Friday, February 29, 2008

Take it or leave it, you better believe it

So you'd think, with all the hype, it would be difficult for "Hero" to live up to expectations, right?


I'll be back with more thoughts when I'm done having my mind blown by this song. Seriously, I'm about ready to use up my yearly quota of exclamation marks.


(Listen to clips of the entries here.)

Edit: OK, back, and I'm sorry Sibel, you may have a great-sounding ballad and everyone may say you have a fantastic voice, but I have no time for it--I am going to be hoping against hope that it doesn't click with the voters, because I am petrified right now of it going direkt till Globen, and that simply is not an acceptable option. The only result I will accept it Charlotte and Linda to the final. That's it.

"Pame" is fantastic, and I totally love it; it also doesn't hurt that everyone says it's hindered by being overchoreographed, because that only makes it more likely it won't challenge for those top two spots, and therefore I can accept it into my heart. Any other week I would be backing that to the final all the way, but not this week!

Linda's verses are indeed very "Grace Kelly;" I love the song already--that chorus demands to be sung along with--and have a feeling it'll only get better once we hear the whole thing. Plus there's like this bubbly sound effect at the end! Love love love love love it.

Charlotte--oh, Charlotte, what do I not love about "Hero"? It's too amazing for words. "Amazing" doesn't even do it justice--I need a better word. Can we invent a new word for it? And can you imagine what it's going to be like when that keychange hits on Saturday? I think pop fans are going to explode or completely melt! The chorus is too perfect musically and lyrically--"this is a story, of love and compassion, only heroes can tell..."

On the less-love but see something in them front, Calaisa's song sounds sweet--not amazing, but probably enjoyable outside of a Eurovision context. I'm even liking Nordman's song more than I expected, though I think I might like it more with someone else singing it.

How am I supposed to wait for the studio versions of these songs? Argh!

So in recap: I am all about Charlotte and Linda this week and need them both in the final. I love Daniel's song as well, as long as it continues to stay non-threatening (and I imagine I've jinxed this whole thing now). I have no time for Sibel during this week--if I'm being honest, "That Is Where I'll Go" sounds like a genuinely great ballad, but I simply cannot have it being a threat, and that's something I've feared it would be from the beginning. Therefore, no support from me until after Melodifestivalen. At which point I will probably really like it.

(Note that I can handle people disagreeing with me, though, even about songs I love!)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Du säger ja, jag säger nej

Charlotte Perrelli's song sounds like "Kempe-schlager and Kylie-pop with a splash of Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean' and S Club 7's 'Don't Stop Movin'." I have no idea how one song can sound like all of those things, but doesn't it sound BRILLIANT?! Plus, toss in a "Kalla Nätter" reference and I really don't know how it could get any more amazing-sounding.

Linda, despite falling during rehearsals, has a schlager song that will make a bunch of people religious after "Linda's three minutes of salvation" or cause the entire population of Sweden to become gay. (Also, the comparison to "Grace Kelly" did pop up again, in reference to the verses.)

Daniel has "the year's gay hit" (as well as a classic fifth placer; apparently it's overchoreographed).

Could I get any more excited? I really don't think so. And that's just three of the songs we've got to look forward to in this Saturday's Melodifestival semifinal.

One day, this blog will return to its only-semi-dominated-by-Swedish-music state, but as long as Melodifestivalen keeps going, I'm going to have Swedish music on the brain. Some day I really will finish that Fame Factory special I started, but until then, let's have another song from a Swedish group I love(d): Fame. Jessica Andersson, the female half of Fame, is off doing duets with Nordman now and the male half, Magnus Backlund--well, I've got no idea what he's doing musically, but he is talking to Gylleneskor about this upcoming semifinal.

Gjorda för varandra--I think Fame had some absolutely fantastic tracks. Oddly enough, most of those weren't on their only album (including one of my favorite Melodifestival tracks of this decade, "Vindarna Vänder Oss," their followup entry after winning all of Melodifestivalen with "Give Me Your Love"). "Gjorda för varandra," released as a single in 2005, was one of those. A mix of pop and schlager, it's not a schlager stomper in the sense of being some big uptempo song that you picture lots of big dramatic strutting across the stage to--though you could do that, if you wanted; it's just that it's more on the mid-tempo side. The song lists a bunch of things the (fictional) couple disagree on before concluding in each bridge and chorus that without those differences they wouldn't be attracted to each other and that, in the end, they're a couple, meant for each other (I think). Basically, upbeat catchy Swedish pop that, like many of Fame's songs, comes in right about at three minutes.

To buy Fame's single "Gjorda för varandra," go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: part of me wonders if maybe I shouldn't just skip the previews on Friday and hear them for the first time on Saturday--but yeah right, as if I have that much self control, so tomorrow will probably be writings about Melodifestivalen.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

She love the fast life

I'm so sorry, but something's come up and I have to run off--I'll be back tomorrow, though, and catch up on everything as well as actually properly post!

Until then, I leave you with the thought that had Ace of Base formed in the U.S. in 2008 they probably would have ended up sounding like this. In other words, we should all be thanking our lucky stars they didn't.

This is how it's gonna look, just like this

Oh Blake. An interview with him by the people from MySpace was posted as a video just recently. You don't hear the questions--they just appear as still screens with text written on them--so for all we know the questions we see aren't the actual questions asked, but the first question really made me laugh:

"'How Many Words' became a hit despite not being considered a single by your label. What were your initial feelings on making 'How Many Words' a single?"

If just barely charting inside the iTunes top 100 for one day when the album was released counts as a hit, then yes, it's been a hit. Otherwise, aren't we getting a bit ahead of ourselves?

In better Blake news, he'll be performing "How Many Words" on Idol on March 6, the day we find out the top 12.

He was on some VH1 show, too (not one of their reality shows), but, um, not really worth most people's time.

(Though it's fantastic that he'll be performing on Idol, I can't help thinking "How Many Words" should be being released to radios now--preferably before now--so that it doesn't have virtually no plays when he goes on and performs it.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tie me down, hold me down, come on

Continuing on with the theme established by the last post of supposedly pretty boy popstars who no one besides me cares about, today I bring you another song from former South African Idols contestant Jacques (who seriously needs to get some new promo photos, preferably some that show some awareness of capturing a good face and not just showcasing an exposed chest). After going down the jazz route (well, he released a second album after that, but I've got no idea what it sounded like*; edit: and a third, ditto), Jacques has apparently decided he's hungry for some commercial success. His latest album, The Colour Red, is being referred to as R&B album, but it seems to me that there's a pretty health of dose of electro and electronica (of the poppy sort) on The Colour Red. "Turn Back Time," "Love's Like A Breeze," and "A Kinda Weight" are all examples of the latter, but the song I'm posting today is the former.

Set Me Free--I still can't get over the fact that Mark Beling wrote this--both because 1.) he's Mark Beling, and 2.) a South African writer did this--it just doesn't sound anything like the sort of music we usually get from there. Plus, it really sounds like it would be part of the recycled song circuit, something borrowed from Europe. I wouldn't say this is a "Jacques must release this now so he can have an international hit" type of song, but for a random album track that most people outside of (and probably inside of) South Africa will never hear, it's pretty great, and it could quite easily be picked up as an album track for an artist from another country. Sounding something like what you'd get if you mashed up Phixx and Jamelia's "Beware Of The Dog" but not as fantastic as that might make you expect, "Set Me Free" is an electro-rock pop stomper that would probably need to have the electro and stomp settings notched up before it would qualify as "amazing," but it's still great and catchy, and it does have some fantastic moments in it (the drum part, the opening, and middle 8 being particular highlights--I love how different the middle 8, the "why would you be alone" section, is from the rest of the song; it's like this brief eye of the storm moment, a temporary break from the darkness). Despite all my caveats here, "Set Me Free" is a pretty exciting song, international in sound, cluing me in to a direction I'll be interested to see if Jacques or Mark pursues further as well as being a very enjoyable listen on its own merits.

