Miss Li - Dancing the Whole Way Home - 1st April
Bat For Lashes - Two Suns - 6th April
Melody Club - Goodbye to Romance - 22nd April
BWO - Big Science - April
The Sounds - Crossing the Rubicon - May
Florence and the Machine - July
Leona Lewis - October
Alexandra Burke - November
Alcazar - 2009
The Ark - 2009
Patrick Wolf - 2009
Robyn - 2009
So, it's that time again... and the last one this year! There will of course be Andra Chansen next week and the final the week after, but this is the last Friday where we get 8 brand new Swedish pop songs. We'd better make the most of it!
Star Pilots - Higher Although they make dance-pop, I find Star Pilots very boring and unoriginal. Their songs are very samey and could have been made anywhere in Europe - there's nothing special about them, unlike poptastic dance acts September, E-Type etc.. If Velvet can't succeed in Melodifestivalen, Star Pilots certainly won't either.
Sarah Dawn Finer - Moving On She's a big name among MF fans after making her name with the very successful (and not bad for its type) I Remember Love, so she has a good chance of getting through. My mum loved I Remember Love and I think she'd like this too. However, it's much less memorable, so it'll depend on how good the full track is, and the competition.
Malena Ernman - La Voix This is an odd one - an opera-disco-mum who's apparently an international superstar! I love the verses (similar to Bulletproof Heart from MF '04) but the operatic chorus ruins it for me. It's a shame, because a song that was like the verses the whole way through would have been one of my favourites of this year.
Thorleifs - Sweet Kissin' In The Moonlight Another dansband, and just like Scotts they're singing a super-jolly Swedish-language song. They're an almost impressively ugly bunch, but they're good fun and sure to have lots of dedicated lady fans in the audience. I don't know how popular they are but they come from the golden age of dansbands, according to Wikipedia.
Agnes - Love Love Love My most anticipated song this week, and I'm satisfied. After loving her last 2 singles, it doesn't sound as new and different (they were quite a change in style for Agnes), but still it's my favourite song of this week so far by a clear mile. I'm very confident that with her popularity she will sail through to Globen.
Susanne Alfvengren - Du är älskad där du går I was dreading this one because she looks like a secondary school teacher or someone's nice but boring aunt, and I was correct to do so cos it's terribly boring. The MF site tells me it's a grower, but I'm not convinced. Apparently she is known for her shrill, annoying voice. Wow, really can't wait for her performance now...
Next 3 - Esta Noche I didn't believe any of tonight's acts could be uglier than Thorleifs, but Next 3 really have outdone them. Their band name is rubbish too. It's a rap song with a Spanish vibe, despite being in Swedish, and an early Enrique-style chorus. It reminds me a bit of Obsession by Aventura mixed with Daddy Yankee i.e. very 2005.
Anna Sahlene & Maria Haukaas Storeng - Killing Me Tenderly Maria did pretty well for Norway last year, although I didn't care for the song myself, and Anna did a fab entry for Estonia a few years ago, so this will be a strong bet for success. They've mixed the sound of Duffy with ABBA and I must say it works. A definite qualifier and stands a good chance of winning, I think!
So, my favourites are by far Agnes and Anna & Maria, and I think it's likely that both of those will go further, but there'll be a tough fight for the Globen places with Thorleifs, Sarah, and possibly Malena. I'm quite confident that those 5 will be the top 4, but so far every week I've only been almost right, so don't put any bets on until we know who's going to be the Owly/Rigo/H.E.A.T of this week.
Erik Hassle With Erik Hassle, it was love at first listen. OK, I only discovered him a few minutes ago, but I'm already obsessed. Some pop acts are just special and within seconds of the stunningly beautiful Hurtful I was certain that Erik belonged to that category. His other fantastic songs proved me correct. He's like an indie-chav Darin, singing soulful electro-pop with real feeling. He's also a massive slut if his rather rude new video's anything to go by - I couldn't keep count of all the different girls! He may or may not become a worldwide superstar, but Erik is undoubtedly set for huge hits in ever-sensible Sweden, and I'll be leading his fanclub as soon as I move back there in August. I think I'm in love! Hit potential: 84% Poptasticness: 100%
Tough Love If you like Patrick Wolf, listen up: Here's a whole band of Patricks, but poppier! There aren't many more appealing descriptions than that, surely. With 5 male members and one girl (although not the singer this time), comparisons have already been made to the Scissor Sisters, but really what they have in common with SS and Patrick is that they're something totally new and different, which makes them fascinating and exciting. Pop experiments can often end in disaster, but Tough Love have remembered that they are making pop music, and the end result is certainly poptastic. I love every one of the songs on their website, and it's hard to pick favourites, but I will recommend Bastard and Is That All There Is as great starting points. Today has been an utterly brilliant day for pop discoveries! Hit potential: 75% Poptasticness: 94%
West End Girls - Little Black Dress (Watch) Tribute bands like A*Teens and West End Girls always have the problem of what to do once they've covered all the best/their favourite songs by the artist they are a tribute to. Luckily for the West End Girls, they had impressed the Pet Shop Boys so much that they suggested the girls cover a song they'd written for the short-lived PSBs musical, Closer to Heaven. It's cooler, more serious electro compared to their versions of the PSB hits, but it works well for them and results in a really unique sound. I don't know when their new album, supposedly titled Shoplifters, will be released, but the fact this one now has a video suggests the wait can't be too long. 85% Poptastic!
