Sunday, February 08, 2009

But clickin' her heels wouldn't get her home

As with pretty much any semifinal, this coming Saturday's second Melodifestival semifinal brings with it some big names. As this past week showed, though, a big name won't necessarily get you through the competition.

As usual, this post is just intended to serve as a round-up of information already on the Internet; the credit for it goes to the sites below, which I am very much indebted to.

Sources: SVT, SR, Expressen, QX (1, 2, 3, 4), Gylleneskor, Sydsvenskan, Schlagerprofilerna

1.) Lili & Susie, "Show Me Heaven" (Susie Päivärinta/Calle Kindbom/Thomas G:son/Pär Lönn/Nestor Geli)
Sister duo Lili & Susie had a number of hits in the late '80's and early '90's (when the sisters distinguished between themselves by wearing different colors of lipstick) and make their united comeback to the world of music with a song they describe as an updated version of their old sound. The songwriters (who include Susie; Calle Kindbom, who did Fame's "Give Me Your Love" among other songs; and Thomas G:son, a songwriter who usually makes schlager and who can be hit and miss, though maybe that stems from his willingness to ship songs that don't make it into Melodifestivalen to other countries' national finals) agree, calling "Show Me Heaven" longing '80's nostalgia with a strong chorus and clear melody. The song has also been described by the sisters as a little like a dance version of their earlier hit "Bara du och jag" (a fact I cheered at, since I love that song) with the happiness of "What's The Colour Of Love," another hit of theirs. "Show Me Heaven" is said by people who've heard it to be a great song, just what you could want from their comeback. This won't be the sisters' first time in the contest, though--they entered with "Okey Okey" in 1989.

A greatest hits album with three new tracks--"Show Me Heaven," "Tease Me," and one more--will be released March 18.

To watch: oh, this is tough--the duo had a number of great '80's pop hits. I personally tend to go with "Bara du och jag" as my favorite of theirs (though it depends on the day; right now I'm madly in love with "Evelyn," kind of a power ballad but with more movement to it), but "Oh Mama" (complete with Depeche Mode-type hook at some points) might go over better, so here's that instead.

Actually, you know what, here's the fantastic "Bara Du Och Jag," too. It's just a clip of the music video, only 1:25 in length, so it's not too much of a time commitment.

2.) Lasse Lindh & Band, "Jag ska slåss i dina kvarter!" (Lasse Lindh)
Undeterred by the fact that the Melodifestival-voting public placed his subdued ballad "Du behöver aldrig mer vara rädd" sixth in its semifinal last year, singer-songwriter Lasse Lindh returns to Melodifestivalen with a song he describes as an in-your-face danceable track, the opposite of his last entry and the sort of song you open a concert with. He also says it's a classic Lasse song that is an attitude-filled fast indie-pop song which you're guaranteed to know the chorus of after one time.

To watch: his Melodifestival performance from last year of "Du behöver aldrig mer vara rädd"

3.) Jennifer Brown, "Never Been Here Before" (Jennifer Brown/Peter Kvint)
Jennifer Brown is new to Melodifestivalen but hardly new to the Swedish music scene: she's been releasing albums since 1994. Her big breakthrough, though, was in 1999 with the album Vera and the quirky-but-serious soul-pop track "Tuesday Afternoon." Jennifer is the sort of singer who has won critical praise and not the typical Melodifestival singer (though she's been rumored to be in the contest in the past)--"poppy" isn't an adjective I'd really apply to her and she's an artist you wouldn't be surprised at all to hear jazz or cabaret influences from her in music--but she's also done at least a few great pop tracks over the years (like "Trouble In Mind").

"Never Been Here Before" is written by Jennifer and Peter Kvint, the man behind both of Andreas Johnson's recent solo entries, Andreas and Carola's "One Love," and Sebastian's "When The Night Comes Falling," among other songs. They describe it as the saddest song Burt Bacharach never wrote, and elsewhere it's been said to be a soul ballad and quiet, with an appropriately fairly sedate, emotional performance.

To watch: the music video for "Tuesday Afternoon"

4.) H.E.A.T., "1000 Miles" (Niklas Jarl/David Stenmarck)
Rock group H.E.A.T. are new to Melodifestivalen and, with their appearance in it, will be introducing themselves to the mainstream Swedish music scene--they released an album in April, but I don't think they've registered on the average Swede's radar. Despite their image, from the very little I've heard of their own music, it's not full of heavy guitars; it's still rock, but it's "tamer" and with more of an emphasis on vocal melody than you might expect .

