MELFEST MONDAY | An unsuccessful studio-to-stage transition for a Swedish star (#sadface)

Välkommen to EBJ’s inaugural Melfest Monday, folks! This isn’t going to be an intro in which I explain what the deal is with these day-specific posts, because a) I did that already in my previous post, and b) I don’t want to waffle on for ten paragraphs before even arriving at the topic of today’s (for once).

So, that said, let’s dive straight into the depths of a Melodifestivalen past. I hope you’re equipped with a suitably spangled-and-feathered flotation device.

 

Where + when Luleå, 2011

What Try Again, written by Niklas Petterson and Linda Sonnvik and performed by Dilba

Melfest 2011 was the first edition of Sweden’s famed national final that I watched from a fan’s perspective. Although I’d been obsessing over Eurovision since 2006, I ever really explored the pre-ESC selection scene until 2009 or 2010 (call me cray-cray, but it’s the truth). I’d followed Melfest 2010 mainly because Darin Zanyar was participating in it (and Darin, as you’ll know by now if you read Vol. I of my Stockholm Suggestion Box, is my favourite pop star on the planet) – and it was then that I discovered Timoteij, a.k.a. the Swedish folk-pop Spice Girls; and Anna Bergendahl’s This Is My Life, which continues to be one of my all-time top Eurovision entries, and still has the power to moisten my eyes when I think about how it just missed out on qualifying in Oslo *holds back salty Swedish tears*.

The epic plethora of personalities competing in 2010 had me hooked, and the following year, things got serious. Yes, that’s right: I BOUGHT THE OFFICIAL MELFEST ALBUM FOR THE FIRST TIME, and that’s the song contest equivalent of asking your significant other to move in with you. It was an album worth paying exorbitant import fees for, with the 2011 program featuring eventual winner Eric Saade, runner-up Danny Saucedo, ESC champ-to-be Loreen, and Europe’s most persistent national finalist Sanna Nielsen.

Also competing, with the dance banger Try Again (which should have been Sanna’s theme song), was Turkish-born Dilba, who had released her first album back in 1996 when Eric Saade was still learning how to tie his shoelaces. That album had been a huge success, even scoring the singer a Grammy award (a Swedish Grammy, that is…still a big deal), and several other hit albums followed. So it’s not surprising that Dilba, on name alone, had reasonably-sized expectations resting on her shoulders coming into the competition. She was to open the first semi final in Luleå, and based on the snippet of the Try Again studio version we were treated to in the hours before the show kicked off, she had a great chance of progressing further.

But fast forward to the end of the evening, and Try Again was sitting un-pretty on the bottom of the semi’s scoreboard. With the competition fierce and the musical quality always high in Melfest, there’s rarely a year that passes without an injustice, and this was one of them. Dead last for a pro performer fielding an instant and energetic earworm?

HOW?!?!?

Well, looking back on Dilba’s three minutes in 2015, I’m seeing ‘HOW?!?!?’ very clearly, actually. I suppose that at the time, I may have been too hyped up on my excitement over watching a Scandi pop fest at four in the morning to notice any flaws in her stage time. But now I understand that there was a big problem with this entry – the same one that’s proven too much to overcome for many a Eurovision song over the years.

That problem = the transition from studio to stage being too tricky to pull off. Aurally was where the performance suffered most. Replicating the slickly layered lyrics of the studio version live proved impossible for one woman, even with pre-recorded backup. The fact that Dilba’s microphone had apparently been dropped in the bath before showtime (that’s my explanation for it hardly functioning during the verses, anyway) didn’t help matters.

What we saw was an issue as well as what we heard. Though their outfits were cool in a NASA-meets-New-York-Fashion-Week kind of way, Dilba’s dancers were choreographed far too statically/robotically to complement Try Again. The energetic onstage movement required to match the song’s mood was absent, and as a result, the performance felt a little flat. If that reminds you of anything, it should might be Slovenia’s performance in Eurovision just gone. The made-for-radio Here For You took us all on a trip to Static City in May, but if we’d taken the ‘vision’ out of Eurovision 2015, Maraaya probably would have finished in the top five. Similarly, while Dilba trailed the pack in her semi (the semi won by Danny Saucedo), she would top the Swedish iTunes charts with Try Again in the wake of Melfest.

When I listen to my 2011 album, I never ever skip over this song – but, in retrospect, I can totally understand why it lost the Luleå semi. What should have hit televoters with a ‘BAM!’ ended up giving them a half-hearted shove and whispering ‘Vote for me, if you want to. No pressure’, in their ears.

That’s my opinion, anyway. I’m going to draw this mini-essay to a close by asking you for yours. Did Dilba deserve her disappointing result for failing to translate a terrific studio song to the stage? Or should she have at least made it to Andra Chansen so she could…well, Try Again?

3, 2, 1, thoughts!

 

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EBJ UPDATE: The Eurovisiony goodness I’ve got planned for the rest of 2015 (because like the TWiiNS, I’m still alive)

HEY GUYS!!! HOW’S IT GOING??? WHAT’S UP WITH YOUUUUUUUU?!?!?!?

I’m sorry for that stream of shouty capitals. You might think that my Caps Lock button is currently stuck down, but actually, I’m just overexcited because I MISS YOU ALL and I MISS BLOGGING ABOUT ALL THINGS EUROVISUAL and I’m SO HAPPY TO BE BACK HERE.

