Friday, February 15, 2013

Melody Festival 2013, part two

Another week, another show. Just as expected, this week evoked several emotions and encouraged several opinions. The results were mixed and I'm slowly realizing that my musical preference might not be aligned with the public opinion at all. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, let's start from the beginning.

Anton Ewald
Despite his short 19 years on this earth, this is the third year he participates in the Melody Festival. This singer/dancer/choreographer competed in 2009 and with two different performances last year. But back in the days, he did not take center stage, but participated as a dancer behind Velvet (2009), Danny Saucedo and Andreas Lundstedt (both 2012). This year he's competing with an upbeat, dance-hit, I'm sure will play all around Sweden this summer. Something about him reminded me of Jedwards. Since I don't mind Jedwards, I didn't mind Anton Ewald either. I can't say it's the best things that's ever graced the stage, but it wasn't too bad either. The public agreed and he will get a second chance to prove his worth. The only thing that annoyed me was the voice-box he used. I would have preferred to hear his natural voice.

Felicia Ohlsson
I'll just come out and say it. This was my favorite, by far. I thought she was gorgeous, she had the right look and she had a really soulful voice. What more could I have asked for? This 18 year old performed a powerful and straight forward love ballad. It wasn't butchered by too much wailing or deconstructed to be edgy. It was just solid. It reminded me of ballads from yesteryear (80s and 90s), specifically it reminded me of Sam Brown's Stop. I loved that song, so how could I not love this? Unfortunately, the Swedish public were not as convinced. She ended up finishing in 5th place. At least it's better than last week, when my favorite finished last.

Joacim Cans
If you've read my posts about the Melody Festival from previous years, you know I have no problems deducting several points just because I don't like the artist, regardless of if they do a good job or not, I deduct point just for them being them. So, why not give an artist extra points for the exact same reason? This was Joakim Cans debute as a solo artist. But his heavy metal band, Hammerfall, has been a international success since the 90s. I really, really like Hammerfall. I really, really wanted to like this. But I really, really dislike country rock. If it was any other artist, I would have had endless opinions about everything that was wrong, but this time, I'll just say that I might not have agreed with the public that this was the worst of the night, but I'm not about to contest the decision to eliminate him from the competition.

Swedish House Wives
To be honest, I was dreading this from the get go. Individually, I respect each of the three artists, Pernilla Wahlgren, Hanna Hedlund and Jenny Silver. Between them, they have participated in the Melody Festival eight times but this was their first collaboration. Even if all three of them are well established artist with successful careers, something about the combination screamed of desperation. And the artist name they chose did nothing to help their cause. I was expecting something hopelessly dated. It turned out to be somewhat better than anticipated. Instead of hopelessly dated, it was just dated. Catchy, yes. Forgettable, yes. Tiresome, most definitely. And an extra minus for the wardrobe. Despite the popularity of the artists, the Swedish public wasn't impressed either. They left the competition finishing 6th in this round.

Erik Segerstedt & Tone Damli
My next favorite song this round. And this time, the general public and I agreed more, even if not completely. Erik Segerstedt has participated in the Swedish Melody Festival before, with the band E.M.D. In 2009, they finished in 3rd place. But he had his breakthrough when he competed in Swedish Idol 2006. His partner in crime, Tone Damli made herself a name through Norwegian Idol 2005. She was the runner up in the Norwegian Melody Festival 2009, where she lost to Alexander Rybak, who went on to win the entire Eurovision Song Contest the same year. Together, in this year's Melody Festival, Erik Segerstadt & Tone Damli performed a nice little number. It was friendly and inviting and it is actually one of the few songs from this weeks competition I can recall from memory. As I said, the public and I almost agreed. I would have wanted to send them directly to the finale, but I will have to settle for seeing them again in the Second Chance.

