Melodifestivalen (Sweden) 2022 Reviews: Direct Qualifiers

Despite all these songs being up unofficially on YouTube not long after their initial performance, I decided to wait with reviews until the official Melodifestivalen channel posted them. Not sure I’ll do this next year. In any case, these are the eight songs which qualified directly to the final. I’m reviewing them in order by semi.

Cornelia Jakobs — “Hold Me Closer”
After two victories in 2012 and 2015, Sweden has seemed a bit of touch with the contest: sure, it still chalked up top 10 finishes, but none of their perfect pop songs really seemed like a contender, relying heavily upon the jury vote. That might change this year if Jakobs takes the Melfest crown this weekend. With a hoarse voice full voice of emotion (although she mumbles more than I’d like), Jakobs details the pain of having “found the right one at the wrong time”. There is conviction and authenticity in her delivery and fairly minimal performance, and the music adds enough movement to the song without overshadowing her. There’s quite a buzz around this, and rightly so.

Robin Bengtsson – “Innocent Love
Sweden’s 2017 representative brings a pleasingly retro synth-pop track with an anthemic chorus made for stadiums — it’s the kind of shimmering pop Sweden does so well. Bengtsson is an experienced performer, and delivers this as well as you’d expect. It’s a strong track that would probably cruise to victory in other national finals, but Melfest is one of the toughest competitions around, so this one isn’t expected to do much this weekend.

Liamoo — “Bluffin”
Slick electro-pop with Avicii influences (which is fair enough). The “problem” with Melodifestivalen is by the time you get around at looking at those who qualified directly to the final, everything is well produced, the music and vocals are properly balanced, the stage presence is strong. There’s not much to pick apart here: “Bluffin” is a strong song with a modern sound.

John Lundvik — “Änglavakt”
John Lundvik returns to Melodifestivalen with a ballad in Swedish, a far cry from the gospel-pop he took to Eurovision in 2019. As I don’t think Lundvik is trying to get back to the contest yet, this is an opportunity for him to showcase another side of his talent. He does this successfully, dispensing with all staging except some atmospheric lighting and swirls of dry ice so that we can focus on his vocal performance.

Anders Bagge — “Bigger Than the Universe”
Okay, now we’re at a song which is one of the favourites, but seems to be fairly divisive. To my ear, this is schlager, and not particularly good schlager at that. However, Bagge has a long history as a songwriter and producer, having worked with some big names including Madonna, Janet Jackson, Celine Dion and Santana. He also helped out Azerbaijan with their Eurovision entries in 2010 and 2012. So I can see why there’d be excitement around him entering Melodifestivalen. But I just don’t see what the fuss about this track is — aside from the cliched lyrics, the song feels dated and generic. On a technical level Bagge sings very well, and there certainly are some catchy moments here, but to me this is not one of the stand-out tracks from the line-up.

Faith Kakembo — “Freedom”
Soulful pop with elements of gospel, especially in the second-half of the track. Kakembo’s voice is clear and powerful as the song keeps building around her. The word ‘elegance’ comes to mind when I think about the package as a whole. The staging is simple but effective, and musically this keeps shifting without taking anything away or disrupting the flow of Kakembo’s vocals.

Klara Hammarström — “Run to the Hills”
Visually, it’s hard not to compare this to Oda Gondrosen’s “Hammer of Thor” from Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix, as Hammarström is dressed in a costume which wouldn’t be out of place in Nordic folklore — and has a tree (Yggdrasil?) as her backdrop. That’s where the similarities end, as this is a thumping EDM with lyrics about overcoming personal struggle. The main weakness in my opinion is that the chorus repeats too much towards the end despite adding a bit of variety, but otherwise this uncomplicated banger is a good addition to the night.

Medina — “In i dimman”
Much as I appreciate the polished nature of a lot of these songs, it’s nice to have something a bit rough around the edges (for Melfest, that is). While Medina are an established act, which you can tell by the interaction between the two singers, it’s clear they’re a bit looser in their performance than some of the others, much to their benefit. The sound has Middle-Eastern influences, a refreshing change of pace, with an infectious synth melody to keep the party going.