Miss Li - I Heard of a Girl (Listen) I only got into Miss Li last year, but ever since I first heard one of her songs (it was Oh Boy, in fact), I absolutely loved her. Now she's about to release a new album, Dancing the Whole Way Home (out 1st April), and has posted the first single from it on her MySpace. It's a little less frenetic than much of her past work, but still bears Miss Li's unique style, and is a very lovely pop song. I'm definitely going to get her new album, and I really hope I will get to see her live at some point because I think she'd be utterly incredible. 94% Poptastic!
Swingfly - Touch and Go (Watch) He's soon to release his brilliant Singing That Melody in the UK, but in Sweden Swingfly is already onto his next single, and rather brilliantly the lyrics continue the same story. There's a terrible twist - you know that number the girl he fancied sang to him approximately 100 times? It was wrong!!! Thank goodness for MySpace and Facebook, which reconnect them! Now no-one can say they aren't useful. I've listened to this so many times today it feels like I've known it for months, rather than hours. I suppose it helps that it's similar to his (and Teddybears') past work, but it's one of the catchiest choruses I've heard in ages. Great work, Mr Fly! 97% Poptastic!
Jenny Wilson - The Wooden Chair (Watch) Also back with the first single from her new album is quirky singer song-writer Jenny Wilson. When this song came on my mp3 player today I thought it was Kelis at first, which is quite a strange comparison if you know who Jenny is, but the similarity was uncanny. It's a really interesting, atmospheric song, and the video's a perfect match for it. It never fails to amaze me what a wide variety of top quality pop music Sweden can produce. This is so different to September and Darin, but still ace in its own way. I think it will be very well-received by those who liked her last album, despite the different style. 77% Poptastic!
What's Up ft. Vendela Palmgren - Här är jag (Watch) If this song sounds a bit familiar, it's because you're a secret fan of Camp Rock! Don't worry, I also quite liked it when I eventually caved in to watch it. Still hate the Jo Bros, though. For the rest of you, this is a Swedish cover of one of the Camp Rock songs. I recognised Vendela from her unreleased cover of Holiday by Venke Knutson, and her participation in Lilla MF, but What's Up were new to me. After years of having no boybands at all, Sweden now has 2, although I'm not confident What's Up will ever be as popular as EMD. Then again, EMD only have 2 good songs and 1 cute member, so they're in with a chance of catching up in terms of quality, if not in the popularity stakes. 45% Poptastic!
First there was Rose, Becki and Julia. Then Julia decided she didn't want to be a popstar, and in came poptastic Gwenno to replace her. The band became a success, but after only one album, Becki and Rose also decided to leave the band. By this time, they had even outdone the Sugababes, with no original members remaining. Gwenno recruited 2 new members, her sister Annie and a girl called Anna... who left after a few months to be a songwriter. Now they have yet another new member, a fellow Welsh girl called Beth, and you can see the new line-up in all their acetastic jolliness in the new video-blog on their website, http://www.thepipettes.co.uk/ Let's hope this line-up will last long enough to release the brilliant new songs I heard at their gig last summer.
If you liked High School Musical, The American Mall, or even Camp Rock, you have to see the latest addition to the teenpop musical genre: Spectacular! It was shown on Nickelodeon USA last week and I presume it will be quite a while til we Brits get a chance to see it (especially for those without Sky, it will probably be never), but you need wait no longer - the whole thing is on YouTube! Here's part one:
If you enjoy it, click here for the rest of the film.
Marina & the Diamonds performed live on Dermot O'Leary's radio show last weekend, and did a brilliant cover of What You Waiting For by Gwen Stefani, as well as her own song Obsessions. Click here and skip to 16:30 to hear it. She's also set up a Twitter account - click here to follow her.
Kelly Clarkson - I Do Not Hook Up (Listen) If you thought that My Life Would Suck was just a retread of Kelly's past work, you'll certainly think the same of her next single, and this one doesn't even have any Swedish people involved in it! Even worse, guess who was involved? Only the one rock-pop singer I dislike more than Kelly... Katy Perry! Actually no, Pink is also more annoying than Kelly. The oh-ohs in the chorus are really catchy and I like the relentless speed of the song. I love songs that just don't stop for 3 and a half minutes. There's nothing wrong with it, and the chorus has good energy, but at the same time I don't feel at all compelled to listen to it again. We've heard this all before, haven't we? 77% Poptastic!
Velvet - Chemistry (Watch) Thanks to September's success last year with Cry For You, Sweden's most similar act, Velvet, has been given the chance to release a single in the UK. Luckily one of her very best songs (one I posted on ITG immediately when I heard it in 2007) has been chosen as her UK debut, and now a video has been released. It's nothing very remarkable, but is certainly an improvement on the embarrassingly old-fashioned UK videos made for September. Why she needed new videos at all, I'll never know. It concerns me slightly that Velvet is being promoted by the same people who are working with U2 and Red Blooded Woman, but hopefully the great quality pop music will shine through. Now we just need Radio 1 to get on board, cos the inevitable Clubland TV hourly rotation will not be enough to get this song the notice it needs. 96% Poptastic!
