When Eric Saade first burst onto the Eurovision scene with ‘Popular’ in 2011, it was clear Sweden didn’t want a second non-qualification. Previously in 2010, Anna Bergendahl placed 11th in the semi-final with ‘This Is My Life’, which remains the only time Sweden has failed to reach the grand final.
Since 2014, they have placed inside the top 10 in every contest. Robin Stjernberg’s song ‘You’ reached 13th in 2013, and remained Swedens worst result in a final since their return to it 2 years previously. In 2021 however, Tusse only managed to reach 14th place with ‘Voices’.
After a mixed reaction from fans and an unimpressive result for Sweden’s standards, are they becoming just another successful country that eventually fades into the background?
The Role of Melodifestivalen
Before we can look at Sweden’s singular entries into the contest, we first must look at Melodifestivalen. It’s one of the most popular selection shows and has provided numerous domestic hits for many artists who have taken part. Attracting some of the biggest names in Swedish music, it’s no surprise the contest has been selecting Swedens entry for every contest they have taken part in since its creation in 1959.
Every year there’s discussion over if some songs would’ve done better than the winners. Eventual Eurovision winner Måns Zelmerlöw has been surrounded by this kind of speculation. In 2007, he entered ‘Cara Mia’, coming 3rd to The Ark who came 18th in the contest with ‘The Worrying Kind’. In 2009 his song ‘Hope & Glory’ came 4th to ‘La Voix’ by Malena Ernman, who reached just 21st place at Eurovision. Eric Saade’s 2010 effort ‘Manboy’, which also came 3rd, has some fans still thinking that it could’ve been a challenger for the ESC trophy. Most recently, Dotter’s track ‘Little Tot’ has become one of many examples from 2021 that fans think could’ve done better than Tusse.
If Melodifestivalen has proven anything, it’s that there will always be questions over how well another song could’ve done over the eventual choice.
The success of the 2010s
Going into the 2010s, Sweden was not necessarily the country everyone kept on their radar. Eclipsed by highly successful nations like Greece, Russia and Ukraine results-wise, the late 2000s didn’t necessarily highlight them as a country to watch.
After a third consecutive poor result for Sweden, 2010 saw them try a different approach. Steering away from the big productions, pop tracks and gimmicks we’d seen previously, they selected a ballad called ‘This Is My Life’. Although a respectable entry in its own right, 2010 saw other countries opt to send similar songs. Cyprus’ entry ‘Life Looks Better In Spring’ and Belgium’s ‘Me and My Guitar’ both come to mind as entries in the same style as Sweden’s, however, they both managed to reach the final.
Melodifestivalen 2011 saw Eric Saade win the ticket to Germany with his song ‘Popular’. At the time, this kind of entry was not something we were used to seeing from Sweden – a huge pop song with polished staging and a confident, charismatic performance. Ironically, they did prove to be “popular” that year, becoming pre-contest favourites to win and to this day are often seen as ‘robbed’ of first place by fans. ‘Popular’ became the first Swedish entry to reach the top 3 since 1999 and marked a turning point for Sweden in the competition.
In 2012 Sweden struck gold – literally – with ‘Euphoria’ by Loreen. Following her Melfest win, she was the favourite to take the Eurovision trophy, and as the voting progressed it became more of a contest of who would come second to her. ‘Euphoria’ went on to be one of the most commercially successful winners of all time and is widely regarded as the ‘best winner’ by fans and critics, still being seen as the moment Eurovision began to change for the better. Had Loreen not won Melodifestivalen, Sweden still had a potential Eurovision winner in runner-up Danny Saucedo with ‘Amazing’. It was clear Eric’s success in 2011 gave Sweden a glimpse of victory. It also seemingly did the same for Norway, who entered Tooji with ‘Stay’, which was has been dubbed by some as ‘Popular’ 2.0, just not as successful – it came last.
Robin Stjernberg became the host entry in 2013 with ‘You’. He placed 13th – 3rd with the jury but just 18th with televote, one of many occasions where the jurors preferred Sweden to the viewers at home.
After numerous attempts, Sanna Nielsen finally got the opportunity to represent the nation in 2014 with ‘Undo’, placing 3rd in the contest. She is, as of 2021, the last solo female artist to represent Sweden at the contest.
Måns Zelmerlöw took ‘Heroes’ to Eurovision in 2015 and changed the game for the contest completely. His LED projection of ‘balloon boy’ was something we hadn’t seen before on the Eurovision stage and was technically impressive. The performance will go down in history as a moment for the contest, and was clearly a huge inspiration for multiple countries in 2016 and beyond. Most notably, Russia took the LED production one step further in 2016 with ‘You Are The Only One’ by Sergey Lazarev, which placed 3rd in Stockholm.
