The best of the rest: Eurovision 2021 national final favourites (part 2)

This is a second part to my list of ten favourites from national final shows. In the first part I picked 5 songs from 5 different countries; in this second part it’s 5 songs again but from just three countries/national finals.

Norway: Melodi Grand Prix 2021

Along with neighbours Sweden and Denmark, Norway has one of the longest running of all national finals, with Melodi Grand Prix (MGP) stretching back to 1960 and 2021’s edition was the 61st in the series. The format of MGP is somewhat bewildering – structured as it is as a series of duels in the semis, and in the final it has three stages with the 12 contestants competing for 4 places in a gold final, where in turn 2 then go through to the “gold duel” to determine the winner. It all seems a little convoluted but the winner of the gold duel did win the public vote convincingly this year.

Blåsemafian feat. Hazel “Let Loose”

This was a surprise (though a welcome one) to reach the gold final but I think you can see why – it’s fun, uptempo and has oodles of great brass sounds. The instrumental provides the big hook/most memorable part of this track rather than the vocals, but I’m not complaining!

Keiino “Monument”

Keiino need almost no introduction – the supergroup won the public vote at Eurovision in 2019 with “Spirit in the Sky” and have gone from strength to strength since, releasing single after catchy single since then. They were the big fan favourites to win but I think those in the know realised how popular TIX was within Norway, so it perhaps shouldn’t have felt like such a shock when they came as runners up. “Monument” is almost certain to win OGAE’s Second Chances. They have taken it in good spirits as you might expect, and have already released yet another single in the meantime!

Portugal: Festival da Canção 2021

Festival da Canção is often overlooked by eurofans, or at least the ones that tend to focus purely on the Nordic finals, but I think it’s a gem of a national final, with a long history (it dates back to 1964) and is unlike any other national final, with a strong focus on local music sounds, traditions and native language. It’s also one of the most chilled out and relaxed of the finals – often a palate cleanser to some of the high octane, high drama national finals. The voting of the juries (and Portuguese public vote) can often be a little bewildering (and 2021 was no exception!) but that doesn’t detract from the fact there were many songs this year to enjoy.

Joana Alegre “Joana do Mar”

This came as a bit of a (nice) surprise in the semi-finals – a soaring, uplifting song that evokes Portugal’s long links with the sea. It did better than expected voting-wise in the final but I’ve selected the semi-final performance where Joana performed without (distracting) backing dancers and in a simpler outfit.

Pedro Gonçalves “Não vou ficar”

This song was one of two songs selected from almost 700 from an open call for submissions (the other 18 songs came from invitations from the broadcaster) so it was especially nice to see this reach the final. It has a real (80s) retro feel to it without it being an actual 80s song. Like “Joana de Mar”, I preferred the semi-final performance (and outfit!) so that is the video you see embedded here.

Sweden: Melodifestivalen 2021

The grande dame of national finals, Sweden’s Melfest is hugely popular within Sweden and also internationally has a significant and growing following. This year’s shows were a little different due to the pandemic (they stayed in one TV studio and had no live audience) and it also marked the last Melfest with Christer Björkman as producer, after almost 20 years at the helm.

Clara Klingenström “Behöver inte dig idag”

While Melfest still tends to be dominated by polished (and sometimes a little soulless) pop songs, this year did see a few Swedish-language songs break through to the final, including this lovely song from Clara Klingenström. It had real heart in it and was both refreshing and uplifting – and quite some contrast to the more hyper-produced pop Melfest songs that tend to dominate. Also, a Swedish language song! Clara did much better with the public vote than I think anyone expected (including Clara!) and came 5th overall.

That’s my pick of ten songs but there are plenty more songs that I enjoyed in the various national finals. I’ve put them together in a Spotify playlist – over an hour’s worth in there!

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