He’s the maestro of Melodifestivalen and most recently led the country to victory at Eurovision with Måns Zelmerlöw and Loreen.
And on Wednesday Melfest Executive Producer Christer Björkman made it clear that this year’s crop of songs is deep and strong and has the potential to score Sweden its seventh victory at the contest.
When we asked him if any of the numbers can win he responded directly: “Several”.
For Christer, today’s reveal marks the culmination of several months of work.
“We started this trip in June already, speaking to all the companies, the publishers, the artists, the composers,” he says. “And we’ve been collecting songs and information throughout the fall. To finally release it and get rid of it and present it is such a relief. And I’m really, really proud of the outcome.”
And while this year is full of big names — including Eurovision winners Loreen and Charlotte Perrelli — Christer suggested that they face very tough competition from newbies and recent debutants.
“There are so many good debutants and returners from last year who had incredibly good songs,” he says. “It’s going to be a tight race and interesting to follow.”
If Sweden were to win, it would tie Ireland for the most wins ever. It should be noted, however, that Ireland’s last victory came way back in 1996. However, its worst-ever finishes — last place — came more recently, in 2007 and 2013.
Christer previously discussed the very elaborate process by which he determines the 28 songs in an article I wrote for Bloomberg Businessweek in 2015.
Here’s an excerpt from that story, which came out just after Melfest 2015. It details how and why he chose certain acts that year — and surely the logic and process can be applied selectively to this year’s artists. You can read the full story here.
Melfest producer Christer Björkman says that this year he received roughly 2,500 song submissions, which come with an artist attached, though SVT reserves the right to reassign songs to artists it prefers. A jury of 16 people—eight men and eight women between 20 and 60 years old, half professional, half fans of the show—listened and rated them, and their top 13 made it to the live shows. The jury pinpoints the broadest possible hits, which cut across all demographics. Björkman fills the remaining slots with oddities and celebrities that will make for good TV. This year, he has Hasse Andersson, a 67-year-old Swedish country-folk singer, and Samir & Viktor, a reality TV star and a fashion blogger before Björkman chose them for the show.
“The entire industry is saying, ‘What are they doing here? They are not singers. They come from a soap opera,’ ” Björkman says. “Well, people like them. We live with the fact that Melodifestivalen is like a soap opera. We go on for six weeks and have to feed the media with controversy.”
In the early 1980s, Björkman ran a hair salon, eventually finding his way to music. He won Melfest in 1992 with I morgon är en annan dag, or Tomorrow Is Another Day. At Eurovision he competed in a boxy black suit, deployed a flourish of jazz hands, and came in second to last. By 2002 he found himself helping cull songs for Sweden and slowly worked his way up the ranks. The papers have sometimes described him as a power-hungry despot or a sort of godfather. He has the power to make careers through Melfest and to stall them through exclusion.
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