parallel universe:
I dare say nobody else in the lineup would have bettered Tommy's fourth place for the simple reason that his song sounds modern but yet suitable for a pretty square orchestra like the one on offer in Lausanne. Those musicians would have slaughtered "Okej okej" and made "Upp över mina öron" lose all its cool.

Tommy Nilsson / En dag (Sweden 1989 NF performance)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tobson takes on Melodifestivalen 1988

Malmö didn't exactly shine on its first two attempts at organising Melodifestivalen. Underproduced and lacklustre finals that did manage to select good ESC entries but failed in providing solid entertainment. This would prove third time lucky.

Producer Kåge Gimtell decided to make it big and placed the whole thing at the local city theatre, making full use of its revolving stage, sporting one of my favourite stage designs ever in a Swedish final. The live orchestra was placed under the baton of Anders Berglund and sounded magnificent compared to 1983.

The standard of songs was high - maybe not as elevated as the year before but also lacking obvious disaster entries like "Flyktingen" - and finally Malmö had settled for an experienced host: Bengt Grafström was warm, friendly and a little bit dry and very competent in handling most situations.

This year the regional juries were back and were - for the first time - shown live on screen. (Apparently a difficult process since it would take many years for it to happen again.)

The contest logo was shown live on stage too

12. Paul Rein / Bara du och jag
A bit of a scoop as young Paul Rein had had a number of hits and was well liked by a young audience. His song had been entered four years in a row and unfortunately it sounded like a reject as well. The chorus was catchy but kept repeating and repeating and repeating until three minutes start feeling like a very long time indeed.
Grade: 2/5

11. Karin Ljung & Michael Nannini / Säg är det sant
Two pretty unknown musicians wrote a song together and had it selected for the MF final. It's a nice story and a very nice song. Very pleasant. Not particularly memorable but very nice.
Grade: 2/5

10. Billy Gezon / Måndag i mitt liv
I used to hate this song back then but growing up I realised it only suffered from a poor choice of vocalist. Jazz singer Meta Roos was supposed to have sung it and she would probably have managed to make more of this most melancholic melody.
Grade: 2/5

9. Haakon Pedersen / Bang en explosion
Another pleasant but light-weight song, clearly aimed at a Svensktoppen audience, performed by a young Norwegian who would get a second chance the following year with a much better song.
Grade: 2/5

8. Sten Nilsson & Nilsonettes / Kärlek är...
Sten Nilsson was - and is - an institution on the Swedish dansband circuit. Much more than just a singer in a band, he has the qualities of an entertainer and is well known and loved also by people who wouldn't usually pay attention to his genre. This is another very pleasant song, but this is the year where the pleasant songs were too many for their own good and stole all the points off each other.
Grade: 2/5

7. Uffe Persson / Nästa weekend
One of Lasse Holm's few forgotten fiascos - and undeservedly so. This is a catchy and quirky little song with interesting drum breaks and a charming performer. Uffe Persson would make many attempts at breaking through but sadly never managed to impose himself as the star he seemed cut out to be.
Grade: 3/5

6. All of a Sudden / Dansa med vindarna
Malmö strikes again and makes sure at least one entry has a clear local touch by selecting a very young, inexperienced trio for the final. The song they wrote isn't bad and the youngsters don't just managed to pull off a charming performance, they also represented the dream of many a young fan: maybe it would be possible to one day stand on that stage yourself?
Grade: 3/5

5. Annica Burman / I en ding ding värld
The youngest performer of the night was of course compared to Carola by the press, but a comparison to Pernilla Wahlgren would have been more appropriate. This song is more of an improved version of "Piccadilly Circus" than anything else. Annica recorded a few more good singles before moving to the US some time later.
Grade: 3/5

4. Siw Malmkvist / Det är kärlek
Nineteen years after her last participation (for Germany), the incomparable Siw Malmkvist was back in the game with a song most people anticipated to go far. For reasons best known to the jurors themselves it didn't even reach the superfinal which, of course, it should have. Not that it affected the remarkable career of Siw, still going strong today.
Grade: 3/5

