Saturday, February 28, 2009

Now we're all alone and the time is right

OK, one more post because I know how it can drive you crazy to not have that song you've been dying to have from the act you so love.

"I was never one to let the chances slip
With a boy like you at my fingertip(s)"


(Yes, there's something that sounds like a tiny jump at the beginning. Sorry, this is the only version I have, and it's still more than listenable. Ditto my comments below, though--please don't post this link around, just direct people here.)

Please, please buy the album (preorder link) if you like the song. If there's ever been a pop group more deserving of support, I'm not sure who it would be.

Can you keep a secret?

Tonight was what Melodifestivalen is about. Fantastic songs...and, in general, some fantastic results. Four of my big favorite top five songs made the top five and from there the four to make it to the next level were all the ones in my top five list. Heck, even the fifth placed song of the night was one I liked and would have placed sixth.

My least favorite were Next 3's reggaeton "Esta Noche" (I think "Baby (Give Me A Try)" on their MySpace is better) and Susanne Alfvengren's "Du är älskad där du går," but even then, they weren't bad songs. There was a bit of the ethereal nature-loving style of, say, Enya or "Den Vilda" about Susanne's song that I found nice, or at least expect I'll find nice in the studio version. Though I wouldn't say either of the boys who opened the performance did a bad job, Next 3's performance was to a large degree saved with the entrance of their main singer

As I mentioned below, Thorleifs were sixth in my ranking, but their catchy old school dansband song, complete with saxophones, was also one I enjoyed listening to; in a night this full of quality, though, it just couldn't make it past sixth in my personal rankings. I would have liked to see Anna Sahlene and Maria Haukaas Storeng take the group's place in the top five, but given that the group only made it to fifth and no further, I'm fairly free to enjoy their song as nearly-harmless fun.

Here's where we get into the top quality stuff, in no particular order. Sarah Dawn Finer, as expected, put her strong slightly grainy voice to good use and delivered the power ballad "Moving On" with all the power you could hope for. She made it to the second chance round and was the international jury's choice. Even if she should fail to qualify to the final through the second chance round (her section of which also includes Scotts, BWO, and Lili & Susie), my expectation is that the international jury would make her their choice (the other rounds' choices were Caroline af Ugglas, Amy Diamond, and Sofia) and she'd make it to the final that way. I hope she's there two weeks from now--she deserves to be.

Poor Anna Sahlene and Maria Haukaas Storeng placed seventh despite their classy catchy retro-pop, with its James Bond verses and schlager chorus, having a great melody to it and two good singers performing it. Maybe playing up the fact that Maria was from Norway and Anna had represented Estonia in their intro footage wasn't the way to go? No, I don't genuinely (fully) blame that, but the song and its singers deserved better. In a night this full of quality, though, it's maybe not surprising that people would be so busy voting for great songs that one of the great songs would slip through the cracks.

Star Pilots' "Higher" is Sunblock-esque '80's-sounding dance-pop song barely removed from the group's earlier hit "In The Heat Of The Night," though with some "Waiting For A Star To Fall" mixed in, as Rick pointed out. I was shocked when the song topped audience surveys during rehearsals and brushed it off as a fluke, but apparently the song managed to connect fairly well with television viewers, too, qualifying to the second chance round despite the unusual staging of singer Johan Becker standing off to the side (doing a pretty good job singing, too) while the rest of the group mimed and danced with some in-house dancers center stage. "Higher" will face off against Amy Diamond's "It's My Life" and then, should it survive that match-up, either Rigo's "I Got U" or Caroline af Ugglas's "Snälla Snälla."

Agnes's disco track "Love Love Love" qualified straight to the final. There is something about "Love Love Love" that prevents it from instantly grabbing you and refusing to let go like "Release Me" does, but, as Nick said, not many songs are as good as "Release Me." "Love Love Love" is a great fun disco track, the sort of song that celebrates life, and had a performance that found Agnes sporting giant hair and a gold jumpsuit. With her modern disco--when she's singing songs like "Release Me" and this--Agnes really is deserving of more international attention. How can fans of old-school disco not at least enjoy "Love Love Love"?

The night's other finalist truly surprised me. It's not that I didn't love Malena Ernman's "La Voix;" to the contrary, every schlager and disco-pop fiber of my body vibrating with excitement during the song. I really thought, though, that it wouldn't fully connect with the audience. As Swedish writers have pointed out and as I've often said, the issue with half-opera pop songs (here, with an dance-backed opera chorus and cool slightly electro or house-backed choruses) is that they lack a singalong-friendly chorus and, despite the fact that Malena started to have fun with the camera near the song's end, I thought the staging would come across to your average Swedish viewer as too aloof. To me, though, it was magic. It's a song I'm thrilled to have in the final.

What does this mean we have coming up? Next week will be Andra Chansen, the second chance round.

Out of the songs already qualified to the final, Alcazar, Malena, Måns, and Agnes are easily my favorites, followed by H.E.A.T and E.M.D., but that's speaking from a song perspective, not from the standpoint of what would get Sweden the best result at Eurovision.

(I still feel like I've got even more to say about this semifinal, so I may revisit it again soon.)

Can you feel the heat is on?

I'm going to end up spending way too much money tonight preordering all the Melodifestival-related albums. Add to that the fact that I've already bought Rebeka Dremelj's new album as well as the Melodifestival digital singles that I can and it's going to be a very expensive evening.

I hope, though, that anyone who reads this blog and loves Melodifestivalen is planning on buying the official album and/or buying the albums of those artists whose music you like (and remember, it's not just a matter of supporting the singer but the writers, too).

I'm hoping and trusting that you all will, though, so I'm going to offer up a couple of presents. Before you ask, no, I don't have Alcazar/Måns/Malena or probably what you want (yet...fingers crossed!) apparently crossing your fingers works!; I've only got a handful of tracks.

(I know this may seem hypocritical coming after a plea to buy music, but please don't just take these links and spread them around everywhere--link people here.)

Picking what to share was difficult, but here's the song we've been waiting for since its disqualification during the first semifinal (isn't that cover fantastic? The studio version of the song makes me feel even more justified in my love of it) and here's the "In The Heat Of The Night" meets "Waiting For A Star To Fall" (thanks, Rick!) song that qualified to the semifinal tonight (I'm so glad it turned out to have cowbell in it).

You can buy both of these songs by buying Melodifestivalen 2009 here (physical).

I'm gonna get stronger now

Oh, Sweden, you were so close to giving me the top five I'd been dreaming of! Poor Anna--she just can't get a break. I did always know Thorleifs were likely to be in the top five, though, and I like their song, too--I just loved five others so much more.

Still, four out of five favorites isn't bad...but "Killing Me Tenderly" is such a good song that it really deserved better than seventh.

Let's see what happens next...

Oh, and I still live in hope of some day getting more music from Jessica Andersson. I'll even be willing to overlook underwhelming "Kom," Jessica!

Edit: I'm going to enjoy Darin's performance and try to forget for a moment how painful this top four announcement is going to be.

Edit again: this night needs its own proper post. For now, though, if you didn't watch it live, SVT has videos of every performance--not just the disqualified ones--from this year's Melodifestival that you can watch.

