The 2015 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 2 (The Performances, The Costumes + The Results)

Pull up a comfortable chair (you’re going to be sitting in it for a while), have food and drink within reach (you’ll need the sustenance), and generally prep yourselves for the second and final installment of the 2015 EBJEEs!

I won’t lie – it’s a mammoth ceremony. But it might just be worth it: if you voted in the People’s Choice polls, you’ll find out today whether your remaining favourites won out in the end. Plus, if you make it all the way through, I’ll give you a gift basket full of gratitude and appreciation for your dedication. You won’t be able to sell it on eBay, but hopefully it will make you feel all warm and fuzzy (once you get the feeling back in your behind after sitting down for so long).

So, without further ado, let’s get cracking!

 

mzwee

 

 THE PERFORMANCES

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Winner Guy Sebastian Honourable Mention/s Nadav Guedj, Uzari

You can send threatening notes my way calling me biased, but I’d like to see you argue against Australia’s pride and joy (at this moment in time and exclusively among Eurovision fans) possessing a flawless set of pipes. Even suffering from a cold, as he was in the days leading up to the final, Guy Sebastian demonstrated his usual smooth-as-silk singing technique, and reminded us all why he won Australian Idol back in the day.

 

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Winner Aminata Honourable Mention/s Bojana Stamenov, Polina Gagarina

Barely able to reach the ‘You Must Be THIS Tall To Ride’ marker when queuing for a rollercoaster ride, Aminata’s powerful vocals defy her petite size. Transitioning between crystal-clear high notes and big belters with ease, the control she had over her voice was second to none in this year’s contest as far as I’m concerned. If Beyoncé is #flawless, we’re going to have to come up with a whole new word for Aminata. Aminatamazing? Aminaterrific? The suggestion box is officially open.

 

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Winner Il Volo Honourable Mention/s Genealogy, Mørland & Debrah Scarlett

Singing separately, Gianluca, Ignazio and Piero are mesmerising. Singing together, they send me on a trip to Goosebumpsville, USA, every time (it’s starting to get expensive). The force that is high-quality operatics shouldn’t be underestimated, and high-quality operatics is what we got from the boys whenever they opened their mouths in Vienna. Perfection is spelled I-L V-O-L-O from now on.

 

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Winner Italy Honourable Mention/s Latvia

Let’s talk about Italy for the second time in thirty seconds, shall we? There’s something about an epic vocal performance that sends shivers down my spine. This is particularly true when the performance is given by a trio of hot Italian men…and when one of said men winks at the camera and turns me into a sad excuse for an independent woman who don’t need no man. In addition to the shivers, Il Volo also had every hair on the back of my neck standing up each time they launched into Grande Amore’s explosive chorus. As a result, I resembled a fuzzy triceratops, but it was totally worth it.

 

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Winner Spain Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic, Greece

A dramatic song like Amanecer needs a dramatic performance to go with it, and Spain certainly delivered in that respect. They didn’t rely solely on Edurne’s ability to look super-intense and wave her arms around at every opportunity; instead, they switched the drama into overdrive by adding a costume change, an aggressive dance sequence and a gale from the wind machine into the mix. Subsequently, Spain’s performance rated more highly on the drama scale than an entire year’s worth of Days Of Our Lives episodes.

 

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Winner Austria Honourable Mention/s France, Switzerland

In a move that gave a more literal meaning to Paula and Ovi’s Playing With Fire, The Makemakes’ Dominic set his piano alight at the pivotal point of I Am Yours – a cool (though not temperature-wise) way of spicing up the staging of the cruisy, down-tempo number. It didn’t help Austria score any points, but the risk factor and fresh take on pyrotechnics deserves recognition.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Lithuania, France

Sweden grabs this People’s Choice Award in very convincing style, with 58% of the votes. It’s not surprising when you consider just how much Måns’ projected stick man and all that jazz had to do with his win. The gimmick made a good song great, and made the performance of that song superior in terms of innovation and creativity.

 

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Winner Greece Honourable Mention/s Georgia, Spain, Switzerland

Maria Elena had everything one needs to pull off a classic Eurovision lady ballad: a big voice; flowing locks; a floor-sweeping gown; and the ability to fake enough anguish to moisten her eyes, but not so much to actually let a tear go and ruin her mascara. All that was required top it off was wind – and boy, did she get it! As much as I want to opt for the logical pun here and say I was blown away by Greece’s performance, I wasn’t. But if it hadn’t been for that manufactured breeze, the climax of One Last Breath would have lacked impact.

 

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Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Israel, Sweden

Robotic movements coupled with perfect pirouettes and the occasional face-grab? What a work of art. Belgium’s combo of geometric and organic movements was as complementary to Rhythm Inside as the black-and-white costumes and boxy backdrop. The choreography also played a big part in Loïc and his dance crew snapping at Måns Zelmerlöw’s heels in the creativity stakes.

 

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Winner France Honourable Mention/s Latvia, Poland

Back in 2012, Ukraine neatly sidestepped the six-person stage rule by featuring a crowd of fist-pumping – and it must be said, tacky-looking – party-goers on the screens behind Gaitana. The idea was good, but the execution was poor. Fast forward to 2015, and you’ll see that France took the same idea, and made it work. A digital army of drummers (plus a smaller contingent of living and breathing drummers) appeared behind Lisa Angell, and with that, the last thirty seconds of her performance and its atmosphere were elevated by a mile.

 

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Winner Spain Honourable Mention/s Moldova

No amount of gimmicks is too many – not according to Edurne’s team. It’s a worry when a song is deemed so unentertaining, it needs every backdrop, costume reveal, dance move and wind machine setting known to man to bring it to life (say what you will about Sweden, but at least they limited themselves to lighting and projection). Still, I can’t say I minded the OTT much on this occasion. As I said earlier, Amanecer is a dramatic number, and you have to admire Spain for carrying that through to the staging as well.

 

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Winner The Netherlands Honourable Mention/s The Czech Republic

I’m sure we’d all have forgiven The Netherlands if that horrendous opening shot had been a mistake. But, believe it or not, it was included on purpose. An entire verse of Trijntje eyeballing the camera with netting draped over her face didn’t say ‘I’m on the Eurovision stage and loving it!’ so much as ‘I’m being held hostage by an embittered fisherman who’s threatening to slap me with a sea bass unless his demands are met.’ And yet, rather than feeling sorry for her, all I could do was laugh. ‘WTF?!?’ is an understatement.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Belgium, Australia, Latvia

This People’s Choice poll was a close one, with Belgium leading until the last minute. Ultimately, it’s contest winner Sweden that can add another trophy to their collection as the All-Rounder of the Year – the country that had the best package of song and performance. Year after year, Sweden puts the ‘vision’ into Eurovision in a big way, and 2015 was no exception. Not only visually spectacular (and I’m not just talking about Måns) but vocally top-notch and full of energy, there was nothing lacking in what they had to offer most recently. This award is well-deserved.

 

 

THE COSTUMES

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Winner Nina Sublatti Honourable Mention/s Ann Sophie, Genealogy

What with Nina being the fierce, take-no-prisoners kind of woman she is, Georgia needed to dress her in something that said ‘I’m a sexy goth, and if you come near me without my permission I’ll whip a Chinese throwing star at your forehead.’ Thankfully, they did, and I am now crushing on an ESC costume like I did when Maja Keuc made Perspex platforms and provocative body armour a thing in Düsseldorf. I.e. to a crazy extent.

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Winner Trijntje Oosterhuis Honourable Mention/s Trijntje Oosterhuis

Well, there was one thing The Netherlands did better than anyone else this year. Upon seeing what Trijntje opted to wear for the show after trying out several alternatives, that haphazardly-cut, boob-baring dress suddenly didn’t look so bad. I guess she’s not one of those people who can wear a bin bag and still look fabulous.

 

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Winner Moldova’s hot cops Honourable Mention/s Ann Sophie

I’m mainly referring to the object of Eduard’s affection (and her teeny-tiny, totally non-regulation police hotpants) here. But the sprayed-on shorts the men were wearing were also grounds for arrest, and for covering the eyes of any children present. How those guys managed to move to the music without something splitting is a mystery.

 

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Winner Debrah Scarlett Honourable Mention/s Loïc Nottet

Adventurous hairstyles were few and far between in Vienna, with nobody even coming close to a Rona Nishliu-style DEAR LORD WHAT IS THAT ON HER HEAD?!? So the conventional but undeniably stunning hairdo of Debrah Scarlett wins this People’s Choice Award. Affixed with an empty pie tin repurposed as artful headwear (zoom in on Norway’s performance and you’ll probably spot some crust crumbs) Debrah’s fiery mane of curls was anything but monstrous. In fact, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that mane on my own scalp stat (minus the pie tin).

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THE RESULTS

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Winner Conchita Wurst Honourable Mention/s Alice Tumler

This wasn’t a competition, really…at least not a close one. ORF made a big mistake failing to convince Conchita to host the entire show. She’s everything a great host is made of: articulate, humorous, charismatic, and gorgeous to look at (nobody looks more banging in an evening gown).

 

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Winner Denmark Honourable Mention/s Moldova

2015 wasn’t exactly a year of jaw-dropping moments. I can’t say that any of the DNQs had me clutching my chest and feeling faint at the sheer shocking-ness of their occurrence. However, I did have Denmark down as a qualifier, thinking that as usual, the safe and competent song they were fielding would get them into the final. It did not, which was a little surprising…but not devastating, if I’m honest.

 

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Winner Albania Honourable Mention/s Poland

As much as I’m Alive has grown on me in the month or so since Eurovision, I still don’t 100% understand how it got through. Elhaida’s cape game was strong in semi final one, but girl veered right off the in-tune tracks and straight into screech territory for her last thirty seconds on stage. Ouch.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Russia

For the long-standing bookies’ favourite, there were no questions surrounding qualification. It wasn’t even worth arguing against Sweden winning their semi. We know from the Bergendahl Incident of 2010 that the Swedes can trip up when it comes to making the final, but there was no way 2015 was going to resemble that ABSOLUTE TRAVESTY, thank heavens.

 

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Winner San Marino Honourable Mention/s Portugal

Poor Anita and Michele. Come back next year (after you’ve given Ralph Siegel the flick) and you might have a chance.

 

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Winner Moldova Honourable Mention/s Romania, Switzerland

I don’t know if it’s down to better acoustics in the hall or a voice-box transplant, but Eduard went from putting all his energy into dancing and giving us the vocal performance of nobody’s lifetime, to putting most of his energy into dancing – there was even a backflip thrown in this time – and actually sounding passable. The Jedward Effect of having backing singers do most of the heavy lifting had to have something to do with it.

 

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Winner Australia Honourable Mention/s The Netherlands, Sweden

As awesome/bizarre as it would have been to see Australia win Eurovision, I never really thought it was going to happen with Tonight Again. After Guy’s outstanding live performance, though, a top five placement was not out of the question – and when we nabbed one over Latvia, I felt it was fair (not that I would’ve complained if Australia and Latvia had finished the other way round). When I do the math, 5th seems just right. The song deserved top ten, the performance deserved top five, and the vocal was deserving of the win.

