Another year and another disappointing season of Melodifestivalen is about to reach its conclusion. The buildup to this year’s Melfest was more muted compared with previous contests. And other than Mariette, there weren’t any big names announced which sort of exposed very early on that Sweden might be struggling to find a competitive song for Eurovision. As ever, the appearance of Joy & Linnea Deb or Thomas G:son as songwriters attracted the attention of super-fans, but as witnessed with Saara Aalto’s songs, these writers have struggled to sound relevant in recent years.
As mentioned in the preview podcast, the app vote has pretty much destroyed Melfest as a betting event. There is still money to be made, but the liquidity is abysmal now the flaming heart gives the game away.
During our preview podcast, we discussed that the juries will now rank 10 songs rather than eight, which is SVT’s way of limiting their influence. It won’t work because because the jury will still galvanise around 3-4 songs, whereas the voting app will have its usual levelling affect. In previous years, the %age divergence between the top and bottom acts is as follows:
- 2014 – 89%
- 2015 – 97% (app vote 1st year)
- 2016 – 60%
- 2017 – 48%
The app vote arrived in 2015 (not available in final), yet didn’t really take effect until 2016. Besides, 2015 was Måns Zelmerlöw’s year and there was barely any competition. Also, the number of votes cast in the 2015 final totalled 1,555,557, whereas in 2016 that exploded to over 13,000,000 votes. That’s a 90% increase due to app voting!
The divergence in jury voting between the top and bottom acts is as follows:
- 2014 – 96%
- 2015 – 92%
- 2016 – 100%
- 2017 – 99%
So on those figures, one can conclude that juries have around 40%-50% more influence than the public, which means working out who the juries will like is more important than slavishly obsessing over Spotify and the Sverigetopplistan charts.
The running order was published on Saturday night and it pretty much gives us two or three potential winners:
- Mendez – Everyday
- Renaida – All The Feels
- Martin Almgren – A Bitter Lullaby
- John Lundvik – My Turn
- Jessica Andersson – Party Voice
- LIAMOO – Last Breath
- Samir and Viktor – Shuffla
- Mariette – For You
- Felix Sandman – Every Single Day
- Margaret – In My Cabana
- Benjamin Ingrosso – Dance You Off
- Rolandz – Fuldans
There are three very obvious jury favourites with maybe one other act who could do surprisingly well. Looking at the makeup of this year’s international jury, one might conclude it was assembled to help acts like Dotter and Felix. Dotter didn’t happen for blindingly obvious reasons which seem lost on our close Swedish bredrins. Felix’s song was too anonymous in heat 4 but is now emerging as a dark horse.
This year’s juries are as follows with their last awarded 12 and 10 points from previous years:
- Albania – new
- Armenia – 12 Måns, 10 Saade
- Australia – 12 Ingrosso, 10 Bengtsson
- Cyprus – 12 Frans, 10 Zia
- France – 12 Mariette, 10 Bengtsson
- Georgia – new
- Iceland – 12 Stjernberg, 10 Ewald
- Italy – 12 Fjällgren/Aninia, 10 Mariette
- Malta – 12 Nano, 10 Wilder
- Portugal – new
- UK – 12 Wilder, 10 Nano
It is possible to determine that some countries are influenced by upbeat, pop-centred songs which aids the likes of Ingrosso, Mariette, Jessica and maybe even Samir & Viktor to a small degree, whereas others favour authentic or vocal-led performances like Felix, Lundvik, Almgren and LIAMOO. Go back to earlier years and similar trends appear. However it is important to recognise that every year is relative, so exceptions to the rule do appear.
So on to the likely contenders:
Benjamin Ingrosso goes into the final at shorter odds than Wiktoria last year and boasts a simpler and more dynamic staging concept. His vocals are less stretched and the overall package is very slick and tidy. Dance You Off isn’t my favourite song of the year, nevertheless I can appreciate the visual impact of the staging and the infectious groove in the melody. Once heat 1 ended, the general impression among commentators and bettors was that there must be better songs to come, and let’s face it, without the stage show Dance You Off is quite an average song, which in a normal Melfest year would finish top-4 but not trouble the top spot. As mentioned above, this isn’t a normal year.
Ingrosso entered the Sverigetopplistan at no.17, eight places below FELIX and over 10-places adrift of Samir & Viktor and Mendez. Robin Bengtsson also entered the Sverigetopplistan outside of the top-10 last year yet was always quite high on Spotify. Benjamin is currently sixth on Spotify, but is well adrift of FELIX, Mendez and Samir & Viktor on daily streams.
This confirms that Dance You Off isn’t as good a song as it is a visual performance. Again very similar to Robin Bengtsson’s I Can’t Go On from last year. Even so, Benjamin will be top-2 by virtue of his running order slot and the power of the juries versus the televote.
Robin Stjernberg was the last act to win from andra chansen, and with FELIX charting at no.9 on the Sverigetopplistan and second on Spotify, there is a growing sense that final-week momentum could push this underdog over the line. As hinted earlier, the likes of Portugal and Albania were probably installed on the international jury panel to help this sort of song win, albeit Björkman assumed it would be Dotter challenging for the win.
