Knock knock, who’s there? It’s Saturday again, duh!
When you’re living for the weekends like I do during national final season, it’s a blessing for this day of the week to come around so quickly. And boy, does it have a lot to love on this occasion. Here’s everything happening tonight:
- Croatia Dora, final
- Estonia Eesti Laul, final
- Hungary A Dal, semi final 2
- Iceland Söngvakeppnin, semi final 2
- Latvia Supernova, final
- Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, semi final 2
- Portugal Festival da Canção, semi final 1
- Slovenia EMA, final
- Sweden Melodifestivalen, semi final 3
- Ukraine Vidbir, semi final 2
I know what you’re thinking: ‘Is that all?’. But don’t worry, tomorrow night we also have:
- Romania Selecția Națională, final
Do the math on this list of NFs, and you’ll find that Saturday + Sunday = FIVE more songs for Tel Aviv. And isn’t it about time? We’ve waited long enough to get into double digits.
I’m not about to preview/predict all of the above NF action, since I don’t want to send you (or myself) to sleep. I will make a quick wishlist for the countries I won’t be covering though, so listen up universe: Croatia can give me Brutalero or Redemption, Estonia Storm, Latvia Somebody’s Got My Lover or Fire, and Slovenia Kaos. Oh, and if Portugal could send Calema through as well as Conan (so I can figure out what the heck I actually think of Telemóveis) that’d be awesome.
Now, if you want to chat in-depth about Hungary, Sweden and Romania, you came to the right place.
It’s the second last Saturday of A Dal decision-making, after last week’s first semi final saw Acoustic Planet, Bence Vavra, The Middletonz (WOOHOO!) and Petruska (smaller woohoo!) make the final cut. Obviously there’s another hurdle for them to jump over in the final itself – making the all-important top four from which 100% televote will determine the winner – but qualifying to next weekend’s showdown is what everyone wants to do, and those guys have done it. Now there’s just four spots left for the taking, and nine acts after them. Let the (probably heartbreaking) battle begin!
- Kedves Világ! Timi Antal feat. Gergő Demko
- Kulcs Fatal Error
- Egyszer Mocsok 1 Kölykök
- A Remény Hídjai Nomad
- Hozzád Bújnék Gergő Oláh
- Az Én Apám Joci Pápai
- Holnap Bogi Nagy
- Forró Ruby Harlem
- Madár, Repülj! Gergő Szekér
You guys know how obsessed I am with A Dal this year, and though I’ve lost some favourites along the way (JUSTICE FOR VILÁGÍTÓTORONY!) a few more are still in the running and competing in this semi. On the other hand, some of my least favourites are here too, and I’m hoping they’ll be among the sacrificial songs of the night.
Let’s start with the good stuff and work our way through to what will actually happen in Hungary this week, IMO.
My top four In random order, Hozzád Bújnék, Az Én Apám, Holnap and Madár, Repülj! Gergő Oláh is a perennial top pick of mine, and although Hozzád Bújnék is no Győz a Jó, it is a ballistic missile of a ballad that he – pardon my French in advance – sings the shit out of. My beloved Joci is back with a bang (well, more of a gentle tap on the door, but it’s beautiful and impactful nonetheless) and all the raw emotion required to sell such a unique ethno-ballad. Bogi is also armed with a gentle ballad, and the crystal-clear fragility of her voice takes it to another level (though the melody is worth mentioning too). As for Gergő No. 2, which is nothing like Mambo No. 5…well, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Madár, Repülj! at first, but I LOVE it now. It’s distinctive and dramatic without being throwback or an ultra cutting-edge track, and that makes it interesting.
My prediction Given that we know the results of all the heats and semis so far – an A Dal tradition that I enjoy and dislike at the same time – it makes guessing tonight’s final four qualifiers easier. There are five heat winners in this semi alone, however, with some acts having tied FTW. And in the case of Joci and Bogi, who finished equal 1st in the third heat, you cannot separate them – they both scored the same from the jury and from the public. I’m going to give Joci the edge based on his previous history though (and I better not be jinxing him by doing so). Fatal Error stormed to victory in their heat (somehow) so I’d say they were safe finalists…not that they’ve had to compete against any of tonight’s other acts until now. I’m also thinking that Gergő Oláh and Gergő Szekér have a good chance of advancing, since they also tied for the win in their heat. If there’s a wildcard who makes it out of this semi, I think it will be Bogi in place of Gergő Oláh (heaven forbid) or Joci (heaven forbid even more). But I’m locking in my final four as follows: Fatal Error, Gergő Oláh, Gergő Szekér and Joci Pápai. There’s a whole lot of testosterone there and I am not mad about it.
Who would you put money on to make it through to the A Dal final?
How can we be onto the THIRD Melfest semi already? Granted, the second one was a blur for me since I was busy attending Australia Decides at the time (check out my Aussie NF diary here if you haven’t yet) but I’m still shocked. Maybe it’s because – and I hate to say this – the 2019 comp has been a bit of a non-event, at least in terms of the entries (the hosts/interval acts have been fantastisk). Nothing has jumped out at me so far and screamed ‘Winner!’ of Melfest, let alone of Eurovision. Will that change this week with these seven songs?
- Somebody Wants Lovers of Valdaro
- Habibi Dolly Style
- Låt Skiten Brinna Martin Stenmarck
- Victorious Lina Hedlund
- Om Om Och Om Igen Omar
- Who I Am Rebecka Karlsson
- Norrsken Jon Henrik Fjällgren
Based on snippets, no, that’s not going to change. I’m not saying I hate everything on offer here, but there’s a thread of ‘good but not great’ running through the entire line-up that worries me. And yes, I’m even referring to the much-anticipated Norrsken when I say that. But I’ll give this not-quite-magnificent seven the chance to win me over with cracking live performances.
My top four Somebody Wants, Habibi, Om Om Och Om Igen and Who I Am. The Lovers of Valdaro (feat. the guy who wore the heels in Moldova’s Eurovision 2018 performance) are the wildcards from Svensktoppen Nästa, and though I doubt they’ll outdo SMILO’s record of 5th place in a semi (being the highest finish for a Svensktoppen-chosen act), I am digging the beat and production of their song – it should make a great show opener. Habibi is my guilty pleasure and honestly, has the only chorus I could remember after I first listened to the snippets. I like the deviation from bubblegum pop to a more exotic Middle Eastern flavour for Sweden’s version of The Sugababes (because they change members so often, HA HA HA).
Omar definitely has the better song of the FO & O boys competing this year (RIP Oscar Enestad from the running) even if it is a mixed-language copycat of Side To Side/In My Cabana/Woman Like Me. Pop music is derivative, that’s just how the cookie crumbles – and I can’t wait to hear this spiced-up version all the way through. Who I Am rounds out my favourites list based on everything but the lyrics, which are so clichéd I have a hard time excusing it. Still, the power-pop style of the song and Rebecka’s vocal abilities are enough to keep me rooting for her.
My prediction This is a hard one. Last week proved that anything is possible and that the odds are not always correct (in a good way – go Malou!) so I’m not even going to use them as a guide for my guesses. I do happen to know that Jon Henrik is sitting pretty at the top and is as guaranteed of a place in the final as one can be, so NO-BRAINER ALERT. I believe in Rebecka’s potential to also go straight to Friends Arena, or to Andra Chansen at least. Dolly Style are in the mix after winning the audience poll, but I can’t imagine – especially after seeing a shot of their staging – that they’ll place in the top two. For me the last spot is for either Omar (hopefully) or more likely Lina based on her pedigree and the Jessica Andersson effect. Victorious ain’t no Party Voice, but it’s just what you’d expect from one third of Alcazar and that might well be enough. To sum up, I think it’s Jon Henrik Fjällgren/Rebecka Karlsson DTF, and Dolly Style/Lina Hedlund to AC. But feel free to surprise me (again) Sweden.
Which acts will go where in this Melfest deltävling? Let me know what you think in the comments!
Disclaimer: Normally I’d just be discussing Saturday night here, but Romania has inconveniently scheduled their final on a Sunday again (Ester Peony pun not intended, but a declaration of love for her song is coincidentally coming up) and I’ve got to talk about it. In amongst the 12 finalists there is a lot of cookie cutter music, but there’s also a handful of songs so good that I couldn’t stay quiet. Place your bets.
- Renegades Linda Teodosiu
- Right Now Olivier Kaye
- Dear Father Laura Bretan
- Skyscraper Teodora Dinu
- We Are The Ones Claudiu Mirea
- Your Journey Aldo Blaga
- On A Sunday Ester Peony
- Daina Letiția Moisescu and Sensibil Balkan
- Army of Love Bella Santiago
- Destin Trooper
- Without You (Sin Ti) Dya & Lucian Colareza
- Underground Vaida
Selecția Națională isn’t usually one of my go-to NFs, and for those of you who do adore it, sorry – I haven’t suddenly become its number one fan. But like I said, a few SN 2019 songs have caught my attention based on their potential to do very well at Eurovision, and/or how jaw-dropping it was to find them in the Romanian selection to start with.
My favourites Dear Father, On A Sunday, Daina and Army of Love. Laura Bretan is a pocket rocket with form on America’s Got Talent, and watching her semi performance of Dear Father had me shook. There’s something special in this song, and it has great build. Of all my top picks it is my least loved, but it’s the most likely to kick butt on behalf of Romania in Tel Aviv. My most-loved in this line-up is On A Sunday, which is like a musical love child of Ann Sophie’s Black Smoke and Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet. It turns out those are good genes to combine. It’s a song so slick and moody, I can’t believe it’s not competing somewhere in Scandinavia. Ester is flawless live and I wish she was more of a contender.
Daina is Romania doing what I miss Romania doing. They could have sent it to Eurovision in 2005, 2011 or 2018 and it wouldn’t have made a difference (not to me, anyway). Will they send it in 2019? Not a chance, but it’s a killer – not filler – addition to the final. Speaking of which…where there’s smoke there’s Fuego, and Bella’s Army of Love is such a Fuego soundalike that the smoke is stinging my eyes. My ears are all for it though, because it is a banger! Empowering lyrics, ethnic instrumentals and a rap verse in Tagalog make for a rip-off I’d welcome into this year’s ESC family with open arms.
My prediction As much as I’d like to believe there are multiple contenders for this NF, I think the winner has already been signed, sealed and delivered straight through the window she’s shattered with one of her sky-high operatic notes. I mean Laura, of course. Personally I’d prefer Bella, but when I watch Laura’s performance there’s more than one point where I think ‘This is unbeatable.’ The song might not be the greatest to my tastes, but she makes it great and gives me goosebumps in the process. I said this about Kate Miller-Heidke last weekend and I’ll say it again now: If this girl doesn’t win I’ll be flabbergasted. If she does, I’ll be grateful that Australia isn’t in the same semi as Romania.
Whew…aren’t you glad I drew the line at discussing three countries? I’m done now, so if you have any thoughts or predictions for tonight that you need to get off your chest, my comments box is empty and waiting for you to throw stuff into it.
Who’s going to win? Who’s going to get knocked out? Will there be curveballs or will the bookies’ favourites follow through? Wherever it’s happening and whatever your opinion is, I’m ready to hear about it. My response will be more polite if you agree with me though…
See you on the other side of this super Saturday/fun-sized Sunday!
Hey you…it’s me again. Yes, that’s a Kate Miller-Heidke reference – it seemed like the perfect way to introduce this post, one that’s coming to you from Past Jaz. She recently arrived back from her trip to the Gold Coast for Australia’s first-ever national final, and she kept a diary while she was there that she wants to share with you now. Present Jaz figures you won’t mind reading about something that’s already happened, since it’s Eurovision-related. And so, without further ado – because this is a loooooooong read and you guys are going to need stamina to get through it – let’s rewind a week to the day I got to the GC and the magic started to happen.
Thursday February 7, 6.15pm
Somewhere between Sydney and the Gold Coast
Okay, so that was the worst opening for an Australian-themed post ever. I apologise. I just couldn’t bring myself to say ‘G’day, mate!’ – it’s not in my nature to go Full Australian™.
I will be doing my best to be Miss Patriotic for the next two nights though, as I scream hysterically in the audience of the Australia Decides jury show and televised final. I’m on the last leg of my cross-country trip as we speak (because even attending an Aussie NF requires me to travel a minimum of seven hours) and at the moment, things feel pretty surreal…and not just due to my altitude-induced air-headedness. Sure, I’ve made the pilgrimage to Stockholm for Eurovision and for Melodifestivalen (not-so-humble brag alert). But an Aussie NF is a different story. If you’d told me a year ago that Australia would be selecting their entry for Eurovision 2019 via a national final — and that I’d be there in person to see it happen — I’d probably have laughed in your face.
But here we are. And since it’s a special occasion, I thought I’d document it with this diary-style post so that those of you outside of Australia/unable to attend this weekend’s shows can live vicariously through me (or get bored by my ramblings, one of the two). There’s not much to say right now except something about the competing songs, considering I haven’t actually done that yet. I want to give you guys my first impressions before I give you a rundown of who nailed it/failed it in the jury show, and prior to me predicting a winner.
So, The Songs…*insert dramatic Law and Order DUM DUM here*. Well, if you follow me on Twitter – which you should, I’m hilarious – you’ll know that I am happier than Nathan Trent on Christmas morning with the line-up for this NF. I always thought that if we had one, it would have the cringe factor of its almost-namesake You Decide (sorry, UK). But SBS has come through and delivered some serious musical goods. As people born after 2000 and who don’t have dark circles under their eyes yet would say, it snaps and I stan.
Friday February 8, 11.15am
No Name Lane Café, Broadbeach
Sorry for that short break that lasted an entire night, but I had to stop typing so my plane could land. How inconvenient. To pick up where I left off, it’s time to review the Australia Decides songs in as few words as possible, and in terms of song quality/any artist biases that I may or may not have.
In alphabetical order by performer, let’s do this thing.
To Myself I didn’t watch Alfie’s season of The Voice, so listening to this song for the first time was also the first time I’d heard him sing. Clearly, he’s pretty good at it. And suitably, this song sounds like it could have been a winning TV talent show song, only it’s got more edge and less cringe than a typical track of that variety. It’s anthemic, goosebumpy in parts, and underrated, I reckon.
Dust I did watch Aydan’s season of The Voice, and my inner 14–year-old totally voted for him (and would have had a poster of him on her bedroom wall if she wasn’t actually 27). I LOVE his voice, and this song suits his smooth tones and Benjamin Ingrosso-esque falsetto perfectly. Great lyrics, slick production and a kickass chorus = excellence, IMO.
Fight For Love Frivolous? Yes. But fun and fabulous at the same time? Absolutely. Courtney is a pro with the perfect amount of theatricality, personality and actual talent, and this song is so her. I don’t really want it to go to Eurovision on Australia’s behalf, but I am dying to dance to it in the mosh pit (such as it is) on Saturday night.
2000 and Whatever Cards on the table, this is my favourite Aus Decides entry and exactly what I want to see in Tel Aviv. It’s everything I’d hoped we’d send to the ESC since our story started, but never thought we would. It ticks box after box despite being outside of the box, if you know what I mean: it’s original, high-energy, dynamic, hook-laden and features an Indigenous-language bridge that’s uniquely Aussie. Electric Fields, you have yourself a new and very devoted fangirl!
Data Dust In the battle of the dusts, Aydan is my pick by far. Still, Ella’s song fills a genre spot in this line-up, and gives us all the chance to have a mild headbang while watching the show. It’s catchy, got a good beat and seems like something she’ll enjoy performing, and that enjoyment should transmit to viewers at home. The chorus is pretty sticky too. It’s a good one to shampoo your hair to in the shower, trust me.