To buy Jacques's album The Colour Red, go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: maybe something Swedish.

*This quotation about said album cracks me up every time: "The album is called Revealed. I named it Revealed ‘cause I’m revealing my happiness and no-care attitude in the album. As I said, it’s more commercial and I am revealing that side of myself. There’s also a pic on the front cover without my shirt." Deep, Jacques. And shocking.

Have you singin' all night night night

OMG, JESSE MCCARTNEY (temporarily) on the front page of PopJustice?!


(Sorry, but I had to break out the textspeak for this one.)

And his album is "a mass of electronic urban pop which, at its heights, is the sort of stuff Chris Brown would kill for"? And he's "on the verge of staging the most unexpectedly brilliant pop reinvention in recent memory"?

Best. Day. Ever. No, really!

(All that said, I wonder if his getting a mention there will even further alienate Internet World from him...and it'd be a shame if people ignored his earlier work, since he's got songs with a stronger feel to them. And all this could be snark, who knows.)

Edit: oh, and I wonder if his record company actually meant to make that stream they provided a downloadable and convertable WMA...

Edit again: apparently Jesse (who currently has his hair cut too short) shot the music video for "Leavin'" about a week ago, and it's directed by someone I've actually mentioned on here before, Sanji. Jesse may know him from his "She's No You" video, but he's also given us gems like Blake's "Break Anotha" video. Fantastic.

Since I don't want to bombard people that probably don't care as much as I do with Jesse posts, I'll just keep editing stuff into this one.

You can hear part of what's probably the song "Rock You" playing in this video and this video from a listening party; it does sound very club/urban influenced, which is no surprise, considering it's by Sean Garrett. The sound quality's not that good, though. The album is called Departure and comes out May 20.

Also, continuing the trend from his Right Where You Want Me album cover, the first promotional image for this new album is awful. Even worse than said cover, in fact.

I'm not takin' this whole thing light

What? Huh? How? Where did he...where is it....when did...???

Not that I'm complaining, mind! I'm beyond thrilled--it's easily one of the best singles of the year (and I really mean top echelon, not just a great single) and I was so afraid it would just sink without a trace. But I am so it just getting a bunch more radio play than I thought? I mean, Jonathan's out of the country right now, so it's not like he's even doing promo tours (at the moment; before's a different story) or something and telling people to buy it!

Monday, February 25, 2008

No more sad goodbyes, close your gloomy eyes

Before we get into the descriptive part of this post, I'd just like to say that this album cover

sums up the entire '80's to me. Well, granted, it's not like I remember much of the '80's, but it captures what I think of when I think of them.

Anyway, some day I will properly investigate the fantastic American and British artists of the '80's...but apparently that day wasn't anytime this past week. What did I end up listening to, for reasons even I don't understand? Old '80's tracks from Swedish singers Pernilla Wahlgren and Lena Philipsson. It's not like I've got that much of either artist's '80's output, but for some reason I've got the urge to investigate. I started with the easiest '80's album to get from Pernilla, her self-titled 1985 debut (though sadly I've got the reissue and not the original with the cover you see above), put out after her performance of "Piccadilly Circus" in Melodifestivalen. The song only took fourth, but it became a (said to be overplayed now) classic. After releasing this album, Pernilla would go on to release several more (I need to track down at least Pure Dynamite and probably Attractive as well) and participated in Melodifestivalen again before taking a break from performing chart music and instead doing things like children's TV and musicals. She came back to Melodifestivalen in 2003 singing the duet "Let Your Spirit Fly" with Jan Johansen. In 2006, she released a new album, and just recently she released a new single, the schlager and probably Melodifestival reject "I min värld."

Her 1985 album, which has some songs in Swedish and some in English, has some great songs. "Can't Live Without You" is an ode to tracking down the guy who left you, but this is no mournful ballad--it's more of a hunting song set to a revvy mid-tempo beat, which includes lines like the following

I'm walkin on the sidewalks of Santa Fe
I'm lookin' for an old rusted Chevrolet
And now the clue I got is your spice cologne

The opening track, "Svindlande Affärer," which was a single, is great as well (though apparently not on the original edition of the album). I could keep going but, jumping to the point, the song I'm sharing today was never a single, at least to my knowledge, but it's at least as good as the singles from this album.

Don't Run Away From Me Now--I'm pretty sure this song is amazing--no, scratch that, I am sure. Somewhere between mid-tempo and power ballad territory, "Don't Run Away From Me Now" opens up fairly minimally, trying to create a little bit of atmosphere and the feeling that we might just be building into something, before eventually giving us a fantastic punchy (very '80's) chorus that helps the song take on a big (dare I say epic?) feel...well, big at least for this sort of commercial '80's pop. It doesn't really have one vocal hook to key in on (though the backing music is definitely throwing all sorts of hooks at you), but it's still catchy--I've been going around with "Tenderness is hard to find/Don't run away from me now" stuck in my head for days. This isn't '80's electro-pop or anything, just old-fashioned classic '80's pop, complete with big overhead handclap-friendly middle section.

To buy Pernilla Wahlgren's self-titled album, go here (physical).

Next up: maybe Jacques.

You've blinded me, it's all I can see

I've written before, here and elsewhere, about how convoluted the South African pop music scene is. When a pop act there comes out with a new song, you're almost safer betting on it being a cover than being original--surprisingly often, of a song with a Eurovision or national final connection, but in general usually from Europe (usually Sweden).

Take, for example, Jacques's new album, which I finally got today. It contains a cover of a song from mad-in-a-good-way Danish singer Ida Corr's second album Robosoul; it's a retitled version of "I'm Your Lady," here called "I'm Your Baby."

Many other songs on the album have that feel of being recycled to me, and I'm sure I'll be trying to figure it all out for a while. One song I really thought had to be a cover was "Set Me Free." Sounding like a Phixx track or something electro-rock out of the '80's, it was so different from the rest of the album--though great--that I was sure it must have been originally done by someone else. Imagine my surprise, then, when I looked at the credits and saw that it was written by Mark Beling. Mark Beling? Surely not! He's a South African singer known for doing MOR/adult contemporary sort of stuff...including a MOR-ified version of Swedish singer Evan's "The Moment I Miss You," retitled "The Moment." Mark Beling did this?! I'm still not entirely sure I believe no samples, at the least, were involved.

Another good song on the album is "Turn Back Time," which I think started out life as a dance track released under the name of one of its writers, Patric Sarin.

Some of the covers are obvious: track 13 is Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" and track 4, "Natural Born Hustla" featuring Akon, was originally done by Cyssero, still featuring Akon (correct me if someone did it earlier). The music and Akon's part are the same, with Cyssero's raps being swapped out for Jacques's sung parts. "Shake Shake" sounds like it must be a cover as well, but I've not been able to find proof of that yet.

Anyway, from the moment I first heard a preview clip of it, I was convinced "Love's Like A Breeze" sampled something really famous, something (electronica-ish) I knew and was going to be really embarrassed when someone pointed out to me what it was. Having got the album and being able to look at the liner notes, though, I still can't figure out what that would be. Even knowing that the only people credited as writers are Paul Rein and Graham Stack (both have written a lot of songs; presuming it's the same Graham Stack, he's part of Metro), I still can't figure out what "Love's Like A Breeze" is a cover of or is sampling or reminds me very very much of. I think it's going to drive me insane. Am I already crazy and this really is original and brand new or could someone put me out of my misery and tell me what the snippet below is from/sounds like?