 

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Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Austria, France

I’ve said this a dozen times already, but even ignoring the fact that Germany wasn’t ranked last in the televoting or jury voting and still ended up at the bottom (no pun intended, if you know what I mean), I remain confused as to how Ann Sophie was so wronged. As if she hadn’t been traumatised enough during the German NF! There was nothing deserving of nul in her sassy, sexy performance, and I for one am outraged that Black Smoke is now the only Eurovision song in history to finish 27th in the final.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Russia

Aside from a last-minute challenge from Russia, and the possibility of Italy trampling all over their competition, Sweden was the one to beat this year. From the millisecond Måns won Melfest, he was the odds-on favourite to win Eurovision, and he didn’t disappoint those who’d put money on him. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t think Russia was going to snatch victory (after Polina’s final performance and until halfway through the voting sequence, that’s EXACTLY what I thought was going to happen) but the obvious winner that few of us discounted did turn out to be the actual winner. I don’t think Sweden’s sixth victory blindsided anyone.

 

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Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Austria

Yep, we’re in agreement – Germany wuz robbed! Since Stefan Raab relinquished control of the German entries, the country’s fortunes have taken a nosedive. As such, we might have expected Ann Sophie to finish mid-table or lower. What none of us expected was to see her sitting as low as possible on the scoreboard, with the host nation and a big fat zero keeping her company. WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO? On the plus side, Ann Sophie is now a member of a rather exclusive club of losers, and will be remembered in a way that whoever finished, say, 22nd (I literally had to Google that to remind myself that it was Cyprus) will not.

 

 

And that, my European song competition-obsessed friends, is it *insert relieved round of applause here*. There are no more trophies left to hand out to the Class of ’15, which the likes of Lithuania will be sad to hear considering they didn’t get one (not This Time….HAHAHA).

I hope you enjoyed this year’s awards. Thanks again to everyone who voted in the People’s Choice polls – I promise there will be more of those, feat. more nominees, in 2016.

I still have a bit of Vienna-themed business to take care of here on EBJ, before I move on and look ahead to JESC in Bulgaria, and the 61st ESC in A City Yet To Be Named (don’t rush, EBU/SVT…I need more time to conduct accommodation research). There won’t be a dull moment here during the off-season, so do drop by over the coming months. I can assure you that, unlike Ann Sophie and The Makemakes, you’ll never have a nul-point experience!

 

nsig

 

COMING UP I count down my top ten national finalists who should/could have gone to Vienna; and you’ll be seeing double as all the doppelgangers of ESC 2015 are exposed!

 

The 2015 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 1 (The Artists + The Songs)

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Even if it’s nine o’ clock in the morning where you are, just go with the flow, because this is a special occasion.

Yes, oui, and si – the 2015 EBJEES are here! It’s about time, seeing as Eurovision took place over a month ago and the DVD isn’t far from being released (the official indicator that I’ve taken way too long to get these awards going). Today’s ceremony is the first of two, so try not to crease your formalwear. And please pace yourselves with the champagne.

My final command? Take your seats, because the awards in the categories of The Artists and The Songs are about to be handed out. The results of four People’s Choice Awards will also be revealed, so sit back, relax, and see if your favourites came out on top. Oh, and please excuse the messy formatting at times (technology is not my friend today).

Lights, camera, action!

 

mzwee

 

THE ARTISTS

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  • Dominic Muhrer (The Makemakes)
  • Gianluca Ginoble (Il Volo)
  • Guy Sebastian
  • Ignazio Boschetto (Il Volo)
  • Måns Zelmerlöw
  • Piero Barone (Il Volo)
  • Stig Rästa
  • Uzari
  • Vaidas Baumila

Winner Måns Zelmerlöw Honourable Mention/s: Gianluca Ginoble

Okay…so I’m biased. But I find it hard to believe that anyone of any sexual persuasion could look at the shots below and not be affected by the muscular physique, penetrating gaze and strangely alluring meadow of chest hair belonging to our reigning Eurovision champion. Can you buy a flat-pack Måns at IKEA? If not, why not, Sweden? Get on it, and make sure you include the leather pants. hhmzw

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  • Ann Sophie
  • Edurne
  • Elhaida Dani
  • Elina Born
  • Marjetka Vovk (Maraaya)
  • Mélanie René
  • Nina Sublatti
  • Polina Gagarina
  • Tamar Kaprelian (Genealogy)

Winner Edurne Honourable Mention/s Ann Sophie, Elina Born

For the second year in a row, Spain takes the Hottest She trophy home. I don’t know if there’s something in the water over there or if it’s just a coincidence, but either way, Edurne is my número uno girl crush of this year’s contest. I guess it’s not just gentlemen who prefer blondes, on this occasion. hsedn

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  • Dominic Muhrer (The Makemakes)
  • Elnur Huseynov
  • Gianluca Ginoble (Il Volo)
  • Ignazio Boschetto (Il Volo)
  • John Karayiannis
  • Václav Noid Bárta

Winner Gianluca Ginoble Honourable Mention/s Dominic Muhrer

Each year, I award a gong in honour of the previous year’s winner (so expect one for 2016 in the form of The Butt-Hugger Award For Best-Fitting Trousers). In light of that, how could I bypass a beard-themed award this year? Gianluca’s carefully cultivated stubble wasn’t quite as perfect as Miss Wurst’s, but it upped his sex appeal by a factor of five hundred. Plus, it made him look older than his twenty years, meaning I didn’t feel like such a cougar thinking he was a tasty morsel.

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  • Essaï Altounian (Genealogy) 2%
  • Guy Sebastian 33%
  • Il Volo 16%
  • John Karayiannis 16%
  • Måns Zelmerlöw 16%
  • Václav Noid Barta 18%

Winner Guy Sebastian Honourable Mention/s Václav Noid Barta

The people have spoken – and by ‘the people’, I mean you guys, and me, because of course I snuck in a cheeky vote of my own. The first of eight People’s Choice Awards goes to Guy Sebastian, which doesn’t shock me even though I *may* not have voted for him (#teammånsineveryrespectalways). Guy didn’t put a foot wrong with the press from the moment he set foot on Viennese soil, in turn endearing himself to all of us watching interviews and press conferences from home. Even pre-ESC, he was flashing that megawatt smile and working his easy charm at Eurovision In Concert and the like. Way to maintain the Aussie rep of friendliness and approachability, Guy!

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  • Ann Sophie 1%
  • Bianca Nicholas (Electro Velvet) 5%
  • Bojana Stamenov 18%
  • Elhaida Dani 1%
  • Marjetka Vovk (Maraaya) 24%
  • Marta Jandová 32%
  • Polina Gagarina 14%
  • Trijntje Oosterhuis 5%

Winner Marta Jandová Honourable Mention/s Marjetka Vovk

 When it comes to the lady of 2015 you guys would want to hang out with, the reasonably clear choice was Marta – and it’s obvious why! Václav’s partner in crime isn’t suffering from a shortage of personality, whether she’s onstage whipping her heels off or offstage joking and laughing with anyone who crosses her path. If she ever posts a personal ad looking for a new best friend, I’ll respond to it for sure. Me and a million others.

 

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  • Anti Social Media
  • Bojana Stamenov
  • Eduard Romanyuta
  • Guy Sebastian
  • Måns Zelmerlöw
  • Nadav Guedj

Winner Nadav Guedj Honourable Mention/s Bojana Stamenov, Guy Sebastian

You might have been expecting me to hand this one to a more seasoned professional. But, at sixteen years old and without the stage experience of most of the other nominees, Nadav can command a stage and pump up a crowd with ease. I’ve got to concede that he’s a natural; that he was born to be on the stage. It’s just a matter of whether that birth took place in 1998 as alleged, or 1988, which seems like the more realistic option.

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  • Elnur Huseynov (return of the screeching angel of ’08)
  • Genealogy (six singers + six continents)
  • Guy Sebastian (Aussie representation in Austria)
  • Maraaya (headphones here to stay)
  • Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini (from JESC to ESC)

Winner Guy Sebastian Honourable Mention/s Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini

 Australia, competing legitimately in Eurovision? Puh-lease. At least that’s what was thought when the EBU announced it was happening and we all assumed it was a prank. But it wasn’t, and it did happen, with Guy Sebastian at the helm. What better talking point to have associated with an act? Side note: Aussies were threefold on the Stadthalle stage (not counting Guy’s backing group members): think Mary-Jean O’Doherty lending her operatics to Armenia with Genealogy, Katrina Noorbergen songwriting and backup-singing for Russia, and Guy. Obviously.

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  • Loïc Nottet
  • Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini
  • Molly Sterling
  • Nadav Guedj

 Winner Loïc Nottet Honourable Mention/s Molly Sterling, Nadav Guedj

 Not only was he the highest-scoring teenager of them all this year, but Loïc proved himself to be perhaps the most talented one too – co-writing Rhythm Inside and choreographing the accompanying stage show in his capacity as dancer as well as singer. The guy (man? Boy? Kid?) is too cool for school, and one to watch as he continues to build his career.

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  • Australia’s smooth movers
  • Belgium’s all-white troupe
  • France’s drummer boys
  • Hungary’s peace preachers
  • Israel’s dirty dancers
  • FYR Macedonia’s MERJ
  • Moldova’s hot cops
  • Montenegro’s classy choir

Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Australia, Israel, Montenegro

It’s easy to give the main artist all the credit for pulling off a great performance. But the vocal support and energy backup singers and/or dancers provide rounds out a performance, and is often invaluable. I’m sure Loïc was grateful for his five double-threats who, dressed all in white, both contrasted with and complemented him as the main artist. They even took over when things got overwhelming and he had to have a mid-song nap on the floor. That’s a top-notch support system right there.

THE SONGS

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  • A Million Voices (sounds like What If by Dina Garipova)
  • Heroes (sounds like Lovers On The Sun by David Guetta)
  • One Thing I Should Have Done (sounds like More Than Words by Extreme)
  • Still In Love With You (sounds like the ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ theme)

 Winner Heroes Honourable Mention/s One Thing I Should Have Done

First things first: I think the claims of plagiarism against Heroes are ridiculous. But every year, there’s one entry that cops flak for being a “carbon copy” of something else (as in it’s slightly similar in the way that certain genres just ARE) and in 2015, that entry was our winning one. I’m giving it this award based on the attention those plagiarism claims received in the press – not because I think Heroes is a rehashed version of Lovers On The Sun (a song which annoys the crap out of me, if truth be told).

 

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  • Amanecer, Spain 23%
  • A Million Voices, Russia 4%
  • Beauty Never Lies, Serbia 6%
  • Golden Boy, Israel 11%
  • Grande Amore, Italy 17%
  • Here For You, Slovenia 9%
  • Heroes, Sweden 25%
  • Tonight Again, Australia 6%

 Winner Heroes Honourable Mention/s Amanecer

 Fanwank entries may be drooled over by hardcore ESC fans in the contest lead-up, but they have been known to crash and burn (Kate Ryan’s Je T’adore being the obvious reference point here). Your choice for Fanwank of the Year, however, met pre-show expectations that it was a potential winner by…well, winning. Runner-up Amanecer, on the other hand, was a bit more Je T’adore.