Louise Hoffsten
Amongst many things, Louise Hoffsten is a fighter. Since her first album released, in 1987, until now, she has fought her way to a very successful career, with several albums, awards, international successes and published books. And she continues to fight, in her battle against multiple sclerosis. An admirable artist indeed, and her performance in the Melody Festival was solid, grounded and professional, a performance only a seasoned artist can give. The Swedish public embraced her and will continue to walk along her side, all the way into the finale. On a personal note, this was not one of my favorites. But is has very little to do with Louise Hoffsten, it was everything to do with the genre of her music. It simply is not my cup of tea. I can honestly say, "it's not you, it's me".

Rikard Wolff
Mostly recognized for his acting, Rikard Wolff has been a staple in the Swedish culture since the beginning of the 90s. With a very distinct voice and en equally distinct image, he delivered just about what was expected of him. He's performance would have been quite ok, if he was a part of an ensemble, performing a musical. But he was not. This is the Melody Festival and you only get 3 minutes to tell your entire story. This number felt out of context. In my mind, he was on a stage as a sad clown sitting infront of his mirror, after a show, solemnly removing his make-up. Or a bum waking up behind a dumpster, in the middle of the night, gazing up at the stars while singing a melancholy song about something slightly positive. Again, could have worked in another setting, but not in the Melody Festival. The Swedish public agreed. He finished second to last.

Sean Banan
Just like Jack in the Box (not the Burger chain, but the actual toy), he pops up out of nowhere. Well, maybe not exactly out of nowhere, he did participate in last year's Melody Festival. And he did this year what he did last year, but with different lyrics. But still. When Sean Banan takes the stage, the energy in the room raises and the whole show feels invigorated. Is his music childish, juvenile and over the top. For sure. But was I entertained. Yes, I was. However, I was not as entertained as I was last year, so it was disappointing when he was voted directly through to the finale, something he didn't even accomplish last year. But what's done is done, and at least the finale will be more colorful now.

Tomorrow, Melody Festival 2013, part three, commences. An interesting line up awaits. I can hardly wait. Just looking at the names of this year's participating artists, I have high hopes for some of competitors tomorrow (especially one). So tune in again soon, and I'll let you know how it all went.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Melody Festival 2013, part one

Just like Groundhog day, some events brings the promise of spring and brighter times. Personally, I know spring is just around the corner when I get to dust off my pink feather boa, put on my tiara and sip champagne at 11 am. Hello, The Melody Festival 2013, how happy I am to see you!

The Melody Festival is the Swedish music competition in which Sweden decides which song to send to The Eurovision Song Contest. This year there's even more at stake. The winner of the Melody Festival will not only represent Sweden, it will represent the host country, as Sweden's Loreen won last year and brought The Eurovision Song Contest back to Sweden.

The Melody Festival is divided into four elimination rounds. From each round two songs will qualify directly to the finale, and two songs will get a second chance to advance. This set up will result in a total of six rounds; four elimination rounds followed by The Second chance and finally a grand finale, with 10 songs and amongst the 10 songs, the winner will be crowned.

Last Saturday, February 2, the whole process started, with elimination round one. I'll give you my opinion on each artist and share with you the results.

David Lindgren
He participated in last year's Melody Festival, where he finished in 4th place. He's a classically schooled musical artist and with he's ability to sing, dance and charm, he soon became a fan favorite. This year, he's back, and just as last year, he's song is an upbeat clubhit. Despite fresh camera angles, a well choreographer number and pitch perfect singing, the number lack luster and will soon fade into the generic and predictable abyss. As an artist, he is very likable and the performance was solid. The fact that he made it through straight to the finale has more to do with him as an artist than the song itself.

Cookies and Beans
The country influenced band of three blonde women made their Melody Festival debut in 2009 with their song "What If". Back then, they were eliminated in their first elimination round. I don't really remember what I though of them when I saw their performance in 2009, but I do know it is one of my sing-along songs after the fact. I have the same feeling towards this year's contribution. It was fine, even though something about the chorus didn't sit quite as comfortably with me. Maybe I will like them better the second time around, cause they did get enough votes to get another chance. Either way, I'm pretty sure I will be singing along to it in the near future.

