Saturday, February 26, 2011

I can't believe you're doing this to me

Melodifestivalen has been eating this blog alive for the last few weeks. If you have no interest in that Swedish contest, though, don't worry; with all the songs introduced and only two weeks remaining, you won't have much more to slog through.

If you are an international pop fan who ignores Melodifestivalen, the one entry most likely to catch your eye is Love Generation's "Dance Alone," courtesy of it being written by popular producer RedOne. The four girls of Love Generation did a great job today, coming across as having a shot at being the current best girl group offering in the world.

Still, if you only make time for one Melodifestival entry a year--heck, if you usually don't make time for any of them--there's one track I ask you to give a chance: Loreen's "My Heart Is Refusing Me." It's mid-tempo electronic pop, certainly more commercial than indie, but it has a dark undercurrent to it that, when combined with Loreen's revelation of a voice, I find haunting.

Something about that song plus that voice gets under my skin in a way I can't wholly understand. All I know is that when she gets to that chorus (especially in the post-middle eight repetition), I begin to feel like shreds of my heart are being torn away.

Loreen will be competing in the top half of the bracket in next weekend's second chance round. Unfortunately, she's slotted against some strong competitors, including the aforementioned Love Generation. Can we just send them both through? And maybe add in Jenny Silver, too?

Don't need you tonight

Tonight's Melodifestival results were surprising, to say the least.

(Photo credit to Aftonbladet.)

E det fel på mej by poppostergirl

My jaw dropped (for the second time, but we'll get to that in a minute) at the news that Linda Bengtzing had won her semifinal and would be advancing straight to the final. It's welcome news for someone who loves Linda as much as I do and for anyone won over by her energetic, explosive schlager. Still, considering "E det fel på mig" is, at first few listens, not as good as her previous three entries and her staging was a little messy--not only did it seem to have taken several steps backwards into the past after the flirty, modern performance of "Hur svårt kan det va?", even the traditional old-fashioned schlager elements weren't executed as well as they could have been for the first two-thirds of the song (though Linda was a star, as always)--I was shocked that she'd been the night's top vote-getter. Shocked but, even if feeling that it was a teeny bit undeserved, pleased.

The Hunter by poppostergirl

Poor Melody Club ended up in seventh. I had inklings of trouble when I realized Kristofer's vocals weren't transferring too well to the Melodifestival context (he has a quirky voice which doesn't necessarily sound traditionally "strong" even when he's on form), but I never truly considered they'd be outside of the top five. I hope they get a radio hit out of "The Hunter"--it's the best they've sounded in years (and features a great guitar solo--seriously, how we can we have a drought of good guitar solos for so long and then have multiple so close together?)--and hope their upcoming album is of equal quality.

Nicke Borg drove the knife in even further by going straight to the final instead of Love Generation. A slick performance with pretty good vocals (a few of the girls were less good than the other two, but none were awful) and a good song had me hoping the girls would give the Melodifestival final a boost of modernity and international appeal, but even outside of the "how do we want to present Sweden to the rest of the world" dilemma, the whole package was deserving of advancing further than it did. Love Generation still have a chance to make it to the final. Unfortunately, they were sent to the top half of the second chance bracket, which means they'll be facing off against my other favorite AC contenders, Loreen and Jenny Silver.

Still, as we Melodifestival fans drown our sorrows, there's one thing to comfort us (well, one thing besides lovely Linda's fantastic direkt-till-Globen achievement): this year's songs are all finally on sale. You can buy the deluxe box set celebrating the past ten years here.


Twitter, the place I would usually go to with my quick, fairly uninformed opinions, seems to be down. I need somewhere to vent my first, unconsidered thoughts about the full versions of the fourth Melodifestival semifinal tracks, though, so here we go.

I'm hugely pleased with Melody Club's song; they may have just swept straight into my personal first place of this final (with--shhh--a chance at ending up my favorite song of Melodifestivalen 2011). That surprises me a little--I haven't truly loved their recent singles, so I expected a "like but not adore" case with "The Hunter"--but I'm thrilled about that surprise. Finally, we've got a pop-rock entry that really delivers.

I'm still a little concerned that Linda Bengtzing's "E det fel på mig" isn't quite up to her usual (incredibly high) standards, but I'm hoping in proper quality it will shine more. It's still energetic schlager which I know I'll enjoy, though. I'll definitely get swept up in the moment.