Nick Lachey - Patience (Listen) The ex-98 Degrees singer and presenter of the acetastic High School Musical: Get in the Picture is soon to release a new album, and after his last one had the most excellent lead single of What's Left of Me, I was looking forward to seeing what would be the first song released this time. Sadly we don't get a new Nick/Emanuel Kiriakou collaboration, as the song turns out to be a cover of Patience by Take That! It actually works really well as a Nick song. He makes it more BSBs than Take That. I like his version, but it's kind of sad that Take That won't get a chance to release Patience in America themselves. Then again, if it does well for Nick, it could be a good launching pad for our boys over there. If they want it, that is. 83% Poptastic!
Kate Deigman - It Was You (Watch) I can't really see why, but the video for Kate's debut single is getting absolutely loads of plays on YouTube at the moment. Her claim to fame seems to be counting Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Gary Barlow among her fans (but Gary's mate Eliot Kennedy wrote the songs, so that's no surprise), but she totally lacks any claim to goodness. She's like the new Sandi Thom, singing in the style of Joss Stone. Can you think of a more terrifying proposition? I can't! Obviously she is getting all these hits from somewhere, perhaps the support of a tabloid or something like that, and there must be quite a bit of money behind her, because a blandathon like this would never just catch on of it's own accord. Perhaps it's one person watching the video on 123,575 computers at once? 32% Poptastic!
Elouise With the success of retro-pop female singers in the past few years, and the current 50th anniversary celebrations for Motown, it's no surprise that Elouise is going for a Motown sound with her music. She even samples the classic Marvelettes single, Needle in a Haystack on her song Since You've Been Gone. It's a lovely, jolly pop song, but it sounds more like Emma Bunton's last album (nb: not a bad thing!) than Duffy or Amy Winehouse. Her songs are certainly poptastic, and her live shows get great reviews, but I believe that the retro trend has been around long enough now that there are so many bandwagon-jumpers, only something spectacularly original and special will be successful. Elouise is not that, but she's good fun anyway. My favourite is Miracle Man, cos it sounds like Ace of Base! Hit Potential: 27% Poptasticness: 87%
Liam and Me This new American indie-rock act have made what is a very clever choice in this musical climate - they're releasing their most electro song (Say It Out Loud) as a single, and it's a pretty good one too. It does remind me a bit of Protocol, who were not particularly successful, but I loved them personally, and now that electro is in fashion, Liam and Me may have a bit more luck. With the crapness of The Killers new album (except for Human, of course), maybe Liam and Me can take their place. Their only problems are a) their ungrammatical name (not as bad as "The Yeah You's" though, eek!) and b) they're hilariously geeky and ordinary-looking. I think some of you (eg. those who like Melody Club) will love this group, and Say It Out Loud is a great single, but I wonder if it may be a one-off success. We'll see. Hit Potential: 50% Poptasticness: 82%
Jessie J This young British singer has had an excellent start to her career, although unfortuantely one she may not want to mention too much at the moment - despite being a total unknown, she supported Chris Brown on his recent European tour. The songs on her MySpace sound extremely professional, and will make great album tracks, but I'm still waiting to hear a brilliant debut single from her. Stand Up sounds just like Natasha Bedingfield, and is better than anything she's released since I Wanna Have Your Babies. Hello is another great track, the most poptastic one she's done - it reminds me of the Swedish singer Pauline, who I love. I still don't think it would be a hit, at least not as a debut single, so her future success all depends on whether her management find her something ace to record. It will probably be a while before anything's released, but I think we will definitely be seeing more of Jessie. Hit Potential: 68% Poptasticness: 83%
In a wonderful case of 'anything the USA can do, we can do better', Tinchy Stryder and N-Dubz have made Kanye, Ne-Yo and Akon seem like total novices. If you'd told me a few months ago that I would be excited to hear of a collaboration between Tinchy and N-Dubz, I would certainly not have believed you. I loved the Tinchy/Taio single, but presumed the latter was fully responsible for its aceness, having a far superior track record. Then last month I found myself quite obsessed with the new N-Dubz song, Strong Again, which is the most poptastic thing to come out of UK r&b in quite some time. I also saw them being interviewed on Sound and found them quite entertaining and endearing.
My anticipation was justified as their new duet single, Number One, is brilliant! The section that Mr PJ posted a few days ago is the best bit, as the full track involves a bit too much rap for my liking, but a chorus like that can survive any amount of crap rapping surrounding it. The best bit is when Dappy and Tinchy take turns to say words, which sounds weird but it works. It is a Tinchy single overall, and sounds quite like Take Me Back. Tinchy and N-Dubz are two of the biggest names in UK r&b right now, and with a song like this, they are definitely going to win over lots of new fans. This is going to be HUGE, and deservedly so!
Time to review this week's Melodifestivalen entries. Yay! You can listen to them all here.
BWO - You're Not Alone It is well known that I adore BWO, but with the exception of Will My Arms Be Strong Enough, I definitely favour their upbeat numbers to their ballads. They've done much better in MF with upbeat songs previously, so I'm not sure why they entered this. It's still very good, but I'd prefer another Lay Your Love On Me or Temple of Love.
