Monday, March 23, 2009
Opera Diva Wins Melodifestivalen
The winner of the 2009 Melodifestivalen has been selected to represent Sweden in the Eurovision contest. It's opera singer, Malena Ernman, who sings La Voix in both English and French to a throbbing disco beat. It should have strong multi-national, multi-generational appeal. How can it lose? I mean, this is the 35th anniversary of ABBA winning the Eurovision contest. Well, that satirical musical number presented at the finals in Stockholm might not go over well with this year's Eurovision host country, Russia. More on that later.
Melodifestivalen is bigger than ever. Here's an introduction to this year's event. There were four regional contests held around the country to select the semi-finalists for the finals in Stockholm. In additional, there was a second chance contest (andra chansen in Swedish) to select from those artists that did not make it through the semi-finals. The first regional show was right here in Göteborg. The event was televised live. According to reports, 3 million people watched that show. For perspective, Sweden only has a population of 9 million. In the United States, 100 million people would have to American Idol to achieve the same ratings success.
My take on the artists and songs in this year's contest can be described in one word: flat. There were some very lackluster performances and forgettable songs. Now, I like Alcazar, but their song, Stay the Night, was as limp as a semla sitting in milk. At least compared to this little ditty, which I love. And, Måns Zelmerlöw's Hope & Glory didn't have any. Måns was a favorite going in to the contest. Maybe next year. I still think he is the Enrique Iglesias of Sweden. E.M.D. with Baby Goodbye was pretty good but the song title was self-fulfilling. And Agnes, who I like, didn't deliver enough Love Love Love. Still, most had the requisite sing-along-pop and dance sensibility. Which is what Melodifestivalen is all about. The winner, Malena, wasn't expected to do well, but the public voted for her in big numbers.
Now, on to the controversy. At the finals, there was a parady skit and dance number that mocked Russia and its national anthem. The dance number had Matryoshka dolls and Cossacks and dancing bears. Oh my. Lots of Russian stereotypes. Offensive, maybe. But, funny as well. Oh, those nutty Swedes. Enjoy.
And, one final treat. In honor of ABBA's win at Eurovision 35 year's ago, here is a video of them singing Waterloo in Swedish at Melodifestivalen that same year.