This Saturday it starts – death by music.
Every Saturday for the next 6 weeks Swedish television is broadcasting the Swedish ‘Melodifestival’ – in which citizens choose the winning song to represent the country at the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC). Every Saturday for 90 minutes we listen to 8 songs, eventually narrowed down to a winner in the grande finale. Already, newspapers are abuzz with this event. And this year, even more so, since Sweden won the competition last year and is also hosting the ESC this year. The Melodifestival and the ESC are big news in Sweden. Probably due to the legacy of ABBA, the ESC is seen as a springboard to a fruitful and prosperous artistic career. The gateway to fame and fortune. This is quite unlike many other countries in Europe, not least the UK, where participation in the ESC is seen as a the final nail in the coffin of a dying career.
A couple of days ago, the celebrity host of ESC was announced – a controversial stand-up comedienne called Petra Mede. The nation was divided (at least those who cared). Newspapers wondered why a couple wasn’t chosen – why a woman was chosen to lead the event on her own! How would she manage without a man! What’s more, she’s pregnant! How is she going to be able to focus on the job when she has a new born baby at home?! Organisors of ESC responded to these comments quickly and categorically. Petra Mede is a very competent host, her baby will be looked after by its father and the reason we are not having a couple is to keep costs down. This is also the reason that the event will be held in a smaller concert venue than could have been possible. The organisors referred to the extreme cost of the latest final in Baku, and the fact that Portugal and Greece will not be participating this year due to financial constraints. Sweden should lead they way, they said, and take the whole competition down to a more affordable level so as not to exclude less wealthy countries.
Now, excuse me, but how is 4 televised Melodifestival competition heats in different Swedish towns, a fifth televised opportunity to qualify, a final televised Melodifestival competition in Stockholm, two televised ESC semi finals and one huge broadcasted ESC final in Malmö keeping the costs down???
Like I said, death by music.