09 March 2014
At her seventh try, Sanna Neilsen finally wins Melodifestivalen
Sweden redeemed itself after last year’s debacle of Melodifestivalen that was both the quality of the songs in general, and then the choice of the winner. Read more here
Sanna Nielsen is in “Seventh Heaven” after winning MF over a strong field that featured Helena Paparizou, Ace Wilder and Yohio. Paparizou won ESC for Greece in 2005, while Ace WIlder was the accomplished newcomer and nominal favourite after being designated the final act to perform, and Yohio was second last year, only missing out via the dodgy jury voting after winning the public vote.
That dodgy jury – an international jury, not local – was again used, and again returned an odd result by favouring the more trashy style of Wilder rather than the accomplished singer like Nielsen. It could have been deja vu for Neilsen as she finished second in 2008 with the superb “Empty Room” to the trashier pop offering of Charlotte Pirelli despite winning the public vote. At her seventh attempt, Nielsen would undo all the heartbreak. Finishing a close second in the jury vote to Wilder, she knew that the public placing her in front of Wilder would most likely be enough. It proved exactly this, with Nielsen over-hauling the 5 point deficit to win by two.
Sweden’s bizarre interpretation of 50/50 voting between jury and televote wasn’t even enough to undo the public’s wish for Neilsen. The system has been long flawed, emphasised most notably in 2009 when “Hope & Glory” ranked 1 & 5 was beaten by “La Voix” ranked 8 & 1. How can that be if the voting is 50/50 between jury and televote? The problem is Sweden don’t award the same maximum points for jury as they do for televote. Televote always awards a fixed points amount while jury can only potentially award that same amount – by awarding all their 12 points to the same song. Obviously that never happens so contrast Nielsen’s fixed 122 points from the televote with Wilder’s 97 points for “winning” the jury. Is that 50/50? No.
In ESC itself, the jury totals are converted to a 12, 10, 8, 7, etc, allocation, as is the televote total. Therefore a jury win is the same value as a televote win (12 points). If Sweden operated in this known universe of mathematics, this year’s MF would have been a tie as Wilder and Neilsen won either the jury or televote and were second in the other. Then it goes to televote to break the tie. Neilsen still wins, so no injustice… this year.
Remaining is the question why Sweden fools around with funny voting systems. First there’s the use of an international jury, second is the false 50/50 split of points, and third is even the remaining allocation of points from the televote whereby MF uses a percentage based on the jury total. Strange, bizarre, idiotic? That’s Sweden and MF, and it doesn’t end there. A few years ago they even introduced recorded backing vocals and increased stage performers to 8 people, up two from the ESC standard of six. Thankfully only Norway followed the idea of recorded vocals, and let’s hope soon they come to their senses. Sweden just try to be too cute at times, and it affects the credibility of their contest.
Outside the top two songs, the results show that this year’s MF final was poor. Alcazar with one of their lamer efforts was 100 points behind in third on 110 points, followed by Paparizou on 85, Linus Svenning on 84 and Yohio on 83. Then there was a 20 point gap to the next song. Paparizou’s song had portents of being good; it just didn’t do much after the first chorus. Overall a bit too cliche, and maybe anchored somewhat by Paparizou’s reputation and expectations of more from her. Yohio was similar: nice start, plodded on. With all those piercings and singing a powder-puff pop song, Svenning was too creepy.
Back to the winner and Europe finally gets to see the brilliance and majesty of Sanna Nielsen. She has that classic powerful, small Swedish voice, and is super accomplished. Ironically, she’s failed to win MF with better songs. “Undo” will still be sufficient because it has the scope to showcase Sanna and bring out her best, and that is half the job done. Of course, the song is still good. Depending on the competition, it’s top 5.
Most of all, Sweden’s ESC entry year returns to good old Swedish ESC values. This is not about a song like “Euphoria” that stands out and picks itself. This is about a polished song, a polished performer, and even someone that looks Swedish that Sweden managed to select over potential misfits.
ESC viewers do have a certain expectation when the name “Sweden” pops up as the next country, and to see a mop of blonde hair, a golden glow of tanned skin, and a memorably melody in a song, it’s reassuring that Sweden still has an identity. While you can’t fall into that typecast every year, the occasional return is up-lifting. When it’s someone as good as Sanna Nielsen, it’s even more justice to the country.
While MF still has problems with its format and the overall quality has been low for several years now, it fulfilled its key mandate of sending a strong representative to Eurovision. More than that, a strong recognisable Swedish representative. After overlooking the likes of Sanna 2008 and Timoteij in 2010, no mistakes this year. Redemption.
Ace Wilder – Busy Doin’ Nothing 97 points
Sanna Nielsen – Undo 90 points
Alcazar – Blame It On The Disco 62 points
Sanna Nielsen – Undo 122 points (Total 212 points)
Ace Wilder – Busy Doin’ Nothing 113 points (Total 210 points)
Alcazar – Blame It On The Disco 48 points (Total 110 points)