The last national final of the year could very well be the most important one as well. If there is a happy ending in Stockholm tonight, Sweden will select the eventual winner for Belgrade and, like in the best school books, there is not necessarily just one answer. Many different possibilities could be right. And some could be really, really wrong.
This is the prediction of Mr Becks:
1. CHARLOTTE PERRELLI - Hero 5/5
It can not come as news to anyone who read this blog regularly that this is my top tip for victory both in Sweden and in the ESC. I can, simply, not believe just how effective, brilliant and totally captivating this song is in all its simplicity. And Charlotte delivers like the born professional she is. The choreography à la Israel in the 80's also adds a lot, like the special effect and the brilliant laser beams. All in all, the perfect package.
Chances in Belgrade: Huge. A strong contender for victory, and no way in heaven or on earth will this song place lower than third.
2. SIBEL - That Is Where I'll Go 3/5
Sibel is as sweet as candy and she has a very powerful voice in addition to a very unique kind of charisma. Her only problem tonight is the battle for the ballad vote, where she is up against a very strong contender in Sanna. As the latter is a more established household name after all, I think Sibel will be on the losing end. But nothing is lost, as Miss Redzep got a lot of publicity for her new album this way.
Chances in Belgrade: Not bad but not brilliant either. Poland and Hungary could very well complicate the life of any big ballad of this kind.
3. RONGEDAL - Just A Minute 3/5
In theory, one of the biggest surprises of the year, but the Rongedal brothers have made a splash in various TV shows and have a big audience that would cheer them on whatever they did. I am still not totally convinced by their song, but smitten with their enthusiasm. Good enough for a fifth place or so, but I don't think the juries will swallow this with hook and crook.
Chances in Belgrade: Could be a surprise as all unexpected acts with talent, but could also be seen as one joke too many and flop badly.
4. LINDA BENGTZING - Hur svårt kan det va'? 4/5
Linda looks like a winner in theory as she has a very strong song, with a mix of every bombastic schlager written since the battle of Waterloo (the one in Brighton, of course) sprinkled with a bit (too much) of Mika's worldwide hits. But then there are a few things working against her: her own ability of doing too much when she should do less, the old reluctancy of the juries and the people to vote for her in the end as well as the fact that this song is so obviously constructed for domestic consumption in Sweden. It would have made a sensational ESC entry in 1986, but the world moved on since and the Swedes are not completely unaware of this.
Chances in Belgrade: Slim. It would make it into the final, but would probably be too local to make it big there.
5. CHRISTER SJÖGREN - I Love Europe 1/5
Fun fun fun with flags and a universal phrasebook, crazy enough for the Swedes to send it straight to the Globe. But this is where the fun ends. Because a closer examination of the entry shows that the melody in itself is really nothing. A sad sketch of a song that wouldn't even make it into the top ten of the Deutsche Schlagerfestspiele back in 1964. A great way for Christer to expose himself and his upcoming hit-sampler, but nothing to send off to an international competition.
Chances in Belgrade: None, what-so-ever. The people of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Slovenia are not so simple that they vote for a song just because somebody has their flag sewn on a skirt. Maybe it could steal a vote or two from the silly Irish turkey, but that would be all.
6. AMY DIAMOND - Thank You 2/5
The crashing satellite of the year. This song was clearly the strongest contender out of the first semi, but since then stronger names have lined up all over the place and Amy's little ditty feels a bit empty and tired. If you find an old single by A*Teens that you never knew about, it would give you the same feeling: ah, yes, this is what pop sounded like a few years ago. Amy shouldn't cry, as the history book shows that not everyone benefits from winning Melodifestivalen at the age of 16.
Chances in Belgrade: No better nor worse than anyone else doing this kind of pop this year, but there are a few already. Not that it matters, Amy won't get close to winning MF tonight.
7. SANNA NIELSEN - Empty Room 5/5
BIG ballad with capital letters, owing quite a lot to quite a few Celine Dion belters, especially "Think Twice". Sanna takes her big step out into the real limelight, and will hopefully forever leave the image of young, happy, schlager-Sanna behind her for good and move on with real pop material with chart success. We all knew she had the talent, but the amount of life and emotion she blows into this song is nothing short of breathtaking.
Chances in Belgrade: A possible winner. At least, the other countries with big ballads should fear Sanna tonight and wish her a second place instead.
8. NORDMAN - I lågornas sken 1/5
No, no, Nordman. Take your witches and go. I don't understand what pushes anyone in the year of 2008 to make a song about the burning of witches, and then convince Nordman, who doesn't really suit the song in the first place, to perform it. The special effect looks cool, and the chorus is efficient. But this song is just here to fill some space in the running order.
Chances in Belgrade: You never know, do you? But I would think none.
9. FRIDA FEAT HEADLINE - Upp och hoppa 1/5
Scanian hiphop-salsa, and apparently I am the dull one who doesn't get this at all. It seems this is very happy and nice, and maybe it is. But cows are nice too, and you don't send them to Eurovision. For me, in my boring ageing state, this is null and nothing, and I think the juries will be with me on this one. But there could be a few happy votes from the televoting.
Chances in Belgrade: Need I remind you? If Malta or FYR Macedonia sends something like this, the Swedes would laugh their heads off. Remember that before voting.
10. BWO - Lay Your Love On Me 5/5
Not a bad idea, perhaps. The song is fantastic in its own right and Martin is giving it all he's got. But will BWO have the radiation needed to win through in the end? I still think Alexander Bard scares people off enough to secure BWO a second runner-up position. A big hit whatever the outcome is, and the group said themselves they prefer credibility to a victory if the two can't be combined.
Chances in Belgrade: A possible winner if BWO keeps control of their own machinery. A motor mouth like Mr Bard could do a lot of good, but could also anger a few people out there. But the song and the package are top class.
10. Amy Diamond
7. Christer Sjögren
4. Linda Bengtzing
3. Sanna Nielsen
1. Charlotte Perrelli
I also think Charlotte will be a runaway winner with top marks from both jury and televote. Amy will not be last because she is the worst (she is clearly not) but she is the only one who is likely not to be anyone's real favourite.
My predictions are often a bit shaky, but I hope and believe in this. And if anyone that does not belong to my top four wins, I will sell my passport. Again.