In the most volatile early betting market I can ever remember, Sweden became the latest country to challenge for Eurovision favouritism in the run-up to their National Final, better known as Melodifestivalen.
The land of Abba and Diggy-loo diggy-lei has long been considered Eurovision royalty, but they’ve rather fallen from grace in recent years, culminating in last year’s shock semi-final exit.
In 2011 they rely on Eric Saade who will sing ‘Popular’ in Dusseldorf, but just how popular will it be with the televoters and juries?
Here is an upbeat song, recognisably Swedish with a heart-throb performer and killer dance routine. You’ll watch the Youtube clip and may be impressed by the show put on.
There’s a good gimmick, a very recognisable lyric and a general familiarity about it. For example, it has that Eurovision staple, the key change. Many people think this is just the kind of thing that does well in the contest.
But be careful. One of the reasons Sweden has continued to be near the top of the betting market during these lean years is that the production values and rules of Melodifestivalen make an act appear more impressive there than they will ultimately look on the Eurovision stage.
Firstly, vocals on a backing track are allowed in MF, they are not in Eurovision. Saade will not have had to rely on his weak voice until he gets to Dusseldorf.
Secondly, there are no more than six people allowed on stage in Eurovision, so Saade is already going to have to lose a backing dancer even before we take into account the need for backing vocalists, who have to be on the stage with him.
Thirdly, the camerawork and production quality of MF is better than you will get at Eurovision. This was one of the reasons Charlotte Perrelli flopped in 2008, despite her song topping fan polls.
Another reason she failed was that her song, ‘Hero’ was a Swedish-sounding schlager (for a rough explanation of what this is, read this article). These don’t really score any more, beyond Scandinavian and British voters.
Denmark managed to overcome it last year because their schlager tune channeled 80s classics from the likes of The Police and Tina Turner, it had a fantastic draw and one of the lead singers was a well-known Russian pop star.
‘Popular’ is not on the same level. As a song, it’s on a par with ‘Hero’ (this is not surprising, as it’s written by the same songwriter – Fredrik Kempe, who also penned the 2009 Swedish entry, ‘La Voix’, which flopped). And Saade is definitely not as accomplished a vocalist as Perrelli.
The beauty of ‘Popular’ is in its staging and the dance routine. This however is not something that I think is going to impress the national juries, who in their short recent history have shown a distinct aversion to songs that are all style and no substance.
Saade is going to have plenty of competition in the pretty boy department. Not only Blue and Amaury Vassili but also Russian entrant Alex Vorobyov. Arguably each one has a stronger song than ‘Popular’.
So I think Saade is going to go the way of not just Perrelli, but other Swedish entrants with inflated expectations (and consequent prominent position in the betting market) such as The Ark in 2007 and Anna Bergandahl in 2010, all of whom flattered to deceive.
Eric and his routine might look like the kind of thing that is popular in Eurovision, but the rest of Europe and those juries have seen this kind of act before and thumbed their noses at it.