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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Melodifestivalen 2012: Heat Two

Round two is upon us, and it promises to be more exciting than last week! Who will make it through? Three minutes until the fun begins...

**It's funny watching this BSB/Nsync opening medley and realizing that all of these songs were written and/or produced in Sweden.

**Judging from applause before the show, Ulrik and Timoteij have this in the bag, with Thomas biting at their heels.

Here we go!

ULRIK: As expected, this is better in full. I don't see any way this guy is not going to the final. He's like a younger, more relevant Andreas Johnson. His live voice is EXCELLENT. I wish the song was just a little better, but this is a great start to the second week.

TOP CATS: Ugh... here comes the annual rockabilly entry. But surprisingly, I like this a lot more than I thought I would. The lead singer's voice sometimes sounds a bit like Billy Idol. I'm thinking they'll finish either in fourth or fifth place, but you never know with this genre. They have a lot of energy.

SONJA: Oh my... what is she wearing in her entrance? She looks like she's from Middle Earth! I know some people are going to love this song, and it's fine for what it is, but these big ballads just aren't really my thing. I think this would be great as a dance track, though! As it stands now, I started tuning it out about halfway through...

ANDREAS: He's got a bit of that Eric Saade "Manboy" dancing in this performance! I really like this song, but I think it's too subtle for MF. It lacks a certain amount of flash. Plus, Alcazar members going solo don't have a good history on this show. Still, great pop song. Love the strings.

TIMOTEIJ: It's like Kom, part two! I'm not sure it's quite as instantly excellent, but I am still loving this. If there's any justice, they'll be taking one of the final spots. The audience seems to be digging it, too.

DAVID: He's got a song written by my favorite Swedish songwriter, Tony Nilsson, so there's no way this can suck. I wish it was a different performer (Ola would kill this), but I still really love the energy here. I could see a surprise 3rd or 4th place finish. (But this is one time I wish the lame lyrics would have been in Swedish so that I wouldn't have understood them)

MIMI OH: I am loving Mimi's entrance. I'm not sure the performance lived up to it, though. The song's great, but I think for an artist that's this unknown, she needed something a little less lightweight. But weirdly, I could see this becoming one of my favorite MF '12 songs, melody-wise, when all is said and done.

THOMAS: For some reason, Thomas has always creeped me out. It's the combination of hair, face and robe. This isn't a bad song by any means, but it's not one of the best tonight. His profile should assure that he gets something, but will it be a ticket straight to the final? I don't know. With the confetti and everything, he's already got that winning air. But I think he's got some strong competition.

PREDICTIONS: This is a hard one! I'm going with my gut, here.
To Final: Ulrik & Timoteij
Second Chance: Thomas & David (just a feeling, though it could also be Top Cats or Mimi Oh, I suppose. Or even Sonja, though I don't think that song was strong enough)

** Thomas Di Leva looks RIDICULOUS sitting in the green room with that robe on.

TOP 5: Thomas, Top Cats, Timoteij, Ulrik & David. Do I know how to call them, or what?? Surprised that Mimi got last place. I thought it would have gone to Andreas, honestly.

** Hmm... now if we can knock out Top Cats, we've got a really strong top 4 this week.

** So, weirdly, I think the expendable "5th place" will be going to either Top Cats or Thomas. Could be wrong, but I think David has incredible momentum going right now. He could even go direct to the final.

** More "losers" from years past for us to vote on! And they're great! Magnus's, BWO's and Ola's songs are amongst the best MF tracks of all time!!

** This "Elektrisk" performance is much more interesting than last week's cover. And there was a bit of Melody Club in it!!!!!!!! That's pretty much my highlight of the whole show, right there. They should do this sort of mash-up every week. The only bad part? The rapper.

** Most votes and direct to the final: Ulrik! Not surprised in the least. I'm not the hugest fan of the song, but I love Ulrik, so I'm 100% on board with this. Will David get the second spot? I'd prefer Timoteij, but I'm not sure how this is gonna go.