Frans represented the nation on home soil in 2016 with ‘If I Were Sorry’, placing 5th. Robin Bengtsson took ‘I Can’t Go On’ to Kyiv in 2017, also coming 5th. At this stage Sweden had cemented themselves as the country to beat. 4 consistent top 5 results surely showed that their formula was working. 2018 however, was a different story…
Where did it go wrong?
2018 saw Benjamin Ingrosso head to Lisbon with ‘Dance You Off’. Slick production accompanied the performance, and during the voting, it looked as if Sweden might’ve had another potential winner in their hands.
That was, until, the televote came in.
Just 21 points were awarded to Sweden from the televote. 23rd place with the viewers but 2nd with the jury is a pretty significant difference. So why did it happen? Some viewers have stated that they didn’t actually realise Benjamin was performing in the arena. Sweden took their own LED lighting to Portugal, and the intimate camera shots may have led some to the conclusion he wasn’t performing on the Eurovision stage itself. The most common idea behind it though, is that viewers had just gotten bored with Sweden and their constant stream of polished male pop tracks.
John Lundvik was selected for Eurovision 2019 with ‘Too Late For Love’. Another entry that placed 2nd with the juries, the televote had it 9th with 93 points, seeing it place 5th overall. John performed with The Mamas, who went on to win Melodifestivalen 2020 with ‘Move’. Fans were happy to see them become Sweden’s entry, not only because the song was strong, but because they were the first female contestants to represent Sweden since 2014. However, we never got to see ‘Move’ on the Eurovision stage due to the cancellation of 2020, and we can only wonder how well it would’ve done.
What happened in 2021?
Melodifestivalen saw the return of some of the contest’s most loved and well-known participants. Danny Saucedo (2009, 2011 & 2012), Anton Ewald (2013 & 2014), Dotter (2018 & 2020), Charlotte Perrelli (1999, 2008, 2012 & 2017), Eric Saade (2010, 2011 & 2015) and Arvingarna (1993, 1995, 1999, 2002 & 2019) are just a few names who decided to return all take their chances alongside new artists, other returning acts and 2020 winners The Mamas. The winner however ended up being first time Melodifestivalen contestant Tusse, who beat Eric by 47 points with ‘Voices’.
Tusse was already known in Sweden due to winning Swedish Idol in 2019, and fans were wondering if the song would be similar to his previous songs, such as ‘Crash’ or ‘Rains’. However, from the first performance in heat 3, the reaction was mixed. Although Tusse was praised for his performance and great vocals, the song was described as ‘bland’, ‘generic’ and ‘inoffensive’. Others thought he should’ve had a much better song that was competitive and really highlighted his talent.
The Eurovision final saw ‘Voices’ place 14th. The jury had it 17th – a result we haven’t been used to seeing for Sweden in a long time, and the televote had it 11th. This was the first time in 8 years that Sweden hadn’t been top 10, and the first time Sweden hadn’t placed in the top 10 of the jury or televote since 2009.
It’s easy to see 14th place and wonder why there’s so much discussion around it. After all, if this was a country that hasn’t been doing too well recently like the UK, 14th place would be a cause for celebration. But for a country like Sweden, who are held in high regard by many fans and casual viewers alike, 14th place is disappointing.
Many factors could’ve contributed to this result. For example, the running order can be a reason for an entry not doing too well. Sweden performed 25th, which isn’t usually seen as a bad position. That is, however, only if Jeangu Macrooy didn’t perform two songs previously to his home crowd, getting a hugely deserved reception, eventual winners and favourites Måneskin from Italy being on just before, and superstar Flo Rida joining Senhit to deliver what people have called San Marino’s “best entry of all time” just after. Although The Netherlands and San Marino didn’t do too well, it’s not hard to see how this may have affected Sweden’s placement.
What do Sweden do now?
Melodifestivalen 2022 will hopefully be strong enough to deliver a solid entry for Sweden. I don’t think anyone wants to see them begin to decline in quality enough to become another United Kingdom or Ireland – countries who just couldn’t continue to hold on to their success from previous decades. With rumours surrounding pop star Darin and Danny Saucedo stating in March that he may return with a song in English, I don’t think Sweden are planning to give up anytime soon. You can see our wishlist for Melodifestivalen here.
That being said however, Darin and Danny once again follow a similar formula that clearly isn’t working in Swedens favour. Do we really want to see another male pop song from them? Just because it’s worked before, it doesn’t mean you should keep trying to emulate that success over and over again.
How can Sweden move forward in 2022? Can they return to dominance in the contest? Be sure to let us know your thoughts.