SHINE BRIGHT! Jaz’s JESC 2017 Reviews, Round 3 (Australia, Belarus, Malta + Ukraine)

If you’re not ready for Junior Eurovision 2017 (which TBH I’m not, considering I’m still frantically trying to get my song reviews done on time), too bad – it’s nearly here! The countdown is in single-digit days, rehearsals have started in Tbilisi’s festively-decorated Olympic Palace, and Mariam Mamadashvili is probably wondering what to have printed on her business cards now that ‘Current JESC Champion’ is about to be void.

In fact, the contest is so close than I have zero time for a classic Jaz Introductory Euroramble™. All I’m going to say is here’s Round 3 of my annual reviews, feat. Australia, Belarus, Malta and Ukraine. Check out my verdicts and vote for your favourite of the four below! 

 

 

Watch it here

Last year…I couldn’t help being happy – though very, VERY confused – when Alexa Curtis finished 5th with We Are. I suspect the absence of a televote had something to do with it.

The 2017 verdict We’re back, bitches! Actually, scratch that, because I should be keeping my language in check when discussing JESC. We’re just…back. As an Australian, it’s hard not to be pleased that our Eurovision invitations are still being extended (even in the face of frequent backlash/mutterings from other countries, which I do understand. But at the same time, IT’S HAPPENING, SO GET OVER IT). Also pleasing is the fact that we’re yet to send a bona-fide dud to the adult or junior contest, and the seriousness of our approach is worth at least one less snide remark, right? I definitely think so when it comes to Isabella’s Speak Up, which is arguably our best JESC entry ever. It doesn’t have My Girls whiff of lyrical cheesiness, or the wishy-washiness of We Are – the lyrics are great, the chorus is catchy and easy to sing along to, the vibe is young without being too young, and it includes one of the best key changes of the year (which Isabella has already proven she can nail live). I honestly feel like I would rate this song no matter which country it was coming from or what language it was sung in. It’s not as bubblegum pop as, say, Kisses and Dancin’ from The Netherlands last year, but it has a similar charm and upbeat energy that makes you smile. All in all, there is very little to pick on re: Australia 2017 – before seeing it live, anyway (rehearsals have obviously started, but my golden rule is NEVER watch them). Isabella will be backed by some dancers, the outfits and graphics will be slick, we’re performing second-to-last…what could go wrong in a contest that’s weaker than the last few? Well, a lot. I have an unfortunate feeling that even though a) Speak Up is our best Junior track so far, way better than We Are, and b) as I just mentioned, 2017 is not the strongest field of songs, we’re not going to make it into the top 5 again. I think we deserve to with this – not necessarily reaching the podium, but 5th or 4th place, sure. I just have this gut feeling that Australia is headed for more of a 6th-8th ending á la 2015. Still, I don’t have the most reliable guts on the planet, so anything could happen. My fingers are extra crossed!

Song score 10

Artist score 10

Final score 10

 

  


Watch it here

Last year…Alexander Minyonok and Muzyka Moikh Pobed received the Christer Björkman douze points of approval, which (when combined with a usage of hoverboards that totally eclipsed Serbia’s) helped him hit the heights of 7th place.

The 2017 verdict This might not apply at adult Eurovision, but you should always keep an eye on Belarus at Junior. They’ve won it twice and done very well for themselves on most other occasions. The trend continues 110% with Helena and I Am The One, and I’m going to cut right to the chase by saying she may actually be the one (someone had to say it). This song is undeniably high-class, and I don’t think many people could call it anything less than flawless without lying a little bit. It’s not even in my personal top three for 2017 and I’m calling it perfection. Beautifully produced – right down to the music video – and big on atmosphere and drama, it does everything a dark pop song should do without being cookie-cutter predictable. Belarusian lyrics + English title = totally fine by me, as are the explosive choruses and moments of light and shade that make the Serbias and Portugals of the year sound flatter than a pancake. Helena’s voice can get a teensy bit grating in the chorus if I’m extra-critical, but as long as she has ultimate control over it and stops it from entering The Screech Zone (it’s like the Twilight Zone, but you need multiple pairs of earplugs to make it out alive) I can deal. Speaking of things that might happen live…I want this performance to be the way I’m picturing it in my head SO BAD. The mystical ball from the MV better be there at least, and dynamic, epilepsy-triggering laser lights basically go without saying. For the costume, I’m thinking boho-robot, but that’s a concept I need to write an explanatory thesis on later. For now, I don’t know what else I can say about Belarus bar the following: the other four or so songs in winning contention better watch their backs. Then again, this could be the pre-show favourite that doesn’t quite meet expectations. There’s only a few days until we find out!

Song score 12

Artist score 12

Final score 12

 

  


Watch it here

Last year…home girl Christina Magrin delivered possibly THE vocal performance of the year, and came 6th with Parachute. I still can’t stand the song…but damn, that voice!

The 2017 verdict If this was the Junior Eurovision Cuteness Contest, Malta would walk it because Gianluca is so, so cute *melts despite not being the biggest fan of kids in general*. But it’s not. Sure, being adorable and charismatic and having impressive eyebrow-waggling ability for a 10-year-old will benefit him, but he needs an A-grade song to secure Malta’s third JESC win since 2013. Does he have it in Dawra Tond? Well, it was better three years ago when Armenia sent it and called it People of the Sun. It is very similar to that bronze medalist of Betty’s, but as with movies and music, the original is usually better. Still, the infectious sunny energy of POTS is worth taking “inspiration” from, so I can’t be too harsh on Dawra Tond. The pros include: a bit of Maltese for the first time since 2010; simple lyrics and phrasing that make this sing-along friendly and a total earworm; a good combo of retro (there’s something Mambo No. 5 about it) and modern dance-pop sounds; and that energetic beat that Malta can’t stay away from for too long (though they’ve won Junior with and without it). Overall the song doesn’t show off Gianluca’s incredible vocal abilities as much as I would have liked, but it does have some big moments. Performing between female ballad-fielders Ukraine and Russia should make Malta stand out, but with Polina being a heavy hitter and a handful of other stronger songs scattered throughout the running order, I wouldn’t bet any money on Gianluca winning (but I’m still pre-predictions, so don’t hold me to that if he does!). Honestly, I don’t want him to, but I could live with a decent finish in the range of 3rd-7th. Any higher and I’ll be forced to post bitter (yet not offensive because KIDS) statuses, tweets and stories all over social media to console myself.

Song score 7

Artist score 12

Final score 9.5

  

 

Watch it here

Last year…Ukraine had something of an off year at JESC, only making it as far as 14th with Sofia Rol’s ballad Planet Craves For Love. The nonsensical Cirque du Soleil staging didn’t help.

The 2017 verdict Ukraine are a bit hit-and-miss with me at Junior, though I’ve liked all of their recent entries (I’ve got no complaints about the 2012-2016 songs on a purely musical level). And hit-and-miss is actually how I feel about Anastasiya’s Don’t Stop specifically. It has grown on me since it won the national final back when dinosaurs still walked the earth (a.k.a. ages ago). But, while there are parts of the song I love, there are other parts that really irritate me – so on the whole I can’t say I’m going to be voting for it. Getting my tick of approval are the verses – nice melody and structure, plus an acoustic-y, chilled-out vibe that gives me life – and anytime the violinist pops up even though that does remind me a bit of Jacques Houdek’s My Friend. However, my main peeve is kind of a big one: the chorus. Anastasiya seems very sweet and she has a nice voice, but whenever an ‘ay-i-ay-i-ay-i-ay’ comes out of her mouth (which is a handful of times in every chorus) the nearest mute button becomes all I can think about. Sometimes you don’t know why you’re annoyed by something…you just are. And sadly, as sweet as she is, Ana is not Gianluca-level cute in that I would forgive her if she stole all of the money out of my purse. There’s always the chance of her new and improved live version winning me over, I guess. Looking at/listening to Don’t Stop as objectively as I can, I think it has the potential to do fairly well in the contest, if not amazingly so. It’s not a winner (if Ukraine think that the key to winning Junior is sending a very small child called Anastasiya, they are wrong) but my notoriously unreliable crystal ball tells me mid to lower top 10 is attainable.

Song score 7

Artist score 8

Final score 7.5

 

 

Well, there’s another four songs I can cross off my list. And here’s the mini-ranking from this round: 

  1. Belarus (12)
  2. Australia (10) 
  3. Malta (9.5)
  4. Ukraine (7.5)

So Helena’s the one AND number one on this occasion, closely followed by Isabella *screams patriotically*. This was a pretty high-scoring round though, so on the miniscule chance that Anastasiya is reading this, she shouldn’t feel bad. That score won’t put her at the bottom of the overall ranking still to come. DRAMA!!

Is Belarus your favourite of today’s four tracks, or is Malta more your cup of tea? Perhaps Australia or Ukraine have served up your preferred kind of pop. Take your pick!

 

NEXT TIME There’s one final round of reviews for me to get through – so who’s left? Armenia, Ireland, Russia and Serbia, that’s who. Keep an eye out for that post to find out who gets douze points from me.

 

Until then,

 

 

 

SHINE BRIGHT! Jaz’s JESC 2017 Reviews, Round 2 (Albania, Italy, Macedonia + Portugal)

Hi there, and welcome to the second episode of my Junior Eurovision reviews for 2017! A few days ago, Round 1 saw Cyprus, Georgia, The Netherlands and Poland get COMPLETELY CRUCIFIED by yours truly (JK, I was actually very nice). With the Tbilisi contest creeping closer and closer, there’s no time to waste – so I’m back with Round 2 today feat. Albania, Italy, Macedonia and Portugal. If you want to be a tree-hugging, choice-making Youtuber who dances through life (and let’s face it, who doesn’t), this post is perfect for you.

