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As the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv gets closer the competing nations are selecting their entries.
Saturday will see Europe’s largest selection contest come to a close with Sweden’s Melodifestivalen.
In its 59th year, this contest has ensured Sweden are a strong player in Eurovision with 23 songs coming in the top five and six of those going on to be crowned Eurovision winner – putting them second overall, behind Ireland’s seven wins. Meldifestivalen is Sweden’s biggest annual TV event with the semi-finals averaging around 3.3m viewers and the final an average of over 4 million. That’s more than half of Sweden’s population.
This year’s contest had been hosted by comedians Kodjo Akolor and Marika Carlson alongside previous Melodifestivalen competitor Sarah Dawn Finer and previous winner Eric Saade, who placed 5th in Eurovision 2011.
The contest has been full of surprises this year with big-name favourites not making it out of the semi-finals or ending up in the second chance round (“Andra Chansen”). It’s made for an exciting series with no clear front runner for victory on Saturday night from the start.
For those not clear with the format, each semi-final is made up of seven competing songs. On the night these are quickly reduced down to five with additional time for further voting.
Of the remaining five, the two winners of the heat will go straight to the final, with the next two going through to Andra Chansen, and the fifth artist leaving the competition. The eight songs in Andra Chansen will then participate in a one-on-one knockout duel. The winning four songs will make it through to the final.
The final result comes from a mix of the international jury and televotes. Eight nations make up the international jury, which includes the UK. They will award their points similar to that in Eurovision, 1-8, 10 & 12 points. The juries have a total of 638 points to give.
The public vote also has a pot of 638 points to give. The percentage of the tele-votes relates to the percentage of the 638 points the artist will be allocated – i.e., 10% of the tele-vote means 63 points to add to the Jury vote.
Let’s run through the finalists.
Jon Henrik Fjällgren “Norrsken” (Northern Lights)
This is Fjällgren’s third attempt at winning Melodifestivalen.
Coming second to Måns Zelmerlöw in 2015, and third in 2017 behind Nano in second and Robin Bengtsson in first.
Fjällgren has an interesting backstory: adopted from Columbia at a young age, he grew up in a Sami family and became a reindeer herder. This year’s song is by far his most catchy.
With a slow start it builds up to a really catchy song with strong Sami roots. After being one of the winners from the fourth semi-final it seems the public like him. In the ever changing odds, Fjällgren was a strong contender and he has a track record of scoring high.
He has just slipped outside of the top 10 on the Swedish charts, but despite this he is my personal favourite this year.
Lisa Ajax “Torn”
Another artist who is on their third attempt, Ajax came seventh in 2016 after winning her semi-final and did slightly worse in 2017 – placing ninth after coming through Andra Chansen with her controversial song, “I Don’t Give A”.
This year her emotive ballad, like Fjällgren, is her best song yet and is proving popular with the international Eurovision fans.
Ajax was one of the artists from the fourth semi-final who went through Andra Chansen. I reckon this song could do well with the international juries. It’s a classic Euro ballad. The question is what the public vote will make of it.
Proving slightly more popular than Fjällgren, she sits ahead of him inside the top 10.
One of the winners from the first semi-final, this is Mohombi’s first time in Melodifestivalen – but he does have a music history outside of the contest.
Another interesting backstory: his family emigrated from war-torn Congo to his mother’s homeland of Sweden when he was 13.
Mohombi did well to win the first semi-final, where he was up against the likes of Nano and Anna Bergendahl (both previous finalists).
This song has a bit of the Zelmerlöw staging – dancing with a digital picture. I fear this song may get lost in the competition despite the staging.
The bookies have him middle of the pack, but currently sat around the 5th position in the charts, is this the song to cause an upset?
Lina Hedlund “Victorious”
This will be Hedlund’s fith time in Melodifestivalen, having participated with her sister in 2002, solo in 2003 and with Alcazar in 2009, 2010 and 2014.
This is a proper Eurovision pop diva song: wind machine, high stage and dramatic lighting. The song is catchy and one often on my playlist.
