VIENNA 2015 | It’s the final countdown, so let’s pick a winner (and squeeze in a review of semi two)!
Welcome to Eurovision final Saturday, random person or regular reader (I think I have at least one of those…)!!! This day has the ability to be both the best and worst of the year, depending on just how much you love Eurovision. If you’re head over heels like me – and I’m going to assume you are – then you have to be prepared to be extremely excited one minute, and extremely depressed the next. The 60th contest is nearing its conclusion, and that brings with it Loreen-levels of euphoria as well as the kind of unshakeable sadness that Anita and Michele must have felt when they found out they were going to be lumped with a Ralph Siegel song. We feel you, guys.
This is where we are as I type this: 13 countries have fallen at the semi stage, and 27 remain in contention to succeed Conchita and give one of their broadcasters a very expensive coup. By the end of the evening, 26 of these participants will have lost (an unfortunate way to put it, perhaps, but technically true) and one will have won the opportunity to take the snazzy glass microphone home and display it on their mantelpiece (after Instagramming an “artistic” shot of it, of course). It’s time to take a punt at just which country and act that will be – and to take a guess at where all 26 losers will end up.
Before I get to that, it’s time for a quick (don’t take that too seriously coming from me) rundown of the second semi final, held two days ago and already reviewed by everyone else. What can I say? Being fashionably late is my trademark.
Semi final two was not vastly different to the first, except in song quality – I thought it was clearly the stronger one. Our three hosts were slightly less wooden, Conchita put them all to shame yet again with her easy charm and radiant glow (I think I love her a little bit), and the postcards continued to be precious. The 17 performances were what made the difference, so let’s focus on those.
These were the ten qualifiers, in performance order:
- Lithuania I like cheese as much as the next person (assuming the next person doesn’t have an intolerance to dairy) but This Time is too cheesy even for me. Lyrically and performance-wise, this was dripping with the stuff. I found it artificial, not cute. Not that it matters, because it qualified anyway.
- Montenegro Never underestimate the power of Željko Joksimović! The Balkan tropes were out and proud during this performance, and if Knez had been wearing a Željko mask, nobody would have picked up on it (and the cardboard would have looked more realistic than Knez’s actual face).
- Norway I adore this song so much I’d marry it if I could. But the colour scheme – the warm lighting and the white outfits – doesn’t embrace the darkness and moodiness of the song, and prevents Norway’s overall package from being a slick one in winning contention. The harmonies were lovely as ever, though.
- Israel Nadav really IS the king of fun! One of the few floor-fillers in this year’s contest, Israel got the party started at last and qualified for the first time in five years. They also provided us with frequent shots of some golden shoes that Herreys would die for.
- Latvia Speaking of qualifying for the first time in a long time…Aminata used her incredible voice and artfully flailing arms to full advantage, taking Latvia into the final after six years of DNQs.
- Azerbaijan Well, there wasn’t a big Perspex box involved here (always a disappointment) but I’d watch and listen to this performance any day over last year’s Azeri snoozefest. The dancers are verging on distracting from Elnur’s vocal – a big selling point of the entry.
- Sweden Call me biased, what with my unconditional love for Sweden and Måns’ leather pants and all, but this was perfection. It was a carbon copy of the Melodifestivalen performance give or take a cone-headed cartoon man, sure, but why fix what ain’t broken? Possible winner status = cemented.
- Cyprus Two words: surprisingly good. I didn’t rate this song too highly in studio, but John was engaging and vocally on his game. Not to mention the fact that he rocked specs on stage in the way of 2007 champ Marija Šerifović. I give a big tick to Cyprus’ use of the background too.
- Slovenia I wanted Maraaya to wow me, but sadly, they did not. The combination of Marjetka’s ever-present headphones and her standing pretty statically the whole time made the performance quite introverted and not very energetic (in spite of the efforts of the air violinist). I still really like the song though, and clearly I’m not the only one.
- Poland The prettiest staging of the night. I am a little surprised this advanced, but it proves that Poland can opt for the opposite of busty butter-churners and still get somewhere. And yet I still miss the busty butter-churners…
Now, my thoughts on the seven non-qualfiers (also in performance order, because it just works, okay? Get off my back!):
- Ireland All is absolutely forgiven for Ireland’s shocking staging of Heartbeat in Copenhagen after this. Molly was always going to be a borderline qualifier if she qualified at all, and it just didn’t happen for her on Thursday. But I really enjoyed her time on stage – or playing the piano in the middle of a forest. I couldn’t tell which.
- San Marino That’s what I did when I wasn’t laughing at Michele’s opening ‘No!’. Nothing, not Michele’s sass or Anita’s pretty dress, could have saved this from being bottom of the heap. I hope you’re happy, Ralph.
- Malta I think the reworked version of Warrior is what let this down – it just fell flat in the stadium (from a TV viewer’s perspective, anyway) and had little lasting impact. Amber herself looked and sounded better. Malta made great use of the background, but that’s not enough.
- Portugal Like Sertab Erener when she got her heel stuck in the Istanbul stage vent, Portugal was going nowhere fast. Leonor also looked and sounded decent, but she looked strangely angry during the choruses.
- Czech Republic As several people told me I would, I didn’t mind this live. Marta and Václav have great chemistry on and off stage, and if they’d been in a theatre mid-way through The Phantom of the Opera, they would have received a standing ovation (the theatrical equivalent of a sure place in the final). It would have been great for the Czech Republic to earn their first final place, but it wasn’t to be. Gee, I hope Marta didn’t take off her shoes and throw them at Václav in anger. Oh wait…
- Iceland The poofy dress may have worked for me in the end, but it wasn’t enough of distraction from the shrill vocal and the fact that Unbroken is one long chorus. Iceland will miss the final for the first time since 2007, and María will be throwing away her tin of gold body paint.
- Switzerland Melanie Réné was probably my non-qualifier of the night. I’ll admit that Time To Shine is an anticlimactic song, but this performance took me by surprise. Loved the costume, loved the drummers, loved the lighting scheme (I’m big on lighting this year). Job well done, Switzerland.
In terms of predictions, I managed to call 9/10 again – Iceland being my downfall this time (the Nordics have not been kind to me). It turns out that there’s only enough room in the final for golden shoes, not golden feet (and extreme, off-key repetition). I failed to predict Poland as a qualifier, but I’m happy enough to see them go through.
How did you go with your predictions? Prepare to spill all as you venture on into my guesses for the outcome of the grand final – coming to you live from Vienna in a matter of hours!
The running order
Slovenia, France, Israel, Estonia, United Kingdom, Armenia, Lithuania, Serbia, Norway, Sweden, Cyprus, Australia, Belgium, Austria, Greece, Montenegro, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Spain, Hungary, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Albania, Italy
It seems the theory that a producer-orchestrated running order will always result in the most entertaining and varied string of songs isn’t a reliable one – at least when the producers leave some of the draw to chance. With a heap of ballads pulling the second half out of the hat, ORF have had no choice but to compile a very down-tempo latter part of the proceedings. We’d better all choreograph some interpretive dance moves suitable for Hour of the Wolf, because after Golden Boy, Still In Love With You and Tonight Again, there’s more or less NOTHING to woki our popos to.
Slovenia should set a good tone for the show, however, and Israel will elevate the energy levels as we head into a long home stretch. If reports on the UK’s rehearsals are to be believed, it will be a positive to get their performance out of the way early on. Sweden can win from a reasonably early 10th slot if they’re meant to – Austria did it in 2014 from 11th. I hope discussion on Australia finally making its ESC debut in the 12th slot won’t overshadow the next country on stage, Belgium, who could be in store for their best result in a very long time.
Funky Germany’s scored a decent position between two ballads, but I suspect Ann Sophie will struggle anyway. Latvia, on the other hand, might benefit from being in a similar situation. Love Injected is nothing if not a standout song, and preceding Poland will probably suffer as a result. The final six songs will be hard to stay awake for, if I’m honest. Albania, I hope, will pep us all up enough so that we can be blown away by Italy, who will close the 2015 contest (I’m not 100% happy about them being last, but I can understand ORF’s reasoning).
Like I said and like we all know, the song that’s meant to win will win from any position, which means there’s still hope for Italy. But it doesn’t look like we’re going to have a repeat of 2003 here, when Turkey won after performing 4th (sorry, Estonia!). We might well have a repeat of 2003 in terms of voting though – back then, Turkey beat Belgium by 2 points, who in turn beat Russia by a single point. My fingers will be crossed for a nail-biter finish in that vein.
Highlights of the night: my expectations
Justifying myself in brief, Twitter-esque form, these are the countries I’ll be hanging out to see in action:
- France An army of drummers that doesn’t breach the six-person rule? I’m intrigued, France.
- Israel It may have been Pink who wanted to get the party started on a Saturday night, but it’s Nadav who’ll be the party-starter on this occasion.
- United Kingdom Will Electro Velvet salvage a shambles, or will this be car crash television? I’m morbidly keen to find out.
- Norway Because no matter how unsuitable I think the mise en scène is, A Monster Like Me is one of my goosebump songs. I actually don’t know what would happen to my body if they’d nailed the lighting and costuming.
- Sweden The favourite. MY favourite. Need I say more?
- Australia Uh, hello! I never thought the day would come that I could cheer my own country on in the ESC. I cannot wait for this moment.
- Belgium This is just…so freaking cool. Bravo, Belgium!
- Austria The cheer received by the host country is always up there with my favourite final moments. I don’t expect this to be any exception.
- Montenegro It’s a Balkan ballad. There’s mountains in the background and minimalist dressing in the foreground. This was made for me!
- Latvia Like Belgium’s, Latvia’s song is weird in the best possible way. Love Injected, and Aminata’s interpretation of it, is spellbinding. This could be a surprise success.
- Spain I hear everything except the kitchen sink (though I’m not convinced they haven’t swathed that in sequins and secreted it somewhere on stage) has been thrown at Edurne’s performance, and I can’t say I’m not keen to find out if it’s true – and if it works.
- Italy We have to wait a long time to see Il Volo smoulder their way through Grande Amore, but I have no doubt it’ll be worth it.
Let me know which acts you’re most looking forward to down below.
So, who’s going to take the trophy home?
I still believe this is an open year, despite one country in particular rising up the ranks and overtaking one of the long-standing bookies’ favourites. I don’t think we have a clear-cut champ just yet…but I reserve the right to change my mind once the votes start coming in and everyone rushes to book a hotel room in Sochi for May 2016.
No matter how biased it may seem, I cannot discount Australia as a potential winner – even based on novelty value alone. We have a good position in the first half, and Guy Sebastian is fronting a catchy, energetic pop song that will be remembered even if it’s just by association – like, ‘Hey! Let’s vote for the Australian song!’. The juries will give him a boost thanks to his impressive vocals. I don’t necessarily think Tonight Again deserves to win, but would I complain if it did? Um, no. I’d be screaming my head off, actually.
Italy outclassed all others in the OGAE vote, and while that doesn’t always signal impending success, it’s not devoid of clout. I wish Il Volo were performing prior to the point where viewer fatigue will set in, but I’m convinced they will make a big impression even as the last act on stage. Even if they f%#k up completely, I’m going to vote for them.
Russia has come out of nowhere to be a danger to the holy trinity of Sweden, Italy and Australia, who sat on top of the odds list for months. Polina is currently second-favourite to win, and though I will be disappointed if she does – not because it’s Russia, but because the song and performance don’t do much for me – I won’t be shocked. Russia won Eurovision seven years ago with a white-clad singer, and there’s a real chance they could do the same again. Polina definitely looks better in that dress than Dima Bilan would.
My last pick for a probable winner has to be the favourite, Sweden. Måns is almost guaranteed to give Sweden another podium finish, but with Polina snapping at his heels (in a very ladylike manner) the landslide win a lot of us expected is no longer likely. I still believe he has a fighting chance, and I hope the nineteen or so votes I’ll be texting his way will contribute to that. LYCKA TILL SVERIGE!
What’s that? You also want a dark horse? Well, since I aim to please, here’s one: Belgium *insert dramatic soap opera music here*. Loïc, like Polina, has upset the apple cart of pre-contest favourites, having overtaken Australia. He’s sitting in fourth position behind Sweden, Russia and Italy, and this excites me greatly. A Belgian win is a lot to ask, but there is something masterful about the package of Rhythm Inside – the precision, the quirk, how cutting-edge it is – that speaks to me. This is memorable for all the right reasons, and I would LOVE Eurovision to have a winner that’s so out-of-the-stereotypical-box. But if it’s not to be, and Loïc ends up snugly in the top 10 or even the top 5, that will also be worth celebrating.
Top half VS bottom half of the table: Who’ll finish where?
If you’re up for predicting the entire final scoreboard from #1-#27, points included, I’m not going to stop you. I am going to stop myself, however. That could only end in disaster. Instead, I’ll have a stab at predicting which countries will finish on the left side of the scoreboard (i.e. at or close to the top of the table) and which countries won’t be so lucky, as Zdob şi Zdub would say.
Top half Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden
Bottom half Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom
No doubt they’ll be one or two countries that succeed against the odds, but I’ve given up on trying to figure out who they are. Given up or run out of time, one of the two.
On that note, like Nadav Guedj, I’ve gotta go, bye-bye. I’m off to a cinematic live screening of the final tonight/tomorrow morning, and I’m taking a gigantic flag cape with me (it’s an all-occasion kind of garment, but I thought it would do alright for this). I’m sorry to have rushed this post, but life is hectic at the moment, and to be honest, the occurrence of the ESC isn’t helping! But I’m more than happy to give it some priority time.
I’ll be back, as always, to dissect tonight’s results and discuss any fallout with you guys. In the meantime, hit me up with your predictions. Where is Eurovision headed in 2016? Who’s going to score jaw-droppingly well, and who’s going to fall flat at the final hurdle? Will we get the tense-as-heck voting sequence we’ve been waiting for? Tell me what you think in the comments.
Until Eurovision no. 60 comes to an end…
DISCLAIMER: I was short on time and delirious with drowsiness when I put this post together, so please forgive me if it’s zero percent funny and ninety percent nonsensical (banana). You can decide what’s wrong with the remaining ten percent…
Let me paint you a very glamorous picture: it’s three o’ clock on Wednesday morning, and I’m sitting on the couch in my mismatching pajamas. My eighteen-year-old, senile, sneezing cat is snuffling on one side of me, my constantly farting dog is on the other side of me, and there’s a large-and-in-charge spider on the ceiling directly above my head.
This was my first live Eurovision-viewing experience, and though I was left wondering why ‘tonight we can be glorious’ (in the words of Cascada) was in no way applicable here, I enjoyed myself immensely. More so once the spider decided to depart, which just happened to be midway through Finland’s performance. I guess he wasn’t a punk fan.
There were a few things I didn’t dig about the show: for starters, the fact that Conchita and her teeny-tiny waist were relegated to the green room rather than having the honour of hosting the whole show. We all knew that was the situation, but as it turns out, our three main hostesses Mirjam, Alice and Arabella were a bit underwhelming. Some hosts – Jaana and Mikko, Petra Mede etc – make their script sound unscripted, but these three did not.
Secondly, not enough time was reserved to create any sort of tension when the results were announced. Talk about a rush job! I expect the magic envelopes (which aren’t really envelopes nowadays, but I refuse to call them anything else) will be opened at a more leisurely pace tonight; but whether Austria’s version of Charlie’s Angels can impress me this time is a question mark.
I did think the postcards were über cute, though. People doing things? Much yes. I wish I could have a parcel delivered to my door that transports me to Austria when I open it. Did ORF round up forty Harry Potter-style Portkeys or what?
Let’s talk about what happened in-between those postcards for a minute. I’m going to race through the running order of Tuesday’s show and give you my verdict on all sixteen performances, before I crack on with my second semi predictions. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- Moldova In a word, the opening performance of this year’s contest was trashtastic. It was a good move for ORF to choose Eduard, his permanently-attached trucker cap and his posse of police/strippers to kick things off. And I must commend the guy for not singing like a goat with pneumonia like he did during the Moldovan final.
- Armenia More kudos here for making what was a shambles in studio work remarkably well on stage. Great outfits, nice violet visuals, and solid vocals from all six Genealog…ists. Tamar and Mary-Jean (STRAYA REPRESENT WOOOOOOOO!!!) in particular sounded top-notch.
- Belgium My highlight of the night! Loïc was in his weird and wonderful element, and everything about his three minutes – the costumes, the choreography, the monochrome colour scheme…even his mid-song nanna nap – was cool and contemporary.
