Melodifestivalen 2020 is almost reaching fever pitch, with the annual Andra Chansen round upon us tonight, live from Eskilstuna. With eight acts fighting it out for the final four spots in next weekend’s Melfest final, the stakes are higher than ever.

But, what did we make of the duels? Who should make it through to the final from each duel? Here’s what James, Melanie, Roy and Sean thought…

Duel 1

Anis don Demina – Vem e som oss

James – 7 – “A high energy if slightly dated Macklemore clone. It’s good, though. There’s some great shout-along parts (“Shoo! Shoo! Vem e som oss!”) and this song represents a different type of hip hop based slick pop that the Swedish excel at in America but rarely want to send to Eurovision. Smart move to draft the lyrics in Swedish given it’s an American influenced genre and the fanbase is full of Anti-American sentiment (for some reason) this year.”

Melanie – 8 – “This happens when Sweden stops with trying to be the cool kid at Eurovision. This song is soo much fun and so catchy. It just puts on a smile on my face during the whole performance and I don’t understand a single word of what he’s saying. The energetic perormance and the way he dances with his dancers sure helps with this. Lovely entry from Anis and I hope to see him in the finals.”

Roy – 8 – “I know a lot of people compare this to Macklemore and it may have similarities, but they aren’t similar. In any other year I would not rank this as high as I am, but in a year where there is little to no distinctive difference between most of the songs, this BANGS!!! Anis is such a likable guy and he brings a massive party to the stage. He is also singing in Swedish which is a massive bonus for me. The staging is a little weird, but I genuinely love it a lot. His vocals are perfect unlike a lot of other rappers and I legit struggle to find true flaws in this.. I’ll at least be dancing to this with him!”

Sean – 8 – “Is this a sample of “Can’t Hold Us”? Is this even allowed? Let me forget the legalities for a second and appreciate this slice of fun though. The staging is creative, Anis don Demina has a fantastic stage presence and it’s refreshing to hear some upbeat Swedish rap. If this was in English it could become an international hit.”

Total = 31 (avg. 7.75)

Ellen Benediktson & Simon Peyron – Surface

James – 6 – “There’s something a little strange about the chemistry, like they’re a duet made up of two henchmen from a Steven Seagal movie. They’re an attractive couple, they sing well and the composition of this ballad is catchy if a little familiar, but dressed in black and singing about repressed emotions has you scratching your head instead of being engaged for three minutes. Perhaps because it’s written by Laurel Barker, who co-wrote “Sister” from last year, another quirky headscratcher duet. It’s currently in Purgatory (Andra chansen) so I doubt it will escape to Rotterdam, but if it did, I doubt it will do well.”

Melanie – 5 – “Ellen & Simon can sing. Their voices sound great together and the lyrics are great. The biggest problem with this song is that Ellen & Simon misses the chemistry on stage. The staging isn’t really helping to create the emotional bond between Ellen & Simon. They now just look like two bad actors that has been forced to tell a love story. Work on the staging and the chemistry and this has a chance to go to the final, otherwise it stays under the surface.”

Roy – 4 – “This is such a waste of talent… both of these singers are incredibly good and have interesting voice. They are really good and interesting when singing together as well. The ballad is actually quite good in the verses, but the chorus is a massive let-down here. The repetitiveness is so annoyingly obvious that it completely gets you out of the song and moment. These 2 have massive potential though.”

Sean – 6 – “While this is nothing groundbreaking, I appreciate the emotion and chemistry between Ellen and Simon. The song is a midtempo piano ballad with a strong tempo and a good build, so it ticks all the right boxes. It’s just not strong enough to stand out on its own I’m afraid…”

Total = 21 (avg. 5.25)

Qualifier: Anis don Demina – Vem e som oss

Duel 2

Malou Prytz – Ballerina

James – 3 – “The lyrics are simply atrocious. The backing track is a generic slick G:son special, and it’s clear that he’s dialing in his compositions these days. But the lyrics are just horrible. The song’s title is based on finding a job that rhymes with “alone in a dark arena.” It makes no sense. Why would a ballerina dance alone in a dark arena instead of a well-lit studio? Are workers’ compensation claims that good in Sweden a lone ballet dancer would chance injury? And why would a phoenix immediately announce she won’t drown? Is the ash pile from where she arose by a lake? The lyrics suck, the synthesized vocals at the bridge suck, and those two big demerits on what was already a paint-by-numbers Melodifestivalen entry.”

Melanie – 6 – “Eventhough I really love Ballerina, I think Malou is a young talent that need some more time so she can really shine. There’s so much potential in her, but her voice is very shaky at various moments. The choreography was meh and her moves weren’t tight enough to really deliver the song. So please Malou, come back every year and keep improving every year. One year you will represent Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest, but not this year sadly.”