 

 

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  • A Monster Like Me, Norway
  • Autumn Leaves, FYR Macedonia
  • Heroes, Sweden
  • Hour of the Wolf, Azerbaijan
  • Love Injected, Latvia
  • N’oubliez Pas, France
  • Playing With Numbers, Ireland
  • Still In Love With You, United Kingdom

 Winner A Monster Like Me Honourable Mention/s Love Injected, N’oubliez Pas

The alternative (but boring) title of this award = Best Lyrics. How much merit a song’s lyrics have is super subjective, so keep that in mind as I say that Norway’s lyrics were my favourite, in a year where there were many interesting and insightful words put to music. The words of AMLM are quite sparse and simple, but their moodiness and ambiguity (for heaven’s sake, Mørland, put us out of our misery and tell us what you did in your early youth!) sends shivers down my spine. Debrah’s verse is the highlight.

 

 

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  • A Million Voices, Russia
  • A Monster Like Me, Norway
  • De La Capăt (All Over Again), Romania
  • Grande Amore, Italy
  • Hour of the Wolf, Azerbaijan
  • N’oubliez Pas, France
  • Playing With Numbers, Ireland

 Winner Grande Amore Honourable Mention/s A Million Voices, A Monster Like Me

 In such a ballad-heavy contest, at least we had some darn good ones to compensate for the depressing, dated ones. This was a tough category, but I have to single out Grande Amore as having the most ballady goodness. Drama, oomph, popera and gorgeous Italian (not to mention gorgeous Italian men) came together to create a crowd-pleaser and a half that ended up raking in televotes like nobody’s business. No other ballad featured more spine-tingling AND explosive moments.

 

 

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  • Adio, Montenegro
  • Amanecer, Spain
  • Golden Boy, Israel

 Winner Golden Boy Honourable Mention/s Adio, Amanecer

 It’s not as if there was a truckload of ethno-pop to choose from *sniff*….but fortunately, Israel delivered everything I desire in the genre straight to my front door. Golden Boy is a fun-packed floor-filler (though not THE floor-filler of the year IMO, as you’ll see in a second) that takes full advantage of irresistible Middle-Eastern sounds in order to get us all rump-shaking.

 

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  • Beauty Never Lies, Serbia
  • Golden Boy, Israel
  • Here For You, Slovenia
  • Heroes, Sweden
  • I Want Your Love, Moldova
  • Still In Love With You, United Kingdom
  • Tonight Again, Australia

 Winner Tonight Again  Honourable Mention/s Golden Boy

 Call me overly-patriotic if you like…but I can assure you, this winner is at least 67% based on my objective opinion of which song would take a Euroclub from boredom central to buzzing in no time. If you were in the arena, feel free to smugly inform me that Israel or Serbia had way more people on their feet and flailing their limbs about. Meanwhile, I’ll be figuring out which dance move is best suited to the lyric ‘tonight’s so good’.

 

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  • Aina Mun Pitää, Finland
  • Face The Shadow, Armenia
  • One Last Breath, Greece
  • Still In Love With You, United Kingdom
  • The Way You Are, Denmark

 Winner Face The Shadow Honourable Mention/s Aina Mun Pitää

 Based on the ratio of how much I hated it when I first heard it (and every time I listened to it up until I witnessed Genealogy’s live performance) to how much I actually almost kind of enjoy it now, Armenia wins this one. If you read my previous post (which of COURSE you did!) then you would have seen Face The Shadow on my list of the best-performed songs of 2015 – and it was the performance that was solely responsible for changing my opinion of the song.

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  • Face The Shadow, Armenia
  • Golden Boy, Israel
  • Hope Never Dies, Czech Republic
  • Tonight Again, Australia

 Winner Tonight Again  Honourable Mention/s Face The Shadow

 Don’t get me wrong – I reckon the debut Aussie entry is a great song in studio, and a perfect radio track. But it does ascend to superb status when it’s live. Guy is an artist who always appears to be having a ball on stage, and that’s the kind of attitude Tonight Again needs to make it a party-anthem…and to distract us from the fact that it is quite repetitive.

 

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  • Autumn Leaves, FYR Macedonia
  • Here For You, Slovenia
  • Hour of the Wolf, Azerbaijan
  • Time, Belarus
  • Unbroken, Iceland
  • Walk Along, The Netherlands

 Winner Here For You Honourable Mention/s Hour of the Wolf, Walk Along

 Speaking of perfect radio tracks, here’s one Slovenia prepared earlier! Here For You is an audio dream, but for me personally, Maraaya were unable to keep it from being overly static – and therefore devoid of enough energy – on the stage. This wasn’t a major issue in the Slovenian NF, but was a definite problem on the less intimate ESC stage.

 

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  • Amanecer, Spain 20%
  • A Monster Like Me, Norway 26%
  • De La Capăt (All Over Again), Romania 13%
  • Face The Shadow, Armenia 2%
  • Grande Amore, Italy 13%
  • Love Injected, Latvia 9%
  • Still In Love With You, United Kingdom 4%
  • Time, Belarus 13%

 Winner A Monster Like Me Honourable Mention/s Amanecer

 Norway’s unconventional dinner party triumphs over Spain’s CGI everything in this People’s Choice Award – and as I gave my vote to Mørland and Debrah, that’s fine by me. The only bad thing about their glamourous-yet-messy video, in which the duo is cool, calm and collected in the midst of chaos, is that it makes me mourn the loss of a similar atmosphere in Norway’s stage performance. I’m not saying they should have emptied KFC buckets over each other’s heads or anything; but a gloomier, retro-glam look would have upped Monster’s cred as a live song.

 

 

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  • Albania
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • Lithuania
  • Poland
  • Slovenia

 Winner Lithuania Honourable Mention/s Italy, Slovenia

 To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed with any of the postcards this year (though the concept of them was cute). But how can I not acknowledge how badass Vaidas and Monika were in taking a literal leap of faith together for the sake of a This Time intro? While other acts were frolicking in fields with wild horses and dancing down Austrian avenues, those two were putting their trust in a cable that could have snapped at any moment (in my mind). One word, two syllables: bravo.

 

And that’s Part 1 *insert round of applause here*! I’m going to wrap things up before you lose 100% of the feeling in your popo, but I will be back later in the week to reveal the winners of The Performances, The Costumes and The Results EBJEEs.

Don’t miss it, especially if you want to check out the remaining People’s Choice results. And even more especially if you don’t want me to feel sad and lonely and stuff #guilttrip.

Let me know what you think of the winners above, and tell me which awards you’d like to be able to vote for next year. I can promise more polls with more nominees in 2016!

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EBJ’s Top 10…performances of Eurovision 2015

Hej hej! Welcome to the filler post that’s supposed to make you drool with anticipation as you await the results of my 2015 Eurovision Excellence Awards.

Don’t worry; their arrival is in the offing. In the meantime, if you haven’t voted in the People’s Choice polls yet, I would la la love you to do so while you still can. The polls are sitting pretty in my previous post, where they’ll be open for another few days (UPDATE: They’ve now closed!!!). Many of the results are close at this point, so your vote could determine who wins and who goes home empty-handed. As our beloved Queen Loreen would say, you got the power.

Before you head off to use it, though (and thanks so much if you already have…douze points for you!) why not hang around here for a bit and check out today’s countdown?

The forty songs performed in Vienna over three nights have been narrowed down to ten: my top ten of the lot, based on how well they were staged and sung, how aesthetically pleasing they were, and how insignificant the shocking camerawork became in light of all of the above.

 

As taking forty down to ten is a tough task (even with a few badly-staged, badly-sung entries among that forty) I’m allowing myself some Honourable Mentions to start:

Moldova If Moldova had tried to disguise I Want Your Love as a classy, contemporary affair, there would have been a global eye-roll epidemic. Fortunately, Eduard and his team acknowledged how trashy and 2000s the song is via a heavily-choreographed, sleazy dance routine performed by “police” hot off a porn set. I don’t care what anyone says – we NEEDED this in Eurovision 2015.

Montenegro Željko Joksimović was part of Adio in spirit (and as songwriter) if not on stage, with his influence extending to the use of every Balkan ballad trope imaginable during Knez’s performance. In this case, I’m more than happy to embrace the clichés, because I’ve long been a sucker for Balkan ballads and their atmospheric ensemble-based stagings…especially when Željko’s engineered them.

Russia I can’t deny that Polina gave a win-worthy performance in the final, helped along by her all-white resemblance to Dima Bilan back in ’08 (except his neckline was even more plunging than hers). But, more so than the costumes or the backdrops, it’s the emotion and energy she put into conveying the message of A Million Voices that I applaud here. Polina clearly invested every fibre of her (pure and angelic) being into her performance, and the fact that she semi-crumbled at the end endeared her effort to me all the more. You go, girlfriend.

 

And now, let’s get to the really, really good stuff (and pretend I didn’t just say ‘You go, girlfriend’): my top ten performances of the year.

When compiling this list, I thought back to how strong my desire was to clap after each performance, rather than bury my head in my hands. I also tried to recall whether my eyes were glued to the TV screen for three minutes straight (á la Sweden) or if I was tempted to tear them out after ten seconds because I NEVER EVER WANT TO SEE ANYONE WEAR ANYTHING LIKE THAT AGAIN, TRIJNTJE!

This is the end result.

 

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#10 | Game of Thrones meets Eurovision…and it’s a perfect match

Genealogy’s performance of Face The Shadow for Armenia

Game of Thrones with a ton of (subliminal) ads for Cadbury Family Blocks thrown in, that is. Armenia’s medieval-esque and very purple outfits – which may or may not have been retrieved from the depths of Inga’s wardrobe and repurposed, based on their resemblance to her and her sister’s 2009 costume choice – added to an equally purple and well-executed performance that took my pre-show perception of Face The Shadow and completely reversed it. Once performed live, the chaos of the studio version – in which all six singers attempted to outdo each other at every opportunity – disappeared, making way for screen shots that almost literally walked us through Essaï, Mary-Jean, Stephanie, Inga, Tamar and Vahe’s solos. On top of that, the migraine-inducing melodrama of that studio version came off as more of a theatricality, and one that worked very well outside of the recording booth. I still feel like Genealogy would have been more at home in a West End production of The Phantom of the Opera than at Eurovision…but their performance made me want to retract most of the snarky comments I made when reviewing Armenia a few months ago – and that deserves praise.

 

#9 | How do you say ‘OTT’ in Spanish?

Edurne’s performance of Amanecer for Spain

After a pretty lengthy period of simplistic staging choices, it was only a matter of time before Spain regurgitated every unused costume reveal, backdrop, dance move and wind machine gust from the past five years all over the Eurovision stage. We’ll never know whether less would have been more where Amanecer is concerned, but I personally don’t mind never finding out – because Edurne’s action-packed, meme-worthy performance harked back to the ultra-gimmicky days of the contest, and I couldn’t help loving it. Si, it was OTT, but not in a tacky, trashy way (Moldova had the tackiness and trashiness all to themselves). To put it in Eurovision terms, if Silvia Night’s Congratulations performance in ’06 was a petulant child, then Edurne’s Amanecer performance was the same child nine years later – more mature, but now at the party-girl stage of life when all she wants to do is rip off the demure cloak she wore out of the house to appease her parents, revealing a flashy dress that enables her to be manhandled by a half-naked dancer up in the club. Or in this case, up on the Stadthalle stage in front of thousands of flag-waving fans. Something else I commend about Spain’s show is the fact that Edurne didn’t let the myriad of backdrops, or the machine-made wind, or any of the other stuff that was happening to/around her, outshine her. She retained her status as star of the show the entire time. I guess when you’re that stunning, it’s easy to do.

