7 March 2020
It’s the final week of national finals for the Eurovision Song Contest of 2020 in Rotterdam, and the Nordic region features heavily with Finland’s Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen and Denmark’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix. It truly is a Super Saturday!
Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu 2020
01 Catharina Zühlke – Eternity
02 Erika Vikman – Cicciolina
03 Aksel Kankaanranta – Looking Back
04 F3M – Bananas
05 Sansa – Lover View
06 Tika – I Let My Heart Break
Finland wisely returns to an open selection after two years of sending a pre-selected artist and using UMK to select one of three songs. It was hardly a success with high-profile Saara Aalto only scraping into the final and finishing second last in the grand final, while Darude, the DJ and producer responsible for the famed Sandstorm 20 years ago, finished last in his semi-final.
As you’d expect with six songs, all are quite good, except for two songs, which are brilliant! It looks like it is a dual between Erika Vikman and Tika. They are contrasting songs too.
Erika Vikman – Cicciolina
Described as energetic Finndisco, this doesn’t miss. Indeed, sticking to Finnish really adds so much character to it. I refuse to even check the lyrics for fear that it could taint my perception of it. It seems to be the one most fans and Finns want. The wildcard is the international jury that will be responsible for half the vote. It depends on their composition, whether they are a bunch of fans and regular people (likely to go with Cicciolina), or industry “experts” that could go for something more artistic. That’s not to say Ciciiolina isn’t artistic. It’s a different kind of art!
Tika – I Let My Heart Break
By far the best combination of voice, vocals and song at UMK 2020, and no surprise Tika’s greatest idols are Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. The concern is this big power ballad could be deemed too generic or, at least, isn’t distinct enough to stand out. Of course, if you have the right artist behind such songs, it shouldn’t matter, and they can return good results too.
For the sake of doing something a bit different, and to hear the Finnish language on the Eurovision stage again, it’s almost certain to be Erika Vikman. I’d be elated with that. If it’s Tika, I would be elated too. Anything else, and serious questions will need to be asked! My third favourite would be Catharina Zühlke with Eternity.
Find all UMK 2020 songs and information about each artist here
01 Victor Crone – Troubled Waters
02 Paul Rey – Talking In My Sleep
03 The Mamas – Move
04 Mohombi – Winners
05 Hanna Ferm – Brave
06 Mendez & Alvaro Estrella – Vamos Amigos
07 Dotter – Bulletproof
08 Robin Bengtsson – Take A Chance
09 Mariette – Shout It Out
10 Felix Sandman – Boys With Emotions
11 Anna Bergendahl – Kingdom Come
12 Anis Don Demina – Vem är som oss
(those in italics came through the second chance round)
Melfest continues its resurgence after some terrible editions since Sanna Nielsen won in 2014. Really cheap, formulaic and often quite insipid contests, and it had become quite predictable too. 2019 was a good edition (predictable winner aside), and so has 2020. While there’s still a strong whiff of rehashed formulas and similarities among previous songs, at least they’re a bit more interesting and (shock, horror) Sweden might actually send a female to Eurovision for the first time since Nielsen in 2014.
The final is complete in that the best songs are there, at least directly and not the second chance round, and 10 of the 12 I really like. From the second chance round, I’d argue over a couple of them, notably Mendez & Alvaro Estrella and Felix Sandman, and certainly would prefer Malou Prytz with Ballerina in the final. She was a victim of the stupid dual concept when Paul Rey was her opponent. Against Mendez & Alvaro Estrella, she’d win. In a conventional show with the top 4 of 8 progressing, she’d likely progress too.
From the semi-finals, Klara Hammarström with Nobody from the second semi deserved a second chance while I’d loved to have seen Sonja Aldén with Sluta aldrig gå from the first semi get a second chance (mostly because she’s one of my favourite Swedish artists). Both finished fifth. Suffice to say, the winner will be one of the direct qualifiers. Anis Don Demina with Vem e som oss, and his magazine screen prop, is the most fun and could get a good result, while I loathe Felix Sandman with Boys With Emotions. If he somehow wins, he’ll quickly learn about Men With Emotions.
Watch all Melodifestivalen songs on the official youtube channel
Take a chance with a second list of Robin Bengtsson’s Take A Chance as it’s better than initial impressions. He’s back after representing Sweden in 2017. The Mamas are on their own after supporting John Lundvik last year (one member has subsequently quit), and they’re great, even if their song is the standard soul/gospel style we’ve heard plenty of times before. Paul Rey presents his powerful ballad Talking In My Sleep really well, while Winners might be Mohombi’s best entry. A shame he’s hit such a strong year.
My Top 5
05 Dotter – Bulletproof
All lights, not a great deal of action. It’s a decent enough song; it just doesn’t quite measure up against some of the others. Probably the main weakness is there’s no, big powerful finale. Without the light show, I doubt it would be getting as much attention as it does among fans. Dotter has an appealing, quirky kind of voice, and an interesting pronunciation of bulletproof.
04 Mariette – Shout It Out
I feel sorry for Mariette. She’s tried a few times now and missed out, starting with a third in 2015, fourth in 2017 (with A Millon Years co-written by Dotter) and fifth in 2018. You can sense where 2020 is heading. Perhaps Mariette is trying too hard. Great song; not sure about suddenly slamming away on a guitar for the last bit. Perhaps she needs a band there. She’s also in a strong year and probably needed Shout It Out in 2017 or 2018.