In my every dream

With information taken from Alcazar Magic via PopJustice, here's the tracklisting of the new Alcazar album, Disco Defenders, complete with my notes on the songs. It's set to come out March 11, though that's a tentative release date.

1.) We Keep On Rockin' (the first single released by this incarnation of Alcazar and I still love it all this time on; I really should have put it on my year end singles countdown. Anyway, it's Anders Hansson at work, producing upbeat pop-disco in classic Alcazar style.)
2.) Burning (I introduced you all to a clip of this a while back before it spread all over the Internet, and the group has since performed the song live. It's done by Empire Music, the same people who are behind Star Pilots, the production of the West End Girls' songs, a lot more great stuff. "Burning" is, from the sounds of it, absolutely fantastic. It's a bit more on the dance-pop side than, say, "We Keep On Rockin'" and you can hear that it's done by the same people who make Star Pilots' songs.)
3.) Stay The Night (their a-maz-ing Melodifestival entry this year. I think it might come out this evening, though I'm not positive of that fact. Anyway, at least up until this point, it's by far the best song in the contest this year.)
4.) From Brazil With Love (written or co-written by Danny)
5.) Inhibitions (another Anders Hansson work and, as I've said before, it wasn't quite what I was hoping for in terms of second single. There's something kind of "minor" musically about it. "Stay The Night" shows that Alcazar don't have to be making pure disco frothiness for me to love their songs, but "Inhibitions" isn't quite the right kind of "cool" for me. It's still an OK song, mind--just not as great as many others we've heard from them.)
6.) Harlem Nights
7.) Baby (written by the Pet Shop Boys, back when Alcazar were a four-piece, but they broke up too early to do the song then. Now, we'll finally get to hear it)
8.) Jump Straight Into The Fire (I've mentioned this song on here before, too. It's written by Anton Malmberg Hård af Harsted, who's behind--get ready for this--Magnus Carlsson's "Walking In My Shoes," Velvet's "Sound Of Music," and Lutricia McNeal's "Same Same Same." That's a pretty amazing disco-tastic line-up right there, so I've got high hopes for something great. Anton also wrote Luigi Masi's "Strangers Again," which, as I've said before, I really like.)
9.) My My Me and Mine
10.) Funky Town (the group has been performing their cover of this old disco song for a while now)
11.) Put The Top Down (I can't 100% promise you this, but I'm nearly positive that you can listen to the demo--as in, not sung by Alcazar and quite possibly with a very different arrangement from what we'll end up hearing--of this song here. I mean, it's got the same title, Alcazar themselves have said this song was written by Figge Böstrom who also co-wrote that demo, and the group's statement that the song "[m]akes you wanna go cruising at Ocean drive with the wind in your hair" fits perfectly for it. I really like it; it's got this strummy guitar background that gives a little bit of a laid-back vibe to the song while still keeping it happy and not down-tempo.)
12.) Thank You
13.) Stay The Night (FL Club mix)

1.) This Is The World We Live In

2.) Crying At The Discoteque

3.) Ménage à Trois

4.) Sexual Guarantee

5.) Don't You Want Me

6.) Start The Fire

7.) Shine On

8.) Not A Sinner Nor A Saint

9.) Physical

10.) Ritmo del amor

11.) Alcastar

12.) Love Life

13.) Someday

Friday, February 27, 2009

You think I'm payin' the price but it's not costin' me

Random bits of music news:

Alcazar's new album, Disco Defenders, is tentatively scheduled for a March 11 release date (stolen from PopJustice).

The Backstreet Boys apparently have a Max Martin-written song called "Bigger" on their new album (which they hope to release this summer) *gets hopes up again only to see them crushed* (stolen from Cheiron Songwriters).

Danish songwriter Lucas Secon--of Martin's "Show The World," Sarah Connor's "Under My Skin," the Pussycat Dolls' "I Hate This Part," and much more--wrote on his MySpace a while ago that he'd be contributing to Jordin Sparks's new album. Jordin played clips of several songs that might end up on her new album on the radio recently and among them was an unmastered version of one of Lucas's songs, "Walking On Snow." From the sounds of the clip, I'm chomping at the bit to have the full song; like "No Air," it manages the remarkable feat of sounding refreshingly fresh while also making total sense in the current commercial music environment, though its pretty poppy electronic-pop-meets-pop-rock sound isn't musically related to "No Air."

Have you listened to Erik Hassle's new album yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

Take me higher than high

The Melodifestival semifinal everyone says is overpacked with goodness (listen to song clips here) AND it looks like Darin is going to be appearing as the interval act performing an old Melodifestival classic?

I think I'm going to ban anyone from even walking near me, let alone talking to me, from 2 to 3:35 on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Me he dado cuenta que duele menos cuando existe la fe

To be honest, all I have been listening to in the past few days has been Erik Hassle's album. I still don't feel I can even begin to describe the sound of it, though, so here's a brief diversion into a song of a completely different style but that's still great. The second album of Chilean girl group Supernova was recommended to me by José and it's a case in point of why I love getting recommendations: I'd never heard of the group, who released two albums around the turn of the century before disbanding, but songs like "Herida" and "Pocas palabras" are the sort of music I can never get enough of. I promise you that if you grew up with and loved the teen pop boom of the late '90's, "Herida" and "Pocas palabras" are enough to get you flashing back to those years even if you've never heard these particular songs before. They sound for all the world as if they could have come from Sweden or at least from the American writers who took to mimicking the Swedish sound for the pure pop groups and artists that were suddenly springing up everywhere, but the songs' writers and producers are as Chilean as the girls singing them.

The punchy "Herida" (above), full of skittery electronic beats, is my slight favorite of the two for right now, I think, and that has a large part to do with the chorus getting stuck in my head. The electro opening (which crops up again in the middle 8, which does take full dance routine advantage of its greatness but makes up for with a bit of slap-featuring choreography) and crescendoing shouty bridges of "Pocas palabras" (below) are a little more exciting and cooler, though. Actually, scratch that; I can't pick a favorite.

I can find absolutely nowhere selling Supernova's second album Retráctate, so if you know some online store that is, please let me know and I'll include a link to it in this post.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Just enough to drive you mad

I know I have a bad habit of saying "I'll write about this album in the future, once it has time to set in with me" (that Lily Allen review genuinely is coming, probably once Melodifestivalen has finished), but I really am going to write about Erik Hassle's new album in the near future. There will be words, many praising words, but until then, those of you who remember him him from my earlier post or from before might be interested to know that you can listen to all of the album here. Thanks go to Oswalds Popcorn for triggering my desire to do some checking to see if I could find it!

Robert Habolin is one of the Swedish songwriters I like to check on occasionally. In addition to A*Teens' "A Perfect Match," Aleksander Denstad With's "A Little Too Perfect," and several songs for Ann Winsborn, he's done some pretty decent as-yet-unreleased songs--more accurately, demos. There's one in particular I love, but there's no way on Earth I'm going to post it; let's just say it's the song I'd least want to pop up on shuffle if I had my iPod playing for someone else.