Sofia - Alla I thought this was terribly boring at first, but it develops into something rather enjoyable. Greek-Swedish Sofia Berntsson was previously in MF with a song called Hypnotized but I couldn't remember it at all until I checked YouTube. It was actually a great Helena Paparizou wannabe, so I look forward to hearing this in full.
Maja Gullstrand - Här för mig själv Her babyish voice is pretty annoying, and the song is so quiet and uninvasive it's actually quite strange. I don't mind it, but I can't see this grabbing people's intention tomorrow night. I am quite intrigued, though, to see what Maja is like in person. Her voice doesn't seem to match her look at all.
Mikael Rickfors - Du vinner över mig! Quite a jolly, energetic rock song by an older singer. It will be good if he sings it well, which I suppose he will as he's been a musician for many years. He was a member of The Hollies for 3 years as the lead singer, then went solo and was apparently successful, but I'd never heard of him, so I guess not that much!
E.M.D. - Baby Goodbye It's amazing that Sweden never had a boyband until E.M.D. and still they're not a really great one. They've had some OK songs, nothing incredible, but perhaps their success means their next album will be better. This is more poptastic and less wimpy, almost *N Sync-ish. I think they'll definitely go to Globen.
Molly Sandén - Så vill stjärnorna Molly has had a brush with Eurovision fame before, having represented Sweden in Junior Eurovision in 2006, where she came 3rd. She is 16, even younger than Amy Diamond (by 3 months), but this song won't appeal to many people of her age. It's a typical MF big ballad, nothing special but could be popular with older viewers.
Rigo & The Topaz Sound feat. Red Fox - I Got You Rigo has had some hits in Sweden, and even featured the fabulous Pauline on one of his singles, but it's still not really my kind of music. I don't think this will be to many other people's taste either. It's very annoying actually. I really can't imagine this going though and will be shocked if it does.
Velvet - The Queen Velvet's made several good singles, but only a few great ones. Déja Vu was her MF entry last year and failed to get through but was a big hit anyway. The lyrics are very simplistic here and I don't find it super-catchy like Chemistry or Fix Me. It may be better in full, but I loved Chemistry instantly, so it's already lagging.
So, a little bit underwhelmed this week compared to the last two, despite two of my favourite Swedish pop acts being among the contestants. Still, that does mean BWO have a very good chance of success, which is naturally important to me as a BWO-megafan. Hopefully some of the songs will click more when we see them live. My prediction is that EMD and BWO will go through to Globen, with Molly and Mikael going to Andra Chansen. However, I also think Velvet and Sofia have a chance of going through in Molly or Michael's place. Riga and Maja I think have no chance unless they really pull it out of the bag. You never know what may happen!
I realise I completely forgot to do this last year, but in the years before I always did my own version of the Brits, usually because I was so disgusted with the results. By now I am so used to that being the case, that tonight when Best Single was given to its deserving winner (at least out of those nominated), Girls Aloud, I was ecstatic. It was such a shock! Then again, ITV audience + ITV's new big star (Cheryl)... I suppose it does make sense. However, that was just one award, and every other, with the exception of the Lifetime Achievement and Critics Choice awards, went to people who would not deserve it if they were the last musical acts on Earth. Therefore, my awards are still very much warranted.
I have decided to give the awards only based on music released for the first time in 2008. That means if it had previously been released in another country, it's not eligible. However, if an act released brilliant singles in 2008 which had only been released as album tracks in previous years, then that's OK. That basically means Robyn and September are out, but Private are in. The main reason for this is to give acts other than the usual favourites a chance, and highlight those who made 2008 exciting, rather than those who make every year exciting. All acts will be judged only on what they released in 2008, so if you see someone at a surprisingly low number (e.g. Alphabeat, whose only brand new single was What Is Happening, September only Because I Love You) that is because whatever they put out as brand new releases in 2008 was not their best work. Anyway, let's get on with the show!
1. Darin 2. Taio Cruz 3. David Archuleta 4. Ola 5. Gavin Degraw
Remember Kesha, the girl who sings on Right Round by Flo Rida, making it sound like Infernal? I also posted one of her solo songs, Backstabber, on Into The Groove recently. Well, she's been signed to major label RCA in America, and will be working with the almighty legends Dr Luke and Max Martin on her debut album. I think this could turn out very well indeed.
In my over-excitement about Melodifestivalen (well, it's not every day you get to see a pop moment like this) I started browsing for interviews with some of my favourite Swedish pop stars, and found some lovely things. First is this interview with Amy Diamond, which is in Swedish with English subtitles:
She's a few years younger than me, but I still want to be best friends with her. She seems so sweet and fun! Also I would like to point out this video of her covering Be Mine by Robyn, which she does brilliantly:
Another pop star who always seems super-lovely in interviews is Darin. Here's one he did recently which is in English and also features RedOne and Kat DeLuna:
So I shall have Amy as my best friend and Darin as my boyfriend (he's even around my age), and my poptastic life will be perfect!
Hooray! Måns Zelmerlöw made it through to the Melodifestivalen final with his excellent entry Hope and Glory. Amy Diamond and Lili & Susie went to Andra Chansen (the 2nd chance round - like being a wildcard on American Idol), with Amy also getting the vote of the International Jury, which gives her an extra chance of reaching the final. The only bad thing was that rock band H.E.A.T. are also going to be in the final, but after seeing their performance I fully expected it. The song was better than I'd realised (more Bon Jovi than Guns & Roses), the singer is quite a belter, and it stood out from the rest for being in such a different style.