** More results: Top Cats to Andra Chansen. Lame. Timoteij also to Andra Chansen. This is a surprise. They deserved better. And finally, David is the second to go through to the final! This is also a surprise, and just shows what an energetic performance can do. The real question is... even though he didn't get the *most* votes this week, will he gain more momentum? If the audience's reaction is any gauge, he could do it.

** Let us start the campaign now to get Timoteij through Andra Chansen and to the final.

** All in all, I'm pleased with three out of four of the competitors in the Final. I still say this year is Loreen's to lose, though.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Melodifestivalen 2012: Heat Two - Preliminary Judging

It's time for a sneak peek at Heat Two of this year's Melodifestivalen. Will it be better than last week's (mostly) dire offering? I hope so! As always, my opinions will likely change when I hear the songs in full.

(Listen to clips here)

Ulrik Munther - Soldiers
Well, it's good enough. Honestly, I was hoping for more, though I have a suspicion that this will improve upon full listen. But from the sound of this one minute clip, he's got better songs on his album. 3.5/5

Top Cats - Baby Doll
Oh god, this is like that stupid The King song last year. Luckily, it sounds better than that one, but I'm just not a fan of this rockabilly stuff. I hope that the big names in this heat will prevent them from going further. 3/5

Sonja Aldén - I din himmel (In Your Heaven)
I know she's well loved for her 2007 entry, but I was never that big of a supporter. This kind of wet balladry just isn't my thing. And this doesn't sound as melodically strong as that 2007 hit. 2/5

Andreas Lundstedt - Aldreg, Aldreg (Never, Never)
Now, I believe Andreas also competed in 2007. Back then he had a weak song, but I think this is much better. In fact, I'm really digging this clip. We'll see how it sounds in full, but I love the electro vibe I'm getting from this. 4/5

Timoteij - Stormande hav (Storming Sea)
These girls were such a pleasant surprise two years ago, and this sounds like it could repeat that. I'm not sure it's quite as good as Kom, but so far it's my favorite clip of the Heat. 4.5/5

David Lindgren - Shout It Out
I love this! His vocals sound a bit ropey, but this is the blast of pop/dance energy I've been waiting for. I have no idea who this guy is, but I'm delighted that the tempo has been brought up a notch. 4.5/5

Mimi Oh - Det går för långsamt (It Goes Too Slow)
Better than almost everything last week, but I'm still waffling on this one. I like the sound, but the melody's failed to grip me right off the bat. It could be more of a grower. This entry will depend on the performance, I think. 3.5/5

Thomas Di Leva - Ge aldrig upp (Never Give Up)
The big name in the competition this week. This is actually better than I thought it would be. It's still not my favorite of the week, but I'm happy it manages to be a little galvanizing and anthemic. I kind of wish it was in English, though. 4/5

On first listen, this is MUCH better than last week. I'm not sure there's a song as good as Loreen's Euphoria amongst the competitors, but the general quality is much more in line with what I'd expect from MF. My early predictions? Ulrik and Thomas through to final, though Timoteij could sneak in. For second chance round, I'm thinking Timoteij and Sonja or Top Cats, though this Heat is far more difficult to predict than last week's. That makes it fun again!

*I'll be live blogging tomorrow throughout the show, so be sure to check back for my thoughts (and to see if my predictions come true)


Thursday, February 09, 2012

One Direction - I Should Have Kissed You

"How do you feel about me now?"

Prepare yourselves, American readers. I've long since predicted One Direction world domination (in fact, I've been predicting it since they were on X-Factor in 2010) and, with the release of their first US single next week, it's all going to kick off. I've really enjoyed hearing What Makes You Beautiful on American radio. It's so rare that any UK artist/band this poppy crosses over. (On a similar note, while I've been 100% sure of 1D's success since they were formed, I'm pleasantly shocked that The Wanted seem to be making waves over here). Forgetting the US, though, the guys are already on their third UK single. Its b-side, the wonderfully catchy I Should Have Kissed You, continues their streak of excellent radio pop. All of their b-sides thus far have sounded like singles. The consistency is just remarkable. If they keep this up, they're gonna be unstoppable.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Preorder the "American" album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Movie Review: Chronicle


With Chronicle, 2012 has its first great movie. It's easily the most exciting, watchable action/sci-fi film in months. What first-time director Josh Trank was able to accomplish on a shoe-string (at least by Hollywood standards) budget is so cool that it borders on unbelievable.

