Fred Medeiros, OGAE R OW member and our accredited journalist to the 2015 edition of Melodifestival recalls his first in 2008.
After visiting the last seven Melodifestivalen finals myself, I wonder what actually is it that keeps fans coming back for more. Is it the Schlager pop, is it the top quality productions or is it simply the hypnotising sparkle of the disco ball? Melodifestivalen is Sweden’s most watched television programme and the most watched national final by international fans. I originally visited my first Stockholm final in 2008 as I chose not to go to Belgrade that year. So as I prepare for my eighth final, I’m looking back over past 7 years to see if Sweden’s national selection is Ira Losco’s “Seventh Wonder”?
Not unlike other years, previous participates are often the hot topics of all the press. When previous winners participate for another chance of represented Sweden they are normally favourites to win. In 2008, Charlotte Perrelli (Nilsson), who actually won the 1999 ESC in Jerusalem entered again with the “almost textbook” Schlager/power disco dance number “Hero.” Not unsurprisingly, “Hero” was a clear favourite before a single note had even been heard. Penned by Fredrik Kempe, the new Thomas G:Son, and Bobby Ljunggren, who had already written 3 Melodifestivalen winners, “Hero” was dripping with potential and yearning to be heard by every European Schlager fan.
After 4 long weeks and 32 songs, “Hero” was no disappointment. It shone with every bit of glitzy sparkle and Schlager-tinged note. It had everything you’d expect from a Swedish euro-pop hit with an over-the-top diva, shimmering sequins, wind machines and a dramatic earth-shattering crescendo. Saying all that “Hero” wasn’t a runaway winner. The 2008 final was full of classic euro-pop anthems. BWO had entered with their best entry “Lay Your Love on Me” which actually could have won if the competition that year hadn’t been so stiff. Their euro club style was already doing well charting all over Europe including in the UK, arguably the toughest European market to crack. Linda Bengtzing entered with her third attempt, also her best entry, with “Hur svårt kan det va?” (How hard can it be?) Linda’s energetic dramatic beat driven song really was excellent but was overshadowed by being in the same semi-final as “Hero.” Sibel’s ballad “That is Where I’ll Go” and Amy Diamond’s bubblegum pop “Thank You” were both popular as well and very well written songs in their own right. There were also several novelty songs the best being Christer Sjögren’s “I Love Europe.” Classic Eurovision formula that could of actually had done well across the continent for the ESC.
Saying all that “Hero” had only one clear rival, Sanna Nielsen and her emotional ballad “Empty Room.” Like “Hero”, “Empty Room” was co-written by Bobby Ljunggren and was Sanna Nielsen’s first entry in English, a winning formula?
Sanna Nielsen had entered several times before but this was clearly her best entry yet. Although, I still have a weakness for “Vågar Du, Vågar Jag” (If You Dare, I Dare Too) her 2007 euro pop anthem. So with her fifth attempt Sanna had her voice, a touching emotional performance and the right song to walk away with the trophy but Charlotte Perrelli was standing in her way. In the end of a very dramatic final Nielsen actually won the public vote over Perrelli but the jury had backed Perrelli. So Perrelli had won her place to represent Sweden at Eurovision.
In the run up to Eurovision in Belgrade, Sweden were favourite with the bookies and they were clearly favourites to win but oddly Sweden wouldn’t of actually qualified for the final, placing 12th in the second semi-final but during 2008 there was a jury override vote. If the top ten songs chosen by the public didn’t match the juries top ten the highest scoring non advancer at that point would become the tenth place entry. So “Hero” knocked out the Macedonian entry “Let Me Love You.” Sweden finished in a very poor 18th place in the final. Ironically Nielsen’s “Empty Room” went on to win the OGAE second chance contest.
Overall 2008 was an amazing introduction to the live event. The sheer excitement and drama of the selection had me wanting more but I believe the superb quality of music keeps me hooked.