 

#8 | Before I leave, you can definitely show me Tel Aviv!

Nadav Guedj’s performance of Golden Boy for Israel

I mean that in a ‘because you guys are the collective kings of fun’ kind of way, as opposed to an ‘I have the hots for a sixteen-year-old which, as I am in my twenties, is creepy, even though said teenager looks older than me’ kind of way (I swear I don’t). Without question, Israel was the life of the Eurovision party in Vienna, and all it took was simple but bang-on staging of the energetic floorfiller that is Golden Boy. All the song needed was a cool lighting scheme, men who could move, and – something I didn’t visualise pre-ESC but now can’t imagine sacrificing – some sweet-as-heck metallic sneakers. And Israel delivered on all three of those counts. They also gave us a teen talented beyond his years, who worked the stage like a pro and made millions of people watching at home leave the butt-shaped crater in their couches behind in order to shake the butt that made the indentation. I was doing no such thing when I was sixteen, being too busy carrying out my grand plan to win over the guy I liked by never looking at or speaking directly to him, which worked a treat. Not. ANYWAY, there was nothing not to enjoy about Nadav’s moment in the spotlight – including his literal moment in the spotlight during Golden Boy’s ballad-like intro, also perfectly staged – which is why it’s going down as one of my top ten performances. As long as I can keep pretending the cringe-tastic ‘Do you like my dancing?’ lyric doesn’t exist, I’ll be re-watching it on repeat.

 

#7 | Where there’s smoke, there’s Nina

Nina Sublatti’s performance of Warrior for Georgia

Let’s be honest: there were a lot of lady ballads in Eurovision this year. Countless women in floor-sweeping gowns were either a) wilting away at their microphones because the flame of their loins had departed, or b) demanding in a very shouty manner that we all come together and build a bridge and pray for peace and whatnot (thanks, but no thanks). So it’s a relief that Georgia gave us some grunt factor in the form of a fierce-as-F-word, gothic goddess in black leather hotpants and thigh-high boots – a.k.a. Nina Sublatti. At twenty years of age, Nina held her own on a sizeable and very smoky stage (she didn’t even bat a kohl-covered eyelid when the Dry Ice Overload Incident took place during the final). Girl eyeballed the camera, strutted around in those amazing boots (sorry to keep mentioning them, but they’re a 10 on the Maja Keuc scale of lust-worthy footwear) and generally hypnotised me into staring at her the entire time she was doing her femme fatale thing. She didn’t need anyone else accompanying her on stage, and I get the feeling the same applies to her everyday life – she’s the epitome of a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man. It’s quite possible that I’m a little bit in love with her, actually. But pushing that aside, I think that Georgia staged Warrior impeccably. A striking backdrop, a dark and sexy choice of costume, dry ice for atmosphere and Nina herself was all that the performance needed to succeed.

 

#6 | Lights! Camera! Completely unjustified nul points!

Ann Sophie’s performance of Black Smoke for Germany

From one saucy, black-clad woman to another…let’s talk about Ann Sophie and her Eurovision rendition of Black Smoke. And this time, I’m going to get straight to the point: I LOVED this performance. Fans who didn’t like the song beforehand and were still annoyed about the Andreas situation may not have felt the same way watching it, and I’ll admit that as I did rate Black Smoke quite highly in the contest lead-up – and wanted poor, downtrodden Ann Sophie to surpass expectations (which didn’t quite pan out) – I’m probably biased. But you tell me something that was über-wrong with Germany’s three minutes, and I’ll tell you that you’re crazy. Everything about it was simple, seductive and sophisticated – and no, I haven’t forgotten about the butt-centric shots that dominated the first verse. What can I say? The woman has a behind that deserves camera time, and the fact that she spent thirty seconds with her back to the audience was at least a unique and memorable approach to stage choreography. It was hardly off the charts wackiness-wise when compared to some of Belgium’s choreography (which *spoiler alert* will be discussed again shortly). Ann Sophie’s style and charisma were equally on point, and her voice wasn’t half as nasally as it had been at the German national final. On top of that, the use of the giant lights as props was inspired, and totally in keeping with the slightly retro flavour of Black Smoke. All in all, Germany’s was a slick and entertaining performance in which every visual element was nailed and the artist played their part in adding pizzazz. Neither the televoters nor the juries thought that zero points was a fair score here, so I blame the current combined voting system for a failure that will haunt my dreams for years to come.

 

#5 | Three (handsome, Italian) heads are better than one

Il Volo’s performance of Grande Amore for Italy

Il Volo, of course, had sung Grande Amore live at Sanremo in order to win the main section of the comp – but after hearing the song for the first time via the cinematically-themed video and falling in love with it, I decided not to seek out the live version. Rather, I’d wait until Eurovision time to see if the boys would blow me away as I expected them to. Obviously, since I’m talking about them on a list of my favourite Viennese performances, they did. They really, really did. All they had to do was stand on the stage in front of that majestic and oh-so-Italian backdrop in dapper suits, and nail their solo vocals and harmonies, and the power of the song would do the rest. A little partnership between the lighting/graphics and the explosive launch into the choruses added to the drama, and that wink from Gianluca down the camera cemented the sex appeal and charisma of this popera entry. Comparisons to the stuffy and straight-laced Sognu should have ended there, but people refuse to stop pitting Italy 2015 against France 2011…even now that we know Italy won the televote and finished third overall (seriously, STOP IT!). Effortless, classy and with an Italian stamp on their performance like always, Italy more than made up for Emma’s scoreboard slump of 2014. And gave me some epic goosebumps. Brr.

 

#4 | Did we pick the right Guy for the job? Too right, mate!

Guy Sebastian’s performance of Tonight Again for Australia

No list of this nature written by an Australian would be complete without our debut performance on it. In fourth place is Guy Sebastian, whose talent, personality and posse of backup dancers/singers had the whole of the arena on their feet (from what I could see on screen) and dismissing the ‘WTF?’ factor of Australia being invited to compete. Tonight Again is the kind of song that works better live, when the performer can feed off the energy of the audience – and in this case, where smooth-as-honey vocals like Guy’s sound sweetest. From his first note, the crowd made the noise that indicated they knew they were in for a fun time (fun being extremely welcome after a ton of down-tempo songs that simply could not be twerked to), and when the trumpets kicked in, there was no looking back. The 3D and 2D street lights served as an eye-catching and appropriate part of simple but effective staging – i.e. staging that was far from boarding Spain’s OTT train, but not at all boring. My absolute favourite thing about our debut was this: watching it unfold in a room full of other Aussies, all of us waving our flags and singing along to every word, while dancing in the uncoordinated kind of way one does at 4 o’ clock in the morning. For the first time, I felt the patriotic spirit that those of you in regularly-competing countries must feel when you’re supporting your entry for the year (assuming you like it and aren’t embarrassed to get behind it). If we’re not invited back, then I’ll always have that memory and feeling to hold on to (sorry for the cheese, but this was a special event, and I’m getting kind of emotional thinking about it *sniff*).

 

And now, for the top points…er, I mean, performances. Or perhaps both?

Yes.

Eight points go to…

 

#3 | Affected, detected, reflected and injected

Aminata’s performance of Love Injected for Latvia

I am proud to say I’m someone who approved of Love Injected when it won the Latvian NF. But not even I foresaw how epic Aminata’s Eurovision performance, and eventual result, would be. I mean, this is Latvia we’re talking about – their contest history includes the world’s campest pirates, Johnny Logan name-dropping and songs about cake-baking. In the post-2000 years, I’ve often had low expectations of them…but that’s changed. Watching barely-five-foot Aminata attempt to fit through backstage doorways in that giant red puffball of a dress, I was skeptical. But with that dress, and the girl in it, being the focal point of the presentation, magic was made. The colour scheme and lighting were seamlessly integrated with the theme and hypnotic beats of the song, and the camerawork here was among the best of the lot. The real drawcard, though, was Aminata herself. Like Conchita, she remained in the same spot for the entirety of her performance, but managed to belt out Love Injected with a whopping amount of power, and emote using only her facial expressions and arm movements. Note-perfect every time and totally present and absorbed in the moment, she had so much to do with Latvia providing another spine-tingler. Overa-a-a-a-all (couldn’t resist) they impressed me big time, brought up my heart rate, and achieved a result that was more Brainstorm than Beautiful Song.

 

Ten points go to…

 

#2 | Lord of the dance, and the leather pants

Måns Zelmerlöw’s performance of Heroes for Sweden

Oh, Sweden – you did it again! Á la 2012, the ESC powerhouse’s out-of-the-box thinking led to an innovatively-staged performance that was unique in the field, and deservingly took out Eurovision’s top honours. The extent to which Sweden takes Melodifestivalen and Eurovision seriously is evident in how well-packaged their entries are from the very first time you see them live – when they’re just potential Swedish representatives competing in a Melfest semi. Changes to the stick man aside, the Heroes that turned up in Vienna was shot-for-shot, move-for-move the same as the Heroes that had won Melfest in Stockholm. And there’s nothing wrong with that – why strive to improve on perfection? Sure, there were a few minor tweaks that did just that: e.g. the colour scheme becoming monochromatic, which, as Måns said, gave the visuals a crispness they didn’t have before. That was the cherry on top of a precision-iced cake. Although I’d seen Måns interacting with cartoon Måns (who’s not as handsome but is adorable nonetheless) a million times before he did so at Eurovision, I was compelled by the staging every time. MZW  was selling something I already wanted to buy, so the fact that a) his vocals were top-notch, b) his engagement with the audience and camera was as pro as always, and c) he was still rocking those leather pants *swoons pathetically* was an added bonus. Just because every element of a performance has been thought through and rehearsed to within an inch of its life doesn’t mean said performance will become stale. It can still be fresh, with the right frontman…or in this case, the right frontmåns.

 

And now, the moment you’ve waded through my ramblings for. The douze points for my personal favourite performance of the year go to…

 

#1 | Black + white + rap pap pap tonight!