Can it win though? Probably not. Though she won her semi-final alongside Fjällgren, she’s not doing too well in the charts, currently hovering towards the bottom of the Top 50. She is currently the bookie’s last place act.
Bishara “On My Own”
This is Bishara’s first time in Melodifestivalen, having been discovered on Instagram by one of the regular song writers. He also has some strong backing this year, with last year’s winner Benjamin Ingrosso co-writing the song.
He’s another first timer who made it straight through to the final, alongside John Lundvik in the final semi-final. Currently third in the bookies ranking and third of the Melo artists in the charts. If a first timer is going to win this year, then Bishara is probably the one.
Anna Bergendahl “Ashes to Ashes”
Bergendahl won Melodifestivalen in 2010 with her song “This Is My Life” and represented Sweden in Norway, that troubled year saw no Western European countries make the final outside of the ‘Big 6’.
That year Sweden lost its 100% qualification record. Now only Ukraine holds that title (other than recently admitted Australia).
Whilst she failed to reach the final her song did become number 1 in Sweden. “Ashes to Ashes” is a more upbeat song compared to her 2010 entry. Bergendahl won her place in the final through her Andra Chansen duel.
Only Robin Stjernberg has gone on to win the contest from Andra Chansen back in 2013. Bergendahl alongside Lisa Ajax has an outside chance as the top 2 in the charts from Andra Chansen.
Nano “Chasing Rivers”
As the competing artists were announced at the end of last year Nano was probably seen as one of if not the frontrunner. Having won the public vote in 2017 but coming second to Robin Bengtsson on the combined vote many feel Nano was hard done by.
This year the first shock came when Nano didn’t make it directly to the final and would have to go through a duel. Falling outside the Top 30 in the charts and near the bottom of the bookies odds, this doesn’t look to be the year Nano can go one better than his first time in the contest.
Hanna Ferm & LIAMOO “Hold You”
This is LIAMOO’s second year in the contest having come sixth in the final last year. This time round he’s teaming up with Ferm to bring this popular song.
It is your traditional europop song, perfect for Eurovision with the staging to match. Currently second in the charts and second in the bookies odds. This is definitely one to watch.
Malou Prytz “I Do Me”
At just 16, Prytz is joint youngest with Bishara this year. The third first timer in this final, Prytz came from the second semi-final.
Whilst it is an achievement to place in the final this song, in my opinion, has become lost in the crowd. She does position inside the top 20, but the bookies place her towards the bottom of the list.
John Lundvik “Too Late for Love”
This is Lundvik’s second time in the contest, having placed third last year. As one of the big returning names, Lundvik is now the favorite to win.
Currently top of the Spotify chart, ahead of Ferm & LLIAMO, the bookies also have their money on him.
Lundvik has shown he has earnt his right to be recognised as a solo artist rather than a backing singer. All indications are that he has this victory already but in this year of surprises is a Lundvik non-victory the finale?
Wiktoria “Not With Me”
Twice Wiktoria has been the frontrunner – in 2016 and 2017. Despite this, she fell short on the night, finishing fourth in 2016 and sixth in 2017. Both times she came second with the public vote but struggled with the juries. Is it third time lucky?
Whilst I feel this song is her best yet she is falling short in the charts, which is the biggest indicator of how the public vote will go on the night. Currently seventh and fourth with the bookies it’s not looking great.
When it comes to ballads, Wiktoria is head-to-head with Ajax, who I fear may beat her with the juries.
Maybe the lack of frontrunner pressure will work in her favour.
Avingarna “I Do”
The last act of the night will be the dansband group Avingarna, who won Melodifestivalen in 1993 and competed a further three times in 1995, 1999 and 2002.
When they won back in ’93, they placed seventh in the Eurovision final. We did have the awkward moment in the semi-final of their fourth band member not being present due to a family holiday, but Avingarna made it through to Andra Chansen where they won the final duel.
What are their chances? Well, probably better than people initially thought: inside the top 15 on Spotify and about mid-table for the bookies.
The song is incredibly catchy, almost annoyingly so, but is it a winner? I doubt it.
Expect another exciting final from Sweden which can be streamed live from svtplay.se, starting at 7pm UK time.