I was surprised that Cookies & Beans didn't do better because I thought their performance was excellent too, and that was even before I realised that one of them was the singer of Release Me by Oh Laura, a huge recent hit. But it still wasn't enough. Markoolio put on a pretty good performance (he can sing!) but the joke of the song wasn't really good enough, and neither was the song itself. The Dima Bilan-esque ridiculous gimmick was quite funny, though - I advise you to look it up on YouTube later! Lasse Lindh was ace too, but I was not surprised by his failure to get through on such a tough week. I'm sure he had fun anyway, and perhaps gained some new fans from a different audience to his usual one.
Representing the USA: Enrique Iglesias ft. Ciara - Taking Back My Love Both RedOne and Enrique have made brilliant girl/boy duets before, so this one has a lot to live up to. I wouldn't say that it is as good as either Breathing Your Love or Not In Love, but still I rather like it. It's fairly similar to Breathing Your Love, but not as unusual or addictive, although the chorus is very catchy. I think it will definitely go on to be a really big hit (Enrique and Ciara are much, much bigger than Darin and Kat de Luna after all) and make RedOne the one to go to for great r&b production in the coming year.
Representing Sweden: Basic Element - Touch You Right Now This is a pretty conventional 21st century Eurodance song, but it's one of the catchiest I've heard lately. For once, someone remembered to put in a hook! Basic Element were big in the 90s but have continued releasing music up to now. They've released 6 albums and 19 singles in Sweden, yet still they're utterly unknown in the UK and have never had a top 40 hit. I think this cheery, energetic song could break that trend, if it was given the chance. Those who like Danny Saucedo should certainly give it a listen. The singer may be rather ugly, but the song is much better than All On You. The only problem is the weird, mumbly rap.
Representing Greece: Sakis Rouvas - This Is Our Night Sakis actually is representing Greece in a much bigger capacity than just on Dirrrty Pop - this is one of the songs competing to be Sakis' Greek Eurovision entry for 2009. I'm not terribly impressed with the recorded version, but I think it would be a lot better when performed live. I don't think it's a winner, but it would do well (his looks and past Eurovision success will help) and be fun to watch. With better production this could be much better, but even then, when compared to the quite similar songs of Måns Zelmerlöw it really would not be able to compete. However, it is the best '09 hopeful entry (outside of Sweden) I've heard yet - far superior to our awful song for starters!
One of the absolute best music blogs for recommendations is Crazed Hits, a site which mainly gives news of when US record labels have signed new acts, but also shares tips about new acts which are getting a lot of buzz. Usually I haven't heard of any of the acts on the site beforehand, so I was very surprised to see someone I was familiar with, but had totally forgotten, on the site yesterday: Ross Copperman!
He was one of the recommended unsigned acts, yet he has already been signed to RCA in the UK, and released an album and two singles. I love the way that his MySpace tells the story of his absolutely disasterous career in such a positive light:
"His first single 'All she wrote' hit an amazing 38 in the UK charts which is quite an achievement for a new artist. This release was soon followed by the release of 'Welcome to Reality' his debut album in UK. August saw 'Found You' released and hit the UK charts and Ross got on the road to support Mcfly which went extremely well. Now with an album and 2 singles released in UK under his belt and a handful of some of the most intimate and special gigs played, Ross has now gone back home to America to push his album release over there and to begin writing another. The road to success continues..."
In translation: His 2nd best song only reached 38, then his best song missed the chart completely. He toured with one of the UK's biggest acts, and still no-one cared. He did some gigs and nobody came. He decided to give up and go home.
I shouldn't be so negative, though - I actually really loved Found You and All She Wrote. They could have been great boyband singles, even though Ross was more of an adult contemporary act. McFly was a very odd choice of band to support. 13 year olds would have no interest in this kind of music. Regardless of how he was promoted, and although a lot of people would have loved his music, I understand why he wasn't successful. His songs are very mum-friendly, but even the mum market is heavily regulated by the cool police these days. Ross wasn't acoustic like Damien Rice or retro like Duffy. He just had good songs, but how do you market that if they're not trendy good songs? It's very difficult.
Now he's got several new songs and is getting some attention in America, but since Found You isn't on his MySpace at all and All She Wrote is right at the bottom, it seems unlikely he will be using them to gain success. Which is mad, considering all his other songs on MySpace are distinctly average. I will keep an eye out for him and hope that he does well (perhaps can even come back to the UK with his head held high) but I'm sad to say I'm not optimistic at the moment.
This week's Melodifestivalen entries are now available to listen to on the official site. Here are my first impressions of each of them - click on the title to hear it for yourself.
Jennifer Brown - Never Been Here Before Traditional Eurovision ballad, enjoyable but not very memorable. Jennifer has been around since the early 90s and I know her best for the song Weak, but apparently Tuesday Afternoon (from '98) was her biggest hit. She seems to have 'filled out' a bit since then.
Lili & Susie - Show Me Heaven These sisters are Swedish pop legends, but haven't released anything in many years. Their new single is upbeat and poptastic, an Alcazar-type song to bring them into the present day. It's all very Eurovision, but not terribly original. Nonetheless, I think they stand a great chance of getting to the final.