Zero Gravity KMH is a big favourite, and after an adjustment period I can see why. My first listen of this song ended with a WTF face because it was such an assault on the senses. But after a few more run-throughs, I realised what’s special about this – everything. It grabs your attention from the beginning whether you like it or not, and doesn’t let go. Reminiscent of Alenka Gotar’s Cvet Z Juga but with a stronger pop sensibility, it combines Kate’s classical and contemporary talents into one distinctive package. No wonder it’s a contender.
Set Me Free Anyone who predicted that an unknown 16–year-old would produce a song as killer as this must have super-psychic powers. I sure didn’t see it coming, but I’m glad it did. Leea’s moody, Scandinavian NF-worthy pop ballad is right up my street (I’ve saved her a space in my garage with an engraved plaque). The verses set up a beautiful, fragile atmosphere that flows into a punch-packing chorus, taking Leea from a place of vulnerability to a place where she’s not going to take crap from this mystery jerk of a guy any more. You go, girlfriend.
This Is Not The End We were spoilt by Il Volo back in 2015, because no male operatic song will ever measure up to Grande Amore (including Il Volo’s own song in SanRemo this year). I don’t mind this one, and there’s nothing that would have shown off Mark’s amazing vocals better. I just prefer almost every other song competing.
On My Way This has Sheppard written all over it with a big fat Sharpie. It’s anthemic, danceable and light-hearted without being cheesy (just) and as always, the O’G3NE-ish camaraderie between the siblings is appealing and sure to give them brotherly and sisterly chemistry on stage. I won’t lie, this song doesn’t blow my mind…but it’s what I expected from the band, and it’s a solid effort.
Piece of Me This was the last AD song to be released and sadly, it wasn’t a case of leaving the best until last. For someone who’s spent a decade living in Sweden, the home of successful songwriters of cutting-edge pop, Tania has thrown it back with this 2000s example of elevator music. Granted, it’s GOOD elevator music, but a little uninspired and dated. Also, the verses are stronger than the choruses which is a worry. Can’t she just perform Bachelor Girl’s Buses and Trains instead?
Friday February 8, 6.30pm
Casa de Jaz (a.k.a. My Air BnB)
That was another abrupt ending – maybe get used to those, guys. And now you know who I will and won’t be backing FTW, I’ve got to say goodbye already. It’s for a legit reason – it’s time to head down the road (literally…I can see the Convention Centre from my apartment) and see what the Australia Decides jury show has to offer. I’m meeting up with Anita from Eurovision Union (if you missed our recent Melfest collab, you can check it out here) and we’ll keep you informed on our socials as the show unfolds. Of course, you’ll be reading this after the fact, so if you weren’t following us on Twitter etc then, do it now and see what we thought in the past. Be overcome by our incredible observations and precise foresight and bitchy comments because sometimes they’re just called for. I’ll see you on the other side!
Friday February 8, 10.55pm
My Air BnB again
And I’m back, after one seriously impressive jury show – albeit one that could do with some trimming to make it less of a marathon. Still, SBS has done an incredible job transforming the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre into an ESC-worthy space, complete with a stage that looks stunning on and off camera.
I can’t say the entire run-through was as flawless tonight, but the performances aside – which were obviously being judged – it didn’t matter that there were some technical difficulties. That basically extended to Aydan having to restart his performance after his mic failed á la Estonia at Eurovision 2017, and hosts Myf and Joel visiting Struggletown for a few seconds when the autocue decided to have a breakdown. Fingers crossed these are kinks that will be ironed out before we go live.
Regardless, Australia Decides looks like it’s going to be an awesome debut NF, with (lots of) great interval acts – including two songs from Dami Im – plus Eurovision vignettes and host scripting that’s closer to Petra and Måns than the Portuguese quartet on the humour scale. To touch on the most important stuff, here’s my quick take on the 10 acts’ jury performances:
Who impressed Electric Fields, Mark Vincent, Aydan, Courtney Act and Kate Miller-Heidke. EF raised the roof and Zaachariaha’s flamboyance filled the room. Mark’s vocal power was undeniable. Aydan’s vocals were more understated but smooth as silk, and there was an intimate stage setup at the start that made him stand out. Courtney delivered the exact level of pizzazz feat. props we all hoped for, and Kate? Well, more on her in a minute.
Who disappointed Sheppard and Tania Doko. Sheppard might have suffered from expectations being too high – they were okay, but rough around the edges and looked messy on stage. Tania’s vocals were on point but her choreography was so bizarre I couldn’t take it seriously. Trying to make Piece of Me more interesting backfired a bit.
Who did neither Ella, Leea Nanos and Alfie Arcuri. They all turned out good but not great performances. Ella provided an energetic opener and an eye-wateringly tight jumpsuit, Leea showed maturity and sophistication beyond her years and Alfie sang like the champion he is (and flashed some welcome flesh in a shirt open enough to appeal to Sakis Rouvas). But none of them went above and beyond to come forward as contenders.
In terms of who would have scored big with the jury tonight, there’s one person who stood head and shoulders above everyone else…literally. Kate Miller-Heidke was in another league, and between her world-class vocals, elaborate costume and action-packed staging (it looked like there was more money thrown at her than at the other nine artists combined) it was a winning package. As much as I love Electric Fields and will be praying for a 2000 and Whatever win instead, I suspect KMH has just booked herself a ticket to Tel Aviv. If so, that might shock a lot of ESC fans who’ve accused Australia of playing it too safe recently (something I haven’t been able to argue with). At this point, I’m all for divisive – it’s much better than dull.
If there is a challenger to Kate apart from Electric Fields, I’d say it was Sheppard despite an underwhelming performance. And if I was taking a major punt, I’d say don’t rule out Courtney completely. Not only did she give her all to an intense three minutes in a latex outfit without breaking a sweat, she also did things in stilettos that I couldn’t do in sneakers.
My tip for the final top 3 based on the jury show is:
- Electric Fields
- Courtney/Sheppard (Australia might be about to decide, but I can’t.)
As I said, my personal favourite is Electric Fields. I think if I hated 2000 and Whatever it would actually stand a better shot at winning, so that’s a shame.
Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me (for now, MWAHAHAHAHAHA) because based on the length of tonight’s show and the energy I know I’ll need to get through it – and dance through it – in the “mosh pit” tomorrow night, I’ve got to get a good night’s sleep. It will probably involve dreams of giant silver caterpillar cocoons, fire-engine-red latex and Joel Creasey dressed as Dami Im. You know, the usual. Good night!
Saturday February 9, 5.43pm
My Air BnB yet again
This is it, guys! The day Australia’s entire Eurovision-obsessed population – and a lot of non-Aussies – have been waiting for. I’ve just eaten a bowl of cereal as my pre-show fuel, which is pathetic but I’m way too excited to eat something substantial. I’ve also just spent 20 minutes writing ‘2000 and’ on one cheek and ‘Whatever’ on the other cheek in eyeliner, and it was time well spent.
I’ve been thinking about the likely outcome of this inaugural NF since last night, and I stand by what I said then – if Kate Miller-Heidke doesn’t have it in the bag, I’ll be SHOCKED TO MY VERY CORE. That wouldn’t be my ideal result, but I think I’ll be so grateful for Australia to have chosen something non-vanilla, I will happily stand behind Kate as our representative (not that you’ll be able to see me). After four years of mostly-successful but always safe entries, it’s time for us to be daring and show Europe that we’re more creative than we get credit for.
Speaking of time to do stuff, it’s time for me to get going. Hysterical screaming, awkward white girl dancing and other typical Saturday night activities await. Let’s do this!
Sunday February 10, 12.10pm
Between the sheets (in a very non-sexy way, believe me)
Okay, so I may have just woken up…but if a super late night followed by a 5am wakeup to watch Melodifestivalen (makes a nice change from 3am) isn’t a good excuse to sleep in until midday, then I don’t know what is.
I didn’t party after the show last night, unless you consider stumbling back to my apartment complex in the rain and falling face down on the bed to lie in wait for the midnight snack (a.k.a. pizza) I’d just ordered a party…which I definitely do. I did have an event invitation courtesy of OGAE Australia, but to be honest I was in PAIN after all that standing. Sounding more like a 77-year-old than a 27-year-old, my groans of ‘My back! My feet!’ were heard across the Gold Coast, and the concept of bed was too desirable to resist. I did pull an all-nighter after the Eurovision final in 2016, so there is a party animal inside me somewhere.
Anyway, on to more important info: we have an Australia Decides winner, and as predicted by moi and most other people with functioning eyes who watched the jury show, it’s Kate Miller-Heidke with Zero Gravity. Topping the jury and public vote meant a win you can’t really argue with (though I have tried a few times in my head) and her performance tonight was breathtaking.
But…AAGH, Electric Fields came so close! They were just 4 points behind KMH after the jury scores had come in, and not much further away after all was said and done. I almost wish they’d finished lower so that all the ‘What if?’ scenarios in my head were useless. On the other hand, 2000 and Whatever being the banger that it is = a probable OGAE Second Chance Contest entry and possible winner. I just hope we didn’t throw away a Eurovision winner, that’s all.
You could have predicted last night’s results by audience volume, which made it quite clear that the original three-horse race (between Kate, Electric Fields and Sheppard) had become a two-horse race between the quirkiest songs/acts on offer. That makes me proud to be an Aussie Eurofan, since clearly we’re not scared to take a risk. A risk I don’t think I want us to take is keeping Kate’s performance so similar to a bunch of Eurovision stage setups that have come before her (which I don’t think I need to mention). There are many ways to get her up off the ground that won’t cause cries of ‘copycat!’ come May – think trapezes, floating platforms or mechanical swings. Just not all three at once please…this isn’t Cirque Du Soleil, SBS, and we want Kate to live to a ripe old age.
All 10 acts upped their game tonight, and though somebody had to come last nobody deserved to. This has been such a strong start for us in NF terms, and Australia Decides has made a great addition to selection season. There were mistakes we can learn from – mainly re: show length and unnecessary padding – but the pros outweighed the cons by far. I don’t have to, but if I did need to wake up at 3am to tune into an NF like this, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
All in all, I’d call Australian NF no. 1 a big success that definitely warrants a sequel in 2020. And if that is the case, you can guarantee I’ll be there.
Monday February 11, 9.30am
Gold Coast Airport
And just like that, my whirlwind trip to the other side of Australia is over. I’m sitting in a café at the airport waiting on a flight that’s been delayed, and feeling that inevitable comedown that we call PED in May and I’m calling PADD at the moment. The niggling feeling I have that Electric Fields would have been a better way to go is actually getting more insistent rather than less so, but I think it’s being fuelled by some super critical Twitter types who think they know exactly what’s going to go down in Tel Aviv even though it’s February and we have 8 songs out of 42. Oh, and they’ve all got hate to spare for Kate, BTW. Hopefully she’ll prove them wrong in a few months’ time on a bigger stage, but if she doesn’t, I’m still happy that Australia opted for something adventurous given the chance.
I caught the show on TV last night on replay, and obviously it was my first time seeing it on screen. The first thing I noticed was my back popping up four times in the first 30 seconds, so it is now more famous than my face will ever be. I expect it to have its own Wikipedia page any day now.
Something else I noticed was that the bulk of vocals didn’t sound as good on TV as they did from inside the Convention Centre, but I found that at Eurovision too. It was still an excellent show feat. great songs, and an event I’ll be reliving a lot in the lead-up to Eurovision. I hope you guys enjoyed it too from wherever you are in the world (and if you were in the live audience, how RUDE of you to not come and say hi! JK, you can do it next year).
At the end of the day this NF was called Australia Decides, and you know what? Australia decided. Now it’s entirely up to Europe to choose our fate. In the meantime, Down Under we’ll be bowing down to our newly-crowned queen of Eurovision: Glinda the Good Witch, a.k.a. Kate Miller-Heidke.
I’m off to start winging my way home (finally). I’ll be back in a few days to resume normal NF reviews and predictions, as the season continues and we wonder which song will be The One for 2019. Who knows…we might have heard it already.
It’s Saturday once again, and you know what that means at this time of year: it’s an NF fest! Believe it or not, the five shows on tonight are nothing compared to some upcoming Saturdays (but more on that later). Here’s what’s happening in a few hours’ time:
- Estonia Eesti Laul, Semi Final 2
- Hungary A Dal, Heat 3
- Latvia Supernova, Heat 2
- Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, Heat 4
- Sweden Melodifestivalen, Semi Final 1
My focus today is Hungary and Sweden (apologies to everyone else, but a girl’s got to have priorities) so let’s get straight into it. As always, spill as much tea as you like in the comments re: songs/acts/results/predictions. I’m ready for it!
Time flies when a national final is as awesome as A Dal 2019…isn’t that what people say? There’s got to be some explanation for how we’ve arrived at the third and final Hungarian heat already. There are only six spots left in the semi finals, with ten acts hoping to take them.
- Holnap Bogi Nagy
- Az Én Apá Joci Pápai
- Maradj Még Kyra
- Hazavágyom Leander Kills
- Egyszer Mocsok 1 Kölykök
- Run Baby Run Monyo Project
- Help Me Out of Here Petruska
- Forró Ruby Harlem
- Barát Salvus
- Posztolj USNK
My two least favourite songs are listed above, which is a bummer (find out what they are here) but all is definitely not lost! I’ve been eagerly awaiting this heat for a few reasons, and the main one is spelled J-O-C-I P-Á-P-A-I.
Yes, the man who makes magic every time he opens his mouth is back for another crack at representing Hungary – and though it would be out of character for them to send the same person twice (András Kállay-Saunders is not amused), it’s not totally impossible. Or am I just biased because Origo is one of my favourite Eurovision entries ever and I love everything else that Joci has ever recorded? Check out my top picks from this heat and decide for yourself.
What do you know, I’m starting with Az Én Apam! Plot twist. This is my favourite song competing this evening, and though I’m not going to say it’s as amazing as Origo, it’s just as special and emotional – just in a more understated way. I’m praying for Hungary and the A Dal jury to support it, because if Joci goes the way of Olivér Berkes and gets knocked out immediately, HELL WILL HATH NO FURY LIKE THIS WOMAN SCORNED.
X Factor winners USNK are going gangbusters on YouTube with Posztolj (6.7 million views as I type this) which IMO is deserved for anything with ByeAlex’s name attached to it. The song style isn’t my usual “thing” at all but I love it here – the edginess and intensity of the sound against the social media-themed lyrics makes for a cool contrast. Hungary isn’t averse to rap (which I appreciate) and USNK obviously have public vote pulling power, so this seems like an obvious qualifier. Maybe too obvious…
Leander Kills are one of 2019’s many repeat NF offenders. Since they couldn’t win A Dal with Élet in 2017, they shouldn’t win with Hazavágyom. Having said that, however, they are in with a damn good chance and I would be able to get on board with them as AWS successors. There’s something joyful and unique about Hazavágyom that I like a lot, and I expect the live performance to match – and of course, to be as competent as yesyes were INcompetent (WHY GOD WHY?!?) last week.
Kyra is serving up some diva power-pop in the form of Maradj Meg, and I am here for it. I’m 50/50 on whether her performance will be as on-point as it needs to be or a car crash (or somewhere in-between) but I’ll think positive until she proves me otherwise.
