Jon Henrik Fjällgren – The Avatar

“He’s been joiking since before KEiiNO made it cool, and now he’s taken the bold step of basically nicking some Disney promo.”

Tim: He’s been joiking since before KEiiNO made it cool, and now he’s taken the bold step of basically nicking some Disney promo.

Tom: That is… pretty blatant, really, isn’t it? Is he trying out for the soundtrack of Avatar 2 or something?

Tim: Hard to write about this, really, beyond ‘I like the sound of it, and that’s an exceptionally lovely closing segment’, what with it not really being any form of pop song.

Tom: Right! This really does sound like it’s some… well, I was going to say “stock music”, but that’s too harsh. Movie score, then.

Tim: Unlike any of his other ones we’ve featured, which have either had featured singers or been Melodifestivalen entries, there’s no readily identifiable verse or chorus structure (or at least not to my ears, with me not getting any of the lyrics), and it’s arguably better suited to being a nature documentary soundtrack. So I guess people could ask why we’re featuring it, and the answer to that is simple: I like the sound of it, and that’s an exceptionally lovely closing segment.

Jon Henrik Fjällgren feat. Elin Oskal – The Way You Make Me Feel

“It’s joik time!”

Tim: I dd initially hope this’d be a Ronan Keating cover, because that’s a severely underrated track.

Tom: I mean, sure, go for the obscure reference over the obvious one. Mind you, you’re not wrong.

Tim: On the other hand, I’m always up for a new Jon Henrik track.

Tom: It’s joik time!

Tom: Good heavens, that’s a beautiful video. I suppose “put the singers in Scandic nature at golden hour, film them with expensive cameras” is basically a shortcut to having a beautiful video, but still. Some very odd choices in there (odd warp stabilisation, and a shot that appears to be crushed into the wrong aspect ratio), but still.

Tim: Right, well if we were to go with points out of ten, I would dock precisely one point: thing is, we all know he’s all in favour of a truly excellent key change, and the end of the middle eight here would be an absolutely perfect location for one, basically to the extent that it seems wrong that there isn’t one.

Tom: It does have a full fake-ending though, with a brilliant final chorus.

Tim: Having said that, though, that is the one and only thing I would dock a point for, because everything else about it is entirely and totally lovely. He’s brought along what’s pretty much the same melody he uses for his part every time–

Tom: Harsh, but not entirely unfair.

Tim: –given the featured singer some great work to do, stuck some fantastic production over the whole thing and wrapped it all together in a phenomenally pretty video. Almost faultless. Almost.

Jon Henrik Fjällgren – Norrsken

“The middle eight is literally just a man singing at a reindeer.”

Tim: As is tradition here, let’s stick with the Melodifestivalen final for a while.

Tom: With the ones who were less successful.

Tim: Well, yes, I suppose. I’ve had a lot of time for John Henrik’s previous entries, in 2015 and 2017. This year, singing about the Northern Lights, he steps it up somewhat, by serenading a reindeer.

Tom: It was nice of Sweden’s 1976 Winter Olympic team to lend him one of their old dress uniforms, wasn’t it?

Tim: You mean, you…

Tom: Disclaimer: this was a joke, I have not bothered to look up old Winter Olympic dress uniforms

Tim: Oh, okay. Though, wouldn’t have surprised me. Anyway, what was I going to say? Ah, yes: I know it would have been phenomenally difficult (and I guess risky) to do, but I would have ADORED it if they could have lined up the camera, a precise pose from him and the backing screen to have the reindeer erupt out of his microphone, Patronus style, to really hammer home how utterly ridiculous that scene is.

Tom: I mean, they’d already set the stage on fire, it’d get a bit much.

Tim: Would it, though? Would it really?

Tom: I think that was the point when it really sunk in for me just how ridiculous the track is: the middle eight is literally just a man singing at a reindeer. Kind of breaks it all up, doesn’t it?

Tim: It’s a nice song, all flutey and everything, and like I said I enjoy the genre every now and again (though I tried to listen to one of his albums a while back, gave up after three tracks). It has FIRE, and DANCING PEOPLE WITH SHEETS, and an INEVITABLE UPCOMING KEY CHANGE but suddenly it drops everything for him to tell a reindeer how much he loves it, and I start giggling. A shame. A lovely track, spoiled by fifteen seconds of baffling stage design.

Jon Henrik Fjällgren feat. Aninia – En värld full av strider (Eatneme gusnie jeenh dåaroeh)

Pretentious bellend?

