(Well I’m back writing less rant-y stuff!)
Finland and Sweden might not be the best of friends in ESC for historical reasons, but they’re still together in the Nordic pot. Most people in the Eurovision fandom would say that Sweden tops Finland, but that might not always be the case.
Relations might be friendlier now, but the rivalries still remain.
Points/Scores: This is what people in the fandom tend to look at while comparing the two countries. If you do that it’s pretty obvious that Sweden wins. With a current count of six victories, including one win with a record breaking 18 sets of douze pointe, Finland’s one win in 2006, 10 last places, and a 7/13 qualification rate can’t beat Sweden, at least not when considering only points.
Production: Given that Sweden’s been treated as Eurovision’s modern powerhouse since the language rule was lifted, and that Sweden’s been hosting a 6-city Melodifestivalen tour with production comparable to Eurovision, it’s not surprising that SVT excels at production of songs and performances. Camera work is tight enough that separate music videos usually aren’t needed for promotion, and there’s typically no excuse for building acoustics, so live and studio versions typically sound pretty similar. Finland is also pretty good when it comes to production, but Sweden edges out due to SVT’s over-the-top work and that they put on semi-readable subtitles on the performances.
More material to work with: Melodifestivalen has 28 songs this year; Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu has 10. If all the songs were the same, then I would say that Mello wins over UMK. However, that’s not exactly the case…
Variety: Even though Melodifestivalen has more songs, more doesn’t always mean better. Half the songs sound really similar to each other, like some radio friendly entry that I’d hear on the bus or another schlager entry. And even if Björkman and his team tried to increase diversity of genres behind the scenes, all the weird stuff (e.g. everything that involves Sean Banan in any way, shape, or form, or any of the ethno-themed entries) gets cleared out, making the sound pretty uniform once on the Eurovision stage. Schlager. Schlager. Mid/uptempo. Schlager. Schlager. Ballad. Mid/uptempo. Radio-friendly mid-tempo. Rinse and repeat. I’ve tried listening to Swedish ESC entries in the shower and more than once I couldn’t tell 2004 apart from 2006 over the sound of falling water. (This is now a great time to announce that the first half of Euphoria won’t play over the shower.) With Finland it’s really hard to predict the sound of next year’s entry without listening to the UMK selections; there’s been tango, peace ballads, rock/metal-inspired entries**, folk-y dance tunes, and ballads. There have been more non-English entries for Finland than for Sweden; even the most recent Swedish-language entry was from Finland. Within the national finals realm there’s also more stage opportunity for older artists. In Mello anyone over the age of 45 is pretty much relegated to last place in the semi, yet in UMK Eini managed to a) perform the hell out of her entry, b) qualify from her semifinal, and c) not place last in the final.
** because Hard Rock Hallelujah’s genre is disputed a lot.
There was also Sleepwalker, which beats out La Voix by 9 years.
Waiting period: One of the methods SVT uses to take up space on ESC news sites is to release only a tiny bit of information at a time. So maybe we’ll know the hosting sites in October, the names of artists in December, the running order in January, and we won’t get to hear the songs until the semifinals in February. As a result, unless someone decides to post every single Eurovizijos atranka or A Dal heat result the news I most likely to be clogged up with Mello announcements. Also, due to SVT’s reluctance to release information, incidents such as Anna Book-Gate are likely to show up instead of something relevant. My points would go to YLE posting two substantial updates about the songs, artist, and their running orders; I don’t need to watch a full live stream to figure out which entry I like the most. I’d be much more likely to just go on the Wikipedia page and check if it got updated.
Access: Now that the EBU’s decided that there won’t be any live streams on the official Eurovision website, SVT gets a bit of edge for livestreaming Melodifestivalen on both SVT Play via phone app as well as SVT Play online. However, that edge goes away after finding out that the performances are only available for 30 days, and that live performances on YouTube are geoblocked in the USA. (For some reason my Youtube account thought it was in Ireland and had access for a month to the videos. And then it decided to switch back and I couldn’t see any more Mello performances anymore.) In that case, Finland gets the edge for access because of the music videos on the UMK YouTube channel, and that performances on YLE don’t get deleted.
If people only looked at points earned or production, then Sweden definitely edges out. However, if they’re looking at variety and access to the songs, then Finland wins. I’m a bit biased because UMK is my favorite national final (and that there’s probably a specific friend on FB who’s actively booing Sweden right now), but in most cases neither country is inferior or superior to the other. I’ll probably end up watching UMK over Ikea’s free Wi-Fi and coffee (because the signal at home sucks), so I’m not going to claim either one.