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.


Len W said...

It does seem to be an embarrassment of riches this week compared to week 3. I didn't realize quite what a goof Malena is, that makes me even more excited about her entry. And thanks for that MF performance of "We're Unbreakable". I knew I loved the track on the MF album, but very impressed at how well Anna's voice translates to the live contest milieu.

Paul said...

maybe the the little diamond song will finally make me pay attention to her latest album. it feels criminal not to have given it the appropriate amount of time yet! I'm eager to hear more original Star Pilots, and new boybands are always welcome (though styling issues seem to be present again. very whats up). The BWO song is slowly but surely growing on me!!

Bas said...

This heat is gonna be quite exciting! Can't wait to see Sarah back at MF again. Malena's entry sounds very interesting, something I'm probably gonna enjoy a lot. And of course Agnes, Star Pilots & Maria/Anna are something to look forward too as well. This heat will be just as enjoyable as heat 1 for me I think.

Alexander said...

I have heard AMAZING things about Sarah's entry, it's supposed to be something extra. A friend of mine (who has heard it) says Sarah uses all of her vocal range.

I wouldn't mind if we send her to Eurovision, if the song is great - I'd love for Sarah to sing the arse off everyone else!

About Susanne, she and Mikael Rickfors recorded a wonderful duet in the 80s, it's one of my favourite Swedish songs.

Can't wait to hear Agnes and Sahlene, two of my favourite singers.

Euro Sheep said...

Everybody, just everybody is saying that the winner is going to come from this semi, and I believe that we're going to have 4 songs from Malmö present in the final!

I'm hedging my bets on "La Voix" by Malena Ernman, or as I like to refer to it - the coming of Jesus in Melodifestivalen. If Agnes' entry is anything like "On And On" or "Release Me" or any other song on "Dance Love Pop" then I will be happy. Maybe it was originally meant for the album but Hansson thought it special enough for MF?

Please PPG, I hope you agree with me on this but I really did not like Sarah's 2007 entry! Compared to the brilliant "För att du finns" it just seems so basic and almost childish in comparison - and how it ever beat "Vågar du, vågar jag" I will never know!

And I had a little look at Next 3's myspace. Interestingly, the song posted there is 3 minutes long and composed by the same people (including Michael) so maybe they submitted 2 songs to SVT and the best one was chosen - what do you think of the song? I am so worried for them though, as you said they're completely new and from their interviews they don't seem very performer-like...we shall see!

Poster Girl said...

Len, I hope the Melodifestival audience takes to her this time around.

Paul, I think you are mixing up Agnes (Carlsson) and Amy Diamond--Amy is generally more reggae-pop (though her entry this year, which we've already heard, is kind of like a BWO album track since it was co-written by Alexander Bard) whereas Agnes does disco-pop (well, as of recently--she did some great pure pop songs on earlier albums). I'm happy for you that the BWO song is growing on you. It hasn't for me yet, but I would like it to. Their album will still get my attention, though.

Bas, I'm excited already! I'm trying to not get my hopes too high, but it's difficult.

Alex, that's GREAT to hear! If the song is great, I wouldn't mind you all sending her either. I hadn't heard that Susanne and Mikael song (of course!), so thanks for the tip about it. I like it!

Eurosheep, it wouldn't surprise me if four ended up there...and from the sounds of it, I wouldn't mind at all! "I Remember Love" WAS basic and doesn't have that same certain special quality about it as "För att du finns"...but I do have to say that I liked it! Take some consolation from the fact that I think "Våger du, våger jag" is epic. I think you're right about the song on their MySpace, which is puzzling--surely it must be just about as un-MF friendly as it's possible to be, all processed vocals, with a heavy reliance on production, and not straightforwardly catchy in the vocal melody. That said, it's probably more interesting than the vast majority of E.M.D.'s debut album...though interesting doesn't necessarily mean great. We're probably heading for a struggled-through performance, I'd think.

Paul said...

how embarrassing that apparently i can't even read :P

Oswald said...

From what I've heard the Haukaas/Sahlene-song is what could be if you let Duffy sing a Bond-theme but was forced to put the worlds biggest ABBA-like schlagerchorus into it at the same time...

Isn't that something to die for?

At the same time I can just agree about everything you've written about SDF and Malena. Kempe is a god, and the rumours are divine.

Malena is said to be the lovechild of his Vincero and Måns Z's Cara Mia, and just as you said; Sarahs song should be the saddest (but biggest) number in a musical right before the break.

And THEN we have Agnes. Written by Anders Hansson. I'm not sure I'll survive this.

My biggest fear is that everything that is rumoured is true - but my fellow Swedes don't understand it at all and fails to get all the songs into the Globe.

Well, in a few days we now.
I so wish the weekend would come sooner. :)


Poster Girl said...

Paul, trust me, I have so many ditzy moments that to be honest it's a miracle I'm still alive.

Ken, it's fantastic to read a comment from you! Schlagerprofilerna is like my Bible around this time and I've been reading Oswalds Popcorn for years. That does make Anna and Maria's song sound fantastic. The lovechild of "Vincero" and "Cara Mia" makes "La Voix" sound impossibly fantastic--I've got to get ahold of my skyrocketing expectations at this point, but statements like that make it difficult! And Sarah...we need a fantastic epic ballad. I'll be praying (in between cheering and shouting, I'm sure) that Swedes across the country are dialing the right numbers on Saturday ;) I may not survive either.