Eurovision 1998 in Birmingham. The last one with the orchestra. The first one with full televoting. And the last one with a rule that all songs must be performed in countries’ national languages. Back then, Sweden was represented by Jill Johnson and “Kärleken är” (Love Is) and they finished on 10th place.
Fast forward to 2015. 25 countries became 40. The orchestra has been abolished since 1999. Instead of one show, we have three now. And – there is a free language rule, which gives Anglophone entries an automatic advantage, as English is more commercial than other languages. In 1998 Sweden had 3 victories, in 2015 they have 6, double as much. But I still can’t help but wonder – is it time for SVT and Sweden to send an entry in Swedish to a contest on home soil again?
Now, I can already see SVT reading this and laughing, thinking they would have to send a cheesy dansband/schlager song in Swedish and embarrass themselves in front of 100 million viewers. But it doesn’t necessary have to be this way. In recent years plenty of songs in Swedish have emerged, which sound modern and international enough. Sorry fellow schlagerlovers, it’s not schlager songs, unfortunately. But their time should come, soon hopefully. Anyway, listen here:
Catchy, isn’t it? And it’s in Swedish. For me, Swedish is one of the most beautiful and intriguing languages out there and considering there’s a whole army of international Melodifestivalen fans aiming to learn Swedish, I’m not the only one to think so either. Add to the fact that crash courses in Swedish by a YouTube star PewDiePie get loads of views and comments and that films such as Millennium trilogy or Hundraåringen (A 100 year old man, who climbed through the window and disappeared) got a lot of international buzz and fans, it appears that Swedish as a language has an audience outside of Eurovision fan circles as well.
And speaking of Eurovision – this year it wasn’t Sweden with their Anglophone pop song, that won the televoting. No, it was a very stereotypical popera song in Italian, by Il Volo. Which caused quite an outrage among the Eurovision fan community, many of them thinking that instead of having pizza and pasta in Turin, they’re off to a more expensive Stockholm for salmon and meatballs undeservedly. Which leads me to – if a 12 year old popera song in Italian (as it was revealed that “Grande amore” had been written in 2003 and had been laying in the composer’s drawer until Il Volo’s manager lapped it up for Sanremo this year) can win televoting these days, then so can a song in Swedish, may that be of a more traditional (schlager/dansband/folk/ethno) or more modern, contemporary kind (pop, dance, soul). It’s good enough, really. From 2011 to 2014, there have been only eight songs in Swedish in MF finals, which is a big pity. One gets a feeling that SVT are ashamed of their own language. This year, the situation has slightly improved, from 20% to 25% of songs in Swedish in the final. But there should be even more. From 2002 to 2009 there have been 29 entries in Swedish in the final, which is more than 3 entries/final. More than a third of a line-up. I think it’s a shame that one has to hide one’s country’s origins to score well in Eurovision, it doesn’t have to be that way. And I think Swedish as a language, combined with a good song and professional artist, is good enough to attract enough televoters and juries to do well even in modern-era Eurovision.
So dear SVT. I challenge you to go out of your comfort zone in May, when the contest is on your home soil and perhaps, for once, send something in your own language. You really have nothing to lose. Ask Molly Sandén.