My other two faves in this heat are Help Me Out of Here – the less infectious but still appealing sibling of Petruska’s last entry Trouble In My Mind – and Barát, with Salvus delivering a classic slice of Hungarian rock that will probably follow in the footsteps of A Remény Hídjai and Kulcs by qualifying.
Who’s going through?
I’ve got an okay success rate going for A Dal so far in terms of predictions – 4/6 correct guesses for both heat 1 and heat 2. But I wouldn’t mind going one (or two, ideally) better this week. With the risk of opting for the obvious, I’m thinking it will be Leander Kills, Joci Pápai, USNK, Petruska, Salvus and Mocsok 1 Kölykök (my debatable wildcard) who make it to the semi final stage. In other words, I suspect the girl power level will be very low once the results have come in. If there does happen to be some female fierceness in tonight’s top six, I believe it will be courtesy of Kyra.
That’s enough about Eastern Europe for now (no offence). It’s time to talk Scandinavia, specifically Sweden, and more specifically Melodifestivlalen!
Brace yourselves, people, because Melodifestivalen has hit its first destination for 2019: Göteborg! I’m going to spare you guys another questioning statement about how we can possibly be at this point in time again and how fast the months fly by, et cetera. The fact is that we are here again and I’M SO EXCITED. I hope you are too.
There are returnees aplenty taking part tonight, including two 2017 finalists and (of course) Anna Bergendahl, whose claim to ESC fame I’m not going to mention since I think it’s time to move on (even though it gives her the best comeback narrative of the year). Here they are in running order:
- Chasing Rivers Nano
- No Drama High15
- Not With Me Wiktoria
- Mina Bränder Zeana feat. Anis Don Demina
- Mina Fyra Årstider Arja Saijonmaa
- Hello Mohombi
- Ashes To Ashes Anna Bergendahl
On name value, this is not the most thrilling semi for me personally, but the first one is traditionally not supposed to be (Sweden/Christer Björkman believe in saving the best until last, or at least until later). Even so, I have managed to pluck out four favourite songs.
My top four
Hello, Hello! Mohombi is bringing his A-game to this semi and I am so keen to see him perform. There’s something about this song I get just from the teaser that suggests it could do more in the comp than a lot of fans expect it to. Factor in staging that echoes Måns Zelmerlöw’s for Heroes and you’ve got an entry worth watching out for.
Mina Bränder is the good old ‘Swedish-language radio pop song that Jaz likes but nobody else does’ á la Stark last year. As such I expect Zeana and Anis to crash out of this semi, but only after I have bopped along to their three minutes – especially the chorus, which has a strong scent of Melfest 2005 about it.
Neither Chasing Rivers nor Not With Me seem like they’re the best song their artist has competed with, but as expected both are strong. It’s particularly hard to get a feel for Chasing Rivers by only hearing a minute of it, but it has promise. Wiktoria is trotting out all the heartbreak clichés this time, but because Not With Me reminds me a lot of Isa’s I Will Wait and this is Wiktoria we’re talking about, I have to get behind it.
I know this is a top four, but I have to mention Anna’s Ashes To Ashes. It slips into my 5th place based on the jarring similes that make up the lyrics (like a this, like a that…it’s OTT for me, I’m afraid) but the melody is memorable and her voice is as distinctive as it was in 2010. Lycka till.
Who’s going direkt?
Nano and Anna Bergendahl. It’s hard to tell just how impactful Chasing Rivers will be from the snippet alone, but I think Nano is enough of a force to be reckoned with to place top two tonight…even if Hold On was too much to live up to. Anna might not get the fairytale ending at Friends Arena that she’s after, but I believe she will be there in March. I’ve seen her stage outfit and she deserves to win this semi based purely on how stunning it is.
And who’s off to Andra Chansen?
Wiktoria and Mohombi. If Wiktoria doesn’t go direkt, it’ll be her first time having to fight for a place in the final, but I have a feeling it’ll be her OR Nano to Friends straight away – not both. Mohombi is an artist I was excited about heading into this, but he took me by surprise with the vibe of Hello – I was expecting Bumpy Ride Part II (which wouldn’t have been a bad thing). He did win the rehearsal poll, and if he goes direkt I’ll be psyched…but it’s touch-and-go between the big players in this line-up.
Who do you think will advance to the final or to AC from this first Melfest 2019 semi? Place your (hypothetical) bets in the comments below!
Tel Aviv: Reactions from the week that was
It’s time for me to share my thoughts on what’s happened in the world of Eurovision 2019 since the last time I did the same thing. Three artist announcements and two songs await!
Austria Paenda has been decided as the artist who’ll attempt to top Austria’s surprise 3rd place from Lisbon. She’ll be singing the unreleased Limits, and somehow I’m getting the same feeling from the song title alone that I got from the likes of City Lights – like I just know it’s going to be good. As for Paenda herself…let’s hope she’s more successful than the last blue-haired competitor from that geographical region.
Czech Republic Barbara Mochowa had the voice and (to an extent) the song, but Lake Malawi have something extra – an element of fun and very questionable lyrics – that got them over the line to become the Czech entry for Tel Aviv. We might come to realise this was a mistake, but for me right now I’m pretty pleased about it. Let’s face it, anything that came after Mikolas Josef was going to be a letdown in some way. I would happily have him represent his country every year, particularly if he keeps bangers like Abu Dhabi coming.
Finland My beloved Robin may have turned the ESC ticket down, but world-famous DJ Darude did not. And so Finland brings us the DJ + vocalist combo that we got from Norway in 2017 and Poland in 2018. Fingers crossed Darude and Sebastian Rejman model themselves more after the former than the latter. They’ll present their three potential entries on March 2.
France Against all odds (by which I mean Seemone) Bilal Hassani is France’s chosen one, and I couldn’t be more excited for him – and for myself because Roi is a JAM. I loved his performance in the Destination Eurovision final and I’m glad it was the French public that got their way. Haters back off!
Malta The X Factor concluded with Michela Pace crowned champion and automatic ESC artist for Malta. There’s not much to say at this point other than yes, she can sing, so for Ira Losco’s sake give her a good song.
What’s next for NF season?
- 5/2-8/2 Italy (Sanremo Music Festival, Nights 1-4)
- 8/2 United Kingdom (You Decide, Final)
- 9/2 Australia (Australia Decides, Final), Hungary (A Dal, Semi Final 1), Iceland (Söngvakeppnin, Semi Final 1), Italy (Sanremo Music Festival, Final), Latvia (Supernova, Semi Final), Lithuania (Eurovizijos Atranka, Semi Final 1), Montenegro (Montevizija, Final), Sweden (Melodifestivalen, Semi Final 2), Ukraine (Vidbir, Semi Final 1)
- 10/2 Romania (Selecția Națională, Semi Final 2)
Next Saturday? HOLY CRAP. I’ll be over on the Gold Coast in the Australia Decides audience, so look out for me if you’re watching on TV or online. You’re welcome for the time difference that will allow you to watch our NF without missing any European ones.
Until next time (when I’ll review the Aussie songs and much more),
EUROVISION BY JAZ X EUROVISION UNION | Reacting to another blogger’s top 10 Melodifestivalen entries from the last 10 years
Fun fact: It’s been a hot minute (as in about three years) since I collaborated with anybody via this here blog. So when my talented and equally ESC-centric amigo Anita from Eurovision Union floated the idea of a pre-Melodifestivalen fling between our sites, I was like:
What we decided to do, just before the 2019 competition kicks off this Saturday (!!!) is each make a list of our top 10 favourite Melfest tracks from the last ten years (that length of time was hard enough…having any more songs to choose from would be torture). Then we’d swap our rankings and judge each other’s awful and/or excellent tastes when it comes to Europe’s biggest and best NF. So that’s what we’re doing today, basically!
Here’s Anita’s judgment of MY top 10 Melfest entries, 2009-2018. Check out her site if you haven’t already, because it is a Eurovision news-and-review lover’s fantasy land. And then keep reading mine to see what I think of her top 10 songs.
PS – By the way, we decided to consider songs that won Melfest as Eurovision entries, so we haven’t included any on either of our lists. If we’d forced ourselves to consider Loreen, Måns, Sanna etc, there wouldn’t have been room for anyone else.
#1 | Good Lovin’, Benjamin Ingrosso (2017)
There are two things you need to know about me in case you didn’t already: firstly, I’m a big Benjamin Ingrosso fangirl; and secondly, I was there in Friends Arena two years ago when he performed this song live at the Melfest final (something I drop into conversations as often as possible). I’m telling you this stuff so you’re prepared for the doubly-special place Good Lovin’ has in my heart. Should it have been his winning entry instead of Dance You Off? Definitely not. Were the giant baked-potato-in-foil props a good idea? Not so much. But those things aside, this is just one song in an endless string of slick, catchy and super-streamable Scandipop produced by Benjamin. It was a great Melfest debut for him and I listen to it on a far too regular basis. Nope, can’t fault your taste on this one, Anita.
#2 | Hold On, Nano (2017)
I may as well lay my cards on the table immediately: when I was sitting there in Friends Arena back in 2017 (told you I liked to mention that at every opportunity), it was Nano I wanted to win. Looking at it now, I’m glad Robin Bengtsson got his turn – but in a parallel universe, Hold On made for an awesome Eurovision entry and didn’t need treadmills to do it. One of my favourite things about Nano, this song and his performance of it was that none of it screamed typical Melfest. It was polished but had rough edges, was presented with more shadow than light, and wasn’t fronted by a buff, precision-choreographed teenage male soloist with perfect teeth and a head packed with hair product. Nano gave us something that felt true and stood out for that reason. Overall, his entry was like Rag ‘n’ Bone Man meets Rudimental, and I was totally there for it.
#3 | My Heart Is Refusing Me, Loreen (2011)
The original but not the best – that’s how I’d describe Loreen’s Melfest debut. That’s only because what came after it was Euphoria, and no mere mortal could ever hope to top that (or have something they’d done prior be considered better). MHIRM had substance and style, and it’s aged well enough that it could probably compete in 2019 and nobody would say it was dated. I’ve always liked the slow-burn structure of the song – how it builds into a dance track with a dark-disco feel gradually over three minutes, never making me feel like waiting for the climax to come is boring. Melfest 2011 is actually the first edition of the NF I watched as a fan who actually knew what ‘NU KÖR VI!’ meant, and I remember this song being my top pick at the time…and being devastated when it failed to get out of Andra Chansen. In all honesty, I think it’s a better song than eventual winner Popular, but it probably wouldn’t have the hit the heights of 3rd place at Eurovision.
#4 | Youniverse, Molly Sanden (2016)
Okay, so it wasn’t third time lucky for Molly at Melfest…and we haven’t seen her there since (she’s been too busy releasing epic non-competition music, most of which can be found on her latest album Större). But Youniverse was a solid effort, once you get past the wordplay of the title which messed with my mind at first. The writer and former English major in me loves the imagery and perfectly-rhymed lyrics – I mean, ‘We’re stars wrapped up in skin, the light comes from within’ is practically poetry. And the part of me that appreciates atypical pop songs (as opposed to cookie cutter, ultra-predictable pop songs) applauds the electronic dance-pop of the verses that alternates with the power ballad-esque choruses. There was something missing from the overall Youniverse package that prevented it from stopping Frans – and a few other acts – in his tracks, and it’s not my favourite Melfest entry of Molly’s (that “honour” goes to 2012’s Why Am I Crying?). But it’s sophisticated, unique and as I said, solid.
#5 | Put Your Love On Me, Boris René (2016)
Realistically, I could sum up how I feel about this number in one word, and that word would be YAAASSSSS!!! But you guys know my motto is ‘Why use one word when you could use 1500?’. So here goes. Who would have expected an ex-soccer player to contribute more to the Melfest lineup than some fancy footwork? Boris René delivered that by the truckload, but he also had a) above average vocal abilities, b) tons of charisma, and c) a heart that was IN A LITTER BOX. I don’t care if it’s supposed to be ‘little box’, I hear litter every time. Regardless, this entry is 100% pure joy and makes me so happy whenever I hear it (which is at least once a day, voluntarily). I’m glad Boris used the same formula for his follow-up Her Kiss, which is equally as effective as a musical happy pill. Either song popping up on a top 10 list is just plain old-fashioned good taste.
#6 | To The End, YOHIO (2014)
I bet you thought as this point that I was going to be annoyingly complimentary about all of Anita’s Melodifestivalen favourites. Well, it took a while, but we’ve arrived at one that I don’t dislike exactly…but I definitely don’t think of it as a personal best of mine either. To The End was YOHIO’s attempt to go one better than he did in 2013, when he lost out to Andra Chansen’s very own You by Robin Stjernberg (now there’s a song I love). To me he pulled an Ulrik Munther and tried too hard to succeed, ending up with an entry that didn’t quite recapture the magic of the first. Of course, this is my opinion – and I’m not saying that 2013’s Heartbreak Hotel was the greatest song on the planet – but I much preferred his debut to what came the year after. The show’s results reflected that, with To The End finishing 6th. Though having said that, 2014 was a way, WAY stronger Melfest year than 2013.
#7 | Bröder, Linus Svenning (2014)
Here’s a song that’s more emotionally-charged than most found at Melfest, and I was feeling all of the feels from Linus when he competed with it. The style of the song is great, building on a piano ballad beginning to end as more of a rock/power ballad. And Linus sells it so well, with more vulnerability than you might expect to vibe off someone with so many body modifications. As a package, this reminds me of LIAMOO’s Last Breath in its simplicity and authentic, true-to-the-artist nature. Unfortunately, when Linus came back in 2015, a lot of his authenticity was lost in Forever Starts Today, which tried so hard to be a step up that it backfired. But I digress. I’m supposed to be talking about Bröder, and that gets a big thumbs up from me even if I’m not as obsessed with it now as I was back then.
#8 | Blame It On The Disco, Alcazar (2014)
This is a classic case of knowing your lane and staying in it. Basically, Blame It On The Disco is Alcazar doing what Alcazar have always done and do best, and do I have any complaints about that? Um, no. My personal favourite from their competition back catalogue is Stay The Night (2009), but this is a close second…and to my surprise, it nearly finished second in Melfest. It does have everything one could possibly want from a Swedish schlager song and performance – including sequins, choreography, a key change, pyro, plenty of (machine-made) wind…and of course, the trio entering the stage from within a giant mirror ball. And, if you can manage to look past all of that, the song itself is a pretty good slice of its genre – with a singalong chorus that’s harder to escape than the hedge maze in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. A-ARE WE GONNA PARTY TONIGHT? Well, I couldn’t possibly say no, Alcazar.
#9 | Begging, Anton Ewald (2013)
It pains me to say that I knocked this off my own top 10 list (as reviewed by Anita…hit up the link at the start or end of this post to see it) at the last second. Why I love it so much and what makes it special is that Anton served us a 1950s Hollywood look and dance moves to match, all the while delivering a song that was contrastingly cutting edge. It was an interesting combo at least and an iconic one at most. I don’t want to admit that Anton himself, whose vocals are average but who has the face of a ridiculously attractive angel, at all influences my longstanding appreciation of this track, but I will admit it because I’m only human. His follow-up Natural had the same effect, though I genuinely think both are great dance songs that most other national finals would kill to have on their programs. Begging lived up to its title and actually did have me begging for more.
