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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Melodifestivalen thoughts...

Agnes' performance seemed good, but it was hard to tell because the feed cut in and out so much through the entire thing. The song fits squarely in the "okay" category for me.
I loved Star Pilots' song, but the staging was an absolute mess. Still one of my favorites of the day, though.
Susanne's song was pretty, but the verses are identical to an older song. I can't quite put my finger on what it is.
Anna & Maria's song was fantastic, and I'll be shocked if it doesn't go through. It's probably the best melody of the contest so far, though maybe not the best song. I don't know... there's a lot of competition.
Thorleifs will probably get through. Ugh. It's a fun song, but there are better tonight.
Sarah Dawn Finer definitely got the best ballad of the competition and boy can she sing! I can't imagine this not going through.
Next 3 seemed to have a lot of crowd support. I hope that doesn't mean they're going through. They certainly weren't bad, but it's not really my thing.
I loved everything about Malena's performance!! Possible winner?? I hope hope hope she makes it through. Opera didn't do too well last year...

My hopes to make it through: Malena, Anna & Maria, Star Pilots, Agnes
Who will make it: Malena, Anna & Maria, Thorleifs, Sarah Dawn Finer

What a strong heat!!

UPDATE: While I am mostly very happy with the top five, I can't believe Anna & Maria's song didn't even make it!!! Wow, this is the most shocking result this year so far. I also can't believe Star Pilots made it, though I'm very happy about that. Now they just need to knock out Thorleifs, though I doubt that will happen.

UPDATE: Good for Agnes, though I'm hoping Star Pilots, along with BWO make it through on the second chance round. The second duel was a very strong one as well but I was so glad that Malena got through. I think she could win the whole thing. The song and performance was just stunning.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Alienhits Loves… Melodifestivalen!
(And my plea to bring it to America)

Okay, this is a given. After all, I’ve been offering my thoughts on each heat for the past few weeks so I’m obviously obsessed (thoughts on the fourth and final heat below). It’s like American Idol with superstars, stage shows and original songs. Mocking the dancing and dubious outfit selections is half the fun, but what makes Melodifestivalen really special (and so much better than any other country’s Eurovision preselection) is the fact that there are actually good songs and artists participating.
I first got into Melodifestivalen two years ago when the Ark participated and won. I had originally planned to watch just for them, but was entranced by the mayhem on display in all four rounds of the competition. It’s a uniquely Swedish kinda party… filled with non-ironic cheesy pop, plenty of schlager, and humor that doesn’t always translate so well (and is all the better for it). Despite only knowing very limited Swedish, I still enjoy the parts in between performances… the corny jokes, the retrospectives, the weird little vignettes.
As far as the songs go, this year has been dynamite. There isn’t a clear frontrunner (yet), but as of now I think either Alcazar or HEAT could take it all. Maybe this weekend’s performances will change that. One of the great things about Melodifestivalen, though, is that you don’t have to win to score a hit on the charts. Swedish radio gets taken over by these thirty-two songs during this point in the year. It’s a welcome deluge of new material, clearing out the tracks that have been played to death and ushering in the Spring.
I wish that America had some equivalent of this kind of celebration--a “melody festival” of our own. I’ve often thought about how cool it would be if we tried to find the best act (amateur or established) in America by having each state send forth their competitor (ala Miss America, the music version). The qualifications could be either being born or growing up in each respective state, or maybe even more broad than that. Think about it: fifty acts, each representing the best original song in their little part of the country, competing for the top prize. We’re a country of so much diversity--both musical and otherwise--that it would be interesting to see what ended up on top. In a climate where American Idol is the number one rated show, you’d think there would be some interest. I’d certainly want Washington, my home state, to be represented by a good song. We could have five heats of ten (or narrow it down before the televised heats) and then a big final. It will never happen… I think it’s gotta be something embedded in culture like Melodifestivalen (embedded in Sweden for over 50 years!), but it’s exciting to think about. Imagine what a shot in the arm it would be to the music industry… having the potential for fifty new singles of varying genres released at the same time every year.

