Last night three Scandinavian nations picked their Eurovision 2010 entries whilst Sweden kicked off the greatest show on earth, aka Melodifestivalen. In a very male dominated final, Norway's Melodi Grand Prix was won convincingly by relative unknown Didrik Solli-Tangen with My Heart Is Yours - a cross between Josh Groban's You Raise Me Up and Cyndi's I'll Leave My Heart. A very good song, it could well give Norway a third consecutive top five result! Spare a thought for Anglo-Norwegian reformed boyband though who came a distant 2nd with their fantastic 'Don't Wanna Lose You Again'. Metal band Keep of Kalessin finished 3rd with The Dragontower and new Norwegian hearthrob Bjørn Johan Muri finished fourth in an all male top four with Yes Man. A predictable ballad perhaps, but Norway once again send a quality pop song and they certainly won't have a shameful home result in Oslo.
Iceland had a very uninteresting song selection with the final six consisting of three tragedies, a weird but interesting indie rock/traditional folk number, a pleasant mid-tempo ballad (which finished 2nd) and then Je Ne Sais Quoi by Hera Björk which won the low key contest, and by a landslide I should imagine. Hera has been the backing vocalist for Iceland in 2008 and 2009 and also competed to represent Denmark last year but finished 2nd there behind mini Ronan. Nice to see her finally get to Eurovision as the lead artist then but this song, in the mould of Hero, Je T'Adore, If I Had Your Love and other uptempo Europop/Schlager disco songs, will probably struggle to do very well as the sound stopped doing well in the contest circa 2002.
Denmark left it until the last minute to unveil their songs and the final ten were in fact mostly very good - although as usual, nothing screamed 'winner'. After a number of rounds which instantly knocked out the best song; Kæmper For Kærlighed by Sukkerchock (like a turbo Danish version of Release Me by Agnes), male singer Bryan Rice's Bleeding Love esque ballad Breathing took on In A Moment Like This, a male/female duet between Chanee and N'Evergreen written by Eurovision veteran songwriter Thomas G:Son. In A Moment Like This ultimately won and will represent Denmark in Oslo. It reminds me of Tina Turner's The Best somehow and whilst a pretty decent song and indeed performance, I can't see Denmark scraping past their usual mid-table placing this year.
And so to Sweden, they warranted most of my attention even though it was only the first semi-final of the infamous Melodifestivalen and it didn't disappoint! The new structure was a bit odd with the overall winner going through first and then the four songs left in contention going on to another voting round. Still, at least there is no pointless international jury 11th placed song in the final this year - and those silly duels have gone too. So you can rest assured that the 1st and 2nd most popular songs went through, and not the 1st and 3rd most popular like last year's first semi where Caroline Af Ugglas had to wait until second chance at the expense of Emilia going Direkt Till Globen. Although I think all of that extra exposure worked massively in Caroline's favour anyway. So, the staging was good, the presenters were decent and the extras were fantastic (the schlager divas version of Holding Out For A Hero in particular!).
But the songs were the main draw - there were the bad; Anders Ekborg's hideous musical number, and Frispårkarn's annoying rap song. Then the other two that didn't go through; Linda Pritchard's song was very much a cross of Ricki-Lee's Can't Touch It and Kat DeLuna's Run The Show. It was decent but not amazing. And Jenny Silver's disco song was a bit understated for Melodifestivalen I think and her deep voice didn't really suit it. Kylie or Rachel Stevens would have done it better. Jessica Andersson's predictable ballad went to Andra Chansen along with rock act Pain of Salvation's gorgeous ballad Road Salt. The instant finalists were firstly the brilliant Salem Al Fakir with Keep On Walking, a quirky mature pop song which reminded me of Finley Quaye's Sunday Shining and then popstar Ola with the sequel to his mega hit Natalie - Unstoppable. Both very good finalists, I wouldn't have minded Pain of Salvation getting the final spot over Ola but I suspect they might succeed in Andra Chansen anyway. So an excellent first show - can't wait for the next three semis!