I think I remember reading somewhere--I can't be sure where, though my guess would by on Schlagerprofilerna or its earlier incarnation (it could just as easily have been somewhere else, though...maybe Aftonbladet, come to think of it?)--that in all his prior rehearsals, he didn't really nail the singing, especially that key change. The moment it mattered, though, in that first semifinal, he got it.
I've often wondered what would have happened if he hadn't. Another shaky performance could have left him just another footnote in the Melodifestival history books. As I said at the time and Rick mentioned Monday, he wasn't even quite as on during his performance at the final, but by then, the hype and love had built and it was fine enough to take him to a third place finish.
Things could easily have gone differently. Sure, Måns had been on Idol, but he finished fifth, and sure, he'd won Let's Dance, but he didn't have the huge fanbase going into the contest to make him a sure thing to progress forward, let alone make it directly to the final. "Cara Mia" originally didn't even make it into Melodifestivalen, only being included once two other songs were disqualified. Songwriter Fredrik Kempe had appeared in the contest twice before and had his own musical career, but he wasn't known, expected, and honored in a Melodifestival context like he is now; before 2007, those two songs he'd performed in the contest were the only two he'd ever had in it. Of his three songs in 2007, one finished eighth (last) in its semifinal after its singer's illness had its effect on her voice. The other singer with a Kempe track was Sanna Nielsen, an established Melodifestival performer and talented singer who, though not incredibly successful outside the contest, had made it to the finals in all three of her previous entrances (to be fair, her first time entering there were no semifinals, but she finished third then). She had to fight her way to the final via the second chance round after originally taking fourth in her semifinal.
In other words, neither Måns's name or having a Kempe track behind him was enough that he could have just showed up and walked his way into the final--I'm pretty sure that, great as the song is, a poorly staged or poorly sung performance of it would have sunk his chances. He was extraordinarily lucky to get a song of the quality of "Cara Mia." This we all know. He was just as lucky, though, that his one "nailed it" performance was his actual performance during that semifinal.
None of this is to question his ability to sing live now--as we've seen with Linda Bengtzing, a few years can make a world of difference--or even necessarily then, nor, for that matter, to question his developing ability as a songwriter. I'm hoping desperately, though, that not all the training he's doing is in the gym.
(You know, in some alternate universe there's a version of me--a me that was never exposed to Swedish pop, never got hooked on Melodifestivalen, maybe even never fully admitted to liking music and so never saw her narrow range of taste expand--that would hear this song and completely brush it off, maybe say it was "eh" at best. I wouldn't trade places with her for anything.)