Love's Like A Breeze (Short Clip)

You want it, you'll get it, just keep on working hard

It's out:

Elin's video for "Speak 'n Spell"

In other Swedish news, Jonathan's actually at #25 on the iTunes chart at the moment--"Playing Me" must be getting a lot more radio play on P4 than I thought or something. Oh, an apparently Alexander Schöld made a music video for "Den första svalan."

Edit: I forgot to mention that I think Elin is working with Tony "Natalie"/"S.O.S."/"Love In Stereo" Nilsson, which is very exciting.

Also, I shoud've really actually written something about the video. It's definitey not full-on girl in dance video-type shots, movements, and exposure, but, even better, I'd also say it's not like the video for, say, Elize's "Automatic"--a video with some fantastic popstar moments but that also has some shots that hark back to that dance video sort of stuff. The outfit pictured in the post below works really well (and she looks fantastic in it), as do the military style outfit and the outfit that reminds me of an ANTM photo shoot. Her reinvention is pretty radical, though, and I hope that doesn't automatically throw the public off. I'll see if I can come up with something more coherent to say later. For now, though, basically: well done, Elin.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dippin' toes in the water

It's beginning to look like whoever's managing Elin Lanto now is serious about turning her into a real "serious" popstar, of a whole different sort from what we knew her as. The promo pictures for her single were the first clue...

...but the thing that prompted this post? The video for "Speak 'n Spell" comes out on Monday.

The question is, will it be popstar making material or just a desperate attempt at a new more mature, less girl-next-door image? A reinvention like this is fantastic if you can do it, but very difficult to pull off, and right now I'm worried we'll end up with a case of the latter, though I'm hoping for the former (how exciting would that be?). I guess we'll find out Monday.

I don't wanna wait until tomorrow

The fourth and final semifinal of Melodifestivalen is this coming Saturday; after that, they'll be a second chance round (Andra Chansen), at which various third and fourth place finishers from all the semifinals are matched up head-to-head in a knockout format until it's narrowed down to two, at which point those two will go to the final, which will take place the week after that. In other words, we've got three Saturdays left of Melodifestivalen: one for the fourth semifinal, one for Andra Chansen, and one for the final. For now, though, here are the artists for this week's semifinal, which is looking to be really tough. Same disclaimer as usual about all this information, and as usual, feel free to correct me or add things!

Sources: Schlagerprofilerna, Gylleneskor, SVT's official Melodifestival site, ESC Today,, QX, Oiko Times (1, 2), MSN, Festival de Eurovisión, Style, P4's Melodifestival site

1.) Niklas Strömstedt, "For många ord om kärlek" (Too Many Words About Love)
This week's joker, Niklas Strömstedt has a music career dating back to the '80's. I guess you could say he's a mature singer-songwriter sort, though some of the songs from his most recent album (from 2001) are kind of lightly poppy (or could be made sort of poppy with minimal changes), from the little I've heard of his work. On the plus side, he did co-write Magnus Carlsson's 2006 entry "Lev Livet!" (as well as Christer Björkman's winning entry in 1992). He says "For många ord om kärlek" is uptempo. He also says the song is a little more pop than schlager and kind of '70's-influenced. Niklas has a new album, Två vagar, coming out March 19.

To watch: well, YouTube doesn't give us too many options, so let's got with this montage set to his 1990 hit "Om"

2.) Calaisa, "If I Could"
Calaisa is a female country-pop group made up of two sets of sisters. They released their self-titled debut album in 2006, preceded by the sweetly-sung single "Hey Girl." The official description of the song says that it's a ballad about losing someone near to you and wanting to do something to get them back. They've been working on a second album.

To watch: the video for their single "Hey Girl"

3.) Daniel Mitsogiannis, "Pame"
Ooo, now here's a brand new artist whose song I'm very interested to hear! Granted, Fredrik Kempe--who, among other songs, wrote last year's "Cara Mia"--says that out of his tracks in this year's contest, Charlotte Perrelli's "Hero" is his favorite, but I still have hopes that "Pame" will be good. In fact, speaking of "Cara Mia," Daniel sang on the demo version of that last year (as well as the originally English demo of Mathias Holmgren's "Långt bortom tid och rum" from 2005), making me even more hopeful of a similar revelation from "Pame" this year--though I'm trying not to let my expectations get too high. Also, apparently he and Måns sang it differently, which doesn't mean his version was necessarily worse but does mean maybe we shouldn't expect a Måns redux here...then again, Henrik Wikström, the other writer, describes the song as "'Cara Mia' with ethnic influences." As you might have guessed from the title, "Pame" has Greek influences (apparently it means "Let's go" or something like that); it's also said to be uptempo and danceable (Daniel says it's "happy, speedy, and explosive" and like a male version of Helena Paparizou). In terms of not particularly relevant or useful information, Daniel already has an official site set up in a similar style to those of Charlotte Perrelli and Linda Bengtzing--does he have management that have a lot of faith in the song or did he just hire the same people himself?

To watch: I can't find any videos of him singing whatsoever, so let's just watch the first performance of "Cara Mia" from last year again. It's still a rush. You know, I've really enjoyed this year, but now that I'm thinking about it, has any song really got me as excited as "Cara Mia" did? I have a feeling, though, that I'll get that this week, and hopefully from the song up next...

4.) Linda Bengtzing, "Hur svårt kan det va?" (How Difficult Can It Be?)
Oh Sweden--I'm begging you: I need Linda in the final. As absolutely exciting as it is to have so many upsets going on, it worries me greatly for this round. Linda participated in Fame Factory, but her real establishment as a singer came with 2005's "Alla Flickor," a schlager song which may very well be the best song ever--a statement which would be easier to get away with if her followup 2006 entry "Jag ljuger så bra" wasn't so close in quality that it's easy to prefer it depending on the day. She released an album as well in 2006, and in 2007 she had a huge hit in Sweden in the form of her and Markoolio's jokey "Värsta Schlagern." Her entry this year is by the same people that gave us "Alla Flickor" and her second single "Diamanter" (and who have also worked on her upcoming album), among a bunch of other great songs. It was also originally described as being influenced by '60's schlager (there was also one early reference to it being a little bit like "Grace Kelly," but before everyone starts going into conniptions, that seems doubtful and I've heard absolutely nothing to make that sound accurate since), but all recent writing about it has referred to it as sounding very modern but being a "classic schlager" (so yes, it has a key change). Linda says the song is a girl singing to a guy about how he's stupid for not realizing she's the best thing that's ever happened to him. I have absolute faith in this track being completely a-maz-ing and March 19, the release date of her new album, Vild & Galen, cannot get here soon enough. Fact: Linda's on the cover of at least two weekly or monthly magazines in Sweden this month--please let that be an indication of her popularity in Sweden...

To watch: her performance of "Jag ljuger så bra" at the 2006 final

5.) Nordman, "I lågornas sken" (In The Flame's Light)
Eek. I wish we could just take Nordman (who in their 2005 semifinal qualified directly to the final, while Alcazar and Linda Bengtzing had to go to Andra Chansen) out of this heat--I don't want them as a threat to my favorites. Sigh. Maybe I'm being kind of unfair here, but I just don't go in for gruff male voices, a fact that makes it difficult for me to appreciate Nordman's work. The writers of "I lågornas sken" did give us Jessica Andersson's "Kom" and Magnus Backlund's "The Name Of Love"--not classics, but not songs to make you instantly reach for the mute button either (and I actually really like "The Name Of Love"). Still, whether or not the writers call this a pop song and Nordman say it's "more schlager" (really? That doesn't fit with what I know of their work at all), I'm having trouble mustering much enthusiasm for a song that was stirring up controversy for its stage performance including the simulation of a witchburning onstage--it's not so much the act I'm upset with as I can't really imagine a song I like being conducive to that performance. Then again, the band do claim that it will be "beautiful and dramatic"--who knows, maybe it'll be a fantastic bombastic song (I wouldn't bet on it, to say the least). For the sake of the other songs in this heat, though, I'm almost hoping not. They've got a new album coming out March 12.