It’s been over a fortnight since I last posted (!!!). That’s like, three months in internet time. My excuse is that I’ve recently started a new job, and I’ve been busy working while trying to get all of my non-work *insert poop emoji here* together.

Basically, I’ve been off figuring out how to person with a lot on my plate. But I’m back now, and ready to resume (somewhat) normal transmission here on EBJ. I’ve dropped by today for a quick – i.e. you’ll only need to have one power nap mid-read – chat with y’all re: what you can expect to see, and hopefully enjoy, on le blog for the remainder of 2015.

The list of posts I’ve got planned is longer than a Jedward head hair (though not as long as Monika and Vaidas’ grand final smooch in Vienna) so there’s no need for you to wonder what you’ll be doing between now and Junior Eurovision – if you’re a JESC fan – and beyond to the start of Eurovision 2016’s NF season. I’ve got you covered, amigos.

Firstly, as I am intending to grace Stockholm with my presence next May (with press accreditation flapping haphazardly around my neck, fingers crossed) you’ll be receiving regular updates on the progress of my trip plans (whether you want them or not). If you’re Sweden-bound too, let me know so we can arrange to run to each other from opposite ends of Arlanda airport and partake in an enthusiastic high five.

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Will I be seeing you inside the world’s biggest golf ball in 2016??

Secondly, I’m working hard on making your post requests a reality – just think of me as your Eurovision fairy godmother. I’m grateful for all of the Top 10 and Stockholm Suggestion Box ideas you guys put forward, and I will post them ASAP. Mark your calendars for any time in the next two or three years, sit back, and wait for one of your submissions to pop up just as you’re losing the will to wait any longer. It’ll be fun!

Thirdly, I’m going to be adding some regular day-specific posts to my repertoire, since I love doing Time-Warp Tuesdays so much, and since you guys seem to love them too.

With all of the above said, here’s a more detailed look at what’s coming up on EBJ from August through to December (subject to me changing my mind and adding in more of your suggestions!).

 

MELFEST MONDAYS

You guys know I’m always Team Sweden where Eurovision (and affordable flat-pack furniture) is concerned. It’s only natural that Melodifestivalen should be my favourite national final. That being the undeniable truth, I thought it was time I started celebrating the good, the bad and the ugly (‘ugly’ in this case most likely to refer to an unfortunate fashion choice) of Melfest – just as I do with Eurovision on Time-Warp Tuesdays.

Every third, fourth or whenever Monday, I’ll be sifting through the show’s archives to find a song of interest that was once in the running to represent Sweden. I’ll then ramble on about it for a while. THEN we can argue for the next three days straight after inevitably disagreeing on how fantastic/woeful said song is. Ja!

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Seven-time competitor Sanna (pictured here in the ‘Empty Room’ days) will no doubt feature on multiple Melfest Mondays. That ought to undo her sad.

 

TIME-WARP TUESDAYS

I love putting these together, as I said before. And, as you guys seem to like the results, I don’t see the point in fixing what ain’t broken. You can revisit my previous TWTs – or check them out for the first time if you have zero idea what I’m talking about right now – here.

 

‘WHAT IF?’ WEDNESDAYS

No, these posts will not be dedicated to Dina Garipova. Nor are they the most original idea on the planet, as I know of at least two other blogs that routinely explore what-could-have-beens of Eurovisions past. But I’m going to give them a shot anyway.

Ever wondered how Israel would have fared in Düsseldorf if Dana International hadn’t re-represented them? What if ABBA had won Melodifestivalen in 1973 with Ring Ring, and headed off to the contest without Waterloo? My ‘What If?’ Wednesdays will be here to speculate the outcomes of these scenarios and more, and to find out what you think would have happened. Dust off those thinking caps, folks!

 

FAVE FIVE FRIDAYS

Because sometimes, a Top 10 just requires too much time and effort.

The FFFs will be a short + fun + unranked selection of five of my favourite thematically-linked things from the Eurovision world. Here are some examples of what I’ll be covering, in case that description made no sense: Fifth-Placed Entries, Outrageous Outfits, Siegel Songs and Undeserving Losers.

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The Makemakes and Ann Sophie finished (un)lucky last in Vienna…but will they be among my fave five undeserving losers??

 

TOP 10s

Because sometimes, a Fave Five just isn’t epic enough. Who doesn’t love a good Top 10? If your reply to that was ‘me’ then I’m afraid we can’t be friends. The lists I’ve got cooking at the moment include EBJ’s Top 10 Swedish entries of all time, artist comebacks, and debut entries.

 

MY STOCKHOLM SUGGESTION BOX

I nominated Darin Zanyar as my ideal host country representative in my last post, and you guys were keen for me to suggest artists for other countries – namely, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom. Your wish is my command, so expect the Stockholm Suggestion Box to be opened once again, very soon. The UK will be in focus first, and I’m über pumped about my choice for them *mysterious music plays*…

 

JESC BITS AND PIECES

I know not all of you are fans of watching kids between the ages of 10 and 15 belt out ballads like nobody’s business, but I sure am – and we should all be excited that Bulgaria is playing host to a Eurovision event for the first time this year. Once the class of JESC ’15 is full, I’ll be reviewing the songs and predicting their future, as well as looking back on the history of the ESC’s adorable younger sibling. Sorry/not sorry in advance to you anti-Junior peeps.