- The Netherlands Mediocre, aside from a) the super zoomed-in shot of Trijntje’s face which was frightening, and b) her caped jumpsuit, which looked like the kind of thing a superhero would go skydiving in.
- Finland This goes against everything I’ve said about Finland to date, but *gulp* I actually enjoyed PKN’s performance. It certainly woke me up.
- Greece Well-sung and expertly wind-machined (without compromising Maria Elena’s precarious boob positionage) One Last Breath nevertheless remained a borefest.
- Estonia Stig shall henceforth be known as Estonia’s Houdini after that disappearing act. This was good, and the narrative was well-acted, but I don’t think we’re heading to Tallinn in 2016.
- FYR Macedonia Oh dear. This is the third year in a row Macedonia has stuffed up their staging with a hot mess. If they’d had Daniel in a spotlight and played the music video in the background, it would have been so much better. That is coming from someone who has never staged anything for anyone, ever, though.
- Serbia Bojana is a force to be reckoned with, and she worked the stage like the diva Eurovision deserves. Despite my dislike of the lyrics (trés lame) I have to admit that this looked and sounded very good. But I’m not sure about the result of the costume reveal. I f you’re going to reveal something, it should be something worth waiting for.
- Hungary Boggie didn’t put me to sleep, so that’s a plus. Hungary’s was another performance that I liked without expecting to, so I’m not that surprised it qualified. The streak of success continues.
- Belarus The staging was flat and Time deflated to match. What a shame for Uzari and Maimuna. I know that giant hourglass would have been hard to stuff in one of their suitcases, but it was sadly missed.
- Russia Polina is the Sanna Nielsen of 2015 – a blonde angel warbling among the rest of us mortals. But her performance didn’t scream ‘WINNER!!!’ at me. I can imagine the credits rolling over it, so basically I’m super confused right now.
- Denmark Anti Social Media did what exactly what they did at MGP, which was be smiley and peppy while performing a perfectly serviceable rendition of a perfectly serviceable song. I thought that would have been enough to nudge them into the final , but nope. Denmark misses out for the first time since 2007.
- Albania Elhaida’s vocal, as she is THE Voice of Italy, was excellent…until the last thirty seconds of I’m Alive, which was when she got way too shouty for my delicate eardrums. Thumbs up for the styling though. It’s too bad she couldn’t have loaned the black number to Trijntje.
- Romania Gets me every time! You can bet your prized flag collection that I voted for Voltaj. I’m glad the waiter garb was swapped for something that didn’t say ‘Would you like some cracked pepper, sir?’.
- Georgia Nina is so fierce, she should be sent to live in a tiger enclosure at the zoo. She may be the same age as Lena was when she won Eurovision, their names may rhyme and they might both have a penchant for black, but this was badass on a level that …well, never needed to achieve, but couldn’t if it tried anyway. Go Georgia.
After all of that (plus about a hundred mentions of Australia that I’m pretty sure Europe did NOT appreciate…sorry guys) the voting window opened, and all of us Down Under got our vote on for the first and third-last time (assuming, as I do, that we’re not going to win on Saturday). I went to town texting in for my five favourites, three of whom – Belgium, Romania and Estonia – made the grade. Joining them was Armenia, Greece, Serbia, Hungary, Russia, Albania and Georgia.
There weren’t any shock moments among those rapid results for me personally. Denmark not qualifying wasn’t something I’d predicted, but after their polished-but-not-standout performance, I could comprehend it. Having enjoyed the Hungarian performance, I was actually happy to see them continue the success of their ESC comeback. Hoping but not expecting Moldova and FYR Macedonia to advance, I was satisfied with my top two songs of the semi – Rhythm Inside and De La Capăt – earning places in the final.
Also satisfying was achieving a new record re: qualifying predictions. Nine out of ten, peeps! Like I said, I did think Denmark would make it and that it would be Albania or Serbia through, not both. But I never said I was all-knowing. I’M ONLY HUMAN!
If you’re only human too (or not, I don’t mind) let me know how successful you were in predicting the outcome of the first semi, and what you thought of the show as a whole. Got some highlights and/or lowlights? List ‘em in the comments and I’ll love you until someone else says something more interesting.
Now, let’s get into the thick of semi final two with some more guessing games. Starting with Lithuania and ending with Poland, this installment is not far away at all, so get your viewing snacks and scorecards ready!
Remember, I don’t tune in to the rehearsals, so everything to come is based on the odd photo, reports from the press centre and my opinions.
The running order
Lithuania, Ireland, San Marino, Montenegro, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Czech Republic, Israel, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, Cyprus, Slovenia, Poland
Semi final two is the bigger, and, as usual, better semi. It should be a lot more dynamic than Tuesday’s show in terms of musical light and shade, and give us more to bust a move to. By ‘more’, I’m mainly referring to Golden Boy. Do you like my dancing?
My top 10 prediction
A.k.a. where I undo my sad all my good work of correctly predicting 90% of Tuesday’s qualifiers.
There are so many uncertain qualifiers in this semi that none of my previous Top 10s felt right. This one doesn’t either, but I had to settle sometime before the show actually started (you’d be skeptical if I got 10/10 after the show).
Sweden topping the semi tonight is a safe bet, literally, and I’m confident that Slovenia and Norway won’t be far behind Måns and his roly-poly cartoon man – if not in points, then in position. I know not everyone thinks Norway is sure to make the final, but I cannot see such a classy, spellbinding ballad escaping notice of the televoters or the juries.
In the same way that Greece is Greece, Azerbaijan is Azerbaijan. Even if they sent Elnur on stage dressed as the poo emoji, they’d qualify. This time, that’s fine by me – I cannot wait to see and hear Elnur on the ESC stage again, albeit minus the feathers and glitter.
Latvia’s Love Injected, I’m hoping, is striking enough to find favour with televoters and jurors alike. They truly deserve a spot in the final, and if they get it, it’ll be their first weekend appearance since 2008.
I’m predicting Cyprus without being sold on the idea, but everyone else seems to think the island is a shoo-in, and I’m easily swayed.
I think Montenegro can make it in much the same way Sergej did last year – without a massive bunch of neighbours to give them a boost. They won’t be in the top 5, most likely, but I don’t see Knez being borderline either. I believe in the power of Željko Joksimović!
Israel and Iceland are borderline. We NEED Israel in the final for busting of thy moves, but the juries will drag it down – just hopefully not out of contention. Iceland could get lost being sandwiched between Azerbaijan and Sweden and be knocked out by Malta, Poland or Switzerland.
My fantasy top 10
At least there’s one there that’s likely to come true.
My bottom seven prediction 11. Malta, 12. Ireland, 13. Switzerland, 14. Poland, 15. Czech Republic, 16. Portugal, 17. San Marino
San Marino tailing is the only bit of this I’d put money on (so don’t blame any of your SF2 losses on me) but I can see Malta just missing out.
If Poland’s performance is as effective out of rehearsals as it has been in them (so I hear) they too could come close, but there are so many female ballads in this semi it’s going to be hard for the more understated ones to stand out. Performing last, Monika has an advantage in this respect, but not much about In The Name of Love sparks the desire to vote.
If there’s a shock result…it could have something to do with San Marino. I don’t think there’s any danger of the bookies’ favourites missing the mark. If the Czechs make their very first final, that would be something to gasp about too.
Who’s most likely to…
…get the biggest round of applause? Israel/Sweden.
I’ll put it this way: Israel is the Serbia of semi two, and Sweden is the Estonia.
…sing best live? Aminata/Elnur Huseynov.
The pocket rocket and Elnur minus Samir are the vocalists I’m most keen to hear in action. Can Elnur still make canines everywhere head for the hills with his high notes? Hashtag curious.
…sing worst live? Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini.
Just because their competitors have oodles of talent and experience. I had to pick someone!
…make the best use of the background? Ireland/Montenegro/Sweden.
I hear Ireland has set the tone in a refreshingly non-Celtic kind of way, and that should complement Molly’s piano-playing quite nicely. Montenegro might attempt to hypnotise us all with sweeping shots of breathtaking scenery, and Sweden…well, Sweden’s got an army of adorable fat men in berets. You can’t beat that.
…have the most boring stage show? Portugal.
Sure, the wind machine will get a good workout, but Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa is the kind of plodding number that needs interesting staging to sell it, and a gust of air won’t make much of a contribution to that.
…have the best costume/? Norway.
Debrah Scarlett is my new style icon, and if I can’t have her flowing red waves surgically attached to my scalp, I’ll at least be mimicking her structured white ensemble and ornamental headpiece. White is perhaps not the most suitable colour for A Monster Like Me, but she and Mørland look so good in it, I’m willing to ignore that.
…have the worst costume/s? Iceland.
Anything that looks like you could buy a stick of it at a fairground should probably not be worn – even at Eurovision. But María’s fairy floss-esque confection might be sweet in HD, who knows.
Aaaaand I’m done. I’ll be back on Saturday with a review of tonight’s proceedings and at least five answers to the all-important question: who’s going to win Eurovision 2015? For now though, I’m off to bed. I want to get at least a few hours of beauty sleep in before the show starts so I don’t get up looking like Mr. Lordi. Again.
Wherever you are and whoever you look like when you fall out of bed at an unfortunate hour, I hope you enjoy Part 2 of this year’s contest. May your favourites not do better than my favourites!
Who do you think has the edge in the second semi final? Who’s in and who’s out? Will you be convinced I’ve turned into an owl if I say ‘who’ one more time? Let me know below!
There’s only one way to sum up how I’m feeling right now.
As I write these words, the first semi final of Eurovision 2015 is mere hours away, with the jury semi already over. It genuinely feels like I was saying the same thing about Eurovision 2014 about a month ago. I don’t know about time being like thunder, but it sure moves freaking fast!
Pushing that frightening thought aside, I can tell you that I am more excited to set my alarm for 2.30am Wednesday than I ever thought I could be. I won’t tell you a whole lot more before I get into my predictions for the first semi, because I’ve still got flags to plaster all over my living room and show snacks to send someone else out to buy for me (because I’m too hyped-up to be let out in public).
A two-part disclaimer re: this post’s predictions, which cover the results, possible jaw-droppers and general other Eurovisiony occurrences:
- You may or may not be aware that my foresight is dreadful. Unless something is blatantly obvious, I will rarely see it coming (just check out my 2014 prediction post if you want proof. So please make allowances for this when you’re checking out my thoughts.
- You also may or may not be aware that I NEVER watch the Eurovision rehearsals – nor have I listened to any of this year’s entries for about seven weeks. I have my reasons for this, but the former does make it very hard to guess what’s going to happen. My predictions are based on what I’ve heard about the run-throughs, and the few photos I’ve seen so far.
I think that’s all I need to gab on about for now, so let’s dive in to my amateurish assumptions regarding the outcome of semi final numero uno!
PS – I’ve also taken the liberty of letting you know who I’m voting for, as I support my favourites for the very first time. If you want to throw stuff at me after reading that bit, you’ll need to have quite the arm. I know my next-door neighbours, and you’re not any of them.
The running order
Moldova, Armenia, Belgium, The Netherlands, Finland, Greece, Estonia, FYR Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Belarus, Russia, Denmark, Albania, Romania and Georgia.
I’m fairly confident that I’ve predicted this correctly. Then again, this is ME we’re talking about *checks the appropriate Wikipedia page for the 127th time just to be sure*.
My top 10 prediction
Because making a fool of myself by listing qualifiers randomly isn’t enough.
I don’t want to accept this – purely because the song’s not up there with my favourites – but Russia has pulled off one perfect rehearsal after another, if the reactions of the press are to be believed. In this semi, Polina has the potential to be a formidable force.
I’m not convinced Estonia still has the steam to come out on top here, but they should do well anyway.
I desperately want Belgium to get through, and I think they will. But as what they’ve chosen to put on stage has divided observers, I don’t think Loïc will come too close to winning the semi.
I had Armenia down as a DNQ when their live performance was a question mark, but it seems they’ve managed not to transfer the chaos from the studio version of Don’t Deny Face The Shadow to the live version. The power of all those personalities and voices, plus a decent stage show, should see them qualify safely.
Greece is, well, Greece. One Last Breath may be a bore, but I hear they’ve staged it well, and Maria Elena is great at what she does – impersonating Céline Dion. Not so great, however, that she’ll end up mimicking Switzerland’s 1988 victory or anything.
Since they’ve been so successful in the years post-comeback, it’s hard to imagine a final without Hungary in it. Boggie is a borderline qualifier as far as I’m concerned, but I’m putting her down as a finalist because a) to reference The Common Linnets, she’ll be the calm after Serbia’s storm, and that in itself could be arresting; and b) the juries will lap her song up like its water and they’ve just been wandering through the desert sans liquid for a week. The Aussie jury in particular is on the hunt for a ‘social cause’ (bleurgh) and Wars For Nothing is nothing (like the wars) if not that.
I feel like Albania will slip in to the top 10, but just. Serbia has the potential to snatch that 10th spot though.
My fantasy top 10
A.k.a. the result we’ll never get in a million years, unless I happen to become all-powerful within the next few hours.
- FYR Macedonia
- The Netherlands
Go on, have a good old laugh about this. I know it’s wishful thinking of the most ridiculous kind.
My bottom six prediction 11. Serbia, 12. The Netherlands, 13. Finland, 14. Belarus, 15. Moldova, 16. FYR Macedonia
Bojana’s voice and presence for Serbia – plus the last thirty seconds of Beauty Never Lies – could carry her through, but Elhaida Dani also has a big voice and a more consistent, cohesive song. Hence I’m bumping Serbia into ‘close, but no cigar (or Saturday night)’ territory.
Trijntje has swapped her boob-baring gown for something more demure and less MY EYES, MY EYES!! But I reckon she’ll struggle nonetheless.
Finland could sail through, but I’m not convinced people’s heads will stop reeling in time to decide whether they liked Aina Mun Pitää or not. I’m intrigued to see how it does jury-wise.
I was going to tip the sleazefest that is Moldova to advance, having had a gut feeling that Eduard might scrape through for a while now. After all, last year’s rather sleazy (and cheesy) Belarusian Cheesecake had no trouble getting out of its semi. And the fact that Moldova are not incorporating hair removal into their choreography this year bodes well. But now I’m ignoring my gut (probably a mistake) and falling in line with the crowd who think the Moldovan package is trash dressed up in trampy police outfits. Please note that if they do qualify, I will say ‘I told you so!’ even though I technically didn’t.
If there’s a shock result…because there’s always something I don’t see coming, no matter how hard I try to see it beforehand. In the case of semi one, the shocker could be a country with a 100% qualification record losing that record – I’m referring to Greece or Romania, as I’ll choke on my kvass if Russia trips up in this department. I’m not saying this IS going to happen – as you’ve seen from my predictions above, I don’t think that’s the case at all.
But but but, if a gasp-worthy outcome is on the cards, there is a chance it could. Neither Greece nor Romania have sent songs that scream ‘qualifier!’, for different reasons – Greece because it’s a prehistoric ballad, Romania because it’s understated (it’s hard to believe Voltaj are representing the same country that gave us angle grinding, round pianos and Cezar). But, by the media’s reckoning, both One Last Breath and De La Capăt have been well-staged and performed during rehearsals, and even if they hadn’t been, one or neither advancing would equal much drama and debate, methinks.
How about this: what if Finland win the first semi? If PKN made it to the final, that in itself wouldn’t make my eyes bug out of my head. But if I later found out they’d topped it, well…then my eyeballs would know no bounds.
My third and final jaw-on-the-floor moment would involve FYR Macedonia qualifying. I am Beyoncé-level crazy in love with Autumn Leaves, but it was always a song on the fence in terms of qualification. Now Daniel’s rehearsed and things have (apparently) been particularly beige and not particularly cohesive, I’m fearing the worst. Therefore, if he does manage to nab the 9th or 10th spot post-voting, I will be flabbergasted. Flabbergasted in a hysterically happy kind of way (i.e. I will alternate between collapsing on the floor clutching my chest, and moonwalking up and down my hallway).
Who’s most likely to…
…get the biggest round of applause? Serbia and Russia.
Serbia has one of the only up-tempo songs in this semi at their disposal – at least for the final stretch of their three minutes – and Bojana will have a big, triumphant finish that I’m sure the fans in the Stadthalle will go crazy over. I would, if I was there (can you hear the sound of my heart breaking?) even though Beauty Never Lies is literally my least favourite entry right now, as you’ll see when I unveil my updated Top 40 below. Curse that painful English version that’s cheesier than a wheel of Switzerland’s finest!
