Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lucky you

This week's semifinal, the third of four that will introduced new songs, features a couple of big names. There's also a little bit of a course correction in presentation--I'd forgotten that I used to focus on live performances where available, to give an idea of what acts' live singing skills and stage presence are like, and have now switched back to that approach.

Sources: Aftonbladet (1, 2, 3,), Poplight, QX (1, 2, 3), SVT, VK, Expressen, Sydostran, GD (1, 2)

Linda Sundblad, "Lucky You" (Linda Sundblad/Johan "Kermit" Bobäck/Fredrik Thomander/Anders Wikström)
The lead singer of rock band Lambretta-turned-solo-act has bounced back and forth between pop-rock and '80s pop, but she enters the contest this year with what she describes as a happy, warm pop song which, though sounding at home in 2011, has ABBA influences. Her co-writers have worked with her before: Fredrik and Anders (the producing duo Epicentre, best known for their early '00s teen pop work) contributed "Let's Dance" to her latest album and Johan has co-written many songs with her, among them "Pick Up The Pieces," "Serotonin," and "Damage."

To watch: Linda performing "Let's Dance," the second single from her latest album.

Simon Forsberg, "Tid att andas" (Fredrik Kempe)
Sweden's current Mr. Gay, a former Fame Factory participant, will be singing what he calls a warm, powerful ballad that allows him to show his voice. He notes that it's challenging and has lyrics he relates to.

To watch: well, since "Tid att andas" is a ballad and there aren't that many choices, here's Simon performing "The Christmas Song."

Sara Lumholdt, "The Enemy" (Niclas Lundin/Anton Malmberg Hård af Segerstadt)
The former A*Teens member makes her third attempt at launching a solo career, having earlier found little mainstream traction with her R&B-dance sound or her singer-songwriter style. This time out, she's performing a mid-tempo mix of rock, pop, and R&B. It's written by one of the members of Le Kid, Anton, but don't let that affect your expectations--it won't be in keeping with their super-poppy sound. Niclas's discography is a bit more eclectic; he's one of those songwriters whose work pops up as random album tracks in a number of different countries. There's a demo collaboration of a song called "Saturday Or Sunday Night" between Niclas and Anton on Niclas's MySpace if you maybe want to get a feel for the mood they were in when collaborating.

To watch: there aren't very much recent performances from Sara. Here's forty seconds of her singing Michelle Branch's "Everywhere."

The Playtones, "The King" (Fredrik Kempe/Peter Kvint)
The winner of Dansbandskampen 2009, this rockabilly-influenced dansband sold more albums in Sweden in 2010 than anyone else. They've described their song, written by Fredrik Kempe (best known in the contest for schlager/pop uptempos and ballads) and Peter Kvint (best known for his pop-rock work with acts like Andreas Johnson), as rock-based with a touch of rockabilly and a big tougher than their previous work. They say it has a touch of the Stray Cats (the '80s rockabilly group behind songs like "Stray Cat Strut" and "Rock This Town").

To watch: their cover of Alexander Rybak's "Fairytale" would be the obvious choice, but I never really fell for their interpretation. Instead, I'm cheating and sharing something from the lead singer's earlier incarnation as Boppin' Steve; truth be told, from the little I've heard from both eras, those earlier performances did a better job of selling them as an appealing musical proposition. Plus, their entry this year is said to be rockabilly in sound and this performance of Jerry Lee Lewis's "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" show more of that rockabilly sound than their Dansbandskampen performances did.

Shirley's Angels, "I Thought It Was Forever" (Robin Abrahamsson/ Alexander Bard/Bobby Ljunggren/Henrik Wikström)
Shirley Clamp, much-loved by many schlager fans for songs like 2004's second placed "Min kärlek," returns to the contest after a disappointing last place in her semifinal in 2009. This time, she's performing as part of a trio (though she's definitely the frontwoman). "I Thought It Was Forever" is said to be a catchy pop song with a streak of melancholy. It's not slow, says Shirley, but it's not a disco song either and it's either very happy or very sad. Bobby and Henrik frequently appear in Melodifestivalen doing all sorts of work, Alexander is well-known for his usually pop work with acts like BWO, and Robin's previous entries have been ballads for Suzie Tapper and Cookies 'n' Beans.

To watch: easy choice--Shirley singing the fantastic "Min kärlek" in Melodifestivalen 2004. This is one of those schlager songs that creeps up on you until one day you wonder why you didn't fall for its semi-mysterious-sounding charm right off the bat.