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Yep – we’re off to Bulgaria. And it’s all thanks to…this ITALIAN kid??

 

RANDOM EDITORIALS

There are times when I want to aimlessly ramble on about miscellaneous ESC stuff. Humour me, won’t you, when I come out with the likes of the following:

  • Missed it by THAT much: Looking back at the semi-finalists who just failed to make the (grand) final cut
  • #TEAMJURY: Eurovision 2015 and the case for the combined voting system to continue
  • Making A Scene: The Eurovision entries that succeeded thanks to staging (and vice versa)

 

And that’s pretty much the extent of what you’ll see on EBJ over the coming months, with the addition of some other regular postings (Retro Rankings and country spotlights, for example). I realise you hadn’t asked what was coming up, and I’m not convinced anyone would’ve noticed if I hadn’t posted for another fortnight (#pitypartyoverhere). But in my mind, people all over the world have been pulling a Polina in my absence.

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I repeat, in my mind. Don’t burst the bubble.

 
Until next time (when I promise I’ll post something more entertaining than this)…

 
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MY STOCKHOLM SUGGESTION BOX | Darin for Sweden

The fun-filled days of adding artists to our ‘Destination: Vienna’ wishlists may be over – but that just means it’s time to start speculating which European music sensations might grace Stockholm with their presence. Or, more accurately, making it very clear which of our personal favourite acts from the continent simply MUST represent their country in Sweden, OR ELSE.

For me, profiling a potential Eurovision rep is basically an excuse to ramble on about an artist I adore for an exceedingly lengthy amount of screen space…and in case you hadn’t guessed, that’s what I’ll be doing today. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Way back in the lead-up to Eurovision 2015, I was hoping for Finland’s participant to be Robin Packalen, and for the UK to select The Saturdays. Sadly, neither of those wishes came true. But I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself off and decided to angle for another of my favourite artists to aim for Eurovision 2016, via an article full of flattery. And I couldn’t start this season’s so-called suggestion box with any other nation but our host, Sweden!

Given their recent run of results, I don’t think Sweden really need my help in order to choose a great entry, but they’re getting it anyway. My ideal pick for the Land of Loreen is an artist I’ve been fangirling over for years, and someone who has actually attempted to represent Sweden in the past. I think he’d do a damn good job of it if a second attempt became a successful one – so, if he’s willing, can I/we please have…

 

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WHO? WHERE? WHAT?

Darin Zanyar was born in Stockholm, destination of Eurovision 2016 (that’s got be some kind of sign), twenty-eight years ago – and for eleven of those years, he’s been one of Sweden’s biggest, brightest and best-selling artists. He’s also spent a heap of that time doing double duty as a singer and a songwriter, penning tracks for himself and for a myriad of other musos.

You might not have predicted such a future for him if you’d tuned into Sweden’s first series of Idol in 2004, and witnessed the gangly, softly-spoken 17-year-old audition for the judges with an N*SYNC song (which totally gets my tick of approval).

But, after destroying his competition week after week (competition that included future ESC champ Loreen) Darin became the true winner of Idol ’04…by finishing second. Losing to man who nobody remembers (Daniel Lindström, for the record) turned out to be the launching pad for one heck of a career. It began with a signature on a BMG recording contract shortly after Idol ended, then continued with the release of Darin’s first single in early 2005: ‘Money For Nothing’. The song was co-written by Swedish superstar Robyn, as well as Danish Remee (host of Junior Eurovision 2003 and co-writer of multiple ESC entries, including Anti Social Media’s ‘The Way You Are’) and it earned Darin his first-ever #1 single and platinum certification.

His debut album The Anthem followed, also topping the charts in his homeland – and the trend continued with his second, self-titled album, also released in 2005 (he wasn’t a stereotypical lazy teenager, that’s for sure). Darin spawned three top ten hits, including the #1 ‘Step Up’.

Album number three, 2006’s Break The News, followed suit, but fourth album Flashback was Darin’s poorest-performing release, failing to climb higher then tenth on the Swedish charts. It did, however, feature another #1 single in ‘Breathing Your Love’, a duet with American singer Kat DeLuna.

After appearing as a Melodifestivalen interval act in 2009, Darin made the decision that many well-known Swedish acts had made before him, and opted to enter the comp himself in 2010. Performing one of my all-time favourite songs, ‘You’re Out Of My Life’, he progressed direkt til Globen, eventually finishing fourth in a strong final.

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After Darin’s Melfest participation, he became known as ‘The Lord of the Wind Machine’.

Despite not making it all the way to Eurovision, he bounced back with another #1 album later that year: Lovekiller, which featured his Melfest entry, a (love)killer title track, and his hugely successful cover of Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’. Darin co-wrote eight of the ten songs on this album, including ‘Can’t Stop Love’, written especially for the wedding of Sweden’s Princess Victoria. In 2011, he also co-wrote the winning single of Idol’s Amanda Fondell (who would go on to participate in Melodifestivalen herself).

In 2012, Darin appeared on reality show Så Mycket Bättre (So Much Better), tasked with covering the hits of a bunch of fellow Swedish musicians – and to cut a long story short, he nailed his assignment every week. The following year, he unveiled his sixth studio album and fifth #1 album in total, Exit; and appeared on the Eurovision stage during Malmö’s second semi final, alongside the amazing Agnes. There, he performed ‘Nobody Knows’ – shockingly, another #1 single – and ‘So Yours’. As I cried with happiness.