Now, though, he's written a song which I feel is both worth calling your attention to and not too embarrassing should anyone else be listening with you. I'm not really sure who the vocalist on "Scary Monsters" is--I could guess it's Robert himself, but that would be based on absolutely nothing--and this is just a demo, intended to use as a tool for pitching the song to artists, so keep that in mind. That said, I actually love all the processing and layering going on in the vocals, the knocking beat, the catchy melody, the electronic pulse somewhere between throbbing and revving, everything. It's got some of the cuteness Rob can do, but it's only a part of this electronic pop-R&B song's slightly creepy soul.

Since this song is a demo, there's nowhere it can be purchased, but you can visit Robert Habolin's MySpace here and buy A*Teens' Teen Spirit, which has "A Perfect Match" on it, here (physical) or here (digital). New Arrival, which has "A Perfect Match" on it, here (physical) or here (digital) (thanks for the correction, Bas!).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Love love love

This week is destined to be one of heartbreak and exhilaration. Strong buzz surrounds several of the tracks, enough so that not all the rumored top-quality tracks can qualify directly to the final even in a best case scenario. It should make for a thrilling if stressful change from the semifinal of this past Thursday. As usual, all credit for the information goes to the sites below--I serve merely as an aggregator--and any mistakes are my own; please correct them in the comments if you notice any.

Sources: NT, SVT, The Local, Schlagerprofilerna (1, 2), Gylleneskor, QX (1, 2, 3); picture credit to The Local and QX

1.) Agnes, "Love Love Love" (Anders Hansson)
With Agnes reinvented as a properly brilliant popstar (though she's had her moments of brilliance in the past), there's a lot of interest from Melodifestival fans in "Love Love Love," which Agnes says was the first song she and Anders Hansson did together when they started working on what would become Dance Love Pop, her third album. The Idol winner is this week making her first appearance in Melodifestivalen, though a song she co-wrote (but never intended to sing in the contest herself) was originally chosen for an earlier edition of the contest before being disqualified.

Her entry this year, described by Anders as a positive disco-pop song and by Agnes as an up-tempo song which is in the same style as Dance Love Pop and with a cool glamorous feel (with an appropriately glittery and glamorous performance, she says), is supposed to be great, though not quite as great as some of the others in this semifinal.

To watch: the music video for her most recent single, "Release Me." I've said it before, but I'll say it again: if there's one Swedish pop song from 2008 that I beg you to listen to, it's this classy breezy modern disco song.

2.) Star Pilots, "Higher" (Johan Fjellström/Joakim Udd/Johan Becker)
Star Pilots are a dance-pop project from Empire Studios. The voice on both their singles so far is Johan Becker, but originally the group was represented at performances and in photos by three other men. Those men have been swapped out for another group, though, one that this time includes Johan Becker.

Both the group's earlier singles have been '80's-inspired but modern dance-pop that sounds like a combination of Sunblock and Uniting Nations. One of those singles was a cover of Chesney Hawkes's "The One And Only"--a great cover--while the other, "In The Heat Of The Night," was completely original and absolutely fantastic; it's even getting a UK release. From the description of "Higher" by the songwriters (who are also behind songs like Verona's "Ti Sento," Alcazar's upcoming single "Burning," and production on the West End Girls' songs, among others), the group's entry in Melodifestivalen should be in the same vein as their earlier work. They say "Higher" is an uplifting kick of energy with one foot in the '80s and the other in the here and now, a radio hit with a club feeling and an international sound.

Dance music has a tendency to underperform in Melodifestivalen, but hopefully the group can deliver a great song.

To watch: the Top Gun-featuring music video for "In The Heat Of The Night"

3.) Susanne Alfvengren, "Du är älskad där du går" (Ingela "Pling" Forsman/Bobby Ljunggren/Henrik Wikström)
Filling in the weekly "singer big in decades past attempts a comeback or seeks more attention via Melodifestivalen" slot, Susanne will be singing a ballad co-written by Bobby Ljunggren. Bobby's written a number of Melodifestival songs in the past and even this year, but apparently the one to compare "Du är älskad där du går" to is Suzzie Tapper's "Visst finns mirakel" from last year. The co-writers say "Du är älskad där du går" is a calm, well-arranged, melodic ballad which grows and has hopeful lyrics. I've heard nothing to make me expect this to be anything other than your typical Bobby Ljunggren Lionheart ballad like the others we've recently heard. Susanne does think it's like her past work, though.

To watch listen: her '80's hit "När vi rör varann"

4.) Anna Sahlene & Maria Haukaas Storeng, "Killing Me Tenderly" (Amir Aly/Henrik Wikström/Tobbe Petterssen)
I love Anna Sahlene. Love her. Her second album may not have lived up to her consistently enjoyable first, but she's someone who I've been hoping to hear more music from for a while (giving us one of three million versions of "Brief & Beautiful" last year barely counts). I liked Maria Haukaas Storeng's debut album, too; it was a pleasant though not really exciting Idol contestant album. I never really fell in love with '60s-flavored "Hold On Be Strong," her top five-placed entry for Norway and a fan favorite in last year's Eurovision, though.

Still, I'm going to hold out some hope that a combination of Anna, a Swedish singer who took Estonia to third place in Eurovision 2002 but has failed to make it out of the semifinals in both her subsequent tries at Melodifestivalen (one with the fantastic "We're Unbreakable"), and Maria, a Norwegian singer who like Anna has a good voice and has been involved with songs I liked in the past (though I'd easily choose Anna's back catalogue over Maria's), yields something great. Even if the duet aspect feels kind of gimmicky to me, they're two singles I have a great amount of good will towards.

The songwriter include half of the team that so successfully jumped on the modern '70s-inspired falsetto pop bandwagon with Rongedal's "Just A Minute" last year. In a probably unsurprising turn of events, this year, they're jumping on the Amy Winehouse-induced '60s pop bandwagon with "Killing Me Tenderly," a song they describe as a cross-fertilization of Tina Turner and ABBA with today's sound and inspiration from Duffy, with a thought towards James Bond. Anna has added that it's a mid-tempo song kind of similar to "Hold On Be Strong." She says it has a groove to it which has a big, melodic chorus and verses that are a little funkier. Pauline was the song's demo singer and, given her recent singles' sound, we can probably glean from that information an idea of what the song sounds like, even if Pauline didn't want to sing it at Melodifestivalen. People who have heard the song generally reference Duffy, a fact which doesn't thrill me--I'm generally left cold by the songs in that style--but there is significant positive buzz surrounding "Killing Me Tenderly."

To watch: for Anna, I should probably post her great performance of "Runaway" from Eurovision, but I've always preferred "We're Unbreakable" (though "Runaway" is great, too), so here's her performing that at Melodifestival 2003

For Maria, here's "Hold On Be Strong" from the final of Eurovision 2008.

5.) Thorleifs, "Sweet Kissin' In The Moonlight" (Lina Eriksson/Mårten Eriksson)
Dansband Thorleifs have been around for a long time and have a large following among fans of the genre, enough to make their albums big sellers in Sweden. This is their first appearance in Melodifestivalen. They will be singing a song written by people who have done songs like Nordman's "I lågornas sken" from last year, Jessica Andersson's "Kom," Magnus Bäcklund's "The Name Of Love," and Marie Picasso's Idol winner's single "This Moment." "Sweet Kissin' In The Moonlight" is described by its writers as a Swedish shuffle with a spoonful of schlager and ABBA seasoning served up in a dance version.