Speculation before the announcement of who would sing the track included the Poodles, who sang the demo according to Gylleneskor, so that might give us an idea of what to expect (though a later Gylleneskor article actually said that David's brother Martin Stenmarck sang the first demo but there was never talk of him doing it in the contest). "1000 Miles" is described by its writers as being in the '80's hard rock style, a song about love that is a mix of Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, and glam rock. It's been submitted to the contest three times previously without making it in, but the writers attribute its inclusion this year to Melodifestivalen now being more open to other genres.

To watch: the group performing a song of theirs, "Bring The Stars," live

5.) Markoolio, "Kärlekssång från mig" (Patrik Henzel/Karl Eurén/Marko Lehtosalo)
Swedish comedic rapper Markoolio is marketed towards kids and isn't exactly what you would call popular or cool among older Swedes, and usually for a reason. His past two albums have at least had a couple of great tracks on them, though, the most notable being 2007's "Värsta Schlagern," a duet with Linda Bengtzing that parodied the formulaicness of the schlager style, describing each of the elements needed to make a schlager song. It used all those elements so successfully, though, that it actually ended up being a fantastic song and a big hit in Sweden, a rare feat for a schlager song that wasn't in Melodifestivalen (though the track was actually a Melodifestival reject).

"Kärlekssång från mig" may include several of the songwriters of "Värsta Schlagern" (who've worked with Markoolio on many other songs but who have separately been involved with Mendez's entries, B-Boys International and Paul M's "One Step Closer," and Verona's "La Musica"), but don't be expecting another fun up-tempo romp--the songwriters describe it as a ballad with a twist. Markoolio has said that the song and performance will include humorous lyrics, stripping, and him lying on the floor and crawling around (presumably mocking Dima Bilan), though with him, you can never tell if it's a joke or not. He's also said it's got humorous lyrics but he'll deliver it seriously...but said he won't say what's going on around him while he's singing.

To watch: the actually hilarious music video for "Värsta Schlagern"

6.) Amy Diamond, "It's My Life" (Alexander Bard/Bobby Ljunggren/Oscar Holter)
Young singer Amy Diamond is met with dislike by a surprising number of Melodifestival fans, while I'm convinced she's got the potential to solidify herself as a great popstar as she grows up--I mean, she already gave us a Rachel Stevens Junior song in last year's Melodifestival! Amy, at sixteen, is four albums into her recording career. Many of her songs have a reggae-light beat to them, but if her last album is anything to judge by, she seems to be moving into a more pure electronic pop direction.

With a songwriter line-up like this one, there's every chance Amy's entry this year will be a great pop song, and maybe the one to win over some of those doubters. Alexander Bard is currently the main man behind BWO (though his pop credentials run further back than that and include Army of Lovers and Alcazar), Bobby Ljunggren is one of those common Melodifestival faces who is deservedly respected (as just a small indicator of that, all of the top three songs in last year's Melodifestival were co-written by him) but just has so many songs in the contest that his name alone isn't a foolproof guarantee of a great song, and Oscar Holter is most familiar to me through his sharp biting electro dance remixes (though apparently he also co-wrote Sanna Nielsen's "I Believe It's You"). They describe "It's My Life" as an uptempo and electro dance song with attitude. Amy says it's completely different from "Thank You" and different from her earlier work in general.

To watch: her performance of "Thank You" from last year's Melodifestival

7.) Cookies 'N' Beans, "What If" (Robin Abrahamsson/Amir Aly/Maciel Numhauser)
Country trio Cookies 'N' Beans includes the lead singer of Oh Laura, who was also previously in Melodifestivalen as part of La Roxx in 2004. They've existed as a group since 2003, but didn't release their debut album, Tales From A Trailer Trash Soul, until 2007 (I've heard nothing from it and I don't think it made much of an impression outside of Sweden's country music scene, so this will be some big exposure for them). "What If" is said by its writers to be an expressive, dynamic song which takes hold and makes you want more. QX reported that the song is neither a ballad nor up-tempo and is similar to last year's "Visst finns mirakel" by Suzie Tapper (by these songwriters) from last year.