3. Lotta Engberg with Triple & Touch / 100 %
Torgny Söderberg is a man full of surprises. He managed to write a seemingly clumsy and old-fashioned ditty - the intro dances around like a drunk flock of elephants - where everything suddenly falls into place and becomes a first class schlager, accompanied by close to perfect lyrics by the genius that is Monica Forsberg. Fun and fresh and three lovely minutes.
Grade: 4/5

2. Tommy Körberg / Stad i ljus
Most reminiscent of "Anthem" - Körberg's big number from the musical "Chess" - this ballad could hardly lose. Tommy Körberg doesn't think much of it today but it's deliberately vague lyrics hit home and the song still means a lot to many people, often sung at weddings and funerals in Sweden.
Grade: 4/5

1. Lena Philipsson / Om igen
Three immortal classics in a row from Lena and yet she didn't win, not even with this - arguably the best ballad written by the trio Ljunggren-Almqvist-Forsman. Performed with an attack and a conviction most Swedish performers can only dream of. Perfection.
Grade: 5/5

It couldn't really end in another way: Tommy Körberg was a huge name and had just returned after playing "Chess" in London, a role many Swedes thought had propelled him into international stardom. Tough luck for Lena Philipsson in particular, but several of the songs of Class '88 lived long lives in various charts afterwards.

In a parallel universe:
What if Tommy Körberg's voice hadn't collapsed in Dublin? On the jury rehearsal apparently he sounded dreadful. How many placings would he have gained? Or was it just the bad luck of entering a ballad in a year with lots of other ballads? Sweden also had the misfortune to be drawn as #2 in the running order. I doubt Lena Philipsson would have done an awful lot better given the circumstance. Could this have been the better time for Lotta Engberg to shine?

Lena Philipsson / Om igen (Sweden 1988 NF)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tobson takes on Melodifestivalen 1987

Gothenburg was still getting better at hosting Melodifestivalen and this time they really made a mark on the competition as they decided to enlarge the final and present twelve songs instead of ten. A real success story. I'll state it at once: this is the strongest lineup ever in a final fully produced by SVT Göteborg (discounting 1975 with was a stellar year but masterminded by Stockholm).

Unfortunately the show in itself wasn't as glorious as the songs in competition. Gothenburg television had for many years relied heavily on their star Fredrik Belfrage - who was now hosting for the third time - and he felt tired and not really engaged. No wonder as he had already hosted several hours of morning television that very same day.

Luckily the show turned into a real nail biting finish as Lotta Engberg and Arja Saijonmaa fought it out to the bitter end. To the very bitter end, apparently. Years later, Arja still talked about the disappointment at losing.

Picture borrowed from oppetarkiv.se

12. Jan-Eric Karlzon / Flyktingen
Most of the 1980's national finals have this surprising moment when you really must ask yourself what the selection jury was thinking when they decided to include a certain song. In 1987, this is the one. Pathetic lyrics about a refugee fleeing violence and death before ultimately feeling joyful about being sent back to "his people". Drivel.
Grade: 0/5

11. Baden Baden / Leva livet
The boys are back following their commercial success of last year. This song is a lot less anthem-esque and far more straightforward pop but also pretty flat and repetitive and went nowhere. Pretty much like the career of Baden Baden after this participation.
Grade: 1/5

10. Robert Wells / Sommarnatt
Despite successful entries in both 1984 and 1985, Göran Folkestad's singing career never really took off and now he contented himself with being just the composer. His chosen performer was a scoop - a young piano player who was the New Hot Thing and who had recently been elected Sweden's sexiest man. Somehow he and the song never really gel - would Göran Folkestad have sung it better himself? - and this relative failure kept haunting Robert Wells for years until he reinvented himself with the Rhapsody in Rock concept.
Grade: 1/5

9. Style / Hand i hand
Style was performing a difficult balancing act between making chart-friendly pop while being a well-groomed Svensktoppen act. This effort falls somewhere in between the two fields and is arguably better than their 1986 effort without feeling particularly important. Made the super final on old merits alone.
Grade: 2/5

8. Anna Book / Det finns en morgondag
Just like the Robert Wells-case, it seems Anna and her song are oddly mismatched. The song isn't bad and the lyrics are pretty good but don't seem credible coming from a performer this young (and - in all fairness - this limited). Soon after the final, CBS terminated Anna's record deal.
Grade: 2/5

