Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Õnnest on loodud see

Via the always awesome Len comes what might just be my new favorite song of the Eurovision national final season so far.

It's like someone laid a gentle dance beat over a classical--albeit vaguely folky--string track and then had Rolf Junior, of 2008's Eurolaul entry "One On One," 2009's Eesti Laul entry "Freedom," and the fantastic 2008 singles "Ingel" and "Liiga Noor," sing this great pop melody over the top of it. This unexpected combination of styles avoids the pitfall of being too saccharine, but the end result is maybe the single most beautiful, joyous piece of music I've heard this year.

Estonia has yet to decide on its Eurovision entry this year, so whether or not you'll be hearing "Maagiline paev" ("Magical Day") in Oslo in May is unclear. If it is selected, I kind of selfishly hope it remains in Estonian; the sound of the language fits perfectly with the music and, maybe even more importantly, what the words actually mean could probably never live up to what I imagine them to mean, to the sheer exuberance and beauty of the song itself.

Rolf is basically getting better with each song he's involved in. At this rate, he's going to be releasing the best song ever made in five years. Let's just make sure we also keep going in the right styling direction, OK?

Monday, February 01, 2010


This Saturday will mark the first semifinal of 2010's Melodifestival, so, as usual, I'm doing my Sunday-in-advance rundown of the artists and what we know about the songs (which isn't nearly as much as we'll know when rehearsals start or when song clips go up). Six of the eight artists are new to the contest and, while the proportion of new songwriters isn't as high, there are still quite a few debutantes in that regard as well. We do have three new-to-Melodifestivalen hosts, too: Måns Zelmerlöw, Christine Meltzer, and Dolph Lundgren.

(To be honest, there's not too much new here compared to my preview a few months ago, but I've added new information and thoughts where possible).

Sources: SVT, QX, Poplight, Torben Hedlund's blog, P4, and my previous sources

1.) Ola Svensson, "Unstoppable" (t & m Dimitri Stassos, Alexander Kronlund, Hanif Sabzevari, Ola Svensson)
Former Idol contestant Ola really became popular with the release of summer single "Natalie," and since then he's continued in the upbeat boy pop vein, a sort of modernized teen pop meets strong pop beats sound. Strangely, the Melodifestival album and the single list the full name of his entry this year--his second time in the contest, after reaching the second chance round two years ago with "Love In Stereo"--as "Unstoppable (The Return Of Natalie)."

Unlike all but one of his singles since "Natalie," "Unstoppable" isn't written and produced by the team of Tony Nilsson and Peter "Bassflow" Boström. Dimitri Stassos is a frequent contributor to Eurovision national finals, often doing songs with a Greek flair (like Sofia's entries in Melodifestivalen and Soraya's Eurovision entry last year), but he did work with Ola on his less noteworthy debut album. His songs are often enjoyable but I'd still be a bit nervous if it was just his name in the credits; luckily, Alexander Kronlund, collaborator on Cheiron classics and of more recent work with Linda Sundblad, Sugababes, and Robyn, is backing him up, which has me excited. This song, described by its writers as modern, uptempo radio hit that is a harder sound for Ola, has buzz which it suggests it's as good as "Natalie." Though personally I'd rather hear it's as good as "S.O.S.", another Ola hit, this is still one of my most anticipated entries of the year. Please deliver, guys!

To watch: I should really embed his performance of "Love In Stereo" to give you an idea of his live vocals (passable but iffy), but I'll rep for "S.O.S.", one of the best pure pop songs of the past five years, any opportunity I get, so that's what's below.

2.) Jenny Silver, "A Place To Stay" (t& m Torben Hedlund)
I wasn't previously familiar with Jenny, who had a career in dansband-style music back in the '90s, partly as a member of the group Candela. She then switched over to a fuzzier pop-rock sound--a little bit punky, a little bit '80s--as the lead singer of the band Holden, though she didn't equal her '90s success.

From the sounds of it, though, "A Place To Stay" is more in the style of its songwriter's musical career than Holden's: Torben Hedlund used to be a member of Bobby, a group which was certainly not afraid of synths (check out "She's History"). Had I realized that earlier, my excitement back in my first rundown would have been more significant. At least in the song's demo form, it was, in Torben's words, an "ambient dance/house song. He's also said the song is dark, minimalistic, melancholy, and hopeful, the sort of song suitable for the clubs and for making people feel sexy.

To watch: it probably doesn't indicate the style of her entry at all, but for an idea of Jenny's look and voice, check out a very recent performance of "Sweet Caroline."

3.) Linda Pritchard, "You're Making Me Hot-Hot-Hot" (t & m Tobias Lundgren, Johan Fransson, Tim Larsson)
Linda, a contestant in the early stages of Idol, is likewise only in the early stages of her commercial music career, having released her debut single, an R&B cover of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car." You can't say she's an established artist yet, not having had any substantial success in Sweden yet...

...but with these songwriters behind her, I'm very excited to hear her entry. The makers of Linda Bengtzing's "Alla Flickor" and "Hur svårt kan det va?", Alcazar's "Alcastar," Jessica Andersson's "Källa natter," and other modern Melodifestival classics (as well as a few less beloved songs), they're one of the sets of songwriters guaranteed to make me take notice. They say their song this year is uptempo pop in a Latin style; as I've said before, I'd rather they left off the "Latin style" part, but I'm still hopeful of quality, even though it's a replacement for the disqualified "Never Heard Of Him." Linda describes her song as a swinging, dance-inducing party song with a heavy rhythm. Linda has been preparing her debut album with the team that produced her lead single, which, sadly, isn't the Örebro gang who are behind this single.