And, to answer the question I know you have in mind – no, I don’t think Russia’s going to get booed this year. Polina is so angelic, and by all accounts, her performance is so on point, that I will be surprised if anyone in the audience lets loose with a big, fat, B-O-O.
…sing best live? Genealogy, Loïc Nottet, Maria Elena Kyriakou, Polina Gagarina, Elhaida Dani…I could go on.
There is a wealth of wonderful singers in the Viennese lineup, but in terms of the live voices I’m most enthusiastic to hear in action, I’ll be waiting for Genealogy, Loïc and Polina.
…sing worst live? Moldova.
Let’s not pretend otherwise. I don’t know how far Eduard has come since his woeful-yet-winning NF performance, but he won’t stand up vocally next to…well, more or less ALL of the singers taking to the stage after him. Fortunately, I Want Your Love isn’t an LLB (lame lady ballad, in case you’re new and don’t know that’s a thing now) that relies on a stunning vocal to elevate it. Nothing is going to retrieve this from the trash chute, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
…make the best use of the background? Romania.
I predict this because, singing mostly in Romanian, Voltaj need to use the visuals as much as possible to convey their message to those of us who don’t understand Romanian and/or who don’t already know the story of the song. I believe they’re making a good attempt at that.
…have the most boring stage show? The Netherlands, Hungary and Denmark.
I know not every country can have men in hamster wheels rolling around among giant wooden horses trapped in glass boxes, while rainbow sparks rain down and the wind machine is switched up to MAX, and then the wind blows some of the rainbow sparks into the audience and someone’s flag catches fire, and then the stadium starts burning and everyone has to evacuate, and the stadium ends up as a pile of black rubble littered with smoking cardboard cut-outs of Nina Sublatti.
Ahem. My point is, it’s unnecessary for every performance to have bells and whistles attached. It’s unlikely that Trijntje, Boggie or Anti Social Media are going to do anything but stand still and sing and pretend to play their instruments. There might be a bit of walking around involved, but that’ll be it. ASSUMPTION ALERT!!!
…have the best costume/? Georgia.
I’m cheating here, as I have seen Nina’s getup – a badass version of Maja Keuc’s leather-and-metallic look from Düsseldorf. Or perhaps the new-and-improved edition of Molly Smitten-Downes’ backup singers’ costumes. Either way, it’s perfection.
…have the worst costume/s? The Netherlands.
Yes, Trijntje (how did I end up having to type that name so many times during this post?) has changed her dress, thank the Lordi. But we can’t just forget about the original ensemble that looked like it had been personally designed for her by Freddy Krueger. And what’s with the veil? This is Eurovision, not Derby Day at the races. Or a funeral, for that matter.
So, where are my votes going?
Having been given the chance to vote in Eurovision for the first (and “only”) time, I’m not going to waste it. I’ll reveal to you now in list form who I’m supporting, so you can blame me if X country goes through against your wishes, and so I can refer back to it at 4.30 tomorrow morning when I’m too delirious to remember who I wanted to vote for.
This list aligns with the aforementioned fantasy top 10, but I’m saving my votes for the first five countries on it: Belgium, Romania, FYR Macedonia, Moldova and (possibly) Estonia. I say ‘(possibly) Estonia’ because I’m not as attached to Goodbye To Yesterday as I am to the other four songs. Plus, I don’t think Stig & Elina need my help as much as the others do.
Last but not least, it’s ranking time!
It’s tradition to revise one’s Top 40 just before the contest kicks off…isn’t it? I’m gonna say it is. And so, I present to you my updated pre-ESC ranking, with numeric proof of how much it’s changed over the last few months.
Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.
And with that out-of-place Taylor Swift reference, I pronounce this post over, ladies and gents! I can’t wait to join y’all for the first semi final, watching live and – if you’re a fellow Australian, or if you’ve just never bothered to vote before – voting for the first time.
I probably won’t be taking to social media during the show, because I want to focus 110% on what’s happening on my TV screen (the voting period excepted, of course) so this is peace out from me until we have our first ten finalists. Besides the seven already booked in to Saturday night. You know what I mean. I’ll be back before semi two to review the performances and results of semi one, and make some more unreliable predictions. Yay?
Wherever you are in the world, I hope you enjoy the show…unless you’re in Vienna and are attending the contest, in which case I hope you have a horrible time (though I’ll retract that if you promise to send me a postcard and/or a lock of Måns Zelmerlöw’s chest hair). Let me know below what your plans are for the evening/afternoon/morning (bloody time zones!) plus your predictions for this first Eurovision 2015 installment. Who’s going through and who’s going home? Place your bets now.
See you on the other side of the semi!
And then there were five. No, I’m not referring to the days left until Eurovision gets underway – although there’s about five of those left too (depending on your time zone and method of counting stuff and…stuff). In this case, though, I’m talking about the songs remaining for my esteemed EBJ Jury to review.
The lucky/unlucky last entries to be put under the musical microscope come from Portugal, Australia, Latvia, FYR Macedonia and Belarus, and once they’re done, so are my first-ever collaborative reviews. Sadface.
But it’s not all bad news. With the entire Class of 2015 ranked, I can finally reveal the jury’s Top 40, so that’s your reward if you make it to the end of the post. Good luck!
First, let’s take care of the usual business. Meet my partners in crime for the last time…
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Fraser McEachern: My fellow Australian Fraser returns (to rapturous applause, I’m sure) to the EBJ Jury today, having managed to fit in all of his reviewing prior to jetting off to Vienna with partner, previous EBJ Jury member and co-star of the escTMI YouTube show, Matt. You’re missing out if you haven’t taken a look at their videos, people.
James Sayer: You met James, a nineteen-year-old creative writing student, in the previous installment of VVs. He’s British, so we can blame him for Electro Velvet. Or thank him for Electro Velvet, depending on far up the scoreboard the pair can shimmy and scat next Saturday night. Up until recently, he was one of the driving forces of the fab blog ESC Views, which remains just as fab without him (I swear that’s a compliment).
Jasmin Bear: I won’t introduce myself yet again – you know me (though if you’re a first-time visitor to EBJ, you may not, so FYI, I’m awesome). I’m most looking forward to the first semi final on Tuesday because I’ll get to hear some ESC 2015 entries for the first time in SEVEN WEEKS. Just because my pre-show abstinence was voluntary doesn’t make it any less painful. #stillworthit.
Now, do me a favour and imagine really dramatic music playing as I say the following:
Leonor. Guy. Aminata. Daniel. Uzari & Maimuna. Only one act can emerge from this blog bloodbath victorious…but who will it be? And where will they factor into the EBJ Jury’s Top 40?
Read on to find out!
Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa by Leonor Andrade
Fraser: Please don’t make me listen to this song again. It’s just…blah. Why did Portugal think that this was a good song to put into the contest? The guitar drives me crazy. 1 point.
James: I’ve been looking forward to my first chance to write a really positive review here, just to prove to you guys that I do have it in me to be nice. Soooo yeah, here it is: OH MY GOD, PORTUGAL IS AMAZING. There’s a sentence I bet you thought you weren’t gonna hear – I know most people aren’t keen on Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa, and it probably won’t do very well and all that…but I absolutely love it. It’s all deep and dramatic and it’s incredibly beautiful. I adore the synthy backings and the haunting choral echos, and whilst I wish Leonor’s vocal was turned up a bit louder in the studio mix, that won’t be a problem live in Vienna. This song has such an amazing melody – like seriously, that register change in the ‘nos’ note is spine-tinglingly perfect. Have I used enough hyperbolic adjectives to let you know how much I love this one yet? I’m gonna go for it and give Portugal a well-deserved 12 points, because why not?
Jaz: Wow, Portugal sure divided the opinion of my fellow jurors! I’m amazed that such an innocuous song has inspired such mixed reactions. Funnily enough (if you are very easily amused) I’m sitting pretty much in the middle of 1 and douze points on this one. Portugal sent effervescent ex-air-hostess Suzy to Eurovision last year with a song that was ethnic, infectious and uptempo – but it could have been sent back in time to the 2005 contest and fit right in (not a good thing in terms of the ESC moving musically forward). This year, they’ve sent the opposite. Há Um Mar blah blah blah (one cannot bring oneself to type out that entire song title sometimes) isn’t particularly ethnic, it’s definitely not uptempo, and I wouldn’t call it catchy, exactly. But it is reasonably contemporary, at least. Sure, it wouldn’t have been ahead of its time in Kyiv, but it won’t sound stale or über of-another-Euro-era in Vienna either. I quite like the melody in the choruses, and Leonor is a nice vocalist who comes across far more mature than she is onstage (partly due to an overload of eye makeup…she must have attended the same Bump Up Your Age In Thirty Seconds class as Nina Sublatti). The problem I have with this is that I don’t find it very memorable. I literally cannot remember how the verses go. It also fails to ignite any strong reaction in me – love or hate. It just plods along, not heading anywhere exciting but not heading to purgatory either. And yet, I do enjoy it. What I remember of it, anyway. I highly doubt it will make it out of semi two, but I hope Portugal don’t take that as a sign to bow out of next year’s comp. They came so close to qualifying last year, and this is a respectable enough entry to carry on with. They just need something less lacklustre . Something that combines the fun and energy of Quero Se Tua with the somewhat-fresh and mature sound of Há Um Mar et cetera. 6 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.33
Tonight Again by Guy Sebastian
Fraser: Well, it seems Guy may have cobbled together a pretty decent tune here. I do wish he would stop telling everyone that he wrote, arranged, recorded and produced it in three days. Aside from that, it’s a really fun song. It’s catchy, it sounds like a song that will chart well over a European summer, and it shows off what Guy can do with his voice without overdoing it! 10 points.
James: My first reaction to this was ‘well-timed Uptown Funk 2.0 without the sass.’ And I think I’m still somewhere in that region two months later, to be honest. It’s a pretty good song, and definitely one of the most chart-friendly offerings of the 2015 contest…but it’s not exactly to my personal taste. I do think I’ll go and check out some of his other stuff though, and I love it when Eurovision introduces me to *new* artists like this, so yay! I hope nobody complains if this one does well though – and by that, I mean a country who is theoretically denied a personal-best placing by the Australian entry, then goes and withdraws because they think it’s unfair because Australia doesn’t even go here…or something stupid like that. Side note: what the hell is Mr. Sebastian wearing on the single cover? That outfit makes him look like a two-tone IKEA curtain, please no. I hope he wears something better on the night! 5 points.
Jaz: I never thought I’d be reviewing my own country’s entry in the lead-up to Eurovision – at least, not prior to my moving to Sweden, adopting a terrible accent and assuming the identity of Sanna Nielsen’s long-lost cousin. But here we are, living in a world where Australia’s been cordially invited to fire everyone up by participating in the 60th contest, for an alleged one-time-only. We’ve all questioned the EBU’s sanity in issuing this invitation time and time again, so I’ll leave that behind now and actually discuss Guy Sebastian’s song. Tonight Again isn’t an example of Guy’s finest work, but it does stay true to the retro-flavoured, funky kind of pop music that he’s explored in the past with the likes of Like It Like That and Gold. This kind of music has a better track record at Eurovision than r & b/hip hop-influenced stuff, which is another direction Guy could have taken in the wake of his hits Oh Oh and Battle Scars. At the beginning of those infamous three days, he made a very smart decision to not create a ballad for Vienna. Whether this is because he took a listen to his competition, and the down-tempo, depressing penny dropped, we don’t know for sure, but the result is a relief. Tonight Again helps fill the void left by all the 2015 ballads, where sassy, dance-worthy, karaoke-ready anthems usually take up a lot of space. It’s also broadcasting a message perfectly suited to the Eurovision final (obviously not by coincidence) – tonight’s so good, forget tomorrow, we can do tonight again. I bet we’re all going to want a do-over of the final by the time *INSERT APPROPRIATE COUNTRY HERE* is announced as the winner. So there’s a lot to like about this entry. People favouring it to the equally-funky Cliché Love Song, however, are not people I agree with. I LOVED Denmark’s host entry last year, and that >Tonight Again, IMO. I do think the Aussie entry suffers from its whirlwind conception/gestation/birth period, in terms of originality. But it does stand out in the field, it will get the audience on their feet, and consummate pro Guy will perform it pitch-perfectly. And I can’t help being a little biased about it. This is the only chance I’ll get to possibly hear the words ‘And douze points go to…Australia!’. Make my dream come true, Europe? 7 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.33
Love Injected by Aminata
Fraser: Your love…pierces my earssssssss (and not in a decorative way). I want to like this song, as it’s probably the best song out of Latvia in a long time, or ever. There are parts of the song that are pleasing to the ears, but others make them bleed. Sorry Latvia – it’s not your year. 2 points.
James: Experimental female-vocal electro-pop? Judging by my usual music taste, I should like this more than I actually do. Maybe it will grow on me, I don’t know. My only issue really is that the verses are far too high. I can’t work out what she’s saying a lot of the time, and there’s not much of a melody there to compensate. The chorus is fantastic though, and she really attacks it! I love the music, and I’m hoping these two things can win me over enough to overlook the weakness of the verses. I would love Latvia to qualify at some point, and I’d be happy for this to be the song that finally gets them back into the final – but I’d be less happy if it does so at the expense of better songs *cough – PORTUGAL – cough*. 6 points.
Jaz: Pardon the crappy pun, but I’ve definitely been injected with love for Aminata’s second attempt at reaching the heights of Eurovision (and the heights of her vocal range). I haven’t been this enthusiastic about a Latvian entry since about 2005 – maybe even 2000 (Brainstorm’s My Star is Latvia’s original and probably best contribution to the contest). This song is weirdly wonderful, cutting-edge and powerful in the way of Norway 2013, but it’s even more dynamic than I Feed You My Love, what with those minimalist, high-pitched verses and explosive choruses. As a package, the entry isn’t overblown or over-baked – just subtly layered and filled with attention-grabbing contrasts. Aminata herself is a performer who loses herself in the song, which is a positive; but she needs to ensure she connects with the camera and the audience on some level. That would be my only criticism of Latvia’s offering, as the rest of it – song, singer, look, interpretive hand movements – works like a charm with me. I just hope they find a balance in the staging, not distracting from the song with anything OTT, but not leaving things too bare and boring. They need something…just not too much. Sorry I can’t be any more helpful than that, Latvia, but as you’re rehearsing right this second (or thereabouts) I’m assuming you’ve got things sorted anyway. I will be voting my butt off for this song, and I give it 10 points (not the twelve you were probably expecting, but there are songs I prefer).
EBJ Jury Score: 6.00
Autumn Leaves by Daniel Kajmakoski
Fraser: Awww Daniel, what have you done? The original version was so much better. The Eurovision English version loses a lot of the spark of the original. If we look at what will be presented at the contest, it’s nice. It’s a polite song about falling leaves with some weird sound played throughout, but I can get over that. Hopefully it makes it to the left side of the scoreboard, but I’m not convinced anymore. 5 points.
James: I really liked Lisja Esenski. I really DON’T like Autumn Leaves. Sanna, help me pls, I have a sad that needs undoing. Basically, the Macedonian entry in its national language was a pure pop anthem. I loved the fact that it had a beat to it and there was a fab backup vocal line – it really brought the melody to life. In English, it’s just dead. They have literally taken a knife and chopped out everything that was great about their song. And every time Daniel launches into that lacklustre grey chorus, I’m reminded of the energetic, angsty Macedonian equivalent which was once in its place, and I mourn the loss all over again. 4 points.