Markoolio - Kärlekssång från mig This pop comedian who sings in Swedish has released some ace singles in recent years. He has parodied schlager, Idol songs and Europop. Normally he raps and a girl singing, but here he is just singing. He is parodying a love song, and does it well as usual. He has many fans, but do those fans watch MF?
Amy Diamond - It's My Life Her first MF entry (last year) was fantastic, and this one's written by The Bard himself! It sounds really good, apart from the way she sings "life", which is a bit grating at first. In every other way it is perfect, so I hope I will stop being annoyed by the chorus soon. My favourite so far, certainly.
H.E.A.T - 1000 miles A rock pastiche but sadly more Guns & Roses than The Ark. It's not bad but certainly not good either. The writer is Martin Stenmarck's brother, who wrote Martin's hit 7milakliv, so that's all their credibility written off. What is the point in this kind of thing? Wouldn't rock fans rather hear real rock bands?
Lasse Lindh & Bandet - Jag Ska Slåss I Dina Kvarter! He was unsuccessful last year, and he's already a popular indie star so I'm not sure why Lasse would try again. However, he is trying a bit harder this year and entered the best song he's ever done! It's very jolly and you can even bop along to it. His new band have obviously done him a lot of good.
Måns Zelmerlöw - Hope & Glory Cara Mia is one of the best MF entries of recent times, so he has a lot to live up to... and he achieves it! This is my favourite of this year's MF so far. It's totally joyous and super-catchy, the best thing Måns has released since Cara Mia. I can't wait to hear it in full, and watch lovely Måns singing it!
Cookies n Beans - What If With that weird name I expected a tacky novelty act, but instead got a 3-piece country girl band. They're like the Swedish Dixie Chicks, but a bit older. It's a really nice song and I think it could pick up quite a lot of votes from the older viewers. They have a chance for reaching the final, but I don't think to win.
In summary, my favourites are 1. Måns, 2. Amy, 3. Lili & Susie, 4. Lasse, and I think Måns and Lili & Susie will go to the final with Cookies n Beans and either Amy or Markoolio to Andra Chansen. It's a tough week actually. Of course it could all change depending on how they perform tomorrow night, and how the songs sound in full. I can't wait to find out!
The Saturdays - Just Can't Get Enough (Watch) When I heard that they were going to cover this, I imagined it would be in a sultry electro-girl style, like the W.I.T. cover of Just What I Needed by The Cars. Instead, they've transformed the iconic track into bouncy, cheery pop song perfect for Comic Relief. Kids who don't know the original will especially love it. It's a very enjoyable cover (best bit is when it sounds like Rhythm of My Life by Gina G at 2:28), but I still have to take issue with the video. Is it really necessary for these pretty young girls to dress and act so slutty in it? With a fun pop track life this, it would be really nice to have a video where they're simply having a laugh together like a group of young girls would. It's going to be mostly young girls who like The Saturdays, and unless they are all lesbians they don't want to see their pop idols in hot pants and bras! 92% Poptastic!
Bat For Lashes - Daniel (Watch) I liked, but didn't love, Bat For Lashes, until I saw her live. Then I immediately 'got' her and was instantly obsessed. There is something really interesting about her, meaning that (like only a few other acts) it doesn't matter to me that her songs aren't hook-laden poptastic creations. They have their own charm and can't be fairly measured against the pop acts I usually write about here - that's not to say she's better, just different. After being quite successful with her first album, Natasha is back with its follow-up. It's already leaked online, but I'm sticking with the lead single for the moment. Daniel isn't a great departure from her previous songs, but I think it's very lovely and with the addition of a backing beat it will appeal to Ladyhawke's fans. I think this album is going to do rather well. 90% Poptastic!
Pet Shop Boys - Love Etc (Watch) Another act returning with the lead single from a new album, and another one I was extremely excited to hear. It took me until they released Flamboyant to realise that I love the PSBs, but I really got into them during their last album campaign, and so am looking forward to the new one, called Yes and out on March 23rd. Mr Popustice said in his review that Love Etc shouldn't be the lead single, so if there are much better songs on the album than this, then it is sure to be fantastic. Love Etc fits the PSBs formula, as it's a social commentary with fun lyrics, a catchy chorus and nice electro sounds. It's not a departure from their last album at all, but I didn't want it to be. I don't think I've ever given all the songs I'm reviewing 90-something %, but in this case it's definitely warranted. 95% Poptastic!
This week marks the return of 2 brilliant female-fronted pop acts, Camera Obscura and The Sounds.
Camera Obscura have unveiled a new song, My Maudlin Career, which continues the sweet, dreamy indie-pop sound of their last album. It is the title track of their new album, and you can hear it on their website. It's unclear whether this will be the lead single, but if it's not I can't wait to hear what is!
As for The Sounds, we have a few more days to wait. They will perform a new song (again they haven't said whether it's a single) on the American TV show Last Call with Carson Daly on Thursday. The song is called No One Sleeps When I'm Awake, and it comes from the album Crossing The Rubicon, which will be released in May. They are touring with No Doubt in the USA and Fall Out Boy here... if only it were the other way around!
