Following a somewhat disappointing four weeks of rather generic sounding music, it seems Sweden is left with the unenviable task of selecting a song to simply make the top-5, rather than competing for the win – barring a massive surprise.
The hype ground to a halt two weeks ago when Loreen’s song arrived and the Betfair market reaction was instantly negative. Nevertheless, for every Loreen hater, there were seemingly tens of fans spamming Twitter and Eurovision message boards building a false bubble of expectation around the 2012 winner. As ever, first impressions proved to be correct.
A lower quality final, or at least one without a runaway viral song does raise the prospect of a surprise winner, especially when one views last year’s app vote, which saw second placed Wiktoria and last placed David Lindgren separated by just 3.6%! The app vote levelled the field, but it took a viral song by Frans to break free of the pack.
So what clues are there in the running order?
- Ace Wilder – Wild Child
- Boris René – Her Kiss
- Lisa Ajax – I Don’t Give A
- Robin Bengtsson – I Can’t Go On
- Jon Henrik Fjällgren feat. Aninia – En värld full av strider
- Anton Hagman – Kiss You Goodbye
- Mariette – A Million Years
- FO&O Gotta – Thing About You
- Nano – Hold On
- Wiktoria – As I Lay Me Down
- Benjamin Ingrosso – Good Lovin’
- Owe Thörnqvist – Boogieman Blues
I would argue that the first four have been jettisoned, especially Robin Bengtsson being given the pre-Fjällgren slot. Last year, Robin won his heat and was given slot-7 and a realistic hope of landing a podium finish given his Spotify success – yet he underperformed. It’s also worth noting that Robin debuted outside of the Sverigetopplistan top-10 last year, which he has repeated again this time. Plus, his song is charting around 5th on Spotify compared to 2nd last year. As a chartable, radio-friendly song and voteable stage package, Constellation Prize was a much better fit than I Can’t Go On, which comes across as visually arrogant and cocky. Also, Robin never looks 100% comfortable with the choreography.
Ace Wilder has been given the opening slot, and unlike last year when Don’t Worry surprised everyone by finishing in the top-3, the more lowkey and inferior Wild Child looks set to struggle. Name recognition may help Ace with returning jurors, yet even that will fail to overturn the expected app-vote lag. Other than Owe’s Boogieman Blues, Wild Child is the lowest charting song of the direkt qualifiers and doesn’t even appear on the Spotify top-50.
Andra chansen also rans, Boris and Lisa Ajax, are in the prime slots for last place. Boris narrowly avoided it last year from slot 9, but he will do well to swerve it from slot 2. Nevertheless, Lisa Ajax’s I Don’t Give A… looks friendless on the various charts and I doubt the 20+ f*cks will go down well with the international juries regardless of their age or musical preferences. The word f*ck doesn’t travel well outside of the Nordics and perhaps Australia. Then there’s the way Lisa performs her song to camera as if she doesn’t actually give a f*ck. If the odds are right, Lisa would be one of my value choices for a shock last place.
Dragon slayer, Anton Hagman, should expect to be forgotten too, having been wedged between this year’s best staged songs from Fjällgren and Mariette, with boyband, FO&O, following in 8th. Anton will suffer a drop in support to these more prominent entries, but could be saved with light support from the juries, which could see him return with a better song next year. His teen girl vote rivals, FO&O should be aiming a little higher to Oscar Zia Yes We Can territory.
Benjamin Ingrosso might be the joker in the pack with that 11th slot, provided you overlook the cheapness of his song. The Swedish Strictly Come Dancing winner has the popularity to cause an upset, yet I predict the juries may quell any threat of a shock top-3 finish. Even so, it’s possible Good Lovin’ could perform better than expected on the televote. Benjamin is only a few places behind Robin Bengtsson on the charts and his late slot is probably designed to keep Robin’s vote in check.
Owe can possibly expect points from the UK jury if Simon Proctor is retuning to his position of village idiot on tour. A Hasse Andersson 3rd place might be tad ambitious given Owe didn’t have chance to build momentum from andra chansen. In his favour, Boogieman Blues does stand out and the televote will certainly be higher than last place. I suspect 5th-7th. The Playtones finished 6th in 2011, so in a longer field, 7th is about right.
That leaves four acts who require a little more detail:
Just a few places ahead of Lisa Ajax on the Spotify chart is Mariette’s A Million Years, and like her Don’t Stop Believing in 2015, momentum appears to have fizzled out. The view here is that Mariette’s 2015 entry was much stronger and more dramatic than A Million Years, which relies on bungee dancers to lift what is a nice, but fairly uneventful progressive house song. Don’t Stop Believing at least benefitted from a sense of mystery and drama in the arrangement and staging. And the Miss Li penned entry finished 5th on the televote, 2nd with the juries and 3rd overall. Entering the Sverigetopplistan at no.40 doesn’t scream shock winner and nor does it scream top-3… or 15/1 prospect. Last year Molly Sanden finished 6th with a comparably credible, yet flat entry; I predict a similar result for Mariette.