Loïc Nottet’s performance of Rhythm Inside for Belgium

Belgium has been a hit-and-miss kind of contest competitor lately. After Roberto Bellarosa’s surprise success in Malmö, Axel Hirsoux’s failure to qualify in Copenhagen must have taken the wind out of their sails (while not surprising the majority of us who were creeped-out by Mother). This year, with Francophone broadcaster RTBF in charge again, Loïc Nottet was internally selected – and what a brilliant selection it was. Loïc – who we mustn’t forget is only nineteen years old – proceeded to co-write a cutting-edge pop song and choreograph a cool routine for some all-white backing singers. The rest, as they say, is history. Belgium’s best result since 2003 was thanks to a song and performance unlike anything we’d heard or seen on the Eurovision stage before, which is mainly why I voted for it. Simple shapes, bizarre but complementary dance moves and a minimalist, monochromatic colour scheme united as Loïc let rip with a killer vocal. Unusual camera shots, and an intensity from The Voice Belgique runner-up that would be hard for an artist twice his age to muster, added to the intrigue, making Belgium’s performance pretty impossible to forget. The whole thing was strange yet satisfying, and gelled in a way that some other performances didn’t. I couldn’t tear my eyes away, having been a fan of Rhythm Inside from the start and then been blindsided by a level of awesomeness in its presentation. I want to see more of this in Eurovision as we journey on into the show’s seventh decade. Maybe that would prove that the older the contest gets, the cooler it gets – you know, like your grandmother who goes bar-hopping, listens to heavy metal and takes hang-gliding lessons.

 

 

That’s my countdown concluded, peeps. I’ve said my (very long) piece, so now it’s your turn. Which ten performances of Eurovision 2015 will you be watching over and over until a distraction comes along in the form of Eurovision 2016? Let me know below. I’m as curious as always!

 

NEXT TIME Dust off your tuxedoes, fluff out those tulle skirts, and red-carpet-proof your footwear – the EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence have arrived! Well, the first installment has, anyway. You’re cordially invited to sit front-row as the trophies in the categories of The Artists and The Songs are handed out. Four of the People’s Choice winners will be revealed as well, so you won’t want to miss this ceremony.

 

nsig

 

VOTE FOR THE WINNERS | Have your say in the People’s Choice categories of the 2015 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence!

UPDATE: The People’s Choice polls have now closed. Thanks to everyone who voted – there was a pretty impressive turnout by EBJ standards! Drop by in the coming days for Parts 1 and 2 of the Eurovision Excellence Awards, when the results (and winners of a heap of other “trophies”) will be revealed. Subscribe to EBJ if you want your email to let you know exactly when those posts go live!

When Eurovision 2015 came to a close, it left us with one winner and thirty-nine losers spread across Europe (with one down here in Australia). I’m sorry to put it so harshly, but when you’re not winning, you’re technically losing, no matter what Malta’s Amber thinks. Marcel Bezençon Awards aside, only Måns Zelmerlöw departed Vienna with a trophy in his suitcase (though I like to think he insisted on wrapping it in a blanket, cradling it like a baby and singing it lullabies all the way back to Sweden. I know I would have).

I think that’s über unfair. That’s why, for the sixth year running, I’m holding my own ceremony of awards to honour the achievements of the countries, artists and songs that were not champions of the contest itself. I can’t promise Sweden won’t win any of these trophies too, however. Why should they be punished for bringing their A-game?

Anyway, these awards are better known as The EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence, and span five fabulous categories: The Artists, The Songs, The Performances, The Costumes and The Results (you can check out the 2014 awards here and here). In each category, there’s at least one gong that goes to the most popular nominee as voted by you (yes, you…have you had a haircut? It looks great. Really flatters your jawline). And today, voting is the task I’d love you to undertake. If my totally personalised and genuine complimenting of your appearance didn’t make you want to do what I tell you to, then you should know that anyone who votes in the polls below will receive a jar of my eternal gratitude in the mail in around 6-8 weeks.

So, if you’re up for it (which I’m sure you are now) it’s time to make some very important decisions – including that of who had the most superbly-styled hair in the Stadthalle (choosing the nominees for that made me miss Guy Sebastian’s old ‘fro like crazy). If you feel like I’ve missed out on nominating a particular country/artist/song for any award, feel free to nominate them yourself in the comments, and I’ll be sure to count that as a vote, because I’m nice like that. Not humble, but nice.

Now go forth and vote, vote, vote for the winners!

And tell your friends to do the same.

 

The Artists

Mr. Congeniality
The most personable and approachable male artist on the ground in Vienna (who you’d take home to meet your parents in a heartbeat).

 

Miss Congeniality
The female artist from the Class of ’15 you’d want to be best friends with (and she can meet your parents too).

 

The Songs

Fanwank (Pardon My French) of the Year
The song that had hardcore fans frothing at the mouth months before Eurovision even took place.

 

Best Preview Video
The music video that was visually spectacular, took an entry to another level, and/or gave you serious feels (watch or re-watch all of the nominees here).

 

The Performances

Best Stage Prop/Gimmick
The attention-grabbing onstage accompaniment that made the song it was supporting much more memorable.

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The All-Rounder of the Year
The country with an act who sang perfectly, whose style was on point, and who had a song that was brilliantly staged and choreographed (i.e. the entry with the total live package).

 

The Costumes

Hairdo of the Year
The artist with the moussed, flat-ironed and/or teased ‘do that you’re planning to recreate because it was the bomb dot com.

hdoty

 

The Results

The ‘How Did That Happen?’ Award for Most Shocking Result
The…um, does this one really require an explanation?

 

Those are your eight People’s Choice Awards for 2015. Thank you so much for voting, if you did. If not, then what are you waiting for?

The polls will be open for about a week, and then the EBJEEs will commence. There are plenty more trophies up for grabs that I’ll be deciding the winners of myself, because I like to be in charge all the time every now and then. But for now, the fate of the nominees is in your hands.

Lordi help them.

May the best potential winner be the eventual, actual winner!
nsig

NEXT TIME The awesomeness level of performances in Vienna may have been off the charts, but I’ve managed to narrow a long list of highlights down to ten: my top ten performances of the year, that is. Drop by in a few days’ time and check out the countdown, from #10 to #1.

 

From ‘Heroes’ to zeroes: Reviewing the Eurovision 2015 semi and final scoreboards, all the way from first to worst

Ah, yes. What a gift the combo of Sweden’s winning song title and Austria/Germany’s double nul-points has been to Eurovision journalism! Just to warn you – this may not be the last time I make use of the heroes/zeroes thing. But, in my defence, it is particularly relevant to today’s post:, even though today’s post isn’t particularly relevant.

Allow me to explain: it’s been over a fortnight since the first semi final of Eurovision 2015; over a week since the final; and three days since May came to an end (WHAT THE?!?!). That means it’s beyond time I did what everyone else has already done: look back on this year’s results. I’m going to pretend the lateness is intentional because I want to stand out from the crowd, when really it’s due to me being a slowpoke and taking this long to mould everything I want to say into something readable. You guys know by now that there’s waiting involved (for other people) in everything I do. It’s part of my charm…I hope.

At long last, though, I have performed a results analysis on all three nights of Viennese competition (feel free to applaud before reading any further). You won’t find a dissection of every single split and combined figure from all forty countries below – if you want the specifics, you can seek them out yourself here) – but you will find:

  • Some brief opinions on the final re: everything except the performances (since I already reviewed all 27 performances in my previous post);
  • An overview of how the Australian televoters and jurors ranked the finalists, and a reminder of where our first (but not last?) final points went; and
  • Plenty of stats from/observations of the split and combined scoreboards of the final and both semis.

So, in the words of Eurovision groove master Guy Sebastian: let’s (oh) get on it, (ooh) get on it!

 

The ESC 2015 final: A Twitter-friendly, Jaz-eye view on everything BUT the performances

‘Twitter-friendly’ = brief. I am capable of being short and sweet, you know.

Having said that, it would take at least two or three Tweets to make all of this info public.

  • The opening You had me at ‘flying Conchita in sparkly jumpsuit’. The Building Bridges theme song was a bit too JESC for ESC in my opinion, but I could learn to love it. The intro in its entirety was too long-winded. Nearly half an hour before song no. 1? Give me a break. A shorter break.
  • The hosts Alice, Mirjam and Arabella became slightly more appealing as the shows progressed – by final night, they were almost charismatic. But the main reason I was happy for them to have camera time was so I could stare at their outfits (Austrian design gets my tick of approval!). Conchita, as Green Room host, left the other three ladies in her glittery wake. #QUEEN.
  • The postcards As adorable as something can be when that something isn’t a puppy. These pre-performance featurettes were somewhat similar to last year’s – all thematically linked, but all unique in what they depicted each act doing, this time around Austria. It’s obvious there’s a lot to do over there, and if showing us that was ORF’s way of increasing tourism, it’s worked on me. But I think I’ll leave the bungee jumping to Monika and Vaidas.
mvpc

Monika and Vaidas, hoping they’ll be out of their body casts in time to perform at Eurovision. Spoiler alert: they were.

  • The interval acts An interval act has to be really, really, really good for me to watch it without thinking to myself ‘Is this STILL going? Me want results!’. Unfortunately, Mr. Percussionist didn’t fit that brief. But Conchita’s mini-medley was fabulous – I could watch and listen to her all day long. Can we have Conchita at Eurovision every year in some capacity? She can be the new Lys Assia (even though we still have the old Lys Assia).
  • The voting sequence The most exciting one we’ve sat through in years…but more on that later. I will say now that I’m legit going to start a petition to stop that ‘We don’t need to hear the results from any more countries to know that so-and-so is the winner! Congratulations! Oh, but I suppose we’d better hear the rest…’. HATE. IT. WITH. A. PASSION. It’s unnecessary, and disrespectful to the countries who are yet to announce their points and who aren’t in first place on the scoreboard. Yet it’s becoming a contest trend. Ugh.
  • The end result I more or less covered this last time, but in terms of the winner and where we’re headed in 2016 as a result, I’m RIDICULOUSLY HAPPY. CAPS LOCK IS TOTALLY NECESSARY TO GET ACROSS TO YOU JUST HOW HAPPY I AM. Take Eurovision as seriously as Sweden does, and there’s no reason you can’t win twice within four years. I expect them to equal and overtake Ireland’s winning tally in the not-too-distant future.

swwwThat is all.

 

‘Straya’s say: A little look-see at the points from the land Down Under

Speaking of Eurovision strutting back to Scandinavia next year…with Australia-in-the-ESC-for-keeps advocate Christer Björkman in a position of power where the 61st contest is concerned, it’s becoming more and more likely that we Aussies will be invited back to the party. I’ll make my thoughts on this matter public when the time’s right. For now, let’s just have a nosy at Australia’s debut grand final votes.

The Aussie points were presented by our beloved newsreader Lee Lin Chin (can’t help wishing it’d been me though). Lee Lin may not look like a badass (in fact, if Twitter is to be believed, she looks more like a certain extra-terrestrial, which I think is a very cruel and not at all amusing comparison) but I can assure you that her appearance is deceiving. She swept her sass to one side for her result-reading time, ever the professional when she needs to be. Here are the points she revealed to Europe and beyond:

  • 1pt Georgia
  • 2pts Israel
  • 3pts Estonia
  • 4pts Norway
  • 5pts Serbia
  • 6pts Belgium
  • 7pts Latvia
  • 8pts Italy
  • 10pts Russia
  • 12pts Sweden
Eurovision-Lee-Lin-Chin

Seeing red: Alice and Mirjam pale in comparison to the resplendent Lee Lin Chin.