To watch: All YouTube turns up are some live performance videos, so here's one of a song called "Now It's Too Late" (I should mention, though, that some of their other songs are much more up-tempo)

8.) Måns Zelmerlöw, "Hope & Glory" (Fredrik Kempe/Måns Zelmerlöw/Henrik Wikström)
The other half of the most poptastic couple currently in existence, Marie Serneholt's boyfriend is the act oddsmakers are expecting to win Melodifestivalen. After taking fifth in Idol and winning Let's Dance (the Swedish version of Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing With The Stars), Måns Zelmerlöw debuted to the Melodifestival world with the up-tempo pop anthem "Cara Mia" in 2007. Despite the song only making it into the contest after previously qualified songs were disqualified and Måns not yet being an established artist (it was his first single), he captured the public and the media's attention, qualifying straight to the final, taking third, and going on to have one of the biggest hits of the year in Sweden.

The former underdog now has a lot of expectations on his shoulders. In addition to the aforementioned odds of winning, just following up a beloved song like "Cara Mia" is going to be tough. Even if "Hope & Glory" is fantastic, it may suffer in some people's eyes from not being the new fresh sound that "Cara Mia" was; by now, Fredrik Kempe, the main songwriter, has already won the whole contest in 2008 with Charlotte Perrelli's "Hero," a song many people compared to "Cara Mia." Many of the reviews of "Hope & Glory" have even called it "Hero" Part Two and Måns himself has said it's an epic upgrade of "Cara Mia" (though elsewhere he's also said that, though "Hope & Glory" might have resembled "Hero" when it was a demo, it's now much more "him" and grander than "Hero" was and tried to distance the song from "Cara Mia" by saying that, though it has a great chorus like that song, "Hope & Glory" is a little dancier with a little more '70's-influenced key change). Will it be going back to the same well too many times?

Still, the song, described by its authors as a hopeful love anthem and a song everyone will remember after its first listen--one with some disco-schlager influences and a little bit of the '70's but still modern--and one Måns has said he'll be dancing to (though he's also dropped the interest contest that the lyrics, about how life is difficult and we have to fight and create our own hope and glory, are like fighting a war on stage), is one many fans of the contest are excitedly anticipating, and the fact that early reports say it's great surely isn't hurting at all.

An album, MZW, will be released on March 25. Måns worked with Fredrik Kempe and Ishi (Lazee, Petter) on it and describes it as schlager-R&B with big choruses and a good beat. You can get an early taste of one of the tracks, "Impossible," on Måns's website.

To watch: Måns's 2007 semifinal performance of "Cara Mia"

What I expect my favorites from this final to be: Måns Zelmerlöw, Amy Diamond, and Lili & Susie. What can I say? I love my up-tempo dance-friendly electronic pop. I'm open to liking all of them, though.


Alexander said...

Jennifer and L&S all the way!

Paul said...

I would have to go out on a limb, shock everyone and say I'm rooting for Mans :P Can't wait to hear the track - i think up with BWO it's the tune i'm most excited about. I will have to check out Cookie and Beans as i love the singer from Oh Laura. I still adore their debut album.

Troy said...

Im so scared for Little Amy... PLEASE GOD let her get through!


So many big names again... Mans, L & S... Jennifer... I just dont know if she can pull it off again.

I fear amy will get lost in the shuffle or end up in Andra Chansen.

Rick said...

Sorry, Troy, I think Amy should have taken a break this year. She tries too hard. I wonder if Swedes really like these perky stage school kids, overambitious and kind of scary.

After Shirley's shock 8th place last week who knows what will happen. Måns will likely do well - but even if L&S don't make it through to the final, I'll be happy just to see their return.

Poster Girl said...

Alex, I hope I like Jennifer's song--I'm not counting on it, but I'm hoping for it!

Paul, shocking! I just don't know about BWO going all electro-gospel-Timbaland ballad on us, but of course I'm hoping it'll be fantastic. Apparently one of the singers in Cookies 'n' Beans sounds like a young Dolly Parton.

Troy, it's so funny to me--but good!--that I keep seeing Lili & Susie listed among the expected big hitters in terms of how well they'll do. So many other stars from the past have stumbled. I just don't know how much we can count on them doing well vote-wise...

...but Rick, your attitude is probably the best one to have for them. It's great just to have new music.

Oh, and back to Troy: I'm hoping Amy's song is great. Tobbe seems to think the verses are forgettable but the chorus is memborable BWO-style stuff.