So, last night was my virgin viewing of Swedish singing bonanza Melodifestivalen (The Melody Festival for you and English-speaking I), and would you believe it, I goshdarnbloodyblinking loved it.
Since 2000, the show has been the most popular programme on Swedish TV and is used to determine who will represent Sweden at the heralded Eurovision Song Contest.
Last night’s show was the first Semi-final and was presented by previous winner and Kim Cattrall look-a-like, Sanna Nielsen alongside Robin Paulsson, Sweden’s answer to Dermot O’Leary, plus or minus 4/5 inches. I quickly realised why the show had quite such a broad appeal amongst Swedes and singing aficionados alike; combining a spoonful of comedy, a dollop of singing talent and a whole heap of pizazz, the show was, as they say in Sweden I believe, great.
After a barnstorming opening number sang by the presenters and accompanied by a few billion, frantically-waved pom-poms, the show wasted no time in letting the singing acts take centre stage. A minute or so was dedicated to giving the audience vital bits of bio on each of the 7 acts before things finally got down to business and the performers could let their singing do the talking.
I quickly lost faith in Sweden’s judging capabilities, (no offence Sweden, you’re otherwise fab), when my personal favourite for first-place, Molly Pettersson Hammar was unceremoniously booted out after just the first round of public voting.
Her departure was followed by the dismissal of dashing Daniel Gildenlöw who sang the not-so-jolly tune, Pappa. It is fair to say that Daniel may have one, or two or three million personal issues he needs to work through and his exit was less of a surprise.
Comedic intervals featuring a bespectacled ‘intern’ conducting some of the most violently awkward interviews Scandinavia has ever witnessed did nothing to halt the merciless flow of rejections. Funky hip-hop duo Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone, K-Pop wannabes Dolly Style and the more than slightly unnerving pair of Elize Ryd & Rickard Söderberg were the next acts to fall bloodied by the wayside, although I was relieved to learn that the first two get a second chance in a few weeks’ time.
The relentless torrent of rejection had conversely led to eternal glory for the two successful acts who will go on to perform in the Melodifestivalen final in Stockholm on 14 March. The hideously attractive Eric Saade and seasoned performer Jessica Andersson emerged glorious and victorious on the night with their respective songs, Sting and Can’t Hurt Me Now. Ironic, non?
Overall, I found the show to be equal parts harmonious, hilarious and happy-making – it was self-aware about its more ridiculous elements and the authentic drama of the competition was offset nicely by the sense that everyone was genuinely ecstatic just to be there. From the (varyingly) talented performers themselves to the buoyant audience who cheered and chanted all the along, the show had an energy and earnestness which made for cracking TV and proves just why the Swedes have such a formidable record in the hallowed Eurovision Song Contest. Bring on semi-final number 2!