Just like in 2015, Mariette’s problems are compounded by the incredibly popular Jon Henrik Fjällgren (and Aninia), who looks set to finish ahead of her again this year. Fjällgren returns with a much stronger song, which when combined with the evocative staging and genuine Disney duet chemistry, it would be foolish to write him off just because he finished nearly 150-points behind Måns Zelmerlöw in a strong year. And going back to 2015, Jag är fri lacked the sort of epic feel that En Värld Full Av Strider has in abundance. Chart-wise, En Värld Full Av Strider has performed much better, entering the Sverigetopplistan at no.25 compared to no.53 for Jag är fri. And on Spotify, Fjällgren has been hovering around no.20, which is impressive considering his song wouldn’t have been entered on the mainstream playlists. With a less strong Mariette, Fjällgren is capable of finishing top-2 with the juries. And given Oscar Zia topped the jury vote ahead of the big commercial pop song last year, Fjällgren could easily repeat that feat. Don’t forget, he finished 3rd with the juries in 2015 from slot 4 in the running order. This time he’s in slot 5 with a stronger song in a weaker lineup. The televote could go his way too given he was 2nd in 2015. This is a Sweden’s Got Talent winner with a motivated fanbase.
Nano led the outright market immediately after heat one right up until this week when Wiktoria took over. When I first heard Hold On it sounded like an obvious qualifier, but I was unsure of it’s winning credentials: it didn’t sound instant or epic enough. These doubts increased when I saw the dull, beige staging and Nano’s lack of charisma. The extreme closeups during the verses conceal much of this, but during the chorus he really lacks energy and any sense he’s enjoying the moment. He would be more convincing if he punched the air or showed a little more determination during the chorus. It’s like he’s uncomfortable with expressing himself with this sort of upbeat song. Whereas Nano looks entirely at home throughout this slower performance when he can close his eyes and hide behind the microphone. Hold On is a great, chart worthy song, but as a package, the three key elements of song, singer and staging are at odds with each other. That may explain why Nano has been slow to catch on in the charts, only entering the Sverigetopplistan at no.23 and taking an age to hit the top-10 on Spotify. Having said that, Christer Björkman does want to give him a fair shot at the win from slot 9. The jury support should be there, but to what extent, I remain uncertain. Logically, though, the televote will be 3rd or lower if you accept Wiktoria and Fjällgren can jump ahead of him.
Judging by the app vote heartbeat timings, Wiktoria won heat 4 with ease, which justifies her favourite status ahead of Fjällgren and Nano. As I Lay Me Down may not be as palatable to the purists as Save Me, but the chorus and hook is the most effective in this year’s lineup and arguably more instant than last year’s song. The weakness, however, is the dull staging and somewhat clunky bed concept, which leaves Wiktoria hurriedly walking away from the camera to position herself for the middle-eight. The choreography isn’t particularly demanding, but it does leave her rather breathless towards the end of the song. But looking at the positives, Wiktoria boasts winning stage presence, and combined with her curly hair USP, smiley image and virtuoso vocal, there’s a lot for the juries to love. Last year the juries ranked Wiktoria 4th behind Ace Wilder, Oscar Zia and winner Frans. The televote disagreed and placed her second behind Frans. Luckily for Wiktoria, there will be at least 40 hard points from returning international jurors. And going on last year’s close contest, she’ll only need another 50 or so more points to ensure she’s top of the jury vote in a weaker year… provided everything goes to plan. Since heat 4 ended, Wiktoria has maintained a healthy lead on her Melfest rivals in the charts. On Spotify she was the first of only three acts to accrue over 1-million streams and is persistently 50,000+ daily streams ahead of her closest charting rival, Robin Bengtsson. She entered the Sverigetopplistan at no.7 and was the only Melfest finalist to make the top-10 – Robin entered at no.15. All of the key performance indicators suggest Wiktoria will represent Sweden in Kyiv as long as the juries get on board.
This year’s international jury will be made up of representatives from: Armenia, Australia, France, Israel, Italy, Malta, Norway, Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine and United Kingdom. I’m afraid that Cyprus’ Klitos Klitou will not be trending in Sweden this year.
Poland and the Czech Republic join the panel for the first time. The general makeup of the returning juries doesn’t appear to help any one act. I would say being upbeat or slightly kitsch would be an advantage, so Wiktoria and Fjällgren would be my immediate conclusion, with steady support for Nano and the other mid-tempo direkt entries.
If everything goes to plan, Wiktoria should be heading to Kyiv in May. In terms of threats, Nano, or one of the other upbeat entries could get close to Wiktoria, but I believe only Fjällgren can beat her. Therefore, my book is fairly balanced between Wiktoria and Fjällgren to mitigate the risk. Given Fjällgren is available at over 5s on Betfair Exchange, if he were to top the jury vote, he would instantly trade at a much shorter price, so he is the value bet at present.
For fun, here’s my 1-12:
We’ll have our preview podcast published for Wednesday evening. There aren’t any side markets yet, but should some value emerge, I’ll post it in the comments below.
Who’s your Melodifestivalen 2017 winner?