Love Generation's "Dance Alone" is a nice modern pop entry. I like it and will probably play it a lot over the course of the year, but it's difficult for me to say more because I keep getting drawn back to "The Hunter" every time I think I should listen to "Dance Alone" again.

Anders Fernette's "Run" is basically what I hoped it would be: pleasant pop-rock, light on the rock, with a nice melody to it (better than his past couple of singles, too). It still has no chance here, but hey, at least we're finally getting that album.

Linda Pritchard's "Alive" is the sort of ballad which probably, well, comes alive in its live performance. I do love the dramatic middle eight. "Something came alive" isn't my favorite key line for a song, though.

Nicke Borg's voice is unfortunately not my favorite kind of rock voice; in the hands of a performer with a less raspy, nasal voice, I could see myself enjoying "Leaving Home."

Julia Alvgard's "Better Or Worse" is better than its likely result in the contest will indicate. It's pleasant mid-tempo R&B-pop which I'm not enthusiastic about but which is fine.

Lasse Stefanz...well, it makes me feel like someone horribly uneducated making grand pronouncements about things they really know nothing about to say it, but I'd enjoy this song more with another singer. I know, I know, Lasse Stefanz are a much-loved dansband so there's clearly appeal in Olle's voice to many people who know much more about this style of music than I do, but I wish someone else was singing it. Not some glam female diva--just a different dansband.

Performances taken out of the equation, my personal preferences would probably be Melody Club and Linda Bengtzing direct to Globen and Love Generation and Anders Fernette to the second chance round (with Love Generation to the second half of the bracket and making it to the final while Anders goes into the top half, with Loreen making it to the final). Clearly that's not going to happen, but I'll be hoping for Melody Club, Love Generation, and Linda to advance (and whichever one of them failed to make it directly to the final going in the bottom half of the second chance bracket). I'm very nervous, though...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You can't take this feeling away

Straight from the "destined to be adored by a small group of people on the Internet and no more" files: the solo career of Britt Love, formerly one-half of Mini Viva.

Can't Stop Loving You (Clip) by litendark

The British duo may have been dropped and disbanded, but Britt provides an indirect way of getting way of getting your Xenomania-Mini Viva fix. She's been working with production unit Youth Kills. Included in that trio is Tim Talbot, who at one point was playing keyboards for an in-development Xenomania act.

Tim also used to be part of Lite N Dark, the duo which originally put out "Can't Stop Loving You." Britt's version is a a big step up, though, all swooshing, hands-in-the-air dance beats and vocals several steps above your average random dance song session vocalist.

The good news--well, the good news besides the fact that Britt seems poised to continue making great music--is that she's probably no longer carrying top ten expectations. With more independent backing, she's free to worry less about just making music for that "small group" and more about keeping all of her music as exciting as "Can't Stop Loving You."

There's nowhere yet to buy Britt Love's music, but you can purchase Mini Viva's excellent run of singles here (physical) or just "Left My Heart In Tokyo" here (digital).

Like a star, like a hero

Via Schlagerprofilerna, the BEST news you will read all day is on page 19 of this PDF. Some of the demos to be included on this year's Melodifestival ten-year celebration CD set are:
  • Jessica Andersson's "Jag ljuger så bra"
  • Timoteij's English version of "Kom," "Run"
  • Linda Bengtzing's "Headlines"
  • Backup singer Agnetha Körsvik's "Hero"
  • Fredrik Kempe and Shirley Clamp's "Du och jag mot världen"
  • Sonja Aldén's "Night Of Passion" and "Invincible"
  • Brandsta City Släckers' "En gång för alla"
  • Sarah Dawn Finer's "Not A Sinner Nor A Saint"
If you haven't already preordered this set, you can do so here. It comes out March 4 and includes this year's Melodifestival entries, a book of reminiscences from Christer Björkman, four CDs with classic entries from the past ten years, and the aforementioned disc of Melodifestival demos.

