Why you need to watch Melodifestivalen on Saturday

Last year's Melodifestivalen champion Cornelia Jakobs holding the winner's trophy Sångfågeln, The Singing Bird.
Last year's Melodifestivalen champion Cornelia Jakobs holding the winner's trophy Sångfågeln, The Singing Bird.

Melodifestivalen is the Swedish music competition and TV show that chooses the country's representative for the Eurovision Song Contest. Swedes are crazy about it. And on Saturday is the final. Miss it at your (social life's) peril.

Engelska 3 februari 2023 17:05

Melodifestivalen is the competition for Sweden to choose the song that will represent the country in the Eurovision Song Contest, the most popular entertainment show on the planet. Sweden takes Eurovision seriously. Very seriously. Melodifestivalen (usually abbreviated to Mello ) may "only" be the competition to choose the Swedish entry, but it's a six-week-long orgy of glitter, extraordinary costumes and variable music. ┣@@The six shows always rank in the top ten of the Swedish television viewing figures, and many of the 28 competing songs end up being played endlessly on Swedish radio. Some of them are even quite good (see last year's Mello winner, Cornelia Jakobs' excellent Hold Me Closer ).

An indicator of Mello's popularity is that since 2013 the show’s finale has been held in Stockholm's Friends Arena football stadium attended by an audience of around 27,000. Yes, 27,000!

Around 27 000 fans travel to Friends Arena in Solna, Stockholm, every year for the final.

The seriousness with which Swedes take Mello surprises every newcomer. But those that deride Melodifestivalen are often those that fall for the schlocky variants of X Factor, a show that prefers to concentrate on the individual’s pursuit of fame at the expense of the song. 

And most Swedes are far too canny to fall for that malarkey. They love songs. After all, Sweden boasts the highest number of choirs per capita in the world – a startling 15 percent of Swedes sing in choirs.

When it comes to Eurovision, Sweden is probably the hottest country in the entire competition. Only twice in the last 12 years has Sweden finished outside the Eurovision top 10, a record that includes four top three finishes and two first places. ┣ 

Mello has been held annually since 1959, is organized by the Swedish public broadcaster, Sveriges Television (SVT), and features a mix of established and new artists competing for the opportunity to represent Sweden at Eurovision.

The competition is divided into several rounds, starting with several semi-finals, followed by a second chance round, and finally a grand final. The semi-finals are held in various cities across Sweden, with several songs competing in each semi-final. The top two songs from each semi-final, as well as two wildcard entries chosen by SVT, move on to the final. The second chance round allows songs that did not advance from the semi-finals to compete for one additional spot in the final. The grand final features the remaining songs, and the winner is determined by a combination of public votes and jury votes.

Sean Banan performing ”Copacabanana”, one of his biggest Melodifestivalen hits.

If this all sounds remarkably complex, it is! But you'll soon get the hang of it. And if you want to understand Swedes and Sweden, immersing yourself in Mello will pay dividends - Saturday's final will be the main topic of conversation during fika breaks throughout Sweden next week.

Personally, I don't think this year's crop of songs has been that good. There's certainly nothing that matches Cornelia Jakobs' Hold Me Closer. Many people think that Loreen (who won Eurovision in 2012) is the favorite this year.

Regardless, settle in on Saturday and make up your own mind. 

Melodifestivalen is a must-see event for anyone interested in the music and culture of Sweden.

 Melodifestivalen 2023 Final, 8pm, SVT1, Saturday night

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