Jaz: When a country chooses their song as early on in the season as Macedonia did, it seems like a logical use of time to give said song an overhaul. In fact, I’d be disappointed if they hadn’t tweaked Lisja Esenski since Daniel and his funky footwear won their ticket to Vienna. ‘Tweaked’, however, is an understatement in this instance. Autumn Leaves is a completely different song, and I can’t say I like the changes that have been made. That’s because I LOVE them (sorry/not sorry for the trolling). I did like the song in its original incarnation – I’m always a fan of national languages, especially as they’re becoming rarer in the ESC; and I also enjoyed the anthemic quality it had, which Daniel seemed to thrive on. But it turns out the man can do pared-back emotion (and English without a heavy accent) as well. There’s something about Autumn Leaves – the heartfelt lyrics, the softness, the vulnerability…I can’t pinpoint it – that hits me right in the feels factory. It brings a tear to my eye almost to the same extent that Norway’s Monster does. I know I’m in the minority here, and that Daniel will probably struggle to qualify – Macedonia has a talent for finishing 11th in semi finals, and I can easily see that happening again – but I’ve been sucked in by this new version. It’s had an effect on me that the old one didn’t, even though I’m unsure about some of the sacrifices made during the chopping-and-changing process. Ideally, I’d love to be hearing the simpler, softer version in Macedonian at Eurovision. But I’m not complaining about what we WILL be hearing. That ‘Every moment will hurt from the last to the first’ line gets me every time *dabs eyes*. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.33
Time by Uzari & Maimuna
Fraser: This one just gets better and better with time [pun intended?]. This was one of the first songs I heard this year, and I didn’t think too much of it back then. However, the more I hear it, the more I like it. There is a lot of power in the song, and the video certainly helps it all come together as well. Uzari and Maimuna both seem like lovely people too – they are very engaging on social media, which makes me want to cheer for them even more! 8 points.
James: Belarus’ entry this year is a prime example of reworking done right. The NF version of Time did very little for me. It felt like it didn’t quite know what it wanted to be, and I didn’t know what to think of it as a result. Now what we’re dealing with is a well-sung, melodically interesting and energetic up-tempo pop song which I think will really stand out in Vienna. If they come up with some really unique staging, this one might even be knocking on the door of the top ten. They have the violin gimmick to fall back on too, as well as Uzari’s inexplicable metal elf ears, if all else fails. As far as my personal tastes go, it’s not one of my absolute favourites, but I’m enjoying it all the same. 6 points.
Jaz: Okay…I am steeling myself not to be biased regarding this entry. No, I am not part-Belarusian (that I know of). I just have a history of worshipping both Uzari and Maimuna as separate artists, and now together as the Eurovision duet of my dreams (until Darin and Agnes transform their interval act from Malmö into the true Eurovision duet of my dreams). I did also have the chance to interview the pair recently, which has clouded my judgment a bit. But I’ll try to keep myself honest here. Time is another song that has undergone reconstructive surgery since winning its national final, and at first, I wasn’t sure that it was for the better. The revamped version felt like a remix of the original that didn’t quite suit the dance beat behind it. Then the official video was released, and somewhere among the fire, snakes and gigantic hourglasses, I realised that it all fit together. Uzari busting his butt to reach Maimuna in that huge hourglass mirrored the energy that had been added in the rework. Time has been given the punch it needed to have arena-worthy impact – kind of like Kedvesem received thanks to the Zoohacker remix. It also now possesses the pop sensibility that gives it a more solid identity as classical crossover music. It’s an intriguing track that doesn’t follow a clichéd path, and it’s fronted by a great pair. Uzari has an amazing voice, and Maimuna is stunning whether she’s standing still doing nothing, or ripping into a solo on the violin. I’d really like this to qualify, but without that hourglass (yes, I’m a little obsessed with that thing) I’m concerned the staging could fall flat and take the song with it. Time will tell. I give Belarus a strong 7 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.00
That’s it, folks! Forty down, zero to go. The standings for this final round of reviews look like this:
- Australia (7.33)
- Belarus (7.00)
- Portugal (6.33)
- FYR Macedonia (6.33)
- Latvia (6.00)
What could I possibly say in response to this other than GO STRAYA! It’s nice to see Guy on top of at least one leader board, despite the fact that I do prefer the Macedonian and Latvian entries to his. Belarus wasn’t far behind, but I guess it just wasn’t their Time. Daniel K fell like the autumn leaves into fourth place, and…oh, stop it.
Now it’s finally time to reveal that semi-important Top 40, as decided by the ten EBJ Jury members hailing from Australia, Ireland, Germany, the UK and the USA – all of whom I’d like to thank profusely for coming on board. As the late, great Udo Jürgens might have said, merci, chéris.
I’ve calculated an average score for each country based on the points we gave them, and compiled the full list from there. In the event of a tie (of which there were many) I’ve ranked countries using the Eurovision count-back method (i.e. which country received the greater amount of higher points). Without further ado, here’s the result!
Congratulations to man’s man Måns (???) who takes the #1 spot from Loïc Nottet by a whisker of carefully cultivated stubble. All in all, we have a top five here that sits very well with me. The group of countries in the top 10 is a group I’d be happy to see in the Eurovision top 10, too, but I’m not sure the jury has predicted next weekend’s outcome too accurately here. That’s fine, because making accurate predictions was not the object of the exercise.
That’s what I’ll be attempting to do in my next post, as I take a look at the line-up for semi final one; make my guesses as to which acts will be heading to the final and which acts will be heading home; and let you know who I plan to vote for now that Australia has the opportunity. Exciting times are just ahead, guys!
In the meantime, feel free to revisit all of this year’s Viennese Verdicts:
- Part 1, feat. Russia, Austria, France, Ireland and Serbia
- Part 2, feat. the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Switzerland
- Part 3, feat. Cyprus, Poland, Italy, Montenegro and Armenia
- Part 4, feat. Sweden, the UK, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Romania
- Part 5, feat. Malta, Georgia, Albania, Lithuania and Spain
- Part 6, feat. Israel, Hungary, Germany, Moldova and Azerbaijan
- Part 7, feat. Finland, San Marino, Denmark, Estonia and Greece
- Part 8, feat. Portugal, Australia, Latvia, FYR Macedonia and Belarus…which you’re reading right now.
Don’t forget to let me know below how you’d rank today’s reviewed entries, and what you think of the EBJ Jury’s Top 40. Whether you’re enraged that Sweden topped the list or hysterically happy; confused as to why Boggie’s stuck on the bottom or nodding vigorously in agreement, I want to know. I’m a very nosy person, so humour me, won’t you?
Until the predictions begin (have yours at the ready!)…
Ugh. Can you tell I’m running low on salutations again?
If you haven’t already defected to Wiwi Bloggs in disgust, welcome back to the Viennese Verdicts. As the first semi final of Eurovision 2015 is mere days away *hyperventilates into a brown paper bag for a second* there’s no time to waste in getting these reviews out and about (i.e. finished). This is Part 6 of 8, and today I’ve rounded up German and Australian ESC experts to help me critique Israel, Hungary, Germany, Moldova and Azerbaijan.
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Wolfgang Schmidt: You met German-born-and-bred Wolfgang – a.k.a. Wolf – back in Part 3 of the Viennese Verdicts. He’s a massive ABBA fan (as is my other guest juror for today) with an impressive history as a Eurovision addict. Altogether he’s attended four contests: Birmingham 1998, Copenhagen 2001, Düsseldorf 2011 (just a hop, skip and awkward Lena dance step away from his hometown) and Malmö 2013, and the Birmingham show was his favourite. You know what they say…you’re always fondest of your first!
Andrew Pentecost: Andrew is from Sydney, Australia. He doesn’t know how long he’s been aware of Eurovision, but it probably started not long after ABBA’s win with Waterloo. Andrew was a huge ABBA fan from about 1975, and they’re still his favourite pop group forty years later. After ABBA introduced Andrew to Eurovision, he discovered that, along with pop music, Eurovision also offers Balkan rhythms, popera, a smörgåsbord of languages and dodgy accents, costumes and frocks, choreography and all sorts of other delights. Some of his favourite songs come from the ‘golden age’ – Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son by France Gall, Eres Tú by Mocedades, L’Oiseau et L’Enfant by Marie Myriam, Boom Bang-A-Bang by Lulu, and Un Jour, Un Enfant by Frida Boccara. More recent favourites include Fairytale by Alexander Rybak, Energy by Nuša Derenda, and Invincible by Carola. And let’s not forget the show’s hosts – Andrew’s all-time favourite was the stupendous Petra Mede from 2013, who managed to combine Nordic humour, elegance and flawless English language skills into the ultimate package. Andrew and his partner Richard believe they’ve been watching the contest on Australia’s SBS together for more than twenty years – it’s bigger than Christmas and birthdays in their household. Last year they attended Eurovision in Copenhagen, and in 2015 they’re off to Vienna. A highlight of the last two years has been making all sorts of friends – people from every corner of the world who are equally mad about Eurovision!
Jasmin Bear: Surprise, surprise – it’s me again! I bet you’re about as shocked right now as you were when you found out Australia was participating in Eurovision 2015. That’s assuming you’re very easily shocked.
Nadav, Boggie, Ann Sophie, Eduard and Elnur are no doubt on the edge of their seats, waiting to hear our verdicts. So I won’t make them sweat onto the upholstery any longer! I must warn them, and you, however, that one of today’s judges was difficult to impress…
Golden Boy by Nadav Guedj
Wolfgang: The Israeli entry this year sounds more Turkish than a lot of Turkish entries of the past ten years. It is a very ethnic and catchy song that seems like an ear-worm summer smash to me. And hey, who would have thought that the guy singing this song is only sixteen years old? He already has the voice and appearance of at least a 23-year-old, doesn’t he? I hope Israel will qualify in Vienna with this ‘golden boy’ after their 2011-2014 disasters. They really deserve a qualification this year. And with this song, I also see a good placement in the final – let’s say 10th to 14th on the scoreboard. 7 points.
Andrew: Nadav is handsome beyond his years. Like many young people, he tries to do too many vocal runs for my taste, but he is a strong singer with a distinctive vocal quality that’s a bit like Guy Sebastian’s. The song itself is an odd mix of styles. The verses do absolutely nothing for me but I quite like the Eastern feel of the chorus. Pop music for me is all about vocal quality, melody, emotion and rhythm, which means I rarely listen to the lyrics…but the lyrics to this song are so atrociously corny that I cringe when I hear them. 1 point.
Jaz: Poor Israel hasn’t had the best run over the last few years (although only one of their DNQs really puzzled me – Moran Mazor’s, whose choice of outfit also puzzled me). Via their Next Star competition, they’ve selected an artist who undoubtedly has star quality, plus the potential to undo their semi-final-related-sad (excuse my tendency to drag any topic into Sanna Nielsen territory). Nadav, as we’ve all acknowledged, is clearly a man in his mid-twenties masquerading as a teenager for some reason (at least, that’s what I’ll believe until I’ve seen his birth certificate). This “kid” is a great fit for the fusion of urban and traditional sounds that is Golden Boy. Whether those sounds fit together or not, I’m not so sure. I love the Justin Timberlake vibe of the verses, and the unashamedly ethnic chorus, but the flow from one to the other isn’t so smooth. And I have to agree with Andrew on the lyrics – some of them are awful. Still, I don’t think that will hold Israel back too much. The song is instant, modern (for the most part) and, crucially in a contest bursting with ballads, a dancefloor filler (I defy anyone in the Stadthalle or at home to stay seated when Nadav hits the stage). The lack of ethnicity among his rivals’ entries makes him stand out too. I’m not putting any money on Golden Boy breaking Israel’s streak of bad luck, but I really hope it does. 7 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 5.00
Wars For Nothing by Boggie
Wolfgang: This song really says nothing to me! It sounds like it was from ‘before yesterday’ and it is absolutely non-catchy. To me, it is one of the most boring entries this year. And lyrically speaking, it is the other side of the A Little Peace medal – I am sure that the Ukraine would give their douze to this song this year, but unfortunately they are not competing. I already see a Dina Garipova performance straight from the IKEA lamp department coming up, with the backing singers joining Boggie hand-in-hand at the last minute. Oh, how sweet…not! One point for the beautiful blue dress + one for her voice + no points for the song = 2 points!
Andrew: I rarely enjoy the songs and artists sent to Eurovision by Hungary, and sadly, 2015 is no exception. A pleasant guitar instrumental leads into a very low-key, repetitive ballad that simply doesn’t build to anything. The main vocal is weak and often off-key and the harmonies are also poor. This is an utter nul-pointer in my opinion.
Jaz: Up until Hungary opted for Boggie this year, I was convinced that they were on track to win Eurovision within the next couple of years. Ever since their comeback in 2011, they’ve impressed me – their 2013 and 2014 entries were especially epic by my standards. But when your least favourite song of an entire national final lineup ends up winning that national final, you start to lose faith…and boy, have I lost my faith. I’m not saying that if Kati Wolf (whose A Dal entry remains on top of my could-have-been list for 2015) had been representing Hungary instead, they would have won in Vienna, or anything. I’m just saying that an up-and-coming country has let itself down here. In Copenhagen, Hungary gave us a powerful message song that was moody, gritty and contemporary. Wars For Nothing is a message song, but that’s about all it has in common with Running. I don’t find it powerful or particularly contemporary – lame and limp are the words I’d use to describe it. There are rare moments when I think I’m warming to it, but then I think about the likes of Sweden, Italy and Norway, and things are swiftly put into perspective. Boggie is a nice vocalist and a lovely person inside and out, but I’m just not interested in buying what she’s selling. 3 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 1.67
Black Smoke by Ann Sophie
Wolfgang: I feel like I should say something nice now, but unfortunately I can’t! It is no secret that I am not a big fan of Ann Sophie. I belonged to Team Andreas, which means I voted (more than once) for Heart of Stone, which was the best song in the German national final, IMO. I also like that he is not the polished superstar on stage, who plays perfectly with the camera and does an impressive show. But when you hear him sing, you understand why he won The Voice of Germany. Coming back to Ann Sophie, I must admit that I like Black Smoke a lot more than Jump The Gun (her second USFÖ entry). What can save us in the contest is that we don’t have a lame lady ballad like a lot of other countries, but a song that is much catchier. Also, Ann Sophie is a ‘Rampensau’ when she performs, meaning she kicks ass and rocks the stage. Maybe she can keep us awake after the sixth lame ballad in a row. I don’t have high expectations concerning the scoreboard this year – I think we can be very satisfied with a result between 15th and 20th place in the final, same as Elaiza last year. 5 points.
Andrew: After the cringe-worthy drama of the televised final, Germany is sending Ann Sophie to Vienna as their plan B. I really like this song, and Ann Sophie’s interesting, quirky voice. I plan to support her by cheering loudly in the Stadthalle, and I hope she’ll end up in the middle of the scoreboard. 3 points.
Jaz: If ever there was a prime example of a happy accident, THIS is it. If not to all of us fans (sorry, Wolfgang) then to me. There was nothing wrong with Andreas Kümmert and his Heart of Stone, aside from the fact that the song could have been lifted from a Phil Collins album released twenty-five years ago…but did I love it? Nope. Do I love Black Smoke? Yes I do! There was something about the song that captured me from my very first listen. It’s radio-friendly pop without being generic and cliché, it’s got a hint of retro funkiness to it that adds appeal, and both the verses and the chorus are equally catchy. The lyrics may not be genius (unless you compare them to Israel’s) but I really like those too – they’re simple but effective. I even covet the black-and-white ensemble and giant gold Pac-Man earrings Ann Sophie was wearing the night she “won” the right to represent Germany. It’s all good in my opinion, sans the bad that is the awkward position this girl has been put in as Germany’s choice by default. But, if she can carry the class and conviction she put into her reprise directly after the Andreas Incident (that’s got to win some kind of award for Best TV Drama) through to Eurovision, she’ll be fine. As much as I enjoy Black Smoke, I can’t see it scoring über-well in the final, but let’s hope Ann Sophie can claw her way a little closer to the top 10 than Elaiza managed to last year. Perhaps some of my one-off Australian votes will help her get there. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.00
I Want Your Love by Eduard Romanyuta
Wolfgang: My first impression was ‘What was that???’. The second time I watched it, I thought it was a fun entry. On the third play, I laughed my guts out. Sorry, but I can’t take this song and this little boy seriously. His name sounds like a ridiculous stage name and him singing ‘I want your love’ simply sounds so funny that I always have to laugh about it. Not that I’m a great fan of Moldovan entries anyway, but this year I’d wish Aliona Moon or Natalia Barbu back on stage. Can we change that, please? This entry is just not good enough to qualify – I’ll scream aloud if that happens. DNQ!!! One very gentle and polite point.
Andrew: Well, Ukraine did manage to send a singer to Vienna after all – except Eduard will be representing tiny Moldova rather than his homeland. When his hair is not long and lank, he’s quite a cute young man, but his live vocals are nothing to write home about, and he has a strong accent when he sings in English. I find the chorus to this song reasonably catchy in a predictable, boy band kind of way. The lyrics are corny and the video clip is horrendously juvenile. Another nul-pointer.