We may only be in the second month of the year, but musical acts are going to have to work pretty hard if they want to beat this release for the title of most exciting CD of the year.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bet you're missin' my voice on those records you own

One of the most charming pop songs to come from a British singer recently was Keisha Buchanan's "Under Control," a leak from the former Sugababes singer's recording sessions with songwriter Alex James (of Alexandra Burke's "Bad Boys" and the Backstreet Boys' "Masquerade") and David Gamson (the former Scritti Politti member). Despite production that initially sounds more demo-y than you might hope, its poppy, upbeat core is instantly appealing--appealing enough that, before you know it, you've played "Under Control" several times and can't understand how you ever found it fuzzy or underproduced. It's situated somewhere near the Sugababes' "Push The Button" and Groove Armada and Mutya's "Song 4 Mutya," though with fewer dance influences. There's an effortless, summery vibe to the song that seemed to indicate Keisha had, confidently and with understatement, found a musical sweet spot without any of the struggle that so often characterizes early solo careers.

Gimmie Pressure by poppostergirl

"Gimmie Pressure," written with Alex Cantrall (JoJo's "Leave (Get Out)"), isn't as innocently poppy or warm as "Under Control." It feels more aggressive and boastful, as well as a little more urban--it even switches over to a skittery grime beat for its fadeout. All that said, it's not hard or edgy in the way much pop-R&B is nowadays; there are no slicing synths or icy minimalist dance beats. The lyrics may seek to announce Keisha's queen bee status, but the song itself doesn't make enough of a statement to work as a smart solo debut single. Still, when taken with "Under Control," it does nothing to dissuade interest in the return of one of the UK's most distinctive voices.

Keisha Buchanan currently has no solo releases to purchase, but you can buy her earlier work with the Sugababes here (physical) or here (digital).

Take me away

Swedish Stereo, Scandipop, and the Schlager Boys have already featured songs from this coming weekend's Dansk Melodi Grand Prix--Denmark's national final for Eurovision--but I have to throw in my two cents. Granted, there really is about two cents worth of comments here, but still: it sounds like it's shaping up to be a great set of songs.

I'm particularly impressed by just how poppy the songs are. Over the past few years, the Dansk MGP has been slowly but surely solidifying itself as one of the best national finals out there. This year continues that trend. Granted, we could be in for a bunch of great choruses and disappointing verses since all we've heard are clips, but I'm optimistic.

There are four songs I'd like to single out, in rough order of descending love:

Kat and Justin Hopkins, "Black and Blue": pumping pop production that reminds me of Bassflow behind an instantly catchy uptempo but downbeat chorus.

Le Freak, "25 Hours a Day": delightfully cheesy throwback schlager from Thomas G:son.

Lee Hutton, "Hollywood Girl": former member of the much-lamented pop group Industry singing an uptempo teen pop-style song with cheesy rave synths behind it.

Jenny Berggren, "Let Your Heart Be Mine": former Ace of Base member on a stompy electronic pop song.

Edit: Anne Noa's "Sleepless" is also quite lovely.

The Danish Melodi Grand Prix will be airing this Saturday. There should have a web stream for any international fans interested in watching it, but unfortunately, since it starts at 2:30 PM EST, it will conflict with Melodifestivalen.

Monday, February 21, 2011

You just don't see the beauty in anything

Norwegian duo Eva & the Heartmaker have solidified their place in the exciting artists roster with their recent work. Last spring's "Mr. Tokyo" was a charming, fragile introduction to the new electronic-friendly sound of their third album era, but it's with "Signals" that they truly arrived. One of the best singles of the past six months, it's a sweet, infectiously upbeat track with pop-ified Van Halen synths. Stream it here or in the above video.

04 Gone In a Flash by poppostergirl

There's nothing to rival the instant joy of "Signals" on their new album, Dominoes, but that would be a tall order to fill. The great title track has a similarly well-constructed uptempo instrumental but this time with more regretful vocals from singer Eva Skram. It might work better as a whole than the track I'm sharing today, the sashaying "Gone In A Flash," but please forgive my indulgence: "Gone In A Flash" has me fascinated at the moment. Picture male light rock from the '80s sung by a modern girl group that segues into "I Feel Love" before switching back to the '80s for a hard rock guitar solo. All without blinking an eye. It's mildly crazy, except the whole thing is done with such smooth ease that you find yourself thinking "of course, why wouldn't a Norwegian husband-and-wife indie-pop duo meld Hall & Oates, Donna Summer, and Van Halen?" As with the rest of the album, though, even when the group is flirting shamelessly with the '70s and especially the '80s, they make it sound thoroughly modern with their slick arrangements and production.

Edit: one day later, the group has debuted the music video for "Gone In A Flash." Apparently it's the next single!

The third album from Eva & the Heartmaker, Dominoes, can be purchased here (physical). At eight tracks, it's short but sweet.

