10 March 2019
John Lundvik with Too Late For Love annihilated the field to win Melodifestivalen 2019 and his place at the Eurovision Song Contest of 2019 in Tel Aviv. Lundvik was the anointed one the moment it was revealed he would perform last in the fourth and final semi final, built momentum with direct qualification to the final, and once he received 12 points from the first jury in the final, you knew it was all over. It was effectively so after receiving 12 points from all remaining juries. He was the “story” of this year’s Swedish selection, and with so many Swedes “proud” of their country for sending him, that confirmed there was more about this decision than just music. It was a message to Europe that Sweden is a country of inclusion and diversity.
Lundvik was adopted by his Swedish parents, Jane and Johan Lundvik, at one week of age when they were living in London. They moved back to Sweden when he was aged 6 and settled in Växjö. Last year he finished third at Melodifestivalen with My Turn, which highlighted a recurring theme where Swedes often boosted people of colour into the final without taking that extra step of selecting them as winners. Last year in Lisbon would have been a stark illustration to them when Austria’s Cesar Sampson won the jury vote and finished third overall against Sweden’s white boy Benjamin Ingrosso second on jury and seventh overall. Even look at Australia’s first four entries: two each of Asian and aboriginal heritage. Deep down Swedes probably felt offended that it wasn’t them leading the racial diversity race in Eurovision, so when the chance came to redress that situation, they jumped at it. That his parents were white made it all the more irresistible.
In John Lundvik’s song that he co-wrote himself, Sweden have a strong contender in Tel Aviv. Too Late For Love is no token winner, being an incredibly uplifting and powerful song, with a superb use of a gospel choir, and with a brilliant charismatic performance by Lundvik himself. He’s a class act, has a great voice and the “hear me” parts of Too Late For Love are so compelling. He was about my sixth favourite. The problem is it’s a song that doesn’t scream originality, and now becomes the fifth year in a row Sweden is sending a male with a rather generic song to Eurovision.
So Sweden have solved their diversity problem, and now they have a new one: a woman problem. It’s not even restricted to the winners, as this year four of the first five places where males, with the only exception being a male and female duet in third. In recent years, the top 3 at Melfest have been dominated by men. Of the five solo women in the final this year, the highest was Wiktoria in sixth (albeit equal with Arvingarna and Nano on 64 points, and bumped above Arvingarna on a bizarre technicality), while the rest finished in the bottom four.
While Sweden might revel in their Eurovision results, it’s at the detriment of Melfest becoming so predictable. Even worse, the worry now is this formula might be infecting Eurovision itself, as there are so many solo males among the favoured entries this year. If you can’t beat them, join them. In fact, Lundvik co-wrote this year’s British entry, Bigger Than Us by Michael Rice – a song he apparently wanted to perform at Melfest until producers told him to go with Too Late For Love.
Melodifestivalen 2019 Final
01 Jon Henrik Fjällgren – Norrsken
02 Lisa Ajax – Torn
03 Mohombi – Hello
04 Lina Hedlund – Victorious
05 Bishara – On My Own
06 Anna Bergendahl – Ashes to Ashes
07 Nano – Chasing Rivers
08 Hanna Ferm & LIAMOO – Hold You
09 Malou Prytz – I Do Me
10 John Lundvik – Too Late For Love
11 Wiktoria – Not With Me
12 Arvingarna – I Do
Overall it was a rather staid Melodifestivalen final. So many ballads and slower songs that it made it easy to vote for Too Late For Love. That’s not to dismiss them as dull songs, as they weren’t, and were among my favourites. A dubious trend among many of the songs was that sections or pieces seem lifted from other songs, and spliced together to create a new song. Lina Hedlund’s Victorious and Anna Bergendahl’s Ashes To Ashes were the obvious two. No doubt this is a problem of the fast churn rate of songs in Sweden these days, and surely there’s a mathematical limit of appealing melodies that can be constructed in music. I’ve been asking myself this question since the 1990s, and actually blamed the emergence of rap and hip-hop and sampling as a result of artists unable to create an original melody. You sense that with the same songwriters that keep appearing at Melodifestivalen, they are cutting, snipping and splicing from their entire catalogue of work to construct something new.