#10 | Busy Doin’ Nothin’, Ace Wilder (2014)
Am I allowed to say ‘the original but not the best’ again? We all have our preferred song from the Ace Wilder Melfest trilogy, and I’m afraid to confess (literally, in case somebody flies into a rage and tries to attack me) that this one isn’t mine (Wild Child is my favourite, if you must know). Busy Doin’ Nothin’ is a cracker though, and if it hadn’t been for Queen Sanna and the incredible Undo, I would happily have sat back and let Sweden send it to Eurovision. There’s something endearing about a thirty-something woman styled like and armed with all the angst of a hormonal teenager shouting repeatedly that she doesn’t want to adult – which we can all identify with. I know that sounds sarcastic, but I’m serious. When a song is this catchy and current, it can contain both yelling and attitude without either being a dealbreaker.
And that, my friends, is that. I hope you enjoyed my reaction to somebody else’s NF faves, and aren’t too disappointed that there was nothing I could honestly trash. I guess birds of a feather really do flock together, because the girls behind Eurovision Union and Eurovision By Jaz both have great musical taste. In fact, if you check out Anita’s judgment of my top 10, you’ll notice we have a few songs in common. SPOOKY.
One last reminder: see my song picks on Eurovision Union here!
What do YOU think of Anita’s Melfest top 10? Who would make it into your 2009-2018 best-of list? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time,
SELECTION SEASON 2019 | The French final, another Hungarian heat + my thoughts on Tel Aviv’s latest additions!
Bonjour, my fellow Eurofreaks (a sarcastic thanks to the UK for making me never want to use the word ‘freaks’ ever again). Welcome to a 2019 Super Saturday preview, Jaz-style! This is my first proper NF season rundown for the year, and I may be weeks behind everyone else but I’m also excited to get into it – especially now we’re entering the end-of-January-to-early-March period where there are approximately 65 national finals of varying stages taking place every weekend, with other announcements and reveals in-between. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tonight isn’t the busiest night we’ll have this season, but there is plenty of goodness going down. Specifically:
- France Destination Eurovision, the final
- Hungary A Dal, Heat 2
- Latvia Supernova, Heat 1
- Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, Heat 3
- Malta X Factor, final
I’m not following Latvia, Lithuania or Malta very closely at this point (either because there are other things to focus on or I’m plain disappointed in the song selection) so today I’ll be talking all things French and Hungarian exclusively…with a few thoughts on the Class of ESC 2019 so far thrown in at the end. I’ll leave you to keep reading if you want to (please do) and to comment your opinions on what’s happened re: Tel Aviv and what might happen this evening. Meanwhile I’ll be busy deciding whether to watch Destination Eurovision or A Dal, because á la Bucks Fizz I really need to make my mind up.
FRANCE: Is the Destination Eurovision final a three-horse race?
After two semis, a few shock DNQs and one song title switch, voilà – we have arrived at our destination. Destination Eurovision, that is. In a field that isn’t as strong as last year’s (for me, at least), eight songs remain in the fight for the French ticket to Tel Aviv.
- Là-Haut, Chimène Badi
- Allez Leur Dire, Silvàn Areg
- Sois Un Bon Fils, Doutson
- Comme Une Grande, Aysat
- Tous Les Deux, Seemone
- La Promesse, Emmanuel Moire
- Roi, Bilal Hassani
- La Voix d’Aretha, The Divaz
If I could go back in time and get my way with the semi results, things would be different looking at this lineup (Gabriella, Lautner and Ugo would be listed, for starters). But as it stands, all of the songs are enjoyable in their own way and should make for a final worth watching. According to the odds as I type this, Bilal is the most likely winner, closely followed by Seemone and Emmanuel. But who do I think should – and will – win?
His performance in the first semi wasn’t as flawless or affecting as Seemone’s in the second, but I’m happy to have Bilal in prime position with bookmakers at the moment – Roi is my no. 1 song left in the competition. If there’s anything I could learn to love as much as I loved Lisandro Cuxi’s Eva in 2018, it’s this not-totally-dissimilar track that mixes French and English as fast and fluidly as France’s JESC runner-up Jamais Sans Toi. Bilal is an iconic performer with a great personality, and if he amps things up tonight and gives 110% to his time on stage, then he could easily end up having to keep mid-May free for Eurovision.
I didn’t “get” this until I saw it performed, but La Promesse is now right behind Roi in my ranking á la Francais. It was staged simply but beautifully, and Emmanuel matched the visual beauty with Schwarzenegger-strong vocal game. This is a classic example of a song lifted by a live performance. Dark horse alert!
Seemone is the opposite of a dark horse, and while Tous Les Deux is not the song I’d prefer to see representing France in Tel Aviv, I will be able to climb on the bandwagon if it wins. All this girl has to do is stand there and sing (in sparkly shoes for an added My Little Pony + Wizard of Oz vibe) and the majority of us will buy what she’s selling. You don’t have to be fluent in French to know that this is an emotionally-charged song, and the emotions do appear authentic. I just hope that continues to be the case over time if Seemone does go to the ESC.
Doutson rounds out my favourites with the trés danceable Sous Un Bon Fils. It’s nothing mindblowing and has zero chance of winning, but it’s fun – and cute where mini-Doutson is concerned.
Who will win?
Much of this final is made up of a) okay songs performed very well (e.g. Là-Haut and La Voix d’Aretha) and b) good songs that could benefit from a better performance (like Comme Une Grande). The top three favourites are the best of both worlds. I think it’s asking a little too much for Emmanuel to win, unless points are so split between Bilal and Seemone that he does it almost by default. My gut feeling though – and my prediction based on her solid win in the stronger of the two semis – is that Seemone will succeed Madame Monsieur as France’s Eurovision rep. I don’t think she’ll beat Bilal by a huge margin, but by enough to get her crowned fair and square. This means that once again, my personal favourite will be pipped by a song I like, but don’t like as much…still, the pain will be practically nonexistent compared to what I felt when Eva lost to Mercy at the last second (but whatever, I’m TOTALLY OVER IT *sobs*).
Now, let’s fly over to Eastern Europe and stay for a while. There’s lots to talk about!
HUNGARY: Big hitters in A Dal’s second heat
If you read my last post, you’ll know how obsessed I am with A Dal this year. It’s always a great NF to get into, but there’s a particularly huge percentage of kick-ass music on offer in 2019 (as far as my tastes go, anyway). If you read my last post you’ll also know that I was/am in love with Olivér Berkes’ Világítótorony, which failed to qualify from last Saturday’s heat and broke my heart in the process. I’m sure you’re feeling pretty unhappy about it too, Olivér, so feel free to hit me up if you want someone to share a pity party with.
Here’s hoping this week’s heat goes more my way (since I’m still trying to tape my poor heart back together). Once again there are six spots up for grabs, with these 10 songs in contention:
- Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet
- Szótlanság, Bence Vavra
- La Mama Hotel, Dávid Heatlie
- Little Bird, Diana
- Kulcs, Fatal Error
- Csak 1 Perc, Gotthy
- You’re Gonna Rise, Klára Hajdu
- Roses, The Middletonz
- Ő, The Sign
- Incomplete, yesyes
Neither of the two songs I straight up dislike are in this heat, so it’s safe to say I’m excited about it. Tonight is also a battle between five-time participant and ESC alum András Kállay-Saunders (as half of The Middletonz) and 2018 runners-up yesyes, to see if there’s room for both of them to qualify. I suspect there is…and if you want to know what else I suspect will happen in this round of A Dal, keep reading.
I might be in the minority here (and I say might because I actually don’t know) but IMO yesyes has topped 2018’s almost-winner I Let You Run Away with Incomplete. I’ve already professed my love for it in the post I keep mentioning, so I won’t re-ramble here. I’ll just say that it ticks all my boxes, has a definite shot at winning the whole comp and will certainly qualify from this heat.
My next pick is Roses. Urban, original and on-trend, it’s the kind of song that would stand out in any NF. I’m a little worried it will be messy when performed live as opposed to slick and cool like it is in studio, but The Middletonz should be innocent until proven guilty. I’m not sure Roses will sail through to the semis but my fingers are crossed.
Csak 1 Perc and La Mama Hotel are the best of the rest for me. The former screams radio hit and I love it, but again I’m nervous to see whether it will be a success or a fail on stage. La Mama Hotel is rocky and intense and like basically every type of song, makes Hungarian sound so damn good. Insert prayer for these two to make tonight’s top six here!
I’m not too fussed either way about the other six songs, but if I had to pick two more to advance I’d go with Nyári Zápor and Ő.
Who’s going through?
I’m even rustier when it comes to predictions than usual, and I had a super hard time with this one. The Hungarian public and jury can vote in mysterious ways, and realistically, almost anything from this heat has the potential to rise or fall. I am confident that yesyes will qualify and either outright win or tie FTW. Following behind in an orderly fashion will be, I’m guessing, The Middletonz, Fatal Error, Diana, Acoustic Planet and Dávid Heatlie. Don’t be surprised if Klára’s too-Disney-for-Disney ballad sneaks through though – it wouldn’t be the first time A Dal has rewarded a song like that.
Who do you think will make the grade in this Hungarian heat? Let me know in the comments while you still can!
The ESC 2019 songs and singers so far
My bad – I’ve realised I’m yet to react to ANY of the recently (and some not-so-recently) selected songs and/or artists for Eurovision 2019. Let’s fix that, shall we?
Albania It’s Jonida Maliqi and her amazingly white teeth (seriously, who does her dental work? I need the inside info) who’ll be flying the Albanian flag in Israel. Ktheju Tokës is a promising track with all the grandeur and mysteriousness of a typical Albanian entry, but I’m not sure that it can hit the heights of Mall. I’ll save any further thoughts for the inevitably revamped version.
Belgium Voice graduate Eliot Vassamillet is dropping his dope surname for the ESC and will be aiming to pick up where Blanche left off rather than where Sennek did. The trend has been for RTBF’s acts to do consistently well (Roberto Bellarosa/Loïc Nottet/Blanche) – and since Eliot’s song will be penned by City Lights writer Pierre Dumoulin, I’d say watch out, everyone else. Fun fact: Eliot was born in 2000 and is somehow old enough to be out of nappies and of ESC age. My god, I feel old.
Macedonia She’s been in the background and foreground of a few contest performances in her time, and now Tamara Todevska has been selected to solo for Macedonia. Her 2008 entry is a slightly guilty pleasure of mine and I’ve liked what she entered previous Macedonian NFs with, so I’m thinking this was a good choice. Here’s hoping she can do better than her sister Tijana did back in Copenhagen.
The Netherlands Fairly unknown (not complaining) Duncan Laurence will follow in Waylon’s footsteps for the Netherlands, though hopefully not to the point of wearing a leopard-print pimp coat on stage. What we do know about Duncan is that he’s easy on the eyes, and has a beautiful and distinctive voice at his disposal (thanks to a leaked demo version of a song that may or may not be his ESC entry). I’m quite excited about this guy.
San Marino Was San Marino trolling us all by letting us think the Human Ken Doll was representing them? I don’t really care, I’m so relieved that he isn’t. That left the door wide open for Serhat to come strolling through as he did in 2016, and I feel stupid for not seeing it coming. I don’t know how to feel about this news, but there’s a chance we could get a decent song out of him this time (i.e. one that isn’t the guiltiest of guilty pleasures). That’s what I’m hanging on to.
Spain In a disappointingly non-dramatic outcome, Spain chose Miki and the super-fun La Venda to go to Eurovision rather than risking a televised ‘Why me?!?’ tantrum and subsequent refusal to go from Maria. Overall, I think they made a smart choice. Miki has loads of energy and charisma, looks like Amir back in Amir’s university party days, and is armed with three minutes of Latin-flavoured happiness. I like the song and expect it to grow on me even more, but I think some fans are getting ahead of themselves with the top 5 proclamations.
PS…I’ll slip in a little word here about the freshly-revealed host quartet for 2019. First things first, I am not a fan of the four-host scenario – it puts too many cooks into the Eurovision kitchen and gets messy very easily. But on face value, the four handpicked by KAN – supermodel Bar Refaeli, and TV presenters Erez Tal, Assi Azar and Lucy Ayoub – look promising, and like they’ll have a decent dynamic. Rumour has it there’ll be a divide between Refaeli and Tal as the main hosts, and Azar and Ayoub as the green room hosts, so that should help.
What’s next for NF season?
- 27/1 Romania (Selecţia Natională, SF1)
- 28/1 Czech Republic (ESCZ winner announcement), Eurovision 2019 (allocation draw)
- 29/1 Finland (artist announcement)
- 31/1 Estonia (Eesti Laul, SF1)
I think I’ve finally said all I had to say for now, so congrats if you got through it. If you have any energy left, head down to that comment box and spill the tea on anything to do with Eurovision 2019, national finals, what you’re watching and expecting tonight and your personal problems if they’re interesting.
I’ll see you on the other side of this (sort of) Super Saturday!
A DAL, YOU’VE DONE IT AGAIN | A love letter to Hungary’s Eurovision 2019 song selection feat. my top 30!
In case you didn’t know, Sweden is my all-time favourite Eurovision country and the one I support unconditionally every year (2009 aside…La Voix was a moment of insanity on their part). But I have to say, there’s another nation nipping at their stylishly-shod heels.
Hungary has gifted three minutes of greatness (in every genre imaginable) to the ESC almost every time they’ve participated, and while I’ve been waiting for them to finally win I’ve kept a close eye on their national final A Dal. And this year, the competition is seriously wow. I mean, if I had to sum up how I feel about it in just a few words, ‘VISZLAT NYASSS!!!’ would do it.
Thankfully I don’t have to limit myself to just a few words, so instead I’m going to devote an entire blog post to how awesome it is. The upcoming A Dal is too good NOT to discuss in detail to the point where you guys are snoring and drooling – so maybe grab some coffee (triple shot) before you check out my thoughts on all 30 entries as we wait for the comp to start on Saturday night. And as always, share your agreements and disagreements in the comments. I’m desperate to know if you’re as impressed by Hungary this year as I am!
My A Dal douze pointers
Working from best to worst, this is my top 10 in a comp that’s setting the standard for song quality this NF season. If the Eurovision gods are smiling down on me when the A Dal final rolls around, one of these tracks will win it. If not, I may cry a little.
Lighthouse, Olivér Berkes This song does to me what I think Amar Pelos Dois did to a lot of people (but NOT me): it makes me feel feelings that manifest in the form of goosebumps, spine tingles and moist eyes that I may or may not blame on allergies. It’s one of the prettiest piano ballads my ears have ever been exposed to, and Olivér – competing in A Dal for the first time as a soloist and the third time overall – delivers it emotively and with the perfect mix of flawless and rough-edged vocals. I do think the Hungarian version Világítótorony is extra special, so I’m hoping Olivér opts to sing that during A Dal. Either way though, it will be stunning.
Wasted, Barni Hamar Barni might look like he should be competing in a JESC NF, but his song is totally ready for adult Eurovision. Wasted – composed and written Mikolas Josef style by Barni himself – is exactly the kind of cutting-edge, catchy as heck radio pop I always gravitate towards when the A Dal songs are unveiled. I’ve had it stuck in my head for days and I’m not complaining about it. This song is the bomb, and if you love it too, check out Barni’s EP Different on Spotify – the whole thing is in the same musical and lyrical neighbourhood.
Incomplete, yesyes Truth time: I didn’t get the yesyes hype last year, when they finished just behind AWS with I Let You Run Away. With this comeback track, they’ve taken the skeleton of that song and fleshed it out, bringing something to life I can definitely say yesyes to. Incomplete has every box on my douze-point checklist ticked – it’s current, dynamic, edgy, atmospheric and catchy. Plus, the potential for a kick-ass light show to accompany it is sky high, and that tends to make me happy. Watch out for this one, because it could run away (see what I did there) with the win very easily.
