A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Tobson predicts: Melodifestivalen 2018

The tour has reached its end - Melodifestivalen has arrived in Stockholm (or Solna to be more precise) and Sweden will find itself a song for Lisbon. If you read my previous posts on the semi finals, you will be aware that I have been less than thrilled with the overall quality this year, concerning the songs as well as the show itself.

The criticism this year has been deafening and the ratings have not been what they should be. Will the viewers come back for the final or will we have the lowest amount of people watching in years?

As I listened through the 12 finalists this morning I have to admit they are a better bunch than I would have remembered. The overall quality is fine and there is no entirely hopeless entry here. Not everything's my cup of tea but that is a very different thing indeed.

Had this been a national final in Slovenia or Spain it would have been sensational. Melodifestivalen is still the most solid national final around. But I think Sweden has lost its grip a little bit.

Sweden aims at being a super power at Eurovision. The clear aim every year is to win. After a few years of tremendous success, it feels like Sweden lost the lead. Other countries are pushing the contest in other directions - who would have thought Belgium would be one of the countries pushing the envelope? - and Sweden is no longer the clear big brother.

The Zeitgeist passed from the slightly generic but super effective songs into something else. Something touched by the fingers of the Sobral siblings, possibly. Most of the songs chosen for 2018 have personality and something of their own, something fresh, while Sweden is still in the same place as they were two years ago. The same radio friendly sound, the same preoccupation with staging over songwriting.

Maybe tonight's winner will still do well in Lisbon. A top ten is in no way out of reach. With a bit of luck the Swedish entry could fill a gap in the lineup and snatch another top five spot. But Eric, Loreen, Sanna, Måns and Frans all went in and showed everyone how it should be done. They didn't rely on luck. And that is a major shift.

Maybe SVT won a bit too much and got a bit too content with themselves and thought the audience would stay put regardless. Some quotes from the production suggest this could be the case. Maybe a real shakeup in the team could go some good for 2019?

But tonight, then? Who would be the best choice for Lisbon?

Jessica Andersson had been a good choice has the choice worked better live. A surprising lack of energy in the semi just underlined the impression of her being a budget version of Helene Fischer. Samir & Viktor has the most infectious jam going on but they have no interest in taking it abroad. Felix Sandman has momentum but would be perceived too much like last year's flavour come May.

John Lundvik, then? There is a buzz around him that can't be denied and he has a very inviting aura and a fantastic voice. But will the international jury go for something as traditional? They shouldn't.

Tobson's prediction:
For the second year running Sweden will go for a pop guy with a smooth song and stunning visuals. It is highly unusual that Sweden goes for two so similar packages on consecutive years, but Benjamin Ingrosso has a much better song than last year's entry. "Dance You Off" is also the song that feels most like an idea of its own and could possibly be a nod towards more creativity among songwriters next year.

And of course I will be on Twitter tonight. Join me there!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

UMK 2018: it all depends on Saara

This week I am completely ditching Sweden and Andra Chansen in order to focus on Estonia (I haven't had time to catch up there so no review coming up, unfortunately) and above all Finland. Since the three competing entries were revealed, there has been a certain amount of buzz around Suomi. Is it time for me to eat my words from when Saara Aalto was selected?

Seriously, folks. It is not. The songs lined up all have their qualities and are solid efforts so everything comes down to Saara Aalto herself in the end. And that is where my worries were in the first place.

The performance costumes - presented with much pomp and circumstance earlier this week - suggest all three performances could be pretty OTT and that is a concern of mine. What will we see tonight? Will there be huge show numbers that can't be recreated in Lisbon or are tonight's performances what would be shown on stage in May as well?

If there is too much madness going on show-wise, is that an attempt to highlight Saara or could she get lost in the middle of everything? Saara is in many ways a Finnish Linda Bengtzing who wants to do well so badly that she loses her cool every time it really matters.

If Saara can keep a lid on herself tonight - and even more importantly in Portugal later in spring - Finland could be a contender. It all comes down to whether the can deliver and actually be the performer she wants to be.

What about the songs, then?

1. Monsters
The first song revealed also turned out the be the strongest of the bunch. A contemporary pop number with a clear hook and possibly not too much space for Saara to go bonkers. Staying controlled is a key word in all three performances. My main objection is that it wouldn't have hurt had it been a bit heavier. Is it too late to remix it for Eurovision?

2. Domino
A very good song but also a relic from a time gone by. This is the perfect G:son/Ljunggren ballad that proved outdated already in 2012 when the fabulous "Quédate conmigo" somehow barely made it into the top ten with a similar sound and a similar high note climax. Here is also a big risk of Saara running away with herself and over-perform vocally like there was no tomorrow.

3. Queens
I had hoped the last song would be the real killer track but instead it is a surprisingly shattered effort that mainly sounds like something Britney Spears might have toyed with a few years ago. Not having any crystal clear artistic identity as yet, Saara should definitely refrain from straying into someone else's territory and run the risk of being labeled a copycat.

While "Domino" is perhaps the closest to what Saara really wants to be, "Monsters" would clearly be Finland's best shot at ESC success. I predict - and hope - that tonight's result will be the same as the running order. And more than anything, I hope Saara will keep herself composed and pull this off.

As per usual, I will also live tweet during the show. Feel free to follow and discuss and talk back at me.