Keep reading if you want to know what I think of Ana Kodra’s Don’t Touch My Tree, Maria Iside Fiore’s Scelgo, Mina Blažev’s Dancing Through Life and Mariana Venâncio’s Youtuber. If you don’t, then I have to wonder why you’re here in the first place.

Cue reviews in 3, 2, 1…

 

 

Watch it here

Last year…Albania sent a belter of a ballad called Besoj to Malta – but as adorably shouty as Klesta Qehaja was, she couldn’t sing her way higher than 13th.

The 2017 verdict Some people love it, some people hate it…the slightly weird music Albania often sends to ESC and JESC, that is. Music that isn’t particularly ethnic but is somehow stamped PROPERTY OF ALBANIA – think One Night’s Anger by Hersi. Unusual melodies and a mighty fine atmosphere (which mostly disappears if the lyrics are switched to English) are the key ingredients, and miniscule vocalist with surprising grunt in her vocal Ana Kodra (potentially Albania’s version of Anastasiya Petryk) has a song packed with both. It’s a message song too – presumably about the environment and human mistreatment of it, but to be honest it comes off as Ana being totes possessive about a tree that she legally has no personal claim to whatsoever (it’s not ‘Please be careful around this particular tree ‘cause I like it a lot’, it’s ‘DON’T TOUCH MY TREE IF YOU WANT TO SEE 2018!!!’). Yeah, the aggression is a little off-putting – as are the English lyrics which are possibly the worst and most awkward in the entire contest this year. However…I quite like this anyway. Who else is in the minority with me? *fist bumps all three of you*. As with most Albanian Eurovision-related songs, I can’t really put into words why I like it, but I just do. The melody of the verses is as distinctive as the melody of the chorus, and there’s a tribal feel to the beat and the music that I’m always drawn to (JESC examples = Moldova 2013, and funnily enough, Albania 2015). Ana herself needs to be more in control of her live vocal and be more commanding on stage, especially if she’s stuck out there by herself as per Albanian Junior tradition – that would be a big improvement on the overall effect of Don’t Touch My Tree. But regardless of the negatives and the fact that I know this is going nowhere in the comp, I’m a fan. Call me crazy if you want – it’s probably true because I talk to myself constantly.

Song score 8

Artist score 6

Final score 7

 

 

 
Watch it here

Last year…Unexpectedly, Fiamma Boccia’s Cara Mamma charmed itself into 3rd place. Bravo!

The 2017 verdict Here’s a brief history of my reactions to Italian JESC entries, because one of them is the same as the reaction I’m having to Maria’s Scelgo. 2014 (Vincenzo Cantiello’s Tu Primo Grande Amore) – fell head-over-heels instantly and may have cried when it won; 2015 (Chiara & Martina’s Viva) – never made it out of ‘this is meh’ territory; 2016 (Fiamma’s Cara Mamma) – didn’t think much of it at first but began to hear the appeal after a second or third listen. Now, in 2017, things haven’t come full circle since I’m apparently having another Fiamma moment with Maria. Ranking (then 15) entries after listening to Scelgo once, I had it last – not because I hated it, but because I liked everything else more. Then I decided I needed to give it a fair go as I’d listened to the likes of Russia 50 times and the situation was becoming a bit unfair. So I did, and all of a sudden this song seemed…better. It’s got that typically Italian way about it of sounding like there are twice as many words to be sung than actually fit into the timeframe of the track, but that’s part of the charm. The melody is interesting but not too complicated, and the chorus does have an earworm-y quality to it. I’m not 100% sold on the way they’ve mixed languages, but I love how it’s done right at the end, with the line ‘I choose not to be afraid’ finishing things off in a sweet, cohesive way. As always, this is a classy effort from Italy, but I doubt it will pull in the points to score as well as Cara Mamma (surprisingly) did last year. I just don’t think it’s going to capture juries (or voters…YASSS WE GET TO HAVE OUR SAY AGAIN!) to the same extent. And I get the feeling it could be quite messy live, but I’ll be happy to stand corrected. 

Song score 8

Artist score 8

Final score 8

 

 


Watch it here

Last year…With a brilliant song but maybe not a brilliant song for Junior Eurovision – Love Will Lead Our Way – Martija Stanojković made it to 12th place. I guess love couldn’t lead her all the way.

The 2017 verdict This is all too familiar. From JESC 2016àESC 2017àJESC 2017, Macedonia has sent a string of high-quality, current and catchy pop songs to Eurovision events – but the first two just didn’t work in a competition context. I think last year’s JESC entry was too mature for the contest, right down to the dance moves. Dance Alone suffered from a similar issue (but when you’re too adult for adult Eurovision, some serious reevaluation is required!). Now the same fate seems to be looming for Mina. Dancing Through Life (alone, Jana-style? Not alone, Aram Mp3-style? WE NEED ANSWERS!) is without a doubt – in my opinion, obvs – an epic EDM track with so many hooks crammed into it, you could hang up the coats of the Buranovskiye Babushkis AND all of their extended families. Verses? Catchy. Choruses? Catchy. Chant-along oh-oh-oh bits? CATCHY. The genre is also perfectly suited to Mina’s voice, and with the pounding pace and explosive money note, has all the energy you could want in a song without the ‘hyped up on red cordial’ feel that can crop up at JESC. Sadly, overall this entry belongs more at Eurovision than where it is competing – and unless Macedonia can find a way to make the performance super young and fresh (which would probably jar with the song) I’m worried it’s not going to perform very well on the scoreboard. Sophistication can and does succeed at Junior, but there’s a grey area where youthful stuff works and more mature stuff works. Outside of that, there are songs that are too childish and songs that are too grown-up. Russia, for example, has struck a balance between the two, but Macedonia hasn’t quite managed it. Dancing Through Life is a better prospect than LWLOW, but I will be shocked if it ends up in the top 5. Personally speaking, I love it.

Song score 10

Artist score 8

Final score 9

 

 

Watch it here

Last year…nada. 2017 will mark Portugal’s third appearance at Junior, and we last saw them compete in 2007 (when, for the record, Jorge Leiria came 16th with Só Quero É Cantar).

The 2017 verdict I can’t be the only one who was excited at the prospect of Portugal returning to JESC, after a Poland-esque hiatus. Their very first adult contest win clearly gave them the motivation to give Junior another go, and hopes were high in the Eurofam that they’d deliver something of comparative calibre to Amar Pelos Dois. What we got instead was a kids’ edition of The Social Network Song (if I even need to say ‘kids’ edition’). This time, Youtuber will go all the way with its title intact, which is as sketchy as the EBU allowing Dami Im to sing ‘FaceTime’ when we all know they meant the Apple kind. Potential double standards aside, I have a hard time believing that this song was not composed by Ralph Siegel – that’s how cheesy and passé it is in 2017. However, it was extra cheesy and passé when we heard the demo version performed (if I remember rightly) by the actual adult composer. Mariana, as a child, makes it more palatable and even slightly enjoyable. But the cringe-factor of the “funky” tune and barely-more-than-a-single-word chorus remains. The poor girl can only do so much to salvage the situation. It’s even more of a shame because her voice is strong and she has great control over it. If she can project some more confidence and sell Youtuber to the best of her ability in Tbilisi, she might avoid last place (she’s very precious and I don’t want her to end up there). Ultimately, though I don’t hate this with a passion and acknowledge that it has one or two decent moments, I have to call a spade a spade – this is one of the weakest entries of the year, and it will struggle. I just hope a bad result doesn’t put Portugal off trying again in 2018, because they are capable of great things. Learn from your mistakes, guys!

Song score 6

Artist score 7

Final score 6.5

 

 

Eight down, eight to go – someone high-five me, quick! I feel like I’ve been pretty generous so far with my critiques and scores (maybe it’s my inner Father Christmas). Then again, this is Round 2 of 4 and there are plenty more opportunities for me to be unnecessarily cruel to children. Yay!

Here’s the ranking for this round:

  1. Macedonia (9)
  2. Italy (8)
  3. Albania (7)
  4. Portugal (6.5)

Macedonia takes this one out, with Italy not far behind. Will that be at all reflected in reality next weekend? Considering the tendency of my favourites to drop just out of winning range, probably not.

Speaking of favourites, it’s time for you to choose yours:

 

And don’t forget to leave your own mini-ranking in the comments. Let’s see if we agree on anything or if you’re wrong 😉

 

NEXT TIME Keep your eyes peeled for Round 3 of the JESC 2017 reviews, feat. Australia (I’ll try to keep a lid on my bubbling bias), Belarus, Malta and Ukraine. Who’s done wonders and who’s disappointed? You’ll see my perspective very soon!

 

Until then, much love love and a whole lotta peace peace…

 

 

 

SHINE BRIGHT! Jaz’s JESC 2017 Reviews, Round 1 (Cyprus, Georgia, The Netherlands + Poland)

Gamarjoba, Eurofans who do double duty as Junior Eurofans (if you don’t, then this is your warning to back away from this blog for a while). I’m 72% sure I just greeted you guys in Georgian, which is my way of getting into the spirit of Tbilisi’s first Eurovision event.