To watch: it probably should be the music video for Linda's single "Fast Car," but I'm going with her singing another song from her upcoming album, "Rise Again"

4.) Pain Of Salvation, "Road Salt" (t & m Daniel Gildenlöw)
Rock band Pain of Salvation is another act I hadn't heard of before, but then again, I'm not very tuned into the Swedish rock scene outside of chart hits. They're much darker and grungier than I prefer my rock to be, to be honest; I tend to prefer my rock anthemic, not unsettling. Not a judgment on their style of music, just a recognition that it doesn't often overlap with my taste.

The group's singer and songwriter, Daniel, describes "Road Salt" as a rock ballad, not hard but quiet, delicate but refusing to give up. He says it's about constant dejection and is tear-inducing.

To watch: I could have gone with some of their more typical, harder stuff, but since they say the song is quieter, here's "Undertow"

5.) Anders Ekborg, "The Saviour" (t & m Henrik Janson, Tony Nilsson)
Anders Ekborg and "The Saviour" replaced the disqualified "Åt helvete för sent." Anders is a theater star making his Melodifestival debut.

Henrik and Tony wrote Ola's 2008 entry "Love In Stereo" and Tony has almost all of Ola's "Natalie" to now singles, as well as Elin Lanto's "Discotheque" and Johan Krafman's "Disarmed and Chain Reaction" (amongst other songs). They say "The Saviour" is a cross between Freddie Mercury and Pavarotti, with the subject matter of saving the world with music. Anders says it is grand and difficult to sing.

To watch: well, since the writers made a Freddie Mercury reference, here's Anders singing "We Are The Champions"

6.) Jessica Andersson, "I Did It For Love" (m Lars "Dille" Diedricson, t Kristian Wejshag)
Lovely Jessica, a former Fame Factory contestant, returns to Melodifestivalen for the fifth time. The first two were as a member of the duo Fame, which won Melodifestivalen in 2003 with "Give Me Your Love" and took "Vindarna vänder oss" to the finalsin 2004. She hasn't been so lucky as a solo act, not making it out of her semifinal in 2006 with the fantastic Rachel Stevens-esque "Kalla Nätter" and making it to the second chance round in 2007 with the disappointing "Kom." I spent years praying for an album from her, but when that album finally came this past fall, it was all '60s-style retro pop--disappointing again, when Jessica by rights should be a great popstar.

There is positive buzz around her entry this year, a song which its writers (including Lars, a frequent contributor) and singer say is an emotionally-charged, big, beautiful, simple ballad about the pain and dejectedness of a love story. It's not necessarily in the '60s style, Jessica says. Still, I'd be more enthusiastic if this was another killer uptempo schlager or modern pop song (though Jessica has apparently been trying to distance herself from the schlager label).

To watch: Jessica awkwardly trying to make the short-shorts jumpsuit and chair routine work in 2006 with "Kalla nätter." She may be model gorgeous, but she was obviously uncomfortable, maybe explaining the song's failure to progress. She really does have stage presence in the right situation, but I think she may have been missing her security blanket of former Fame partner Magnus Bäcklund.

7.) Frispråkarn, "Singel" (m Hamed KeiOne Pirouzpanah, t Håkan Bäckman)
Rapper Frikspåkarn makes his Melodifestival debut with a song by Hamed, who has worked on some R&B and hip-hop songs you probably wouldn't have heard of unless you listen to that part of the Swedish music scene. He often mixes in a significant electro element into those songs, though, and his work on Ola's "Sky's The Limit" and (yes, I'm mentioning it again) Adam Tensta's "80s Baby" gives me some hope for something at least kind of interesting. Rap is pretty far outside of the Melodifestival norm, though there always seems to be at least one rap entry this year, so it's always kind of tempting to view these entries as just the attempts of the contest's managers to show "diversity." Anyway, Hamed says "Singel" is a mix of hip-hop and R&B with crazy dancey beats and vivid lyrics and Frispråkarn says the lyrics are personal, about his lvoe life, and I'm decently hopeful we could get something with a decent instrumental backing, even if it will be no contest favorite and the lyrics might not be what I'd choose.

To watch: the music video for Friskpråkarn's single "Nästa tåg nästa buss." Decently catchy, no?

8.) Salem al Fakir, "Keep On Walking" (t & m Salem al Fakir)
Singer-songwriter Salem is two '70s-ish, orchestral-souding, piano-based albums into his critically-approved career, with a third album due to be released in conjunction with his participation in Melodifestivalen. Salem says "Keep On Walking" is in his style, but since he's also been talking about a more electronic direction for this new album, it's possible some of that sound could crop up, too. He also describes it as hopeful and peppy and says it's about picking oneself up after one falls and still going on.

To watch: his Prince-like featured vocalist role on Staygold's great "Backseat" is buzzier right now, but I need to take another opportunity to promote what should have been his international breakthrough, the more delicate, magical "It's Only You (Part II)"

Overall, there's potential here, but too much up in the air for me to feel totally assured of the quality we'll be exposed to. Also, though there are some known faces, we also don't really have a big, A-level act here that all the others need to be afraid of based on name alone, which could potentially allow some good songs by less prominent acts to break through.