To watch: I've got to be honest and say that I know pretty much nothing of the group's work, so if anyone wants to offer up a suggestion of something better to embed, please let me know. For now, though, here's an ad for their latest album that plays clips of some songs on it.

6.) Sarah Dawn Finer, "Moving On" (Sarah Dawn Finer/Fredrik Kempe)
Big-voiced Sarah Dawn Finer may have done work before 2007, but her big breakout occurred that year when she sung the MOR but great ballad "I Remember Love" to fourth place at the Melodifestival final.

She returns to the contest this year with a very different song, one co-written by Fredrik Kempe, and an incredible amount of buzz around her. Many people are saying "Moving On" is of winning class, but to write that is to understate all the positive things being said about it. Suffice to say that Sarah, who can almost surely be counted on to deliver vocally, seems to have come up with something incredibly special song-wise, too. It's described by its writers as a big, dynamic, dramatic, epic song which is hopeful but has a tiny bit of sadness in it. Sarah describes the song as a rollercoaster that takes one further in life after a setback and dares one to believe in oneself and pick oneself up when one falls. She adds that the performance will (if plans haven't changed since her interview with QX) be inspired by part of her name (presumably "dawn"), with the look and movements being inspired by an Asian film. Schlagerprofilerna's sources suggest that it's the sort of song that would be sung at the end of the first act of a musical.

If everything people are saying can be counted on as true, Sarah is not just the one to beat this week--she may very well be the one to take home the whole contest.

Sarah has a new album coming out after Melodifestivalen. She's already released one single from it, "Does She Know You." She's worked with Dilba, Magnus Tingsek, Fredrik Kempe, and writers from her last album.

To watch: Sarah performing "I Remember Love" in her semifinal in Melodifestival 2007

7.) Next 3, "Esta noche" (Michael Xavier Barraza/Jimmy Almgren/Adam Soliman)
Next 3 seems to be not just new to Melodifestivalen but new, period. The three person boy band will be singing a song which its writers (the primary one being Michael Xavier Barraza, with some of the group helping with lyrics) describe as a fusion of R&B, hip-hop, and Caribbean rhythms and a mix of rap, reggaeton, and pop in Swedish and Spanish (with a few English words). They say you could dance to it if you wanted to. Michael has also said that "Esta noche" is a rap/hip-hop song with a schlager-seasoned chorus, modern and with a Latin flavor and not influenced by ABBA.

To watch: a low quality video of the group performing a song of theirs called "Baby (Give Me A Try)." If the quality of this video leaves you still clueless as to what they sound like, YouTube also turns up what the poster claims is a studio recording of theirs called "Get Crazy" and "Baby (Give Me A Try)" is playing on their MySpace.

8.) Malena Ernman, "La Voix" (Fredrik Kempe/Malena Ernman)
The final spot of the fourth semifinal has since 2006 been taken by acts who at worst finished second in the final (Andreas Johnson) or, twice, acts who won the whole thing (Carola and Charlotte Perrelli). This year it goes to opera singer Malena Ernman. Malena, who frequently does comedic performances, might not incite excitement among many of you, but the name Fredrik Kempe, the writer of Måns Zelmerlöw's "Cara Mia" and Charlotte Perrelli's "Hero" (among other songs), might get your ears to perk up. Then again, others of you might be feeling that Kempe is wearing out his formula.

If you fall into that last camp but still count yourself as a lover of Sweden's up-tempo disco-pop and schlager, prepare to be apologizing to Fredrik for every having doubted him. Sarah Dawn Finer's entry might have the biggest buzz of all going into this week, but the reviews of "La Voix" have gone beyond tantalizing (with even Sarah calling it cool and tough to beat): the song, described by its writers as a furious grandiose declaration of love set to the combination of pop and opera (and danceable), is, according to those who've heard it, going to send schlager fans into absolute meltdown...and maybe with the fact that Malena is (or at least was) planning a performance with what she describes as "good-looking broad-shouldered men" they'll have reason to be excited about more than just the song.

The pop and opera combination is a return to roots for Fredrik Kempe, whose debut single was the fantastic "Vincero," a techno-pop-meets-opera tour-de-force. If you've missed that Fredrik, have been left feeling like this year's contest has been a bit low on true stunners, or just live for Sweden's stormers, "La Voix" is apparently a song to wait for with baited breath.

To watch: Malena performing "Rosina's Cavatina." You'll see a lot of that humor and mugging I was talking about.

What I expect to love: this is one of those heats where I can see myself enjoying almost every song and finding multiple classics. I'm almost preemptively freaking out over Malena's song; I'm expecting it to be a revelation on "Alla Flickor" levels, only with a solid vocal performance. I'm anticipating Sarah Dawn Finer's song almost as much. Agnes and Star Pilots' songs are both ones I'm hoping and expecting to love (with me having slightly bigger hopes for Agnes). Despite all the positive things being said about it, I do have reservations about Anna Sahlene and Maria Haukaas Storeng's song, as I mentioned above, mainly for style reasons, but I'm cautiously hoping to enjoy the song. Next 3 are basically there as cannon fodder and I wasn't going to expect them to be anything else, but when researching this post, I listened to "Baby (Give Me A Try)" and actually liked it, finding it more interesting than I expected. The whole Caribbean rhythm thing makes me think "Esta noche" might have significantly less edge to it than that song and I still think they'll stand no chance against this line-up, but there's now actually at least a chance I might like their song. Maybe Thorleifs will have something decent--nice--but I'll be surprised if I love it and am already gearing myself up for being upset at them for taking a place from a song I think is much more deserving.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

You hang on to a castle of sand

Well, that's the result I feared and kind of expected for most of my pre-performance preferred songs (based on the announcement of the top five). Let's see what happens next.

Friday, February 20, 2009

In and out of love

We're in the thick of Melodifestival season, and what am I spending my free time doing? Guessing Melodifestival rejects from this year.

It's a pretty fun game, even if one I'm not particularly good at. It is pretty early in the year, though, so we might not have heard many of them yet. Some we might not hear at all until another Melodifestival, if ever.

The ones I've got (well, am guessing) so far (all of these made it past at least the preliminary submission stage and appear on the list SVT released of the rejects), though obviously the artists who ended up performing them aren't necessarily the ones who would have performed them in the contest:

Trine Jepsen, "I'll Never Fall In Love Again": this schlagery song may not have done too well in Denmark's national final, but I still really like it. The songwriters are Swedish (or at least some of them are) and the song was originally listed in press releases as "I Never Fall In Love Again," the same title as one of the songs on SVT's list.

Neo, "Born To This World": interesting idea, this (I presume the "Born To This World" SVT listed was this one both because the title isn't incredibly common and the song is only a few seconds longer than three minutes)--I wonder if Neo, sometimes the purveyor of '60s/'70s falsetto pop and sometimes electronic pop ranging from BWO to Evan, would have ended up this song if it had been chosen for Melodifestivalen? It's good and catchy, but "Higher" and "Flower Power Supergirl" both get me dancing more (and I've got a thing for "Play The Song," too). Speaking of "Higher," there was a Melodifestival reject with that title, too, but that's a far more common title (and the song length isn't nearly so perfect, though obviously that can be changed), so it's probably a coincidence.