As it turned out, Australia’s combined result was in keeping with quite a few other countries’ results. Our top three – Sweden, Russia and Italy – matched the Belgian and Latvian top threes exactly. Romania, Spain, Israel and Portugal also deemed Måns, Polina and Il Volo worthy of top points, in one order or another.

In addition, we predicted the eventual top six, not including ourselves (obviously) and with Belgium and Latvia in the wrong places. I don’t think that’s an indication of our collective psychic prowess so much as an indication that a handful of countries were almost universally popular this year.

So that was the combined result. Now, let’s banana split it a bit.

The Australian jurors’ top threes:

  • J1 Amanda Pelman – Russia, Sweden, Cyprus
  • J2 Richard Wilkins – Russia, Italy, Sweden
  • J3 Danielle Spencer – Russia, Belgium, Sweden
  • J4 Ash London – Sweden, Belgium, Russia
  • J5 Jake Stone – Russia, Sweden, Norway

Russia and Sweden were particularly popular with our jury, making it into all five members’ top threes. Italy, a little surprisingly, only featured once (who knew Richard Wilkins had such good taste? Amiright, Aussies?) as did Cyprus and Norway. Belgium was ranked second twice.

The Australian televoters’ top three:

Sweden, Belgium, Serbia

Clearly, we were feeling some Serbia ljubav that the jurors – who ranked Bojana 9th in the final – were not. This could have something to do with our sizeable Serbian population, or it could be down to the bulk of early-morning voters being Eurovision fans easily sucked in by the oh-so-ESC anthem of self-love that is Beauty Never Lies. Or it could be neither. I didn’t vote for Serbia, so you’ll have to direct any whys to someone who did!

The Australian jurors’ bottom threes:

  • J1 Amanda Pelman – Belgium, Poland, Montenegro
  • J2 Richard Wilkins – Armenia, Israel, Albania
  • J3 Danielle Spencer – Poland, Armenia, Slovenia
  • J4 Ash London – Germany, Montenegro, Slovenia
  • J5 Jake Stone – Armenia, United Kingdom, Slovenia

Reading the above as places 24, 25 and 26, you can see that Slovenia was ranked last three times. I’m somewhat taken aback by this. Could it be because Marjetka’s voice left a bad taste in multiple mouths (a.k.a. bad sound in their ears)? Or was there a widespread aversion to those damn headphones? My confused face is well and truly on. Interesting here is Belgium’s appearance, when Loïc was ranked in the top five of three other jurors. These bottom threes are a lot more varied than the top threes, with nine different countries appearing (as opposed to six appearing in the top threes).

The Australian televoters’ bottom three:

France, Albania, Azerbaijan

Now you can see just how different the tastes of televoters and juries can be. Without any specific criteria to assess the songs/performances against, we ranked three countries that barely factored into the jury’s bottom three at all 24th, 25th and 26th. For further comparison, our jury ranked France 21st, Albania 23rd and Azerbaijan…6th. It doesn’t take a genius to determine which party Elnur was more appealing to (and that wasn’t the case in Australia alone).

 

So, all of the above was Australia’s first – but, as we’ll be forced to say until who knows when, perhaps not last – contribution to the final results. ‘What results?’ I hear you ask. ‘It’s been that long since the final actually happened that I can’t remember a thing about them!’. Well, fear not, because I’m about to refresh your memory.

 

Final-ly…an overview of the expected and ‘OMG!’ outcomes of Eurovision 2015’s last hurrah

This year’s voting sequence really was an epic one. The algorithm employed by the EBU to make the results as exciting as possible can only do so much when it has to be based on the jury votes. Often the addition of the televotes screws it up completely (i.e. it’s quite obvious who’s going to win when we’re only a quarter of the way through the announcements).

But this year, we were treated to a spectacle in which Russia took an early lead and held it with both hands for the entire first half of the sequence. Then, Sweden slowly but surely closed the gap, overtook Russia, then built up their own lead. By the time there were five or so countries left to announce their points, we knew Måns had Polina beat – but that’s far, far later than usual. The tension up to that point nearly killed me.

Knowing how the sequence ended will make future viewings much less taxing, and I intend to enjoy many of those in the coming months. How come? For the result that was in my favour for the first time. For Guy Sebastian personally thanking the artists from the countries that gave Australia high points (*melts*). For Måns’ priceless facial expression when it dawned on him that he’d won! I could go on, but instead I’ll jump into the promised scoreboard overview.

 

scoreboard-2015-eurovision

 The top five (a.k.a. the five countries I predicted as potential winners, by some miracle):

1. Sweden (365)

2. Russia (303)

3. Italy (292)

4. Belgium (217)

5. Australia (196)

  • The televoters’ top five consisted of Italy, Russia, Sweden, Belgium and Estonia. The juries chose Sweden, Latvia, Russia, Australia and Belgium as their favourites. Sweden becomes the first country in the combined jury/televoting era to not win the televote and still win the entire contest.
  • Sweden and Italy were the only countries to receive points from everyone but themselves. Sweden’s lowest score was a 4 from Greece; Italy’s was a single point from Belarus and Lithuania.
  • Sweden scored twelve sets of 12 points, to Italy’s nine and Russia’s five. Belgium received three sets, including one from Hungary, and Australia nabbed two, from hosts Austria and winners Sweden.
  • Måns’ victory is Sweden’s second in four years and their sixth overall (watch out, Ireland!). If you’re still not convinced that they know how to succeed at Eurovision, just take a look at their track record, starting at 2011: 3rd, 1st, 14th (as the 2013 hosts, you can cut them a bit of slack), 3rd, and 1st. If the pattern continues, the winner of Melodifestivalen 2016 should prepare themselves for a mid-table finish at the ESC.
  • The winning margin of 62 is the biggest since Sweden last won in 2012. Back then, Loreen defeated the Buranovskiye Babushki by 113 points.
  • Russia is the runner-up for the second time in four years. They haven’t finished outside of the top ten since 2011.
  • Italy makes up for last year’s misstep with their second-strongest finish since their comeback, also in 2011 (a lot happened/has happened in/since 2011).
  • Belgium can be proud of their first top five finish since 2003. Only three countries – Azerbaijan, Malta and Montenegro – saw fit to leave Loïc pointless.
  • Australia rounded out the top five with points from all but six countries. We found ourselves the third favourite of seven countries, scoring a very respectable 8 points from Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Poland, San Marino, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

 

The rest of the top ten:

6. Latvia (186)

7. Estonia (106)

8. Norway (102)

9. Israel (97)

10. Serbia (53)

  • After a string of non-qualifications between 2008 and 2014, Latvia not only advanced to the final (just behind Sweden) but rose up the ranks into the top ten for the first time in ten years. This amazing success (seriously…I’m SO proud) was helped along by three sets of 12 points. If the contest had been completely decided by the juries, Aminata would have finished second.
  • Estonia also makes a return to good fortune after Tanja’s surprise DNQ in Copenhagen, despite not scoring any douze points. Neither did fellow top ten finishers Norway and Israel.
  • Speaking of Norway…Mørland & Debrah’s eighth place is Norway’s second in a row, and their third top ten result in a row.
  • Israel pulled a Latvia/Estonia, with a happy ending that was a long time coming. Having not seen a final since 2010, it took a sixteen-year-old in the body of someone twice that age to get them there. Nadav and his shiny sneakers secured Israel’s best placing since 2008.
  • Rounding out the top ten was Serbia, scoring just 53 points. This is the lowest score for a 10th-placed entry since Croatia squeezed in with 42 points in 2001.

 

The mid-to-low table finishers:

11. Georgia (51)

12. Azerbaijan (49)

13. Montenegro (44)

14. Slovenia (39)

15. Romania (35)

16. Armenia (34)

17. Albania (34)

18. Lithuania (30)

19. Greece (23)

20. Hungary (19)

21. Spain (15)

22. Cyprus (11)

  • Azerbaijan didn’t quite manage to manoeuvre their way back into the top 10, but their 12th place is a big improvement on last year’s 22nd place, which was their worst-ever placing by far. After finishing 8th with their debut entry in 2008, then enjoying successive top five results between 2009 and 2013, it still seems like they’ve lost their touch a bit. But perhaps jumping from 22nd to 12th is evidence that they’re clawing their way back up. Will we see an equally impressive leap to 2nd place in 2016?
  • Montenegro can bask in the glory of their most successful Eurovision to date as an independent nation, while Adio composer Željko Joksimović can only wonder what went wrong as he contemplates his first finish outside of the top ten. For Montenegro, though, 13th place in the final is a coup. After their first semi-final qualification in Copenhagen, they seem to be surfing a little wave of success.
  • Greece scored less than last year, but received a (slightly) higher placing with Maria Elena’s ballad than they did with Freaky Fortune’s dance banger. If the latter had represented Greece in down-tempo Vienna, I suspect the country would have fared a lot better.

 

The bottom five:

23. Poland (10)

24. United Kingdom (5)

25. France (4)

26. Germany (0)

27. Austria (0)

  • Poland finished 15th in the televote, but the juries weren’t keen on In The Name of Love at all and ranked Monika last.
  • After two years of avoiding the bottom five, the UK found themselves back there once again. France languishes in the lows of the bottom five for the fourth time in a row (ouch). Still, with four whole points to her name, Lisa Angell doubled Twin Twin’s measly two points from 2014.
  • The double-whammy of woe for Germany and hosts Austria is the first of its kind since 1997, when both Norway and Portugal got the goose egg. Germany wasn’t ranked last with the televoters (25th) or juries (20th), so got a particularly raw deal. Austria did rank last in the televote, but 13th in the jury vote.

And that, ladies and gents, was the final. Before I wrap up this momentous post, let’s whiz through the semi results as well.

 

A snapshot of the semi-final scoreboards, split and combined

Here are the combined results of semi final 1:

  1. Russia (182)
  2. Belgium (149)
  3. Estonia (105)
  4. Georgia (98)
  5. Romania (89)
  6. Greece (81)
  7. Armenia (77)
  8. Hungary (67)
  9. Serbia (63)
  10. Albania (62)
  11. Moldova (41)
  12. Belarus (39)
  13. Denmark (33)
  14. The Netherlands (33)
  15. FYR Macedonia (28)
  16. Finland (13)
  • The winner of this semi, with the televoters, juries and overall, was Russia. This is the second time Russia has won a semi they’ve participated in – the Buranovskiye Babushki also won theirs in 2012.
  • Placing last, Finland achieved their worst result in Eurovision semi history. But if it had been purely up to us televoters, PKN would have qualified!
  • Four of the ten qualifiers did not qualify last year – Belgium, Estonia, Georgia and Albania (Serbia did not participate in 2014).
  • The televoting top three = Russia, Estonia and Belgium. The jury top three = Russia, Belgium and Greece.
  • Loser of the televote was FYR Macedonia; loser of the jury vote was Finland.
  • Only Russia and Georgia were ranked equally by the televoters and the juries. Both parties did agree on three of the eventual top five, with Russia, Belgium and Georgia appearing at the top on both sides of the split vote. The televoters also had Estonia and Romania in their top five, while the juries had Greece and The Netherlands up there.
  • The most drastic differences between the televotes and jury votes involved Armenia (6th T, 12th J); Serbia (7th T, 13th J); The Netherlands (15th T, 5th J); Finland (10th T, 16th J); and Estonia (2nd T, 9th J).

