Sweden’s Melodifestivalen came to an end with a nail-biting finish which witnessed Robin Stjernberg’s ‘You’ take the prize. You can see his winning performance here. He currently stands at 10-1 joint third favourite in bookmakers’ lists.
The manner of Stjernberg’s success in the much-vaunted Swedish contest caused a sharp division of opinion. The comfortable televote winner, YOHIO’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, had been marked down heavily by the international juries, where ‘You’ had proven most popular.
I don’t have a problem with the result at all: the rules are well established; and I thought ‘You’ was a superior song better delivered. I was confident that the rock schlager ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ would not have done very well for the host country in May, so my only regret is not having the opportunity to lay it in the top ten market over the next few months.
What do I think about ‘You’?
The song is a heartfelt mid-tempo number that relies heavily on Stjernberg delivering a strong and impassioned vocal. As compositions go, it’s modern and well produced. My non-Eurovision analogy is Coldplay. That may be slightly kind but it’s easily one of the better songs we will see in the final.
As to its weaknesses, you could say it lacks a strong hook. The song meanders in a pleasant and interesting way without immediately lodging a memorable melody. Stjernberg is not unconventional in the YOHIO sense but he also takes a bit of getting used to. Which is to say that the act is potentially a grower rather than a show-er, a disadvantage in the quickfire nature of a Eurovision final.
This was borne out by the manner of its success in the Swedish competition. ‘You’ failed to qualify as one of the top two in the last semi-final of Melodifestivalen. Instead it went through to the second chance round a week later. Stjernberg’s performance last night was the third week in a row Swedes had been exposed to ‘You’ and it had clearly grown on them. In the final televote, it easily overtook both songs it had finished behind in its heat. That wasn’t enough to win the televote overall, and in an open field with no outstanding competitor, ‘You’ managed 15.8%.
That doesn’t compare particularly well with past winners of Melodifestivalen. As I indicated in my article following Loreen’s success last year, her 32.7% winning total broke out of the 18-25% range that we usually see. The last time the winning song had a lower televote percentage was ‘Las Vegas’ in 2005, and the last televote runner-up to represent Sweden was ‘Hero’ which received 16.5% in 2008.
Both those latter examples died a death at Eurovision, but one difference between then and now is that the jury vote has returned. ‘You’ was the international jury favourite last night, and it’s the kind of song that juries should potentially favour, being well delivered, modern and well produced. The artistic presentation using contemporary dancers also helps remind those panels that this is, you know, a proper song and not just some piece of fluff. Therefore, the assumption will be that juries may go for this more than televoters in Eurovision as in Melodifestivalen.
That’s not an assumption to rely on too heavily – many assumed the same about Germany’s Roman Lob last year, and he actually did better in the public poll. Then again, he was well drawn, more telegenic and ‘Standing Still’ had an admittedly repetitive but more effective hook than ‘You’.
Germany’s entry the previous year, Lena’s ‘Taken By A Stranger’ was also more jury-friendly in nature but able to do marginally better in the televote (ninth). One reason for this is that it had home advantage, which basically means a great crowd reaction and a shortcut in people’s memories that this is the host entry. This could help ‘You’. However, Lena had the added benefit of being the winning artist too, and she opened the show, giving her an unfair boost that Robin won’t get. It’s also worth pointing out that plenty of host entries have performed very badly.
One problem that ‘You’ faces is strong regional competition from Denmark and Norway. This makes it harder to pick up top marks even from allies. Currently these three Scandinavian countries occupy the first three places in the Betfair market. It would be a surprise to see them manage that on the scoreboard in Malmo, though Norway and Iceland achieved first and second in 2009. That’s because it’s difficult for three songs from one area to dominate another region’s televote or jury vote.
Norway, Denmark and Sweden have all sent strong songs this year. As discussed previously, however, the slick production and effort that goes into these national finals and their popularity with fans means that ante-post value for their entries is usually in short supply. I’m not looking to back Sweden in any markets as a result.
However, whilst I would have got stuck into betting against ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ doing anything in May, the combination of home advantage, jury love and a field that lacks strength in depth means that I can’t dismiss a respectable showing for ‘You’ in May. What are your thoughts? Let us know below.