Fast forward to 2015, and there’s another Darin album on the horizon – but it’s not in the usual English-language, R&B/dance-pop mould. Having made the switch to Swedish and adopted a folksy flavour that fits him pretty well, he’ll release Fjärilar I Magen (Butterflies in the Stomach) in September. At this point, it’s already produced two massive hits in ‘Ta Mig Tillbaka’ and ‘Juliet’. It seems there’s no slowing Darin down, and no pigeonholing him when it comes to the type of artist he is, either. I accept that his music may not be everyone’s plate of IKEA meatballs, but I for one am counting down the days to the drop of album no. 7.

 

SOUNDS LIKE…

That depends on the time period you’re talking about. Early-days Darin was a record company’s dream – young, inexperienced, and therefore profitable putty in their hands. Seeing as he’d taken on N*SYNC for his Idol audition, he was shaped into a one-man boy band, sound-wise. Poppy melodies with an R&B edge and emotive ballads were once the bulk of his repertoire. As time went on, record company moves were made and experience in the music industry grew, and Darin settled on an arena pop/dance pop feel for his albums. Lovekiller was all about big choruses and layers of instrumentation, whereas Exit‘s focus was slickly-produced club tracks.

These days, as I mentioned before, Darin’s taken a completely new direction with his sound. Now writing songs that are heavily influenced by folk music, he’s stumbled upon an authenticity that works very well for him. As much as I love everything he’s produced in the past, I have to admit that his latest few singles have more substance, and tell more of a tale, than any that came before them.

To make this post more Eurovision-related, allow me to give you an indication of Darin’s past and present style based on some ESC entries. If you liked Russia 2006 and Moldova 2015, teenage Darin is for you. If you liked Norway 2012 and Ukraine 2013, try him circa 2010-2013. If The Netherlands 2012 and 2014 + Malta 2014 and Lithuania 2015 = some of your favourite entries, you’re bound to prefer him now. If that makes ANY sense at all.

 

DISCOGRAPHY

  • The Anthem (2005) feat. ‘Money For Nothing’ and ‘Why Does It Rain’
  • Darin (2005) feat. ‘Step Up’, ‘Who’s That Girl’, ‘Want Ya!’
  • Break The News (2006) feat. ‘Perfect’, ‘Everything But The Girl’, ‘Desire’, ‘Insanity’
  • Flashback (2008) feat. ‘Breathing Your Love’, ‘See U At The Club’, ‘What If’
  • Lovekiller (2010) feat. ‘Viva La Vida’, ‘You’re Out Of My Life’, ‘Can’t Stop Love’, ‘Lovekiller’
  • Exit (2013) feat. ‘Nobody Knows’, ‘Playing With Fire’, ‘Check You Out’
  • Fjärilar I Magen (2015) feat. ‘Ta Mig Tillbaka’, ‘Juliet’

dardisc

 

THE HIT LIST

‘Money For Nothing’ It’s not a musical masterpiece, but you’d hardly expect that from a seventeen-year-old’s first single. What is it, then? So 2005, and so much fun.

 

‘You’re Out Of My Life’ It couldn’t win in a top-notch edition of Melodifestivalen, but this beautifully-crafted ballad did win my heart FOR LYF.

 

‘Lovekiller’ Neither power nor passion is lacking in this not-so-cheery number. The chorus hits hard.

 

‘Astrologen’ A Så Mycket Bättre cover of a Magnus Uggla track, this atmospheric reworking is gorgeous. I genuinely prefer it to the original (sorry, Magnus).

 

‘Nobody Knows’ Well, that’s not true…we all know if we were watching Eurovision 2013’s second semi. Anyway, this is a top-notch dance anthem with a super-energetic tempo.

 

‘Ta Mig Tillbaka’ Simple and sentimental, this has been a big hit for Darin in 2015, suggesting that many of us can identify with wanting to go back in time every now and then *sniff*.

 

WHY EUROVISION?

If they stopped partying for a second in the wake of their Eurovision 2015 win, Sweden may have offered their condolences to host country Austria on their worst-possible result – all the while expecting a different outcome for themselves when they take over hosting duties next year. There’s no way SVT’s main man Christer Björkman will want to see Sweden on the bottom of the scoreboard, either on home ground or anywhere else. If Darin were to enter and win Melfest 2016, I have no doubt he’d put a smile on Christer’s dial by finishing in a galaxy far, far away from Nul Pointsville. Here’s why.

  • He’s a seasoned performer with countless live performances and tour dates under his H&M-brand belt. He’d have no trouble dealing with the media, intense rehearsals or the pressure to not faceplant on stage in front of thousands of people.
  • He’s got great live vocal chops, having been the runner-up in a TV talent contest. And, since he made it to the final of Idol when he was a teenager, there’s no doubt he could handle competition as an adult.
  • He’s tried to represent Sweden before, so he’s obviously not averse to adding ‘Eurovision participant’ to the Employment History section of his resume. His appearance as an interval act in 2013 is also proof of this.
  • He’s already known to Eurovision fans as a result of that interval act, which could give him some support to start off with (á la Conchita).
  • What with his current folk-flavoured fixation, he could serve up a host entry that stands out – particularly if it’s in Swedish, which we haven’t heard on the ESC stage since 1998.