7. Paul Sahlin & Anne Kihlström / Ung och evig
An aggressively cheerful and jaunty dansbandschlager that probably was less aimed at winning and more had the objective of reviving Paul's career which had been non-existing since his 1980 entry Tusen sekunder. If so, the trick worked and gave him a few more songs on Svensktoppen. Why the technicians decided to more or less eliminate his duet partner from the sound mix remains a bit of a mystery but the whole thing is effective enough.
Grade: 2/5

6. Lotta Engberg / Fyra bugg och en Coca-Cola
Another song that felt perfect back then but failed to stand the test of time. Skara goes Tropical and all the fruits are made of plastic. Two lasting things came out of this song, though. Lotta Engberg was launched into a stardom that lasts to this day and the problem with song title including two registered trademarks led to SVT slowly beginning to revise its outdated rule book.
Grade: 3/5

5. Annica Jonsson / Nya illusioner
Annica was another one of those talented singers floating around at the Mariann label without ever getting a real breakthrough. This is a quality schlager with elegant verses, a slick chorus and an almost parodically perfect key change.
Grade: 3/5

4. Cyndee Peters / När morgonstjärnan brinner
A powerful ballad of a kind seldom heard before in a melodifestival. The meeting between a well-crafted song (penned by Bobby Ljunggren, Håkan Almqvist and Ingela "Pling" Forsman who would continue working successfully together for many years to come) and gospel singer Peters added gravity and depth to the final. Beautiful.
Grade: 4/5

3. Sound of Music / Alexandra
Sound of Music was about to fall apart later that very year but their final participation was excellent proof that you can be jaunty, cheerful AND contemporary at the same time. The lyrics, celebrating friendship between girls, also makes a welcome exception from all the songs about love and falls perfectly into the line of Nanne's later output.
Grade: 4/5

2. Arja Saijonmaa / Högt över havet
We all thought we knew where we had Arja - Finland's most famous export to Sweden - when she suddenly made a record for the Mariann label together with Lasse Holm and made a surprise appearance in Melodifestivalen. This ridiculously effective stomper - making full use of Arja's dramatic Finnish accent - left Sweden craving for more and made sure Arja would never be forgotten.
Grade: 5/5

1. Lena Philipsson / Dansa i neon
For the second year running, Lena was criminally overlooked by the juries. Wasn't she modest enough? She wrote her own songs, made her own clothes, demanded the right to do things her own way. Was that annoying for a segment of the audience? Just like her 1986 entry, "Dansa i neon" found eternal life as a pop evergreen that will remain for many years still.
Grade: 5/5

For the second year running the juries failed to channel the public opinion in general and left Sweden with a winner that was good but no complete favourite. This was the last time that the jury was organised into age groups instead of having regional juries around the countries, maybe that's where the syntax error was to be found?

In a parallel universe:
Lotta only made it to 12th place in Brussels. My bet is that Lena, Arja or Sound of Music all would have had a reasonable shot at making the top five. Given that a ballad won the international final, maybe also Cyndee could have touched a few buttons around the continent.

Lena Philipsson / Dansa i neon (Sweden 1987 national final)

Tobson takes on Melodifestivalen 1986

For the first time in five years Stockholm got to handle the national final and they managed to pull off a truly legendary edition that most people who were around at the time will remember vividly and fondly. How ironic that most things that added to making this edition stand out came out of budget restraints and being simply pennywise and nothing else.

It was decided - again - to host Melodifestivalen within the frame of another popular show and "Razzel" was the perfect fit. It was an all-evening-event of a tv show and lived highly on segments coming back week after week. During spring 1986 one of the recurring segments was meant to be Melodifestivalen semi finals, but when the news leaked out it sparked an outrage. People wanted one final where all the songs were new. The whole idea was scrapped.

Two major things were kept from the original concept: an unusually late date for the final (to allow many weeks of semis) and an unusual way of presenting the songs. The first circumstance turned out to be vital: on the very weekend when the national final was usually held - the last Saturday of February - Sweden's prime minister Olof Palme was murdered. Had the final been scheduled for that date it would have been cancelled. Possibly Sweden would have withdrawn from the Bergen final.

In order to make the low budget show more interesting - possibly originally to make the semi finals more interesting - it was decided to present all ten songs as video clips and only the five acts that made it into the super final got to perform live for the audience. Several of these clips made it into the shared collective memory and are considered classics today. The general standard was also sky high compared to previous years and most of the songs met with some sort of success afterwards.