Jaz: Somebody please tell me where to buy a t-shirt with ‘GUILTY PLEASURE’ emblazoned on it, because I’m going to need one to wear while Eduard is doing his best Eric Saade impression (i.e. putting 95% of his energy into his dance moves, 4% into smoothing his hair and that measly leftover 1% into his vocals) as the opening act of semi final one. This song is total trash, and I LOVE it. Yes, it’s something I would expect to find on my Greatest Hits of N*SYNC album, but the reason I own that album is because I am a boy band tragic from way back who will never stop listening to the Backstreet Boys’ back catalogue. I Want Your Love is the kind of song I was waiting for as the Viennese ballads kept on coming. The performance, on the other hand…well, let’s just say that if it was someone’s face, it would need serious plastic surgery. If Eduard can pull a Ruslana and find the balance between singing and dancing, then do both to the best of his ability; and if the presentation is less 2000s street and more cutting-edge, then Moldova could surprise everyone who isn’t me by qualifying. Another pleasant surprise would be if Eduard chopped his hair off for ESC purposes. At least that way, the Viennese paparazzi wouldn’t mistake him for Edurne. Either way, I’m giving him 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 3.67
Hour of the Wolf by Elnur Huseynov
Wolfgang: Yes, you have read right: it’s the hour of MOI! How can I not love this song, just by its title? I must admit, my expectations of Elnur were very low after hearing he would be going to Eurovision for the second time this year, because I am a hater of his first “heaven and hell” opera, Day After Day. That was so awful that it still belongs on my list of worst-ever Eurovision entries. But this year it’s all totally different! The first time I heard this song it gave me goosebumps, and it is a song that gets better with each and every listen. In the meantime, I really love it! But on the other hand, Azerbaijan has gone for another secure number here by again choosing a song from Swedish songwriters and producers, which is a bit boring now. Nevertheless, this song is material that winning songs were made of in the past, and maybe if he comes barefoot in a white suit, anything can happen! This is my favorite of all the songs I’ve reviewed. 10 points.
Andrew: Azerbaijan seem to have developed a formula of using songs that have been written by composers and lyricists from countries like Sweden and Greece. This year they continue on that well-worn path. Some may enjoy this song, but I am tired of Azerbaijan’s formulaic approach and I wish they would send us some music with genuinely local melodies and rhythms. Hour of the Wolf is pleasant but rather bland. It is sung in heavily-accented English, but the vocal performance is excellent, as I would expect of Elnur. 1 point.
Jaz: Dilara’s Start A Fire sparked absolutely no flame in me last year (see what I did there?). In fact, just thinking about it now is making me drowsy, so I’ll get right on to how much of an improvement Hour of the Wolf is on that borefest. Sure, it’s another ballad with marginal Azerbaijani input, but that’s where the resemblance ends for me. This song is beautiful – almost Sam Smith-like – and although I’m yet to see a live performance (on purpose) I believe it will be a stunner in that context. The verses are well-constructed and the choruses are big without being too shouty. As a whole, this is a song that builds up to something explosive and perfectly complements Elnur’s impressive vocal range. Speaking of the man who really sells this song: Elnur is not the same person who was half of his country’s debut duo back in 2008. The angel wings and copious amounts of body glitter are gone, and a mature, even more powerful vocalist who is now The Voice of Turkey has taken his place. Song and singer have merged into something special here – something that has made me more willing to support Azerbaijan than ever before. I know I should be more critical of their tendency to turn to other countries for musical aid, but in this case, I just can’t. I never said I had principles. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.00
And there you have it! That’s five more down, and ten to go – with ten days until Eduard and his long blonde locks step onto that rather sexy Austrian stage (the finished product is, as Cascada would say, glorious) and hopefully start this year’s contest off with a fiery bang rather than a pathetic puff of smoke.
Let’s take a look at today’s rankings:
- Azerbaijan (7.00)
- Germany (6.00)
- Israel (5.00)
- Moldova (3.67)
- Hungary (1.67)
So the Land of Fire is in the lead here and now…but where will Elnur end up in the EBJ Jury Top 40? Within the next week, you’ll find out. First, though, there are a quarter of this year’s entries left to review.
Next time, the stars and stripes, the Union Jack and the Blue Ensign – that’s the American, British and Australian flags, in case you were wondering – will be waving in the wind as the jury judges Finland, San Marino, Denmark, Estonia and Greece. You know you won’t want to miss what we say about the year’s most controversial entry (she says, hoping you’ll find that tempting enough to make a return visit).
While you’re waiting, let us know how you rate Azerbaijan, Germany, Israel, Moldova and Hungary, and how you’d rank them. If you don’t, well…nothing much will happen. But if you do, you’ll get a virtual high-five.
There are just three weeks until the final of Eurovision 2015, people. THREE WEEKS! We do, of course, have the equally important/exciting semi finals to look forward to prior to that, which doesn’t give me much time to devise a detailed schedule and allocation chart that dictates the destinations of my precious votes. I’d better get on that ASAP.
With this rapidly diminishing amount of pre-ESC days, I don’t have any time to waste when it comes to churning out the rest of the Viennese Verdicts. The past few days have been momentous ones, what with Loïc Nottet’s message for EBJ (check it out, if you haven’t yet – it’s short but sweet) and the royal baby birth and stuff, but none of that compares to the momentousness of this fifth installment of reviews. This time (Lithuanian pun 100% intended) it’s the turn of Malta, Georgia, Albania, Lithuania and Spain to be judged by a few familiar faces.
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Rory Gannon: You met Ireland’s own Rory (if you hadn’t already met him) waaaaay back in Part 1. He’s the beauty and brains behind a Eurovision blog that is just as fabulous as he is – and I say that of my own volition, not because he paid me to. You can find said blog ESC Views here, and/or like the ESC Views Facebook page here.
Matt Kelly: Aussie Matt, hailing from Adelaide (or Radelaide, as it’s often known) also laid his Eurovision-branded cards on the table in Part 1. He’s one of the stars of YouTube’s escTMI review show, so he’s well-schooled in doling out compliments and criticisms to Eurovision participants. You can subscribe to escTMI’s YouTube channel here and/or like their Facebook page here.
Jasmin Bear: As they say, I’m here all week…if by ‘week’, one means FOR THE REST OF ETERNITY, MWAHAHAHAHA!!! Even though my links are blatantly promoted over in the sidebar, I have no qualms about promoting them even more blatantly here. So, that being said, feel free to like the EBJ Facebook page here, follow me on Twitter here, and/or follow me on Instagram here.
The three of us are ready to marvel over and moan about what Amber, Nina, Elhaida, Vaidas & Monika and Edurne are taking to the Austrian capital. Are you?
Warrior by Amber
Rory: Umm…Malta? We just don’t really get on, do we? I wanna break up. It’s not you, it’s me…actually no, it is you. I’m sorry, but I am not a fan of your song. Can anyone actually understand what Amber sings in the live version of Warrior? If you can’t be understood, what’s the point in even sending the song? At least they’ve worked on the pronunciation aspect of it – the fact that she kept calling the past ‘the pest’ really did p**s me off! 4 points.
Matt: The original Warrior, Amber’s has all the elements of a modern Eurovision song – violins, big drums, powerful vocals, and a positive message of hope. I personally feel that this song is old hat now, as it was one of the first songs chosen all the way back in November. But I’m sure Amber will bring it to life again in Vienna. 10 points.
Jaz: Amber was approximately two attempts at representing Malta away from becoming the Sanna Nielsen of the island (though that’s the situation for most Maltese artists, let’s face it) when she finally won MESC last year. When she steps onto the Stadthalle stage in a few weeks’ time, she’ll be in the unusual position of having performed on the Junior and adult Eurovision stages within six months – not because she’s in the same boat as San Marino’s Anita Simoncini, but because Malta understandably repurposed the JESC stage for their national final use. None of this has anything to do with Amber’s Warrior, of course – I just like going off on tangents. I’m constantly changing my mind when it comes to my personal winner of the Warrior face-off, as I like both. I have to say, though, Malta has impressed me with their choice of representative for the third year in row. Granted, MESC 2014 wasn’t an NF to end all NFs, but Amber stood out to me from my first listen of the line-up. There’s something about the style of Warrior that I get a kick out of, even though it isn’t the most finely-crafted, cohesive power ballad I’ve ever heard. And speaking of power – Amber has it in spades when she launches into that big chorus. She just needs to ensure she’s in key to make it explosive in a good way. I did actually prefer the song before it was reworked, and I’m still irritated by the ‘con-quer-er-errrr’ bit (it almost puts ‘uh-uh-uh-un-dooooooo’ to shame) but that’s the majority of what I’d pick on re: Malta 2015. There are plenty of songs that are superior, but I like this enough to give it 8 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.33
Warrior by Nina Sublatti
Rory: So I told you that I wasn’t a fan of Malta, but to be honest, Georgia wins the Warrior battle hands-down. I mean, the song beforehand was strong, but it’s really packing a punch now. Seeing as they’ll be closing the first semi, I see no reason why Nina won’t do incredibly well. It’s crazy, addictive, hypnotic…if only Georgia (plus Belgium….and the Netherlands) was in the second semi!! 10 points.
Matt: The other Warrior, Nina’s song is the ESL emo version. I wanted to like it – it’s dark and unusual. But the lyrics are so bad. Did she use Google Translate to write them? I can’t sing along to a chorus that has ‘still stucked in my mind’ as one of its lines. And I still don’t know what ‘oximated’ means, but it’s good to know that Nina’s ‘not a shabby’. It’s hard to believe this song was reworked by the Eurovision legend Thomas G:son. Surely he should’ve fixed the mistakes…but no, this song is going to Vienna with all of the original, bad lines. I feel like it’s a missed opportunity, and that’s just frustrating. 5 points.
Jaz: This was the standout song in the Georgian final, and it’s also the best song Georgia has sent to Eurovision in a long time. That doesn’t mean I’m about to lavish it with douze points (spoiler alert: I’m not) but it does mean I find a lot of positives in it. The lyrics, in terms of that little thing called ‘making sense’, are not one of those positives (like Matt, I am appalled by the use of ‘stucked’…subtract two letters, and it would be fine) but honestly, I’d rather listen to interesting lyrics like these than lame, cheesy ones that rhyme ‘love’ with ‘above’ or ‘dove’, or even worse, ‘love’. This song is edgy and hip (no matter how uncool my use of ‘hip’ might make it) and rather alternative by Eurovision standards. There are a few songs in that vein competing in Vienna – Belgium, Latvia, etc – and I’m digging them all. When it comes to originality, this Warrior has the battle in the bag, and the juries should reward it for that at the least. Nina’s an intense performer for a nineteen-year-old, which I blame on the heavy makeup that makes her look at least twenty-five. Her experience participating in and winning Georgian Idol will be beneficial as she rides the Eurovision merry-go-round – probably not all the way to the top, but hopefully to the upper mid-table of the final scoreboard. PS – For everyone still wondering, ‘oximated’ means ‘reaction with, or conversion into an oxime.’ So I guess we’ll continue to wonder, then. 8 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.67
I’m Alive by Elhaida Dani
Rory: Ohhhhhh Albania, you always have the best sense. Well, most of the time (we still have to talk about Rona’s hair). I am incredibly happy that they actually ditched Diell in favour of I’m Alive. This song actually shows off Elhaida’s versatile vocal range – and my god, it is an UP-TEMPO SONG! This calls for a celebratory Verka Serduchka dance around the stage. Well done, Albania. You’ve learned from your mistakes! 8 points.
Matt: I’m Alive is a really contemporary ballad, and it’s a million light years away from the awful, outdated song Elhaida was originally going to sing. Talk about dodging a bullet. I could imagine Beyoncé or the like singing this, and it doing well on mainstream radio. A seasoned talent show veteran, Elhaida will deliver amazing vocals on stage, and has the stage presence that will sell the song to the audience. I think this will do well. 8 points.
Jaz: So I guess I’m alone in preferring Diell, then (I got the raw deal in Albania’s surprise song exchange). The composers of Elhaida’s Festivali I Këngës winner deciding to withdraw the song from Eurovision is almost as inexplicable a move as Andreas Kümmert saying danke, but nein danke, to representing Germany. But while in Germany’s case, the unexpected turn of events worked in my favour, in Albania’s…it really didn’t. There is nothing horrendously wrong with I’m Alive. In fact, it’s a darn good eleventh-hour song (something you could also say about Australia’s). It’s more contemporary and uplifting than Diell, not to mention more energetic. Plus, it allows Elhaida to be a bit more playful with her undoubtedly impressive vocals. All of that makes it a welcome addition to the contest. But I just don’t get the hype. I find the repetition in the chorus quite irritating, and despite the inclusion of that big belter of a note towards the end (which is very Jessie J-esque) the song doesn’t travel to as epic of a place as I’d like it to. I haven’t seen Elhaida perform this live, but I did watch her winning FiK performance – and based on the way she sung the pants off Diell, her Eurovision performance has the potential to change my mind. But until then, I’m not 100% sold. 6 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.33
This Time by Vaidas & Monika
Rory: Ehhhh…I’m not really sure what to say about Lithuania this year. I’m happy that they’re finally sending something that will appeal to the masses, but performing first on the night might be a little bit of a hindrance to them, to say the least! As a sidenote, how nice is their video, though!!? Vaidas…phwoar! 6 points.
Matt: When I was a kid I always assumed that Grease’s John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John were a couple, due to their fantastic on-screen chemistry. I feel the same about Monika and Vaidas. They are so cute together, and I believe that their song of love comes from the heart (to avoid another disappointment, I’m not going to research whether they are a couple or not). The song itself is simple and catchy, but nothing too amazing. My prediction is that the audience will feel some love for this, but not enough to get them to the top. I think they’ll probably end up in the middle of the pack. 7 points.
Jaz: If you’re hoping I’m going to say ‘Aww, isn’t this cute!’, well, I’m not. Nor am I going to say ‘Ugh, isn’t this revolting!’. I’m somewhere in the middle, as it happens. I’m not totally feeling Vaidas and Monika’s love, but I’m not totally averse to it either. This Time, for me, is a poor man’s version (or more accurately, a poor but very peppy man’s version) of Firelight’s Coming Home, which in turn wasn’t going to win any awards for Best Original Song. It’s formulaic and verging on being sickly sweet (that “impromptu” kiss has already worn thin with me) but I don’t feel like it’s a song you can hate with a passion. It’s extremely catchy, after all, and the chemistry between Vaidas and Monika is up there with the most genuine of the year. They always appear to be enjoying themselves on stage, and enjoying performing with each other – in spite of the fact that they aren’t a couple (sorry to burst that bubble, Matt, but who knows…they might be by the time Eurovision’s over!). I guess I’m more of a fan of Lithuania’s performers than Lithuania’s song. This Time is serviceable pop, but it doesn’t excite me enough to consider voting for it. 5 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.00
Amanecer by Edurne
Rory: I’m afraid I’m going to have to go against the grain here and say that I don’t like Amanecer. Sure, it’s really catchy in the chorus (that e-e-e-o-o is addictive), but for me that’s all it is – just a bit of repetition. I feel like RTVE really overhyped the promotion of the song, and it’s just a bit of a letdown (I have a feeling that Kit Kat won’t have to give a free bar to everyone who retweeted that Tweet back in January!). *opens arms and braces self for the onslaught of tomatoes*. 3 points.
Matt: I think I have ballad fatigue. Amanecer was written by the same team who wrote 2012’s winning song Euphoria, so I was expecting a lot. While it’s a nice song, it’s no Euphoria, or Quédate Conmigo. It drifts along pleasantly for three minutes and then finishes. That’s it. Edurne is an amazing performer, though, and I’m sure she’ll bring it to life when she takes to the stage in May. 7 points.
