After Sanna Nielsen narrowly won a nailbiting Melodifestivalen with ‘Undo’, she was duly installed as second favourite in bookmakers’ lists. Seeing Sweden towards the head of the market the day after their massively-hyped national final is no surprise: it happens virtually every year.
Sometimes those short odds are justified, as Loreen showed in 2012, whilst Eric Saade also managed a podium finish in 2011. But often they’re not: The Ark in 2007 and Charlotte Perrelli in 2008 were both ante-post favourites that finished well down the field.
This reflects a few things: the Swedish contest is highly competitive; winning it is a sign of being or becoming a big name both domestically and among eurofans; but that popularity doesn’t always translate to the rest of Europe on the big night. It’s worth bearing this in mind when considering what will happen to Sanna.
She has long been a household domestic name, a child star who first appeared in MF as a teenager and had come close on several of six attempts before finally graduating from bridesmaid to bride. She’s a highly competent if conventional singer.
In ‘Undo’ she has a highly competent if conventional song – a piano-driven ballad with a percussive build and key change. In truth, there’s not an awful lot to it, but simplicity is not necessarily a bad thing, and the trill on the title is a hook that gets you on first listening.
It hasn’t impressed some of our commenters. Guildo said of it: “She’s an engaging enough performer, powerful singer, but I felt she was overcooking it all a bit to compensate for what is a yawn of a tune.” Eurovicious was in general agreement, if finding a little more to be positive about: “Musically she’s hugely dated for her age…I think ‘Undo’ will do pretty well because it has broad televote and jury appeal and the staging will be good.”
In general, I sympathise with these assessments. In normal circumstances, the competence of ‘Undo’ might see it get a little lost among a general European audience as opposed to one of Swedes and eurofans who know Sanna’s backstory. In that sense, it could have something of the fanwank about it.
However, there are a couple of things in Sanna’s favour this year. For one thing, competent box-ticking is in short supply so far. Secondly, the new system which requires a full jury ranking tends to help this kind of song. You would expect most juries to put ‘Undo’ in the top half of their lists.
What hasn’t been discussed much yet, but became more apparent to me in a resprise of this year’s selections during last night’s Greek final, is the following: we’re remarkably short on conventional ballads in English. Apart from Sweden, so far we only really have Spain, which rather falls apart halfway through (“THE RAIN! THE RAIN!”).
Of course, if Norway selects Carl Espen this coming weekend, a ballad from Sweden’s own backyard will come into play. Will it step on Sanna’s toes? Ben Cook makes the point that ‘Silent Storm’ isn’t a “cookie-cutter Eurovision ballad”, so maybe there’s enough of a difference between them, especially if Espen continues to undersell the song.
However, Justin implicitly makes the point that alongside Denmark’s infectious entry, one of these three Nordic entries may get squeezed out (we usually see just two in the top ten). The question is, which one? It’s probably too early for me to answer that question, but it could conceivably be Sanna.
In conclusion, I remain benignly sceptical of Sweden’s chances in Copenhagen. ‘Undo’ has enough going for it to possibly gain a respectable placing. But even in a weak year, it’s hard for me to justify its current position near the top of bookmakers’ lists.
What do you think of Sanna’s chances? Do let us know below and keep the Eurovision conversation going. The next few days will reveal the remaining entries, giving us all the pieces of the puzzle.