Monday, February 16, 2009

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.


Aaron said...

BRING ON VELVET!!! This is her year! I can't wait for the album - and I hope she goes further this year!

Damian said...

Of course the most who I'm waiting for is my beloved singer Velvet with my beloved author Tony Nilsson. I really hope for a hit and I'm sure we'll got it!
By the way my favorite song of Rigo is "Lady" but I don't wait too much from him.
I'm waiting for a big hit from E.M.D. though after "Saturday Night" I try not to wait too much as well.
Molly has just performed new song "Lova Mig" -
God knows how I love voice of this girl!!! But she works with Lion Heart songwriters who started to make quite secondary ballads after Sonja-2007. First example was Shirley, now Molly - so I don't wait too much but I'm sure that even if it will be a week song I'll love it for Molly's voice however.
BWO can create awesome dance music but when it turns to ballad Martin ruins it by voice IMHO (though it can be beautiful song). His vocal is not quite touching or quite strong for ballads so I'm sure this year BWO will go to Andra Chansen.
Sofia - I love this girl, her songwriters makes great stuff (Soraya as example - and I'm pretty sure it will be a hit too.
Mikael Rickfors and Maja Gullstrand - Mr. G:Son showed that he can do really hot stuff with Lily & Susie so we can wait something big again.
It's gonna be strong semi!

Euro Sheep said...

I know nothing in MF is certain anymore, but if EMD, Molly, BWO and Velvet do not end up progressing I will eat my hat (I think I may have to buy one first though). Out of all the semis, it's very easy to see who the big "stand out" names are - Mr Rickfors will go down like Lasse, Rigo & The Topaz Sound probably wont have enough to topple the big 4, Maja could end up being the jury choice (very similar to Caroline) and if Sofia can come only 7th with "Hypnotized" then I do worry for her...

As you and Damian have already hinted at, I really hope the Lionheart team put a few more hours into writing "Så vill stjärnorna" - it would be a great shame to see Molly's entry go down the pan like Shirley's.

I didn't know BWO were prepared to change from the ballad version to the disco version if they won - I think that would be the best idea, the Bard would be wise to do so considering that Moscow is looking very ballad heavy at the minute.

Out of everybody in this heat I think EMD are the only certain qualifiers :) as we all know their success isn't really attributed to great-song writing! I hope you're right and that they turn into "Danny-as-a-group"!

Oh, and I don't know if they are the same person but look at track 7 "The Snake" on Velvet's album - it's a collaboration with Rigo! :D

Paul said...

I'm a little bit excited about EMD, a bit more excited about Velvet and very excited about BWO. How thrilling that i will have heard the track by the weekend. I think BWO for me have now passed the point where they were innovative or stunningly new as they were in their prototype phase - however, I am incredibly fond of their tunes, and they always have a consistent excellence to them that consistently pleases me.

Alexander said...

Sofia is actually 100% Swedish, she has no Greek roots what-so-ever.

Maja is my favourite this week. I loved her in Fame Factory and the two albums she's released are both fantastic. She's got a very unique voice, it will not be everyone's cup of tea unfortunately.

"Alla Dessa Ord" is far from her biggest hit, it's however a MF-reject.

Poster Girl said...

Aaron, she's just GOT to go further this year.

I'm surprised by "Saturday Night"--maybe it was reworked for its release by Erik? As is, it's got a singalong style chorus, yes, but it's not the big attention-grabbing song you'd think they'd be offered in line with Melodifestivalen, nor is it really that schlager like it was described to be. I almost chose "Lady" for the Rigo song! Probably should have. Thanks for the Molly performance--it's great to know she seems to have an album coming and, more importantly, to hear her voice from as recent an event as possible! I'm in total agreement with you about it. The fact that there have at least been positive things said about the song by the people who've heard it gives me some hope--a little. I pretty much agree with you about Martin's voice on ballads, too--it's great for the up-tempo BWO classics, but I've yet to be convinced that I need to hear an "I Will Always Love You" moment from him (as Alexander Bard referred to the new song's demands on his voice). I do really like Sofia's songwriters usually, but I tend to prefer their slightly dance-influenced productions. Hopefully "Alla" will be catchy and I'll love it, though. I hope you're right about it being a strong semi!

Eurosheep, without having heard the songs at all, I'd be very pleased with that result! Those are the likely top four that stand out out of this list. The BWO information came from Schlagerprofilerna, and it does present an interesting possibility (albeit somewhat of a strange one given all Alexander Bard's talking about how Sweden needs to send a ballad this year). I'd completely forgotten about that Velvet track! It's definitely got to be him--he even mentions Topaz Sound System.

Being only a little excited about E.M.D. is probably the right call, Paul--I can't help holding out a little hope, but they really aren't that likely to be thrilling musically.

I didn't know that, Alex (well, obviously)! I'd somehow got it into my head she was. I've changed it--thanks for the heads-up.

EuropeCrazy said...

I think it's a bit of a foregone conclusion this week and I'll agree that Molly, E.M.D., BWO and Velvet should progress, although I'll need to hear the songs first before I try to work out who's going where.

I'm a bit nervous about BWO doing a ballad - I'm not a ballad fan anyway, I feel that BWO are at their best on their uptempo pop anthems and I agree that Martin hasn't got the voice for that big 'money note'. Still I'd love it if they could surprise me.

Can you add my name to the list of eveyone who wants 'Danny-as-a-group' please! If "Baby Goodbye" is as uptempo and high-powered as the stuff on Danny's album then I can't wait to hear it.

Poster Girl said...

I think I agree with you on all BWO points. I do hope to end up loving it.

Reports make it sound like any hopes I had for E.M.D.'s song should disappear :-/