Jaz: I’d like to journey back in time to Copenhagen 2014, and remind you that my opinion of Ruth Lorenzo’s Dancing In The Rain was as follows: I knew it was good, but I felt very little attachment to it. I didn’t love it, and it definitely didn’t give me the energy required to wave a flag for it (although I was happy to see Spain back in the top 10). Leaping back through the space/time continuum to 2015, and enter Edurne. Amanecer is not only my new favourite word of all the words, but also a song that I do feel a connection with. That may have something to do with the girl crush I have developed on Edurne, but I genuinely do like her song a lot. I agree that it was overhyped – after the pre-release fervour, it could have been a masterpiece and still failed to meet expectation. But for me, it has the drama and atmosphere and Spanish-ness that I didn’t find in Dancing In The Rain. If Edurne is anything like her fellow countrywoman Pastora Soler, she will help Amanecer hit new heights when she gets to Eurovision by delivering a blistering vocal performance. Hopefully she’ll also bring us a hint of the wildness from the music video. Unfortunately that can not entail a live tiger being onstage, so a faux tigerskin cape that Edurne can whirl around everywhere might be called for. Cape or no cape, I think Spain’s entry has as much potential to make the top 10 as it does to end up mid-table, strangely enough. So much will depend on how this goes down in the jury and televised finals. I would be satisfied with Amanecer outdoing Dancing In The Rain, but I won’t be betting on that happening. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.67
And there you have it! Another five reviews are done and dusted, and not without disagreement. Ultimately, the two Warriors won the day. Well, one of them did, but there wasn’t much between Nina and Amber.
- Georgia (7.67)
- Malta (7.33)
- Albania (7.33)
- Spain (6.67)
- Lithuania (6.00)
Despite our differing opinions, on average, the EBJ Jury ranked these countries fairly closely together. I suspect that’s a trend that won’t continue in Part 6 of the Viennese Verdicts, when I ask an American and an Englishman to help me review Finland, San Marino, Denmark, Estonia and Greece. You won’t want to miss the fireworks that combination could cause.
In the meantime, let me know how you’d rank today’s songs. Do you believe Rory’s right, and that Georgia wins the Warrior-off without question? Or do you think Matt’s on the money and Amber will definitely resurrect her Warrior at Eurovision? Maybe you actually agreed with something I said *gasp*. Whatever you’re thinking, we want to hear it!*
*To a point…I mean, don’t hurl abuse at us or anything. Save your curse words up in case the EBJ Jury gives a unanimous douze points to Finland.
Being all about that bass is so passé. Right now, at least within the Eurovision sphere, it’s all about those Eurovision 2015 reviews. That’s why I barely let you finish reading one installment before I publish another. Case in point: this is Part 4. Yep, we’re halfway through already!
Under the musical microscope today are Sweden, the UK, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Romania; and on the EBJ Jury today are an Australian, another Australian, and me – also an Australian. Pay careful attention to how our points stack up, because that might give you an insight into where the Aussie points will go come May 19th, 21st and 23rd. Or not. Actually, that’s very unlikely. Forget I said anything, okay?
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Mrs. Jaz: She’s back! Louisa Baileche lookalike and mother of me, Mrs. Jaz refused to stop her review count at five. Hang on a second…no, that was me. I refused to let her stop at five. Anyway, she’s joining the EBJ Jury for the second and final time today to offer opinions from a non-fan, outside-of-the-bubble perspective. How she rates the entries from Sweden etc could be a gauge as to how they’ll fare in the final (if they make it that far) when all of the casual viewers drop by and vote for the songs that make the best first impressions.
Fraser McEachern: “Hello Europe, this is Fraser from Adelaide calling! As one half of the the record-breaking escTMI Eurovision review show (well, in our minds anyway) I have loved the Eurovision Song Contest since I first laid eyes on it back in 1998. I recall turning the TV channel over to see Dana International performing Diva, and from that moment, I was hooked – and I haven’t missed a contest since! My love for Eurovision culminated in Loreen’s 2012 win, which led escTMI to attend the show in Malmö in 2013. We loved it so much that this year, we’re heading to Vienna to join in the fun all over again. My favourite Eurovision songs of all time tend to be the same ones, just in different positions. At the moment, #1 is Invincible by Carola, #2 is Quedate Conmigo by Pastora Soler, #3 is Je N’ai Que Mon Âme by Natasha St-Pier, #4 is Je T’adore by Kate Ryan, and #5 is Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst. As I said, these change regularly. However, there have been many brilliant songs (and remixes) over the years that I have become addicted to!”
Jasmin Bear: “Yes, it’s me again. Just face it, I’m not going anywhere! I’m also not going to tell you a Fascinating Eurovision-Related Story Masquerading As A Regular Bio today, as I’m still trying to figure out which one I should publish next: a) a tale of all the times I thought I heard a Eurovision song playing in a shop but it turned out to be something else, and the ensuing disappointment; or b) a three-hundred-word mini essay weighing up the pros and cons of Dana International’s Gaultier fixation. They’re both so very scintillating, I can’t choose between them.”
We’re a fabulous trio, as far as I’m concerned (in fact, I think we should form an Alcazar-esque pop threesome and represent Australia at Eurovision next year, should the opportunity arise). I’m sure you’ll let us know if you agree or disagree with that once you’ve checked out our views on Måns, Electro Velvet, Loïc, Marta & Václav and Voltaj (and their songs, obviously). Let’s get started!
Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw
Mrs. Jaz: The first thing I thought when this song twanged into gear was ‘Have Mumford & Sons defected to Sweden for some reason?’. The folky/country intro reminds me very strongly of their kind of music. Then, things swiftly took a poppier turn and became anthemic and uplifting. This song boasts great choruses with a slick production sound and simple but effective lyrics that had me singing along by the second run-through. The remaining lyrics aren’t the world’s greatest, but that hardly matters when every other aspect is much more than mediocre. The staging visuals take the package up a notch, and I have to admit, the visual of Måns (he has a great voice and everything, but LEATHER PANTS!) helps too…7 points.
Fraser: I had big expectations of Måns in the lead-up to his performance in Melodifestivalen, and for the first few seconds of Heroes, I thought ‘Crap! What has he done? It’s a country song!’. Moments later, I realised he was just channeling the Avicii-esque sound that is big across the world at the moment, and that it’s a hook to get us into the fabulous pop song that follows. ‘We are the heroes of our time’ speaks volumes to a bit of a trend in Eurovision songs of late focusing on positive messages (think Rise Like A Phoenix and this year’s Beauty Never Lies) which I think will help it resonate with the voting public. If it doesn’t, Måns’ leather pants and background animations surely will! I love this song and I have a feeling it will do exceptionally well in the contest. DOUZE POINTS!!!
Jaz: BACK OFF, MUM. I SAW HIM FIRST. Ahem. Forget me being biased about Australia – it’s when I start talking about Sweden that my impartiality goes flying out the window with the greatest of ease. Despite my lack of Swedish roots, I feel particularly attached to the home of Melodifestivalen, and cannot help supporting them no matter what they send to Eurovision. Fortunately, for the past five years running Sweden has chosen my favourite Melfest entry to represent them in the ESC – so my fervent flag-waving has been out of genuine appreciation for their song. And lo and behold, they’ve just done it for the sixth time in a row. Just when I thought Sanna Nielsen’s 7th-time-lucky win couldn’t be equaled in terms of how much it excited me, Måns Zelmerlöw goes and triumphs on his third Melfest attempt. I’ve been a Måns fan since the Cara Mia days, but I always felt like that song, and its follow-up Hope and Glory, were a bit too schlager to succeed in a contest that was outgrowing that style. Not to mention the fact that they required dance moves that came at the expense of Måns’ vocals. Heroes is different. It’s more dynamic, more accessible (i.e. not overstuffed with schlager) and more of an anthem. Plus, the intriguing countrified intro is not only trendy, but gives Måns a chance to focus on his vocals (with a little attention reserved for the cartoon man). And his vocals absolutely soar on this infectious track that is ideally suited to raising the roof off an arena. His entry has everything going for it, even with the controversy over the graphics (which the delegation seems to be taking as a chance to make the staging even better) and Eurovision 2015 is Sweden’s to lose as a result. DOUZE POINTS!!!
EBJ Jury Score: 10.33
Still In Love With You by Electro Velvet
Mrs. Jaz: Aaaand straight to the 1920s we go, with a song that would definitely be on the soundtrack of a movie entitled Flappers Go Mental. To quote Kath and Kim (hoping that someone outside of Australia will get the reference) this is different, it’s unusual! I won’t say it’s noice too, although the love story is cute, if a little too sweet and mushy at times. I like how unashamedly retro the song is, and the fact that it’s been infused with some contemporary sounds. But even so, that cosmic-sounding bit caught me off guard – it’s a weird inclusion. As a duet, Bianca and Alex work well together as they Charleston and scat their way through some amusing lyrics. This entry isn’t perfect, but it’s endearing and energetic, and the UK expat in me is giving it 6 points.
Fraser: Unlike with Sweden, my expectations for the UK are always low. They are so erratic with the quality of the songs they send, it’s just plain confusing. Enter Electro Velvet – wow! I had my toes tapping and my spirit fingers shaking (I’m not scatting for anyone). The video is rich and fun, and I have enjoyed the unique sound each time I have listened to it. Today, however, I’ve found the recorded version on Spotify, and it sounds like they have slowed it down by a third. I can only hope this is not what they will perform in Vienna [UPDATE: Fortunately, it isn’t]. I’ll give them some points for trying, but it’s all a guess until we get to see it performed live. 6 points.
Jaz: The first time I heard this song, I literally facepalmed. I thought the 1920s theme was cringey, the scatting was awful, and that no song that makes mention of ‘nasty diseases’ should ever have the chance to take to the Eurovision stage. All in all, I was pretty close to grabbing the UK by the shoulders and shaking them violently, while politely enquiring at the top of my lungs as to what the bloody hell they were thinking, voluntarily choosing to have this nightmare represent them on an international stage. But then I listened to it again, and don’t ask me how or why, but I found myself digging the ridiculous trip back in time. It is bonkers, but it definitely livens up a contest full of songs on the opposite end of the spectrum – i.e. down-tempo and vanilla. Alex and Bianca look and sound great together (I’m choosing to ignore the reports of lacking chemistry from those who’ve watched the pair’s live performances) and I love the parts they play that correspond with the lyrics. Competing against angsty, moody duos such as Stig & Elina and Mørland & Debrah Scarlett, Electro Velvet’s effervescence will be welcomed. Having said that, I do like the Estonian and Norwegian entries more than Still In Love With You, and I suspect both of those countries will leave Vienna with a better placing than the UK’s. But first impressions never last, and as I really like this song now, I hope it gets somewhere on the scoreboard. 8 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.67
Rhythm Inside by Loïc Nottet
Mrs. Jaz: I’ve been informed that I’m the 987426th person to say that this is very Lorde – but there’s nothing wrong with that! There is so much to enjoy where this entry’s concerned. The music and lyrics are really good, and the overall ‘sound’ really draws you in and takes you on an interesting journey. I wanted to keep listening (not the case with some of the others I’ve heard) and I would be happy to listen to it again. It’s my favourite of all the songs Jaz has forced me chosen for me to review! 10 points.
Fraser: Wow, wow and wow! I can completely understand why Loïc did so well on The Voice in Belgium. This song is not normally my sort of thing, but I really like it. He has soul and sauciness in his voice, and teamed with this song, I think he will be able to deliver some really good points for his country. Even if he doesn’t, we will keep watching the video – it’s hot! 10 points.
Jaz: Belgium is one of those countries that fail to impress year after year, making the majority of us think ‘Why bother?’ (or, in last year’s case ‘Why Mother?). Then, seemingly out of nowhere, they strike gold and send something epic. They most recently did so in 2013, putting their faith in teenage The Voice winner Roberto Bellarosa, who was duly rewarded with a place in the final, then a result that was one of the best Belgium had seen in a long time. In 2015, they’ve selected…well, a teenage alum of The Voice. And Loïc Nottet, as the alum is known, is peddling a freaking fantastic song, just like Roberto – only Rhythm Inside is superior to Love Kills. This is one of a bunch of this year’s songs that wouldn’t be out of place on the radio right now, and not just on mainstream stations. It’s a little alternative, but it still possesses so much of what attracts me to a pop song – infectiousness, pared-back verses that contrast with big choruses, lyrics that may make little sense but are in no way lame or cheesy…it’s all there. And, like Fraser, I am left with no questions as to why Loïc had such a great run on The Voice. His pipes are as unique and enjoyable to listen to as his song. He may be just nineteen years old, but so was Lena when she won Eurovision in 2010 (and do I even have to mention Sandra Kim?). I’m not saying Belgium’s going to win the contest. That would be a huge ask, even if Loïc locked Måns in the Stadthalle basement on final night. All I’m saying is that I reckon their song is the bomb, and so is their artist – and that’s a recipe for success. I desperately want this to make the final, and as the overall package is stronger than the one Belgium put forward in Malmö (and with this being a weaker year than 2013) if they do qualify, a top 10 finish is within their reach. That, for Belgium, is more or less a win anyway. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 10.00
Hope Never Dies by Marta Jandová & Václav Noid Bárta
Mrs. Jaz: Well, this is all terribly, terribly dramatic, isn’t it? What a trés tragique, OTT ballad it is. In spite of all that drama, it didn’t really do anything for me – I spent most of the three minutes waiting for the END of the three minutes, which I’m guessing isn’t a promising sign in terms of potential Eurovision success. Just thinking about it makes me want to yawn, actually. I know they’re trying to tell us that hope never dies, but mine definitely did! I hope someone’s in the wings come contest time, ready to drag this pair off stage with one of those giant hooks reserved for drunk, off-key karaoke singers. 3 points.
Fraser: This is stating the obvious, but it’s very musical theatre. I love musicals, but I don’t really like this one. I don’t think their voices work well together – his is so deep and manly, hers is less so. Not for me, sorry. Czech Republic, you won’t be troubled in 2016. 4 points.
Jaz: The Phantom of the Opera is heeeeeeeere…competing in Eurovision 2015, apparently. He’s buffed up, gotten some ink and no longer requires his white mask, but based on the melancholy, theatrical sound of Hope Never Dies, it’s him, alright. Now, don’t get me wrong: I too love musicals, and the actual Phantom of the Opera soundtrack is as good as they come (thanks to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber). But this song is so painfully ESC circa 2005, and so over-dramatic, that it doesn’t compare favourably. I do like it more at this point than I did after my first listen, but there’s no aspect that really grabs me. Nothing makes me love it. The Czech Republic hasn’t returned to Eurovision with the bang I was hoping for, so I think they’ll remain one of the weakest-performing participants when the 60th contest has concluded. It’s a shame, as it may dissuade them from trying again next year. Still, I won’t be sorry to see them left behind in their semi-final. 4 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 3.67
De La Capăt (All Over Again) by Voltaj
Mrs. Jaz: Nice…very nice. This makes for a soothing listen, and I got a lot of emotion from it without having a clue what the subject matter was. I was curious about the topic at hand though, so I was pleasantly surprised by the language switch. The English part may not communicate the intended meaning explicitly (I’ve been schooled on that meaning by a certain someone) but it gave me a better understanding, and I think it will help the non-Romanian speakers of Europe connect with the song too. 8 points.
Fraser: I don’t mind this one. It’s a nice, mid-tempo song that will do something around the middle of the field in the contest. It doesn’t really go anywhere as a song, but it’s nice enough to hum along to. I am happy that they appear to be singing mostly in Romanian in the competition, then the end in English with that hint of ESL in his voice! 8 points.
Jaz: I’ll get straight to the point (which is something I rarely do): I’m in love with this. As soon as I heard Voltaj were the favourites to win the Romanian final, with a song that had already been a domestic hit, I had to give it a listen. After all, that was the case when Mandinga won the same NF in 2012, and Zaleilah was amazing. I had high hopes for what was then known as De La Capăt, and they were exceeded. This song is beautiful. You definitely don’t need to speak Romanian to know that there’s a message here; or to enjoy how nicely the song’s been constructed, with a lovely minimalism to the verses. You wouldn’t think Romania would go for minimalism of any kind based on the ostentatious entries they’ve been selecting recently – Miracle, It’s My Life, and even Zaleilah – but it’s great to see them opt for a change of pace. I’m very glad Voltaj are taking a bilingual version of their song to the ESC, rather than the fully-English one. Both versions are surprisingly good, but Romanian is so well-suited to music (and native tongues are so sparing in this year’s contest) that I think they made a good choice. With Romania’s 100% qualification record, I’d have no worries about Voltaj making it out of their semi if it wasn’t for one thing – lead singer Călin’s vocals, specifically during the national final. Considering how long his band has been around, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was having an off night. If so, and the staging is simplistic enough to allow the song to shine, Romania should find themselves in the final. Unfortunately, though, I’ll be surprised if De La Capăt (All Over Again) outdoes last year’s tacky, try-hard Miracle. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 8.67
Well, that’s another round of highs and lows taken care of. But just how high were the highs, and how low were the lows? Here’s a recap in case you’ve got an incredibly short memory, and/or you’re too lazy to scroll back up and check.