There’s less than two weeks until Junior Eurovision 2017, when adorable child/vocal powerhouse Mariam Mamadashvili will hand over the title of reigning contest champ to another pint-sized singing sensation (or four, if The Netherlands wins). That means it’s beyond time for me to start reviewing all sixteen songs competing on the 26th! So let’s breeze past the fact that I haven’t posted since the end of August (my bad…my very, VERY bad) and get this party started.

I’ve pulled four countries out of the special EBJ hat I keep in my closet for such occasions, and they are Cyprus, hosts Georgia, The Netherlands, and Poland (bet you didn’t see that coming. It’s not like I stuck them in the title or anything). Keep reading for my thoughts on Nicole Nicolaou’s I Wanna Be A Star, Grigol Kipshidze’s Voice of the Heart, Fource’s Love Me and Alicja Rega’s Mój Dom. Spoiler alert: one of them just might be my favourite entry of the year.

By the way…I didn’t have time to get an EBJ Junior Jury together this year, but I still wanted to be able to average out the score for each song based on a few factors. I’ve gone simplistic by awarding a standard EBU-regulation point score (1-8, 10 or 12 points) to both the song itself (how I rate it personally) and the artist performing it (their vocal skills, personality on stage etc). The average of those two scores will be each country’s final score. As always, I’ll post a mini ranking at the end of each review round + the full ranking alongside my pre-show predictions just before the contest. Share your own mini ranking in the comments to let me know which entries are hot and which are not in your opinion (but don’t be too mean because we are talking about kids here).

Now let’s go.

  

 

Watch it here

Last year…George Michaelides’ Dance Floor finished 16th (second last). I had a lot of blues to dance away in George’s parallel universe where the world is a dance floor after that.

The 2017 verdict Cyprus has transitioned from George’s cutting-edge but unsuccessful ethnopop to oh-so-2005 – but probably more of a point magnet – ethnopop with Nicole. Her catchy (to say the chorus of I Wanna Be A Star is an earworm would be an epic understatement), super-predictable (a blindfolded 2012-edition Donny Montell would have seen that key change coming) song comes via three-time ESC act Constantinos Christoforou – and given that he seemingly represented Cyprus with the adult version of the same song back in Kyiv in 2005, THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. I guess I should stop going on about how dated IWBAS is, because that’s not a totally bad thing. After all, it means Cyprus is doing what Belarus did last year by bringing back a slice of vintage JESC for us all to feast on (although the Belarusian hoverboards would clearly have never featured in a Junior Eurovision circa 2004). I always appreciate a throwback in a contest that has grown up a lot recently, with a lot of the songs having the potential to double as ESC entries if a few lyrical changes were made. This throwback is a classic kid-spirational anthem with Cyprus stamped all over it, and the high energy + hooks = party time for three minutes. I definitely like it – while definitely not loving it – but I do wonder if Nicole has the charisma and live vocal ability to pull it off onstage. If it doesn’t look young and fun and if it doesn’t sound perfect, the result could be cringeworthy. In the end, I see I Wanna Be A Star outperforming Dance Floor, but only by a few rungs on the leaderboard ladder. I’m thinking 12th-14th, prior to making my official predictions…

Song score 7

Artist score 6

Final score 6.5

 

  

Watch it here

Last year….Mariam Mamadashvili’s Mzeo became Georgia’s third JESC winner in ten years of competing. They seriously need to start putting some effort in (#sarcasm).

The 2017 verdict Host entries – at least when they’ve become host entries via their country winning the year before, which isn’t always the case with JESC – have a lot of pressure placed on them to follow in the footsteps of a peak result…or at least not embarrass themselves by failing miserably off the back of a peak result. Whether they’re hosting or not, Georgia is always a country to keep an eye on when Eurovision’s younger sibling drops by, and they’ve proven yet again that they know how this contest works with Grigol and his Voice of the Heart. It’s a more mature song and vocalist combo than usual, and for the third time in a row the lyrics are 100% Georgian (YAASSS for having full confidence in your native language!). It’s almost like a child-friendly version of Versace On The Floor by Bruno Mars – in fact, the structure and 90s R&B sound are so similar I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it was directly inspired by that track. As such, since I’m a mahusive fan of both Bruno Mars and 90s R&B, VOTH is parked so far up my street it’s actually on someone’s front lawn. It’s not my favourite (or even second favourite) song in the 2017 comp, but I dig everything about it. Great melody, great build into some spectacular vocal runs that I hope to heck Grigol can replicate live, and an easy-listening feel that begs for atmospheric staging feat. spotlights and LED stars. In terms of measuring up to Mzeo, I don’t expect it to, but I am hoping for a decent 5th-8th finish. And when the audience inevitably claps their butts off for this host entry, I will be doing the same thing from my sofa (while simultaneously sobbing because I’m not in Tbilisi with them *sniff*).

Song score 10

Artist score 10

Final score 10

 

 

 

Watch it here

Last year…Don’t pretend you’ve forgotten about Kisses and Dancin’, or that you’ve forgotten the dance moves. I know I haven’t. As irresistible as it was, it didn’t crack the top 5 in Malta – Kisses finished 8th.

The 2017 verdict Variety is the spice of life (apparently) so the Dutch bounce from girl group to boy band is worth a fist bump. We can expect Fource to be choreographed to within an inch of their pre-pubescent lives at JESC, and if their NF performances are anything to go by their vocals will be pretty tight (unless somebody’s voice breaks at the worst possible moment) – but that’s where the similarities between Kisses and Dancin’ and Love Me come to a screeching halt. Love Me, strangely enough, isn’t as instantly loveable as last year’s song, but after a few listens I’d say it’s just as high-quality. It’s more grown-up, and something you’d hear on mainstream radio if it was entirely in English. The chorus is so simple you don’t have a choice but to belt it out along with the boys (so the English that is used has been used very well) and the instrumental breaks are made for slick, crowd-pumping choreography á la the precision kind I mentioned before. Overall, the song’s energetic, modern and strikes a good balance between youthfulness and sophistication. It’s definitely in the middle on the maturity scale, but even so it reminds me of Macedonia’s too-mature-for-JESC entry last year, Love Will Lead Our Way (I guess when your song has ‘love’ in the title, maturity makes sense). I’m only talking in terms of style, but given Macedonia’s less than impressive result in 2016, that is a worry. Is Love Me dynamic enough to be in it to win it? Not quite, but I’m not discounting these guys. The Netherlands don’t always get the points they deserve at Junior, but when they’re on point anything is possible. Fource’s is a performance I’m extra psyched to see because if it’s cohesive, as the only group act in this year’s contest they’ll stand out for the right reasons.

Song score 8

Artist score 10

Final score 9

 

 

Watch it here

Last year…Poland returned to JESC for the first time since 2004, reaching 11th place (a big leap from their losing streak of 2003/2004) with Olivia Wieczorek and Nie Zapomnij.

The 2017 verdict I wasn’t sure whether to create an air of mystery around this one or just lay all of my cards on the table right away. Eventually (after .5 of a second) I decided to go for the second option, and tell you that the suit of my cards is hearts all the way because OMG I LOVE THIS!! It is stunning. From the first time I heard that tinkly piano intro, I knew I’d found something special – the one song (because my other faves will have less trouble doing well) that I’d be supporting like a woman possessed. Like Georgia, Poland has opted to leave English out of their entry in favour of exotic, unpronounceable-to-the-untrained-speaker Polish, and it’s used in a melodically spine-tingling ballad that sounds more than a little Balkan at times (scoring major love points from me). I also must mention that masterpiece of a key change which, for a split second, makes crystal-clear vocalist Alicja sound like she’s out of tune until you realise she was just transitioning to a powerful second chorus in a way that would challenge singers twice her age. Speaking of Alicja – she may need to work on her charisma and stage presence a teensy bit, but she does emote enough to give Mój Dom the feels it needs to not look like an adult’s song being sung by a teenager. If someone can give her a shot of confidence and a Cinderella-style costume makeover before she steps on the Junior stage, Poland will have achieved perfection. Unfortunately, they aren’t a sure thing for success. I’m hoping this song will be another Tu Primo Grande Amore (or at least come close) but it could just as easily fall by the wayside, a.k.a. the low side of the scoreboard. My fingers will be crossed – once I’m done voting for it – in the hope that other people get the goosebumps I do when I hear it.

Song score 12

Artist score 8

Final score 10

 

 

And Round 1 is DONE! You’ve got to love Junior Eurovision for making the review caseload way lighter than the adult contest does (reviewing 4/16 songs makes you feel much more accomplished than reviewing 4/42 songs).

With the first four JESC 2017 entries criticised (as nicely as possible) and scored by moi, here are the current standings:

  1. Poland (10)
  2. Georgia (10)
  3. The Netherlands (9)
  4. Cyprus (6.5)

So Grigol just misses out on getting a high five from me in favour of Alicja, whose song I’ve bumped ahead because it’s a little more magical. Will Poland manage to beat Georgia, The Netherlands and Cyprus in the actual contest? Probably not…but a girl can dream.

Before we find out for sure the weekend after next, I want to find out something else from you:

 

Once you’ve voted, come on down to the comments and let me know how you’d rank the rest of this random, out-of-the-EBJ-hat bunch who are prepping to shine bright in Tbilisi. You know you want to! It’ll help pass the time between now and Round 2 feat. Albania, Italy, Macedonia and Portugal J

 

Until then…

 


 

 

SONG CONTEST SHOWDOWN | The top 10 of 2016 VS the top 10 of 2017 (+ vote for your favourites!)

