Sunday, February 24, 2008
Melodifestivalen Kommer Till Linköping
It was bound to happen.
Any legitimate blog about Swedish life, culture and times that doesn’t include something that 1/3 (1/3!!!) of the country watches every weekend from February to March is not worthy of it’s purpose.
By comparison, there is only one show in the history of United States television that has ever had 1/3 of the country watching - the finale of MASH in the late 70s...
I resisted this blog entry last year, largely because of blissful ignorance, but as I’ve become better acquainted with this increasingly strange-but-lovable culture, I am forced to take a week away from what I think are more important subjects to acknowledge, as painful as it is to say, Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s pinnacle of pop culture and the shameless obsession that overtakes Swedes (and their often clueless and always unsuspecting foreign guests) this time every year.
And really, is there any better time to introduce the peculiarities of Melodifestivalen and its accompanying Swedish cult than when the grand tour arrives to - that’s right - Linköping! You Americans may think that Linköping is always the hot topic of conversation throughout Sweden, but the reality is, well, it was the hot topic of conversation at least last night.
Melodifestivalen kommer till Linköping!
And Linköpinglivin’, risking all hard-earned respect, is right there covering the story…
For those in the USA, the best way to describe Melodifestivalen is to take the genre and contest format of American Idol (minus obnoxious judges), mix in the week-by-week elimination format and utter delirium of March Madness, add a good dose of a Super Bowl(!)-sized audience EVERY week, then put this grand show on tour throughout the country for six weeks ending with the final in Stockholm and there you have the cultural frenzy affectionately known as Melodifestivalen.
Oh, and one more thing that is just SO Swedish about Melodifestivalen: It’s on public television. In other words, 1/3 of all Swedes are watching EVERY week for six weeks and you won’t see a single advertisement or commercial. How’s THAT for an injection of socialism into capitalism?
I love Sweden.
One more side note on Linköping’s Melodifestivalen show: I had the opportunity to purchase up to three tickets – all for the bargain price of 500 SEK per ticket ($75)! I laughed as I quickly dismissed this offer, only to find out later I could have sold these tickets for three or four times that amount, at which point the laughing stopped.
“Scalping in Sweden” would have been a fantastic blog entry…
The winner of the final of Melodifestivalen will represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest, which takes place in May (and you can read all of my outsider’s thoughts on the “ESC” by browsing to the May 2007 entry).
In case you’re wondering, no opinions from me on the performances. Still just shaking my head at the latest "VSE," Vintage Swedish Experience, I am privileged to have had.
And apparently, through some strange process of osmosis, I am becoming a bit Swedish, because in taking a critical tone towards Melodifestivalen, but somehow still enjoying it, I fit right in with an entire country that loves Melodifestivalen, but isn’t very proud of that fact.
Is it Saturday yet?