Melodifestivalen: Sweden's not-so-guilty Eurovision pleasure

Story highlights

  • Sweden has a tradition of Eurovision success, having won the contest four times
  • It selects its entry each year through a televised national song contest called "Melodifestivalen"
  • The show is the highest rated program in Swedish history, more popular than Eurovision
  • Sweden's 2012 entry, "Euphoria" by Loreen, was the bookies' favorite to win
To the rest of the world, Sweden seems to represent all that is enviably European. Scandinavia's largest country has a reputation for being stylish, progressive and glacially cool -- in short, everything the Eurovision Song Contest is not.
So it may come as a surprise to some to learn that the Swedes take the annual song competition -- occasionally viewed by some of their neighbors as a bit of a joke -- very seriously indeed.
Unlike in many other western European countries, the privilege of representing Sweden at the annual contest is hotly contested, through a grueling series of televised heats which have grown to become more popular than Eurovision itself.
Melodifestivalen, a six-week, "American Idol"-style TV series in which established acts compete against unknowns for the honor of representing Sweden, has broken every local ratings record. Nearly half of the country's 9.4 million people tuned in to this year's final.
"Melodifestivalens is the Swedish equivalent to the Superbowl," said Per Blankens who produced the TV show in 2006 and 2007.
"No other TV show