Sara Löfgren, "Glöd": former Fame Factory contestant Sara was so close to making her second appearance in Melodifestivalen, as this song really was going to be sung by her. Instead, "Glöd" made it to the final round of the song selection but no further, and instead had to settle for being released as a single by Sara (at least, I think it was released as a single--I definitely heard it on the radio, but I'm not sure if it ever got a commercial release).

Anorah, "Never Heard Of Him": it's probably for the best that this catchy attitude-filled semi-narrative pop-rock song about getting walked in on while you're in the middle of cheating didn't make it into the contest since it would never have fit in (and if it had qualified and someone other than Anorah had performed it, I'm picturing a performance we all would have remembered in the way we remember The Nicole's performance). It's a shame, though, that no one understands what I'm referencing when I quote's got more than its share of...shall we say...memorable lines.

You wonder
Why my skirt
Is turned backwards inside out

I don't know but
Ohh, I've got some slippery floors
The wind's pretty strong outdoors
I fell and my skirt just kind of flipped this way I guess

Alex mentioned that Johan Krafman's songs were submitted to and rejected from Melodifestivalen, too, though I'm not sure which that's true for (presumably "Disarmed," but I don't know).

If you've got any guesses or corrections, I'd love to hear them. View the lists of the top 116 and the finalists for yourselves.

That's just the way my life goes

Let's try to play some catch up on the Eurovision entries I haven't had a chance to write about yet. I won't get to go through all of them, but here are my thoughts on a few.

Ireland just chose their entry, Sinead Mulvey & Black Daisy performing "Et Cetera" (written by some of the same people as Hera Björk's "Someday"), and it's so close to being something I could completely love. Upbeat '80's pop-rock-meets-90s-American-teen-movie-soundtrack sprinkled with synths, swirling surf guitars, and hand claps--it all reads like a dream on paper. The chorus just lacks the catchiness I want from it; given the number of hooks in the rest of the song, it's such a shame that (to steal a comment made by a commenter about another song) the title phrase's hook is so weak. "Et Cetera" doesn't say Eurovision to me, but it's still a good song. It's just not the fun fantastic one that it could have been.

That performance mix has the instrumental part turned down pretty low, though, so you might be better off listening to the studio version.

I've written before about how much I enjoy songs written by Greek songwriter Dimitris Kontopoulos--he's an incredibly underappreciated songwriter who usually makes particularly great hard-hitting electronic up-tempo pop music. Elli Kokkinou's "Ise oti thelo," one of my favorite singles of 2007, is a prime example.

By rights, then, Greece choosing to have him write all three of the songs for their national final, with Sakis Rouvas having been internally selected to be the performer, should have been an all-win situation for me. Sadly, that's not quite how it played out in the end. Maybe after writing the dreamy-but-uptempo "Stous 31 Dromous," the siren-featuring "Ola Giro Sou Girizoun," and the revvy "Kai Se Thelo," Dimitris had used up all his "writing great songs for Sakis" ability, as every one of those earlier singles was better than the admittedly also dancey song ultimately chosen, "This Is Our Night."

I think there might be a great song somewhere in there, but my main problem is that I'm not yet convinced by Dimitris's decision to place such heavy emphasis on the short opening word ("fly," "time") of the second line of each part of the chorus. Then again, maybe I'd just like it a lot more if it was in Greek. It's still not a bad song, but knowing Dimitris has done so much better and the potential of the musical backing track makes it frustrating that can't fully love "This Is Our Night." Still, I expect it's going to have a great presentation to go with it in Moscow.

After getting my hopes up for Belgian singer but Turkish entrant Hadise's entry, too, I'm a little let down with the current version of "Düm Tek Tek," but apparently the pop song--kind of in the mode of something like Kalomoira's "Secret Combination" (so really, by that I mean it's from the post-Helena Paparizou "My Number One" school of Eurovision pop songs)--is going to have some tweaking done to it. Last-minute tweaking worked successfully with Turkey back in 2003, so I'm hoping for a similar result to take this OK song to a great or fantastic one.

People, take a bow, show me that you love me

Listen to one minute of each of this week's Melodifestival songs here.

I'm left feeling a little underwhelmed by most of the songs I was hoping to love and slightly positively surprised by a few I had lower hopes for--but not enough to change my feeling that the third semifinal, which has in past years given us some true classics and great fun pop songs, isn't that strong this year.

Hopefully, though, hearing the songs in full will increase my appreciation of them.

If not, apparently we're going to be spoiled for fantastic songs next week.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Don't have to be beautiful but it helps

Sometimes you say so much about a song outside of your blog that you entirely forget to mention it at your home base of writing. That's the case with the latest Pet Shop Boys' single, "Love etc.", which I've still not tired of despite playing it on near repeat when it first debuted on the Internet. Complete with moody electro production that worms and slinks its way into your brain, group chants, and some of the best lines of the year, it's a song I'm hoping to figure out how to do proper justice to when it inevitably makes my single countdown at the end of this year.

We're not really here to discuss "Love etc.", though--we're here to appreciate the duo performing a medley at the Brits to go along with receiving an award for "Outstanding Contribution to Music."

For all your Pet Shop Boys needs, Chart Rigger and XO's Middle Eight are the places to go.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The city is all we need tonight

Maltese (but Swedish Idol winner) Kevin Borg's second single--and his first post-winner's single release--"Street Lights" is a big cheesy half-mid-tempo half-ballad affair, full of strings, layered vocals, lines like "we don't need Hollywood or the big screen, baby," and not innovative or up-tempo or edgy in any way, shape, or form...

...and heaven help me, but I think I like it. It really is the least edgy song you'll probably hear this year and its perfect Melodifestival length of 3 minutes on the dot couldn't be more deceptive--well, scratch that, put this in Swedish and maybe it would fit into the contest. Pretty well, actually. I don't want it there, though: so much of what makes the song great is the production dressing it up, and that would largely be lost in a live context.

The important thing is that somehow, everything--the jumping strings, the tinkling bells, the cheesy lyrics, the occasional flirtation with guitar epic production before returning to young male teen pop-meets-MOR glossy production, the melody that sometimes like it's just one big build-up to something that never comes--works for me. That aforementioned "we don't need no Hollywood" line isn't even that hooky, and yet I've had it replaying in my head since first hearing it. The song doesn't mark Kevin as any sort of exciting force in the world of pop, but it's just so darn...pretty.

I've got no idea who the writer or producer of "Street Lights" is, but I do know Kevin has worked with Peter Sjöstrom, who apparently did Måns Zelmerlöw's "Paradise" and Celine Dion's "Shadow Of Love."

To buy Kevin Borg's single "Street Lights," go here (physical) or here (digital; link should work shortly).

Monday, February 16, 2009

I can walk a thousand miles whenever

One more shameless moment (well, who am I kidding, one more for now.)

When I saw this right after it happened, I was going to take the high road and not post it--you know, stick to my usual high journalistic standards of only subtly ogling ("subtly").