Counting every single one of them a conquest to achieve

There's probably not much in the world that is more of a navel-gazing entrée into boredom than discussing the mechanics of blogging. Still, sometimes it feels as if the only way to sort issues out is to verbalize them in some way...and maybe get some please forgive me as a do that for a minute.

I'm speaking specifically of the music blogging practice of posting songs. We've got two pretty clear ends of the spectrum--posting a stream or download of a song which a label has sent to you to feature on one side and posting a stream or download of an unreleased song given to you in confidence on the other. I think we could all generally agree the former is totally acceptable and the latter is wrong (though a few people might argue with that particular point).

What do you do with something in between those two points, though? We, as bloggers, repost YouTube videos of leaked songs all the time. That could be an ethical dilemma of its own--theoretically, we're hurting the publicity campaigns of those artists, preventing songwriters from selling a demo unused by one artist to another artist because the demo is too inextricably linked to the first artist, and perhaps decreasing sales, among other problems.

Still, the only time I ever question my decision to repost a stream of a previously leaked song is if I know of a direct negative effect that is directly linked into broadening public knowledge of the song. For example, I refrained from posting YouTube videos that played the thirty-second preview clips from Amazon and similar stores of Love Generation's "Dance Alone." Since that song will be competing in Melodifestivalen, which forbids anyone from sharing even clips of competing songs until broadcaster SVT itself puts them up, I was worried that broader knowledge of the clip's leak might increase the song's chance of disqualification (though one could debate whether that's actually any more a "direct negative effect" from those cited in the above paragraph). Yes, you're probably assigning too much importance and power to yourself, but personal responsibility factors into moral decisions at least as a matter of principle or symbolism even if one's actions won't necessarily have a wide-ranging effect. In the end, the song wasn't disqualified. However, though I chose not to repost those clips, I don't really believe that technically there was anything wrong with the decisions of those people who did--they themselves were not leaking the songs, just sharing a clip leaked by music stores.

The dilemma I've been wondering about recently is similar to that situation. If an unreleased song is posted elsewhere on the Internet by a fairly official source (obviously "fairly official" is a questionable term), has not been noticed by the public at general, is presumably not yet meant for general public consumption, and has a decent chance of drawing significantly more notice through you featuring it, is it OK to link to a stream of that song?

On the one hand, you're not releasing it to the world--it's already been unveiled somewhere. On the other, if you're worried enough to have to justify it in your mind with these "I'm not leaking it, just publicizing it" arguments, isn't that a sign that your conscience might be telling you something that your eagerness to write about a new song might not want to hear?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Better or worse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 19, 2011

There are times when the doubts get to me

Today's Melodifestival results were predictable: Eric Saade, he of the strongest fandom in the contest, and the Playtones, they of the top-selling albums of last year in Sweden, were voted to the final. One might have expected Sebastian, who advanced straight to the final last time, to have a shot at the second chance round, but even his fifth place isn't especially shocking.

The results aren't especially disappointing either. Do I still feel like there's something missing in Eric the popstar, even if I strongly approve of his use of aggressive choreographed group dancing? Yes. Do I think that "Popular," though full of exciting production touches and situated in a style I like, is lacking in its topline? Yes, definitely. In a lackluster heat like this one, though, I can't deny that the combination of his song, staging, and performance deserved to advance. I just can't feel the enthusiasm for it that I would like to. I'd rather send him to Germany than the winner of semifinal two, Sanna's "I'm In Love," but considering how cold that song leaves me, that's not saying much. I don't want to sound too negative, though: "Popular"'s beat and whistle, the dark, edgy staging, the dancing (particularly Eric's little backwards side-to-side shuffle midway through the song), and Eric's obvious seriousness about the whole endeavor all earn thumbs-ups from me.

I can't say I feel any passion about the Playtones. Their energetic song is nice enough and they filled up the stage nicely. Still, they've done nothing to convince me they have anything other than anti-charisma when they perform.

I would have liked to see better for Linda Sundblad, whose entry this week was my most-played going into today; "Lucky You" has a warm charm to it. It isn't as strong as the best of her work, though.

Shirley's Angels had an effectively staged performance, but "boring" has already started to creep up on their song. Considering how little time we've spent with it so far, that's troubling.

Sara Lumholdt's "Enemy" is a good song. Sebastian's "No One Else Could" probably is, too. Will they be hugely missed at Globen, though? No.

