Sunday, February 20, 2011

Better or worse

It's almost a week away, but this fourth semifinal of Melodifestivalen already has me worried...about results. I'm much more optimistic about song quality. As always, I have absolutely no inside sources, so I am indebted to the below mentioned sites for their information.

Sources: SVT, Poplight, Expressen (1, 2,), QX (1, 2), Aftonbladet (1, 2,), GD

Melody Club, "The Hunter" (Kristofer Östergren/Erik Stenemo/Jon Axelsson/Nicklas Stenemo)
Melody Club entering Melodifestivalen is a bit like the Ark entering in 2007 in some ways--a credible band with a sound not known for being in the contest--and different in others--I'd say Melody Club are a little more on a downward trend in popularity than the Ark were when they entered. The group, which recently lost a member due to personal legal issues, also has a style that is more synth-inflected pop-rock than the Ark's '70s rock preference.

Melody Club says that the self-penned "The Hunter," taken from their new album (out in March), isn't jaunty but is fast-paced, surging, and at points in a minor key.

To watch: Melody Club performing second album single "Baby (Stand Up)" back in 2004

Julia Alvgard, "Better Or Worse" (Manne Hjelm/Ola Holstad/Joar Lenz)
Like Jonas Matsson in the first semifinal, Julia's participation in Melodifestivalen is the result of winning the Web Joker contest Swedish broadcaster SVT ran this year for the second time. As a result, we've heard a version of the ballad "Better Or Worse," though it will have been tweaked for its television appearance.

To watch listen: well, there aren't exactly many options, but thankfully we do have another song of hers which Damian uploaded to YouTube. Here's "I Was."

Lasse Stefanz, "En blick och nånting hander" (Alexander Bard/Ola Håkansson/Tim Norell)
Alexander Bard, songwriter behind Army of Lovers, early Alcazar, and BWO, may be the most internationally famous of that set of songwriters, but Ola and Tim found some middling international success with Secret Service (of "Flash In The Night"). Together they made up the Swedish equivalent of Stock Aitken Waterman (and even won Melodifestivalen in 1989 with Tommy Nilsson's "En dag"). Factor in an incredibly popular dansband and you've got a definite '80s flashback vibe, though Lasse Stefanz has continued with success into the present day. That's an understatement, actually--I wouldn't rush to brush off Lasse Stefanz's potential to do well this Saturday.

The group nearly competed in Melodifestivalen in 2009 with the song that became Thorleifs' "Sweet Kissin' in the Moonlight." This time, their lead singer says they described what they wanted in a song to the songwriter trio, who then made sure the song fit their requirements. He added that people will remember the last five seconds of the song for a while.

To watch: well, it's not the ideal choice based on song, but so you're viewing a decent quality video of something from the past ten years, here they are performing 2007 single "På egna vägar."

Linda Pritchard, "Alive" (Oscar Görres/Fredrik Kempe)
Linda has been a background dancer at Melodifestivalen and was in the early stages of one season of Idol, but her biggest exposure thus far came when she performed "You're Making Me Hot-Hot-Hot" in last year's Melodifestival.

Linda failed to make it out of her semifinal then, but she returns this year with "Alive." It's described as a vulnerable, powerful, stripped-down ballad written for her based on her demo version of last year's "Hollow" (sung in the contest by Peter Jöback). Linda says it is about feeling lonely but then realizing you are loved already.

Fredrik Kempe is of course well-known in Melodifestivalen at this point (with previous ballad entries including Sarah Dawn Finer's "I'm Moving On," "Hollow," and Simon Forsberg's entry this past weekend). Oscar is best known for his work with Danny as well as E.M.D.'s "Baby Goodbye," though he also co-wrote Linda's own "Miracle."

To watch: Linda performing "You're Making Me Hot-Hot-Hot" at least year's Melodifestival.