The story will be familiar to most who have watched any superpower origin tale. More specifically, the script owes a great debt to pioneering 80's anime classic Akira. Three teenagers, one of them weaker, more socially awkward, and ultimately more disturbed, start to develop mysterious powers after an incident outside of a party. Andrew, the younger/weaker of the three (played by the pitch-perfect Dane DeHaan) finds he's able to control his newfound abilities to a greater and more impressive extent than the others. But, due to circumstances not entirely under his control, the powers prove to be too much for him. And thus, we have conflict.

While the story's familiar, the execution is startlingly fresh. Sure, the "found footage" genre has been around for awhile, but until now, I'm not sure it's ever been exploited to its full potential. Viewing this incredible story through an everyday lens gives the film a naturalistic feel and makes the effects all that more shocking, real and... well... fun. And honestly, "fun" is what this movie's about. Not that it's super happy or anything, but it's certainly a jolt of guerrilla film-making. In a world of polished studio action movies, this feels more like a couple of (ridiculously creative) storytellers playing around. Of course, it helps that they've got a taut, wonderfully human story at the core. For as awesome and exciting as the set-pieces are, Chronicle doesn't take the easy way out. Its characters feel real and completely sympathetic. In other words, it's really got a bit of everything for everyone. And at just under 90 minutes, it doesn't overstay its welcome. What more could you ask for? A-



Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Pearl Fiction - Run

"We're running fast through the night"

Pearl Fiction is the solo project from one of the singers of defunct Swedish art pop band Zeigeist (remember them? It's been years since I first wrote about them). As a solo artist, Pearl's music reminds me of an experimental Prince album. It's like he's taken songs like "Kiss" and steered them into all sorts of directions. It's not the kind of album that hits you directly the first time, but I think it rewards repeated listens. This is the single, and it's just gorgeous. The hook is lush and simple, and the production reminds me of Fleetwood Mac records from the 80's. It's the kind of track that deserves to move from the confines of indie appreciation and find a wider audience, especially on Swedish radio.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, February 06, 2012

Ulrik Munther - Fake It

"Maybe it's just my wounded pride"

So, Sweden's Melodifestivalen is back for another year and the first heat was extremely underwhelming (though, the more I hear Loreen's winning song, the more I think it could be the ultimate winner. It's really excellent). This Saturday should be more interesting, and Ulrik Munther is one of the reasons. I wrote about Munther ages ago, back when he was still a young hopeful. Now he's a big hit in Sweden. In fact, his first album shot straight to number one. In some ways, it would be easy to call him the "Swedish Justin Bieber". Both are teenagers, both rose to fame (more or less) through the Internet and youtube, and both play instruments/possess more musical talent than their genre demands. Munther, though, goes for a more mature, rootsy rock sound and has the voice to do it. He's like a one-man Hanson. And, I think we really need to keep our eye on him in next week's competition. He's had reality show experience before, but more than that, he's going to appeal to many voters. He's got the tween vote and the mother vote, as well as the "credible," guitar-playing vote that saw Anna Bergendahl (undeservingly) win a few years back. If the song's right, he could take this competition. I'm expecting a ballad/midtempo, but I'd love something upbeat like this track. I especially love the anthemic production and driving chorus. Honestly, though, most of the songs on his album sound like they'd do well in the context of MF. I don't usually cheer on this singer-songwriter stuff, but I feel some odd connection to Munther's journey through popstardom. I guess a big reason is that he writes damn good pop songs and deserves the success.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy their previous albums here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.