The Swedes are apparently over old-fashioned schlager ballads, with Simon Forsberg coming in last, and find bossa nova most effective when married to what are apparently moving lyrics about the importance of escaping from an abusive relationship. With my broken Swedish, most of the subtleties of Sara Varga's "Spring för livet" go over my head, but, like with Pernilla Andersson's entry, I think I can understand its appeal in a detached way.

The best thing about this week's semifinal was that, with relatively little investment in the songs, it made for a fairly stress-free view experience. That's sure to change next week, though, when the traditionally overpacked fourth semifinal will have us biting our nails as our favorites face tough competition. Let's hope it contains something internationally spectacular or we may be facing a solid but spark-lacking final.

Dancing for my life

If you do not usually tune in to Melodifestivalen, Sweden's contest to select an entry for cross-Europe song contest Eurovision, today is not the day to start watching.

Usually, Melodifestivalen--literally, the Melody Festival--is a reliable source for well-written songs, most often of the pop type. Tonight's semifinal, the third of four that introduce new songs before a second chance round and a final, is a disappointing step back in song quality compared to both this year's previous two semifinals and the contest's previous editions.

That's not to say you won't be in for a good time if you tune in to the web stream that will be available at 2 PM EST. At this point, Melodifestivalen is a slick entertainment production. Sure, the artist introduction packages have sometimes been running a bit long this year, but tonight's semifinal will feature what reports say is the best intermission act yet: Lena Philipsson, 2004's winner, performing an English hard rock version of her classic '80s Melodifestival track "Dansa i neon."

You'll also see one of the top contenders for this year's top placing. Young Eric Saade, the breakout star of last year's Melodifestival, will be performing "Popular," an uptempo pop song that is practically unnecessary in terms of him making it to the finals--Eric advancing is the closest you'll get to a sure thing in Melodifestivalen this year. Whether you fall for "Popular"'s pulsing hard beat or not, the best thing about Eric has always been his eagerness and dedication to putting on a show. Eric's strong dancing skills and a glass-shattering stage gimmick promise a strong overall performance package.

The problem viewers will run into this week, though, is that the songs are generally enjoyable but not exceptional; there isn't anything to stir up the fiery, passionate devotion that promises heartbreak when one's favorites don't advance. Most of the players--including Linda Sundblad, Sebastian, Shirley Clamp of Shirley's Angels, and Sara Lumholdt of A*Teens--have been involved in better songs in the past, even if their offerings this week are not bad per se. It's instead a matter of songs that, one suspects, will in the long term reveal themselves to be three star affairs instead of the four and five star songs one hopes for in a contest of such prominence.

Still, even in an off week, Melodifestivalen will be must-watch viewing for me. A good performance can make you temporarily overlook a song's shortcomings. Most of all, though, even when the songs fade down the stretch, the contagious enthusiasm surrounding the online conversation about them rarely does.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I'm not gonna wait this time

As you may have read elsewhere, Norwegian electro-pop singer Margaret Berger--she of the amazing "Will You Remember Me Tomorrow," "Samantha," and "Robot Song"--is releasing her new single "In A Box" on February 21. Yes, after months, probably years of waiting, we'll have new Margaret music in just a few days.

As we wait for Monday, though, we can listen to a stripped-down performance of "In A Box," featuring just Margaret and a piano player, here. She also performed another new song, "4.E.V.E.R.L.O.V.E.", which is the b-side to "In A Box." Based on what we hear there, I'm just as excited to hear it as to hear the a-side.

(I had to switch from Firefox to Internet Explorer to get the videos to work. You'll also have to sit through an ad.)

Granted, the studio version probably (and hopefully) sounds quite different, but I've been excited for new Margaret material for so long that I'll take what I can get to help me survive the next few days. I'm also more nervous than I'd like to admit (when all the stars align, Margaret's music is nigh unbeatable, but I'm worried she may have wandered from the pop-friendly path that appeals most to me), so I'm being extra-clingy about any indication as to the sound of her new music.

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.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fired up

Call me a sucker for a pop vocal over a big ravey dance song and I wouldn't argue. We've had a number of those recently, ranging from David Guetta and Kelly Rowland's "When Love Takes Over" to Rihanna's "Only Girl (In The World)" to Alex Gaudino and Maxine's "I'm In Love (I Wanna Do It)."