I’m back…again!!! I’ve had to announce my comeback after an extended blogging break pretty often in the past, so I figured why stop now?

My excuse is the same as always: even though Eurovision is my one true love, the older you get the busier you tend to be, and the more commitments you tend to have that keep you from sitting in bed in your pajamas writing about Europop (sadly). Having said that, I will do my best to be here on EBJ as often as possible in the lead-up to Junior Eurovision, the start of the 2018 NF season, and beyond. I’m like Valentina Monetta – you can’t get rid of me permanently and I’ve only made it to the Eurovision final once.

Since my last post, a lot of stuff has happened on Planet Eurovision: JESC switched venues (!); Eurovision Asia officially became A Thing™ (!!!) and Louis Walsh admitted that he thought Ireland would float – hot air balloon pun intended – straight through to the final in Kyiv (?!?!?). Even so, today I wanted to talk about something else. More specifically, I wanted to engineer a song contest showdown in which particular pairs of ESC entries would go head-to-head until, as Ryan Dolan might say in this situation, only one survives (from each battle). I actually started a similar series ages ago but accidentally forgot to continue it. Oops.

For no reason other than I felt like it, this song battle reboot will pit the top 10 tracks of Stockholm 2016 against their 2017 counterparts – so that means Jamala VS Salvador Sobral, Sergey Lazarev VS Sunstroke Project, and (amusingly) Frans VS Robin Bengtsson (because Sweden is apparently awesome at finishing 5th). I’m going to weigh them up against each other musically, crown my personal champ and then give you guys the chance to vote for your preferred song from each pair. Make sure you read through to the end (a toilet break may be necessary at some point) to vote for the best overall top 10.

Stockholm VS Kyiv – which city’s left-side scoreboard was superior? Let’s get this showdown started and find out!

 

 

Battle #1 | 1944 by Jamala VS Amar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral

They’re both brilliant brunette vocalists who made me burst into tears with their emotional performances. I worship the phenomenal woman-power of one and want to give the other one a bone-crushing hug. But which artist had the better winning song? I’m sorry if you wave your pom-poms for Team Salvadorable, because I have to say IT’S YOU JAMALA. This is my opinion, obviously, and you’re welcome to disagree with it. But I was hypnotised by 1944 from first listen, and when it won it was my #1 entry of the year. Amar Pelos Dois took time to tug at my heartstrings, and it’s not something I’ll press play for as often as I did (and still do) with last year’s winner.

Winner 1944

 

Battle #2 | Sound of Silence by Dami Im VS Beautiful Mess by Kristian Kostov

This is more of an apple-to-apple comparison than most of the other head-to-heads on this list, which actually makes it easier to pick a winner. If I were an Australian who’d be on the Olympic podium for patriotism (if that event existed) then this battle would not be in Bulgaria’s favour. But I like to consider myself pretty objective, so – as kick-ass as Dami’s performance was, and as much as I admire the Sia-esque power pop of Sound of Silence – Kristian’s Beautiful Mess is a better song in my brain. It’s just as strong in studio as it is when you see it on stage, whereas Sound of Silence relied a lot on the pizzazz of the performance to push it into top-two territory.

Winner Beautiful Mess

 

 

#3 | You Are The Only One by Sergey Lazarev VS Hey Mamma by Sunstroke Project

There are a lot of differences between the two songs that have taken home the bronze at Eurovision in the last two years. In a way, YATOO was the Italy 2017 of 2016 – a big longstanding favourite that didn’t follow through in the end (though Sergey came closer than Francesco); while Hey Mamma was a massive surprise in terms of propelling Moldova into the top three for the first time. Personally, I loved Hey Mamma immediately and want to weep with joy every time I remember that it came third, whereas YATOO was a track I hated at first (because I thought it was a terrible ESC throwback) but came to love later. I listen to them both on repeat, but my favourite of the two has to be Hey Mamma because it’s a totally 2017 slice of Europop – with a generous dollop of Epic Sax on the side – that never even had to try  to win me over. Sergey fans, don’t be so mad…if you knew me, you wouldn’t be surprised.

Winner Hey Mamma

 

#4 | If Love Was A Crime by Poli Genova VS City Lights by Blanche

They both wore black and sang (mostly) in English, but that’s where the similarities between Poli and Blanche come to a screeching stop. I guess you could also say that both ILWAC and City Lights were examples of so-cutting-edge-you-might-need-a-BandAid pop music, but the songs have totally different vibes. For the most part, I’m more likely to lean towards an upbeat song that I can awkwardly dance to (my take on Poli’s choreography is unfortunately reminiscent of the Chicken Dance), so even though I do think City Lights is a brilliant song – and I’m so happy Blanche got over her nerves to deliver a performance worthy of the top 5 – ILWAC is too irresistible for me to…well, resist. Summer hit > melancholy electro-bop. Just.

Winner If Love Was A Crime

 

#5 | If I Were Sorry by Frans VS I Can’t Go On by Robin Bengtsson

DAMN YOU, SWEDEN, FOR FORCING ME INTO THIS DECISION BY FINISHING FIFTH TWICE IN A ROW!!! Even if this is your first visit to EBJ, you can probably sense the Swedophile status that makes comparing something Swedish to something else Swedish and deciding which one’s superior a heart-palpitating task for me. There’s never been a Eurovision song from Sweden that I haven’t at least liked (2009’s La Voix is just noise, not a song, so it doesn’t count) and my relationship with their entries from 2016 and 2017 is more than platonic. But…giving in again to my penchant for a danceable piece of pop, I’m declaring I Can’t Go On the winner by one of Robin Bengtsson’s perfectly-groomed chin hairs. That’s because the second I hear it start, I perk up and prepare to sing loudly over the top of him, and If I Were Sorry doesn’t have that power (sorry!).

Winner I Can’t Go On

 

#6 | J’ai Cherché by Amir VS Occidentali’s Karma by Francesco Gabbani

Now THIS might be a controversial battle – either because you guys will be split down the middle, or because it’s actually an easy one for me but that might have some people plotting my death. I like Occidentali’s Karma a lot, and always have (‘always’ = since February when we first heard it), even if I suspected for the longest time that Eurovision 2018 wouldn’t be popping up in Italy. It’s fun, it’s catchy, it makes astute observations AND it has its own dance á la the Macarena…what’s not to like? Nothing. But you know what? I like it rivers, and I love J’ai Cherché oceans. Amir is just adorable (it’s not his fault that his name doesn’t illustrate just how precious he is, unless it’s not too late for ‘Amir-acle’ to catch on) and J’ai Cherché is a masterclass in sunny, uplifting – but not cheesy – folk-pop. It’s one of the few songs you can clap to without feeling like an overly-enthusiastic dad at his kid’s soccer game. C’est magnifique.

Winner J’ai Cherché

 

#7 | LoveWave by Iveta Mukuchyan VS Yodel It! by Ilinca & Alex Florea

This fistfight is a no-brainer for me to call champion on, so I won’t keep you in suspense. Simply put, LoveWave has aged better over the past year-and-a-bit than Yodel It! has in a matter of months – for me, anyway. I have to be in the right mood to listen to Alex and Ilinca doing their yodel-rap duties these days, and if I have even a hint of a headache, forget it. Iveta, while not one of my favourites from last year’s contest, left a more sophisticated and less irritating legacy behind (and she really put the ‘leg’ into legacy).

Winner LoveWave

 

#8 | Color of Your Life by Michał Szpak VS Origo by Joci Pápai

For those of you who’ve forgotten about the epic scoreboard leap Poland made in Stockholm, here’s your reminder (I don’t have room to insert the GIF, so just pretend I did). I don’t begrudge Michał his awesome last-minute result, but in this battle he was bound to lose. Even if he’d turned up at my front door with pleading eyes and a million-dollar bribe (which shockingly, he didn’t), the love I have for Origo would have seen me slam the door in his face – while being careful not to maim any of his majestic man-hairs, of course. Joci Pápai’s ethno-dance dream was and still is my douze pointer of Kyiv’s 42, so nothing short of my all-time favourite ESC entry (Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović, FYI) would have a shot at changing my allegiance.

Winner Origo  

 

#9 | I’ve Been Waiting For This Night by Donny Montell VS Don’t Come Easy by Isaiah

Donny definitely wins the showdown when it comes to song title length, but does victory come easier to Isaiah (HA HA) in terms of song quality? And another question: will I be deported if I say no? Let’s find out. I don’t think many Eurofans would argue that Donny himself and his second Eurovision song have more of an x-factor than Isaiah and his song – ironic given that Isaiah won The X Factor. It’s probably down to Donny’s more extensive stage experience and showier personality, plus an entry that just happens to be more exciting and have more mass appeal. That appeal does extend to me, although I am fond of Don’t Come Easy. But *packs suitcase* I just *heads to port from which I’ll be shipped off to a faraway land for being un-Australian* prefer Donny’s package. No dirty thoughts, please…you know what I mean.

Winner I’ve Been Waiting For This Night  

 

#10 | What’s The Pressure by Laura Tesoro VS Grab The Moment by JOWST

Squeezing into the top 10 in 2016 and 2017 were two great tracks from Belgium and Norway. For the former, it was their second consecutive year on the left side of the scoreboard, while the latter country was clawing their way back up after a DNQ on Swedish soil. But who did 10th place better? I’m pretty torn, to be honest. Laura’s grand final opener put the fun into funk and proved yet again that saxophones are as effective at Eurovision as they are in George Michael’s Careless Whisper (a.k.a. VERY). JOWST, on the other hand, brought something uniquely 2017 to the contest stage with lyrics that I previously crowned my faves of the year. As much as I want to be loyal to Laura, I think I have to go with Grab The Moment because it’s a little cleverer and a lot more original.