PS…Darin’s new album drops on September 25th. That’s conveniently after September 1st, after which any song publicly aired or published can theoretically enter the following year’s ESC. So do the right thing, Darin – take the best track from Fjärilar I Magen that hasn’t been released as a single pre-September, and enter Melfest with it!

Update…What I meant to say (having forgotten about the ‘no publishing/airing before Melfest itself’ rule SVT are fond of, until I was reminded in the comments) is do the right thing, Darin – bask in the success of your new album, and then write a brand new non-album single to enter Melfest with. Is that really too much too ask?

 

BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE!

If you’re keen for further info on Mr. Zanyar (which is unlikely, since I’ve forced so much of it on you today that you probably never want to see or hear his name again for as long as you live); or if you just want to see photos of him gazing thoughtfully into the distance with the Swedish sun shining on his stubble, then there’s no shortage of places you can visit to get your fix.

Official Site | YouTube | FacebookTwitter | Instagram

 

Well, I’ve had my say. Return the favour?

Who do you want to see competing in Melodifestivalen next year? In the hope, of course, that they’ll go on to become Sweden’s 2016 host entrant?

 
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TIME-WARP TUESDAY (on a Wednesday…oops) | A sinfully successful Hungarian debut

Where Dublin, Ireland
When 1994
Who Friderika Bayer
What Kinek Mondjam El Vétkeimet?

The reasons I’ve plucked this song out of thin air for today’s Time-Warp are threefold. Firstly, Hungarian is one of my favourite musical languages (the fact that I barely understand a word of it makes it so cool and mysterious). Secondly, Hungary have thrown some great entries at us since they made their 2011 Eurovision comeback (Kedvesem is now one of my most beloved of all time) and they were responsible for a few gems prior to that too – something I wanted to celebrate. Thirdly, the country’s 1994 debut entry was both in Hungarian AND one of those pre-comeback diamonds, so I’m pretty keen to discuss it. Let’s!

Friderika Bayer was twenty-three when she stepped up to her microphone in Dublin’s Point Theatre (I’m currently the same age, so I feel very inadequate as someone yet to represent any country at Eurovision). She had more responsibility than most of the other competitors on her young shoulders, because, like Poland’s Edyta Gorniak, she was about to be the first singer from her country to appear at the contest. That carries a certain amount of weight.

Fortunately, both Edyta and Friderika debuted in style, finishing 2nd and 4th respectively. Hungary even led the voting before dropping down to that still-successful placing, and I don’t find it hard to understand why – Kinek Mondjam El Vétkeimet? (‘To Whom Can I Tell My Sins?’) is a stunning song that was accompanied by a beautifully simple and sincere performance. You can draw a few parallels between this entry and Boggie’s Wars For Nothing, despite the 20+ year time difference – both are guitar-backed, down-tempo and sentimental songs performed by vocally proficient brunettes. But Kinek… is the superior song as far as my ears and tastes are concerned. For one thing, it doesn’t send me to sleep. There’s something about the melody and the clarity-tinged-with-vulnerability sound of Friderika’s voice that draws me in, and makes me feel ALL THA FEELS.

Lyrically (yes, this non-Hungarian speaker has Googled the translation multiple times) you won’t find any pleas for peace or cheesy clichés here. Take, for example, the content of the first verse and the chorus:

Nothing is there, only the lightless night
Only the tongue-tied distress, a vain hope
No faith, no love
No one to stroke my hand

Whom can I tell my sins
To be sure that they are forgiven?
Whom can I tell my sins, my God?

Sigh.

This entry is proof that a song doesn’t have to be a) busy, layered, loud and freaking full of lyrics, or b) staged like it’s one’s last chance to use a wind machine, incorporate a costume reveal and do the Moonwalk whilst mowing the lawn and baking a batch of piskóta (so basically, Amanecer) to have an impact. The entire 1994 contest, in fact, was testament to that, with a bunch of top-scoring songs being of the subtle, slow and simple variety – including Ireland’s winner. Some say interval act Riverdance stole the show, but if you look and listen a little closer, that’s not necessarily the case (depending on your attitude towards frenetic Irish dancing).

To sum up, I love this song – and judging by the applause when Friderika was finished, the audience did too. How about you?

 

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SEEING DOUBLE? All the doppelgangers of Eurovision 2015 (finally) exposed!

SURPRISE!!! Just when you thought I’d become so bogged down in the depths of Post-Eurovision Depression that I’d lost the will to blog and legged it to go live in an underground cave in Siberia where I’d never hear the words ‘Good evening, Europe!’ uttered again *draws breath*, here I am.

It’s been so long since my previous post, I don’t think we had a host city for Eurovision 2016 when it went up. But, as everyone on the planet is now aware, we are Stockholm-bound, baby! Sweden’s capital has gotten the gig, and the Globe Arena (which also housed the contest in 2000) will be the centre of the action next May whilst looking as much like a giant golf ball as ever.

Speaking of things that look like other things…welcome to today’s post, which is a) an extravaganza of lookalikes, and b) my last post to be purely focused on ESC no. 60 for a while (at least a week, I promise). I’ve done a LOT of doppelganger posts in the past, and as they’ve been pretty popular – and as I spotted quite a few familiarities in the forty faces of 2015 – I saw no reason not to add another one to the EBJ archives.

In the words of Mr. Eurovision himself – that’s three-time winner Johnny Logan, for the uninitiated – what’s another year? Let’s take another wander down Lookalike Lane. Prepare to be not as impressed by the following as I’m implying you should be!