01 Burning Up by poppostergirl

The vast majority of such songs, though, are sung by women. Sure, we've had a good number of male-sung songs on the charts that take some cues from pop-dance, but rarely do they go all the way into euphoric swooshes and instrumentals that would truly sound at home on the dancefloor. Usher's "DJ's Got Us Falling In Love Again" and Enrique Iglesias's "I Like It" show a restraint that positions them somewhere between pop and pop-dance on the music spectrum. They can be fun--a lot of fun, in the case of the latter--but they never have that same sense of lost-in-the-music release.

Nick Carter's "Burning Up" doesn't have the same stratospheric production as the aforementioned "I'm In Love," but it's one step closer to the sound I crave: the male-vocaled pop-dance song so jubilantly dancey that it actually makes you want to partake in all the clubbing cliches that seventy-five percent of these songs mention.

Blah blah blah "generic" blah "sounds like everything else in the charts right now," I know. Only it doesn't--"Burning Up" probably was inspired by post-Black Eyed Peas/whoever surge in dance-influenced songs, but it goes in a surging rave direction most male singers don't--and, more importantly, Nick's half-disinterested verses and the repetitive chorus are actually the perfect foil for a rave riff that, basic as it may be, never fails to make noon on Thursday feel like midnight on Friday.

"Burning Up" is taken from Nick Carter's second solo album, I'm Taking Off, just released in Japan. It can be purchased here or here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I sing all your favorite songs

By far the best thing to come out of Frankmusik's post-Complete Me output is "Stereo World." Based on the material he'd distributed on two free EPs, I was starting to get a bit worried. Sure, they were all free songs that presumably weren't good enough to make the cut for his upcoming second album, and sure, there were some interesting ideas scattered here and there, but nothing showed off the strong, engaging songwriting skills that were on full display in the vast majority of the demos before and songs on his first album.

The bright, initially frivolous-sounding love song "Stereo World" allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief. It's got the bounce, charm, heart, and melody that, in addition to all his great production tricks, make him such a welcome force on the pop scene, that make it worth setting aside his personal stumbles to get to the music on the other side.

"Stereo Love" is available as a free download on Frankmusik's website.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

I live my life the way I planned

Ahh, Twitter--destroyer of free time, and yet, what would we do without you?

Not A Sinner Nor A Saint by poppostergirl

Today's interesting Twitter moment came from Sarah Dawn Finer, who mentioned that her original 2002 demo of "Not A Sinner Nor A Saint" would appear on the (amazing) upcoming Melodifestival boxset documenting the past ten year's of the contest.

Sarah's comment left me hitting my head against the wall--how had I not realized that was her singing on this demo for all these years? Obviously Alcazar's version is definitive and the way to be introduced to the song--it's a Melodifestival classic in their disco interpretation--but it's always nice to get these "peaking behind the music industry door" moments.

For anyone who hasn't heard it, here's Alcazar performing the song in Melodifestivalen 2003. It's the first version of "Not A Sinner Nor A Saint" anyone not in the music industry heard and the change from the original demo is stunning...and for the better, much as I love Sarah (though that has much to do with the arrangement and production).

I'm excited to hear what other demos will appear in the boxset. Dare to dream of the 99% impossibility of Måns's version of "Hero" showing up...

Anything to cover up

Back when the idea of Xenomania Records still seemed like the most exciting prospect in pop--before all the interesting artists we heard about had disappeared into the mists of potential popstars lost in "development," disappointing songs, or terminated record deals--American singer Jessie Malakouti teased us with at least two fantastic songs, the straight-up pop-dance of "Standing Up For The Lonely" and the slightly more melancholic "Who's That Man."

Jessie's time with Xenomania wasn't her first appearance in the music world. She'd earlier been a member of the pop-rock-hip hop girl group Shut Up Stella and shared songs like "If U Seek Amy" predecessor "Trash Me" (written by the Larsson/Franson/Lundgren Örebro gang) on her MySpace. Still, it wasn't until the Xenomania polish that she really started to--well, not quite shine yet, but show hints of shimmer.

Unfortunately, her proper debut single "Standing Up For The Lonely" was never released and she and the British songwriting collective parted ways. I expected a quick drop-off in song caliber, but if anything, her latest project has the highest quality rate yet. As the only real person in Jessie and the Toy Boys--she's backed up by several mannequins--Jessie seems to be finally hitting her stride with an attitude-prone electro-pop sound.