Melodifestivalen - Heat 4

Agnes - I love the beat to this song and the fact that it’s obviously got a lot of disco influence. It’s not as good as Release Me, but what is? I look forward to hearing the whole song because I get the impression that it’s even better in full. ****

Star Pilots - I love, love, love this band! This song sounds so 80’s, complete with ridiculous guitar solo. It’s a lot like their other singles, which is a wonderful thing. Very high energy and super catchy. This is my favorite of the week. *****

Susanne Alfvengren - As predicted, my least favorite of the round, though the chorus does sound pretty. I doubt this will make it through with all the stiff competition. **

Anna & Maria - The melody of this hit me from the very first line. I think this is a very strong contender and probably has the best actual melody of the competition so far, though it probably won’t be my number one favorite. Very nice, though. ****

Thorleifs - I’m surprised that this isn’t in English, based non the title. Oh well. It’s good in a throw-back way, but doesn’t stand a chance in hell. It’s definitely very dansband, and we’ve already got Scotts in the second chance round. Still, not bad to listen to. ***

Sarah Dawn Finer - For some reason I didn’t think this was supposed to be such a ballad. It’s probably the best ballad so far this year, but I doubt it will be a favorite of mine. ***

Next 3 - This has a really current radio (ie: completely unoriginal) sound but actually isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I hope this doesn’t make it through, but who knows. **

Malena Ernman - I’m not 100% sure about this. It’s definitely a great song, but not the masterpiece people have been making it out to be. It’s very different with the opera, and has the potential to grow into a personal favorite with the performance, but right now it’s just hard to tell. ****

Based on these samples alone, I want Star Pilots and Anna & Maria through to the final with Agnes and Malena to the second chance. What a strong heat, though!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"I don't need your understanding"

Imagine Linda Sundblad joining Girls Aloud and singing in the style of the Veronicas, and you'll understand what's so great about today's song and artist. Annabelle is a DIY Swedish popstar-in-the-making. Quite frankly, she's got it all and it's only a matter of time before she's signed and scores her first hit. Her music is ultra-catchy and fun with plenty of synthesizer. You don't need to look any further than her Madonna-meets-Cyndi image to know that Annabelle is obviously a fan of the 80's. The look extends to the music as well. Any artist who isn't afraid to weild a keytar is a friend of mine! It was hard to pick a track to post today because all of her songs are great. I think Crawl is the most immediate... a bombastic slice of radio pop that deserves to have a stranglehold on the top ten. If you like this I urge you to check out her other tracks because they're all wonderful.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Listen to more here.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"I really wanna help but you lost me in translation"

O. M. G.
Sorry for the textspeak, but that's pretty much how I felt when I discovered this new band. It's as if these guys took a look at my top albums of 2007 list and decided to perch themselves right between Laakso and Superfamily. Dyno have only been together for a few months, but they are one of those instant smashes with me. Discovering these types of bands is what makes blogging so fun. They're from Sweden, of course, and they've released a flawless five-song EP with another track up on their myspace. Don't Speak Love is the "big hit" of the six, a relentlessly catchy synthrock track with a fantastic chorus and an even better breakdown after the chorus. Dyno have everything: the voice, the look, the sound, the cleverness... and obviously the work ethic too, since they were able to come up with this many instant classics so soon. I am beyond excited to hear more from this band.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the EP here.)


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"It's been fourteen years"

Emmon's new album, Closet Wanderings, was recently released in Sweden. A member of pop band Paris, Emmon has now ventured out to create her own electronic sound. Her first album was pretty good and I even got a chance to see her live, so I was curious to hear her new work. Some of the songs seem a little more organic than last time, which is definitely a positive thing. While I am an uber-fan of synth music, there's always a danger of it sounding too synthetic. Emmon does a good job of balancing right on the edge. One of my favorite tracks on the new album is the simple, melodic Torturous Pleasure. Besides the single, it's the most catchy thing on the album and would sound great on Swedish radio. The verses are especially lovely.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the album here.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

"They said it wouldn't last, we had to prove them wrong"

Sahara Hotnights' new covers album Sparks comes out this week and, as with most covers albums, the quality depends entirely on the songs chosen. With Sparks, it's pretty hit and miss. I of course prefer the poppier stuff. I was especially surprised to see that they chose to cover this Janet Jackson classic. Janet was my pop star of choice growing up and I was quite obsessed with her, so I was very excited to hear what this would sound like. I can't think of any other artist of note that has covered Jackson, though that should really change because she's got a ton of old classics. This particular track is really untouchable in my book (ie: it will never be done better than the original), but Hotnights' version is very interesting because it does what all good covers should... it completely changes up the original. In this case, it's slowed down a bit and the dance beats are switched with rock guitars, punctuating the chorus quite perfectly. I'm surprised how well this song works in a rock context. It's pretty cool to hear.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the album here.)