If you thought those pesky international juries could upset the story, Too Late For Love got 12 points from every one of them to finish on 96 points, with Nano way back on 54. No doubt they got the word John Lundvik had to win. “F*ck off, Australia” erupted in my mind when Paul Clarke popped up to read our votes. Why must Australia stick our big, fat, ugly heads into everything? We can’t help ourselves. Clarke, head of Australia’s Eurovision delegation, was at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, and the more you watch this guy, the more you sense his passion for Australia in Eurovision is more about personal overseas junkets than for the good of the show itself. In Sweden, he certainly knows which arses need to be kissed, as Sweden essentially run Eurovision.
After the jury voted, now the public could vote, and would they change the result? Why weren’t they voting at the same time as the jury anyway? Lundvik got a surprisingly low 18.3% of the public’s vote (no doubt they sensed he’d win so splashed votes elsewhere), with Bishara on 14.9% and Hanna Fern & LIAMOO on 12.7%. The main effect that had was dumping Nano from second to eighth, and boosting Bishara from fifth to second. Hanna Fern & LIAMOO was third on both. Part of the “woman problem” in Sweden is swarms of young girls often vote for cute guys, and 16 year-old Bishara was their man, or boy. Coincidentally, Nano’s Chasing Rivers and Bishara’s On My Own were the only two songs I didn’t like in the final.
As much as I wished Rebecka Karlsson made the final with Who I Am, I appreciated Arvingarna with I Do, especially to finish the final on an energetic note. Similarly, Lena Hedlund with Victorious, she was good. It’s just that we’ve heard all this before. While the former Alcazar member was a stand-out in her semi final, she was a bit nondescript in the final. Lisa Ajax was ok with Torn – simply a standard, well performed ballad. Hanna Fern & LIAMOO were good value in third place with Hold You, and extra points for drying your sheets on stage.
The Fab Five
5 Jon Henrik Fjällgren – Norrsken (4th)
Poor Jon. He backs up so often to deliver infectious songs with some indigenous elements that would not sound out of place in an Air New Zealand commercial, yet comes up short, this time fourth. He was even talking to reindeer this time. It looks like he’ll perennially be the “we appreciate you coming, we just won’t let you win” guy.
4 Malou Prytz – I Do Me (12th)
Malou looked so focused to nail this performance that her eyes looked like they could pop out of her head compared to the semi final. She relaxed by the end and did justice to herself with a great performance of a catchy, upbeat song. Last place was an injustice. She’s only 16 years old too.
3 Mohombi – Hello (5th)
This was the best presentation of the night, making good use of the holographic screen, and it was such an endearing and accomplished display. It’s rare than I’m surprised at a Melfest final anymore, as you see the songs in the semis. I’d forgotten about Mohombi totally (perhaps I was cooking bacon and eggs at the time), and only really recall the infectious nature of the song. Fifth was a respectable result. Keep persisting Mohombi!
2 Anna Bergandahl – Ashes To Ashes (10th)
Redeemed herself after her semi final Eurovision flop in 2010. She was the story that year as Sweden fell for her “This Is My Life” story, her part Irish descent, and her silly red boots. While Ashes To Ashes was hardly original, especially being one of those “cut and paste” jobs and full of cliches, it was oh so good. At least for me. The voters thought otherwise, placing her 10th.
1 Wiktoria – Not With Me (7th)
It definitely wasn’t with her. When Wiktoria was allotted her 28 public points, she was already looking devastated that her third attempt to win Melfest was already over due to the low jury score. For me, Not With Me was the clear superior song and performance of the entire competition. She changed her previous uptempo/country style to try shake things up with a brilliant ballad sung with real passion, and all it did was shake her down the table. At least she could shower at the same time. While a wired microphone ensured she didn’t electrocute herself, she delivered the biggest and brightest spark through my body. She should take a break from Melfest now. It’s not a competition about songs anymore, it’s about a story or a novel, ultra slick presentation. Best she wait a few years before nostalgia and sentiment can help make her the story, and when Sweden knows how to vote for a woman again.