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En liten sång som alla andra: Melodifestivalen 1959––1983

Doctoral thesis
Authors Alf Björnberg
Date of public defense 1987-05-09
ISBN 91-85974-05-6
Publisher Göteborg University, Department of Musicology
Place of publication Göteborg
Publication year 1987
Published at Department of Culture, Aesthetics and Media
Language sv
Keywords Eurovision Song Contest, popular song, Sweden, musical style analysis, popular song lyrics, music and mass media, popular music and ideology
Subject categories Musicology


With the exception of three years, the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation has been a steady participant in the Eurovision Song Contest since 1958. Except for the first year, all Swedish entries have been selected by means of a televised national qualifying event. The aim of this thesis is to examine the 201 songs presented during the period 1959–1983 in this qualifying competition, named the Melody Festival, and to discuss the factors determining the stylistic limitations and changes observable in the material. The musical analysis constituting the main part of the study is concerned with general stylistic characteristics of the competition songs and stylistic changes over the investigation period. The analysis results are presented in graphic form, showing the variations in the frequency of occurrence of different musical elements. In terms of musical style, the changes in the material over the period consist in a gradual transition from a comparatively wide range of musical styles, with influences from 40's and 50's jazz music playing an important part, towards a more homogeneous style, to a large extent based on stylistic traits from 50's and 60's rock music, although in a more or less modified form. This increasing homogeneity, together with an increasing stylistic vagueness in relation to other popular music genres, makes speaking of a specific musical style peculiar to the contest increasingly justified. The song lyrics are examined by way of a quantitative content analysis analogous to the musical analysis. Love themes dominate throughout the period, but various changes in thematic content and mode of presentation appear in the material. Largely, these changes indicate the same stylistic influences as the musical changes, however, they are less pronounced and appear later in time than in most contemporary popular music. Among the factors arguably contributing to these developments are a general shift of emphasis from education to entertainment in the Broadcasting Corporation policy, the ambition to adjust the programme to its large and heterogeneous audience and the gradual institutionalization of the event. The increasing predictability and unimportance of the music is accompanied by a shift in the public interest towards the extramusical aspects of the event. These aspects are illuminated by regarding the contest as a mass media ritual and analysing the various symbolic meanings expressed in the programme. The songs presented in the Festival being a sample of extremely mainstream-oriented popular music, the changes in music and lyrics may be analysed as signifying changes in the dominant ideology in society. Such ideological changes which can be deduced from the analyses put forward include an increasing dominance of a chronometric time sense typical of industrialized society, a shift from 'deferred' towards 'instant gratification', and changing views on sexuality, individual identity and social relationships.

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