I predicted nine of the ten qualifiers (thinking Denmark would qualify in place of Serbia…d’oh!) but only predicted the correct finishing positions of Russia, Greece and Albania. How did you do?

 

Here are the combined results of semi final 2:

  1. Sweden (217)
  2. Latvia (155)
  3. Israel (151)
  4. Norway (123)
  5. Slovenia (92)
  6. Cyprus (87)
  7. Lithuania (67)
  8. Poland (57)
  9. Montenegro (57)
  10. Azerbaijan (53)
  11. Malta (43)
  12. Ireland (35)
  13. Czech Republic (33)
  14. Portugal (19)
  15. Iceland (14)
  16. San Marino (11)
  17. Switzerland (4)
  • This semi’s televote, jury and overall winner was Sweden. This marked Sweden’s third semi final win after 2011 and 2012 victories.
  • Unfortunately for Switzerland, they lost a semi for the third time. Piero & the Music Stars and Michael von der Heide also finished last in 2004 and 2010.
  • Three of the qualifiers did not qualify last year – Latvia, Israel and Lithuania (Cyprus did not participate in 2014).
  • Azerbaijan recorded its worst-ever result in a semi final, qualifying tentatively in 10th.
  • The televoting top three = Sweden, Israel and Latvia. The jury top three = Sweden, Latvia and Norway.
  • Loser of the televote was Switzerland; loser of the jury vote was San Marino.
  • This time (Lithuanian pun not intended) three countries – Sweden, Cyprus and Portugal – were ranked equally by both parties, while Sweden, Latvia, Israel and Norway were agreed upon in both top fives. The televoters had Poland in their top five, while the juries had Malta in the mix.
  • In semi no. 2, the split revealed big disagreements regarding Malta (12th T, 5th J); Ireland (16th T, 7th J); and Poland (4th T, 16th J).

I also predicted nine out of ten qualifiers in this case (a personal best), under the impression that Iceland would qualify instead of Poland. Oops. Again, I managed to guess three finishing positions – Sweden’s, Malta’s and Ireland’s. Better luck next year to me, and to you if you couldn’t see the future so well either!

 

 

That’s all for today (as if it wasn’t enough for a lifetime) but rest assured that I have serious posting plans for the nest few months.

Up next will be my argument in favour of retaining the jury vote in the wake of Sweden’s “controversial” triumph. Then, you’ll have your chance to vote in the People’s Choice categories of the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards 2015 (woohoo?); the EBJEEs themselves will take place; I’ll reveal my top 10 performance highlights from Vienna and my picks for the national final runners-up who probably should have gone to Eurovision; and I’ll be publishing my exposé on all the lookalikes from the Class of ’15.

I hope you’ll drop by for some or all of these (hopefully) exciting events! In the meantime, let me know what you thought of this year’s voting sequence, results and winner. Please note that members of the Anti-Måns Brigade may be given the cold shoulder for a few days.

Just kidding.

Until next time…

 

nsig

 

Drummer boys, golden boys and Italian stallions: My very Swede Eurovision final experience (Part 1)

Let’s begin by stating the obvious: it’s taken me an eternity to put this post-final post together. It’s a good thing I’m not a news service, or being paid to run this blog – because if that was the case, I’d be failing epically at the former and be über undeserving of the latter (but if anyone wants to pay me for running this blog, I promise I’ll lift my game and work hard for the money).

My lame excuse for the lateness is the fact that all I’ve been capable of since Saturday night/Sunday morning *considers moving to Europe to eliminate the need of saying stuff like that anymore* is basking in the glow brought on by my favourite song winning Eurovision for the very first time. My beloved Sweden, and Måns, and his leather pants (like I could bypass any opportunity to mention those) won the 60th contest on the weekend, fairly and squarely and in accordance with all EBU rules and regulations – a concept some people are struggling with.

After a voting sequence that was pointing us in an easterly direction for about half the time, Sweden began to close the gap, eventually taking the lead, then building up a decent point buffer from there. It wasn’t a battle for victory on par with the likes of 2003 in terms of how profusely my palms (and some other places we won’t discuss) were sweating, but it was the most exciting round of results we’ve seen in a while. For once, that algorithm designed to disguise the winner for as long as possible excelled itself.

This year’s contest featured a lot of firsts for me and many of my fellow Australian fans. Watching live, voting, and cheering on our own country became part of the package, and I did all of this on Saturday night/Sunday morning (seriously, AAGH!) at an epic live screening party in Perth. Held at The Backlot private cinema, the soiree was organised by some esteemed and very awesome members of the Aussie Eurovision community – Kate Hansen, Renee Pozzi and Kingsley Dawes. With a 2014 Euroclub evening AND this screening under our rhinestone-encrusted belts, we Perth peeps are well on our way to making our city the Eurovision capital of Australia…or at least one of them. I send Il Volo-endorsed grande amore to Kate, Renee and Kingsley, for the effort and attention to detail put into the party planning and execution. Douze points for everyone!

evpR1st

A little more re: the party, for those of you who want to know just how EBJ spent her Eurovisionmas…draped in flags, nearly fifty of us fans (among them several interstate visitors, including Sharleen from ESC Insight) drank from light-up glasses, weighed up the pros and cons of Marta Jandová tossing her shoes aside during the second semi final, and went bonkers when Guy Sebastian took to the Wiener Stadthalle stage. This was the closest I’ve ever been to sharing the Eurovision experience with a crowd of fans, and it was made even more memorable by the fact that we were Australians cheering on Australia in our first – but potentially not our last – appearance in the contest. I mean, we sang along to Tonight Again like we were competing in the Group Karaoke World Championships or something (which we totally would have won, by the way). And afterwards, I really did want to ‘do’ the night again. But I couldn’t. Thanks for the false hope, Guy.

evpR2nd

Anyway, in addition to the drinking, singing, dancing and voting, there was a Best Dressed competition – I’m dubbing it ‘The Anti-Barbara Dex Award’ – judged by a well-known radio personality, and won by Daryl Dickson, a.k.a. ConchiDaz. To top it all off, we gave out some points of our own, with the douze going to Italy even though we were allowed to vote for Australia (don’t let anyone tell you we’re biased). It seems the boys from Il Volo really did have sway over the SMSing public.

All in all, I had a blast, and I’m not sure I can bear to sit at home by myself, on my couch, watching a delayed broadcast of the final, ever again. And on that note, allow me to make public my intentions for May 2016. It probably won’t shock you to learn that I want to be on the ground in Stockholm/Göteborg. Not only that, but I want to be in the Press Centre, with laminated accreditation hanging around my neck. After ten years of being a Eurovision obsessive, I want the live experience with all the trimmings. As Jade Ewen might say if she was as excited as I am right now, it’s beyond my time.

I promised myself that if Sweden won in Vienna, I would do everything possible to make my Eurovision dream a reality (killing two birds with one stone, as Sweden is at the top of my travel list) and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Nothing’s for certain, unfortunately, but if I don’t make it in 2016, I want to be able to say I tried my best. I have a year to go for it, and as fast as that year will go by, I will make the most of it – planning, saving, and generally annoying the crap out of my friends who have attended the contest by constantly asking them inane questions. Brace yourselves, guys.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business. Every other Eurovision site in existence may have already reviewed the grand final, but in the spirit of being better late than never, I’m doing it today. Since there’s a massive amount to talk about, I’m going to stick with the performances only at this point – the meat in the ESC sandwich. You’re cordially invited to accompany me on my tour through the bum-numbingly long, but brilliant evening.

 

finaleeeee

The conclusion to Eurovision 2015 turned out to be a great one – not half as weak as I’d thought it would be earlier in the season. In spite of some (i.e. a LOT of) shaky camera work, and a string of second-half ballads that put our abilities to stay conscious to the test, I enjoyed every minute of it. I would say ‘every three minutes of it’ as I’m about to review all 27 performances…but that’s not technically true.

Let’s begin on a positive note (#musicalpun).

 

The good

Any country that manages to have a hundred people backing their singer without breaching the six-person rule deserves a high five – so high five, France! N’oubliez Pas is a slow burner of a song, but the many (many, many) drummer boys, 3D and 2D, who joined Lisa in the last thirty seconds, made the crescendo worth the wait. It put me in mind of a better-executed attempt of Ukraine 2012.

Israel’s Nadav told us to come here and enjoy (although he didn’t make good on his promise to show us Tel Aviv) and I was more than happy to allow myself to be bossed around by a teenager on this occasion. Tonight Again aside, Golden Boy is the song I’d most like to have seen performed live, just to experience the energy and atmosphere it stirred up in the Stadthalle.

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I hate to break it to Nadav, but his backing dancers might have more claim to the throne of fun than he does. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

I can’t deny (see what I did there?) that Armenia turned a shambolic studio song into a successful live one. The theatricality of Face The Shadow means it was bound to be better in this environment. Awesome outfits, great graphics and a possible lawsuit from Cadbury due to the use of so much purple later, I’m verging on being pro-Genealogy.

Ah, Sweden. If any country knows how to do Eurovision and make it look effortless, it’s Sverige. The subtle and not-so-subtle changes made since Måns won Melodifestivalen took something perfect, and somehow turned it into something even more so. I am glad no changes were made in the leather pants department. Måns should bring out his own line of those things.

Australia’s debut was a mighty good one. I am so gosh darn proud of Guy, who spent his ground-time in Vienna charming the press and fans – and then, when it came to his big moment, charming us all over again. His performance of Tonight Again couldn’t have gone down better, and he even pulled off beige trousers (not literally. Eurovision is a family show, and I don’t think anyone would be considering Australia as a permanent participant if that had happened).

Belgium’s performance was undoubtedly the coolest thing I have ever seen on an ESC stage. I already raved about it in my semi 1 review, but I’m still in awe of the minimalist monochromatic visuals, and the cutting-edge choreography, and the fact that I’m talking about Belgium in such a positive light right now. ‘Once agaaaaain Motherrrr’ BELGIUM.

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Loïc, wondering if his forward-combed hairdo was the most stylish selection for Eurovision. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Montenegro put on a show that was the love child (or should I say ‘ljubav’ child?) of Molitva and every stage show that has ever been associated with the name ‘Željko Joksimović’. And it was totally on point as a result. Unfortunately we’ll never know how Knez felt about it, as his face is incapable of displaying anything other than slight surprise.

Let’s forget what happened later on in the evening for Germany and just focus on…you know what? I can’t. Nul points? For THIS? We’ll discuss exactly how that happened later, but Ann Sophie was incredible on that stage, in that jumpsuit (where she found one that actually flattered her behind, I don’t know). She took saucy and sultry to a new level, and her vocals didn’t have the slightly irritating nasally sound they had during Germany’s drama-filled NF.

Latvia’s Aminata is such a revelation. She may be teeny tiny, but her voice is huge, and note-perfect every time. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and the reason she didn’t get to represent Latvia last year was so she could come back this year and take them to a place they hadn’t been in years: the final. In return, she required at least four people to take her to the toilet, because there’s no way that dress was pee-friendly.