Anders Fernette, "Run" (Desmond Child/Negin Djafari/Hugo Lira/Ian-Paolo Lira/Thomas Gustafsson)
The Fame Factory winner and demo and background singer for many Cheiron-associated writers, the former Anders Johansson (or Anders J) floated through the '00s with a few hits but, especially in the second half of the decade, usually on the fringes of pop awareness. He's released a lot of music but is certainly no institution in Sweden, so this is a chance for the frequently one-man-Westlife-meets-Bryan-Adams sounding Anders to finally establish himself (and put out that album for which he's been releasing singles for the past four years).

Anders was originally meant to compete with "Don't Stop," but since songwriter Carl Falk had posted it on his MySpace, it was disqualified. Instead, he's performing a song from Desmond Child, famous for his '80s rock songs (Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" and "You Give Love A Bad Name," Aerosmith's "Dude (Looks Like A Lady) amongst others), Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca," Katy Perry's "Wakin' Up in Vegas," and about a million other songs. Let's hope this is something he put actually effort into as opposed to just reaching into a bottom drawer to fish out. The other songwriters have likewise written a conglomeration of songs (they fall in the "names pop up on random album tracks around the world" category), though nothing as internationally successful as Desmond's. They have worked with Anders before, including on ballads "If It's All I Ever Do" and "Without You."

Anders says "Run" is an uptempo song but more serious than "Don't Stop" with a simple but effective chorus that requires a good singer. "Run" was originally meant to be a single from a Celine Dion album that never happened.

To watch: the vast majority of videos of Anders performing are of dubious quality. Here's one of the more tolerable ones, Anders performing his cover of Eric Carmen's "Hungry Eyes."

Linda Bengtzing, "E de fel på mig" (Pontus Assarsson/Thomas G:son/Jörgen Ringqvist/Daniel Barkman)
Linda, despite her albums' tendency to have more pop-rock than ninety-five percent of people want from her, is known for one thing in Melodifestivalen, the contest that made her famous (though she'd been in Fame Factory before): schlager. Big, shiny, energetic, often flirty schlager. All her previous three entries--which include some of the best schlager you'll hear--have eventually made it to the final and she's improved significantly as a performer since her 2005 debut with "Alla flickor."

Pontus and Thomas are Eurovision national final veterans most associated with schlager, having written songs like Fame's "Vindarna vänder oss," Friends's "The One That You Need" and "Lysnna till ditt hjärta," and Carola's "Invincible." Jörgen, Daniel, and Pontus co-wrote Pernilla Wahlgren's "Jag vill om du vågar" from last year's Melodifestival.

Linda describes "E de fel på mig" as a typical Linda track, "a bulldozer on a ninety-degree slope without brakes. Unstoppable." She says it's about living a safe life but still dreaming of something else.

To watch: "Jag ljuger så bra" and "Alla flickor" may sneak slightly ahead of her 2009 entry "Hur svårt kan det va?" in my affections, but her performance of the latter is light years ahead of her performances of the other two, so here's "Hur svårt kan det va?"

Nicke Borg, "Leaving Home" (Jojo Borg Larsson/Nicke Borg/Fredrik Thomander/Anders Wikström)
The lead singer of the long-running rock group Backyard Babies goes solo with a rock song that is somewhat different from his group's material. Nicke says "Leaving Home" is a classic power ballad, at first stripped-down and then hard-hitting.

In addition to being co-written by Nicke and his wife, "Leaving Home" includes assistance from the Epicentre team of Fredrik Thomander and Anders Wikström. Their catchy hooks are often displayed in pop songs (for example, the oft-covered "Love Is All Around" and Alexander Schöld's "Den första svalan" in the 2009 Melodifestival), but given Nicke's rock style, their work with the Backyard Babies, the Poodles, Erik Grönwall, and Anders's membership in hard rock band Treat may be more relevant.

To watch: Nicke as part of Backyard Babies performing "Abandon."

Love Generation, "Dance Alone" (RedOne)
The four-person girl group follows up last year's self-titled semi-hit with another uptempo pop song from RedOne (most internationally famous for his work with Lady GaGa but who worked with Swedish acts like A*Teens and Darin before that), clips of which have been circulating after previews were posted in digital music stores.