Perfect Shade Of Red by poppostergirl

I've written about "Hitman" and its addictive chorus before. The triumphant "Key To The City" is even better, perhaps her best song yet, while "Like You Better" and "The Radio's Talking To Me" both have their own cheeky charm.

"Perfect Shade Of Red" certainly belongs in the top two or three songs from this Jessie era. Finding a middle ground between the spikier, spunkier sound of the Toy Boys and the pretty mid-tempo longing of "Who's That Man," "Perfect Shade Of Red" is pretty much all I want out of pop at this point in time. Its well-written earworm of a chorus is supported by equally strong verses and a perfectly balanced mix of synth stabs and washes, with Jessie holding the whole thing together with popstar presence. If some of Jessie's other songs have seemed too try-hard youthful for you, "Perfect Shade Of Red" might be the song to win you over.

Jessie and the Toy Boys are off to a running start. Let's just hope this particular Jessie Malakouti project makes it further than Shut Up Stella, her first solo attempt, or her second Xenomania-backed try.

There are currently no Jessie and the Toy Boys songs available to purchase, but I believe "Push It" to be on sale soon. In the meantime, you can buy several of Jessie's older songs on iTunes.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Vaken i en dröm

A tradition half-abandoned last year makes its quiet return two days (or two days and one week) late: a preview of this coming weekend's Melodifestival semifinal. As always, I have absolutely no inside information, so I am incredibly indebted to the below mentioned websites; all of my information about this year's entries comes from them.

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

Brolle, "Seven Days and Seven Nights" (Brolle)
Former Popstars contestant Brolle carved out a successful niche for himself in the first half of the '00s with his Elvis style. His latest songs haven't had the staying power of early hits like "Playing With Fire," though, which may have finally brought him to Melodifestivalen. Brolle describes his self-penned ballad as a tribute to love and the way the members of a couple fight but then work together to make the relationship work. It is, he elaborates, a mix between old Brolle, new Brolle, and rockabilly.

To watch: though I think his third album contains some underrated tracks and even liked the Billy Idol-flavored single from his greatest hits, the description of "Seven Days and Seven Nights" makes me think "Playing With Fire" from his first album might be more representative.

Loreen, "My Heart Is Refusing Me" (Moh Denebi/Björn Djupström/Lorén Talhaoui)
A 2004 Idol contestant turned television host, Loreen describes her song as "as far from schlager as you can get." She's elaborated by saying "My Heart Is Refusing Me," a dramatic, emotional, string-filled ballad with a lot of pain, represents the intersection of electronic and organic. Loreen is signed to a new record label run by Måns Zelmerlöw and the two co-writers of Loreen's song. Speaking of the songwriters, I'd characterize these three as "working men" songwriters, for lack of a better phrase--they've had songs on albums (and in Melodifestivalen), but they're not big names. That's meant as no slight, though, since that's how most writers come up through the ranks.

To watch listen: the best I've got is her 2004 featured vocalist appearance on Rob n Raz's single "The Snake"

Babsan, "Ge mig en spanjor" (Larry Forsberg/Sven-Inge Sjöberg/Lennart Wastesson)
Fittingly for the first drag queen performed-entry in Melodifestivalen since After Dark twice graced the stage, "Ge mig en spanjor" is said to be a mix of "La Dolce Vita" (written by these songwriters, as is Jill Johnson's "Crazy In Love") and "Y viva España" or, alternately, a happy disco-flamenco song. Expect humor in the performance--not that you needed to be told that, given that the song is being sung by Babsan and has a title that translates to "Give Me A Spaniard."

To watch: Babsan performing at Allsång på Skansen

Elisabeth "Bettan" Andreassen, "Vaken i en dröm" (Lars "Dille" Diedricson/Calle Kindbom/Kristian Wejshag)
Bettan is a veteran of both national finals and Eurovision at this point, having competed in Melodifestivalen six times and Norway's Melodi Grand Prix five times and making it to Eurovision four out of those eleven tries. She won the whole contest in 1985, performing "La det swinge" as part of Bobbysocks. Dille and Calle are likewise Melodifestival and schlager veterans. They've co-written songs like, in Dille's case, Charlotte Perrelli's "Tusen och en natt" and Linda Bengtzing's "Jag ljuger så bra" and, in Calle's case, Fame's "Give Me Your Love" and Barbados's "Kom hem." Kristian debuted in the contest with Jessica Andersson's "I Did It For Love," co-writen with Calle, and since "Vaken i en dröm" is said to be a ballad, that entry might be an indicator of what to expect.

