A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
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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)

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