Why I love Melodifestivalen

I’ve never been into Melodiefestivalen. Honestly I don’t get it. I do enjoy Eurovision and all their political voting that goes on, but the whole singing around Sweden like a banshee isn’t for me.

Instead, I have asked my good friend, Melodietjej*, to write about her love affair with Melodiefestivalen. Oh, and she’s American too!

Over the next 6 weeks my friends will start coming out of their winter doldrums, enjoying the extra hours of light, and having parties that I cannot attend. Because I will be watching Melodifestivalen. 

Yes, I love Melodifestivalen. It is an epic battle of singing, dancing, and everything good and bad about Sweden rolled into one. I will try to capture my love for this contest as adequately as possible, but sometimes feelings are too strong to be described in words.

melodiefestivalen 2012 schedule

Melodifestivalen is Sweden’s preliminary runoff to the big Eurovision contest (this year in Baku, Azerbaijan – one of the former communist countries that you had no idea was part of Europe). Melodifestivalen happens each week in a different Swedish city (Växjö, Göteborg, Leksand, Malmö and Stockholm).# Each week 8 songs are be debuted and people in Sweden vote for their favorites via text message.

There are a few things to understand about Melodifestivalen and why it’s so wonderful.

First, the people performing the songs can (usually) actually sing well.

Second, the performances are all-out productions. We’re talking lights, dancers, choreography, outfits, backup singers. Last year, Eric Saade (Sweden’s Justin Bieber) even had exploding glass panes as part of his act.

Third, these two things combine with some of the worst pop songs you will ever hear in your life.

The Artists.
The people selected to perform at Melodifestivalen are actually pretty diverse. All ages, pretty equal sex balance, different styles. It’s no Idol (American or Swedish) with its parade of people who’s mom’s lied to them about their singing ability. But, at least once or twice each week someone slides through the cracks and makes you wince. It’s bad to be able to tell someone is out of tune on a song you’ve never heard.

The Dancing/Act.
Since Britney, Beyonce, and Justin the idea that you just stand there and sing is pretty much unacceptable – especially if you want to appeal to your voting demographic. Lady Gaga may make it look easy, but few people dance well and sing well at the same time.

At Melodifestivalen this works out in a few different ways.There are the few traditional, non-dancing singers. Then there are the non-singing, dancers (sorry Danny, those were some sweet moves, but there were backup vocals during the whole song!), and the trying-to-dance-therefore-not-able-to singers (pretty much everyone else).

On the positive side, the production aspect is usually very high quality. Lots of lights, sometimes smoke and fire, elaborate outfits. There is also the infamous fan. It wouldn’t be Melodifestivalen without wind whipping the performers’ tresses while they croon.

The Songs.
Oh, they’re catchy — I sing them around my house and my husband is able to sing along without ever having heard the originals. But, they are the types of songs that tend to make all but the tweens groan. Since the primary voting demographic is probably 12 year-old girls, it works out ok. The lyrics make sense as long as you don’t think about them for more than five seconds (“Manboy, manboy you can call me manboy”).

Before you go after me for Swede-bashing, the Americans like seem to like these kinds of songs too – “The Sign” (Ace of Base), “Baby One More Time” (Britney Spears), “I Want it That Way” (Backstreet Boys) – just a few of the many Swedish-written pop songs (of course Ace of Base was also a Swedish group).

Performed by The Moniker


But, perhaps the best part about Melodifestivalen is how it is a huge guilty pleasure. Try going out on the night of the final and tell me how many people you find before the show has ended. Then, after it’s over, when the bar starts to fill-up, eavesdrop and see how many casual “getting to know you” conversations discuss the show. Most likely, if you ask people whether they have or do watch Melodifestivalen, they’ll say no. But come March 10th at 20.00, you’ll have a good shot at correctly guessing where they are.**

*– not her real name to protect the identity of herself and friends… :facepalm:

**– Ok, this may not be completely true. Plenty of the 30-somethings loathe Melodifestivalen and you may get an awkward look if that’s your pickup line.

***– You can catch Melodiefestivalen on SVT channels and streaming on the internet through www.svtplay.se.

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