We’re on the ground in Gothenburg for day one of rehearsals ahead of Saturday’s second Melodifestivalen semi-final. Later today SVT will release 30-second snippets of each performance, but we’ve seen the whole thing from inside the arena.
Here are our first impressions.
1. Samir & Viktor “Shuffla”
The number opens with a 1920s imagining of Samir & Viktor projected onto the LED screen. The pair are in formal dress, playing Charleston style music on a piano. Then, as the beat picks up they leave the past and step out from behind the scene into 2018. They’re now kitted out in velour tracksuits, burgundy for Samir and navy-blue for Viktor.
Four female dancers join them, providing some highly synchronised choreo. At various points in the song, their impact is amplified by an LED backdrop populated by clone dancers and occasionally the duo themselves – but think Sunstroke Project in Kyiv rather than Gaitana in Baku.
And as for the Shuffla itself, the dance is actually more complicated than one would expect – Barei’s 2016 shuffle this is not. Although as with the Spaniard’s much-maligned Eurovision performance, there is a “fake” moment where Viktor pretends to be out of breath from all the shuffling.
For an immediate comparison, think of LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem”.
The climax involves the two boys and the dancers storming the runway. They’re joined by their very own Epic Sax Guy, although his moves are nowhere near as slick as the Moldovan’s. Some very loud pyro brings proceedings to a close.
2. Ida Redig “Allting som vi sa”
Ida is an army general from planet Mello. She wears a jacket similar to the kind worn by the guards at Buckingham Palace. However, her one is silver and extremely sparkly. Her three-piece band is also dressed in military attire, black jackets with silver flourishes.
They’re positioned behind Ida, who starts the performance singing at a mic stand. The backdrop is made entirely from CD discs. They dazzle whenever the light catches them.
“Allting som vi sa” starts off as an uplifting ballad and gradually becomes rockier as the tempo picks up. And as the music rises, so too does Redig’s passion. At one point she falls to her knees. However, unlike say Anja Nissen from Denmark who used such a moment to absolutely belt out the vocals, Ida is gentle.
For the climax she takes to the runway. There’s lots of hand movements, and she finishes by pointing directly down camera. She’s singing to you!
3. Jonas Gardell “Det finns en väg”
Given his comedy skits during Melodifestivalen 2016, many expected Jonas to be this semi’s token novelty act. He’s not.
The performance begins with the stage in complete darkness save for a sole spotlight shining on the singer. Today he was wearing a simple black hoodie and jeans combo – obviously not his final outfit.
“Det finns en väg” feels very musical theatre. Jonas is static as he delivers a performance which is stirring and dramatic. As the number progresses, we can start to make out the silhouettes of his seven backing singers.
A massive key change arrives towards the end, which gives the supporting vocalists the perfect opportunity to channel the Irish boyband Westlife, and step forward to the front of the stage. Yet they somehow remain mostly in the shadows as the rest of the stage and Jonas himself are bathed in light. It finishes with Jonas punching the air above his head.
At this stage, it’s hard to tell how the Swedes will react to the package. But it is worth noting that during the lunch-time press meet & greet, Jonas’ interview line was considerably longer than everyone else’s.
4. Margaret “In My Cabana”
Like Wiktoria for the past two years, Margaret is all about the branding. Her name is emblazoned across the backdrop in her trademark font. But before the Polish singer gets to stand before it, she first must make her way there from her starting point backstage.
The “Cool Me Down” hitmaker is joined on stage by a troupe of dancers, two female and three male. One of the men acts as her love interest. And speaking of her 2016 smash, “In My Cabana” serves as a natural progression in sound and style without being derivative. Existing fans won’t be frightened away, and detractors can’t accuse her of not shaking things up.
But what is Margaret’s cabana? Going off the staging it could be a luxurious veranda by a sun-kissed tropical beach. Yet it’s also tongue in cheek. At one point the singer sits on a silver throne — of the toilet variety! At the same time the LED displays a very grotty public restroom scene.
Some pyro ensures she goes out with a bang.
For her first two run-throughs, Margaret wore a bright yellow ensemble, trousers and a long-sleeved top with strategically placed slits designed to accentuate her toned tummy and decolletage. On her third go, she changed into an orange outfit — tracksuit bottoms and a top which is cut off on one shoulder.
She tells us in our soon to be published interview that she is considering three outfits for Saturday’s show.
5. Stiko Per Larsson “Titta vi flyger”
Rather than try to recreate a music video or concoct an on-stage narrative, Stiko keeps things relatively straight-forward. He’s joined by a four-piece band, and they could just as easily be performing at Glastonbury as Melfest.
The backdrop reminds us that we’re watching Mello. It displays a series of cartoons including a striped hot air balloon, flowers, clouds and a sun. The imagery is drawn using a red and yellow colour scheme on a tea-stained background.
“Titta vi flyger” is lively and upbeat, and at one point Stiko marches down the catwalk to interact with the audience a little. Despite its simplicity, the overall package could be a potential crowd pleaser.
6. Mimi Werner “Songburning”
Like Jonas earlier in the running order, Mimi too begins with just a single spotlight shining on her. But the stage soon lights up, and the backdrop is quickly awash with exploding shades of orange. The floor is covered in smoke throughout
“Songburning” is country, but not as we know it at Melfest. It’s up-tempo, but considerably less frenetic than her debut effort two years ago. And unlike the recent attempts from former schlager queens, it’s not a dirge.
At about midway, Mimi steps towards the stage front where she joins four female drummers. The quintet then march down the catwalk where they engage in some drum heavy choreography.
As the performance draws to a close, the song title appears on the LED screen in a font made out of a lasso. A spark is lit and the rope burns before the screen is filled with orange blasts once more.
A pyro curtain falls from above.
Fashion wise, Mimi is dressed casually in an orange hued jacket and black jeans. “Mimi Werner” is emblazoned on the back. An alternative jacket had “Songburning” on the back. The look is completed by a pair of golden boots.
7. Liamoo “Last Breath”
LIAMOO means business. From the off, the staging captivates. The singer stands in darkness, lit by occasional flashes of red. Meanwhile, there are breakneck camera cuts, reminiscent of Oscar Zia’s 2016 Melfest performance.
As the song continues, greens and purples are introduced. Blocks of red roll by on the backdrop.
“Last Breath” is a 90s style RnB number, part pop ballad part rap. Mostly, the dashing popstar remains in the same spot. Smoke appears not only by his feet, but also virtually on screen. Some other effects make it seem like the live feed is breaking up. It’s no surprise that Sacha Jean-Baptiste is his stage designer, we’ve seen her use similar on screen tricks countless times at Eurovision.
LIAMOO rocks a casual look — black jacket over a black hoodie, denim jeans and black boots.
Follow all of our Melodifestivalen 2018 news.