 

Ladylike lookalikes

Aminata looks like American actress Zoe Saldana

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The only notable difference here is that Aminata’s eyebrow game is a heck of a lot stronger. I guess Hollywood’s beauty salons aren’t all that.

 

Ann Sophie looks like American actress/comedian Ellie Kemper

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The same megawatt smiles AND the same preference for parting their hair on the left? Case closed – these two are totally sisters from different misters.

 

Boggie looks like Kate Middleton (a.k.a. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge)

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I swear this isn’t just a convenient pairing of photographs…but if you’re not buying it, you’d have to at least agree that Boggie looks more like Kate’s sister than her actual sister does. PS – note the shared penchant for pearl jewelry.

 

Edurne looks like Israeli model Bar Refaeli

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This being the case, Edurne should expect Leonardo DiCaprio to make a move on her any day now.

 

Edurne (also) looks like Australian model and ex-Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins

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Si, it’s true – Edurne somehow manages to resemble two people who in turn look nothing alike. In this case it’s a fellow blonde, blue-eyed bombshell who routinely pulls out the ‘I’m checking my hair for lice’ pose when participating in a photo shoot.

 

Dudes with doppelgangers

Daniel Kajmakoski looks like Harry Potter star Tom Felton

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I’m telling you, it’s something about the head shape. And/or the gradually receding hairline that will see both Daniel and Draco Malfoy become bald within the next five years.

 

Eduard Romanyuta looks like Australian singer/songwriter Conrad Sewell

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If you like your men with flowing blonde locks (but Thor’s too buff for your taste) then here’s two I prepared earlier. No word yet on whether or not Conrad likes to be tailed by scantily-clad cops at all times, á la Eduard.

 

Loïc Nottet looks like One Direction’s Harry Styles

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Okay, so this isn’t the most astounding lookalike I’ve ever come up with. But squint at the photo above whilst chopping an onion, and you might see the similarities that I do. And while you’re doing that, I’ll be internally debating whether Loïc or Harry has better hair.

 

Måns Zelmerlöw looks like Australian acting export Hugh Jackman

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Fast-forward fifteen years, and Måns will be a dead ringer for Hugh (who was trained up as an actor on my university campus, by the way…don’t say I never provide you with fun facts). This, of course, will make him Hugh JackMåns.

 

Stig Rästa looks like One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson

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Here’s another 1D comparison that, if I’m honest, isn’t the last you’ll encounter in this post. Stig may have chopped and changed his coiffure for Eurovision purposes (there is a 99% chance that isn’t the actual reason, but just roll with it) but such spontaneity is what makes him beautiful (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?).

 

Vaidas Baumila looks like Australian actor Josh Lawson

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I’m not going to lie. I’m proud of this one. From the strong jaw to the stubble, and (most) of the stuff in between, feasting your eyes on these two faces at once is to truly be seeing double. Except for the fact that it isn’t. But it’s close enough.

 

Band members separated at birth

Il Volo’s Gianluca Ginoble looks like One Direction’s Zayn Malik + American singer Nick Jonas

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Hey, I’m allowed one love-child lookalike (and one final 1D reference). Gianluca might be a better singer than Zayn and Nick combined (which is not so much a dig at them as it is a massive compliment to GG) but he’s just as attractive as their faces would be combined.

 

Il Volo’s Piero Barone looks like Eurovision 2007 winner Marija Šerifović

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And Piero’s my pick for hottest third of Il Volo? I guess that means I’ll settle for Marija in the event that he and I aren’t meant to be.

 

The Makemakes’ Florian Meindl looks like American actor Oliver Hudson

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Question this one, and I will refer you to an optometrist immediately.

 

The Makemakes’ Markus Christ looks like Scottish actor James McAvoy

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In case you didn’t notice, there were two famous faces attached to the less famous faces of Austria’s 2015 entrants. If anyone can come up with a dead ringer for lead singer Dominic, then the trilogy will be complete!

 

Voltaj’s Calin Goia looks like former tennis champ Andre Agassi

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Both of these guys groom their facial hair in the same way (though Calin’s is more refined) and neither have any hair on their scalp that requires grooming. The evidence of their blood relativity is right there in front of you, people.

 

 
Well, that’s my list of lookalikes exhausted. This post was requested (a very, very long time ago) by Wolfgang from Germany. If there’s a type of post you’d like to see more often on EBJ, a theme you want to suggest for a Top 10, an edition of the ESC you want me to Retro Rank…anything at all I can put together for you, then let me know in the comments, via the Contact Jaz page, or on social media. I promise I’ll make it happen ASAP, not because I’m short on ideas (believe me, my backlog of Eurovisual ramblings-in-waiting is bigger than Rona Nishliu’s dreadlock beehive) but because I want to make sure my content is the kind you guys will come back for.

Without me having to bribe you, that is.

If you’re up for commenting down below without a payoff, then answer me this: did I actually identify all of Vienna’s doppelgangers, or are there others yet to be exposed? Which 2015 artists had you wondering if a famous face had been recruited by a country for competition purposes?

 

Until next time…

 

nsig

 

EBJ’s Top 10…could-haves and should-haves of the 2015 national final season

First things first: I have an apology to issue. That apology is to this blog, for missing its sixth birthday last week. Oops.