I'm helpless, though, so here we are.

Good, now that's out of my system and we can all move on. Let's be honest, though: since with Måns it really is almost entirely about his striking face, the whole jumping in ice-cold water thing would have been a lot more entertaining if H.E.A.T (or just their drummer, Crash) had lived up to their side of the bargain.

(Neither of these photos really gets him across, though.)

And with any credibility thus destroyed, I'll now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

And two wrongs don't make a right but two rights, they can't go wrong

I wasn't kidding about writing about Swingfly's new single, "Touch And Go," until everyone realizes how fantastic it is.

If you like pop, how can you not like that bliss-inducing female-sung chorus? If you like rock, how can you not like the instrumental backing with its bouncing percussion beat and tambourine (well, granted, you can't hear it as well in the low quality video audio)? If you like rap, how can you not find Swingfly a great narrator? Those three genres meshed together and enhanced with, once again, a fantastic sense of melody--it sounds cheesy to say and a song this fun may not necessarily be seeking this label, but there's something just a little magic about "Touch And Go." It would be a perfect end of summer song (the pop-rock part of the song sounds tailor-made for the waning days of summer), but spring will do nicely as well.

Not alone

This coming semifinal, the third overall, has the chance to give us a solid top four. Will that happen? That will depend not just on the voters but whether the artists participating live up to the potential they have. There are also a good number of acts here that I can imagine just being filler.

Sources: QX (1, 2), Gylleneskor, SVT, HD, SR, Schlagerprofilerna (1, 2), Velvet's official site,

1.) Velvet, "The Queen" (Tony Nilsson/Henrik Janson)
Backing singer turned artist in her own right Jenny Petterson, a.k.a. Velvet, has built herself quite a fanbase among fans of Swedish dance-pop. She makes her third appearance in Melodifestivalen this year, following 2006's Latin-flavored "Mi Amore" (which made it to the second chance round but no further, though it did prompt a revamp of the rules so that artists in the second chance round got to perform their songs again) and 2008's disco "Déjà Vu" (which didn't make it out of its semifinal). Outside of the contest, she's released a good number of great dance-pop songs; her 2006 album may have been Finally, but that title, accurate for its time, would be even more appropriate for her upcoming album The Queen: we've been waiting for it since she released the amazing swooshy dance-pop song "Fix Me" in early 2007. In the intervening time, she's released four additional singles, meaning that by the time the song "The Queen" comes out, she'll have released six singles from her new album before it's even come out.

If September is the queen of classy Swedish dance-pop, Velvet tends to make more hands-in-the-air sort of stuff, big fun dance your worries away tracks which sparkle with a touch of '80's. "The Queen" may be a bit of a change for her, though; Velvet has said it's not like her other tracks. Since she explained that by saying that it's dancier and poppier, though, I'm not worried (as well as confused--how a song could possibly be both poppier and dancier than what she's previously released, I have no idea). Velvet has also said the song is a cool electro dance song and will have a Madonna-inspired performance. The song is co-written by Tony Nilsson (of Ola's best songs, Elin Lanto's "Discotheque," Johan Krafman's music, very underrated work for himself, and, in addition to other songs, my probably undying musical love) and is described by its writers as an attitude-filled retro hit which you either love or hate. Schlagerprofilerna said a little while ago that, out of the girl pop group of Marie Serneholt, Agnes, Amy Diamond, and Agnes, Velvet had the most buzz.

Supposedly The Queen, Velvet's new album, comes out March 18. By that point, we'll have heard at least seven tracks on it--the singles plus "Sound Of Music"--and maybe eight, if "My Rhythm" is on it. She's also just about to release "Chemistry" in the UK, complete with, as Chart Rigger pointed out, a Pete Hammond remix.

To watch: other people have other favorites, but I still love "Fix Me" too much to not post it

2.) Rigo & the Topaz Sound feat. Red Fox, "I Got U" (Rodrigo Pencheff/Tobias Karlsson)
I tend to associate Rigo, a member of Infinite Mass and a solo artist, with kind of Latin-influenced urban pop (or hip-hop), sometimes reggaeton-influenced. I'm not hugely familiar with his work, though. Topaz Sound is the band backing him up here, I think, and Red Fox is a reggae singer. The songwriters describe "I Got U" as a happy '50s-'60s inspired song with a Caribbean touch, not a hip hop song but not schlager either.

To watch: the music video for "Vamos a bailar"

3.) Molly Sandén, "Så vill stjärnorna" (Ingela "Pling" Forsman/Bobby Ljunggren/Marcos Ubeda)
Bert Karlsson, a record company svengali who always tries to get artists in Melodifestivalen, has been trying to get Molly in the contest since the 2008 edition. Now she's actually old enough to enter and, unsurprisingly, here she is. Even without Bert, though, I would've expected and hoped to see her in the contest after her breakthrough in 2006, when she won Sweden's national final for Junior Eurovision and took Sweden to what was by far its best place, third. The song that did it for her, her self-written schlager ballad "Det finaste någon kan få," is nothing short of fantastic (as well as my go-to proof for the fact that yes, I can love schlager ballads).

As a commenter mentioned recently, Molly may be younger than Amy Diamond, but she has a much older-sounding voice; if it's Amy's voice that you find the main stumbling block with liking her, you may have a much better chance of liking Molly. Hopefully her song, described by its songwriters as a beautiful ballad about when destiny finally happens and by Molly as atmospheric, beautiful and with a Nordic touch, is worthy of her; along with Sarah Dawn Finer, Molly is one of my two big ballad hopes for this year. The songwriters are Melodifestival stalwarts, which means they've penned both songs I love and songs I feel no attachment to--hopefully this is one of their better efforts, but it could go either way. Christer Björkman says the song is a classic Swedish ballad, but I'm not necessarily going to take his word for it. Schlagerprofilerna did say that they'd heard "Så vill stjärnorna" is a strong ballad that those who've heard it expect to end up in Globen.

To watch: Molly singing "Det finaste någon kan fa," of course (here at the Swedish final for Junior Eurovision). Keep in mind this was back in 2006 when she was fourteen; she's only had time to grow up and get better since then.

4.) E.M.D., "Baby Goodbye" (Erik Segerstedt/Mattias Andréasson/Danny Saucedo/Oscar Görres)
Made up of three former Idol contestants, boy band E.M.D. has yet to really impress me. Given that Sweden is the source of most of the boy band classics, a Swedish boy band really should be releasing fantastic songs, not uninspiring covers of "All For Love" and generally decent but unmemorable material. Given that Danny, since before joining the group, has been the singer of fantastic dance-pop songs, the fact that the group has a serious lack of great up-tempo songs has been disappointing for me. That hasn't stopped them from doing very well in Sweden, though, building up a large number of fans and (somewhat crazily) taking home the title of year's best track with "Jennie Let Me Love You" at Sweden's 2008 Grammis.