Roses, The Middletonz This is the fifth time András Kállay-Saunders has attempted to represent Hungary at Eurovision (with a 1/5 success rate, obviously). This latest try is giving him a pretty good shot at victory in my opinion (as someone whose own success rate at predicting the outcomes of national finals is laughable). Roses is a love it or hate it sort of song, but clearly I love it. What I love most about it is how it’s ever-evolving, shapeshifting in sound constantly throughout the three minutes but in a pattern that you can follow. I’ve never heard a song quite like it before, and neither has Eurovision. Just saying…
Az Én Apám, Joci Pápai My boy is back! I nearly passed out when I heard that Joci, the man behind one of my all-time favourite ESC entries and a string of other amazing songs, was giving A Dal another go. Given Hungary’s tendency to bounce from genre to genre and never send the same act twice, I don’t think we’ll see him at Eurovision 2019 – but they could do a lot worse than sending this heartfelt ethno-folk ballad. It might not be as dramatic as Origo (topping that is impossible) but it’s just as beautiful and arresting in its own way.
Posztolj, USNK As soon as I found out that ByeAlex co-wrote this, I knew I’d soon be professing my love for it on this blog. And here we are! That songwriter credit is the only thing Posztolj has in common with Kedvesem (another favourite ESC entry of mine), but I’m a fan regardless. It serves swag, attitude and grit, and makes me feel cooler than I actually am just by listening to it. USNK, fresh from winning Hungary’s X Factor, obviously have public vote-pulling power too. I don’t think Hungary would be afraid to send this to the A Dal final.
Százszor Visszajátszot, Konyha I’m strangely bummed that I like this so much because it means I have to type out that crazy long title more often (JK…I’ll be copying and pasting). But it’s too good to resist. Hungarian is one of my most beloved musical languages, and this song is a great example of why. It’s slick, it’s neat, and that chorus is infectious times infinity. I also think it works as chill party background music, a song you’d sing along to on the radio in the car AND one that can compete in a contest. That’s no mean feat.
Maradj Még, Kyra Here’s the powerhouse female pop I knew would be in A Dal somewhere, since this NF leaves no genre stone unturned. Again, because this is Hungary, it’s not straightforward, middle-of-the-road cookie cutter pop we’re talking about here. Maradj Még has bite. It moves from solid verses to an awesome bridge, then on to an epic chorus feat. big vocals and a little EDM influence. I hope to heck that Kyra can deliver this live – if not it will be a mess, but if she can, HECK YES.
Hozzád Bújnék, Gergő Oláh Another returnee, Gergő is in it to win it for the fourth time, and while Hozzád Bújnék is no Győz A Jó (a song that deserved Eurovision and so much more) it’s still top notch stuff. Soaring, powerful and all class, it’s like a talent show winner’s single but actually decent. Gergő will want to be at his vocal best performing this, since it showcases his voice without spotlighting much else (i.e. there’s no bells and whistles to distract from a dodgy vocal). I’m pretty confident he can handle it.
Csak 1 Perc, Gotthy You might see this as a wildcard in my top 10, or at least as a song that wouldn’t be so highly thought of by many other people. But there’s always an underdog in with my favourites, and congrats Gotthy – it’s you this time! I don’t expect Csak 1 Perc to progress too far in A Dal. Unlike Százszor Visszajátszot (copied and pasted) it’s a definite radio song rather than a radio song AND a competition song. But that just means I will be streaming the shiz out of it on Spotify and enjoying every minute.
The rest of the best
I’ve listed all my absolute favourites from A Dal 2019 now, but I wouldn’t be devastated if any of these next entries won instead.
Hazavágyom, Leander Kills This is something a bit different from Leander Kills – and it’s damn good different. I prefer epic Élet from 2017, but this ethnic, unique and folksy creation is a song I wouldn’t mind winning the whole thing.
La Mama Hotel, Dávid Heatlie I love the intensity and energy of this one. It passed me by a little when I was first running through the 30, but I’m glad I gave it the attention it deserves.
Ide Várnak Vissza, DENIZ I’m a sucker for a rap/vocal combo (it’s one of the billion reasons I love Origo so much) so what DENIZ is bringing to A Dal is A+. How similar does the vocalist sound to Medina though? Listen to 100 Dage, her collab with Thomas Helmig, and you’ll know what I mean.
Holnap, Bogi Nagy If you’re looking for a female equivalent of Olivér Berkes – or a female-led song that’s simple, pretty and emotive like Lighthouse – here’s your girl and here’s your song. It’s far from being in Lighthouse’s league, but it’s a really nice ballad and Bogi’s vocals are practically angelic.
Help Me Out of Here, Petruska I loved Petruska’s last entry Trouble In My Mind, and for me this one doesn’t quite measure up to that. But the Paul Simon Graceland vibes put me in a good mood.
Barát, Salvus The early 2000s called, but they can’t have this Christian rock-esque number back because I want and need it here in 2019.
A Remény Hídjai, Nomad Mid-tempo soft rock is on the vanilla side of things for me, and this is no exception. But vanilla is still appealing! Hungarian sounds boss in this genre like it does in EVERY GENRE IN EXISTENCE.
Ő, The Sign This is a weird song, and most of it is taken up by ‘Őőőőőőőőőőőőőő.’ But, even though it may not maximise the 180 seconds it has to work with, I find it so soothing and pleasant to listen to that I still like it a lot.
Frida, Rozina Pátkai ’Ethereal’ is a word I don’t use very often when I’m talking music, but it’s fitting for this track. I wish it had more x-factor to take it to the next level, but that’s a small pet peeve and I’m still impressed by it.
Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet I didn’t like this much based on the teaser, and I still think the guitar parts are way too throwback. But the rest is easy-listening enjoyment all the way, and it puts a smile on my resting bitchface.
Little Bird, Diana There’s one thing stopping me from ranking this way higher, and it’s Diana’s voice – it just grates on me. That aside, Little Bird is an awesome addition to A Dal this year. I’m hoping I’ll find the vocals more agreeable live.
I need some more alone time with these songs to see how I really feel about them, but there’s something appealing about them all.
Madár, Repülj!, Gergő Szekér I think I like this. It’s original and dramatic, no doubt, but a bit messy. Chaotic messy, not artfully messy like Gergő’s hair.
Szótlanság, Bence Vavra I’ve listened to this as often as I’ve listened to everything else, and I cannot remember how it goes. Yet when I do press play, I always think ‘Yeah, this isn’t bad!’. Go figure.
Egyszer, Mocsok 1 Kölyök I don’t feel any fire from this in terms of competing FTW, however I wouldn’t skip it on a shuffling playlist. The 90s grunge feels are strong.
You’re Gonna Rise, Klára Hajdu There’s usually a carbon copy of this song in A Dal (it reminds me particularly of Fall Like Rain from a few years back) and I’m never a big fan. This time it’s a guilty pleasure for me, though. The lyrics are beyond cliché, but the melody is nice and overall I find it a relaxing listen.
Kulcs, Fatal Error I have to be in the right mood to listen to this, otherwise the noisiness and frantic pace send me into meltdown mode. If I am in the right mood, I will headbang until I need a chiropractor.
Someone Who Lives Like This, László Váray Would I miss this if it wasn’t invited to the party? No, but I don’t mind it being on the guest list.
Kedves Világ!, Timi Antal feat. Gergő Demko Okay, nothing special. I welcome every song that’s in Hungarian though.
Thank u, next
Loving or liking 28 out of 30 in this lineup is what made me want to write this ramble in the first place – but yes, there are a few songs I don’t like.
Forró, Ruby Harlem The style of this is not my bowl of goulash at all, and I find the chorus super irritating.
Run Baby Run, Monyo Project The verses aren’t bad but the chorus (another song-ruining one) is so repetitive and monotonous, it gives me a headache.
And that’s every single song on offer in A Dal this year from my perspective. I love so many that I’m guaranteed to get heartbroken during the heat and/or semi stages, but I’m confident we’ll get a great winner and Eurovision entry from Hungary in the end. Stay tuned to EBJ for my predictions when the time is right…
Which potential Hungarian ESC entries are you excited about at the moment? Is A Dal 2019 as dal-ightful in your opinion as I think it is? Let me know below!
Okay…so I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution to be more prompt with my posts. Some things are just too hard to change, and I actually think you guys would miss the old, always late and always running behind Jaz if she was replaced with a new, punctual version.
On that note, it’s January 3rd and time for me to finally say HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I can’t believe 2018 is no more. Time freaking FLIES, but on the plus side that means we’re about to enter ESC NF season again – a better season than the best bits of autumn, winter, spring and summer combined. Before every second thing I type becomes ‘Melodifestivalen’ (or potentially ‘Australia Decides’), I’ve got to squeeze in a look back at the year we’ve just farewelled.
2018 began with a sensational string of Eurovision selections, continued with a phenomenal Portuguese ESC, and ended with an unforgettable Junior Eurovision. Accompanying those three events were hundreds of songs competing to get to or win a Eurovision event, and to honour the sheer awesomeness of some, I’m presenting you with my top 10 favourites from across the board. Keep reading to find out which songs I chose and why (there’s some weird ones that needed an explanation) then hit the comments box/visit me on my socials to share your own musical highlights of the last year living on Planet Eurovision!
#10 | Tengo Otra, Alejandro Fuentes (Norway, Melodi Grand Prix)
Is this a curveball way to start this list? Probably. But being a Eurovision and national final freak means getting used to other people going gaga over songs that didn’t stand out to you at all. For some reason – a reason I’m about to try and identify – Tengo Otra is a standout of the 2018 NF season for me, knowing it passed the majority of fans (and Norwegians) by as part of the MGP lineup.
I can understand that when I remember it was surrounded by the likes of Rebecca’s big ballad, Ida Maria’s iconic and NSFW Scandilove and Alexander Rybak. But I think the Despacito Latin-pop influence that leaked into multiple NFs last year was peak bueno with Alejandro. In fact, I’m going to go all out and say that this song is better than Despacito (and it’s been inarguably less overplayed). Tengo Otra is just as summery and catchy, but edgier – and the production on the studio version is next level. It’s one of those songs that starts so mysteriously, you can’t help wondering where it’s going. And when the chorus arrives it’s not in-your-face, but it makes exactly the statement it came to make: ‘Visit Chile Or Anywhere Else Where Spanish Is Spoken!’. That’s what it says to me, anyway.
Should this song have been sent to Eurovision? Not before Rybak’s or Rebecca’s – but the beauty of national finals is discovering more music to love whether it gets to the big show or not. I will say that Tengo Otra > the majority of songs Spain has sent to the contest recently. To you that may not be saying much, but to me this track is a banger. It didn’t pop up on my most-played of 2018 Spotlify playlist for nada!
#9 | Scandilove, Ida Maria (Norway, Melodi Grand Prix)
Can you tell that I rather enjoyed Norway’s MGP last year? A lot more than I enjoyed the Danish equivalent, that’s for sure. If Dansk has the monopoly on safe, cookie-cutter radio pop with the occasional bearded Viking thrown in, then Norsk has original, often moody Scandipop locked down. I can’t say the wonderfully bizarre Scandilove is moody, but it’s definitely original. Spice Girls with 1000% more attitude level original!
Behind the bonkers is a genuinely well-crafted pop song with a bouncy beat and unmatched energy. And you guys know I’m a sucker for a catchy chorus. When it comes to lyrical one-liners, this track is as quotable as Mean Girls. If you need fast proof, I’d offer up ‘Can you make love like a Scandinavian?’ and of course, ‘Swim in the ocean, feel the emotion, it’s f*%king freezing!’. How do you say ‘iconic AF’ in Norwegian? I’m asking because I also want to use the phrase to describe Ida’s spotted suit and High-School-Musical-on-crack staging.
It’s all so brilliant and impossible to ignore. There’s a part of me that wonders what it would have been like if Norway had sent Scandilove to Eurovision, but I don’t blame them for playing it safe. You can’t go from silent storms and grabbing the moment to I’M SCANDINAVIAN Y’ALL without building up to it.
#8 | Talk To The Hand, Aleksander Walmann (Norway, Melodi Grand Prix)
This is the last MGP entry on this list, I promise (the 2018 show was just TOO GOOD). Eurovision 2017 proved that the lyrical genius of JOWST and the vocal talents of Aleksander Walmann was an excellent combination. And if it ain’t broke, why not try it again immediately at Melodi Grand Prix?
It wasn’t a case of JOWST feat. Aleksander Walmann this time, but the man in the light-up mask remained a composer and lyricist of Talk To The Hand as he had been for Grab The Moment. What can I say? He’s got the magic touch when it comes to pop earworms with lyrics that couldn’t be less cliché. Granted, I don’t think anybody’s uttered the phrase ‘talk to the hand’ with sincerity since 2002…but I was quick to overlook that from the second I pressed play on this track for the first time. It’s funky, it’s fresh, and that guitar intro reminds me so much of the Seinfeld theme that I’m transported back to the 90s while still feeling very much in 2018 (which we’re not any more, but you know what I mean). It’s a song that’s seriously good without taking itself too seriously, and if you can sit still when you’re listening to it I feel compelled to judge you.
Having said all of that, I was actually surprised to see Aleksander in the MGP super final again – I wasn’t sure Norway would be so keen to send him straight back to Eurovision, especially when he was competing against Rebecca and the most unbeatable Alexander of all, Rybak. As it turns out, they weren’t (which may have been a mistake in the end) but I was happy enough to have TTTH get as far as it did. It’s a bop and a half, and I want the JOWST X Walmann pairing to keep on gifting the world with music just like it.
#7 | Time, Daniel Yastremski (Belarus, Junior Eurovision)
Creeped out by the whole concept of Junior Eurovision but don’t mind being exposed to JESC entries that could pass as ESC entries? Then pay attention to this favourite musical moment of mine. The only thing that made Belarus’ host act/song/performance from Minsk unsuitable for adult Eurovision was Daniel’s birth date.
For starters, the slick R&B pop anthem that is Time (the best Time ever sent to a Eurovision event IMO) was written by Kirill Yermakov, a.k.a. Kirill Good, who’s competed in a bunch of Belarusian JESC and ESC preselections – hello contest pedigree! No surprises as to why it strikes the best kind of balance between youthful and mature. If you’ve checked out Kirill and Daniel’s acoustic duet, then you should easily be able to imagine a parallel universe in which Kirill submitted the song to Eurofest and won with it. As for Daniel’s performance at JESC 2018…well, it was a total Mary Poppins. Practically perfect in every way, that is, and very forward thinking – nobody would bat an eyelid if Sweden turned up in Tel Aviv with something similar, basically. Factor in Daniel’s charisma (he has more than I do and I’m a senior citizen by comparison) and you’ve got a package deal that stands out for all the right reasons.
I know Time wasn’t a hit with all Junior fans, and its eventual 11th place in the comp (I DEMAND JUSTICE) proved that. But if you read my review of the song back in November, you’ll understand why I love it so much and why it’s a highlight of my 2018 in ESC/JESC/NF terms. I don’t want the Kirill/Daniel story to end without the success and massive amount of points it deserves, so here’s hoping there’s a Eurovision collab on the horizon (a.k.a. the second Daniel turns 16). Meanwhile, I’ll be keeping myself busy listening to that awesome duet on repeat.
#6 | Qami, Sevak Khanagyan (Armenia, Eurovision)
Back in May 2017, foolish Jaz thought that Blackbird becoming a DNQ when it should have flown into the ESC final was the most painful non-qualification scenario she would ever experience. Little did she know that the worst was yet to come, around about the same time she realised referring to herself in the third person is damn annoying.