Roy – 5 – “Malou shows off her vocals a lot more in this song compared to what she did last year yet this is a worse effort in my opinion. This just sounds a bit like something an Xfactor winner would sing after they win the show. Her staging is also a bit empty and hollow. Ballerina has some cool production elements that are of a very high quality. But judging the entire package, there is a lot left to be desired. I hope Malou comes back with a better package next time since she definitely has the voice and the stage presence. And she is only 16!”

Sean – 4 – “This sounds like it was written in some kind of songwriting camp. The bridge is the only interesting part of this song for me, with the Billie Eilish vibes. The rest of the song has been heard a million times before, and so I can’t really keep going over old ground with this one.”

Total = 18 (avg. 4.5)

Paul Rey – Talking In My Sleep

James – 6 – “Nice crotch thrust towards the audience at the bridge! And I was surprised that he stepped it up after a minute-and-a-half of a dull Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith retread. I thought I was going to have to make a load of crap “Well that sure put me to sleep!” jokes, but he woke up and gave us a song of two halves. The first half I didn’t really care for, and lyrically I do have some issues – it’s a break up song, she’s told him to move on, but he’s thinking about her in bed at night while sleeping and God knows what else. The lyrics don’t suggest Rey moved on, which contradicts the powerful switch up in the second half. If his lyrics had the spirit of “I did find someone better than you” it would pair better and would be a perfect indie-pop song with a narrative and track that does more than a slight hint at overcoming heartache.”

Melanie – 7 – “”Talking in my Sleep” is such a great song. It’s emotional without trying to be emotional with dramatic notes. I only have a feeling that there’s a mismatch with the staging and the message of the song. Paul Rey is trying too hard to look cool instead of delivering the emotions. If he can takes off that coolness-mask, this song can go to the finals!”

Roy – 7 – “Probably the strongest voice of the selection this year. Yes the lyrics may be bordering a little on cringe, but this is genuinely a great ballad. The staging is maybe what’s hindering Paul the most. He is basically alone on the stage and it looks a bit like he is freestyling in his movements. If they thought of this a bit more then it could have gone “Direct Til Final”. It is maybe a tad basic too, but the vocal-delivery is Top-Notch and I would love to see Paul back with an even better song in the future!”

Sean – 7 – “Paul’s vocals remind me of the raspiness of the talented Tom Grennan, so I’m down for his vibe. He does well to carry the song by himself on stage, and while it’s nothing remarkable I can appreciate the emotiveness of his voice and the genuine feel of his performance. It isn’t strong enough to win Melfest though.”

Total = 27 (avg. 6.75)

Qualifier: Paul Rey – Talking In My Sleep

Duel 3

Felix Sandman – Boys with Emotions

James – 1 – “This song is horrible. In concept and in execution, “Boys with Emotions” is a massive failure. Who is the strawman male that he is singing to and about, and then assumes the rest of the male population is exactly like this? And at the start of the song where he is insistent on hugs – since when did men being emotional mean that men should automatically be receptive to a hug from an awkward young Swede with boundary issues? And his terrible performance, where it seems like his voice was cracking as if he doesn’t believe his own guff? Especially the part where he mimics a tear coming down his face in a dance routine. Does he want to be taken seriously or make fun of “boys with emotions,” because the latter seems more likely than the former from the execution. I don’t have time for a full autopsy of this, but this is easily the worst song of the whole Eurovision national selection season.”

Melanie – 5 – “What happened with Felix Sandman in just 2 years? Every Single day was my winner in 2018, because he really showed his emotions in that song. Now he’s singing about Boys with Emotions in the least way he could do it. It’s a cool song, but somehow it feels kinda cold. I think it sounds and looks too overproduced. If you sing about boys with emotions, than please show your emotions! Also, he really has to works on his vocals, otherways he will be defeated in Andra Chansen.”

Roy – 5 – “If these lyrics were any good, this could have been a decent dark-horse for a high placement, maybe win. But holy damn these lyrics are written with little imagination. The subject is fine, but the structure of these sentences and the choice of words are very painful to listen to. Felix is talented, but this is not it.”

Sean – 9 – “How on Earth did this only end up in Andra Chansen? This is current and effortlessly cool, tackles an important subject matter and brings something different to the table. I love the minimalist production of the choruses and the visual performance is strong. I’ve seen people mention his vocals as poor, but this isn’t the type of song you need to be a wonderful singer to pull off. I wasn’t a major fan of Felix previously but I’m mightily impressed with this one!”

Total = 20 (avg. 5)

Frida Öhrn – We Are One

James – 6 – “One of three Cookies ‘n Beans went solo! Yeah, I thought their Swedish country pop entries were generic and “We Are One” falls into that trap. This is a perfectly serviceable self-belief banger, but this would have worked far better in 2009 than in 2020. Frida is a pro and I feel she is let down by an unoriginal composition. That makes it sound like I hate this. I don’t. I am just struggling to say anything beyond this song being a mid-table Melodifestivalen anthem by a seasoned Melodifestivalen pro.”

