Melodifestivalen 2018: Martin Almgren and Jessica Andersson go direkt till final from SF3 in Malmö

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Barbi Escobar served Swedish swagger as her backing dancers performed squats. The bookies’ once favourite Dotter struck shapes before a single spotlight. And Kalle Moraeus & Orsa Spelmän led a folk revival, replete with ageing gents on violins and traditional dance. And in the end none of them survived Semi-Final 3 of Melodifestivalen 2018 in Malmö.

Instead Martin Almgren (“Bittersweet Lullaby”) and Jessica Andersson (“Party Voice”) advanced direct to the final, while Moncho (“Cuba Libre”) and Méndez (“Everyday”) live to sing another day…in Andra Chansen.

Direkt till final

Martin Almgren with “A Bitter Lullaby”

The Swedish Idol winner has a husky voice that’s somehow filled with light. This evening he was once again note perfect with his guitar-led number, which, despite its dark title, is somehow uplifting and moving. Visually he kept things simple, slipping into a flowing green kaftan which he concealed beneath a grey duster coat. Golden lights flashed amid white strobes, and his deep, resonant voice worked rather well with the largely female backing. At times I felt like I was at a Christian music festival — and that’s not where I want to be on a Saturday evening — but you can’t fault the man’s conviction or voice.

Jessica Andersson with “Party Voice”

Jessica looked great, served attitude and embodied schlager queen….of yesteryear. Despite the decent attempt to give a modern take on the genre, this felt a bit more vintage than I would have liked. And while she sang of us hearing her party voice, all I really heard was a lot of backing. No matter. The woman can sing and the number was fun, even if a tad predictable.

Andra Chansen qualifiers

Moncho “Cuba Libre”

The title is Cuba Libre, but he could have been drinking pina coladas or Long Island Ice Teas as well. This was a blast of tropical sunshine, replete with (questionable) flowers in the backing dancers’ hair, messy conga lines and bold, bright colours. And while the performance was frenzied and chaotic, it was also a lot of fun — waking me up after the two acts that came before. Moncho’s voice and style worked well and his track deserves to be on a few summer playlists.

Méndez with “Everyday”

This started off slightly cringe, with Méndez playing the role of your best friend’s drunk dad at a BBQ. He seemed to slur his words and his invitations to dance seemed a bit much. But then the chorus hits and you realise that Méndez really does want you to have fun. A series of dancers with bright and billowing garments make an appearance and the fiesta properly begins. It’s more than a bit cliché — he uses the phrase mi corazon. But ultimately this is a proper ear worm that makes you want to move and, indeed, “live your life.” Well done!

Eliminated acts

5. Kalle Moraeus & Orsa Spelmän with “Min dröm”

A folk rocker accompanied by a trio of elderly men on violins, this was sweet, authentic and totally out of place. Perhaps reaching for the farmyard demographic, this was meant to celebrate Swedish tradition, but felt so forced that it almost seemed to mock it (see the low-grade B&Q floral arches). Wedding entertainment at best, this managed to bring the energy down another notch, something I didn’t think was possible.

6. Dotter with “Cry”

Perhaps the most artistic of any act this evening, Dotter brought stirring vocals with a piercing quality and a unique timbre. Her stage was dark and minimalist, featuring her silhouette against a largely black backdrop and a spotlight. She made shapes with her body, but also her voice – conveying some of the most sincere emotion of the evening. And boy did she work that hair! A quality entry deserving of more viewings — and a spot in another Melfest show. Alas, Sweden, alas…

7. Barbi Escobar with “Stark”

Barbi kept it casual for her performance, rocking up in what appeared to be her street clothes. Her all-black outfit contrasted with the all-red backing, creating a sultry, urban and somewhat mysterious vibe. Her army of dancers did plenty of squats — it looked a bit peculiar — and at times she seemed really out-of tune, like a cat in heat. The speaky-speaky sections came across as weak rap and the act, more generally, a hot mess.

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