It’s not that I thought Armenia was a certain finalist last year – but I guess I fell so far in love with Qami (and if I’m honest, the sculpted-ab body armour Sevak wore at Depi Evratesil) I figured everyone else must love it too. Long story you already know short, it bombed out after what I have to admit was a slightly boring performance, and my body could not produce the amount of salt and water needed for me to cry out my anguish. I exaggerate, but it really did hurt.
Regardless, here is a haunting power ballad with ethnic flourishes – much like another song I’ll be talking about later – that captured me in the way Origo did in 2017. In both cases I stumbled across the songs after a previous favourite fell before the NF final and I was searching for a replacement. I loved and lost Deák by Spoon 21 during A Dal 2017 only to discover Origo, and then latched onto Qami in the wake of Poison (Ari Ari) not getting anywhere. It’s a typical song for me to go crazy over, based on my penchant for Balkan ballads. The atmosphere, beauty and power give me goosebumps every time. And it may be a slow burner, but like Aram Mp3’s Not Alone, the explosive climax (I’m talking in musical terms here, you dirty-minded individual) is worth waiting for. Armenia does dynamic songs very well, and for that I salute them. This one deserves a do-over in the form of staging revamp and a retrospective spot in the Eurovision final.
#5 | Lie To Me, Mikolas Josef (Czech Republic, Eurovision)
Together we’ve witnessed many Eurovision glow-ups over the years. Belgium sending Rhythm Inside right after ghastly Mother, Moldova following up the lacklustre DNQ Falling Stars with eventual bronze medalist Hey Mamma…the list goes on and on. At the very top of it or thereabouts, though, has to be the Czech Republic. How else could you acknowledge the mammoth gap between My Turn and Lie To Me in practically every department? And to think that someone initially wanted Mikolas to perform My Turn…holy WTF.
I cannot overstate how much I was blindsided by Lie To Me popping up as one of the Czech candidates last year, and as soon as I’d heard it for the first time I knew it had to be The One (you don’t want to know what I would have done had it NOT been selected for Lisbon). This song is nothing if not iconic. Ridiculously catchy, eternally danceable and lyrically questionable in the best kind of way, the only problem I have with it is the fact that I still don’t know what ‘Set my camel in the mood’ means.
It doesn’t take a genius to interpret the line ‘Whop-bop-a-lu-bop on his wood bamboo’, but even that gets points from me for originality. Eurovision gets lyrics that saucy pretty infrequently, so when Lie To Me hit the stage in Lisbon it grabbed eyes AND ears. A catastrophe seemed likely when Mikolas nearly snapped himself in half during rehearsals – an injury that could have led to a forced withdrawal – but he managed to pull himself together, play safe for the semi final and then risk it all (‘all’ = the integrity of his spinal column and ability to walk) with a flip for the final. The risk paid off, with the show Mr. Josef putting on earning the Czech Republic their best result ever by a long shot. Lie To Me has also earned him the honour of a place on this list, for being an irresistible song I’ll be lip-syncing for a long time to come.
#4 | Doma, Marija Spasovska (Macedonia, Junior Eurovision)
Brace yourselves, because I’m about to make a big call: Macedonia’s JESC 2018 entry is arguably the best song they’ve ever sent to a Eurovision event. That’s in my opinion, obviously…but Doma is something special and I know I’m not the only one outraged that it missed out on the Minsk top 10. Marija’s live performance was beautifully staged (which came as a shock since Macedonia are the masters of staging self-sabotage) if slightly shaky in the vocal department – and her song was/is stunning.
I’m not going to repeat all of the adjectives from my review, and my love for this can’t adequately be expressed in words anyway (despite this paragraph of typing). I will say that Elena Risteska, who gave us the epic Ninanajna in 2006 and who should have represented Macedonia again by now (maybe she’s up for a trip to Tel Aviv in May?) helping create such a spellbinding, spine-tingling ballad is not surprising. Elena plus Darko Dimitrov, the man behind a bajillion Macedonian/other ex-Yugo ESC entries, including Ninanajna.
With a songwriting team like that in her corner, it’s no wonder Marija ended up with such an amazing track. Armed with Doma in a less competitive contest, I think Macedonia could have reached a higher rung on the scoreboard ladder than 12th, but if it’s any consolation this will always be among my personal favourites of last year’s JESC.
#3 | Last Breath, LIAMOO (Sweden, Melodifestivalen)
I’m not the most confident person on the planet, but I am 110% confident in saying that LIAMOO should have finished higher than 6th in last year’s Melfest final. Last Breath is the bomb! There hasn’t been a better combo of rap and singing by the same person since all the way back in 2017 when Joci Papái gave us the gift of Origo.
Clearly I’m not the type to be turned off by rapping (unlike every jury member ever). I see it as a way of expressing emotions that can’t be expressed properly via vocal runs or money notes, and an outpouring of emotion is what we got from LIAMOO. A rapper first and foremost, the way he structured and performed the song made it authentic and believable because he was in his comfort zone. His verses are neat, quick and pave a smooth path for that cracking chorus, which always makes me feel some kind of way (whatever that means…it’s a good thing right, kids?). Sure, it’s quite a repetitive song, but I could (and do) listen to it over and over again without getting bored thanks to that magical melody. I also watch the performance a heck of a lot too. It’s simpler than Dance You Off and less of a statement piece – but with great lighting, some dry ice and rapid-fire camera cuts (á la Oscar Zia’s equally epic Human performance from 2016) comes something applause-worthy.
As a song that hits me in the heart, from a multitalented performer and accompanied by stripped-back staging, Last Breath is easily one of my favourite musical moments of 2018. I’m super psyched to see what LIAMOO and Hanna Ferm produce at Melfest this year.
#2 | Dance You Off, Benjamin Ingrosso (Sweden, Eurovision)
I’m issuing a spoiler alert to inform you that this is the last Eurovision entry to make my list. Last, but the opposite of least, being my favourite entry from Lisbon and another song to add to the ‘Why yes, I AM incredibly biased when it comes to Sweden!’ pile. If I’m being honest, Benjamin Ingrosso’s entire 2018 was a musical highlight for me (I even enjoyed his endless Instagram stories about pasta). First came Dance You Off; then the World’s Greatest Bromance™ with Felix Sandman that led to Tror Du Att Han Bryr Sig, then his first proper album Identification dropped and blessed us all with an array of peak summer Scandipop. But it was his Melfest win on attempt no. 2 that had me riding a rollercoaster of emotions last year.
There were lows – one in particular that I call the Outrageous Televoting Incident of 2018 In Which Europe and Australia Displayed A Major Lack of Taste. But for the most part, everything to do with Dance You Off had me on a high. I mean, the staging for starters – I’m pretty sure the words ‘revolutionary’ and ‘dope’ were invented with that rightfully glorified tanning bed in mind. Benjamin was just a boy, dancing on top of and in front of lighting tubes, asking us to love him…and it totally worked on me (not a tough task since I was Team Ingrosso when he was dancing in front of giant foil-covered baked potatoes for Good Lovin’).
He claimed that Melfest crown/ugly trophy and went on to do the exact same performance, only slicker, at Eurovision. The juries saw sense and ranked him 2nd overall, and as for the rest – well, I like to pretend it never happened and just say grattis till Sverige on another top 10 result. Contest placings aside, the real reason Dance You Off is such a highlight for me is because as a song, it’s a pure and simple pop masterpiece. If Michael Jackson, early 90s R&B and a freshly-opened 2018 nightclub somehow had a baby, this would be the product. And thanks to Identification, there are siblings!
#1 | Eva, Lisandro Cuxi (France, Destination Eurovision)
This might be a surprise numero uno for you if Madame Monsieur’s Mercy was your pièce de résistance of Eurovision 2018. Don’t get me wrong, Mercy is a great song with a great message. But Eva is an even greater song (PLEASE DON’T ABUSE ME IT’S JUST MORE TO MY TASTE ASDFGHJKL) also featuring a message. Sure, it’s less about a refugee child and more about a single mother who moonlights as an exotic dancer…but sometimes it’s the most controversial/emotional subjects that make the best music (Exhibit A: Running, Exhibit B: 1944 and Exhibit C: Mercy, of course).
In a national final that was full of fantastic songs, Lisandro’s piqued my interest immediately above other eventual favourites like Ailleurs, OK ou KO and Rêves de Gamin. Not only do I love me some R&B, but as a Melodifestivalen madwoman I love anything that looks and sounds like it could go direkt to Friends Arena. Eva ticks both of those boxes, and also has a moody atmosphere, radio-ready sound and glass-shattering money note (one that was more on point in the Destination Eurovision final than in the semi, I’ll admit).
Some might say it comes across as manufactured and inauthentic compared to Mercy, but I will fight them to the death (or at least until we’re all pretty tired) in my attempt to prove them wrong. Eva just delivers its message in a different way and is packaged differently to Mercy. And it just so happens that Eva’s genre is more up my alley – so far up my alley that I may have cried a little when Lisandro lost to Madame Monsieur. I’m past the weeping stage now, but this kick-ass gem of a song has stayed with me and been played by moi too many times to count. I love it more than the French delegation loves CGI Eiffel Towers. That’s big love.
I’ve showed you mine – now you have to show me yours! Which songs from ESC, JESC and the NFs of 2018 do you feel blessed to have on your Spotify playlists?
Just like that (a whole week ago now), Minsk’s second Junior Eurovision is done and dusted. I still have some residual Resting Sadface, even though we in the Eurovision world have already moved on to the momentous Melodifestivalen artist announcement and unveiling of Tel Aviv’s first act via Armenia (my thoughts on those things are still to come…be patient).
I say ‘we’, but I love JESC so much I’m not ready to move on yet. Hence why I’m here to look back at Sunday’s comp way after everyone else. Me being miles behind the rest of humanity is one of my many charms. Right?
Honestly, my highlight of JESC 2018 was Polina Bogusevich standing on the stage in a gorgeous gown, looking more sophisticated and glamorous than I ever will and belting out an impeccable reprise of Wings. But there were a lot of other high points too, plus a typically tense voting sequence that produced some interesting results. I’m going to go through it all right here, right now.
If you need a refresher or just want to watch the whole thing again (I’ve watched it three times and might need to go in for a fourth ASAP) here’s the show in full:
And now, let’s get into reviewing the performances – from Ukraine to Poland and every country in-between – and all of the results.
Ukraine Darina kicked the show off with intensity, attitude, and a performance artists three times her age would be proud of. The quick camera cuts at the beginning were totally in keeping with the edginess of the song. Styling on point, vocals impeccable. I feel too uncool to even listen to the song, let alone watch the performance, but I’m going to keep doing it anyway.
Portugal This was cute, but looked and sounded pretty unpolished after Ukraine. I liked the phone screen/social media concept, but I couldn’t take the “boomerang” effect seriously – it just looked like a mistake. All in all it was three minutes of second gear, but Rita is full of personality and that shone through. Any moments she was in the armchair were the best ones.
Kazakhstan The music video was epic, but Daneliya’s performance was underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, she’s amazing, but her vocals were patchier than usual and I didn’t feel much fight coming from her. When she was on her game, it was stunning. Sadly though, I think a tweaked version of the NF staging would have been better.
Albania Efi is a tiny pink and glittery ball of energy, and I adore her. Her enthusiasm and sass at age 10 eclipses mine at age 27, and she had the crowd in her command from the second the music started. She’s not the strongest vocalist but was definitely in tune and giving Barbie her all. My only complaint is how short the performance seemed, because I wanted it go on forever.
Russia I always thought Unbreakable sounded like a JESC winner (maybe too much) and it did come across that way. With Anna front and centre surrounded by her band, it was all very Polina Gagarina, which is a compliment. She sounded solid. I’m torn on the double denim – María Isabel 2004 vibes, anyone? – but the pink extensions were a nice choice.
The Netherlands Like a takeaway pizza, this was covered in cheese and I enjoyed it immensely. Max and Anne are so cute together and have great chemistry. Vocally they were slicker than at their NF. Okay, so the giant versions of the duo on the rear stage screens had a super-high cringe factor, but somehow I found the whole package as endearing as ever.
Azerbaijan The JESC version of this song was nowhere near as good as the original – I wish Fidan had stuck with the full ballad. My other negative was her outfit (half disco, half bridesmaid). The best part of her performance was undoubtedly her vocals, which were angelic and as crystal clear as the Kosta Boda trophy she did not win. She’s precious. And a teenager now, apparently?!?
Belarus You guys know I’m biased on this one, but I honestly felt Daniel lived up to my (very high) expectations. This was impressive, and the staging was so Sweden-like that I’m sure Christer Björkman would have given it a douze if we’d had him as a guest judge again. Daniel is a star in the making and I hope to see him representing Belarus at the ESC in a few years.
Ireland Taylor is such a nice kid, and everything about his presence on stage made me want to wave an Irish flag in time with I.O.U (but I don’t own one so I didn’t). This was so much fun and didn’t try to be more sophisticated than it is. I’m convinced that if this entry had competed in the early to mid 2000s, it would have made the top 5.
Serbia If you read my reviews, you’ll know Svet is not a song I like much. But Bojana turned out a spectacular, faultless performance, and I was impressed big time. Great costuming? Check. Gorgeous LED graphics? Check. Vocal perfection? Check. It still felt like a looooong three minutes – the song just drags – but I was happier to watch than I had been just to listen.
Italy Melissa and Marco put on a show that was so cute, my cold, cynical heart defrosted like I’d stuck it in a microwave, and I felt the urge to run through a flowery meadow and blow bubbles and stuff. There was nothing that I didn’t love about this. They sang beautifully and their rapport is something to ‘Aww’ over. So I did.
Australia Jael is my homegirl, and she did me proud! The lighting at the start was top-notch and I wish that Sanna Nielsen vibe had been used more throughout, but I’m not too bothered. I have a conspiracy theory that her dress was sewn from offcuts of Dami Im’s, and we know there’s magic in that. Best armography of the night right here, folks.
Georgia If you were questioning how Tamar stood up to older and more experienced singers on The X Factor, I bet you aren’t any more. She was phenomenal, and her staging/styling couldn’t have been better. This was a more grown-up Georgia than we’re used to, and it worked wonders. Was it just me or was there a Japanese influence here? LOVE.
Israel This is how you make a performance interesting without making your singer move a muscle. Children Like These is a stunning (cover) song and Noam was pitch-perfect. All he had to do was stand there and sing, and let the camera, graphics and lighting do the rest of the work. I was spellbound, just as I knew I would be.
France If this is what France produces after a fourteen-year hiatus, maybe they shouldn’t come back to JESC until 2032 (I’m kidding of course, they’ve got to be there in 2019). Angélina’s vocals weren’t the strongest of the night, but the mise en scène was perfect and she was the cutest little leading lady ever. Great props and choreography. C’est magnifique!
Macedonia Like Kazakhstan, I wanted Macedonia to deliver a flawless performance but it didn’t quite happen. Still, this was staged beautifully by Macedonian standards (sorry, but it’s true) with the highlights being the costume change, the LED snowfall and the moment Marija held up her snowflake and the lights went down. When her vocals were at their best, they were spine-tingling.
Armenia It was 17 songs’ time before I could no longer resist the temptation to dance (sitting in bed, in my pajamas…it was super late at night okay?). Armenia used Levon’s NF performance as a template but made it bigger and better – and he was on fire. No fading energy or running out of breath like before. Tell me what was wrong with this and I’ll tell you why YOU’RE wrong.
