The Eurovision season is about to fully kick off. This weekend Finland and Switzerland choose their songs for Copenhagen. The big news is of course the first heat in the Swedish Eurovision selection process, Melodifestivalen!
For those of you who have been living in a cave, Melodifestivalen is the mother of all Eurovision selection programmes. In total there are six live shows featuring some of the biggest names in the Swedish music industry. Melodifestival is a truly remarkable television format, creating dozens of hits every year and is a huge money-spinner for the Swedish national broadcaster SVT.
Some criticise Melodifestivalen music, "it's the same old Swedish schlager", and I used to be one of them. However this is a show for Swedish audiences, it's what works over there and the viewing figures confirm this. Melodifestivalen is the biggest show of the year in Sweden, even bigger than Eurovision itself! Of course some fans like anything Swedish, that'll probably never change. However as a person that falls in love with anything Estonian, I'm not one to judge.
There are some big names lined up for 2014 - Yohio, Shirley Clamp, Linda Bengtzing, Sanna Nielsen are competing against Martin Stenmarck who won MF in 2005 and represented Sweden in Kyiv. The one to watch and the news story of the year is the return of Helena Paparizou, who won Eurovision for Greece in 2005. Helena is a Swedish Greek and it seems only fitting that in these times, where immigration is such an abrasive subject, that there are positive representations of immigrants. Helena sees no issue in representing Sweden after having won for Greece. Good for her.
Something like MF is unlikely to work in the UK, although it shows that it's possible to produce hits on the back of a song contest which takes place once a year... Broadcasters in other countries might do well to sit up and take note. Regardless of the musical merit of Melodifestivalen, it's an impressive television format, long may it continue!