To watch: since we're expecting a ballad, here's her performance of "I evighet" at Eurovision in 1996. Performing for Norway, Elisabeth took second.

Sanna Nielsen, "I'm In Love" (Bobby Ljunggren/Thomas G:son/Irini Michas/Peter "Bassflow" Boström)
Power vocalist Sanna, a young Celine Dion in the making, returns to Melodifestivalen for the sixth time. As the public vote-winning but ultimately second-placed contestant in 2008 with "Empty Room," Sanna's entry this year will be much anticipated. With five previous entries, Sanna has basically covered the schlager spectrum of tempos; this time, she returns not with a ballad but with an up-tempo, upbeat song. She says it begins mysteriously, has a strong chorus, and allows her to show her voice. The song's writers are a conglomeration of big festival names: Bobby and Thomas have created all sorts of generally schlager-flavored entries, Peter makes excellent uptempo pop like Charlotte Perrelli's "Hero" and Ola's big hits, and Irini, the least famous of the bunch, co-wrote Sofia's Greek-pop-rock "Alla."

To watch: Sanna performing the the uptempo schlager song "Våger du våger jag" in Melodifestivalen 2007. Sure, it doesn't show off her voice or make the same impression on the public as "Empty Room," but a.) I never really warmed to "Empty Room" and b.) her entry this year isn't a ballad. The completely lovely "Hela världen för mig" might actually do a better job of making her live vocals sound appealing, though.

The Moniker, "Oh My God!" (Daniel Karlsson)
Performing under a stage name, former Idol 2007 participant Daniel Karlsson will sing an entry he describes as a '60s-type song inspired by ABBA, the Beatles, and the Ark in a faster, happier style than he usually uses.

To watch: the music video for his single "Would You Believe?", released under his own name in 2008.

Anniela, "Elektrisk" (Johan Alkenäs/Tim Larsson/Tobias Lundgren/Johan Fransson)
"Elektrisk" has been linked to both Linda Bengtzing and Magnus Carlsson, a promising indicator of pop-friendliness, as is the credentials of its songwriters (the makers of Linda Bengtzing's "Alla Flickor" and "Hur svårt kan det va?" and Alcazar's "Alcastar"). Anniela, a young singer looking to break into the Swedish consciousness after the release of her debut album last year, confirms that speculation by calling "Elektrisk" danceable electro-pop.

To watch: there are better songs on her debut album, but none of them have music videos, so here's said album's single, "Strip-teaser."

Christian Walz, "Like Suicide" (Fernando Fuentes/Henrik Janson/Tony Nilsson/Christian Walz)
Best known for singles from his second album like "Wonderchild," the somewhat quirky, soulful singer-songwriter makes his first appearance in Melodifestivalen with a song he describes as "a combination of my band and a spaceship." Henrik and Tony have teamed up on songs like Velvet's "The Queen" and Darin's "You're Out Of My Life" (with Tony also writing most of Ola's big hits).

To watch: the music video for "Wonderchild"

I don't dare make predictions about results, but I'm cautiously optimistic about the quality of this week's offerings. I kind of wish Brolle had a few other songwriters backing him up, but given my established weakness for his musical offerings, I expect to be won over nevertheless. Sanna and Anniela's songs should be great (even if Anniela's likely lack of stage experience and name recognition may hurt her performance, I expect it her song to sound great in studio and those particular songwriters always get me excited). I'm a fan of Christian Walz and several of his song's co-writers so, even if they seem like an unusual match, we might get something good from him, too. Getting a great schlager ballad in Melodifestivalen is rare nowadays in my books, so Elisabeth's entry doesn't have me psyched up. Still, one always hopes that institutions like her wouldn't return to the contest without something decent. Daniel's earlier single was quite good, but having heard less material from him, quality-wise he's a wild card. Loreen's song certainly sounds intriguing though I'm not counting on it to translate to the Melodifestival stage. Finally, the songwriters for "Ge mig en spanjor" have shown their skill enough in the past to make me hope there's a song of substance--albeit fun, frothy substance--behind Babsan's performance.

Then again, I'm always cautiously optimistic about the quality Melodifestival semifinals. It's those voting results you have to look out for...