Saturday, February 28, 2009

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.)


Yuяi said...

I hear you about the Agnes song. It's very good, but it doesn't grab you instantly. That's some big ole hair she's sporting, and the gold lame' outfit..not sure what to think about that.

Euro Sheep said...

I wish I could properly organise my thoughts, since last night I've been sounding like even more of a deranged loon!

I was sooooo happy because Malena and Agnes were my favourites and they made it! It still feels weird to have the fickle Swedish public agree with me :D

I have no idea who is my favourite for the final, let alone who is going to win!

Melodimen said...

In Love love love with last night selection!

SDF (that's the slim line version of Sarah Dawn Finer) will end up direkt I'm sure, if not Andra Chansen then the jury vote.

Moving on to Malena - what a voice! ;-)

Poster Girl said...

Yuri, that hair is gigantic. To her credit, she looks more decent in a tight-fitting shiny gold jumpsuit than someone probably should--by rights it should make anyone look totally awful, so anything even a little above that is an accomplishment.

Euro Sheep, I've been babbling words all day that probably make no sense to anyone hearing them. Thank goodness there was at least some alignment between our tastes and the taste of the Swedish voting public last night! After last year's results, maybe the last semifinal will start being the place where we can count on good disco-pop and schlager voting.

It really seems like she will. And the unchallenged title-pun champion holds solidies that championship ;)

Aaron said...

I'd love to see MF one day!

I'd like to see Agnes take it out or Mans - but I really don't care as long as I get my soundtrack!

eurovisionessex said...

I'm only just catching up with the semi 4 news, but the main story for me has to be Anna and Maria's elimination. I think 'Killing Me Tenderly' is an utterly beautiful song. What I love about Melodifestivalen is that it produces songs that would probably never get released if it were left simply to the vagaries of the music industry, and I think this might be one of those examples. I still have to get my head around 'La Voix'. Its schlager greatness escapes me somewhat at the moment, but I'm sure I'll grow to love it!