To watch: oddly enough, I can't find a video of their Melodifestival performance, but you can listen to the audio of it below, attached to a Lion King montage

6.) Sibel, "That Is Where I'll Go"
2007 gave us Sebastian and Måns (could have been Agnes) from the second season of Swedish Idol; 2008 brings us Ola and Sibel from the same season. Sibel finished third, behind Agnes and Sebastian, and will finally get a chance at commercial success with this power ballad. The song's writer says it's a big ballad about unconditional love. It starts out small and grows for the end and includes a lot of long high notes. For some reason, I see it as having a very good chance to do well. She (like seemingly most of the contestants this year) has an album due to come out this spring; it's called Diving Belle and comes out March 12.

To watch: her performance of (Niklas Stömstedt's) "Sista Morgonen" on Idol

7.) Fronda, "Ingen mår så bra som jåg" (No One Feels As Good As Me)
2007's Melodifestival saw two entries disqualified: first Agnes's, and then Fronda's, thus allowing Lustans Lakejer and Måns Zelmerlöw to enter the competition. Fronda's entry was disqualified because he sang the demo of it but he (/his record company) refused to sing it at the contest, at least not by himself (not all demo singers will go on to sing the song at Melodifestivalen, but SVT can choose to demand that the demo singer do so and disqualify the song if the demo singer refuses). This year, the rapper will be participating with a song that its writers describe as an uptempo party song with danceable rap beats and funny lyrics. Fronda adds that it's not a pure hip-hop track, more like "balkan-ska."

To watch: a montage (well, more like one photo) set to his song "En stor stark"

8.) Charlotte Perrelli, "Hero"
...or, as fans of Eurovision but not followers of Swedish music would know her as, Charlotte Nilsson. Charlotte was Eurovision in 1999 singing "Take Me To Your Heaven," and she's released four albums since then (if you like your upbeat schlager, her Gone Too Long album has some songs you'll definitely want to hear), with another one (in English) due out this April (which she says she wants to promote beyond Sweden). Charlotte hasn't entered Melodifestivalen since winning it in 1999, though it's often been rumored she'd be participating; her decision to finally enter again this year has a lot of people thinking her song must be something very special--and with the writers it has, that's a very strong possibility: Fredrik Kempe and Bobby Ljunggren (who's been involved in way too many Melodifestival songs to list here). The official description of "Hero" says it's a dance and rock song, and it's also been said to be uptempo, have a great chorus and a really good beat, and be a modern pop song, not "Take Me To Your Heaven" part II. Charlotte says it tells a good story and is an uptempo dance-pop song that is a little bit rockier than "Take Me To Your Heaven" (though she points out that "rockier" is relative and she'll still be doing schlager songs), and will be a good way to establish her "new style." The performance involves a lot of dancing and girls in 10 cm tall heels, and the song has been said to be a potential winner of the whole contest as well as a great song that only gets better with each listen.

To watch: well, I could embed her winning performance of "Take Me To Your Heaven," but let's go with something more recent, a performance of her most recent single (but not the most recent of songs), the schlager-disco-pop "Jag är tillbaks"

It's easy for me to make my "who do I want to go through without having heard the songs" decision this week: Linda--I'm so worried for her; she has to make it--and Charlotte to the final. The trouble is, I can see all too many potential threats from the other contestants that could prevent that from happening.

Incidentally, in March and April we're getting new albums from Linda, Charlotte, and Sanna?! Now if only Lena Philipsson would release something new, it'd be pretty much the perfect year.

In a side note related to this past Saturday's semifinal, I read online--well, why don't I just quote it, but this is all [sic]:

"Currently he [Oscar Görres] is composing and producing a record for the artist Therese Andersson performing under the name Evan. Therese Andersson is also classically schooled and sings in the genre pop/ballad."

Now, Oscar's not Evan (he co-wrote some songs on Danny's album and co-wrote Donal Skehan's "Double Cross My Heart" and LoveShy's "Mr. Gorgeous") nor is Therese, so I have no idea what to make of that, but it's at least nice to know that a record is in the works. Therese also said in an interview that Pay TV are still working on their album, though if her solo album comes out at the rate of that album, we'll still be waiting for it in 2010. Once again going off on a tangent, Oscar Görres's official site that I linked to above allows you (in the "Media" section) to listen to a clip of a Danny song called "Alive" (it's also on his MySpace). Song they wrote together but that didn't make the cut? Song that was reworked into a song that eventually made the album? I've got no idea (though if it's really obvious or something please let me know!).

I realized that all my heartaches were a blessing in disguise

While Sweden was having its third semifinal last night, a lot of countries were having their finals. Some great songs were knocked out (Poland [though once I get a chance to properly listen I may end up thinking Isis Gee's entry is fine--not something I'll love, but fine], Romania, Ireland--though I still haven't caught up on the live performances there), but luckily we did get some real gems out of the night.

Iceland chose Eurobandið's "This Is My Life" as their entry to Eurovision--yay! I'm so happy for them, and really hope they do well on the night; the song is great (even if you think the original arrangement was better, I'd argue this version is still easily one of the better songs chosen so far), the singers can sing, and Iceland is well overdue for some good results, considering the great songs they've generally given us recently. Not only that, but the styling was finally approaching something reasonable--thank goodness they had three tries to get it right. Fridrik's outfit kind of reminds me of someone, though I can't place who...

Ukraine chose a stomping pop song that had a great performance. Ani Lorak is apparently a major popstar over there, which I love to see, and she was preselected as the singer for Ukraine--last night was dedicated to choosing which song she would sing. "Shady Lady" won--ignore the sketchy title, it's a great hard-hitting pop song with a performance that makes up for anything that might be pedestrian about the song.

I've still not made up my mind about Bulgaria yet. Deep Zone and Balthazar's ravey (in parts) "DJ, Take Me Away" won there. It's definitely a different sort of sound for Eurovision.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Take a chance on me

Sweden, I love you. Love you. For so many reasons.

(Note: even if there are some things I could quibble with or that make me somewhat sad.)

Just don't break my heart next week!

More later!

I'll promise you the world

I've been meaning to write about Ireland's national selection for ages now; I've got pre-hearing and post-hearing the song posts sitting as drafts at the moment--in the latter one, I tried to acknowledge everything Dustin the Turkey's song does right and that I can totally see it appealing to certain types of taste...before saying that I absolutely can't stand it. Forget that trying to be understanding, though--I know Dustin's ridiculously favored to win to the extent that we can say he's virtually unstoppable (Dustin's odds are 2/9; the candidate with the next best odds is at 5/1), but I still can't help featuring--and hoping against hope that Ireland votes for it--Donal Skehan's song "Double Cross My Heart."

Donal's a known and unabashed fan of Melodifestivalen (as well as Eurovision itself), and yes, you can really hear that in his entry (which also has two Swedish co-writers, in addition to an American co-writer), and yes, I'm a known fan of that sound so I have an automatic increased likelihood of liking "Double Cross My Heart," but it really is fantastic. It could be argued that it's generic, by numbers, or not that good, but I'd disagree--I think the rhythm of the last two lines of the chorus ("Double cross me/Double cross my heart") gives it a unique punch and makes it really catchy.

Plus, doesn't he seem like the sort of person you want to go stalk Swedish popstars with? Look, he's already met and/or interviewed a bunch of them!

What really matters is the song, though, and "Double Cross My Heart" is fantastic, a catchy uptempo pop song with a little bit of a dance beat running underneath (though no more so than, say, "Brother Oh Brother" does) and (with performances unseen) easily my favorite in Ireland's selection tonight.

