In the end, there were no major surprises at this morning’s press conference, as the performers for the third and fourth heats of Melodifestivalen 2015 matched the list of leaked names exactly. As with the first batch, the trend was very much towards fresh blood, with just 4/14 performers having appeared at the contest before.

Heat Three: Östersund (21/2/2015)

Melodifestivalen 2015 Heat Three

  • Andreas Weise – Bring Out the Fire (Anton Malmberg Hård af Segerstad/Henrik Janson/Thomas G:son)

  • Isa – Don’t Stop (Isa Tengblad/Johan Ramström/Gustaf Svenungsson/Magnus Wallin/Oscar Merner)

  • Kalle Johansson – För din skull (Martin Eriksson/Thomas G:son/Thomas Karlsson)

  • Kristin Amparo – I See You (Kristin Amparo/David Kreuger/Fredrik Kempe)
  • Ellen Benediktson – Insomnia (Ellen Benediktson/Anderz Wrethov)

  • Jon Henrik Fjällgren – Jag är fri (Jon Henrik Fjällgren/Erik Holmberg/Tony Malm/Josef Melin)

  • Andreas Johnson – Living To Die (Andreas Johnson/Bobby Ljunggren/Karl-Ola Kjellholm)

Analysis

Ellen Benediktson

Will Ellen Benediktson be in it to win it this year?

On paper, this semi final is notably lacking in star wattage. Of the two returnees, Ellen Benediktson was a surprise finalist last year – forcing Helena Paparizou to go through AC in the process – while Andreas Johnson is now on his sixth attempt at winning, having faced diminishing returns since two near-misses in 2006 and 2007.

I wouldn’t put either down as locked-on finalists, Ellen hasn’t done much since her breakthrough last year and Andreas got stuck in AC on his last attempt in 2012. However, if the songs are good familiarity could give them an advantage.

Having been hand-picked to sing ‘Songbird’ last year, Ellen has promised that ‘Insomnia’ is much more in her own personal style, which we can expect to be somewhat more edgy. If Andreas sticks to his well-worn formula, his entry will probably be a melodic slice of AOR with strong Britpop influences.

Andreas Weise will be no stranger to Swedish televoters, having made appearences on Idol, Let’s Dance and Så Ska Det Låta in the past. His musical style has favoured big band and classic soul in the past, and he professes to dislike most modern music. Therefore we can expect this song to veer towards the MOR end of the spectrum, but he could be popular with older viewers, whose influence can never be discounted.

Another reality TV veteran is Jon Henrik Fjällgren, who was born in Colombia before being adopted by a Swedish Sami family. His distinctive cultural background feeds into his music, and he won Talang Sverige (Sweden’s Got Talent) this year with his own take on traditional Sami music. His Melodifestivalen entry is likely to reflect this style, and could therefore prove divisive – but it’ll certainly stand out, and if he can deliver a performance as powerful as his rendition of ‘Daniel’s Jojk‘ from Talang, he could be a sentimental favourite and potential dark horse.

If Swedish viewers don’t recognise Kristin Amparo‘s face, they’re likely to recognise her voice. She’s contributed vocals to two major Swedish dance hits – ‘Dance Our Tears Away‘ by John De Sohn and ‘Din Soldat‘ by Albin. Her song has major pedigree and her experience suggests she’ll have no problem delivering onstage. Not to be underestimated.

On paper, the two weak links in this semi appear to be Isa and Kalle Johansson, neither of whom are terribly well known. She participated in the Swedish selection for Junior Eurovision in 2011, while he earned his spot by winning radio contest Svensktoppen Nästa. They both have strong songwriters on board though, so there’s every chance they could throw a spanner in the works, particularly in what looks to be the most open of all the heats this year.

