Our obsession with Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s Eurovision selection show, started in 2003 when we learned that Alcazar were taking part.
- Read on for reasons including brilliant pop songs, the legends slot and an appreciation of drag
We’d loved Alcazar’s Crying At The Discotheque, a top 15 UK hit in 2001, and had 1st seen new band member Magnus Carlsson fronting former act Barbados singing Allt Som Jag Ser (Everything I See) on videotape that year as part of Eurovision fan club OGAE’s annual Second Chance Contest.
We don’t think it was available to watch on the internet in 2003 but we managed to follow it via radio and website ESC Nation later buying the CD.
2001 was the last year before producer Björkman’s 20-year involvement which has seen the show evolve for us into the TV highlight of our year beating even the Eurovision Song Contest which has benefitted from incorporating so many of Melodifestivalen’s successes.
- Brilliant pop songs
Of course a song-selection show wouldn’t work without high quality entries and Melodifestivalen manages to select 28 quality songs representing a wide variety of styles from its nearly 3,000 submissions. We love how it has a familiar stable of regular writers and that they are also afforded a chance to appear on the show ahead of their entries. Above is the song that started it all for us. It’s also our favourite Andra Chansen song of all time.
2. A love of drag before Drag Race
RuPaul’s multi-Emmy Award-winning Drag Race came under starter’s orders in 2009 but years before its launch Björkman’s Melodifestivalen was waving the diversity flag and giving acts like After Dark (watch above) a platform on which to shine. 2004 was also the 1st of 2 visits to Stockholm for MF finals for us and featured our favourite ever winner, Lena Philipsson.
3. A sense of humour
We grew up watching Eurovision and appreciating the commentary of Terry Wogan but the Swedish sense of humour is gentler and more self-mocking. Sarah Dawn Finer made 2 MF finals but perhaps is most fondly remembered for her versatility and comedy as character and blundering EBU spokesperson Lynda Woodruff.
4. The legends slot
Long before Glastonbury Festival coined the Sunday afternoon legends slot as a thing, Björkman was giving former winners a safe space to try something new, remind of former glories or even surpass previous efforts. His 20-year reign saw repeat wins for schlager royalty such as Carola in 2006 and Charlotte Perrelli, the latter returning again to try her luck in 2021 after winning the show in 1999 and 2008 – as well as hosting in 2004.
5. Celebrating diversity
MF may be a Swedish selection show but there is always a sense of embracing those with mixed backgrounds including 2012 Eurovision winner Loreen (pictured top) who sang Euphoria and was born in Stockholm to Moroccan Berber parents. Björkman’s 1st winners were Afro Dite in 2002 (see immediately above) and his last the similarly comprised The Mamas.
6. Unearthing new talent
Melodifestivalen has always mixed returning acts with new talent and, while the unearthed gems might not always shine brightest immediately, the MF platform undoubtedly helps them find their audience. Molly My Marianne Sandén made the finalen 3 times without winning before being the voice behind 1 of 2020’s best songs (watch above).
7. Visual spectacular
MF is a TV show and there’s nothing like an arresting visual gimmick to attract attention. Eric Saade (watch above) took an onstage shower in 2010 and a year later smashed out of a glass box during the 2011-winning Popular. Elsewhere the arena shows celebrating the devoted fanbase who love the live events have been repeated by the Eurovision Song Contest itself.
8. Exciting scoring
The split between jury votes and the popular vote pioneered by MF has also been incorporated into the main show making what had become a tedious maths exercise into the nail biting culmination of an unrivalled international TV event.
9. Winners – including Måns Zelmerlöw
Sweden had won Eurovision 4 times before Björkman’s arrival as MF producer in 2002 and has triumphed twice since with Loreen above in 2012 and Måns in 2015. Who would bet against it winning in Björkman’s final year, seeing Sweden equalling Ireland’s record as Eurovision’s most successful country? Can’t wait for Måns’ return as a co-host this year and a shout out also to Petra Mede, the best ever Eurovision presenter bar none.
We trust MF will send Björkman off in style in 2021 and we wish him all the best in the future.
Keep an eye on monstagigz.com during January as we’ll be previewing 2021’s 28 entries. During February this site will predict how each heat will go on the Friday after we’ve heard the songs before the Saturday events. In March we’ll forecast how the finalen will go and how each of the 12 qualifiers would do in May in Rotterdam at Eurovision.
There are many other NFs who have more musical diversity, less generic songs, and focus more on music compared to visuals. In other words: Many NFs are better. Of course, there have been some great editions of MF, but that’s the case with all countries
And btw -since when was “Visual spectacular” a great thing? It is supposed to be about music. Same with “A love of drag before Drag Race”. It’s just about silly stereotypes the ESC-culture doesn’t need
I totally disagree with this article