I’m a terrible mother blogger, I know. But in the wake of my recent 400th post celebrations (and with life’s general chaos all around me) I thought all my milestones had been and gone for the year. My bad. Regardless, EBJ is now six years old (!!!) and my belated birthday gift is this hastily-constructed graphic.

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I’d like to say merci to anyone reading this right now, and to anyone who’s ever taken the time to read something I’ve posted throughout the past six years. I’m very appreciative of you. I mean, I was kind of hoping I’d have my own talk show and clothing line by now, but I guess I can live with just having (one or two) regular readers.

Still, if I get to the ten-year mark, and Drew Barrymore hasn’t been cast as me in a movie detailing  my life and times, there’ll be hell to pay.

Moving on now (mercifully) to le subject of today’s post: the ones that got away. It’s tradition for us all to moan about the national final entries that didn’t make it to Eurovision before the show, and even more afterwards as we wonder what could have been. I’ve already listed all my favourites from the 2014/15 season here, so now it’s after-party time!

I think we can agree that some countries, like Sweden, inarguably put their best foot (and most tight-fitting trousers) forward this year. Others, like Switzerland, just weren’t meant to make the final of ESC no. 60., and nothing in their NFs could have changed that.

Then there are the countries that may or may not have made the best decisions on who should represent them, if they wanted to achieve their best possible Eurovision result. Keeping those countries in mind, I’m about to count down my top ten could-haves (i.e. the songs that would have provided similar results but made nice alternative choices) and should-haves (i.e. the songs that would have climbed higher on the scoreboard for sure) in relation to the outcomes of the 2015 contest. Remember, this is a subjective topic, and all opinions are purely my own. I encourage you to disagree with them in the comments (in a respectful manner, of course).

3, 2, 1, GO!

 

#10 | Supernova by Janet

COULD have been sent by Belarus

If I had to single out one song from the Belarusian final that might have squeezed through to the Eurovision equivalent – or at least equaled Time’s not-too-terrible 12th place – it’d be Supernova. Written by Swedes Ylva and Linda Persson (if purchasing songs from Sweden is good enough for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia, it’s good enough for Belarus) this track is an interesting hybrid of ballad and electronica, with decent build and a strong chorus that sticks. If it were paired with a backdrop similar to Polina Gagarina’s, Janet in a floaty dress, intensive use of the wind machine, and perhaps some kind of cool last-minute reveal á la Moldova 2013 (although that wouldn’t be required to top Uzari & Maimuna’s nothingness), Supernova would have been…well, super, on the ESC stage. Unfortunately, it finished second-last in Belarus. Trés cray.

PS – The video above features the studio version, since the only video of the NF performance on YouTube is of rubbish quality. But do check it out if you think you can withstand the static sound and pixilated picture. Janet’s vocals aren’t the strongest, but the staging is pretty epic.

 

#9 | Jazz & Sirtaki by Thomai Apergi & Legend

SHOULD have been sent by Greece

As we all know, Greece did send a glamorous woman in a gown with a belter of a ballad to Vienna. Too bad for them that such entries were a dime a dozen there – and done better by the likes of Russia and Latvia. I know Greece would have qualified even if Maria Elena had actually farted tears and fears into the microphone for three minutes, but I can’t help thinking they should have sent their NF runner-up Jazz & Sirtaki instead of One Last Breath. It’s the kind of thing we expect from Greece: it’s ethnic, catchy, fun, and instantly identifiable as being Greek, and I don’t see those as negatives. Not only would it have upped the energy and the amount of ethno-pop in the 2015 lineup, it would also have had a good chance of getting Greece back onto the left side of the scoreboard, if only just.

 

#8 | Burning Lights by Daniel Levi

COULD have been sent by Estonia

Okay, Team GTY…you can put that pitchfork down. I’m not here to claim that Stig and Elina, who won Eesti Laul 2015 by a massive margin and finished a respectable 7th in Vienna, shouldn’t have represented Estonia. I’m just saying that the more joyful Burning Lights is an alternative that I wouldn’t have minded seeing/hearing at Eurovision. It’s a tasty slice of contemporary, anthemic pop-rock, with great lyrics in which nobody smiles to the dog (definitely a bonus). And, like Softengine’s Something Better did in Copenhagen, it would have stood out from the crowd as a rockier song in a field full of – yep, you guessed it – ballads.

 

#7 | Rush by Christabelle

SHOULD have been sent by Malta

After hearing this song for the first time, I started to believe that fate had forced Christabelle to trip up in her previous MESC attempt purely so she could make a victorious comeback with a much better song. Ultimately, she made a comeback that resulted in second place, which is something – but in my opinion, Malta made a mistake opting to leave Rush behind. Amber’s Warrior didn’t know what it was as a song, and the revamp only emphasised that. There was a sense of cohesiveness missing from the overall package put forward. Rush, on the other hand, was straight-up fresh-and-fun pop that would have been difficult to stage badly. We’ll never know for certain, but I swear to Chiara…if Warrior only just missed out on qualifying, then Rush would have made the cut for sure.