To watch: unfortunately most of the group's performance videos are of low quality. Here's one from last summer of them performing "Love Generation."

Personal notes: LINDA BENGTZING LINDA BENGTZING LINDA BENGTZING. This week is pretty close to being all about Linda for me--I'd sacrifice any other entry to get her through. That said, she has a high standard to maintain, something which is going to work on my nerves until we hear reports on songs in the middle of the week. Worries about song quality and competition are guaranteed to have my mental state on a roller coaster all week.

Despite being quite happily able to "leave" half of Anders's songs, I really enjoy the other half and have tons of good will towards him. I'll be crossing my fingers that the has a good song. I'm never excited to hear that a song is recycled (and it sitting around without being snapped up in the intervening time isn't a great sign), but I'm still hopeful. I'm not sure how he's going to handle uptempo-friendly staging, though.

Love Generation's song should be fun. I'm not sure about their live performing skills, but there is more interest in them than your average fairly new girl group might have due to the RedOne connection--they're in with a chance. At the least, I imagine the song will get many iPod plays from me.

I've liked a number of Melody Club songs over the years and, though their latest album had fewer songs I connected with than ever before, I'm going to hope that this new song will be in keeping with the ones I have enjoyed.

I thought Linda Pritchard (and her song) were pretty underrated in 2010 and she's done nothing to dissuade my interest in her yet. A ballad admittedly isn't my first choice for anyone so I might not be able to rouse the excitement I'd like to, but she'll probably sing well and I wouldn't like to see her fall out of competition.

My guess as to my reaction to Lasse Stefanz: it will probably be contingent on their results. I'm not a huge dansband fan but if they pull a middling place, I'll probably like their song in a somewhat removed way; if they go straight to the final, though, I'm pretty likely to angrily think they "stole" some the spot of some act I liked more.

Rock ballads are rarely my thing (I'd rather have a big stadium-shaking crossover rock hit any day), particularly hard rock ballads, and I just don't see Nicke doing the big cheesy MOR power ballad I'd have a better chance of enjoying. Still, he's got good songwriters, so there's a little chance of a surprise.


eurovisionessex said...

There was an 'accidental' leak of a thirty-second clip of Love Generation's song on Amamzon the other day, and I have to admit that it was very, very good, and likely to be the one to beat both in Malmo and Globen. I, too, am keeping my fingers cross for Linda B, though the phrase 'Andra Chansen' is worringly coming to mind when one looks at the calibre of this week's lineup.

Ironically, Malmo will be my base this coming weekend for my trip to the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix. I may not be able to resist the temptation to buy a ticket to Saturday afternoon's MF dress rehearsal, despite the eye-watering prices!

Poster Girl said...

Yes, I'm thinking AC for her, too. "Dance Alone" DOES sound good--I'm looking forward to hearing the rest.

Now THAT would be an amazing weekend (albeit an expensive one)--Melodifestival rehearsals and the Dansk MGP (which is sounding pretty darn good this year)?! Oh, please do report back about one or both, whatever you do.

Damian said...

For now it's all about Linda Pritchard and Anders Fernette for me, I believe that I'm gonna like both songs from these songwriters and I'm sure this time both of them will try to bring some best stuff.
Amazing cover of Linda's single! You know, I'm actually afraid in this case, when Sanna and Shirley has brought their classic stuff (not that it's bad just I was waiting something completely new from both) I'm afraid to get something not surprising and not better than it was before.
Interesting what Alex Bard has prepared this time.
By the way I've discovered whole Julia's album on iTunes and it's very pleasant, relaxing and in this vocal manner, really like it!

Paul said...

I'm looking forward to Linda B, but i'm very eager to hear Love Gen too. It seems they've been floating on the periphery of pop for long enough and it's their time to come through.

also, I'm ready for Anders to break out of his little niche of success and achieve bigger things. It helps that he's one of those fellas that gets more attractive as he gets older. Like my good self i like to think :P