Friday, February 22, 2008

There's no way to explain those feelings

I'm pretty excited at the moment--after what seems like ages and really must be something like 10 months since Turnaround introduced it to me, I finally finally finally have (a non-MySpace rip of) Jonathan Fagerlund's song "Playing Me," which I've been in love with from the first listen. Back when he released his debut single, "Angeline," I made it my song of the day but didn't post it because his label had done such a fantastic job of making it easy for international customers to buy--in addition to being able to buy a physical copy of it, customers could get it from any country's iTunes stores or Klicktrack without region restrictions--and I really wanted him to do as well as possible. His brand new single "Playing Me" is still available to international customers if you want to buy the physical single, but digitally it's restricted just to Swedish customers. With that in mind, I am going to post it, but only for a short time; for people outside of Sweden, importing singles is just ridiculously cost prohibitive, but I don't want to risk hurting sales for him (though admittedly that's unlikely), since he's still trying to establish himself. Anyway, back to Jonathan, in case you missed my earlier posts on him, he's a former member of an ill advised Lou Pearlman-managed boy band, but he left (good call) and is now pursuing a solo career. He's young, younger than a usually like my popstars being, but if the songs are great enough, I'm more than willing to make an exception, and so far, his are.

Playing Me--perfect boy pop. Perfect teen pop? Mmm...better just to say perfect pop--or maybe even better to say that it's perfect pop for me. It's difficult for me to avoid getting all hyperbolic about this song because it's exactly the sort of music I adore; it does everything I could've wanted it to do without feeling by numbers at all. "Playing Me" may be made up of lots of non-"real instruments," but at the least it's supposed to sound like it isn't--not in the sense that this is guitar pop or anything, but in that it's going for a fuller, more fleshed-out sound. "Playing Me" is soaring uplifting catchy Swedish pop (yes, it may not have happy uplifting lyrics, but that's exactly the right word to describe the melody), complete with strings, and I love it with every bit of my heart. Could you tell?

To buy Jonathan Fagerlund's single "Playing Me" (he's credited just as "Jonathan" on it), go here (physical).

Next up: Melodifestivalen! Though at some point I do want to write about that national final I alluded to--which, interestingly enough, includes another former member of that boy band and a friend of Jonathan's.

When the clock strikes twelve

Right, I've got no idea what's going on with the Melodifestival clips at the moment, but at the least, you can listen to BWO's and Caracola's.



I'm sure it'll all be sorted out soon, and the other clips must be there too.

Edit: scratch that, it's all fixed now; all the clips are up here. Thoughts (probably) in a bit.

Edit again: yay Patrik Isaksson! I was hoping he'd come through...and from the sounds of that clip, he did. BWO were right that their song isn't "Temple Of Love" part II--it's not a stomper like that song (that's just not the feel it's going for, but I have a feeling that will cause some people to feel let down by it)--and I really get why all the Madonna "Sorry"/"Hung Up" comparisons were coming from, though it reminds me of something else I can't place too. Anyway, I like "Lay Your Love On Me" but oddly don't want to say more at the moment--I want to hear the rest of the song before I decided what level of excitement I'm going to be at about it--is it worth over the top freaking out about or is it "just" a great song (because at the very least it's that)? Frida and Headline's "Upp o. Hoppa" is so summery and fun sounding that I can't help but be won over by it; the review that said you'll want to sing and dance along with it was totally right. It doesn't really sound like a Melodifestival song at all, though, and I'm not expecting it to win a lot of votes on the night (or to win over a lot of fans, for that matter). Caracola's song is also summery and upbeat, though with a completely different feel--highly produced campy girl group pop-schlager--arguably trashy but good. I'm not really a fan of opera (yes, I know I just wrote about liking Fredrik Kempe), but I think I like-to-really-like Thérèse Andersson's song...I'm at least intrigued by it, and could easily end up loving it and seeing it as some sort of "revelation." Ainbusk's clip starts out kind of typical ballad-y, but I really like the last five seconds; I need to hear more of the song to really know my feelings on it. Eskobar's song isn't as "big" as I was hoping or expecting from them, so I'm kind of disappointed so far, but I want to hear more--maybe it gets bigger or punchier later; if it has a great big climax or sounds anthemic live, I could end up getting sucked in by it.

In fact, so far I'd say Mickey Huskic's song is the only one that doesn't leave me at least a little interested to hear more, that I don't have anything positive to say about. Based just on the clips, Eskobar and Ainbusk's entries are above that (significantly and easily) but below the others, I think. Thérèse would be above them, and then I'd have (in no particular order) Patrik, BWO, Caracola, and Frida in my top four. That could easily change, though--Thérèse could challenge those entries, as could the songs on the rung below Therese's song. And really, I can see myself ending up in love with a good number of songs from this heat; trying to rank my top 5 is going to be difficult.

I'm not sure if I just have low standards or what, but from the sounds of it, this'll be another really great semifinal.

Let's reinvent the wheel

Thrilled about the '60's revival brought on by Amy Winehouse? Not particularly picky about the songs so long as they're in that style? You're in luck.

Whether you're a contestant in a national final for Eurovision...

(Maria Haukaas Storeng, "Hold On Be Strong," 1st in Norway's NF)

(Sandrine, "I Feel The Same Way," qualified to yet-to-take-place final in Belgium)

...or from Sweden...

(Amanda Jenssen, "Do You Love Me," Idol contestant and at #1 for seemingly ages)

Open this link in new window to hear a clip (I can't find anywhere for you to stream the whole thing)

(Pauline, "Loving You," recently released single)

Official site (ditto on the nowhere streaming the whole song thing)

(Veronica Maggio, "Måndagsbarn," recently released single)

...or a hotly tipped British Australian singer...

(Duffy, "Mercy")

...or a slightly less hotly tipped British singer...

(Gabriella Cilmi, "Sweet About Me")

...or a Canadian R&B singer searching for that elusive top 10 hit...

(Jully Black, "Seven Day Fool," which is actually a cover of a '60's song)

...or a Swiss singer who won a German talent contest...

(Stefanie, "My Man Is A Mean Man," with thanks to Turnaround!)

...that seems to be the sound to go for at the moment. Now, I don't really want to criticize these singers--many of them may have always pursued this style and may just have found that record companies are more interested in them now. Others may even have been successful in a similar style beforehand. Often these songs are good or great, and the singers may have other songs that are good even if I'm not particularly interested in their current single (I've been very interested to hear Gabriella Cilmi's "Don't Wanna Go To Bed" since PopJustice posted a clip of it). Not all of these songs are Amy-like, more just '60's sounding. But...well, I'm not the biggest Amy Winehouse fan, but I can't help feeling like some of this is kind of missing the point a bit as to why her songs took off in the first place. Still, forget the Grammys--I guess the true sign of having made it is having Eurovision contestants trying to sound like you.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I opened my eyes and finally I realized...

Just a quick note to say that the English version of Eurobandið's "Fullkomið líf," my favorite song in Iceland's national final, has, fantastically enough, been put up for free and legal download by the song's creators. It's worth mentioning, though, that in addition to the language being changed, the arrangement has been changed as well; this version is more Eurodance, a change I'm not entirely sold on yet but we'll see if that changes. Anyway, you can download the English version, called "This Is My Life," here.

Somewhat relatedly, now's as good a time as any to remind you that the creator of "Fullkomið líf" also worked on Páll Óskar's album from 2007, which I still maintain deserves far more attention (outside of Iceland, in Internet circles; inside Iceland, it's launched major hits); if you like that song, it's very much worth at least checking out some of the singles from Páll's album; "International," "Allt fyrir ástina," and "Betra Lif" are all fantastic (and videos for the first two are on YouTube). Páll also wrote the lyrics to "This Is My Life," while we're talking about him.

Also, there's another country's national final that has thoughts brewing in my brain--I'll probably write about it tomorrow.