Melanie – 4 – “We Are One starts promising, but that’s more because Frida has such a personality. I think that she even can make a lullaby entertaining. The song itself is a old-school pop-song that we heard before. Anyway, she’s the highlight of this performance and you can see that the audience also love her, if only she just had a better song.”

Roy – 6 – “This was a lot better than I thought it would be. The pre-chorus is really strong, but the chorus itself is a little lacklustre afterwards. This pre-chorus reminds me a little of Nina Sublatti’s “Warror”. This is just a really fun song sang by a charismatic singer. I could see this causing an upset!”

Sean – 7 – “I mean, this is cheesy and schlagery as hell, but what would Melodifestivalen be without entries like this? Frida knows how to create a happy vibe and this is a catchy, feelgood performance, if only for a fun few minutes on a cold winter night in Sweden. The lens flare effect of the lights is visually impressive too!”

Total = 23 (avg. 5.75)

Qualifier: Frida Öhrn – We Are One

Duel 4

Mendez ft. Alvaro Estrella – Vamos amigos

James – 5 – “Scandinavian doing Latin always ends up sounding crap, and this is no exception. Every cliché the Northern folk subscribe to about the Spanish or South Americans is thrown in here. Now I am not slating Sweden for going Spanish (their neighbors Norway have done Ghana really well these past two years in national selections), but this particular example is a dud. The song title is “Let’s go friends,” and it has the goofiness of Dragon Sound’s “Friends” from the soundtrack of Miami Connection from 1985. And considering the Swedish have been doing their damnedest to resurrect the Miami sound of the 1980s (Mitch Murder), I wish they’d continued that trope instead of this naff retread of a Cuban pop song Jimmy Jannson heard at baggage claim in Key West once.”

Melanie – 5 – “This is what it sounds like when Swedish peoply try to write a Spanish Latin Bop. They try to make it sound real Spanish, but it’s a generic pop song in disguise. Anyway, I love that we got a Spanish vibe in Melodifestivalen, but I hope they will come with something more Spanish and more original next year. Or just something completely else.”

Roy – 2 – “This just sounds really amateuristic… It is like Alvaro Estrella was asked to sing a little bit and then, OUT OF NOWHERE, Chorus. No build up towards it, just thrown in at random. That vibe carries throughout the song, it feels like it was just thrown together. The live performance of both lads could have been a lot better too. The staging is a bit weird and kind of gloomy for a song like this. I guess it is fun, but this isn’t good unfortunately…”

Sean – 6 – “Méndez was grossly underappreciated with the excellent “Everyday” in 2018 so I’m pleased he’s taking another crack at Melfest this year. It’s not as strong an entry as “Everyday” and doesn’t keep the intense catchiness of that song, but he brings a similar party atmosphere and if this isn’t the entry for Sweden in Rotterdam, at least him and Alvaro brought some latino flavour and colour to the competition!”

Total = 18 (avg. 4.5)

Drängarna – Piga och dräng

James – 8 – “I do enjoy hybrids of traditional dansband with the modern, and Drangarna do it ever so well. Ireland and the United Kingdom have several bands that mine this space of combining the traditional Gaelic dance music with modern rock or punk, and I wish they’d mine this space. This is a Eurovision ready party that most countries could get behind as they will have some variant of this in their own nation. Now this is unlikely to win Melodifestivalen, but you do have to appreciate the three minutes of danceable joy this song provides and how you can find common ground with songs from your own cultural heritage.”

Melanie – 6 – “So Drängarna is very lucky that I’m reviewing this song just after 5 days celebrating Dutch carnaval, because this song would be a hit during this time of year in the Netherlands. Don’t tell me that you don’t want to drink a beer while listening to this song and hop along. It’s a very contagious country party song and I’m digging it. The only reason that I’m not giving it higher, is because I know there’s a Dutch carnaval song that sounds EXACTLY the same and I just wished for some more originality from Drängarna.”

Roy – 6 – “It is very alarming when one of the most creative songs in your entire selection is this piece… This is just pure fun and this is that 1 annual Melfest entry of a veteran group that brings a very fun performance that will do well. The dancing is a bit weird, but the overall feeling of the staging is really good. The vocals of the lead singer is great too! Nothing to add really, good execution of this type of Melfest song.”

Sean – 8 – “I’m not a fan of the other Drängarna songs I’ve heard before, but they’ve absolutely nailed this one! This is intensely catchy and fun, not to mention memorable with the interesting mix of Celtic instruments and Swedish dansband. I’d love for Sweden to show us some fun in 2020, so why not with this? It’s a Euroclub hit in the making regardless of the result in Eskilstuna.”

Total = 28 (avg. 7)

Qualifier: Drängarna – Piga och dräng

Do #YOU agree with our team’s qualifiers in tonight’s Andra Chansen round? Who is your favourite to win Melfest and represent Sweden? Share your thoughts with us on our forum HERE or join the discussion below and on social media!

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