Eric Saade's Popular won a landslide victory in the Swedish national selections Melodifestivalen. When Eurovision.tv meets up with the 20-year-old star, he explains that a little noted impact on his result is the story embedded in the performance.
"Everything has a message. The song is about that you want to be number one and get there on your own merits. Using the word popular is just an expression for wanting to be the best," he says.
How to get there
Eric Saade was taking dance classes from a young age, and before his national breakthrough, he worked to perfect his artistry for five years. The stories and messages of the songs are an integral part of his fresh career, starting with the song Manboy in Melodifestivalen 2010.
He illustrates by explaining the rigorous symbolism in his national final performance with Popular. This is the live performance of the preview video that has been distributed all over Europe in the lead-up to the Eurovision Song Contest.
"I simply start on the wrong side of the glass, with the dancers on the other side, and I'm singing 'don't say it's impossible, I'm going to get there'."
This is Eric Saade standing alone, with all the other people on the other side of a glass veil. Eventually, the dancers even shut him up inside of a glass box – but he overcomes that final obstacle and breaks out.
"The glass is shattered, I emerge, moving up further and further, and I close the song being together with the dancers at the very front edge of the stage. This is what to me describes the message that you may feel shut in, but look, even if I'm presently inside of a box, I will be able to break out. To me, this is what will give people a sense of it all hanging together, and moving beyond the scope of a mere performance. I feel that this is extremely important."
Watch Eric Saade's live performance with Popular from the national final.
There is no doubt that Eric Saade is popular in the pre-polls of the Eurovision Song Contest. But there have been critical opinions as well. Some have felt that the lyrics of the song, where Eric sings that he "will be popular", are childish.
"I definitely have an understanding for that. When someone stands there singing 'I will be popular', I can understand that people are complaining on the lyrics. I would have done the same. But – you can't get around the fact that it's a smash hit that sticks on!" Eric says.
However, there are many ways to be popular. The real message of the song doesn't reside in that word, but rather in the wish to get somewhere and achieve something, he explains. Eric Saade sings "I will be popular".
"Since the expression popular is there, people could easily think that I'm just singing that I want to be popular. You want to be seen, and perhaps by a girl – that's something that we weaved into it. But they would be missing that popular is just an expression, as is common with pop songs, and not the main message. The important message is that I wish to be number one, the best, but that just doesn't fit to the rhythm of that part of the song."
The art of breaking glass. Photo: SVT
"Happy that someone cares"
Eric Saade cheers the opinions and discussions emerging from his act. They are vital for him being able to continue pursuing his dream. Big artists evoke emotions.
"If you're going to be huge, you have to be an artist that people love or hate. And I think it has turned out a bit like that both with me and with Popular. I always like to take things a bit over the top, with the stage show and everything. And then you get there – people will be annoyed," Eric says.
"But then I just tell them that it's wonderful that they care! If they would just have ignored everything without comment, I would have had a bigger problem, because in that case, I wouldn't have been able to work with music. I'm just so happy that someone cares about what I'm doing."
Photo: Pelle T. Nilsson
"The rules are antiquated"
Presently, Eric Saade is rehearsing his stage performance intensely. The reason for this is the rules of the Eurovision Song Contest. Here, Eric sees a problem. In Melodifestivalen, eight persons are allowed on stage, plus pre-recorded backing vocals.
"The Eurovision Song Contest rules are antiquated. Live backing vocals always sound better than pre-recorded, but since you only have six people, you're in trouble with the backing vocals if you have four dancers," he says.
The hard part of the performance with Popular is, in Eric's experience, to manage the singing while simultaneously performing an intense dance show. He practised his original performance of the song for a large part of the autumn.
Wanted: Massive pop acts
Now, he has had to replace three of his four dancers from Melodifestivalen in order to get dancers with the ability to also perform backing vocals. His new crew consists of three combined dancers and backing vocalists and two backing vocalists.
"I think this is why no one has done a big pop act in Eurovision before. Something where the artist really dances all out with his dancers, doing something like street dance in the style of Justin Timberlake. You can't have that if you can't have more persons on stage," he says.
This is where Eric Saade wants to break new ground.
"From what I've heard, we will be like the first ones with a act of this kind in the Eurovision Song Contest. What a challenge! I love tasks like that. My aim is to go there and set a new standard for Eurovision and show everyone that it's possible."
In Eric Saade's dream world, his act will also influence the Contest to change.
"I would like to show that perhaps it's time to make the rules more modern, so that you can have at least ten people involved and have massive pop acts in the show," he says.
Popular: Watch Eric Saade's new video
Eric Saade will perform Popular for Sweden as the 8th entry of the Second Semi-Final in Düsseldorf.