Solo i Stockholm, och jag minns det som igår...

I've been meaning to pick up one of Swedish singer Brolle Jr's two albums (probably his first one first; I'm pretty positive I'll love it) for a while now and just have never got around to it. When I finally heard his new single, though, I loved it too much to pass up buying that. If you're interested in knowing a bit about his background, EuropeCrazy wrote about him over here and #1 Hits wrote about him a while back as well; suffice to say, he auditioned for Popstars but has a career very much outside of the reality TV-based sort now. Now billed--at least on this single--as just Brolle, he's back with a new single that only narrowly missed making it into Melodifestivalen (something I'm glad of, to be honest; I'm worried I might not have appreciated it properly in that context). In a change for him, it's in Swedish, as his new album, which I read was due out in March, but I don't know if that's really set yet. He'll also be participating (along with singers like Linda Bengtzing, Agnes, and Markoolio, among others) in the Swedish version of Clash of the Choirs. As a kind of side note, the for-the-fans video for this song on Brolle's MySpace uses the b-side "piano version" of the track; I think the main version is much better, and it's therefore the version I'm posting today. He's also got a video posted of himself making a video to the main version of the song (complete with running, gorgeous snow-covered Swedish scenery, and dramatic falling to the ground!), so I'm looking forward to seeing the final product.

Solo i Stockholm--this song, written by Brolle and Aleena Gibson among others, sounds very much like a Brolle track, from the little I know of his work. What, then, does a Brolle track sound like? Good question. Well, it definitely uses guitars and "real instruments," and Brolle's unique (and fantastic--I love the sound of it, though I imagine not everyone might) voice is a part of it. If his styling is any indication, he feels he takes influences from the '50's, and maybe from the '80's--the hairstyle he's sporting is always...interesting, often alternating between being Elvis-esque (a singer who he's often compared to vocally) and looking like it's from the '80's. His songs aren't the bubblegum pop, dance-pop, or schlager I often post from Sweden. As a result of their style, instrumentation, and Brolle's voice, his songs end up having a more mature feel to them. However you end up describing "Solo i Stockholm," though, it's a fantastic dramatic emotional pop song with a great climax, and I literally can't get enough of the way he sings the lines in the chorus.

To buy Brolle's single "Solo i Stockholm," go here (physical) or here (digital). This song will only be posted for a short time since it's a new single.

Next up: maybe another male Swedish singer.

You're the one for me

I'm sorry, but I just love the idea of a country where cell phone ads feature kids singing "Cara Mia" at a school talent contest.

While we're on the subject of Sweden, I only just noticed that Sanna Nielsen has a song from her upcoming album, "I Can Catch The Moon," streaming on her MySpace. It's a ballad, and I know she performed it on TV some weeks ago (edit: oh, it's viewable here; it's by Bobby Ljunggren and Aleena Gibson), but I hadn't heard it until yesterday, though I have no idea how long it's been on her MySpace. I do hope we get some songs more like "Surrender" on the album...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

One, two, three, four, get your feet on the floor!

I know a lot was written about all female Canadian pop-rock (emphasis on the rock, I guess) group Lillix's single "Sweet Temptation (Hollow)" on the Internet back in 2006 when it came out, and in terms of the critical dialogue that took place at the time, I don't have anything to add. However, the song's been undergoing a personal revival from me lately, so I really have to share it so that even more people can have the fantastic experience of jumping around to it. The group, if I'm remembering correctly, said they were breaking up a while back, but now are still together, just with some members having left--which actually does mean that they're no longer an all girl group, come to think of it.

Sweet Temptation (Hollow)--"Sweet Temptation" was the lead and only single for Lillix's second album; it didn't exactly set the charts alight, to say the least. I'm not saying that it necessarily sounds like it's from these groups (beyond the basic female-fronted pop-rock similarity), but I imagine fans of the Faders' "No Sleep Tonight" and the singles from the Veronicas' first album would have a good chance of liking "Sweet Tempation" as well. I think I'd say "Sweet Temptation" is even better than the aforementioned song, too; though you can hear its rock ties, an almost electro beat sneakily underlies much of it, yet another factor making it even more of a giddy (albeit loud and guitar-filled) driving sugar rush. That chorus is pure anthem, too, a command to move that you absolutely don't mind obeying while you shout it along with them.

To buy Lillix's second album Inside The Hollow, go here (physical).

Next up: maybe that Swedish song I meant to post today.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I, I'm stronger than ever

I kind of have a fascination with demos. I definitely don't have as big a collection of them as many people, but I am always up for hearing the demo version of a song I know and like (though if the demo is revealed first, I may hold off on listening to that until after I've heard the final version)--I think it ties in with that whole music dorky side of me that's fascinated by all the behind-the-scenes things that go on in the creation of a track (my interest in recycled tracks links into that as well). The demo may be a considerable step back from the final version or it may be an improvement, but either way it's kind of interesting to hear either a track in development or what might have been. Given that we're in the middle of Melodifestivalen season, then, I thought I'd share something that manages to combine both interests.

A Miracle--this schlager track would enter the 2005 Melodifestivalen in Swedish, with the title "Att Älska Dig," where it was performed by Shirley Clamp, who ended up taking fourth in the final. Had she won, though, presumably this is the set of lyrics we would have heard her singing in Kiev. This version, though, is a demo sung by Shirley's friend Sonja Aldén, who was one of the song's co-writers. Sonja would eventually make it to Melodifestivalen as a solo star in her own right, first with "Etymon" in 2006 and then more successfully with "För att du finns" in 2007.

I don't believe Sonja Aldén's version of this song is purchasable anywhere, but you can buy Sonja's album Till dig here (physical), here (digital), or from any country's iTunes store. Shirley Clamp's album Lever mina drömmer, which contains the Swedish version of this track, can be purchased here (physical), here (digital), or from any country's iTunes store. Speaking of demos, Sonja's version of Carola's song "Invincible" is also out there on the Internet, if you're interested in it.

While we're on the topic of people who competed in Melodifestivalen 2007, I would like to express my longstanding frustration that there seems to be literally nowhere to buy Måns Zelmerlöw's song "I Can Be Your Friend" except for this mobile phone-linked Swedish digital music store. It was on Swedish iTunes for a bit, one of those "only available if you buy the whole album" songs, but for a while now it's not even been available there anymore. It sounds great (I love the sound of that bridge or verse or whatever it is...and the chorus, too), and there's literally nowhere we can buy it. Record companies! What are you doing? I want to give you my money--let me! Anyway, should you want to listen to a clip of it, you can click on the little speaker icon next to the track's name at this link. It better be on his next album or a b-side or something...

Next up: something else Swedish, I think.

That's my cool and I can't take it off

I'd held off on doing a post on this song for a while since both #1 Hits and EuropeCrazy had written about it. I was planning to make the Lethal Bizzle entry in my year end singles countdown a tie with this song (or rather, make this song like a subpoint of that one; the same was supposed to happen with "The Way I Are" and the Andy Caldwell mix of Brielle Davis's "Take It Off"), but then just didn't (mainly because it would have taken extra writing, I think). I really should have, though, because it may even be better than "Police On My Back."

Still, I really can't help mentioning it here, just in case there's a chance you haven't heard it yet--it seriously gets better every single day. Thus, I present Swedish hip-hop artist Adam Tensta and "My Cool."

It seriously is the ultimate song when you just want to psych yourself up, get yourself feeling like you're amazing. It's also a fantastic strutting song--yes, rap and strutting. Really.

If there was any justice, this song would go international. And easily.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"What's 'Boom Bang-A-Bang'?"

