For 6 weeks each Spring, pop nerds around the world visit the website of Swedish TV channel SVT every Saturday night and pray to Gaga that the precarious live stream will allow them to look in on the highlight of Sweden’s musical year. Some give up and turn to the next day’s YouTube uploads. Some are so intent on watching the show live that they go to Swedish pubs and churches to share the enjoyment with fellow fans. Some even travel to Sweden especially to see the show live, or if they don’t have tickets, simply to soak up the atmosphere! Their determination to see the show, at whatever lengths it may take, shows just what a treat it is for us Swedish pop obsessives. Personally I would definitely say it’s more exciting than Christmas.
So what exactly is Melodifestivalen and why do people go to such lengths to watch it? Surely there are more exciting things to do on a Saturday night than sit in a church watching a TV show where you can’t even understand what’s being said? Well, for most people yes, but once you find out more about Melodifestivalen you’ll be researching places to see it in your town before you can say “Linda Bengtzing was robbed!”
The first thing you need to know about Melodifestivalen is its purpose, and you’re going to need your reading classes for this one as it’s a bit complicated. On the surface it would seem that Melodifestivalen is the selection process for Sweden’s Eurovision entry, and sure enough a winner is chosen each year who does indeed go on to represent the land of moose in Eurovision. But I’m going to let you in on a secret: this is all a big cover up for the real purpose of Melodifestivalen!
In fact, the contest is actually a very clever method of auditioning all of Sweden’s most promising pop acts (both new and established) for the role of Most Amazing and Beloved Swedish Pop Act of the Year. The real winner is the artist whose Melodifestivalen entry becomes the biggest hit after the ‘final’. Recent winners have included Eric Saade and Måns Zelmerlöw, who are now two of Sweden’s most successful (and most fancied) popstars.
While in the UK this year we’re not even having one live selection show, in Sweden the choice of the Eurovision entry is taken so seriously that it requires four semi-finals, an online talent search and a wildcard round before they even reach the epic live final extravaganza. This means that for the four Saturdays of February we get a live show each week which is basically like Top of the Pops but every song is brand new and at least half of them are pure pop gold. Like Amy Diamond’s jacket.
Many of the best Swedish pop songs of each year are discovered via Melodifestivalen, with recent examples including Thank You by Amy Diamond, Love Love Love by Agnes Carlsson and Stay The Night by Alcazar. Therefore, with this year’s line-up including several of my favourite Swedish artists (ranging from Swingfly and Linda Sundblad to Melody Club and Le Kid), it’s no wonder I’ve been counting down the minutes til the beginning of Melodifestivalen since the end of last year’s contest. The first semi-final of 2011 is this Saturday, so join me on SVT at 7pm (UK time) to find out what the fuss is all about. Then start saving up for your trip to Stockholm next year!