- Sweden (10.33)
- Belgium (10.00)
- Romania (8.67)
- United Kingdom (6.67)
- Czech Republic (3.67)
Congratulations and jubilations go to Sweden, sitting pretty (so very pretty, ifyaknowwhatimean) on top of this party of five. Commiserations go to the Czech Republic, whose 5th place here will probably be hailed as a raging success after they’ve finished 16th in their semi final (having beaten nobody but San Marino).
Drop by again in a few days’ time as Matt – Fraser’s escTMI co-host – and Rory from ESC Views return to review Malta, Georgia, Lithuania, Albania and Spain. If you’re lucky, I might throw in that mini essay I mentioned earlier too.
In the meantime, why not revisit the first three installments of the Viennese Verdicts?
- Part 1 feat. Russia, Austria, France, Ireland and Serbia
- Part 2 feat. The Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Switzerland
- Part 3 feat. Cyprus, Poland, Italy, Montenegro and Armenia
And don’t forget to let the EBJ Jury know how you’d rank today’s scrutinised songs. Sweden may be on top with us, and in the betting odds – but who’s your favourite of the five?
Welcome to yet another installment of the Viennese Verdicts! I know, I know, I posted the last one, like, two seconds ago…two very long seconds that almost lasted for three days ago. But, you see, I’ve arrived at the point where I simply must cram things in if I want to take care of all necessary business by Eurovision time. Which I really do. So, with that in mind, let’s get cracking.
On the menu today we have a delicious (or not, depending on one’s tastes) selection of musical dishes, courtesy of Cyprus, Poland, Italy, Montenegro and Armenia. Meet the trio sampling these pan-European dishes:
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Kohan Ikin: Kohan is from Perth, Australia. He started watching Eurovision in 2003 to see famous Russian faux-lesbian pop duo tATu, and got hooked after seeing Alf Poier’s folk/metal act performed by cardboard animals. Kohan has since been to Eurovision three times, and engineered Perth’s first Eurovision nightclub event (together with Perth-via-Denmark fan Kate Hansen). Clearly that Alf Poier incident did something to his brain. You can stalk Kohan online here and here.
Wolfgang Schmidt: “My name is Wolfgang – in full, Wolfgang Michael Schmidt. But nice people and/or good friends call me ‘Wolf’ or ‘Mikey’. I am from a small town near Essen in the mid-west of Germany, not far from the Eurovision host city of 2011, Düsseldorf. I have been a Eurovision addict ever since I can think! The first contest I remember was ESC 1974, which one of the greatest bands on Earth, ABBA, won. From then on, I watched the show every year, missing it only in 1996 as it was not broadcast in Germany (due to the fact that we did not qualify to participate). In 1998 I attended Eurovision live for the first time to support the German delegation in Birmingham. That was the most amazing experience I ever had with the Eurovision! All in all, I have attended the contest four times, in Birmingham in 1998, Copenhagen in 2001, Düsseldorf in 2011 and Malmö in 2013. My all-time favorite Eurovision songs are Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović, Stronger Every Minute by Lisa Andreas, and The One That I Love by Chiara, which would all have gotten the full douze points from me. Eurovision is a ‘come together’ of different cultures, styles of music and kinds of people who all love to share the moments of great music, awesome stage performances and ridiculous dressing (well, sometimes!). And it is THE biggest party in Europe to celebrate with people coming from around forty different countries. That makes it so special to me once a year!”
Jasmin Bear: “Let’s continue the series of ‘Eurovision-Related Facts About Jaz You May Or May Not Want To Have Forced Down Your Throat’ with a list of the countries I’d like to win Eurovision 2015…based on where I’d most like to visit. Numero uno? Heja Sverige! My obsession with all things Swedish spawned from my addiction to the ESC and, consequently, Melodifestivalen. As a lover of the language, the food, the music, the movies, the architecture, the landscapes AND the flat-pack furniture of Sweden – and as someone still waiting to make their first Eurovision attendance happen – Mr. Zelmerlöw taking the top prize in Vienna would equate to me crossing two things off my bucket list at once. In terms of the other countries I’d be hysterically happy to visit in 2016 should they take out the 60th comp, no matter how unlikely that might be…I’d say the UK, Switzerland, Belgium or Iceland. But, if one of my top three songs should win (besides Sweden, as I’ve parroted on about that country enough already) I will be satisfied to jet off to Italy or Norway next year!”
Without further ado (or perhaps I should say ‘adio’, since Montenegro features in this round of reviews) I present our thoughts on what John/Giannis, Monika, Il Volo, Knez and Genealogy are serving up in Vienna. FYI, some of these songs have left a bad taste in our collective mouths…
One Thing I Should Have Done by John Karayiannis
Kohan: Ugh! This really annoys me. I’m sure John is a nice guy, but…wait, when does that sentence ever end well? His voice is great, and the guitar reminds me of More Than Words by Extreme (not a bad thing). But that puts all the focus on the lyrics, and they’re creepy. Whiney post-breakup introspection: ‘I’m cold, I’m staring at the wall, it’s raining, sad colours’. Then there’s the passive-aggressive streak that he ‘always did everything for you’, so clearly the breakup isn’t his fault. Oh, and the One Thing He Should Have Done is he ‘should have been there’ even more?! Am I the only one getting stalker vibes here? And what was that ‘hour of need’? These lyrics pose more questions than they answer. It’s like a Stephen King novel – possibly Misery. I’m looking forward to the karaoke version. 2 points.
Wolfgang: I have a soft spot for male singer/songwriter ballads, so I really like this song! I like the voice of Giannis and think he will do a good live performance. But I fear that the song can soon be forgotten again right after his performance. I would recommend staging with just the spotlight on Giannis and his song, which could create a more intimate atmosphere and give us a Tom Dice moment on stage. The ‘one thing he should have done’ by May is change his glasses and wear something comfortable, so we don’t get another Moran Mazor effect! I’d love to see this qualify to the final, but I don’t have much hope it will. Some of these ballads have to die the ‘ballad death’ in the semis. 5 points.
Jaz: Considering how long and involved Cyprus’ Eurovision Song Project was, it didn’t narrow things down to a great selection of songs. You could say that this particular project was, if not an F-grade fail, C-grade at least. Like the other less-than-impressive NFs of the season, though, Cyprus scores points for picking the best of a bad bunch – that is, the best apart from Hovig’s Stone In A River, which I personally believe should be representing them instead. One Thing I Should Have Done is a soft, reasonably pretty ballad that definitely harks back to the days of Tom Dice and his equally simplistic entry. The thing is, I was never that attached to Me and My Guitar, and the same goes for the bespectacled John/Giannis’ song (which has nothing to do with the fact that Tom was better-looking). It’s nice, it’s sweet, and the emotion is genuine, but I don’t feel much at all when I listen to it. The only reason I’d be disappointed if Cyprus didn’t qualify with this is because it’s Cyprus, and I always like it when they do advance. But unless they create a ‘moment’ on the night – an air of simplicity that provides a stunning contrast to most of the other performances – I think Slovenia’s three minutes that follow will obliterate all memory viewers have of Cyprus. 5 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 4.00
In The Name of Love by Monika Kuzyńska
Kohan: I like this one! I know I’m meant to be a punk/metal fan, and this is so middle-of-the-road adult contemporary…but dammit, it works. Just when I think the song is about to plateau, it kicks up to the next level, bringing the guitars, bringing the drums. The way it swells to a crescendo is perfect. It better qualify for the final, it’s good. I think Poland is safely through semi two this year. 6 points.
Wolfgang: I am not really impressed by this song, as it sounds to me like the prototype of an LLB (Lame Lady Ballad). It could have been an entry in the contests of 1979, 1985, 1994 or 2001, etc – it sounds quite old-fashioned and like I’ve already heard it a hundred times before in different ESC shows. I absolutely think this song cannot stand out and will not qualify. I would compare it to the entry of France, with France having the advantage of already being qualified to the final. Sorry, but this simply is not enough to make the difference on the Eurovision stage. It sounds like the B-side of If You Asked Me To by Céline Dion. I hope there won’t be another Dion-esque diva performance in the second semi. I don’t see a second performance here! 2 points.
Jaz: Many people will be inquiring as to the whereabouts of the buxom butter-churner and her stain-removing friend (whisky and gin are hard to remove from one’s petticoat) in Poland’s performance this year, as I can safely assume they will not be making an appearance. In The Name of Love is pretty much as far removed – genre, mood and subject-wise – as you can get from My Słowianie, which is a strike against it in my book. Poland made a serious splash in Copenhagen, and it’s a shame to see them toss their triple-flavour icecream sundae with hot fudge sauce, sprinkles and a cherry on top (two actually…one on each scoop *wink*) in the trash in favour of a plain Greek yoghurt (or Polish yoghurt, if there is such a thing). Having said that, there must be a little sugar in this confection, because it is sweet. As piano ballads go, it flows nicely and compliments Monika’s voice, and the lyrics don’t make me nauseous. It isn’t cutting-edge, but I still feel like it fits well enough into the 2015 contest, even if it would go down a treat in 1995 as well. There’s nothing really wrong with it, and I find it to be a soothing, pleasant listen. But it’s just not memorable, and when you think back to Poland 2014, it becomes even less so in comparison. I cannot see Monika making it out of her semi final, no matter how hard I try, because there’s nothing here that would compel the masses to vote. She’ll do okay with the juries, and if her performance is well-packaged, she’s sure to avoid the dreaded last place. But I think that’s the best result Poland can hope for. 6 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 4.67
Grande Amore by Il Volo
Kohan: Majestic. Italy has the full package: charisma, perfectly harmonised vocals…and they look fantastic. The way the song builds is sublime. I understand now the true power of a well-tailored Italian suit, and putting Back To The Future references in your video clip is a great way to bribe the Hatman jury (thanks, fellas). But…I’m only giving it 8 points (Jaz is gonna kill me). It’s a contender for the trophy and the juries will love it, but it isn’t a song I’m playing repeatedly.
Wolfgang: Il Volo are already popular in a lot of European countries. That is an advantage, because they already have a wide fan community. And the guys have great voices and outstanding live abilities, so this year Italy will easily fly again into the top 10 of the scoreboard if they do a perfect show. The song also combines the musical taste of the older and the younger generation, so that they will get a lot of points from various countries across Europe. I think it will easily end up 6th-8th in the final. The bookies already see this coming close to winning. IMO, it is the best song of these five I am reviewing here, but it is not a winning song. 8 points.
Jaz: If marrying a song ever becomes socially acceptable, I will be dragging this one down the aisle before you can say ‘Jaz, what the hell is wrong with you?’. It was love at first listen between us, fueled firstly by the beauty of the popera, secondly by the blend of those three voices, and thirdly by my bias where Italian music is concerned. Then, when I watched the music video, the collective attractiveness of Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca was added into the mix, and my grande amore (the pun had to happen) for Il Volo and their Sanremo winner was cemented. This entry is everything that great Eurovision moments are made of. It starts softly, then builds to an explosive crescendo perfect for pyrotechnics use; it’s sung in Italian, the most musical language in existence; and it’s performed by three magnificent vocalists who have been honing their harmonies for six years, despite still being in their early twenties. After a bit of a misstep last year, Italy should be back to its flawless, classy-as-heck best in Vienna. I don’t buy into any of the negative comparisons between Grande Amore and France’s operatic flop of 2011, Sognu. The former is more of a pop-and-opera hybrid (hence my use of the word ‘popera’ earlier) whereas the latter was straight opera – Grande Amore is much more accessible. Plus, the boys from Il Volo are charismatic and laid-back performers, unlike Amaury Vassili on the ESC stage. He looked stiff and uncomfortable, and like it was an extreme effort to expel every word of Corsican. A better reference point for Grande Amore would be Latvia’s 2007 entry Questa Notte, which was a triumph by Latvian standards. Italy being Italy, and Il Volo’s song being more dynamic and accessible than Questa Notte, they should fare even better. I do have to agree with Wolfgang – I don’t think Italy is gong to win Eurovision this year. But I do think they have the power to come close, and at the least, make up for Emma’s panty-flashing mishap. DOUZE POINTS!!!
EBJ Jury Score: 9.33
Adio by Knez
Kohan: I liked this when I first heard it, and it’s grown on me even though it’s not my usual style (what, no electronica? Where’s the drop?). The transition at 1:24 is awkward and I don’t know what the song is about, but it still keeps me hooked every time I listen – there’s something about the ambience it creates. I hope it qualifies, but I doubt it’s a song we’ll remember next year. 7 points.
Wolfgang: After my first listen to Adio I was a bit disappointed, because my expectations on another Željko song were really high, him being my favorite male artist of all time in Eurovision. And I really love all four of his entries to the Eurovision, including Oro by Jelena Tomašević. When I compare this song to the other four, I automatically come to the conclusion that Adio is not the best song Željko has ever written for Eurovision. But that’s complaining on a very high level, because it is still a very good song and Montenegro can be proud of Knez, who is a really good singer, too. I am sure this will qualify to the final, but then, anything can happen. I hope at least for a placement between 11th and 16th, which would be a bit better than Sergej Četković’s placing last year. This song to me is a grower, getting better with every further listen. 7 points.
Jaz: Once the weaker player in the Serbia VS Montenegro tournaments I hold in my mind, Montenegro has embarked on a steady rise in my estimations over the past few years. Igranka > Ljubav Je Svuda. Moj Svijet > the nothing that Serbia sent last year (obviously). And now, Adio > Beauty Never Lies, by far. I too am a massive Željko fan – y’all probably know that all of his previous entries are ESC favourites of mine – so whenever I find out he’s making any kind of Eurovision comeback, as he is composing Adio for Knez…I FREAK OUT! There is something hauntingly, spellbindingly beautiful about all of the Balkan ballads he creates, and this one is no exception. I agree that it isn’t his strongest composition for the contest, but it has the ŽJ stamp on it, and I’m sold. The only thing missing is the man himself. I have nothing against Knez, who is a great performer, but he’s not quite as…shall we say, debonair as Mr. Joksimović (and the fact that he looks like a magician reminds me so much of this that I can’t take him seriously). But all in all, the ethnicity, interesting rhythms and great melody have won me over as they always do. This may be a ballad amongst many, but it will stand out, being the traditional, non-English-language kind, performed by a male (as opposed to the generic, English-language female ballads on offer). I hope that equals qualification. If not – or if Adio fails to finish in the top 10 in the final – it will be the first Željko entry to finish outside of that top 10. I suspect it will struggle to hit those heights, but I’m more than happy to help it out by voting for Montenegro. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 8.00
Face The Shadow by Genealogy
Kohan: This just confuses me. With the disparate musical styles, it feels glued together, like it’s trying too hard to be Bohemian Rhapsody. Just when I hear a part I like, it turns into a ballad again. Or worse, the part with the opera singer attempting to scat like the UK’s Electro Velvet. Never mind that ‘Genealogy’ is contender for most uncool band name, and that I have no idea what’s with the 1800s family photos in the video (I think I’ve missed something). And those lyrics…is she singing ‘You are chicken your heart’? I give half a point for the black leather outfits (so goth!) and half a point for the power rock ballad parts. I.e. 1 point.
Wolfgang: I am really biased with this entry of Armenia this year. My first thought was, six amazing voices do not make a perfect song! The multiple changes in this song rather make a chaotic impression to me. Every artist alone is a really good performer, but together they don’t make the perfect whole. I am a bit indifferent with this song, but there is something in it that makes me like it. Nevertheless, I think this will qualify to the final even in a semi with so many Eastern European countries. If the Dorians qualified in Malmö, this one should easily do, as it is much better. 3 points.
Jaz: I hate to say this, but whenever I think about Armenia in relation to Eurovision 2015, it comes out as ‘ArmeniUGGGGH!’. I love the idea of Genealogy, presumably borrowed from Switzerland’s assembling of Six4One in 2006, and in theory, the six members would be a force to be reckoned with. In practice, however, they are putting forward a shambolic, chaotic reject from an off-Broadway musical. If Armenia had sent Inga, Tamar, Essaï or any of the other members on their own or as a duet (with a different song) things might have been more palatable. Unfortunately, all of the singers have such distinctive vocal stylings and genres they are suited to, so Face The Shadow comes off as three minutes of cobbled-together competition, in which everybody’s fighting to be the star of the show. I hate to break it to them, but nobody’s winning that fight. As cookie-cutter and naff as Six4One’s If We All Give A Little was back in ’06, at least that was cohesive. It knew what it was, and all six singers blended into a serviceable supergroup. Genealogy and Face The Shadow are the complete opposite. In spite of the star power, I can see them giving us the car crash performance of the year – an onstage mess that will hopefully be swept away by Belgium straight afterwards. 2 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 2.00
Talk about the good, the bad and the ugly! This round of reviews has given the EBJ Jury leaderboard one of its highest, and one of its lowest scores so far.