Winner Grab The Moment

 

 

Okay…we’ve finally made it through the entire top 10 of both Stockholm ‘16 and Kyiv ’17. Now the main part of the show(down) is over, in true ESC style it’s time for some overall results.

2016 = 5

2017 = 5

DAMMIT. It’s a tie – practically Eurovision 1969 all over again (but on a much, much smaller scale and minus booms + bang-a-bangs). I am going to break this tie though, looking at the entire top 10 of each year and deciding which one was stronger – for me. BRB.

*several hours later*

Okay, I’ve got it. The winner is…

 

 

Maybe I’m a bit biased since I was there (#subtlebrag) but I do think the overall kick-assery of the 2016 top 10 is slightly more forceful – there was practically a residual shoeprint – than the 2017 top 10. Do you agree? If you voted in the polls above, then I’m guessing you won’t mind voting in this one to let me know.

 

You can give me the lowdown on all the super-important choices you made above in the comments. Not gonna lie, I kind of want someone to start a fight with me over “the clear superiority of Sergey in comparison to Sunstroke Project Vol. II”. Just remember, if we all liked the exact same songs to the exact same degree, Eurovision would be extremely predictable and pretty boring.

But obviously, I’d still be obsessed with it.

 

 

 

LAST FIVE TOP FIVE | Portugal (A Luta É Alegria to Amar Pelos Dois)

Well, it’s official: we’re heading to Lisbon, Portugal’s perennially beautiful capital city, for Eurovision 2018!

When I say ‘we’, I don’t necessarily mean ‘you and me’ – I have no idea whether you’re going or not (let me know below!), and my plans for the upcoming contest are up in the air somewhere running around with Nathan Trent. But as Eurovision fans/freaks, we collectively discovered via Tuesday’s RTP press conference that next year’s contest will be held in the MEO Arena, in Lisbon, on May 8th, 10th and 12th.

A massive shocker? Not so much. But even non-surprising news is good news, for those of us who despair during the off-season and need something Eurovisual to be developing as often as possible to feel complete. Of course, there has to be some filler between the end of one contest and the start of another…and that’s where I come in. I’m full of it (filler, that is) this post-contest, pre-NF period, which brings me to today’s post: the start of a brand new series here on EBJ that I hope *crosses fingers, touches wood and prays to the Lordi simultaneously* you guys will enjoy.

For however long I feel like it, every now and then, I’ll be choosing a country currently competing in the ESC and taking a look back at their last five entries (whether they’ve skipped years or not). After reviewing and scoring each song, I’ll finish off by rating them from worst to best on an ultra-professional scale ranging from ‘Don’t play that song again!’ to ‘That sounds good to me!’ (thanks for entering the comp with really appropriate song titles, Nicki French and Josh Dubovie…though the irony of using the name of a dreadful song to highlight great ones has not escaped me). You’ll be able to vote for your favourite of each country’s last five entries too, and share your own ranking. Got it? Awesome.

I couldn’t think of a better or more relevant way to start this Last Five Top Five series than by checking out the Eurovision evolution of reigning champs/hosts-to-be Portugal. They’ve definitely had more misses than hits of late – but which songs are which as far as I’m concerned? Keep reading to find out…and have your personal top five prepared!

 

 

The Stats

  • Last five participations 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017
  • Last five results 18th (DNQ), 13th (DNQ), 11th (DNQ), 14th (DNQ), 1st
  • Qualification record 1/5
  • Winners 1
  • Top ten places 1
  • Last places 0

 

The Entries

2011 | A Luta É Alegria by Homens Da Luta

I have a fair bit of respect for this song. My reasons for that are threefold: it’s multidimensional, blending traditional Portuguese sounds with folk elements for a unique finished product; it was performed totally in Portuguese, which is always welcome at Eurovision (that goes for any language other than English in this day and age, though I do draw the line at Klingon); and it’s a message song with enough quirk to make it dairy-free (i.e. it’s not cheesy). Having said all of the above, it wasn’t a highlight of the 2011 contest for me, and while it’s certainly not a big blot on Portugal’s participant history, I don’t think it’s a highlight for them either.

My score 6 points

 

2012 | Vida Minha by Filipa Sousa

Portugal went…well, full Portugal back in Baku, with Filipa’s fado number that came pretty close to qualifying (it finished 13th in its semi final). I’ll admit that I have to be in the right mood to really enjoy this genre, but even so, I find this entry utterly average. It’s not quite as dramatic as it needs to be, and the chorus is lacking in the essential catchy quality that you need to succeed. Once again I applaud Portugal for having sent something so true to their musical roots as a country – but like Filipa’s eventual result, Vida Minha is okay, but not great. In MY opinion, obviously.

My score 5 points 

 

2014 | Quero Ser Tua by Suzy

Ethnopop? Now here’s a genre I tend to fall in love with at the drop of a hat (or the beat of a tribal drum) – especially when its flag is flown by someone as effervescent and enthusiastic as Suzy. Quero Ser Tua isn’t ideal for the lactose intolerant among us (meaning there is a hint of cheesiness present) and by 2014 standards, it was a little dated. But I love the fact that it managed to successfully fuse the oh-so-Portuguese sounds that we’re accustomed to with an energetic tempo and dance vibe so irresistible, it probably had Jon Ola Sand tapping his foot under the Official and Very Important EBU Executive Supervisor’s Table.

My score 8 points 

 

2015 | Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa by Leonor Andrade

This is definitely the least stereotypically-Portuguese entry we’ve seen at Eurovision in the last five years that Portugal has competed. That’s not why I like it, but I do like it a lot. Sure, it’s not the most exciting song on the planet given that everything about it is middling – the tempo, the level of dynamism, the staging…everything, bar Leonor’s dominatrix costume which she may or may not have worn to a bunch of questionable parties since. But the melody is really nice, the chorus is sweet, and the Portuguese adds interest to what would be a bog-standard radio track in English.

My score 10 points 

 

2017 | Amar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral

Finally, we come to the only truly successful song Portugal have sent to the ESC in recent times – and their most successful song ever. I understand that a lot of fans may not love this, but at the same time I feel compelled to scream ‘HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THIS?’. It’s as spellbinding as the entire Harry Potter series, and Salvador is…well, his name doesn’t help make the perfect portmanteau that is ‘Salvadorable’ for nothing. No, Amar Pelos Dois wasn’t my favourite entry of the year, but when something makes you weep in the short space of three minutes (and not because it’s so bad that you can’t contain your sorrow) it’s seriously special.

My score 10 points

 

 

Now I’ve revealed my chronological verdicts on Portugal’s last five ESC entries, I’ll let you in on the not-so-secret secret (since I’ve already allocated my scores) of how they rate on my official Last Five Top Five scale – from ‘Don’t play that song again!’ to ‘That sounds good to me!’ (the super-scientific ends of the spectrum as explained in the intro to this post).

 

 

So it’s parabéns yet again to Salvador Sobral, whose winning song of 2017 stands head and shoulders above anything Portugal have sent to Eurovision in the past – and definitely since 2011. Would you agree with that, or do you prefer the tracks from Homens Da Luta, Filipa Sousa, Suzy or Leonor Andrade? Make your decision and see how it measures up to everyone else’s.

 

 

It’ll be interesting to see what Portugal pulls out of their hat in 2018 as their select their very first host entry. Here’s hoping they can follow Bulgaria’s lead and keep riding their (very) recent wave of victory-dance-worthy results. Who knows – maybe this time next year, Amar Pelos Dois will be second on my LFTF scale.

Speaking of which, share your worst-best Portuguese ranking for 2011-2017 in the comments, and we’ll see if we agree on anything. Just a warning for anyone who might rate the five songs in exactly the same way as I did: THIS WILL BE MY FACE.

 

 

 

 

AWESOME ESC ALMOSTS | My top 10 songs of the 2017 selection season

Just because national final season ended back in March doesn’t mean we should forget about it, right? After all, every year brings with it a fresh batch of boss music for us fans to add to our respective playlists, and the happy-dances danced as a result of that can last forever. AND this is all before Eurovision itself even begins! I think I speak for all of us when I say – as a totally unknown band called ABBA once said – thank you for the music, NF season.

There’s no better way to top off a thanks than with a top 10, in my opinion – so here we are. It might seem like I’m just crazy late in posting this countdown, but now is a good time to pay tribute to the 2017 selection season: firstly, because it’s Thursday and I’m a big supporter of #ThrowbackThursday (check my Instagram if you don’t believe me); and secondly, because it’s not long until the results of this year’s OGAE Second Chance Contest are revealed. It turns out that half of my favourite tracks from the recent run of national finals were chosen to compete in the SCC, so I guess I’m not as alternative as I thought. Damn.

The lone rule for this list? I only allowed myself to pick one song from any particular country – so you’re not about to see Melfest song after Melfest song. Keep reading to find out which Eurovision could-have-beens I fell in love with this season, and how I think they would have fared in Kyiv compared to the songs that actually ended up there. And don’t forget to share your personal favourite songs in the comments!

 

 

#10 | Two Faces by Michéle (Switzerland)

NF result 3rd, Die Entscheidungsshow

Is it better than Apollo? No, but…apples and oranges.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Definitely not, though I like to think it would have been staged better than Apollo.