Wales This was such a nice debut for Wales. Think back to how boring Perta was at the selection stage then fast forward to last Sunday, and I think you’ll agree that Wales made the most of it. I’m not 100% on the costume choice, but the choreography was A+. Manw is a really engaging performer and I would have watched two hours of just her on the stage.
Malta This was pretty much what I expected, only with more questionable fashion (party tracksuit alert) and to compensate, more sensational vocals than I was prepared for. Like every other kid who’s represented Malta at JESC since Gaia Cauchi, Ela is insanely talented at this singing business. Her dancers added interest when I was worried they’d look out of place.
Poland Last but not least (quite the opposite, as it turned out) Roksana hit the stage with what was definitely a confusing performance to watch. If there was a cohesive concept in there, I couldn’t pick it out. Still, the bomb song that is Anyone I Want To Be and Roxie’s beyond solid performing arts skills outshone the OTT surrounding her. A random but excellent closer.
My top 5 performances
Armenia Nobody had more sass, swag and charisma all rolled into one than Levon. There wasn’t a second where he looked lost on the massive stage, and not a second when I wasn’t loving – or should I say ‘L.O.V.I.N.G’? – his performance.
Australia What can I say…I’m patriotic. I was worried that keeping Jael on a podium leaving just her voice and arms to do the talking would be a mistake, but she didn’t need to move to absolutely nail it. The glittery dress was the cherry on top.
Belarus What can I say…I’m biased. I loved Time from the first listen, think Daniel’s a superstar and consider this three minutes the coolest of the night. If this exact performance was slotted into the ESC, the only surprise would come from people going ‘Is this really BELARUS?’.
France So much cute. This was like a group of friends having the best time ever, coincidentally in front of a huge crowd and millions of online/TV viewers. It couldn’t have been more in keeping with the song’s subject matter. Trés bien.
Georgia Georgia and Tamar slayed every single aspect of this performance, and it’s another one that could have competed at adult Eurovision without any changes. The styling in particular was amazing. Bravo.
I’m not going to dive too deep into facts and figures, since I’m days late getting this wrap-up done and you’ll have had your fill of that stuff by now (why won’t someone pay me to talk about Eurovision already so I don’t have to waste time at my actual job to make money?). We know our top 10 looked like this:
I wasn’t expecting Poland to quite get there with the win, but I obviously underestimated the power of Roksana’s fans (all 200 000+ on Instagram alone at the time…she’s now on 300 000+). Anyone I Want To Be was arguably the best song of the contest (though not my favourite) but was it performed better than everything else? I don’t think so. I’m going to say that the current JESC voting system needs work, but I’m excited for Poland to have won something, and I think it would be wrong to drag Roxie for having too much support.
France in 2nd is fabulous and totally deserved. If that’s not motivation enough to come back next year and attempt to go one better, I don’t know what is. Australia rounding out the podium places obviously makes me a very, very happy Jaz – I was expecting lower top 10 at most. Yes, juries love us, but those people out there taking that out on Jael need to just NOT.
After Melissa and Marco’s performance, a decent top 10 result was what I was hoping for and it’s what I got (I even ended up voting for Italy spur of the moment). Georgia and Armenia should have been higher in my opinion. L.E.V.O.N finishing lower than Boomerang and actually scoring Armenia’s worst ever result is ridiculous. Then again, the fact that 9th out of 20 is their poorest showing says great things about Armenia.
Other results outside of the top 10 that “surprised” me (because I don’t want to say ‘pissed me off’ when we’re discussing a children’s contest) include Belarus in 11th – you guys know they were my favourite, and I really think they earned a place in the 6th-9th range at least. Macedonia finishing 12th for the third year running and the 8th time in total is…well, pretty hilarious, but I would have loved Marija to squeeze into the top 10 too. Albania was underrated as far as I’m concerned, but that doesn’t take away from Efi being a teeny queen who we should all be bowing down to. Finally, Wales scoring zero from the juries and coming last overall is an injustice. HOW?!?!?
Okay, I think that’s enough complaining from me. I’m going to wrap things up by celebrating our winner Roksana, who Pole-vaulted into first place at the end of a seriously intense points presentation. I hope ‘Junior Eurovision winner’ qualifies as anyone she wants to be. Congrats to her and to Poland for finally winning a musical Eurovision event. I’m already looking forward to a show (hopefully) hosted in a place we’ve never had a JESC before next November.
Let me know what you thought of JESC 2018 in the comments!
It’s almost here, JESC fans: the biggest and potentially most Belarusian Junior Eurovision ever (we’ll have to compare it to 2010 later and see which show was ultimately more Belarusian). I don’t know about you, but I’m super psyched to see who’ll take over from Russia as the reigning champion. I have a fair idea at this point and for once I’m pretty confident – but my lips are sealed until official prediction time. Keep an eye on my socials (@EurovisionByJaz across the board) over the weekend to see who I think will be on the top – and bottom – of the scoreboard on Sunday.
Before I attempt to predict what’s going to happen I’ve got five of this year’s songs left to review, direct from Albania, Ireland, Italy, Macedonia and Ukraine. There are a few big hitters in there as well as some underdogs, and I do have a douze to give out to one of them…but am I sending it in an obvious direction or not? Keep reading to find out. It’s your moment under my musical microscope, Efi, Taylor, Melissa & Marco, Marija and Darina. I’ll try to be nice, I promise!
I might be in the minority here, but I’m usually really keen on Albania’s Junior songs. Their 2012 debut wouldn’t make my best-of list, but Dambaje, Besoj and yes, even Don’t Touch My Tree? I enjoyed ‘em all. Albania tends to bounce around a bit genre-wise, and this time they’ve taken the old-school JESC (2003-2008) feel of that debut entry and added more energy, cuteness and overall appeal to it, making Barbie a song that shouldn’t be destined for last place. I like it, anyway…though that has been a bad luck charm in the past *cough* Waldo’s People/Tooji *cough*. I think my favourite thing about Barbie is the contrast between the upbeat pop style/pink-tastic presentation, and the subject matter. ICYMI, Efi means business – she doesn’t want to be directed like a doll during playtime without being permitted thoughts of her own. Oddly, she also wants us to know that ‘I’m not a fruit, I’m not an egg’, unless my online translation has let me down embarrassingly. Sorry to be a party pooper Efi, but I think that was already obvious.
The combo of cuteness and substance in this song speaks to me, and even though I feel like Barbie should be a guilty pleasure, I’m going to ditch the guilt and root for it regardless. I was wondering if the whole Barbie concept could put Efi at risk of a lecture from the EBU regarding product placement – but we did end up bopping along to Youtuber at JESC last year, and we watched a song that namedropped Pikachu (and funnily enough, Barbie) win Eurovision in May. You’ve got to love “loopholes”.
Anyway, I will admit that Albania is still an underdog in this contest, especially given NF staging that needed serious workshopping. I want less LED screen lyrics (a pet peeve of mine), more enthusiasm from Efi and preferably some backing dancers to liven things up. Unfortunately – whether it’s habit, preference or a lack of pocket money – the Albanian modus operandi so far has been ‘girl alone on stage’ without even a hint of another human being. I’ll actually be surprised if they don’t take that approach, in which case Efi needs to find some extra sparkle and sell Barbie like her doll collection depends on it. I hope she can do it, because there’s a rough (pink) diamond here. 8 points.
I feel like we should have had a gender reveal party for Ireland, because for the first time in their Junior Eurovision history, it’s a boy! A boy with more luxurious hair than I could ever hope to have, specifically. Rapunzel Taylor is following in the footsteps of Aimee Banks, Zena Donnelly and Muireann McDonnell and will no doubt be hoping to outdo Zena’s 10th place from 2016. With I.O.U up his sleeve (the sleeve of his sweatshirt which, by total coincidence, has ‘I.O.U’ printed on the front) I think that will be a challenge, especially in a field of 20 contestants – many armed with much stronger songs. But there’s something endearing about this track, and about Taylor himself, that makes me want to support Ireland this year.
I.O.U is total ‘JESC early years’, circa 2003-2008 – and that’s actually a redeeming feature in my opinion. I love entries that put the junior into Junior Eurovision, since it doesn’t happen a lot these days. The melody, throwback feel and youthfulness of this take me back to stuff like My Vmeste by Ksenia Sitnik (Belarus’ 2005 winner) and I Mousiki Dinei Ftera by Yiorgos Ioannides (Cyprus’ less-successful song from 2007), plus a bunch of other entries I could mention if I felt like it (and wanted to bore you to death). The chorus is particularly childlike. Overall the song isn’t too young for Taylor though. He sells it well, despite being a less polished (and some would say, manufactured) performer than a lot of the other contestants. I think if this song was in English – even partially, which could have easily been the case – the cheesiness would have been too much to take, but somehow going full Irish saves it from that savoury fate. Apart from being repetitive (which actually helps the catchy chorus get stuck in your brain whether you like it or not) I appreciate this entry for the nostalgia and fluffiness it brings to the table. Sure, the NF performance combined with a song of I.O.U’s style made me feel like I was watching a middle school talent show, but it’s kind of refreshing in that sense. It also boasts the best music video of the 2018 contest, feat. Niamh Kavanagh and Ryan O’Shaughnessy as Taylor’s parents (IDK how they pull it off, but they do).
The problem? While Ireland is giving us something oh-so-junior, they’re also fulfilling a brief from ten or fifteen years ago. JESC has changed and the tone of songs that shoot up the scoreboard has too. Mature, sophisticated ballads sung by female soloists in white dresses are extra likely to succeed, and neither I.O.U nor Taylor fit into that mould (but Kazakhstan, Macedonia and Australia do…just saying). If I’m honest, compared to the lion’s share of Ireland’s 19 rivals this entry comes off as a little amateurish. And I can’t imagine it attracting a sizeable public or jury vote. That puts Ireland in the danger zone as a potential bottom five finisher, but I’d welcome a more positive outcome. I don’t know yet if I have a vote to spare for Taylor in a year of bangers, but I can give him 7 points right now.
If there’s one word that describes Italy at any Eurovision event, it’s ‘classy’. Even Emma Marrone managed to expose her gold underpants to the world in a classy way in Copenhagen – it’s just in Italian blood. I have to admit though, when I first clapped eyes and ears on Italy’s 2018 Junior Eurovision entry I thought they’d finally gone off the deep end and left all of their class on the diving board behind them. This was mainly because I broke my rule of not watching the JESC music videos when listening to the song for the first time, because at best they’re a distraction and at worst they are abysmal. Melissa and Marco’s falls somewhere in between, under the heading of ‘hilariously WTF’, and I let that cloud my judgment of what is a classy and majestic – if cliché-packed – duet. There is something about the 1980s transitions, awkward dancing and…well, everything else happening onscreen that makes me laugh way too hard at a pair of poor innocent children.
Take those visuals away, however, and you’re left with another solid Italian entry that I think tops Scelgo from last year (but has nothing on the pinnacle of Italian musical majesty that is Tu Il Primo Grande Amore). What Is Love is interesting in that it twists and turns along the way to a satisfyingly predictable conclusion. We get Marco – who I think we can all agree is the star of the duo – opening strongly on his own, before Melissa (SHE’S SO TINY AND CUTE I CAN HARDLY STAND IT) arrives during the first chorus to add another dynamic. The two bounce off each other well vocally, with the back-and-forth song structure giving them both a chance to shine (though as I said, Marco shines brighter and could easily have been a solo act). It’s hard to believe there’s a four-year age gap between them – a gap I found a little uncomfortable until I realised this song isn’t a love duet in the traditional sense.
Another thing I like about it is the ‘moments’ sprinkled throughout that make it memorable. Harmonies, clever language changes, big notes and a key change (oh yes, they went there) combine to create a song that has more light and shade to it than main rival Samen from the Netherlands. Having said that, when it comes to the two boy-girl duets competing in Minsk, I do prefer the Netherlands. But because the dynamic between the boys and girls in question is totally different, I think there’s room for both Max & Anne and Melissa & Marco to do well on the night. I highly doubt either duet will walk away with the trophy, or even a podium placement. Then again, there’s been a surprise song in the top 3 for the last few years, and in 2018 it could be What Is Love. For me personally it’s not a top 3 song, but I have grown fond of it very quickly. I just needed to shut my eyes when I pressed play on that video. 8 points.
I don’t know what it is with Macedonia, but their last few JESC songs could easily have been sent to the ESC – and in my opinion, they were both better than what was actually sent to the adult contest. Love Will Lead Our Way? Flawless. Dancing Through Life? Flawless with space buns. Now we have Doma, which is very different to those last two entries – a.k.a. it’s a far cry from radio-friendly pop. This is a ballad, and a big Balkan ballad at that. It even has the word ‘molitva’ in the lyrics (as co-written by Elena Risteska) which may or may not be a sign. It too would fit in well at Eurovision, and FOR GOD’S SAKE JAZ STOP RAMBLING AND TELL US WHAT YOU THINK OF IT!!!
Your wish is my command: I LOVE this, and I can safely say that Macedonia has delivered a JESC cracker yet again. From the second Doma starts, elevated instantly by Marija’s beautiful vocals, there’s a magical atmosphere afoot and touches of mysterious ethnicity woven in. I have goosebumps before the first chorus even drops. When it does, things are taken to another level of atmospheric, emotional and ethnic awesomeness (and I’m reminded of EXO’s Mama somehow…compare the choruses and tell me I’m not going crazy). I adore how majestic and statement this song is. If JESC 2018 was a jewelry store, Doma would be an ornate, gem-encrusted necklace rented out exclusively to royalty and Eleni Foureira (our queen). Truth be told, ornate statement pieces don’t win Junior Eurovision, and mature ethno-ballads like this (think Serbia 2015) are usually left behind at the halfway-ish mark of the scoreboard. But hey, that would be progress for poor Macedonia, who’ve been a little robbed for the last few years.
Sadly, I’m expecting Marija to be overshadowed by the likes of Armenia and France – fun, danceable entries that don’t have so much in common with 2017 winner Wings. Not to mention her main rival in Kazakhstan’s Daneliya. Still, if she is as amazing live as she is in studio, and puts on a spellbinding performance (lighting, or lack thereof, is v. important here), anything could happen. I’ll enjoy it, at least. Pre-performance and based on the power of the song alone, I’m going all in and handing Macedonia DOUZE POINTS!
For a brief but terrible time earlier this year, it looked like Ukraine wouldn’t be joining the JESC 2018 party. That would have left a huge pop-masterpiece-shaped hole in the lineup, so I’m glad they changed their mind (or stopped trolling us, one of the two). I say pop masterpiece because that’s exactly what we would have missed out on had Darina + Say Love not been part of Junior. You can find this song online at http://www.thebomb.com, guys. What a banger! It takes the subject matter of Anna Trincher’s Pochny z Sebe (Ukraine’s less poppy but still pretty decent entry from 2015) – in basic terms, humanity’s need to say yes to love and no to war – and presents it in a slick package that, like France’s entry, sits pretty on the fence between too junior and not junior enough.
There are two main things I love about Say Love (which I just did). Firstly, the fact that the song is super contemporary, but doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before. Secondly, how interesting it is – it’s one of those songs that grabs and hangs on to your interest as you wonder where it’s going. The mysterious edge and dynamic structure keep you on your toes, while the repetition of the chorus prevents it from sounding aimless. My absolute favourite part is Darina’s megaphone chant, and if she doesn’t appear on stage this weekend in the exact outfit from the music video, with that megaphone in her hand (looking like the pint-sized yet seriously fierce cheerleading coach of Mylène and Rosanne from JESC 2013) I will be disappointed.