Here are today’s standings:
- Italy (9.33)
- Montenegro (8.00)
- Poland (4.67)
- Cyprus (4.00)
- Armenia (2.00)
So Italy reigns supreme for the time being, taking the #1 spot from previous champs Slovenia. Will our Grande Amore take them all the way? Or will another bookies’ favourite end as favourite with my esteemed jury members? You’ll have to wait and see.
Up next = Sweden, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Romania. A YouTube star and my mother (again) will be passing judgment on the songs from these five countries, and you won’t want to miss what they have to say. What I have to say will probably be interesting too. Fingers crossed.
I’ll see you in a few days’ time for Part 4 of the Viennese Verdicts. In the meantime, let me know how you would rank Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Cyprus and Armenia – a.k.a. how much you disagree with all of the above!
Hello again, for approximately the 407th time. When I put it that way, it’s no wonder I struggle to think of an original greeting every time I write one of my infamous rambling intros.
This intro is not going to be one of the rambling variety *insert worldwide cheers here* as all I really need to say is welcome to Vol. II of the Viennese Verdicts!
In this episode, the EBJ Jury is getting up, close and personal with another five Eurovision 2015 entries – namely, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Switzerland. I have two brand new jurors by my side (figuratively speaking) and they’re ready to wax lyrical and not-so-lyrical about this bunch of songs – i.e. praise the pants off them, and trash them like there’s no tomorrow. Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to today’s partners in crime.
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Mrs. Jaz: That’s the code name I’m giving my mum for the purposes of these reviews. Yes, the woman who (accidentally) raised this Eurovision obsessive agreed to be on the inaugural EBJ Jury, which had nothing to do with me threatening her with the ten-hour YouTube loop of Epic Sax Guy thrusting away. Mrs. Jaz isn’t averse to the ESC – she’s put up with years of me forcing her to listen to the official albums and bringing the subject up at every opportunity. Plus, she sat and watched Junior Eurovision with me last year (I’m assuming there was nothing more to her liking on TV at the time) and watched me burst into hysterical tears of happiness when Italy won it. Still, she’s not exactly a fan. She’s familiar with the winners and entries that were in the charts when she was growing up in the UK, but she has no idea what a Melodifestivalen is and doesn’t understand why I voluntarily wake up at 3am to watch it. I played Mrs. Jaz her assigned entries and had her review them before I told her which countries they were from, what the songs were called and who was performing them – i.e. it was a totally blind process. So, you can be sure her reviews haven’t been influenced by a bias for lustworthy, leather-clad Swedish men or anything (unlike mine). If you think our way with words is somewhat similar, that’s because I was responsible for padding her review notes out into paragraphs. But all opinions, observations and witty/bitchy remarks are her own!
PS – I guess I should explain the above bio photo of France’s 2003 entrant, the lovely Louisa. Mrs. Jaz wasn’t 100% comfortable with having her face plastered on the internet (I assume because she knows how attractive the rest of the EBJ Jury is and feels inadequate as a result). So I’ve used the closest ESC-related doppelganger I could think of to compensate. Imagine Louisa wearing specs and you’ll be just about there.
Nick Provenghi: “Congratulations, I have arrived! My name is Nick and, contrary to what my intro suggests, I am not Icelandic, but am rather coming to you from the rather unremarkable American Southwest. Five years ago, an accidental click on Lena’s video for Satellite gave me a new life-wrecking life-changing addiction. In the past five years, my favorites have ranged from sweet Dutch guitar pop in 2012 to arena-filling rock from Finland in 2014 – but my favorite entry ever would have to be Hungary’s Kedvesem from 2013.”
Jasmin Bear: “Yep, it’s me again! I gave you a regular ol’ bio last time, but I don’t want to repeat that now since I’ll be on my own jury for every installment of the Viennese Verdicts. Instead, allow me to provide you with a “fascinating” ESC factoid about me. The first Eurovision Song Contest I ever laid eyes on was the Athens 2006 show, and I’m pretty sure that was by accident when I was just a naïve fourteen-year-old flicking through the TV channels, hoping to see a bunch of Finnish monsters winning a pan-continental song contest. I really got lucky that night, didn’t I? My point is, once you’ve seen Lordi, you can’t stop yourself from investigating further. My interest was well and truly piqued by those rubber-clad rockers, and by the time I’d watched JESC 2006 and ESC 2007 in Helsinki, I was officially obsessed. The 2007 show will always have a special place in my Eurovision-logo heart as the first contest I experienced as a fan. Not to mention the fact that Finland put on an epic show, and that hosts Jaana and Mikko were perfection personified. I’m still waiting for them to call me up and beg me to hang out with them. It’s been eight years, but I haven’t lost (all) faith.”
Now the formalities are out of the way, read on to find out what the three of us think of the offerings from Trijntje, Mørland & Debrah, Maraaya, Maria and Mélanie. Spoiler alert: reactions are mixed!
Walk Along by Trijntje Oosterhuis
Mrs. Jaz: Well, isn’t this catchy! I found myself tapping my feet to the beat and singing along to those why-ay-ay-ays almost instantly. I think this would make an excellent karaoke track. I like Trijntje’s voice and the country vibe of the song. It is a bit repetitive though, and I find myself wondering ‘why-ay-ay-ay’ the Netherlands didn’t make better use of the time they had. More verse content might have helped, because that chorus comes around very quickly and could very easily start to grate. 6 points.
Nick: In my strange little head, I like to imagine the origin story of this year’s Dutch entry playing out like an episode of the Real Eurovision Singers of Amsterdam, with Anouk teaming up with her friend Trijntje to get back at the former’s archival, Ilse de Lange, for upstaging her. Unlike the strategy she used for her 9th place finish in Malmö, though, Anouk went down the pop route and got a little caught up in the pursuit of a crown, because she forgot the soul to the song. Walk Along is a nice little number delivered well by Trijntje, but it’s sadly devoid of any of the charm that Anouk and Ilse both channeled to get to the (near) top. 6 points.
Jaz: The Netherlands have had an extremely successful past few years at Eurovision, kick-started by Anouk’s qualification in 2013 (their first since 2004) and eventual top 10 result (their first since 1999). The woman in black returns this year as songwriter and producer for Trijntje’s Walk Along, which is surprisingly upbeat considering its creator (sorry/not sorry, but I always found Birds to be a depressing life-drainer). It is peppy and it is catchy (that ‘why-ay-ay-ay?’ is a hook and a half) for sure…but boy, is it repetitive! You’ve barely heard the first chorus and started to wonder what else the song will offer, when another chorus and another set of why-ay-ay-ays comes along (or should I say ‘walks along’?). I really enjoy listening to this entry, but it’s very obvious that it doesn’t take advantage of the 180 seconds it has to play with, unlike many of the songs it’s competing against. Those hearing it for the first time during semi final one will latch on to that hook quite easily, and if they like what they’re hearing as much as I do, the repetitiveness won’t stop them from voting for Trijntje. Still, I’m on the fence with regards to a third Dutch qualification on the trot. 7 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.33
A Monster Like Me by Mørland & Debrah Scarlett
Mrs. Jaz: Wow…what did this guy do in his early youth, exactly? Jeez! Apart from being slightly concerned about that (though as he’s singing live at Eurovision and not via satellite from a prison cell, that concern might be unnecessary) I really liked this, if that’s the right way to respond to such a dark song. The criminal and his lady friend (Norway’s Bonnie and Clyde, I presume) sound lovely together, and their song has more substance and more of a story than the Dutch song. I appreciate the fact that it’s lyrically interesting and musically in-depth – it’s not fluff. 8 points.
Nick: For the second year in a row, I just can’t “get” the Norwegian entry. But at least this year, I can pinpoint what’s bugging me, and it’s the lyrics, for the most part. That opening line is just awful: ‘I did something terrible in my early youth.’ No, Mørland, you did something terrible in the early part of this song, because I burst out laughing when I heard that for the first time. The rest of the song doesn’t get much better, and as a result, it wastes the perfectly nice music and singers. 5 points.
Jaz: When a mere snippet of a song gives me moist eyes and goosebumps, I know I’ve stumbled upon something special. That’s what my favourite ESC entry of all time, Lane Moje, does to me on a regular basis. As you may have guessed, A Monster Like Me has done the same ever since Mørland, Debrah and I became acquainted, back when the MGP teasers were released. Their song had ‘NORWEGIAN WINNER!’ written all over it, and sure enough, it’s heading to Vienna with my full support. For me, the song combines the best aspects of the classic Eurovision duet – an intriguing dynamic, voices that harmonise, and a moment that basically screams ‘INSERT PYRO HERE’ – with lyrical and emotional content that is a world away from the artificial cheese of such duets as In A Moment Like This. I don’t know exactly what Mørland did that made him such a monster either, but I do know that he and his flame-haired compatriot are an act I will be supporting wholeheartedly come May (whilst shedding a tear or two, most likely). A tip or two for the MGP-to-ESC transition, though: polish those vocals and rethink Debrah’s bizarre face-bun hairdo (the retro-glam look from the music video wouldn’t go astray for the Eurovision performance, actually). Even if those tips aren’t taken on board (though why wouldn’t they be?) I give Norway DOUZE POINTS!
EBJ Jury Score: 8.33
Here For You by Maraaya
Mrs. Jaz: This is a good one. I could imagine it being played on the radio right now. It’s very instant, not overly repetitive and generally quite memorable. Her voice is unusual in a great way, which adds more of an X-factor to the package. Once again, I was tapping my fingers and feet as I was listening to it. All of the above makes me think Slovenia could have Eurovision success with this. 8 points.
Nick: Say ‘Slovenia’, and images of a flute-playing Morticia Addams and ill-advised wedding dresses might come to mind. Thankfully, neither of those things are anywhere close to this year’s Slovene entry. Devilishly modern and sleek, Here For You is the perfect marriage of dance and violin, brought on by a (hopefully) perfect marriage between singer Marjetka and composer Raay. The composition is totally invigorating and gets under your skin with ease. And unlike other songs with catchy music, the lyrics can comfortably support the tunes here, as they’re crisp and charming. 10 points.
Jaz: Just because a song was the best of a bad bunch (more on Switzerland later!) doesn’t mean that song is mediocre. Case in point, Slovenia ’15. Even with serial ex-Yugo backup vocalist (and occasional lead artist) Martina Majerle in the mix, EMA was a final of less-than-impressive standards this year. Here For You stood out like a diamond-encrusted mullet dress on a rack of black, un-ironed business slacks. It may not be at the very top of my rankings, but it’s higher than I’ve had a Slovenian entry in years. It’s catchy and trendy, with that violin riff serving as the palate-cleansing sorbet between the slightly repetitive courses of the chorus. It’s the kind of song I’d play to a member of the anti-ESC brigade, just to see the look on their face afterwards when I casually mentioned that it’s representing Slovenia in the contest this year. It’s also the kind of song that I actually have to be listening to in order to remember just how much I like it, which shouldn’t harm Slovenia’s chances of achieving their best result for a long time – that’s what the recap is for. 8 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 8.67
Unbroken by Maria Olafs
Mrs. Jaz: Like Slovenia’s song, Iceland’s is catchy, instant and contemporary, though this one’s a bit more commercial-sounding. There’s another lovely female voice on record here, singing nice, inspirational lyrics. I’m a words person where music is concerned, and I did really like the latter. My only big complaint would be the abruptness of the ending – it’s very sudden. And I was a little bit disappointed when the song was over! 7 points.
Nick: In a return to form from 2012, Iceland gave us the best national final of the year in Söngvakeppnin, but selected its most underwhelming winner in recent memory. María Ólafs stepped out onstage looking like Emmelie de Forest’s understudy, with an even more ridiculous song than Only Teardrops. Remarkably, the team made a song that consists entirely of chorus, and it gets old incredibly fast. María’s tendency to go shrill doesn’t help matters here, and the entire package is the worst Icelandic entry I can remember (my memory doesn’t go back far, so take that with a grain of salt). 3 points.
Jaz: I’m going to attempt to push aside the fact that I desperately wish I was reviewing SUNDAY’s Fjaðrir right now, and instead review Unbroken as if it’s the only Icelandic song I’ve heard this NF season. Of course, there’s still the matter of the superior Icelandic version of this song, but…again, that’s irrelevant, because it’s the English version that’s going to Vienna. Maria’s ballad was one of the Söngvakeppnin candidates that drew me in from the start, being as melodically instant as it is. One of its biggest positives is that it’s not one bit depressing; rather, it injects a sense of hope and joy and all things uplifting into a field heavy with ballads that ARE depressing. The English lyrics are a little cliché and emphasise how repetitive the song is, but the situation could have been a lot worse (I don’t want to name any names, but…oh, what the hell. SERBIA!). I can’t help but love this – those happy vibes and the way it builds wins me over every time. Maria is adorable (I know she’s 21, but since she looks 12 I figure I can use that adjective) and I think her voice is, if not totally on point, perfectly ready to belt out Unbroken on the ESC stage. My only real criticism here would be the Emmelie de Forest costume she’s likely to adopt for May. That would bring back unfortunate memories for me. DON’T DO IT, MARIA!!! 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.67
Time To Shine by Mélanie René
Mrs. Jaz: I may have been disappointed when the Icelandic song ended, but when Switzerland’s did I was glad, to be honest. It’s not dreadful, but all in all it’s pretty flat. It seems to want to be dramatic, like it’s aiming for an explosive moment, but it never even gets close. There’s merit in the music, but the lyrics are quite weak – cheesy and cliché. That doesn’t do it for me, I’m afraid. 4 points.
Nick: Ah, Switzerland. Home of the EBU, chocolate, and a terrible NF format. And this year, only the chocolate hasn’t disappointed me yet. Mélanie won the already weak national final with this dirge of a ballad. The big problem is that it’s so uncommitted to any of the ideas it plays with. If it wants to be an empowering, coming-of-age song, it shouldn’t have a dated 70s guitar solo two minutes in. There’s just nothing that this entry gets right, and the delegation will probably be making an early trans-Alpine return across the border from Vienna. 2 points.
Jaz: Like Slovenia, Switzerland didn’t set the most appetising banquet of songs on their table this year. Unlike Slovenia, this is the case pretty much every year in Switzerland, Still, they have to be given credit for always choosing as wisely as possible, as they have done with Mélanie and Time To Shine. I dislike the title of this song due to its cheesy connotations, but the fact that the song is zero percent LLB (lame lady ballad, for those unfamiliar with this EBJ-copyrighted acronym) and one-hundred percent…actually, what IS it? It’s not a traditional ballad, or an R & B track, though there are tinges of that present. My best description would be down-tempo inspo-pop that tries and fails to be an arena anthem. Nonetheless, there’s something about this that attracts me. I find myself singing along to the chorus automatically, and I like the construction of the song as a whole. Mélanie’s voice also works for me. Apart from the title, the cliché lyrics of the chorus and the oh-so-2000s prom dress she wore at the national final, I’m digging her entry. Donate the dress to your local charity shop, Mel, and I might just consider sending a vote or two your way. 8 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 4.67
Well, I guess that answers the famous question posed by Shakespeare: ‘To be divisive or not to be divisive, when it doth cometh to Eurovision entries?’. Some of this year’s songs are dividing opinion like never before (except for all of the other times that happened before) and I would like to take this opportunity to inform both Nick and my mother that I won’t be speaking to either of them again for quite a while due to their comments on Norway and Switzerland respectively.
JUST KIDDING! Here’s the ranking of today’s Viennese Verdicts.
- Slovenia (8.67)
- Norway (8.33)
- Iceland (6.67)
- The Netherlands (6.33)
- Switzerland (4.67)
The EBJ Jury’s Top 40 will be revealed in due course, but if you recall the results of the previous reviews, you’ll be aware that we now have a new leader in Slovenia. Sorry, Ireland! Will they remain on top or will one of next week’s countries steal the #1 spot? Up next are Cyprus, Poland, Italy, Montenegro and Armenia, with Australian and German representation on the judging panel. You’d be crazy not to come back and see what goes down!