I’m sorry to have to say this, but I know I’m not the only one who’s come to expect a certain level of sub-standardness when reviewing the Swiss national finalists each year. 2017 was an exception in that the final bunch of songs – bar one – were actually more than mediocre. My favourite, Apollo aside, was pocket rocket Michéle’s Two Faces, which took me by surprise given how mod-pop it is. It’s not a perfect production, and my inner jury’s still out on whether the ‘sugar and salt’ analogy is good or awkward…but damn, this is catchy. And even though it does sound radio-friendly, I’ve never heard anything quite like it before.

 

#9 | Helppo Elämä by Lauri Yrhjola (Finland)

NF result 8th, Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu

Is it better than Blackbird? No, but again it’s hard to compare the two.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Probably not.

If this song was sung in English (or Swedish), it would have been right at home in the Melodifestivalen line-up. That’s a big compliment from me meaning it’s a) slickly produced pop, b) minty-fresh radio material, and c) gets stuck in your head like it’s made of super glue. The fact that it’s in Finnish, though, further set it apart in the UMK field, and adds to the aloof kind of cool it projects. The fusion of country twang and electro sounds is very Avicii, and gives it an automatic x-factor. For me, it was the NF character that speaks its own language (literally) and has little hope of winning, but will inevitably end up on my selection season playlist. There’s at least one of those in every national final.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#8 | I Wish I Loved You More by Holly Brewer (United Kingdom)

NF result Unknown, Eurovision: You Decide

Is it better than Never Give Up On You? No, but it’s less of an identity-crisis song.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope.

You guys know mama loves her female power ballads (when they’re good ones…I am fairly discerning). Why do you think I was such an enthusiastic member of Team Denmark this year? Speaking of blonde powerhouse vocalists, here’s Holly Brewer, who sang the shiz out of the sensational PB that is I Wish I Loved You More. I can admit that this sort of song had its heyday circa 2007, but the genre never stopped floating my boat. I love that IWILYM promises to become something dynamic and explosive, and then delivers – first with big + bold choruses, then with that money note that you KNOW is coming, but it still packs a punch when it arrives. It’s a knockout (and so is Holly, on whom I have a raging girl crush).

 

#7 | Heart of Gold by BQL

NF result 2nd, EMA

Is it better than On My Way ? HELL YEAH!

Would it have done better in Kyiv? HELL YEAH!

BQL (made up of two musos who are apparently blood brothers…who’d have guessed?) broke hearts throughout the Euroverse when they failed to get Slovenia’s golden ticket in 2017 – Slovenia’s fault, obvs. Okay, so their live performance was a little rough around the edges, while Omar Naber’s was flawless (it was another Margaret/Michał Szpak situation). And Heart of Gold itself is a bit all-over-the-place as a song, needing a restructure and a revamp. But like everything created by Maraaya, it has SO much going for it. Simple but effective lyrics, and not one, but about five epic melodies, for example. If it had won EMA and undergone a pre-ESC facelift, wonderful things might have happened to a country that has now chosen two questionable entries in a row.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#6 | One by Ida Una (Denmark)

NF result 2nd, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix

Is it better than Where I Am? Not according to moi.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? I have to say yes (but I don’t want to).

Here’s a prime example of the safe, sugary pop songs that dominate DMGP – and this one is actually about love and peace (I don’t know if Måns and Petra would approve or be appalled). I’m not normally a supporter of either cookie-cutter music or lame lyrics, but I have totally dug the vibe of Ida Una’s One since day one. The lyrics are the main drawback, because everything else is very Scandi-2017…and how about the insane singalong-ability of the chorus? It turns one word into ten syllables, making it a surefire hook without it being too simplistic. I was pretty convinced this track was going to Kyiv because it’s right up Denmark’s street, and I wouldn’t have minded that result since the song is right up my street too.

 

#5 | Places by Ulrikke (Norway)

NF result 4th, Melodi Grand Prix

Is it better than Grab The Moment? No, but it’s a close call.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? I think it would have finished just outside the top 10, so no.

I wouldn’t willingly swap Grab The Moment – one of my true ESC 2017 loves – for anything. But if I had to for some random reason, I’d have sent Ulrikke’s Places to Ukraine in a heartbeat. That’d be on the condition that Norway totally rethought the MGP staging of the song, which wasn’t nearly ‘tropical beach party WOOHOO’ enough. Places itself, though, is a JAM – a summer jam that I’m being forced to play in winter as I imagine being by the ocean. My buzzwords for this countdown have been ‘current’ and ‘catchy’, and I have to use them again to describe this because it has bucketloads of both. More so than Dansk MGP and Melodifestivalen, Norsk MGP tends to deliver on pop with a bit of edge, and pop that’s very now – not squeaky-clean, sugary or safe. Places is an excellent example of that, I reckon.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#4 | Hold On by Nano (Sweden)

NF result 2nd, Melodifestivalen

Is it better than I Can’t Go On? In some ways, yes. In others, no.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope – I think it would have done the same thing.

As you may or may not know (have I mentioned it often enough? I’m not sure…) I was in the audience for the Melfest final this year – and holy Herreys, it was amazing! I didn’t quite get the happy ending I was hoping for, however, as someone supporting Nano rather than Robin. Don’t get me wrong (Bengtsson lyrical pun intended), Sweden NEVER puts a foot wrong at Eurovision IMO (2009 excepted). But Hold On gets to me in a goosebumpy way that the perfectly-polished I Can’t Go On never did. Maybe it’s because it seems more authentic, or because it’s more dynamic and powerful. Or maybe it’s just a cracking song that appeals a teensy bit more to my tastes. Whatever the case, I can’t help being disappointed that Nano was Sweden’s choice to go to Eurovision, but got pipped at the post anyway.

 

#3 | I Love You by Tayanna (Ukraine)

NF result 2nd, Vidbir

Is it better than Time? Absolutely.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? For sure, providing Tayanna’s throat was in full functioning order at the time.

There were a handful of massively missed opportunities during the 2017 selection season, and sadly, host country Ukraine was responsible for one of them. I can understand how it happened, though. The Ukrainian final was super strong, with Tayanna, Mélovin and Rozhden being my personal standouts – but Tayanna’s incredible power ballad (here I go again with the PB love) was the cream of the crop…prior to that final. Tragically, her vocal ability was compromised by some sort of illness when she needed it most, leading to a performance full of cringe-worthy moments. That’s not the performance above – I had to choose the video of Tayanna at her best since it helps me to daydream about how I Love You would have been one of the best and most wildly-applauded host entries of recent times. Oh, and how it would have given Ukraine a respectable result without forcing another fork-out of contest hosting funds.

 

#2 | Ouch! By LeKlein (Spain)

NF result 3rd, Objetivo Eurovisión

Is it better than Do It For Your Lover? Well, yeah. I’d say ‘What isn’t?’ but that would be unnecessarily cruel to Manel and also not technically true.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? You bet your butt it would have!

EPIC ERROR ALERT NO. 3!!! Call this a controversial call, but if Spain made any mistake at their NF this year (which they did, though when I say ‘Spain’ I mean the Objetivo judging panel) it wasn’t picking Manel over Mirela. It was leaving LeKlein in 3rd, which definitely made me say Ouch! She might not have been everybody’s cup of sangria, but I’m convinced Ouch! was the best option for Spain in 2017, and would have secured them a spot on the left side of the scoreboard (I can say that with authority because there’s no way of proving me wrong). This song is an anthem of rock-electro-pop proportions, with a sense of fun and a simple hook that would have been memorable in the Eurovision final for sure. Unless, that is, I’m the minority and everyone else would have seen an aggressive androgynous woman yelling at them down the camera for three minutes #possible.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#1 | Deák by Spoon 21 (Hungary)

NF result DNQ (semi-final), A Dal

Is it better than Origo? It’s equally epic.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? No.

Funnily enough, I’m glad this song – my favourite find from the 2017 season – didn’t end up at the ESC. Spoon 21’s live performance just wasn’t up to scratch, and that was all to do with vocals. Hungary still would have sent my number one entry of the year if they’d sent Deák instead of Origo, but you’ll never catch me disputing Joci Pápai’s place in the contest. Still, as a song for listening to (ten times a day) Deák is superb. It’s the most K-pop sounding NF song I’ve ever heard, and I love it for that. It’s unique, infectious and gets a zillion cool points just by being in Hungarian. And speaking of cool points, I feel like a cooler person just listening to it – it’s a little bit hipster but mainstream enough to have mass appeal. All in all, it’s a kickass track that proves Spoon 21 – who entered A Dal 2015 with something completely different – isn’t a one-trick pony boy band.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

 

So, how did I do? Do you think any of these songs would have made better Eurovision entries than what we actually got? Which musical masterpieces from A Dal to Vidbir and every NF in-between got you excited this year? If you have something (nice) to say, say it in the comments box below J

I’d better go now – it’s time for daily listen no. 10 of Déak, and I can’t keep Spoon 21 waiting.

 

 

 

 

HE’S GOT THE LOOK(S) | 13 times Koit Toome’s ESC 2016 facial expressions spoke to your soul

Well, this might be the most ridiculous post I’ve ever published (apart from this one). Clearly, nine years (!!!) of blogging have not transformed me into a generator of sophisticated content. But having fun is better than being sophisticated, unless you’re meeting the Queen (I am referring to Conchita Wurst of course, though the same applies to the one who’s pretty well-known in Commonwealth countries).