Tugging on our heartstrings for Romania, Voltaj looked good, sounded good, and got their message across in a non-sickening manner. Even the post-performance cut to the kid from the music video melted my heart and brought a tear to my eye…okay, maybe not. But it didn’t make me roll my eyes, which makes it a success by my standards.

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Why have giant hamster wheels or Trojan horses when you can have suitcases and shipping containers? (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Polina Gagarina had a song at her disposal that Eurovision winners are made of, and put on a show worthy of a winner too. A few more Olympic ice skaters by her side, and Russia may have gone all the way.

I know I didn’t warn you that this post may contain sexual references, but here’s one: Italy was orgasmic. Stunning in every possible respect, and spine-tingling from start to finish. I actually died a little bit when Gianluca winked at the camera, and I refuse to be ashamed of that.

 

The not-so-good

There was something missing in Slovenia’s performance (and unfortunately, it wasn’t the headphones). Here For You in studio is brilliant, but radio-ready songs can be challenging when one must figure out how to plonk them on a stage in an aesthetically-pleasing way. The camera work wasn’t up to scratch, but as I mentioned before, that wasn’t exclusive to the Slovenian performance.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love A Monster Like Me, and for those keeping tabs, yes, I still have a lady crush on Debrah and her majestic mane of tangle-free wonderment. But I found the lighting and the costuming Norway opted for so incredibly unsuitable for such a dark and moody song. It was distracting, and that’s definitely not good. I hate to bring The Dress into the Eurovision bubble, but what was white and gold should really have been black and blue.

 

The WTF?!

Did the United Kingdom look at a bunch of old Eurovision clips and think to themselves ‘anything you can do, we can do better!’ and then throw everything they’d seen into the same performance? That’s the impression Electro Velvet gave me. Safura’s light-up dress from 2010 was a clear influence, as were Cristina Scarlat’s ratty hair extensions from 2014 (Bianca’s brunette version being used to disguise the hefty battery pack responsible for lighting up her dress). The duo’s vocals were very good, and the staging could have been a lot worse – but it still had ‘WTF?!’ written all over it.

Since Spain’s rehearsals had caused the watching press to laugh rather than applaud, I expected to do the same when Edurne made her televised Eurovision appearance. But the stage show torn out of the ESC 2006 playbook, feat. a costume reveal, OTT arm movements and some very dramatic dance moves (I did feel a bit like I was watching an episode of Dancing With The Stars) actually worked for me. Even I wouldn’t call it sedate, however.

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Spain’s performance was a hair-raiser…at least for Edurne. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Here’s a fun fact about Georgia’s Nina Sublatti: she’s not asthmatic. How do we know this? Because she was engulfed in an overload of dry ice during the final, and when it dissipated, she wasn’t on the floor in a wheezing heap of feathers and thigh-high boots. The person in charge of dispensing said dry ice at this time is probably out of a job by now (or at least left the arena with a Sublatti boot-mark on his forehead).

 

If I might interrupt myself (I just checked with me and I say it’s okay)…I do realise I’m rambling here, so try to keep the rest of my performance reviews brief. Expect more in-depth dishing on the good ones listed above when I rank my top 10 performances of the year in a near-future post.

 

The rest

There was nothing wrong with Estonia’s performance, apart from how mildly infuriated I was by Elina wearing pink lipstick instead of red (which would have complemented the smoky retro-glamour feel of Goodbye To Yesterday so much more). ESCrush update: I am still strangely attracted to Stig. He can jingle his keys at my door any time.

Speaking of lips…Lithuania suffered a mishap when Vaidas and Monika got a little too into their ‘one kiss’ (which was technically their 498th kiss, if I’ve done the math correctly) and missed the next line of This Time. Oops. This performance was too cheesy for my taste in the second semi, and it continued to be so in the final.

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‘If we squeeze our eyes shut hard enough, maybe all of our competition will be gone when we open them!’ (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

I’m still not 100% sold on Beauty Never Lies lyrically-speaking, but the reaction Serbia received before, during, and after Bojana’s performance was something to behold. I would have killed to have been in the crowd for the up-tempo section of the song (although it probably would have been me who was killed or maimed in that seething mass of hysterical, hip-shaking fans).

ORF placed Cyprus between Sweden and Australia, which was good for us in terms of musical variety, but not so good for John in terms of being remembered. I hate to say it, but I think the  Aussies erased him from most people’s memories.

The Makemakes represented Austria on home soil with pride, a flaming piano and a member of Occupational Health and Safety personnel waiting in the wings with a fire extinguisher. There was nothing to criticise here, but there was nothing that would compel people to pick up their phones and vote for the host country either. Hence, I figure, why they placed last with the televoters.

Greece’s Maria Elena pulled off the best Céline Dion impression of the year whilst dressed as Delta Goodrem at the Logie Awards (Aussie reference alert!). That’s pretty much all that happened. There were no bouzoukis, no trampolines and no shouts of ‘OPA!’. Is it wrong of me to miss stereotypical Greece?

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Maria reaches out for the Hollywood Tape after one last breath resulted in some, ahem, shifting. (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Poland won on the prettiest staging front – their blossoming background was blooming beautiful. I did find myself focusing more closely on that than on anything else though. It’s almost like the floral graphics are to Poland 2015 what the butter-churning, laundry-doing ladies were to Poland 2014.

Hungary’s wars to succeed in the contest pretty much did amount to nothing. I was actually quite transfixed by Boggie’s performance, and I do think Hungary staged Wars For Nothing as well as they possibly could have. But positioned in the viewer fatigue zone in slot 22 of 27, they were bound to struggle with such a sleepy song.

Azerbaijan appear to have lost their Eurovision touch to an extent. How they managed to make a man-filled glass box which eventually filled with rose petals as a woman with the world’s longest dress train belted towards it NOT be a distraction from their entry, then two years on pare things right back with two interpretive dancers who WERE a distraction, beats me. Should we be impressed by that?

A change of outfit and a less out-of-control vocal from Elhaida Dani meant Albania crept up a bit in my estimations…but just a bit. I wasn’t blown away. I do feel like the originally-selected Diell would have blown me away, but it was nice to have Albania in the final again even if all I felt was a slight breeze.

 

 

I suspect that this post may have gone on longer than the actual final at this point (now the most drawn-out in Eurovision history) so I’m going to bring it to an abrupt end right now. ‘Right now’ of course meaning ‘in a few minutes after I’ve gotten around to it.’

There was obviously a lot more to Eurovision 2015 than just the performances – take flying Conchita, for example. But I’ll leave my thoughts on that marvelous moment, plus the rather exciting voting sequence and the intricacies of the scoreboard, for next time.

If you can’t wait, I have to wonder why you haven’t read all of the results analyses published by numerous other ESC websites promptly after the final. You guys know my motto is ‘never do today what can be worked on over the next three or four days and then finally completed when it’s to your liking but when your readers are starting to think you might have died.’ Fear not – á la Elhaida, I’m alive (ay-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi). And I’m already halfway through the belated scoreboard scrutinisation, so it will be up prior to Eurovision 2020, I promise.

Before it does go live, be sure to let me know what you thought of the Viennese final. Of the 27 acts that made it to Saturday, which ones impressed you and which ones did you use as a toilet break (a much-needed break if you were involved in a drinking game during Spain’s performance)? And, how did you watch the final? From the comfort of your couch, at a party, or in the arena until you were poked in the eye by a flagpole and were carted screaming off to First Aid? I want all the details. Think of me as someone who’d read your diary if you left it unattended. But nicer.

 

nsig

 

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.
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Who knew that all Latvia needed to succeed was a decent cactus impression?

  • 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!

 

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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.
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‘Do whatcha whatcha whatcha want…as long as that’s voting for Australia!’

  • 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.

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I can’t deny that Russia is on the white track to win.

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…

nsig

 

One down, (semi final) two to go: Reviewing Vienna’s first semi and predicting the second

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.

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Nice try, ladies, but I’m not so sure three heads are better than one.

 

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.
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From boobs aplenty to bin bag, Trijntje just couldn’t win.

  • 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.
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Boggie was beautiful in burgundy – no running, running, running to repurchase a replacement dress for her.

 

  • 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.

 

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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?

 

The results

 My top 10 prediction

 A.k.a. where I undo my sad all my good work of correctly predicting 90% of Tuesday’s qualifiers.

  1. Sweden
  2. Slovenia
  3. Norway
  4. Azerbaijan
  5. Lithuania
  6. Latvia
  7. Cyprus
  8. Montenegro
  9. Israel
  10. Iceland

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.

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‘Just sit back and relax, my friend…we got this.’

 

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

  1. Sweden
  2. Norway
  3. Latvia
  4. Montenegro
  5. Azerbaijan
  6. Israel
  7. Slovenia
  8. Ireland
  9. Malta
  10. Iceland

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.

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Ann Sophie’s got black smoke, Amber’s got white…but I reckon only one will be performing in the final.

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.

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‘I suggest you put your glassware away, folks. Things are about to reach a very very high pitch.’

 

…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.

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The black tie of the music video is out, and white is in. Are Kjetil and Debrah hoping to take after Johnny Logan and Dima Bilan?

 

…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!

 nsig

 

3, 2, 1…60! My first semi-final predictions (plus an updated pre-ESC Top 40)

There’s only one way to sum up how I’m feeling right now.

emae

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.

 

sf1pred

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*.


The results

My top 10 prediction

Because making a fool of myself by listing qualifiers randomly isn’t enough.

  1. Russia
  2. Estonia
  3. Georgia
  4. Belgium
  5. Armenia
  6. Greece
  7. Romania
  8. Denmark
  9. Hungary
  10. Albania

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.

russia

Polina doesn’t want coloured powder thrown at her tonight – she wants your votes. And it’s highly likely she’ll get them.

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.

  1. Belgium
  2. Romania
  3. FYR Macedonia
  4. Moldova
  5. Estonia
  6. Georgia
  7. The Netherlands
  8. Belarus
  9. Denmark
  10. Russia

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.

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‘What did you say about my stylist running with scissors?’

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!

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Craploads of silver material? Check. Flags? Check. White snuggies with built-in neck braces? Check.

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.

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Nina, ready to take flight and land on a scarecrow straight after her performance.

 …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.

tfu

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!

 

nsig

 

VIENNESE VERDICTS | The EBJ Jury Reviews (Part 8) + Our 2015 Top 40!

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

vv8Fraser 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.

Check out the escTMI channel here and like escTMI on Facebook here.

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).

Check out ESC Views here and like the official Facebook page here.

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!

 

 

PORTUGAL

Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa by Leonor Andrade

Portugal

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

 

 

AUSTRALIA

Tonight Again by Guy Sebastian

Australia

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

 

 

LATVIA

Love Injected by Aminata

Latvia

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

 

 

FYR MACEDONIA

Autumn Leaves by Daniel Kajmakoski

Macedonia

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

 

 

BELARUS

Time by Uzari & Maimuna

Belarus

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:

  1. Australia (7.33)
  2. Belarus (7.00)
  3. Portugal (6.33)
  4. FYR Macedonia (6.33)  
  5. 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!

topfzCongratulations 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!)…

 

nsig

 

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