Jordyn Taylor - Accessory (Watch) Jordyn is a teenage r'n'b singer from California, and her new single, Accessory, has earned a spot on the soundtrack of Confessions of a Shopaholic. From that fact you can pretty much guess its content. If this song was by a man about a woman, it would be considered terribly sexist, so is it acceptable the other way around? It can be seen as revenge for all the times that men have treated women this way, but it would really be better to just rise above it. Nonetheless, it's a fun, catchy song and one thing that I think is very important is to never take pop music too seriously. Judging it on musical merit alone, it's good but not amazing. The lyrical content is all that makes it stand out. 72% Poptastic!
Lights - February Air (Watch) There was quite a squabble to sign this young lady, so I expected something special, and I was inevitably a bit disappointed. The super-ace video to February Air is the best thing about the project as a whole, but it is ruined by having Lights herself in it. I just hate her face! It's clear that she is a really annoying person. Her sound is electro-pop, but she comes from a rock background (hence the face), and the music is made to appeal to rock fans, therefore it is nothing like as good as electro-pop made for electro-pop fans. There is loads of this stuff around at the moment, for example the super-samey (although wonderfully named) Owl City and the almost-ace but decisively not Stereo Skyline. Everybody's trying to get in on the electro-pop trend, and it's making me bored of synthesisers... eek!! 77% Poptastic!
The Downtown Fiction - Your Voice (Listen) Now here's a band who are keeping well away from precious genres such as electro-pop, and are all the better for it. It's not something I'd listen to obsessively, but it's always such a shock when a rock band makes something listenable, that they deserve credit for it. If you like poppy rock bands like The Click Five and All American Rejects, without the painful uber-American accents of most rock acts, tnen you should enjoy The Downtown Fiction. It just goes to show that rock music wouldn't be such an annoying genre if it wasn't dominated by such twerpy types. The Downtown Fiction look like alright guys from the facial expressions in their promo photos (that's the best way to tell), and Your Voice is a nice song. I'm not sure how far niceness will get them with the public, but for me it's a necessity. 80% Poptastic!
Lisa Lavie - Angel (Listen) This song is quite similar in style to Natasha Bedingfield, but Lisa has a stronger, deeper voice, and the song is catchier than anything Natasha's done since her first album. The chorus hook is brilliant, and although her voice seems a bit harsh at first, it makes her stand out, and she is a great live singer (as this video demonstrates). The end result is kind of like Anastacia trying to be Natasha, which may send some people running scared, but actually I think it works. I'm not sure if the sound's a bit too rough to be a radio hit, but a lot of people who listen to radio-friendly music like Natasha and Anastacia would love it. It could be this year's Love Song if it was a bit lighter and fluffier - or maybe it will be anyway. 87% Poptastic!
Lily has been seen pretty negatively since her initial period of success, and I've never been quite sure why. Yes, she is outspoken but I don't see what's wrong with that. I much prefer popstars with something to say for themselves to wimpy, repressed female singers like Leona Lewis. Lily's personality shows through in her lyrics and lifts what could be simply light, fluffy pop songs into unique, witty songs which represent our generation. Here's my brief track-by-track first impressions of her new album, which you can listen to in full on MySpace.
Everyone's At It A new version of a song that's been around for a while. A great opener to the album. The subject is drugs, both recreational and prescription. Lily is frank as ever, but remembers to be poptastic at the same time.
The Fear The one we all know. I was pleased to see its chart success - so far this year there have been no bad no.1s, which is fantastic.
Not Fair Quite a rude one here as Lily complains about a boy who is not very generous in the bedroom. Gets quite country in parts. Love the jolly vibe although it's an odd counterpoint to the lyrics.
22 This catchy tune's protagonist is not 22 but actually 30, and considered 'past it'. It's somewhat depressing but has a happy ending, which Lily is surprised by.
I Could Say One of the first songs she posted on MySpace from this album, and a lovely song it is too. I can see this doing well if it's the next single.
Back To The Start This has a very fast chorus and will probably lend itself well to being remixed. It's not as catchy as the other songs, but enjoyable enough.
Never Gonna Happen This one also doesn't chime with me as much as most of Lily's songs do. The accordion sounds are fun but the hook isn't very hooky.
Fuck You Lily doesn't bother to hide her swear words in acronyms like Britney, but she doesn't need to as she's never pretended to be sweet and innocent. This is a fun song but wouldn't stand out without the expletives.
Who'd Have Known A cute mid-tempo love song that even Lily admits is a rip-off of Shine by Take That, and it also makes me think of Better In Time by Leona. It's sweet but a bit ploddy.
Chinese Similar in sound to The Fear, and I like the electro sounds in the background. Popstars are always saying 'I'm just normal, really', but with Lily it seems genuine. I do worry about the amount of Chinese takeaways she gets though - about 10 just in this one song!
Him This is actually about Him i.e. God, and Lily's contemplations about politics and life today, which are amusing and sometimes quite poignant. I'm not so sure God would be a fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival, though: If he is really omniscient he would know that BWO and Alphabeat are the best!
He Wasn't There A short, sweet ending to the album, which I thought was going to be a rant at her Chemical Brother ex, but it turns out to be about her dad, the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Clips of the songs for this weekend's first round of Melodifestivalen are now available to listen to on the MF website. Of course, I must review them!