When FELIX’s song first appeared in snippet form, I have to admit to being rather let down. I had an early tip it might be a contender so was disappointed it lacked a climatic moment or hooky melody like Frans. Every Single Day is Melodifestivalen’s attempt at Amor Pelos Dois in its battle to ween the Swedish public off fast-food and fireworks in favour of authentic music. I would concede this is a valiant effort, but Salvador brought three-minutes of joy and optimism, whereas FELIX performs three-minutes of angst and sorrow. It’s the Goodbye to Yesterday argument all over again: why would people vote for a song about an argument and a stage show dramatising a separation? People vote for hope and optimism. When ‘everyone died’ in Jamala’s 1944, the optimism was delivered visually in the form of a symbolic tree.
Felix will certainly land top-3 on the televote, and acknowledging the improved andra chansen performance, he is a serious contender here. Back in 2015, Oscar Zia topped the jury vote with a similarly dark performance, though with greater vocal-led pop elements and drama. If FELIX topped the jury vote on Saturday, his odds would shorten dramatically. My own opinion is that FELIX would represent a poor choice for Eurovision for the reasons briefly argued above.
After the presentation of this year’s artists, Samir & Viktor informed journalists that they had upped their game. They certainly stayed true to their word, as Shuffla has become this year’s biggest hit and boasts the strongest melody of all. In previous years the international juries have punished their ‘football chant’-type songs with Bada Nakna failing to earn a single point and Groupie scoring just 29. They were also largely forgotten on the televote, but not having to go through andra chanson this time around means their song hasn’t been played to oblivion and lost its freshness. Therefore, the duo should be expected to perform stronger this time around. And in terms of the ‘flaming heart’ app-vote timings, Samir & Viktor were just 10-seconds off the 1:50 Ingrosso posted. Next in line was LIAMOO at 1:42.
So what sort of result can Samir & Viktor achieve? If they don’t top the app vote then they will surely be top-2 or 3. Then with the juries onside awarding maybe 30-50 points, it is conceivable they could finish top-3 depending on how condensed the app vote divergence is – a larger divergence will help them along with the vocal deficiencies of their main rivals. Back in 2015, Hasse Andersson scored only 10-points from the jury, yet finished top-3 on the televote, ending fourth overall some 34-points adrift of third place. 2015 had a massive favourite, whereas this year everything feels much closer, though there wasn’t app voting in the final in 2015. At the moment, third or fourth sounds about right for these guys.
The other big ‘direkt’ qualifier was LIAMOO, who has stayed reasonably short in the odds. Sixth in the running order isn’t ideal for such an understated song, especially being followed by chart-toppers, Samir & Viktor. Last Breath’s rap, along with the dark staging may struggle to appeal to juries. In my opinion, this is the most relevant song in this year’s Melfest final, yet for whatever reason it doesn’t quite deliver on screen. I suspect the juries will still recognise this song’s contemporary flavour, and the app vote will be fairly close regardless, but I expect the Idol winner to finish outside of the top-3. Shame, because this really should have been Sweden’s Eurovision song.
Likewise Mariette also failed to deliver both in terms of song and live performance. The 35-year old has always been supported by the juries based on her silky vocal and on-screen charisma. However, she has always struggled on the televote, finishing fifth in both years. Despite this year’s weakened lineup, I still expect a similar televote placing leaving her in third-fifth overall provided she receives the same level of support from juries.
So that leaves the other acts competing for the remaining places. With the jury vote revealed first, it might be worth keeping an eye on John Lundvik with the juries tending to reward big vocals in the past, though it depends if they see his ballad as being dated. If he outscores the more favoured FELIX, his odds could take a tumble. On the other hand, if Ingrosso is already ahead, the market will quickly wise up to the lack of a threat.
Based on the above, this is my 1-12 with first and second being very close at this point:
- Benjamin Ingrosso
- Felix Sandman
- Samir & Viktor
- John Lundvik
The difficulty this year is that two of the biggest pop songs are performed by two of the worst vocalists in Mendez and Margaret. There’s also the worry with Margaret that Swedes will ‘vote for their own’ again. Renaida could get a little boost from the jury, but I see Jessica as having the widest appeal. Even so, the bottom half of the scoreboard will probably be separated by just 20-30 points, so it really is pointless obsessing over who finishes in those places.
The trickiest decision is deciding third to sixth. John will likely do better with the juries and register a similar number of televotes as Mariette, so he may just nip ahead of her. Both John and Samir & Viktor are interchangeable and logic says the jury has greater influence here. I just think Samir & Viktor will be noticeably stronger on the app vote, but I do keep swapping John in and out of top-3. Shuffla being in Swedish may also be a factor with the juries, so both acts really are in play for 3rd. LIAMOO is the big gamble: his televote should be top-5, but because the juries have around 40% greater influence, I think he falls back a bit. Even Anton Ewald finished last in 2014 after qualifying direkt, so just because LIAMOO is young and male, it doesn’t guarantee a high finish.
First and second are also interchangeable. FELIX just keeps nudging further forward on Spotify, and if the juries support him, Benjamin is beatable. The slickness of Benjamin’s staging has him a nose ahead for now.
As ever, share your thoughts in the comments below along with your 1-12 predictions.