Their description of their self-written entry, "Baby Goodbye" (chosen at the last minute instead of the Jörgen Elofsson-penned "Saturday Night," currently released as a single by group member Erik) is exactly the thing they needed to say to get me interested in it despite my reservations: a self-confident up-tempo song that isn't a typical E.M.D. song. and the sort of thing that would do well in Europe. It's true that co-writer Oscar Görres did one of the better tracks on the group's debut album, the melodic piano-and-strings "Run To You," but my real hope is that he and Danny have indulged their electronic and dance sides that so far they've shown everywhere else besides the E.M.D. project. "Hey (I've Been Feeling Kind Of Lonely)," "Blue," "Running Away," and "Turn Of The Sound" from Danny's solo albums were all co-written by Danny and Oscar. Oscar is also the co-writer of The Provider's electronic pop song "Wanna Feel Real," Monrose's "Hit 'n Go," and Donal Skehan's "Double Cross My Heart," which is a pretty poppy catalogue. I'm hoping that the group will have decided they'd rather be Danny-as-a-group or "Bye Bye Bye"-era 'N Sync and, at least for "Baby Goodbye," have gone in that direction. That's probably hoping for too much, especially since their interviews have made it sound like it was mainly Erik who wrote it, but there's a chance the group could exceed the low quality expectations I think people have for them.

To watch: E.M.D. performing (via playback) "Jennie Let Me Love You," their second single and first original single

5.) Mikael Rickfors, "Du vinner över mig" (Thomas G:son)
Mikael Rickfors is, from what I understand, one of those artists who's been around for a long time in Sweden and has worked as both part of a group and solo. He's not an artist who's work I'm not familiar with, despite the large number of albums he's released. Thomas G:son is a name I'm familiar with, given the generally schlager-inclined writer's large output over the years--sometimes throwaway (Anna Book's "Samba Sambero") and sometimes great. Mikael is generally more of a rock artist, though, not your typical Melodifetival act, and he says "Du vinner över mig" is a rock song which only has just a little schlager in it.

"Du vinner över mig" is described by G:son as "'80s style in a leather suit," whatever that means.

To watch listen: "Vingar," an '80's hit of his

6.) Maja Gullstrand, "Här för mig själv" (Thomas G:son/Marcos Ubeda)
Maja, like many a past Melodifestival contestant, appeared on reality singing show Fame Factory. For all that, though, she doesn't make music in a "typical Melodifestival style" at all--it's quirky light jazzy bossa nova style stuff. From the description of the songwriters, it sounds like that's what we should expect here, too; they say "Här för mig själv" is groovy trendy neo-retro bossa nova clad in flowery yellow velour pajamas (yes, that's really the description). Maja has released two albums in Sweden, but it's still unlikely she's got the fanbase to push her onto the next round. Still, strange things can happen in Melodifestivalen.

To watch: Maja singing maybe her biggest hit, "Alla dessa ord," live

7.) Sofia, "Alla" (Dimitri Stassos/Henrik Wikström/Irini Michas/Nina Karolidou)
Sofia has competed in Melodifestivalen once before, failing to make it out of her semifinal with "Hypnotized" in 2007 (despite me thinking the Greek-flavored up-tempo pop song--kind of in the style Helena Paparizou used to do--was the second best track in its heat). She's done a little in other countries since then but not anything in Sweden. Now blonde, she returns to the contest with a rock-inspired ethno-pop song--tough pop-rock with a cool riff according to the writers--all in Greek and in a Eurovision pop style. It's co-written by one of the writers of "Hypnotized" and the man who was, at some point in the past two years, working on an album with her, Dimitri Stassos. Henrik Wikström has contributed to too many Melodifestival tracks to name while the other two songwriters are making their first appearance in the contest (though I've written positively about Irini Michas's Greek-flavored dance-rock-pop song "Play" before).

To watch: Sofia performing "Hypnotized" at Melodifestivalen 2007

8.) BWO, "You're Not Alone" (Fredrik Kempe/Alexander Bard/Anders Hansson)
On paper, this should be an easy contender for the title of best song in Melodifestivalen. Three-time entrant electronic pop group BWO's past two entries into the contest, "Temple Of Love" and "Lay Your Love On Me," have both been quality tracks loved by the fans (and they took second and third respectively at Melodifestivalen) and the group has made many a fantastic pop track since their 2005 debut album, Prototype. Composed of singer Martin Rolinski (a former reality TV singing contestant), Alexander Bard (a pop maestro behind songs by Army of Lovers and Alcazar among many others), and Martina Schiptjenko (who does the group's frequent fabulously spoken middle eights), BWO have an admirable commitment to making modern (or maybe more aptly futuristic) pop music--a commitment which they take seriously--and never fail to be impeccably styled. In my opinion, though, the group was a little off their game with their third album, a fact I was made less worried about when they debuted the "Hung Up"-like "Lay Your Love On Me" in last year's Melodifestival. Unfortunately, he two new tracks on their greatest hits besides that song weren't exciting for me, but they're a group I'm always going to want to like.

With songwriters like those of "You're Not Alone," though, one has to hope for the best even more so than you would just because BWO is involved. Bard, as mentioned, has put his name to many a great pop track. Fredrik Kempe's star has risen rapidly in Melodifestivalen since 2007's "Cara Mia," with him winning with Charlotte Perrelli's "Hero" last year and scoring a number of entries this year. Anders Hansson, like Bard, is a writer and producer with pop roots running back a long time, at least to the '80's, and also like Bard worked with the Alcazar of the past, though unlike Bard he's also working with the group in its current incarnation. In addition to co-writing Alcazar's "Stay The Night" from this year, he's also the man behind Agnes's latest album, which includes the top-notch disco-pop track "Release Me." He's a man whose work I'm always going to be interested in, even if every track isn't a 10 out of 10 for me.

Add up three exciting pop songwriters like that and a group as interesting and capable of pop brilliance as BWO and you should get something fans are dying to hear--and they are. Will it be worth the wait? I'm far more nervous than I want to be. "You're Not Alone" exists in two versions, one ballad and one disco, and it's the ballad version--described as a modern dramatic electro gospel ballad--the group has chosen to enter into the contest, though the song didn't start its life as a ballad and it's said they've left open the option of entering the disco version in Eurovision should they win and many other countries choose to send ballads. Part of me is extremely skeptical of acts who I prefer doing up-tempo work who've entered great songs in Melodifestivalen in the past "going ballad" in search of a win. Anyway, BWO says the song starts small and then becomes really big before ending small again and that it will remind people of Dima Bilan's "Believe," while Schlagerprofilerna referred to it as "Timbaland meets Army of Lovers." BWO also say it shows off Martin's voice. The group says they've changed their image, too: they're going more sci-fi and more futuristic.

A new album, Big Science, will be coming out April 1 and boasts producers including the aforementioned Bard and Hansson as well as another frequent Melodifestival songwriter, Henrik Wikström, and Johan Fjellström, the man behind West End Girls and Star Pilots as well as Verona's 2007 entry "Ti Sento." The group has at various times said that its new sound will be "inspired by such varied sources as Duran Duran, The Killers, contemporary electronic pop, classic soul and R&B" and that it is a little like the Killers and has some traces of Kraftwerk, but with BWO production still.

To watch: BWO performing "Temple Of Love" at Melodifestivalen 2006. If they mean it when they say this new song is more gospel, though, maybe "Chariots Of Fire" would be a better indication of what to expect, even if that is up-tempo.