The general gist is that Koit Toome was a gift to us all at Eurovision 2016, at least from the neck up. When performing Verona with Laura by his side – albeit about ten metres away most of the time – he brought constant drama (drama that used to be romance, obviously) via his pliable face, and it proved he hasn’t overdone it with the Botox despite somehow looking as fresh-faced as he did at Eurovision 1998.

Even though Koit’s OTT soap-opera-style expressions didn’t help Estonia to qualify in Kyiv, he and Laura’s performance wouldn’t have been the same without them, and I think that deserves acknowledgement. I also think they (unintentionally) managed to convey a lot of the feels we everyday people have experienced at one time or another, making Mr. Toome everybody’s personal spirit animal (but not affiliated with the song that lost to Verona in Eesti Laul 2017). You want proof? Don’t worry, I’ve got it!

 

When you’ve done something bad and you’re not sure whether your parents are about to find out about it or not

 

When you read through an exam paper and literally nothing makes any sense

 

When another one of your friends gets engaged/promoted/announces their pregnancy/buys a house, and you have to pretend to be happy for them even though your biggest life achievement to date is eating two pizzas in one sitting

 

When someone you’re talking to says something really stupid, and you can’t figure out if they were being sarcastic or they’re actually THAT stupid

 

When you overhear an epic piece of trash talk about someone you hate

 

When you’ve been stalking someone on Instagram and accidentally liked one of their ancient photos, and you’re currently weighing up the pros and cons of entering the Witness Protection Program

 

When you see a dog in the street but circumstances will not allow you to go over and declare undying love for it (or even just pat it)

 

When it dawns on you that there’s a 99% chance you left the iron on this morning, and that you may arrive home to a smouldering pile of what used to be your house

 

When your boss publicly bitches out your really annoying coworker

 

When you’ve just had a group discussion and contributed a great idea, only to have someone else swoop in and take the credit for it

 

When you realise you have to make an appointment over the phone, and no one else is going to do it for you because you’re (supposedly) a grown-ass adult

 

When someone claims something is true with an arrogant air of authority, but you know better and you’re about to prove it

 

And, of course, when someone claims to love Eurovision but can only come up with Waterloo or Euphoria when you ask what their all-time favourite entry is

 

 

Which Koit face is your favourite? Can you believe I just asked such a ridiculous question? Do you think Estonia might have made it through to the final if he’d stayed a little more serious? If you’re as fascinated by this topic as I am and you’ve got something to say about it, say it in the comments (or on social media accompanied by #koitface…that hashtag could totally catch on if it didn’t back in May).

 

Until next time, when I’ll probably post something that restores your faith in me as a mature Eurovision professional…

 


 

 

The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 3 (The Show + The Results)

Well…I was all set to start this post with a ‘Hey, at least I managed to finish these awards before the 2017 contest came out on DVD!’ (like that would have been an achievement anyway). But MY BAD, missed the boat on that one. So instead, I’ll open with a ‘Hey, at least I managed to finish these awards before my 2017 DVD arrived in the mail!’. True fact.

The reason for my lateness is the same as always: life, its craziness, and the annoying need to prioritise ‘other stuff’ over Eurovision stuff. It sucks, doesn’t it? But I figure that if you love the ESC as much as I do (unconditionally, and with a burning desire not unlike the one Kasia Mós mentions in Flashlight) then you won’t care which contest I’m discussing and when. A.k.a. you won’t mind that I’m still talking about the 2017 show like it happened two weeks ago.

On that note, here’s the last lot of EBJEE trophies for the year feat. the awards for The Show and The Results! You’ll find all of the remaining People’s Choice Awards below too, so if you can remember who/what you voted for (the polls were open back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, after all), then you’ll now be able to see if your picks came out on top.

Enjoy, and let me know who your show/results statuettes would go to in the comments…

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Oleksandr Skichko, Timur Miroshnychenko Winner Volodymyr Ostapchuk

I have to agree with you guys on this one. In a strange turn of events, I personally thought that Timur – who’s co-hosted Junior Eurovision twice – was the weakest host (or at least the most wooden. If you’d touched him on any of the three show nights you’d have gotten a splinter). Oleks was an improvement, but Vova’s role as the class clown (and, I can’t deny, his Disney prince-level good looks) gave him extra appeal.

 

Honourable Mention/s Oleks + Vova’s Eurovision medley (SF2), Jamala – ‘Zamanyly’ (SF1) Winner ONUKA megamix (the final)

I’m a little surprised that ONUKA was the overwhelming winner of this award, but that’s probably my Jamala superfan status skewing my perspective (I would willingly watch her gargle the alphabet). It was no Love Love Peace Peace, but the megamix was another example of Ukraine putting all their best musical feet forward when they had the chance.

 

Honourable Mention/s Jana Burčeska reveals she’s pregnant…then gets proposed to! Winner The Ukrainian butt-flasher takes the shine off Jamala’s new single

Unlike in 2010, when Jimmy Jump crashed Spain’s performance and fooled us all into thinking it was supposed to happen for a good ten seconds, we all knew something was up when one of Ukraine’s own (draped in an Australian flag, which had all of us Aussies dying of embarrassment for a while) put the ass into the class of Jamala’s satellite stage serenade. It was the most iconic OMG moment of the 2017 contest by far.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s The Netherlands Winner Italy

Am I the only person disappointed in the postcards this year? They were both boring and a little bit all-over-the-place. Still, like shopping in a secondhand store, if you take the time to sift through all the crap you will find a few gems. The revelation that Amy Vol is a shoplifter (well, she would be if she didn’t have two sisters stopping her) nearly secured the Netherlands this trophy, but Italy’s group of Gabbanis was unbeatable. If that restaurant was real I’d be booking a table ASAP!

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Estonia Winner Finland

Now I know how Iceland’s DNQ made Greta fans feel last year. Back then, I was all ‘Whatever!’ as someone who thought Hear Them Calling was pretty mediocre. But then Blackbird came along and broke my heart with its failure to make the final. I still don’t get it, and I can imagine myself in the same situation fifty years from now (as I wave my walking stick around wildly and croak stuff like ‘Norma John were robbed!’ at randoms on the street).

 

Honourable Mention/s Croatia Winner Australia

No country’s qualification this year really, truly shocked me. But (and it physically pains me to say this) after Isaiah’s semi performance, I had serious doubts about Australia going through. I still think I was right to worry, and it gives me heart palpitations knowing that if it wasn’t for the juries, it would have been third time unlucky for us.

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria, Portugal Winner Sweden

It’s safe to say that when we’re making our semi predictions each year, the little list of countries in the ‘Definite’ category always includes Sweden. Even in 2010, the only year they didn’t qualify (which I’m still not over, BTW), they were confidently predicted to make it. In my mind there was no way in the world – this one, or any parallel universes that happen to exist – that Robin Bengtsson was going to miss out on the final. Another Anna Bergendahl he was not.

‘I DID NOT SEE THIS COMING!!!’ said no one ever.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic Winner Lithuania

On the other end of the spectrum lies Lithuania, whose mammoth NF marathon did not produce a surefire success this year. Rain of Revolution was the complete opposite – a for-sure failure that only outdid expectations by NOT finishing last in its semi. Fusedmarc’s night wasn’t the kind that Donny Montell was waiting for.

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria’s 2nd, Portugal’s 1st, Sweden’s 5th Winner Moldova’s 3rd

When it comes to Eurovision, the population of Struggletown often includes Moldova. They’ve taken the serious approach before (2007, 2013), and brought the fun (2005, 2008, 2012), but neither had ever taken them higher than 6th place – and that was back in their debut year of ’05. Enter Sunstroke Project (take two). Their performances of party anthem Hey Mamma ticked every box without being try-hard, and whenever I think about the fact that they got such a great result, I want to weep with happiness. I guess Kyiv’s a good luck charm for Moldova!

 

Honourable Mention/s Latvia’s 18th in the semi Winner Finland’s 12th in the semi

What more can I say about this without shaking salt into a blackbird-shaped wound? Finland’s 12th was undeserved because Norma John should have been higher, not lower. Hashtag heartbroken; hashtag sadface; hashtag stop using hashtags outside of social media, Jaz.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Germany’s 25th Winner Spain’s 26th

If the ‘it’ in ‘do it for your lover’ = gallantly volunteer to finish dead last in the final so nobody else has to, then Manel lived up to his song title like a champion. I personally would never launch a hate campaign against DIFYL (in certain contexts, it’s an enjoyable listen) but I knew it was headed for position 26 on the scoreboard. Aurally it’s not a competitive song, and visually it came off tacky and amateurish (not Manel’s fault). The shock value of Spain’s result was zero.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland’s DNQ, Moldova’s 3rd Winner Italy’s 6th

You guys voted, and I can’t deny that you picked a major-league shocker. All those YouTube views! All those OGAE poll points! All those months as bookies’ fave to win! All that pre-show hype! It seemed like Italy had the win signed, sealed and delivered to Francesco’s door before rehearsals even began in Kyiv. Once they did, it was either a win or a solid top 3 result on the cards…wasn’t it? Well, no, as it turned out. Italy was even squeezed out of the top 5, by the same country (Sweden) that nudged 2016 OGAE winner France into 6th last year.

