Christer Björkman was the Swedish representative in the 1992 Eurovision Song Contest. Since 2002, he is employed by the local broadcaster SVT developing the national final Melodifestivalen. In the process, the competition has turned into Sweden’s by far biggest TV show.
But a TV show has to develop to stay on top. This has been stated by Björkman on multiple occasions in the past few years, and the aim has since long been to make all genres within popular music represented and accepted in the competition. Traditionally, Melodifestivalen is heavily influenced by ABBA.
New songs for new performers
For 2010, Melodifestivalen is to take a deeper plunge into some of its more rare musical genres, such as hip hop and rock. This was one of the features made clear as the acts for the national selection were revealed on Monday morning. Another feature was the large amount of newcomers in the competition.
In a country of 9 million inhabitants, a yearly contest of 32 entries soon drains the elite of the local artists. But in the Melodifestivalen 2010, 11 out of the first 15 acts are complete newcomers to the national selection. Some of them are respected acts from mainstream music, such as Salem Al Fakir, favourite of the critics, and the internationally acclaimed progressive metal group Pain of Salvation.
Others are unknown even to many professionals in the Swedish music industry. Hanna Lindblad, an artist performing in musicals such as Singing In The Rain, raised the eyebrows of some of the journalists present at the press conference – and even more so Frispråkarn, an underground hip hop performer. Both positive and negative remarks were raised among the fans and media representatives after the presentations. Now, many hold back their opinions until hearing the songs in the shows, starting on the 6th of February.
Monday’s press conference went quietly and orderly in a marked Swedish manner. The large exception was the group Andra Generationen, known for its up-tempo performances of music from the Balkans rendered with Swedish lyrics. The group brought drums and saxophones to the stage for the photography session, playing them loudly. Moreover, their featuring act – rapper Dogge Doggelito – was late for the press conference and only showed up for the interviews.
Andra Generationen scored a major hit in Sweden with their Melodifestivalen 2008 entry Kebabpizza Slivovitza. For 2010, they are back with Hippare Hoppare, teaming up with Dogge Doggelito, well known as one of the pioneers of Swedish rap music in the 90’s. Dogge Doggelito makes his first appearance in the contest, but still holds some firm beliefs on the build-up of the show.
“I think the shift to newer acts for this year is for the better. Melodifestivalen needs a lift, you can’t use the same big stars year out and year in. That’s bad for young musicians and singers and rappers. They should have a chance too. I think that there should be a rule prohibiting artists from taking part in the competition more than once. That’s enough, why should someone be in the race eight years in a row or something just for being a star?” says Dogge to Eurovision.tv.
Email triggering disqualification
A major news hitting Monday’s press conference was the appearance of the praised star Anders Ekborg, know from a wide range of successful musicals. Ekborg is going to perform the song The Saviour in Melodifestivalen 2010, an entry unknown prior to the press conference. The titles of the other entries were revealed more than a month earlier.
Ekborg’s entry is replacing the song Åt Helvete För Sent. On Friday afternoon, SVT issued a press release stating that the song had been disqualified. The reason for the disqualification was given as an infringement of the rule that SVT and not the songwriters holds the final word in choosing the artists for the songs.
The songwriters favoured Sara Löfgren (Melodifestivalen 2004), but SVT hoped for the star Rickard Wolff. Wolff had a deadline to give his yea or nay for the song on the following day, when the songwriters contacted him via email. Lina Eriksson, one of the songwriters, explains the background of that message.
“We felt that the interpretation of Wolff was too far from the original song. So we wanted to be professional and tell him about our way of thinking directly instead of letting him read about it in the papers. But SVT felt that this was a way of influencing their favourite to say no.”
However, Lina is still going strong in the Swedish title race with the entry Underbart, performed by Kalle Moraeus & Orsa Spelmän. She will not have to compete with Anders Ekborg in the first round, as the entries are placed in different qualification heats.
Photos: (1) Andra Generationen showing off and (2) Anders Ekborg. Courtesy of Elin Kvist (gylleneskor.zitiz.se).