Emilia - You're My World This is the best thing Emilia has ever done! A great start to the competition. You will probably remember Emilia Rydberg's Uk top 5 hit about 10 years ago, Big Big World. Since then she hasn't done much of note, but this song is really fun and catchy, so I wish her luck with it.
Shirley Clamp - Med hjärtat fyllt av ljus A Melodifestivalen legend, Shirley is back for another try and sure to have a good chance at getting into the final. This is a bit of a wimpy ballad, so I don't like it as much as her schlager-poppy past entries such as Min Kärlek och Att Alska Dig, but I expect it will be popular with MF's older viewers.
Alcazar - Stay The Night Alcazar are back in MF, with a song that sounds more like a mix of BWO and A*Teens than themselves. It's great of course, and I can't wait to see them perform it. In their previous line-up, Alcazar were one of MF's most popular acts, but it's been a while, so we'll see if they still are.
Nina Söderquist - Tick Tock I'm not familiar with Nina, but this is quite fun and catchy for a rock song. I like it! Wikipedia tells me she won a TV series called West End Star (she got a role in Spamalot), so she is probably popular and able to sing live. She could surprise non-Swedish MF fans and do quite well.
Jonathan Fagerlund - Welcome To My Life A sweet and jolly pop song, but the chorus is unimpressive. It's catchy and likeable but I doubt it'll make a big enough impact to get him to the final. Although he's pretty (and was in a band with Donal, an old online friend of mine), Jonathan isn't a big star, but this is his best song yet and could at least be a Rix FM hit.
Marie Serneholt - Disconnect Me Yay, Marie is back! Her hair colour has changed, but her musical style hasn't. She's also deserving of all the envy in the world since she is dating MF hottie Måns Zelmerlöw. He is also entering again this year, so it will be interesting to see which of them has the most success. I think Måns, but we'll see!
Caroline af Ugglas - Snälla snälla She's a bit boring, but her name means "Caroline of Owls", so I wish I liked her music more. There is nothing interesting here, so I'll move on...
Scotts - Jag Tror På Oss This lot are a popular dansband, which Scandiphiles will know does not mean that they make dance music in the sense we Brits know it. This is a really nice, jolly Swedish song with a good vibe about it, that upbeat Swedish songs often have. I reckon this is going to do very well, but I don't think it'll win overall.
I also recommend that you go to the ESCToday YouTube channel, where you can see interviews with Shirley, Alcazar and a few others. Tomorrow is going to be excellent!
I did a little interview with Sweden's acest new popstar - here it is:
Your parents are Eritrean, but you grew up in Sweden. Do you think your African heritage influences your music? Of course! Everything about me and everything around me influences my music.
What are your favourite and least favourite things about living in Stockholm? My favourite thing about Stockholm is Cosmos, the studio we´ve been working in, and my family. And my least favourite thing is the cold.
Who are your personal favourite Swedish bands or singers? Mapei, Mando Diao and Dundertåget.
Which artists, Swedish or otherwise, would you most like to work with in the future? Right now, I like a Swedish group called Dundertåget.
Do you plan to release your music or tour in the UK in 2009? I hope so. My husband´s family is from the UK so I would love to release something there.
What is going to be your second single after Miss You? I´m still trying to get used to calling it a single... so I haven't decided yet!
You were making music for a long time before you got signed to Razzia Records, so what is your advice for anyone who is waiting for their own big break? I guess hard work and try to surround yourself with serious people.
Thanks Adiam! Here's a recent performance of Miss You so you can see what all the fuss is about:
I know some people are not keen on this as her 3rd single, but personally I'm happy because it pulls her in very much a pop direction. I don't want her 2nd album to sound like the Pussycat Dolls, just cos people haven't seen the other sides of her which are found on her album. This video represents how I see the song as well, a European summer holiday. The only thing is, I'm not sure if it will be as popular as Just Dance and Poker Face, but with those 2 being such surefire hits, it really doesn't matter what her 3rd single is. It will be a hit by default, so may as well be a good one!
1. Agnes is being launched in the UK with On and On! Even if it wasn't the 9th best song of 2008, I would still be mega-excited to have a song written and produced by Anders Hansson and featuring Martin Rolinski on choir duties on UK television. Hopefully Radio 1 will pick up on it and she will be the new September... but I won't count on them being that sensible, and unfortunately if they aren't I can't see her getting anywhere. Nonetheless, it's nice that the song is getting something of a chance.
2. Much more importantly, Melodifestivalen begins this Saturday!!! As I have already said a zillion times, this year is looking to be utterly amazing with an absolute dream line-up, so you must get over to http://svt.se/melodifestivalen on Saturday to watch the show, or at least listen to the songs. You know I won't be talking about much else in the weeks to come!
A new group has formed, and the line-up is quite amazing: Cathy Dennis, Mark Ronson, Greg Kurstin, Guy Chambers and Dr Luke!!!! I can't believe it's real - how did they all get together? The problem is, with several of the very top songwriters in the world all in one band, it is quite possible that their different styles will result in a confused, directionless sound, despite their immense individual talents. Nonetheless, it's an incredible line-up, and I can't wait to see how this develops. The name of the project is The Sex Cassettes, and I presume it is a band, but not much info is known yet. It may be that we will never hear of this again, but my source is pretty reliable, so I am very excited and will probably be Googling for more info every day until the project is officially announced.