Quick aside: Scott Mills played short--in some cases really really really really short--clips of the songs in the UK's national final for Eurovision on his show today. If you go to his official page, click on "Latest Show," and fastforward to around 3:23:00 ish (that's what the timer will read--it starts at 1:00:00 or something, so you're really only fastwording past two hours and twenty minutes or so), you can listen to the clips, with him and others talking over the top of them.

ESC Today has more coverage on the finalists, and Don't Stop the Pop is the place to go for LoveShy news.

Help me get love back on its feet

I've used Jamie Meyer as a reference point a lot on here, but was thinking today that I've only ever posted one song from him, and that must have been more than a year ago at this point. With that in mind, then, here's another song from the Swedish singer's enjoyable 2003 pop-rock album It's All About Me. Jamie won was in the series of Popstars that future BWO singer Martin Rolinski was also in. His first two singles were great fun upbeat pop-rock. Some day I really will bother to figure out how to transfer videos from CD to YouTube because his video for "Good Girl" (his second single; it didn't perform as well as debut single "Psycho," which may be the usual for a second single in Sweden, but I prefer it, though "Psycho" is good too) needs to be on there--revolutionary? No, but it's endearing and a total flashback to the time period the single was released, even if it wasn't a video I ever actually saw at that time. Anyhow, the song I'm posting today isn't quite as uptempo or as upbeat or pure fun-oriented as his first two singles, but it's still one of the album's better tracks.

Random fact: if I'm remembering correctly, every song on It's All About Me was co-written by Jörgen Elofsson.

Writing this post prompted me to go check up on him, and, after moving to the U.S. and releasing a new EP a while back, it looks like he's got an actual new album, called Great Big Chance, coming out this March in Sweden; it sounds like it'll continue his more "grown up" sound.

One Way Street--like most of Jamie's songs, "One Way Street" is catchy, fantastic for singing along with, and uses exactly the right amount of guitars--the vocals are never overpowered but the guitars are present enough to give the song that needed punch, especially for moving into the chorus (typical double guitar chug there!). I'm not really sure whether you'd say the song, a plea for some help in making a relationship work (i.e., make it not just a "one way street") is midtempo or uptempo--midtempo, I guess, but the way the chorus rises gives it a "bigger" feel, and the song never feels like it's dragging, or even really that sad. Really, "One Way Street" may not be the almost undiluted fun of "Good Girl" and the less-than-happy emotions of the song are recognizable and add to the song's strength, but it is fun, in its own way--it's just slightly less peppy. It's also the sort of song that would fit in equally comfortably on a teen pop playlist or (if given a fair chance) a slightly more credible radio-friendly rock playlist. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go wander around with "This love is, is a one way street/Oh yeah/This love is, is a broken promise" and "ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo" stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

You can order Jamie Meyer's album It's All About Me by sending an e-mail to his official website; other online stores don't carry it anymore, though it does sometimes show up on eBay. It's also on the Swedish iTunes store, should you be from Sweden.

Next up: I'm not sure--maybe something from another male Swedish singer.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

You've got the best of me, you'll get the rest of what is left

I realized I hadn't actually been doing too much recapping or discussing of the results of Melodifestivalen here, so--though there are a bunch of blogs already doing a great job of that and if you're interested I realize there's a good chance you've already looked up the performances--here are my highlights from the past two weeks. Some are highlights because of the songs (meaning you may need to look beyond the performance), some are highlights because of the performance, and some are highlights because of both.

Also, I should mention that I've decided I'm not going to watch YouTube videos of the performances, at least for a while; after last week's disconnect between how I experienced the performances live (as in real time, not as in actually there!) and what they seemed like on playback, I've decided to avoid that.

The first semifinal featured three songs that so far I can see myself listening to over the course of the year--well, maybe four, if Face-84's "Alla Gamla X" sticks with me. One of the three was dance-pop singer Velvet's "Deja Vu," which failed to make it to the second chance round or to the final. It keeps getting compared to Sonja Aldén's entry "Etymon" from a few years ago, but I prefer this, maybe because it's more danced-up.

Fifteen year old Amy Diamond, however, did make it through to the final with the young-sounding (but not in a bad or limiting way) pop song "Thank You."

Not too many other people--in Sweden or on the Internet--liked Michael Michailoff's "That's Love" like I did. The pop-rock song got compared to Andreas Johnson's entries from 2006 and 2007 as well as Karl Martindahl's "Love Turns Water Into Wine" from 2004, a comparison I can hear, but the payoff part of the chorus here works better for me--whereas after the similar introduction "Love Turns Water Into Wine" gives way to these smooth backing vocals singing "Love turns water into wine," "That's Love" gives you a more powerful, upbeat, singalong-oriented phrase, and that makes a huge difference for me. Ultimately, the chorus gets stuck in my head, and I don't mind it being there.

Onto the second semfinal's performances. Sanna Nielsen caused a real sensation in Sweden with her performance of the ballad "Empty Room," which had her in incredible vocal form (as usual). Sanna-mania is sweeping Sweden at the moment.

Someone not in incredible vocal form (watch out for that shout near the end, Alex!) was Alexander Schöld, but in studio I love his catchy pop-rock song "Den Första Svalan" (also, apparently I have the maturity level of a twelve year old boy, because I'm still not over that title yet). Plus, if his voice bothers you that much, it's an Epicentre song, so I imagine we'll be hearing another singer, probably someone off of an international Idol show, singing it within the next fifteen months. This is one of those songs that I don't expect most Melodifestival fans to love but that is exactly the sort of thing I enjoy.

Rongedal, like Sanna, qualified directly to the final, singing their fun Scissor Sisters/Bee Gees/Mika (take your pick)-esque entry "Just A Minute."

I was expecting to not like Andreas Johnson and Carola Häggkvist's entry "One Love" at all--I thought their earlier single together was just drippy--but not only did they put on a great performance (I even thought Carola was likable in it), I genuinely like their anthemic song. Doesn't mean I wasn't pleased to see them end up in the second chance round, though (now, if only it could have been Ola who got the other direct to final spot--I'm not at all confident in him making it through the second chance round).

...and speaking of Ola: all this is really just filling you in on songs I enjoyed, though, because my heart was totally sold in the three minutes it took for the first song to be performed. Ola may not be my type and his album may have been spotty, but boy, does he have dominion over my musical heart these days--well, him and the people making his best songs. "Love In Stereo" keeps getting compared to John Farnham's "You're The Voice" mixed with upbeat '80's pop, but it's very much in the vein of Ola's earlier hits "Natalie" and "S.O.S." as well. It's exactly what pop should be. Maybe it was the environment I was watching Melodifestivalen in, but I was so shocked to read almost all negative opinions of Ola's performance when perusing the Internet this morning--I thought it was really great. Plus, those chorus lyrics--"Give me love in stereo/Give me more of the attraction/'Cause I'm dying for some more" and "Give me love in stereo/Give me total satisfaction/'Cause I gotta have it all" are just demanding for me to find a use for them somewhere ( profile? Tagline here?). Please, Sweden, please vote him through to the final--I really fear for him, and we only know one of the groups he's up against so far (E-Type and the Poodles). He needs to be there!

I even liked Lasse Lindh's singer-songwritery "Du behöver aldrig mer vara rädd" as well--really, I just enjoyed this semifinal a lot. Great songs and great results--a top four I'm very happy with, even if I might have made one swap in the order.

Shake your body, the beats keep on pumpin'

Third round of Melodifestivalen this coming weekend! Once again, I'm no expert, so feel free to add things or correct me, and I've not heard any of these songs or even talked to anyone who has--it's really just my attempt at a round-up of information that we all have access to online, as well as some background information for people new to the contest.

