Initial Review: “Hold Me Closer” by Cornelia Jakobs (Sweden)

Where to start with Sweden? Undeniably the powerhouse of modern Eurovision (which I count as beginning in 1999 with the end of the live orchestra and the language rule), their entry is one of the most anticipated each year, once the six-week Melodifestivalen has run its course. The country has struggled to maintain the extremely high standards it sets for itself since its last win in 2015, with a series of relatively unconvincing top 5 placings preceding a slide to 14th place in 2021, Sweden’s lowest placing since 2013. But it looks like things are about to change.

I didn’t actually watch any of the Melfest shows live — maybe next year I’ll work myself up to rising early each Sunday to watch the livestream from Australia — so it was a while before I saw Cornelia Jakobs’ “Hold Me Closer”, although I definitely heard the buzz surrounding it. And rightly so: if this is the year Sweden draws equal to Ireland with seven Eurovision wins, it will be deserved entirely. This mid-tempo ballad begins to grow with emotional intensity right from the moment Jakobs’ voice delivers its first of several hoarse cracks. The lyrics are simple but devastating, and I really don’t think this needs much staging: Jakobs’ performance is mesmerising and memorable with its raw emotion. (I’d still like her to mumble a bit less in the opening lines, though.)

Sweden usually has a built in advantage: they’re a safe harbour for jury members not wanting to be criticised for their vote. 2021 was the first year in a while where more votes for the Swedish entry came from the televote. But a song like “Hold Me Closer” is sure to win back the favour of juries, and then it has a strong televote appeal to boot. That’s why I think that this is surely going to be right up there at the end of the evening. If we’re not hearing back to Sweden in 2023, it won’t be by much.