What I expect my favorites to be
: this is kind of hard--there are some people I'm hoping to like but that, moreso than in the past weeks, I could just as easily be left unmoved by. I want to love Velvet's song and I do like most of her work and Tony Nilsson's work so it looks promising, but "Deja Vu" isn't a song I return to at all at this point. As I said above, I have real concerns about BWO, concerns I'm hoping are misplaced. There's still a good chance their song will be one of my favorites of the week, though. Molly is right up there too for me, though once again, I don't feel safe about the song yet. That's even more true for E.M.D.; there's a good chance I'll rank their song in my top four, but will they really turn things around and be as fantastic as a Swedish boy band should be? I liked Sofia's last entry, but the rock part of the description does make me a bit nervous considering that the "heavier" songs I've heard from her and from those writers are more often misses than hits for me. Those first four--Velvet, BWO, Molly Sandén, and E.M.D.--are the four I'm guessing will be my favorites, though, and there's a decent chance I'll like Sofia's song, too. There's some great potential here, but equally potential to be let down.

Hold on

More vitally important Måns Zelmerlöw news: the tracklisting for MZW, released March 25, is out. There's apparently a special edition out two days later, but CDOn doesn't list any song differences.

1.) Hope And Glory
2.) One Minute More
3.) Freak Out
4.) Impossible (Album Version)
5.) Find Love
6.) Rewind
7.) Forever
8.) Saved Again
9.) Home
10.) A Stranger Saved Me
11.) Whole New World
12.) Hold On
13.) Et Maintenant (Live)

The tracklisting for the "Hope & Glory" single (out March 4), meanwhile, is this:

1.) Hope & Glory
2.) Hope & Glory (PJ Harmony Remix) (oh please let this be as good as the PJ Harmony remix of Andreas Johnson's "A Little Bit Of Love")
3.) Hope & Glory (Chainbreaker Remix by Holter and Erixon) (Oscar Holter? Could be interesting.)
4.) Hope & Glory (Acoustic Version)

I'm sorry for not getting the semifinal preview up yesterday--it's partly done and I'm hoping it'll be up today; if not, I'll make sure it is by tomorrow.

Edit: OH NO...

With a bit more time to think about it, it's only just occurred to me: please, oh please, let "Whole New World" not be Måns singing the original English version of this. If someone thinks we needed that as an ALBUM TRACK, they are crazy.

The fact that he's actually sung it before, albeit in Swedish, has got me worried. Surely they wouldn't put it on an album that's supposedly got R&B influences, though...right? I'm usually from the "the more tracks on the album, the better--I can always just ignore what I don't like" camp, but that would completely throw off the flow, wouldn't it? Put it out as a b-side or something.

He has also performed "Et Maintenant" before (which I didn't realize until Euro Sheep pointed it out). He does it well, though, and looks so lovely doing it that I can't complain, even if, as I said in the comments, Grégory Lemarchal's version is probably always going to be pretty tough to beat in the "reality TV singing contestants performing 'Et Maintenant'" stakes.

To be kind of lazy, let me just steal my own words from the comments.

The really strange thing about Måns having this track on the album is how it works in with that track he mentioned he was considering sending into Melodifestivalen but decided not to because he needed to dance--he said that was a ballad with a French martial beat, which is a pretty accurate description of the song he's covering there, too. Does that mean we're getting another song on the album that's a ballad with a French marching beat (in addition to that last track)? He surely can't have been referring to "Et maintenant," considering he didn't write it and it's not an original track. Maybe he just really likes songs like that...and maybe was inspired by "Et maintenant" on whatever that other track was.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

This will be the one

After today's show, my main question is this: when do they start production on mass-produced models of Måns? I want one. Valentine's Day wish?

I'm much more content with this week's results than last week. Well, in one sense, there's a strong similarity between the two weeks: there was one act I was willing to throw everyone else on the fire for as long as it got through--last week, Alcazar and this week, Måns Zelmerlöw. Both did, thank goodness. In results better than last week for me, though, the top four of Måns, H.E.A.T. (the other final qualifier), Amy Diamond, and Lili & Susie are probably just about the four songs I'm most likely to listen to, even if not necessarily in that order.

I'm still having trouble characterizing my feelings towards the semifinal as a whole. Song-wise, it felt more consistent for me than last week's, but also as if it was maybe missing out on the high highs to some degree. Medium highs? Yup, it had those. Me biting my lip with my hands clasped in front of me schlager-praying Måns made it through to the final? Of course. I'm just not sure that we got a true classic out of this semifinal, whereas I can easily see Alcazar's "Stay The Night" being just that for me.

Don't get me wrong: I'm dying for the studio version of Måns's song to come out and I'll probably play it incessantly and have loads of fun doing so. It could well turn out to have a lot more lasting power than I expect it to, and it's already a song I like--a song I love. It just feels a bit...light on the bottom for me. Does that make sense? I don't necessarily need depth in the sense of emotional depth in music (if it comes to that, I actually love the lyrics to "Hope & Glory"), but I'm left imagining would it would be like if the music itself had depth to it; to some degree "Hope & Glory" feels like it's bouncing along near the "top" so much (like the sort of thing you'd wave giant flags to crossed with cheesy marching) that it ends up feeling lighter as a result. This is just minor niggling, though, like the criticism you might give to A- work instead of the A+ you know the student's capable of. The song is still my easy favorite in the semifinal and at worst my second favorite song of the contest so far, with the potential for my opinion of it to improve and improve, something which it's absolutely done with further plays of the live version (to the extent that I may regret any reservations in the future). Måns is such a star, too. And does cartwheels!

(Have I mentioned on here yet that for something like a week now "Impossible," a track from his new album and the one he put the preview of on his site, has been for sale at Swedish-only digital music store Telia? I can't remember.)

The other final qualifier, rock band H.E.A.T., had a singer with a great voice. I wish their song had a little more impact to it, was catchier, but I liked them and it at the level I expected to. I don't know that I would have put them in my top two, but I was glad they were in the top four. Plus, you've got to love a group willing to play the game by using wind machines and putting their obviously best looking member (the drummer) shirtless on stage (and having the camera go back to him and pushing him to the front of the gropu when not performing whenever possible)

Lili & Susie and Amy's songs were both OK--maybe not as good as I was hoping for (though Lili & Susie's "Show Me Heaven" is the better of the two for me), but respectable entries.

All the sites I'd been reading had talked about their dislike for or problems with Markoolio's performance, but I was still surprised at how poorly the aimed-for humor of the staging came across. In theory, Dima Bilan's eccentric and over-the-top winning performance from last year as well as his earlier second place performance from 2006 should be prime fodder for satire that, even if the general public doesn't understand, is laughed at by Eurovision fans; heck, Sergey Lazarev and Dima managed to do so easily enough for a no budget short skit when they hosted an awards ceremony together (each mocking the other), even that would obviously never have sufficed as a Melodifestival performance. The execution here just didn't work.

Cookies 'N' Beans and Jennifer Brown both put in good performances of decent songs--songs I won't be in a rush to buy but am fine with. Ditto Lasse, I suppose.