Heat Four: Örebro (28/2/2015)

Melodifestivalen 2015: Heat Four

  • Caroline Wennergren – Black Swan (Niklas Eklund/Joel DeLuna/Aimee Bobruk)
  • JTR – Building It Up (John Andreasson/Tom Lundbäck/Robin Lundbäck/Erik Lewander/Iggy Strange Dahl)
  • Midnight Boy – Don’t Say No (Johan Krafman/Kristofer Östergren/Olle Blomström)
  • Annika Herlitz – Ett andetag (Amir Aly/Maciel Numhauser/Robin Abrahamsson/Sharon Dyall/Sharon Vaughn)
  • Hasse ‘Kvinnaböske Andersson – Guld och gröna skogar (Anderz Wrethov/Elin Wrethov/Johan Bejerholm/Johan Deltinger)
  • Måns Zelmerlow – Heroes (Anton Malmberg Hård af Segerstad/Joy Deb/Linnea Deb)
  • Dinah Nah  – Make Me (La La La) (Dinah Nah/Dr Alban/Jakke Erixson/Karl-Ola Kjellholm)

Analysis

Måns Zelmerlöw

Måns Zelmerlöw should be a major contender this year.

First off, the obvious. Barring a disaster, Måns Zelmerlow should breeze through this heat. A popular singer and TV presenter with two finals appearances under his belt and a great songwriting team behind him, this is likely to emerge as a major favourite in the build-up to this year. If the song can deliver, Eric Saade may have some competition.

After that, this semi gets a little tougher to predict. There’s another Melodifestivalen veteran in the lineup, but one with far less pedigree. Caroline Wennergren was a surprise hit at the 2005 contest with the bossa-nova themed ‘A Different Kind of Love‘, but her profile in the subsequent ten years has been fairly low. Her name has been bandied about several times in recent years, but she’s never quite made the cut – which suggests that this entry might have been dusted off from the maybe pile, rarely a good sign.

Of the other competitors I’d expect boyband JTR to make a big impact – their participation in X Factor Australia gave them a media profile and a built-in fanbase, and in a fairly weak-looking heat that could well be enough to grab the second ticket to the final.

Hasse Andersson is the kind of name that essentially acts as nostalgic filler, but if it’s a great song and/or a weak semi he might well pick up the mature vote and qualify one way or another. Also aiming for the adult viewers, musical star Annika Herlitz is likely to field a rousing schlager ballad – but that genre has seen decidedly mixed fortunes in recent years and she’d really have to have something special to break through.

Which leaves us with the two least familiar names in the semi. Midnight Boy‘s aggressive electro sound might not translate well on TV, and a brief glimpse of Dinah Nah‘s online CV suggests she might be a little too alienating too – and her heavily vocodered singles give little indication of her live chops.

So, on paper makes this semi looks like a Måns Zelmerlöw whitewash with JTR a strong bet to join him, and the others left fighting for scraps. However, there’s always one contestant who comes out of nowhere, and they often pop up in the final heat, I suspect things might not actually be as cut and dried as they currently appear…

Conclusion: A two horse race?

Charlotte Perrelli

Charlotte Perrelli – has the age of the Schlager diva finally passed?

One thing that’s likely to be much-commented on about this year’s lineup is the distinct lack of old guard contenders. The closest thing to a schlager diva we’re getting this year is Jessica Andersson – who’s much more of a middle of the road balladeer these days. Magnus Carlsson and Andreas Johnson are also there to represent Melodifestivalen’s glory days, but on the whole there’s a definite sense of ‘out with the old, in with the new’.

This is a necessary move, but it’s also a risky one. The producers tried a similar thing in 2013, but that year suffered from the fact that the raft of new faces were largely inexperienced and unengaging performers who failed to become the next generation of MF stars. Many a finger will be crossed behind the scenes that this year’s batch fare better.

In terms of a potential winner, with no last-minute surprises of any major note the initial betting odds are likely to favour a two-horse race between Eric Saade and Måns Zelmerlöw. Eric is younger and more of an idol, but Måns has the better voice and a more favourable starting position. It’s likely to all come down to the song – and no doubt other major contenders will present themselves too. As a fan who came to the contest in the mid 00s, I’m sad that rumours of Charlotte Perrelli, Velvet and Lili & Sussie eventually came to nothing – and I’m surprised Molly Sandén wasn’t courted due to her recent success and the Eric factor. But Melodifestivalen almost always sets a high bar for Eurovision national finals, and I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re in for another exciting year. See you in February.