 

#6 | Wechselt Die Beleuchtung by Laing

COULD have been sent by Germany

Eurovision 2015 was all about (well, somewhat about) the wonderfully weird. Entries like Rhythm Inside and Love Injected – which aren’t commonplace in the contest just yet – proved incredibly popular, and I for one fell head-over-heels for them. I’d be saying the same about this number from Laing, had they represented Germany instead of Ann Sophie (via Andreas Kümmert). I’m a Black Smoke fan, but I think Germany could have sent Wechselt instead and not regretted it – mainly because something so intriguing wouldn’t have finished last with the dreaded nul points (in my mind, anyway). This song is so cool, and its staging at Unser Song Für Österreich was even cooler. Trust Germany to make a costume reveal edgy, not cheesy.

 

#5 | Human Beings by Karin Park

COULD have been sent by Norway

In case you didn’t know already, Mørland and Debrah Scarlett were the pinnacle of MGP ’15 pour moi, and there’s no way I would have wanted anything but A Monster Like Me to go to Eurovision. But in a parallel universe in which they didn’t enter the NF, it’s the amazing Karin Park I’d have been crossing my fingers for. The woman behind I Feed You My Love decided to enter as an artist this year, with the equally cutting-edge and atmospheric Human Beings. She gave a performance that sent shivers down my spine (that bit over the wind grate with the billowing kimono was a defining moment in my life). Hypnotic is the key word here, aurally and visually-speaking, and that’s always a helpful adjective to be labeled with when you’re trying to secure people’s votes. Not that it worked too well in Norway…Karin didn’t even make the top four. I’m still mystified.

 

#4 | Ne Engedj El by Kati Wolf

SHOULD have been sent by Hungary

It’s never fun when your least favourite song in an NF ends up winning it, and that’s what happened to me with A Dal this year (and UMK, and DMGP). In time, Wars For Nothing did grow on me. However, it’s still too sleepy for my liking, and I can’t connect with it emotionally. That’s not a problem I have with Ne Engedj El, performed by the fabulous Kati Wolf sans 2011’s massive hair and shiny satin disco dress. Yes, it’s a lady ballad, but it has more life to it than Boggie’s (then again, so does Knez’s face, which is really saying something) and I personally feel the feels when I listen to it (which is about ten times a day). It’s a beautifully constructed song with a pretty melody, and Kati did it justice in the NF with a performance that was both fragile and powerful. I really, really wish Hungary had given her the second shot she was after with this.

 

#3 | Manjana by Babou

SHOULD have been sent by Denmark

Denmark and I rarely see eye to eye, meaning they hardly ever pick my favourite DMGP entry to represent them (2014 excluded, as I scubidubidapdapdididid love that). A few months ago, I was desperate for Anne Gadegaard’s Suitcase to go to Vienna on behalf of last year’s hosts, but in hindsight, I’ve changed my tune (so to speak), at least with regards to which DMGP song would have served Denmark best. For me, it’s Babou’s infectious Manjana. This song is a three-minute tropical party – kind of like a more urban version of Allez Ola Olé. Sure, it’s a tad generic, but so is The Way You Are, and generic dance > generic retro rock. Plus, a) it would have been great to hear Danish at Eurovision for the first time since 1997; and b) we desperately needed more floorfillers in the 2015 field, and Manjana would have been different enough to those we did have (from Israel and Serbia, for instance) to hold its own.

 

#2 | Crossroads by Satin Circus

SHOULD have been sent by Finland

FYI, I don’t want to take anything way from PKN; nor do I feel that they didn’t deserve their UMK victory. This list is about the national finalists I would have preferred to see/hear at Eurovision, and/or those that would likely have given their countries a better result. In the case of Crossroads, it’s both: a song I really wanted to represent Finland, and one that I believe would have gotten them into the final. Satin Circus may have qualified based on their less divisive, more mainstream musical style, which isn’t necessarily a positive thing (Finland made an awesome decision to send punk to a contest unaccustomed to the genre, even though it backfired) but I feel like there was a Crossroads-shaped hole in the Viennese lineup of down-tempo, melancholy pop and preachy ballads. It’s such a fun sing-along song, and, like Tonight Again, it’s perfectly suited to being performed at Europe’s biggest party (‘Tonight we can be young’ = so apt). Basically, I missed it in a big way, and I’m hoping that the boys bring their brand of youthful pop-rock back to UMK, ASAP!

 

And now, my most painful missed opportunity of the year…

 

#1 | Fjaðrir by SUNDAY

SHOULD have been sent by Iceland

It’s not just the Danish who disappoint me: Iceland does the same on a regular basis by leaving something quirky and brilliant behind at Söngvakeppnin in favour of something boring vanilla. Exhibit A? The 180-second-long chorus that is Unbroken triumphing over the bizarre yet beautiful creation that is Fjaðrir (or Feathers, but I’m specifically talking about the Icelandic version here) by SUNDAY. I know, I know…SUNDAY didn’t even come second to María, so it’s not technically a case of ‘if only!’. But Fjaðrir is so amazing, with its Margaret Berger-esque visuals and mesmerising industrial-pop sound, that I’m going to say ‘if only!’ anyway. There are no shrill choruses to be found here – in fact, the choruses are more low-key than the verses, which is part of what makes the song so interesting. And, as usual, the use of Icelandic adds an extra something special. I’m in love.

 

Put your thinking caps on, ‘cause it’s time to tell me: which national finalists do you think could have – or SHOULD have – been given tickets to Eurovision 2015? A.k.a. which countries got it right and which countries got it oh-so-wrong?

 

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.

bdns

 

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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).

dshoy

 

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!

 

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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!

nsig

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.

pg

 

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.

 

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