The Swedish national selections Melodifestivalen 2011 saw their fourth and last semi-final Saturday night. It was broadcast live from the southern town of Malmö. The most votes of the night were received by Linda Bengtzing and Nicke Borg, being now qualified for the national final. Out of the two winning acts, the broadcaster SVT announced that Linda Bengtzing received the most votes of the night.
The winners will participate in the national final on the 12th of March in the Ericsson Globe Arena of Stockholm. From the line-up in Malmö, Love Generation and Linda Pritchard will have a new chance to reach the final in a second chance round next Saturday, on the 5th of March.
Fourth final in a row
Linda Bengtzing made her fourth attempt to represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest tonight. She also pursued her tradition to always qualify for the national final. The first place tonight is a good omen to her – the winner of Melodifestivalen has always been an entry winning its semi-final.
Nicke Borg was a surprise-winner over acts such as Melody Club, a group regarded to have a big chance to win the night but which in the end finished only 7th out of the 8 entries. Nicke Borg is known nationally as a member of the successful hard-rock band Backyard Babies, now embarking on a solo project.
Tonight's full result
Tonight's full result, finalists in bold:
1. Linda Bengtzing – E De Fel På Mig
Songwriters: Pontus Assarsson, Thomas G:son, Jörgen Ringqvist, Daniel Barkman
2. Nicke Borg – Leaving Home
Songwriters: Jojo Borg Larsson, Nicke Borg, Fredrik Thomander, Anders Wikström
Second Chance round: Love Generation – Dance Alone
Songwriter: RedOne, Bilal "The Chef", Teddy Sky, AJ Junior, Jimmy Joker, BeatGeek
Second Chance round: Linda Pritchard – Alive
Songwriters: Oscar Görres, Fredrik Kempe
5. Lasse Stefanz – En Blick Och Nånting Händer
Songwriters: Alexander Bard, Ola Håkansson, Tim Norell
6. Julia Alvgard – Better Or Worse
Songwriters: Julia Alvgard, Manne Hjelm, Ola Holstad, Joar Lenz
7. Melody Club – The Hunter
Songwriters: Kristofer Östergren, Erik Stenemo, Jon Axelsson, Nicklas Stenemo – Melody Club
8. Anders Fernette – Run
Songwriters: Desmond Child, Negin Djafari, Hugo Lira, Ian-Paolo Lira, Thomas Gustafsson
A characteristic of this week's semi-final was the songwriters. Melodifestivalen has previously had problems attracting the Swedish composers with major international chart hits.
For 2011, non-Swedish composers were allowed into the selections if they co-wrote the entry with Swedes, and this seems to have turned the tide. American Teron Beal, having past collaborations with Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and other world-class stars, co-wrote Swingfly's song Me And My Drum, qualifying for the national final from the first semi-final earlier this month.
In this week's semi-final, Teron Beal was followed by two other notable names. American Desmond Child is the co-writer of Run, performed by Anders Fernette in Malmö. Desmond Child stands as one of the most successful composers in pop music history, having a long run of world hit songs with artists such as Kiss, Bon Jovi and Ricky Martin on his track record. However, he didn't have the same success with Anders Fernette, as the entry finished 8th and last.
World's songwriter of the year
The other major force of pop music making an appearance in the Melodifestivalen semi-final of Malmö is the Moroccan-Swede RedOne, or Nadir Khayat as his passport name reads. RedOne was named the world's number one songwriter of the year in 2010 by BMI. Billboard Magazine also named him one of the most important songwriters of the year, and the second most important producer.
Number one on that list was Lady Gaga, RedOne's long-time collaborator. The reigning pop queen Gaga was an unknown singer newly kicked from her label when she met RedOne a number of years ago. Together, they devised a new sound and the music that would come to dominate the present day pop scene.
38-year-old RedOne was born to a large family in Morocco, where he dreamed of working with music. When 19 year old, he moved to Sweden to make the dream come true, and after many years of hard work, he finally found major success in 2006 with the official song of the FIFA World Cup of football.
RedOne's secret love: The Eurovision Song Contest
Unknown to most, during all his success, RedOne has carried a love for the Eurovision Song Contest and the Swedish national selections Melodifestivalen in his heart. This was born already when he watched the Contest as a child in North Africa.
"I love Melodifestivalen. Back in Morocco, we always watched the Eurovision Song Contest. I've never cared about whether it's cool or not," RedOne says to the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.
When asked about the virtues of the Swedish pop music, RedOne looks to the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest winners ABBA.
"ABBA is one of the best groups of pop history. I love Roxette as well, and Yngwie Malmsten and Europe. Swedish music is my pop school," he says.
Worked with Michael Jackson
RedOne also had a chance to work on a number of unpublished songs together with Michael Jackson, before the King of Pop passed away in 2009.
"We had loads of ideas, but never finalised anything. It was extremely surprising and sad when he died. He really wanted to make a new album," RedOne says.
RedOne has previously expressed a wish to at some point complete and make public the Michael Jackson songs they worked on together.
Love Generation. Photo: Gustav Dahlander (EBU)
Ready for a new girl group?
In this week's Melodifestivalen semi-final, RedOne co-wrote the entry Dance Alone. It was performed by the girl group Love Generation, formed in 2010. The group is created by RedOne along with two Swedish top managers, with the idea that the world is ready for a new girl group.
The plan is to first give the group a break-through in Sweden, then the rest of the world. The result in Melodifestivalen, Sweden's biggest forum for music, might decide the fate of the project. Love Generation did manage to make it to the next round, as they will compete in the Second Chance heat next Saturday.