Picture borrowed from oppetarkiv.se

10. Baden Baden / Jag har en dröm
They wanted to be a pop group but looked and sounded like a dansband. Their entry - a typically 80's plea for world peace - sounds extremely cheesy and dated today but stayed in the Svensktoppen chart way longer than any of its competitors.
Grade: 1/5

9. Karin Risberg / Stopp stopp stanna
A decent little pop number that suffers heavily from the fact that it is too short for its own good and keeps repeating its fairly simple chorus a few times more than anyone could stand. Its video clip also reveals how quickly these presentation films were made - in particular, the "photo session" during the musical break should be enough for poor Karin to take the director to court.
Grade: 2/5

8. Style / Dover-Calais
The biggest commercial hit of the lot appealed to a young audience that also found its male members really attractive. A simple singalong, in the words of my father a song "begging on its bare knees to be ridiculed". Very dated by nice at the time.
Grade: 2/5

7. Dan Tillberg / ABCD
Dan Tillberg was back again, still singing in his Scania dialect, but sporting an even softer image than the year before. Now he had a cute little song about the need to listen to our children and subsequently packed his clip with cute kids that were singing and dancing along. Catchy but a tiny bit too sweet to fully work.
Grade: 3/5

6. Git Persson / Du förför mig
A real curiosity. A Swedish tv show had had a feature on how to make a schlager star and suddenly she makes it to the Melodifestivalen final - as if by chance - with a good but odd song written by Anders Berglund, who was contracted to conduct the winning entry in the final. It does sound a bit fishy but all of that was forgotten as soon as the clip went on air, featuring top journalist Jan Guillou as Dracula, wearing the worst vampire teeth ever seen on television.
Grade: 3/5

5. Anna Book / ABC
Teenage starlet Anna Book had made memorable appearances in two popular tv shows for kids and had an entry aimed squarely at the younger audience. Clearly a non-winner but also this video clip lingers in the collective memory of the Swedes and thanks to these three minutes, Anna Book is still retaining some sort of star status to this day.
Grade: 3/5

4. Lasse Holm & Monica Törnell / É dé det här du kallar kärlek
The eventual winner clearly had the most amusing clip that managed to stir up quite a lot of emotion at the time. A most unexpected duet consisting of top songwriter Lasse Holm - scoring his fourth victory in five years - and rock singer Monica Törnell whose career was unfortunately in the process of pretty much derailing. This would be a well deserved moment in the sun for her.
Grade: 3/5

3. Fredrik / Fem i tolv
Teenage heartthrob Fredrik was - surprisingly - not among the five super finalists despite being cute as a button and having a real quality schlager to sing. This was another amusing clip but the juries were not allowed to see them at all before giving their marks and maybe this became just one little schlager among the others. One of my personal favourites, however.
Grade: 4/5

2. Sound of Music / Eldorado
Brace yourselves, ladies and gentlemen: Nanne Grönvall is in the house for the first time (even if she was still Nordqvist at the time) equipped with a contemporary entry with quirky and unusual lyrics. At the time most people expected Angelique - the other girl in the band - to be the star of the trio, but Nanne would prove them all wrong. Eventually.
Grade: 4/5

1. Lena Philipsson / Kärleken är evig
There she was - Torgny Söderberg's new talent - and how she shone. From the word go, it must have been obvious for everyone what star material Lena Philipsson was. Almost thirty years later, "Kärleken är evig" has a life of its own, remaining a true pop evergreen. Lyricist Per Gessle would soon go on to even greater things as his duo Roxette was about to make it to #1 in the US charts a few years later.
Grade: 5/5

A great year full of classic entries. It's just too bad that the juries went for the oldies in the super final as there were so much young talent bubbling right beneath the surface. In retrospect a highly successful final which is not necessarily how it was perceived at the time.

In a parallel universe:
Could anyone have bettered Lasse and Monica's fifth place in Bergen? Maybe Lena could. Maybe Sound of Music could. And if Sweden had sent young Anna Book - would Sandra Kim then have had as easy a victory in the end?

Lena Philipsson / Kärleken är evig (Sweden 1986 NF, video clip)