Sources: Schlagerprofilerna, Gylleneskor, SVT's official Melodifestivalen site, Wikipedia, Plugged, Caracola Fansite, P4's rundown, QX's rundown, Mera Nöje, Metro,, and BWO's official site

1.) BWO, "Lay Your Love On Me"
Probably the big guns out of this heat, BWO are a three person group masterminded by Alexander Bard, who's also been involved with groups like Army of Lovers and Alcazar. The other two members are Marina Schiptjenko and lead singer Martin Rolinski, who appeared on a series of Popstars in Sweden. If you've never heard their music, hurry out and buy their debut album Prototype right now--it's packed full of fantastic pop (one of the best pop albums of the '00's, I'd say) and was an incredibly exciting arrival upon the music scene when it came out. Their first Melodifestival entry, 2005's "Gone," is easily one of their weakest tracks, but they more than made up for that in Melodifestivalen 2006 with the pop stomper "Temple Of Love," which was only prevented from winning the contest by the comeback (after fifteen years away from Melodifestivalen) of Carola. If "Lay Your Love On Me" is as good as "Temple Of Love," we should all be getting very excited. The song's writers say it's a dramatic electronic disco track. BWO also say the uptempo track isn't "Temple Of Love" mark 2 and is more melodic than that song; also, they'll be wearing "avantgarde" outfits. Reviews so far of it have been very positive, but (from what I've read) not very specific...hopefully we'll get more news as Saturday approaches. Henrik Wikström, one of the writers, does compare the track to Madonna's "Sorry," though (as did Alexander, along with "Hung Up"), and an Aftonbladet reviewer says that "Lay Your Love On Me" is dramatic electronic pop that perfectly suits Martin's voice, has a fantastic chorus, and is even better than "Temple Of Love." After releasing three albums (excluding their remix album), they'll be releasing a greatest hits, titled Pandemonium, this April; in addition to "Lay Your Love On Me," it'll have two other new songs.

To watch: their performance of "Temple Of Love" at the final of Melodifestivalen 2006--WANT! LOVE! Ohh-ohH-OHh-OHH!

2.) Mickey Huskic, "Izdajice"
Mickey's kind of an unknown factor here, since I don't think he's released any music commercially before (by himself--he is part of a band)...though apparently he's tried to enter Melodifestivalen a bunch of times before. The song's official description says that it's a ballad with Balkan influences, with "Izdajice" meaning "betrayal." It nearly qualified for last year's Melodifestival. There's got to be a cello in it somewhere, since a beauty pageant winner will be playing it for the song. Apparently it could be compared to Bosnia Herzegovina's 2006 entry. Also, the song is all in Bosnian, I think. Mickey's recently signed a deal with Universal and is working on an album.

To watch listen: a montage set to a song of his, "Kazna za sve;" alternatively, you can watch a live performance of the song here

3.) Frida feat. Headline, "Upp o. Hoppa" (Get Up And Jump)
Frida (Muranius, not part of ABBA) had a hit this past spring/summer with "Dunka mig gul och blå," a light singer-songwritery kind of song that played with rhythms a little bit in a way that I guess could be construed as hip-hop influenced...and probably should be interpreted to be, given that Headline is said to rap on "Upp o. Hoppa." In fact, the beginning of the official description for "Upp o Hoppa" could almost apply to Frida's earlier hit: singer-songwriter hiphop with African guitars (here about living life while you can). Then again, "Upp o. Hoppa" is said to be an uptempo track. Schlagerprofilerna says they've heard it's pop-rap that you want to dance to and sing with. As a kind of irrelevant aside, the song was originally announced as being called "Leva livet," but then retitled.

To watch: the video for "Dunka mig gul och blå"

4.) Thérèse Andersson, "When You Need Me"
Thérèse (those accent marks are going to get annoying quickly) is best known to Swedish pop fans as one-third of (I can't even begin to think of what adjective to use to describe Pay TV's we're-too-cool-for-you electro-pop stylings--"snarky" isn't aloof enough) Pay TV. What does her solo participation in Melodifestivalen mean for that group? I have no idea--maybe Robpop does? Her song "When You Need Me" is officially described as a combination of pop, musical, and Celtic influences with a message about daring to love again. Thérèse says when people hear the first verse they'll think "oh, another rock chick," but then when the chorus hits they'll wonder if it's the same song. It's co-written by Evan of "Under Your Spell" from Melodifestivalen 2006, and he describes the song as a mix of Sarah Brightman and Nightwish, adding that it's uptempo, has some guitars, and switches back and forth between genres, with the chorus being pure opera. Gylleneskor compares it to Slovenia's 2007 entry in Eurovision.

To watch: Pay TV's performance of "Refrain Refrain" at Melodifestivalen 2005

5.) Patrik Isaksson & Bandet, "Under Mitt Tunna Skinn" (Under My Thin Skin)
Singer-songwriter Patrik Isaksson had success around the turn of the century in Sweden, but 2006 marked a relaunch or comeback of sorts for him. His song "Faller Du Så Faller Jag," a piano-based ballad, may have qualified to the second chance round and just barely failed to qualify to the final from there (it took third), but it went on to be a hit for him; additionally, it was very well received critically. How do you follow up an entry that some critics viewed as one of the best ballads in Melodifestivalen in recent years (or period)? Not with a ballad, apparently, but more with a typical song for him, one with a powerful/pounding chorus--but also with a song that's said to not be quite as good as his previous entry.

To watch: well, I'm obligated to post his performance of "Faller Du Så Faller Jag" from Melodifestivalen 2006 (which bafflingly didn't show up on YouTube when I used YouTube's search function and typed in his name), but I do want to mention that I fell in love with his very very MOR ballad with Sarah Dawn Finer, "Du Som Tog Mitt Hjärta," last year. I really like his earlier hit "Hos dig är jag underbar" as well, and that's faster and with more of a punchy chorus, as is another earlier hit, "Ruta 1"

6.) Caracola, "Smiling In Love"
I have high hopes for a good song from this girl group! Caracola (if P4 can be believed, they're named after the Spanish word for "conch"--like the shell) have released two albums of dance-influenced pop, one in Swedish and one in English (well, I swear I remember seeing that they released an English album--called Love Alive or something, I think--and even almost buying it, but now some traces of that seem to have been erased from the Internet; it included many English versions of their earlier Swedish songs), but have yet to really break out in Sweden. "Smiling In Love" is another case of very good things being said but me not knowing many specifics; it's said to be a good modern happy pop song, and the girls themselves say it's catchy Caracola-type schlager. With luck, they'll be the year's Cosmo4--though hopefully they'll get a higher ranking! They're planning to release an album, This Is Caracola, this spring.

To watch: well...there's a non-professional video of them performing "Mango Nights" embedded below

7.) Ainbusk, "Jag saknar dig ibland" (I Miss You Sometimes)
This is a group I know nothing about--I guess they had some hits (big hits) back in the '90s. Josefine Nilsson, one of the members, competed in Melodifestivalen 2005 with "Med hjärtats egna ord." "Jag saknar dig ibland" is apparently a good ballad about regret and has a similar feel to Sonja Aldén's "För att du finns" from last year (with which it shares a creator). It starts with piano and then builds and has a big chorus. Schlagerprofilerna says that it's been said that it could have been a good comeback song for Shirley Clamp if she'd wanted to return to Melodifestivalen.

To watch listen: a montage set to their '90's hit "Lassie" (co-written by Benny Andersson)--there's a long talking bit at the beginning

8.) Eskobar, "Hallelujah New World"
Not your typical Melodifestival group, Eskobar are an indie-pop or alt-pop group that has been releasing music since the late '90s. They're also this week's joker/wildcard. Schlagerprofilerna reports that it's rumored (though how strongly, I have no idea) that "Hallelujah New World" is Eskobar's best song ever. Their song is also said to be uptempo with a clap-friendly section in the middle, and the band says the song is big/grand. They've got an album called Death In Athens coming out this March.

To watch: their 2002 hit single with Heather Nova, "Someone New"