Jay Jay Johanson
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" would be an appropriate description of Jay Jay Johanson. If you ask me, he was the best of the night. If you ask the Swedish public, he was the worst. Even though our opinions were vastly different, I can't say I'm surprised Jay Jay Johanson received the least amount of votes. Wrong artist, with the wrong song at the wrong venue. At least if you're looking for votes. But if you're looking for music that have the potential to grow and live a full life outside the competition, this was lightyears more intriguing than anything else this elimination round had to offer.

Mary N'diaye
I love being multilingual, so when a song makes me wish I never knew Swedish, you know it's bad. The artist had the right look, the beat was really catchy but the text was awful! It was so bad that I didn't even care that she couldn't sing. If she had hoped that her childish lyrics would make her adorable, she failed miserable. What a waste of talent. Cause talent she has. If you search her name on YouTube, you'll find that she actually isn't that juvenile but a pretty edgy and respectable artist. What happened? And it's not just me, the Swedish general public had enough as well. She did not advance beyond this round.

Eric Gadd
It's always worrisome when a former popular artist decides to make a comeback on the Melody Festival. Every year there's a few of them and almost always it ends up being a disappointment. Eric Gadd was hugely popular in the 90s. Since then he has released several albums but he's not reached the same levels of success. So maybe it's unfair of me to call this a comeback, I guess in some ways he never left. But did he disappoint? Yes, but not by much. His contribution was not offensive but it was luke warm and sleepy. I'm not sure I agree he was good enough to get another chance, but he did.

Leading up to this elimination round, a lot of wonder and curiosity surrounded the artis YOHIO. An androgynous guy from the north that has made himself a name on the Japanese music scene by performing in a lolita dress while singing with a distinct male voice, needless to say, there were a lot of expectations on this performer/performance. He surely looked the part och gave the audience a real show. However, the actual song was, at best, generic. There was nothing distinctly original with the song. The whole performance left me feeling disappointment. It was like being presented with the biggest box, with the most elaborate gift wrap, just to find the box empty inside. He's returning in the finale and hopefully I won't be as disappointed, now when I know what to expect.

Anna Järvinen
Being a well respected singer with multiple awards in her backpack, this singer/songwriter had potential to engage and touch people in a profound way. But instead of deep and vulnerable, it was confused and frail. At one point, I was scared for her safety. To me, she looked and sounded like a confused older lady, in her dressing gown, who'd wondered away from home and couldn't find her way back. She was in need of assistance. The general public wasn't too impressed either. She ended up in 7th place.

Michael Feiner & Caisa
Michael Feiner has produced several club-hits since 2006 and this was his second time around in the Melody Festival. He participated in the Melody Festival 2007 as a part of The Attic. Back then they didn't move beyond the first elimination round. This year he's back, with a new partner in crime, Caisa. It's been a week since the first elimination round, so it's been a week since I heard their song. But it's like I've never heard it. I vaguely remember that I appreciated the saxophone, but also that I thought they looked too old to be performing such a young number. But I can't recall anything about the song, what so ever. I guess that is enough said. They didn't manage to impress the audience either. Their journey ended just as it started.

As you have seen, I wasn't too impressed by the first elimination round. David Lindgren and Yohio made their way to the finale, which was expected and something I can live with. Cookies & Beans and Eric Gadd will get another chance. I'm happy this was only the first week, so there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Just a few words about this year's host and hostess of the show. Danny Saucedo returned this year as the host together with Gina Dirawi. After competing in the Melody Festival three times (finishing 3rd and 2nd twice) maybe Danny's time to be crowned the winner is still to come, but until then I think he is doing a good job at being the host. He's a natural performer and looks at ease leading the show. At his side he has Gina Dirawi, the blogger, the tv persona and the comedian. She co-hosted last year's Melody Festival and did a great job. She's quirky, funny and whimsical. All this while being really beautiful and professional. I'm happy she was invited back to host the show this year as well.

Tonight the competition continues. I'm ready to be blown away. And horrified. And delighted. And confused. Either way, it will evoke emotions and I will, for sure, have endless amount fo opinions about it.