03 Victor Crone – Troubled Waters
He left the Storm behind and found Troubled Waters. Crone won Eesti Laul last year with Storm and represented Estonia well enough in Tel Aviv, finishing 20th in the grand final. Curiously, his dramatic victory in 2019 was similarly matched with his progress through the semi-final stage. He was announced last of the five safe songs in the first round of voting, and then was in last pair to decide the final direct qualifier and fifth place. I hope his heart is fine! Troubled Waters follows the same sort of pattern as Storm, and might even be a tad better. The presentation certainly is, as you’d expect from the slick Melfest production crew at your disposal. He’s been placed first to perform, which generally is not a good sign, and in a year where Sweden seems poised to finally send a woman again, he’s not a woman either (although, he is pretty). Perhaps if all those strong solo female acts split the vote, he might storm through. Has there ever been someone to appear at successive Eurovisions under a different flag?
02 Anna Bergendahl – Kingdom Come
It looks like the Swedes are queuing up for a redemption story after Bergendahl became the only Eurovision semi-final loser for Sweden 10 years ago. Ironically, they got obsessed with this cute little girl with her silly little song and her silly red boots back then – sending her instead of the likes of Timoteij with Kom, who could only finish fifth. Performing second last (the new last) is another telltale she’s groomed to win. Kingdom Come is the “copy, snip and insert” formulaic Swedish pop that you expect with a songwriting team that includes the likes of Bobby Ljunggren and Thomas G:son behind it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t great, and it’s matched with an excellent stage performance featuring six spectacular male dancers. My main peeve with Kingdom Come is the title itself. What does it mean? It’s not a phrase any native English speaker would say. It’s not even grammatically correct. I guess it doesn’t matter in the long run if Bergendahl wins and can reach the Eurovision final to undo her bad from 2010.
01 Hanna Ferm – Brave
From the first notes, I was enamoured with this girl’s voice. There’s a sexy, sultry quality to it, and it’s matched by her appearance and moves. Obviously more important than that is her song, right? Right! In trying to split her with Anna Bergendahl, the key factor was that Brave delivers a big finish, and it’s just a bit more interesting, especially with the oh-oh bit in the chorus. Not to forget one important thing, especially on International Women’s Day: Ferm does it all by herself.
It seems to be a contest in three between Hanna Ferm, Dotter and Anna Bergandahl. On youtube views (not necessarily an accurate guide), Dotter leads Ferm 622k views to 527k, with Bergandahl on 369k. The betting markets show Dotter a warm favourite at $1.55 with the The Mamas at $4, Bergendahl on $7 and Ferm on $8. These are not always a great indicator because they don’t get a feel of local sentiment. They totally misread Eesti Laul, for example. In Sweden’s case, Bergendahl has the redemption story going. It’ll be one interesting final, that’s for sure. For me, I’d be happy with any of the five above, while being the most firm for Hanna Ferm.
Dansk Melodi Grand Prix
01 Isam B – Bølger
02 Ben & Tan – Yes
03 Maja og De Sarte Sjæle – Den eneste goth i Vejle
04 Benjamin Kissi – Faith
05 Emil – Ville ønske jeg havde kendt dig
06 Sys Bjerre – Honestly
07 Jamie Talbot – Bye Bye Heaven
08 Sander Sanchez – Screens
09 Kenny Duerlund – Forget It All
10 Jasmin Rose feat. Roxor Loops – Human
Just when you thought the world couldn’t be any madder or paranoid, DMGP will run an event closed to spectators. In fact, no event can proceed in Denmark if it will attract more than 1000 people. This is all due to CONVID-19, or the coronavirus, which is a slightly more fatal version of the common flu. Not sure why 1000 people is the limit, or why the size of the group even matters. It’s not like you hang out directly with 1000 people. It’s just the few people around you! Perhaps scanning people with heat sensors like at airports, or offering a refund to those that feel they could be sick, or don’t want to risk being sick, would have been a better approach.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that DMGP has more than their fair share of solo men considering Eurovision is full of them. A few of them are ok, like Isam B performing first (it sounds a bit like the theme from the Friends TV show) and Kenny Duerlund second last. Den eneste goth i Vejle by Maja og De Sarte Sjæle is quite a cheery song for something about divorce from a child’s perspective. Mostly, it looks like a battle in three – convenient for a three-song super final.
03 Sys Bjerre – Honestly
Lyrics are stupid; song is so much fun. It has that quirky feel like Leonora’s winning song, Love Is Forever. Will the Danes send something similar again?
02 Ben & Tan – Yes
This is the most immediately infectious (far more than the coronavirus), and when you look at the songwriting team of Emil Adler Lei, Jimmy Jansson and Linnea Deb, it’s easy to understand why. The former is part of the American band October Project, and the latter two are noted Swedish writers. It’s a big, uplifting sound, and features two youngsters that met on Danish X Factor. A perfect mix for the teenybopper vote to run wild.
01 Jasmin Rose feat. RoxorLoops – Human
The Danes have retained the idea of putting one their main contenders in last place. Human is another song of our times, mostly about our addiction to technology and losing touch with each other. An energetic song that delivers its message distinctly with the key refrain, “are we losing being human”. Like all species, humans evolve. While we might be losing being human in a direct sense, we are expanding it in an indirect sense. RoxorLoops is a beatboxer who was part of Witloof Bay for Belgium in 2011.
While I’d prefer Human to win, I sense the Danes will say yes to Yes. Really, either of the three would be fine.
Find all DMGP 2020 songs and information about each artist here