Tom: Is this Melodifestivalen Reject Week, then? Not complaining, just figured I’d set context.

Tim: Well, we’ve done it for the past couple of years, as the final’s always a highlight. Speaking of finals, highlights and years gone by, you’ll remember Jon Henrik from his entry two years ago; you said it’s “the soundtrack to sweeping panoramas of the natural world, but it’s not going to work in Vienna.” This year, he came back with his signature joik, which got him fourth with the juries, fourth with the voters, and third overall. Isn’t split voting fun?

Tom: I had to search for what a “joik” was.

Tim: Well, it’s this sort of thing:

Tim: You know, part of me would love to see this in Kyiv, just to find out what the reaction would be. He’s said he thinks he’d do well because many Europeans have a deep love for native or folk music, and I’d like to know if that’s true. Would they think, “ooh, I see what they’re doing, and it’s a good track to boot”, or would it be “oh, bollocks to this, I’m going to the loo, though save me a drink for that key change”?

Tom: I can’t quite work it out, but I think there might actually be three key changes in here: there’s a subtle one after the first verse, and half way through the final chorus. I’m not enough of a musician to know if those are technically some other musical term though.

Tim: Ooh, they are very slight, but you could be right. Given Ukraine’s victory last year I’m leaning towards the former option, and it’d be lovely if that did (though you might have to throw in an “arsehole” or two to guarantee it).

Tom: Ah, I was thinking the latter there: you start a Eurovision song with a deep, meaningful talking part and I reckon a lot of the audience will immediately dismiss you as a pretentious bellend.

Tim: That is a possibility, I guess, though I’m very much with the first group because it is a good song. It’s not quite as good, for me, as Jag Är Fri – I don’t want to say “he’s sold out”, but it’s a bit poppier than his previous, and I think that lets it down a tad.

Tom: Whereas I’d phrase that as “made it more accessible”. It’s certainly not a Eurovision winner — but then, I’d have said that about Ukraine’s entry last year, so who knows?

Tim: Well, I still like it, and I can see why it did well. I’d just like it to have done really well, for entirely selfish reasons.

Jon Henrik Fjällgren – Jag Är Fri (Manne Leam Frijje)

“It’s like it was designed to make it feel like Everything Is All Right Now.”

Tim: The other song the UK jury preferred to Måns’s performance, giving it the full twelve points; in the end it came second, scoring just under half the number of points that Heroes did.

Tim: And that certainly is impressive, but it’s also the first song I’ve heard where, for the most part, the backing vocals bring more to the song that the lead does.

Tom: Ooh, I’m really not sure about that. Those are some bloody good vocals, even if he’s not commanding the stage.

Tim: In quality, maybe, but there aren’t exactly many lyrics there. What he lacks in song presence, though, he makes up for with his story: born in Colombia, adopted by a Swedish-Sami family and was brought up as a reindeer herder, before going on last year’s Talang Sverige, which he won performing music like this, a nice mixture of your standard pop and a traditional Sami form of music called joik.

Tom: This track reminds me of Sigur Rós’ Hoppipolla, not necessarily in style, but in terms of my reaction. Every single aspect of that was pleasant: it’s like it was designed to hack into the basic, goosebumps-generating section of my brain and make it feel like Everything Is All Right Now.

Tim: Hmm, nice comparison, because I got a similar feeling. Fun fact: joik was originally considered sinful by the first Christians who made it that far north, though it appears it’s still alive and well, which is very pleasant if it comes with key changes like that.

Tom: And what a key change. I smiled a lot at that key change.

Tim: Nice song, then, and certainly an impressive staging, but what I’d say it definitely isn’t, though, is a Eurovision winner – there’s not a huge amount of stage presence, and that’s not helped by the aforementioned lack of main vocal line.

Tom: Ugh. You’re right, there. It’s a wonderful, wonderful track, and it deserves to make its writer and performer a lot of money as the soundtrack to sweeping panoramas of the natural world, but it’s not going to work in Vienna.

Tim: Yes, it’s spiritual and all that, but three girls hanging from the ceiling also come across as a tad macabre, which really isn’t what the contest’s about. Also: good luck recreating that very impressive backing vocal with just five on-stage singers.

Tom: Oh. Oh, good point.

Tim: Good thing Måns was there, really, because otherwise Sweden could quite possibly have ended up stuck languishing in the semi-finals, which no-one wants to see.