If all goes according to plan, Anastasiya Baginska’s very respectable 7th place from 2017 should be outdone by Darina – but by how many places? I’ve seen Ukraine at the top of a heap of Youtube ranking videos, as I did with Russia last year, but I don’t think Say Love is quite going to get there as a winner. For starters, as we know, any girl who wants to win JESC these days must wear a white dress and perform a ballad. Plus I just don’t have The Feelings about it – that gut instinct that tells you which songs have a real shot at the trophy and which ones don’t. I can’t see the credits rolling over a reprise of this. But if I’m wrong, I won’t be unhappy. It has been a while since Ukraine’s last win, after all. 10 points.
And just like that/just in time, that’s all 20 Junior Eurovision songs reviewed by yours truly. Before I dramatically reveal my full ranking for the year, let’s take a look at the standings from this round:
- Macedonia (12)
- Ukraine (10)
- Albania (8)
- Italy (8)
- Ireland (7)
If you know me at all, you won’t be shocked to see the Balkan ballad on top – and I’m hoping to see it somewhere in that neighbourhood of success on Sunday night. Macedonia is closely followed by Ukraine and Albania, with Italy scoring a much lower 8 than Albania if that makes any sense. Ireland takes the wooden spoon today, but with 7 points that’s nothing for Taylor to worry about (because obviously he’s going to see this post, read it and take to heart…that’s not a delusional thought at all, Jaz).
And now (create your own drumroll, please), I can unveil my complete ranking of all 20 entries, based on my review scores from the last few weeks. All ties have been broken behind the scenes.
- Belarus (12)
- Macedonia (12)
- Armenia (12)
- Israel (12)
- Kazakhstan (10)
- France (10)
- Australia (10)
- The Netherlands (10)
- Ukraine (10)
- Russia (10)
- Poland (8)
- Albania (8)
- Georgia (8)
- Italy (8)
- Ireland (7)
- Malta (7)
- Wales (6)
- Azerbaijan (6)
- Serbia (5)
- Portugal (4)
Well, this has taught me that if your lowest score is a 4 and your 18th-favourite song out of 20 still gets 6 points, you must REALLY be enjoying the bunch of entries in question. I don’t think I’ve been this honestly generous with my points in my entire history of reviewing Eurovision-related music. Thank you Minsk!
Now I’ve showed you mine, you’re pretty much obligated to show me yours – so hit up that comments box and tell me a) how you rank the five songs I reviewed for this round, and b) what your full ranking looks like. You’ve got to have something to occupy the time between now and when JESC kicks off, right?
This is all the pre-show coverage you’re going to get from me in 2018 (I had more planned but life got in the way as usual). As I mentioned in the intro, if you want to see what I’m predicting for Sunday’s contest – including winners, losers and every scoreboard place in-between – head over to my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (all @EurovisionByJaz) and I’ll post them on all three ASAP. Be sure to follow me on Twitter especially if you want to discuss the show during the show. I’m not above making jokes at the expense of children, if that helps – someone needs to toughen them up.
Just kidding. OR AM I?!?!?
See you on the other side of JESC 2018, when we have our 16th winner!
Wherever you are in the world and whatever time it is there, a) hello and b) thanks for coming back to read more of my Junior Eurovision 2018 reviews!
I’m squeezing them in at this point since the contest is happening this weekend…I know, it’s super shocking that I, Jaz, your hot mess of a Eurovision aficionado, am having issues getting things done on time. But once you’ve recovered from said shock, I’m going to shock you even more by getting straight into today’s round of reviews. Obviously this one includes the songs from Australia, France, Malta, Poland and Wales, so you might want to prepare yourself for all the girl power.
Keep scrollin’ on (Maltese wordplay intended) to see what I think of Jael, Angélina, Ela, Roksana and Manw’s JESC contributions and chances, as they take to the stage for the first time to rehearse. Could I be reviewing a potential winner here? Tell me what you think and how excited you are for Junior Eurovision (on a scale of 1 to almost peeing your pants) in the comments.
We’re back! It’s attempt no. 4 for us Aussies to win Junior Eurovision, and with our results reading better by the year (8th, 5th and 3rd so far) there’s a lot of pressure on Jael to do just that. Now, you can call me biased if you want – I won’t be able to deny it – but I really think we’re in with a shot this time. If not to go all the way, then to do pretty well for ourselves at the very least.
Champion is right there with Speak Up in terms of greatness (only as a power ballad, it’s got a different energy) and it leaves My Girls, and We Are especially, in its dust. Sounding a lot like Beyoncé’s Halo and featuring an arguably better chorus, it may be derivative for a song that’s advising us all to live like we’re original – but by-the-numbers pop is what Australia has delivered to JESC’s doorstep every time, and it’s continued to work in our favour (adult Eurovision = another story). Anyway, the lyrics are no more generic than the English verses/choruses of most of the other entries…or a lot of the lyrics in general if you Google Translate them. This is a song contest for kids we’re talking about, so uplifting messages about being yourself and shooting for the stars and stuff are always going to outnumber deep and meaningful musical ponderings re: the meaning of life and the inevitable existential crisis that hits you when you turn 13 (or was that just me?).
Besides, the real star attraction of this show is Jael herself – she’s got the vocal power of reigning Junior Champion (HA HA) Polina Bogusevich without the English pronunciation handicap. And this song is perfect for her voice. Those tones plus the majestic melody could equal a spine-tingling three minutes on the Minsk stage, assuming that Jael brings her vocal A-game when it counts and we don’t screw up, undercook or overdo her staging (I say we, but I’m taking zero responsibility if it happens). Australia hasn’t exactly been the best role model for live presentations at Junior, so I’m hoping the delegation has built on last year’s interesting-but-not-OTT production for Isabella. If they have, I don’t see how we couldn’t finish on the upper left side of the scoreboard. But like I said, I’m biased. 10 points.
Bonjour! Longtime JESC fans will remember that France had a fleeting affair with Eurovision’s younger sibling (which sounds wrong, but you know what I mean). It started in 2004 and ended in…well, 2004, when they sent the Frenchiest Song Ever™ to Lillehammer – Si En Voulait Bien by Thomas Pontier. Beginner’s luck and a generally great entry scored them 6th place, but they dropped out regardless and haven’t graced a JESC with their presence since. Until now, obviously. The question is, has that extended vacation been beneficial or has it put them out of touch with what Junior Eurovision is about these days?
For me, France was worth waiting for. Adorable Angélina and Jamais Sans Toi are EXACTLY what I want from a JESC package. She is so cute (and if her parents are inexplicably looking to put her up for adoption, I’ll take her for sure) with all the charm and confidence a kid needs to handle a big performance like the one she’ll be giving in Minsk. And the song is, like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way. It’s catchy, energetic and summery; the mix of languages is seamless; it’s contemporary; and it’s neither too junior nor too adult. Basically, all I can hear is the sound of boxes being ticked. France has done everything right with this whether it was on purpose or not, and I salute them for that. The only thing they could potentially mess up is the staging, and since Thomas’ song didn’t require anything but bare-bones presentation, all we can look to if we want to gauge their skills is adult Eurovision. Jamais Sans Toi is not unlike a kid version of Alma’s Requiem, with a similar energy, vibe and sound…and Alma’s staging was underwhelming. Let’s hope France learnt from it and are throwing some backing dancers Angélina’s way (not literally). At the very least they need to make sure she doesn’t get swallowed up by a big stage and/or dizzying aerial shots of Paris. I will be the prayer emoji in human form until I’ve seen this performance.
For now I’m going to wrap things up with a plot twist: in spite of everything I’ve just said, France isn’t currently right at the top of my JESC 2018 ranking. But that’s just testament to how epic this edition of the contest is. I’ve got Angélina about 7th as of right this second, and I’m still going to give her 10 points.
With two JESC trophies in their display cabinet and a bunch of other respectable results to their name, Malta shouldn’t be underestimated in this contest. Sure, I personally overestimated them last year, thinking that Dawra Tond was a possible/probable winner (when it eventually finished 9th…oops). But still, this is an island that gives Junior all they’ve got, every year. Ask me if I think they’ve done the same in 2018 and I’ll hesitate for five minutes before saying ‘I thiiiiink so?’.
Marchin’ On actually fits the mould of every Australian JESC entry ever more than it does previous Maltese songs – we Aussies are the lyrical cliché masters after all, and Ela belts out some big ones. ‘As one army we’ll give our all, fearless, not afraid to fall’? ‘Find the light that shines bright deep within’? You’d think countries with English as a main language could be more creative than that. But hey, I’m not here to criticise children (too much). Lyrics like those – and the grammatical disaster that is ‘Whether if you’re big or small’ – aside, there is something appealing about Marchin’ On overall. The melody is nice, the atmosphere is uplifting and the chorus is catchy and memorable. Ela is a great vocalist too, though she’ll be hard pressed to outdo the mind-blowing performances of Gaia Cauchi, Destiny Chukunyere and Christina Magrin in that department (I’m convinced that both Maltese and Georgian kids get deported if they can’t sing). There might be a bit of x-factor missing here, and in what has shaped up to be a super competitive contest, I don’t know if this has the steam to move ahead of six or eight other contenders. Yet I still have a sneaking suspicion Malta will do quite well in Minsk.
Assuming their staging is on point, the only obstacles to success would be a) the big bunch of contender countries I just mentioned, and b) Marchin’ On being kind of unsure of itself. It’s mid-tempo, not really a power ballad but definitely not a piano ballad, and missing a “moment” – Ela’s vocal gymnastics towards the end seem a bit desperate and tacked on just because she can pull them off. Okay, so maybe she won’t do that well – and I’ve talked myself out of a third Maltese win, I think – but there’s a possible spot for her on the lower left side of the scoreboard. Upper right at least. To clarify, my predicted range for Malta at this stage is 8th-13th, and my score for them is 7 points.
Poland is one country that’s made a cracking comeback to a Eurovision event – kind of like Bulgaria at adult Eurovision, but on a smaller scale (and with a little less success). They dropped out of JESC after two consecutive last places in 2003 and 2004, and didn’t return until 2016. Since then they’ve sent two stunning ballads and two sensational female soloists to the contest, with Alicja Rega achieving their best result ever last year (though I think Mój Dom deserved to be higher than 8th because HOLY KIELBASA, IT’S AMAZING!!!). It’s female soloist no. 3 for Poland in Minsk, but The Voice Kids winner Roksana isn’t packing a big ballad in her suitcase.
Funnily enough, when the song title was revealed I assumed Anyone I Want To Be was definitely going to be a ballad, and a cheesy one at that – but I was wrong. It’s actually hard to categorise this song (at least in one or two words) so I’m going to say it’s ‘contemporary radio-friendly pop with urban and rock influences and a whole lot of attitude’. So much attitude that Roksana’s almost too nice to pull it off, but I think she just manages to get away with it. I’m a big fan of this track in general – it’s catchy, fun and has some edge, making it totally age-appropriate but not unappealing to voters and jurors who are *ahem* a little way away from their childhood/teenage years, like myself. I especially love the pre-chorus and any of the parts that are in Polish. That leads me to my only real issue with AIWTB, which is the pretty messy mix of languages. There’s English and Polish all over the place, and it makes the whole thing feel less than cohesive. I would have preferred the entire song to be in Polish, at least up until the last chorus (a more traditional trend of shoehorning English into LOTE entries). But the song is good enough in every other way for me to ignore the bilingual elephant in the room.
It’s great to see Poland doing something different after the last few ballads they’ve sent, without reverting to dated pop or the lacklustre stuff that saw them finish dead last twice back in the early Junior Eurovision days. I just hope they can stage this in the right way, because it needs something less basic than the ‘stand there and sing in front of a pretty LED background’ formula that worked fine for Nie Zapomnij and Mój Dom. I’m thinking backing dancers, lots of colour and possibly the theft of the Netherlands’ costumes from 2016. It will be interesting to see what is done with this, but I have high hopes. We know Roksana can sing – you don’t win The Voice by wailing like we all did when Finland didn’t qualify to the ESC final last year – and she’s singing a very good song. So, if the performance is in keeping with singer and song quality, there’s no reason why Poland couldn’t potentially equal or better that 8th place from Tbilisi. I do prefer Mój Dom – that’s a douze pointer for me – but AIWTB is worth a round of applause and a top 10 result. 8 points.
After Kazakhstan, Wales’ RSVP to the JESC 2018 party was the biggest jaw-dropper of the year. There’d been rumours of participation in the past, but it was far from being a done deal that they’d compete in either JESC or the ESC…until now, when anything is possible (and I mean ANYTHING, in a world where Bulgaria can just up and withdraw from Eurovision at the top of their game). So here we are with Berta by Manw, a song that has (thankfully) been revamped and is ready to represent Wales – if not win, or even come close – for the first time.
Now, I’m all about that ‘the more the merrier’ mentality, but I was hoping Wales would make more of a splash with their debut when the day finally came. Now it’s here, I am a little disappointed (particularly when I think about what Kazakhstan is bringing to the table – i.e. a song that could win the entire contest). There’s nothing majorly wrong with Berta. It’s a nice song actually: dreamy and soothing, with a chorus that makes Welsh sound very pretty (because truth be told, it’s not the prettiest language on the planet). And Manw’s voice is perfectly suited to this type of song. But in terms of competition songs that can attract enough attention to rise above the rest, it’s missing something. Drama? A catchier hook? Variety? I’m not sure, but I know it’s not bringing its musical A-game. I can’t imagine Berta outshining the likes of L.E.V.O.N, Your Voice, Ózińe Sen, Samen, Say Love…I could carry on, but that would make Manw feel bad if she miraculously happened to read this.
In all fairness, I have been wrong about this kind of thing before – and there are always songs that do far better in JESC than expected – but I will be in a state of shock for months if Wales makes the top 5, or even the top 10. Either way, they should come back next year and give it another go, because it’s hard to understand exactly what works at Junior Eurovision on the first try. As an Australian, I can admit that we didn’t get it initially, and even now we’re still figuring it out. And Wales has to be commended for putting on a national final in their attempt to figure it out, and ending up with an entry that’s decent if not dangerous. I like Berta and I will listen to it post-show, but I won’t be voting for it. 6 points.
15 down, 5 to go! With another group of this year’s participating songs critiqued by yours truly, here’s the mini-ranking for this round:
- France (10)
- Australia (10)
- Poland (8)
- Malta (7)
- Wales (6)
As much as the biased fan inside me wants to put Australia on top, I have to bump Angélina above Jael by a croissant crumb because Jamais Sans Toi is just so infectious, fun and summery (and as we’re heading into summer here in Australia, I guess I’m in a sunny mood). Poland is sitting pretty in the middle with a strong 8 points, followed fairly closely by Malta and Wales. I’ve mentioned again and again how high-quality I think this competition is, and the fact that my least-liked song of the day is one I still enjoy and can give a reasonable score to is proof of that.
How about you? Is this 16th edition of Junior Eurovision floating your boat more buoyantly than ever before, or do you reckon we’ve had better contests in the past? Which of today’s reviewed entries is your personal favourite, and could any of them win the whole thing? Let me know below.
NEXT TIME By process of elimination, you’ll know which countries I’m yet to review – and in a few days’ time the wait will be over! Step right up Albania, Ireland, Italy, Macedonia and Ukraine, because I’m shining my spotlight on all of you…and y’all know I believe that honesty is the best policy.
See you then!