Sebastian, "No One Else Could" (Andreas Alfredsson Grube/Sebastian Karlsson)
Former Idol contestant Sebastian returns to the contest with a track that he describes as quite different from the sound of his first three pop-rock albums: "No One Else Could" is an up-tempo synth song. He's suffered a drop in popularity since his 2007 appearance Melodifestivalen, though, meaning that he probably hopes to relaunch his career. Co-writer Andreas appeared in Melodifestivalen 2009 as part of Lasse Lindh's band.

To watch: even though he's been going around saying that his entry this year sounds totally different from his previous Melodifestival entry, here's "When The Night Comes Falling," a direct-to-the-final qualifier from 2007.

Sara Varga, "Spring för livet" (Sara Varge/Fredrik "Figge" Boström)
Sara is taking her singer-songwriter sound to Melodifestivalen and a bigger audience with "Spring för livet," a slow song with personal lyrics. Sara is an unknown quantity to most of the Swedish public, so for her this is a big opportunity for a breakthrough.

To watch: the music video for her song "Always Have"

Eric Saade, "Popular" (Fredrik Kempe)
Following on his breakout performance with last year's "Manboy," former boy band member Eric Saade returns to Melodifestivalen with another uptempo pop song, this time with lyrics about wanting to be the best. He emphasizes that he only wanted to return if his song was better than last year's (though that's what every back-to-back entrant says) and that "Popular" has an international-friendly sound. He adds that "Popular," written by Melodifestivalen veteran and co-writer of "Manboy" Fredrik Kempe, is clubbier and funkier than "Manboy." Eric has also talked a lot about how big his stage show will be. He's definitely one of the most anticipated contestants in this year's contest.

To watch: well, last year's "Manboy," of course. As you might be able to tell, my feelings towards Eric run considerably cooler than those of most Melodifestival fans, but he does at least win points for using the V performing-in-the-rain technique.

I don't know that my excitement is quite as strong as last week, but the general trend may be the reverse and I think Christer Björkman may surprise us with what he's packed into these next two weeks.

I'm looking forward to Linda Sundblad's entry--I have a few worries it could verge into overly cutesy and be too fluffy, but I generally love her work and those songwriters give me confidence; with Epicentre, you can usually count on a strong poppy hook. I'll be worried for her even if it is good, though.

Sebastian's reinvention intrigues me. I've never loved a full album of his, but he usually has at least one fantastic song per disc. I just hope his entry has a strong enough song at its core to go with the nice new stylistic trappings.

Shirley doing the sad-non-ballad thing is an enticing prospect.

Sara Lumholdt's song could go either way and I'm not too confident about her performance, but maybe we'll end up with something fun in studio.

I don't expect the Playtones to surpass Brolle in the rockabilly sweepstakes (in terms of quality), but I'd like to be proven wrong with a nice energetic rockabilly-pop song.

If Sara Varga made it into the contest, you'd think her entry would be a particularly nice version of her singer-songwriter sound.

Eric's song will probably be great-to-fantastic and I'm certainly quite interested to hear it, but I just can't work up the level of excitement for him it feels like I should have given the style of music he works in (mainly for tone of his voice reasons, I think). Hopefully this will be when he finally wins me over, though. He's certainly an energetic trier.


Damian said...

It's all about LINDA for me!!!
As she says it's something close to her music I expect something with massive chorus. I'm really afraid for her to fail though, she's my sweetheart! I've lost one - Dilba and won't survive if this one won't qualify.
Sara Lumholdt has "Still Loving It" team that's promising.
Hope to get Swedish Didrik out of Simon.
Shirley+Bard can be something incredible.
Sebastian is intriguing, Rickard Engfors did show for him so I expect something really special.
Sara Varga - after listening her recent Myspace stuff I expect Anna Bergendahl #2, I love Anna with her sweet vibratto, but it's just too much Anna #2 for me.
The Playtones - nej, tack!
Eric - it's pretty interesting, Still Loving It has flopped as actually all his singles except Manboy, will he be able to blast second time?

Paul said...

I've never been as excited about Linda as I should be so maybe this will change my mind. I'm most excited about my adored Eric this week. As Damian said, only Manboy did any good for him, but it seems like his album and tours and tv performances did very well so I'm classing him as successful, right? Still eager to hear the girl group that the Bard wrote for and definitely eager to hear solo Sara, especially considering who wrote it. It's shaping up to be my favourite week. Though i'm still obsessed with Le Kid. Oh. My. God!

Poster Girl said...

I think Eric is as close to a sure thing as we'll see in the contest. Any single from his first album other than "Manboy" doing well for him would have been pretty unusual for a Melodifestival-launched act--he's definitely hugely popular/successful (even if I wouldn't go about expecting your average adult Swede to say they loved his music).

Sebastian + Rickard is such an unexpected combination! It should be interesting.