As a good Swedish immigrant, I have been taught to appreciate the art form of “schlager” music. Basically, the song starts out kind of soft and gets more intense, and then builds up until it breaks open into a full-out musical explosion. If you listen to a song, and it makes you want to throw your fist into the air as you sing along, it can probably be classified as schlager.
I have written before about Sweden as a country’s influence on popular music, so it is no surprise that Sweden as a country takes Eurovision seriously. They get into it with a 6-week music competition where the winner gets to represent Sweden in the Eurovision song contest. This 6-week music competition is called “Melodifestivalen” (melody party), and it is something that everyone watches, talks about, and has an opinion about. That last one I am really good at. 😉
Sweden has had a lot of winners in Eurovision, and especially over the past few years, they have rocked it, winning in 2012 and 2015. In the years they do not win, they usually come in pretty close to winning. In other words, Sweden knows what they are doing with Eurovision. With their proud history of good schlager music, and their ability to sense the kinds of songs that will perform well, there’s a good chance they will select a good entry. But this is not always what happens.
This year’s winning song, If I Were Sorry, is a really good song. It sticks in your head, especially the instrumental part, and it just will not go away. But there’s a difference between good songs, and good songs that will win Eurovision. A Eurovision winner is usually inspiring, and usually has some good schlager pump-your-hand-in-the-air vibe. This song, if you really listen to it, is a kind of asshole song. It’s basically a song about all the things this guy would do if he were sorry, but he’s not sorry. So maybe he cheated on his girlfriend, but he’s not sorry. Or he walked out on his family, but he’s not sorry. You see where I am going with this, right? How could Sweden chose this song to represent them, when they are the country that thrust their first winner, Abba, into international superstardom? A country full of optimism, a country where doing the right thing is embedded in the social fabric of who they are? (except for that guy who ran into my mailbox and didn’t leave a note)
The kid that sings this song, Frans, has a nostalgia effect because he sung some song about Zlatan when he was really little. And Zlatan is a big deal to Swedes. For the American readers, Zlatan is a soccer player from Sweden, and he can literally do no wrong. So there’s that. And then there’s also the fact that Sweden is pretty big into rallying behind the underdog, who went up against more well-known musicians like Ace Wilder, who sang Don’t Worry (a much much better song that could have won). And don’t even get me started on who was probably voting the most (teenage girls).
So, in 2016, we can say that Sweden simply decided that they did not want to win Eurovision, so they put forth If I Were Sorry, instead of Don’t Worry, Human, Put Your Love on Me, and even Kizunguzungu. A note to Frans: if I were sorry about this blog post, I would do so many things. But I’m not.