 

 

 

That’s it! I have to say, it’s a relief that I finally get to roll up the EBJEE red carpet for another year and move on to some of the awesome Eurovision entertainment I have planned for you this off season. But first, I want to know what you thought of this third and final awards announcement – and as I said in the intro (scroll up for about a half hour and you’ll find it) which people and places you’d pick as your personal winners. Let’s see if we have anything in common…even if the fact that we’re all Euronerds means we’ve needed to agree to disagree from the very beginning of our fan lives.

 

Until next time,

 

 

 

The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 2 (The Performances)

It’s lucky these awards aren’t being broadcast on TV, because nobody would have hung around until the ad break dividing parts 1 and 2 was over. What can I say? Life gets busy sometimes, and since nobody as yet has offered to pay me to talk about Eurovision, other things often have to be prioritised so I can continue to have a roof over my head and eat regular meals.

Hopefully this second slice of trophy-giving will be worth the wait for those of you who enjoyed the first. Back then (last week…totally vintage times), I gave numerous back-pats to the artists and songs of Kyiv 2017. This time, the spotlight’s shining on what happened when those songs were taken to the stage by those artists. Every element of the performances – from backdrops, props and dancers to costumes and vocals – has at least one award in its honour, and the winners weren’t all decided by me. Yes, that means there are more People’s Choice results below for you to feast your ESC-admiring eyes on!

So sit back, relax and do it for your lover…’it’ being checking out my performance awards and nothing more. Get your mind out of the gutter.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Estonia Winner United Kingdom

With Lucie being a stage star and all, you’d expect her to project serious emotion via both her facial expressions and flailing limbs (i.e. arm flourishes). She did…but there were times when her inner drama switch was turned up way too high, to the point where she looked like she was in physical pain. There is a border between theatrical stage emoting and Eurovision stage emoting, and I think Lucie stayed in theatre territory when she should have crossed over to the other side. Still, I’m rewarding her here for every angtsy look and death-grip hand gesture she poured into her performance. An A for effort is all yours, Luce.

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria Winner Norway

There wasn’t half as much hi-tech trickery on the stage/screen in Kyiv as there was in Stockholm – no holograms of naked Belarusians, for instance, could be seen (you can decide if that was a great loss or not). Both Bulgaria and Norway opted for on-screen graphic overlays – the TV equivalent of the little drawings you can do on your Instagram stories – to pimp their performances. But I’m putting Norway in pole position, because they had some technical trickery going on in their audio presentation as well as their visual presentation. I still can’t wrap my head around exactly how JOWST was manipulating those ‘kill, kill, kill, kill’ bits (live sampling/bending/looping/ warping?) but at least he wasn’t just standing there pretending to DJ like we’ve seen in past contests.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland Winner Hungary

Getting emotional doesn’t always involve a box of tissues. Joci Pápai’s performance for Hungary wasn’t a sad one per se, but it was the most dynamically emotional of the year in that it featured two very different outpouring feelings. Throughout the verses and choruses of Origo, Joci portrayed the pain of forbidden love and of being a target for prejudice in a very vulnerable, mournful way – then changed gears for the rap, venting his frustration and anger over similar issues. Part of what I love about the song is the range of emotions embedded in it, as well as Joci’s talent for conveying them with authenticity.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland Winner Portugal

This was a hard one for me to narrow down, because both Blackbird and Amar Pelos Dois DID involve me fumbling for a box of tissues. But there was a delicateness to Salvador’s rendition of his song that gave me goosebumps as well as wet eyes. The lyrics, too, have the power to destroy an old romantic like myself, despite the fact (or perhaps due to the fact) that he’s professing a love big enough to sustain a two-person relationship, when I can’t even beguile a guy into buying me flowers.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland, Hungary Winner Moldova

When a massive part of your appeal revolves around a musical instrument – the sax played by Epic Sax Guy, obviously – you know you’re using it wisely. With both sax and violin providing serious fun for Moldova’s 2 x 3 minutes on stage, Hey Mamma’s live wouldn’t have been the same without them, even though we weren’t actually hearing the boys play (it matters less with instruments like these than when you’re watching someone rip into a solo on a clearly unplugged electric guitar).

 

Honourable Mention/s The UK’s mirror shell Winner Azerbaijan’s blackboard

You voters out there surprised me a little with this one, but majority rules! Dihaj’s blackboard was definitely a standout addition to 2017’s string of acts-with-props, and made Daz Sampson’s blackboard from 2006 look even tackier than it did at the time. Although I must say, his was more explicitly relevant to his song’s subject matter – between the board, the ladder and the horse-head man, Dihaj has a LOT of explaining to do.

This looks less like one of the daydreams that Dihaj is into and more like one of my nightmares.

 

Honourable Mention/s Hungary, Moldova Winner Sweden

For most of the backing singers and/or dancers who weren’t hidden from view, staying in tune and in time would have been the biggest challenges. Robin Bengtsson’s visible backup crew, however – feat. previous Melfest contestant and ESC backer-upper Alvaro Estrella – not only had to provide vocal support and smooth moves, but do both while walking on treadmills. And we thought Ukraine’s hamster wheel dude from 2014 had a tough job! The quartet pulled it off perfectly, though, and had a big hand in Sweden’s fourth consecutive top 5 finish.

 

Honourable Mention/s Cyprus Winner Sweden

Because treadmills. Too cool for school choreography coupled with an element of danger will win out every time. Handy Hint No. 362: Next time you’re at a party trying to impress someone, why not try moonwalking barefoot on a bed of nails?

 

Honourable Mention/s France, Portugal Winner United Kingdom

It was a shiny gold showstopper for the UK this year, and though that wouldn’t be my personal pick for best backdrop, I can see the attraction. The graphics were perfectly timed to the music and made the stage virtually disappear, as if Lucie were actually singing in space (not the sexy kind Slavko was referring to, but normal, otherworldly space). The numerous glitter explosions at pivotal moments of Never Give Up On You oozed Eurovision sophistication.

A Eurovision star + actual stars…what more could you want?

 

Honourable Mention/s Croatia Winner Israel

You’ll have to forgive me if I’ve forgotten a country in this category, because there were times when it seemed like every second act on stage had found a way to incorporate their giant face/body/boobs (oh, Malta) into their performance. The country that did it best, in my opinion, was Israel, because it wasn’t OTT or used just for flashiness. Super-sized Imri didn’t stay on the screens for the entire song – instead he was used to literally illustrate the ‘breaking me to pieces’ line of I Feel Alive’s chorus. The added bonus was that we all got to stare at not one, but two Imris for a fleeting yet fabulous amount of time.

 

Honourable Mention/s Romania Winner Croatia

I don’t know if I hate to say this or not, but the ESC isn’t as crazy as it used to be – maybe it’s the influence of recent winners having been pretty pared-back on stage. There weren’t many acts that threw everything they could think of at their staging in 2017, but we can’t say Croatia was one of them. To name a few of their staging elements: violinist, cellist, half-and-half costume, giant Jacques x2, LED lightning, an instrumental duel, pyro jets AND a pyro curtain, massive sunflowers and a rainbow. The pyro operator in particular must have needed a nap after that…I know I did!

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria, Sweden Winner Moldova

This award goes to the most perfectly-wrapped package of the year – the country that brought their A-game to vocals, costumes, choreography, staging, lighting and anything else you can think of. Obviously, Portugal and Bulgaria were flawless – but Sunstroke Project managed to corral more performance bits and pieces than Salvador and Kristian had to work with into a cohesive and ridiculously fun whole. And it all seemed to come so naturally.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s France Winner Italy, United Kingdom

We have a tie! I can’t say I’m surprised that Germany and Spain didn’t even come close to winning this People’s Choice prize. Nor did I see this rush of love for the UK coming, but I do get it. As over-emotional as she got at times, Lucie’s performance was vocally perfect and looked stunning on screen. And who wouldn’t get a kick out of Francesco’s three minutes? If you didn’t raise your arms and do that dance along with Gabbani + Gorilla, I have major concerns about you.

 

Honourable Mention/s Artsvik, Tamara Gachechiladze Winner O’G3NE

This is NOT an award the Netherlands would have won back in 2015, when Trijntje Oosterhuis’ black dress (*shudder*) was replaced by the reception tent for a Goth wedding (*double shudder*). But the classic little black dresses – plus one catsuit – worn by O’G3NE this year and suitably sparklified for the occasion, were gorgeous. I’m glad they didn’t go too matchy-matchy, and were able to get the girl group look even though every Vol sister wore a different style. Where do I get my own version?

FYI, these outfits will also double as appropriate attire for Verka Serduchka’s funeral one day.

 

Honourable Mention/s Joci Pápai, Sunstroke Project Winner Robin Bengtsson

One of the minor changes made to Robin’s Melfest performance for Eurovision was a suit swap – matte blue for shiny purple. You’d think I’d be too busy admiring the man IN the suit to notice such a thing, but because it was such a cool costume choice (yes, right down to the lack of socks, which somehow makes the look more crisp) I noticed.

Freaking beautiful (HAD TO).

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Martina Bárta Winner Lindita

If you read my biggest Eurovision 2017 mistakes post, you’ll already know that my eyes felt violated by the very sight of Lindita’s Vegas bride getup. If you didn’t, then you should know that my eyeballs may never fully recover from the experience of seeing her take to the stage in something so atrocious.

 

Honourable Mention/s Ksienija Žuk Winner Artsvik

I love braids, but I’ve only mastered the basic kinds – so I’d be keen to have the contact details of whoever worked their magic on Artsvik’s mane. That was art. It should be on display in the Louvre.

 

Honourable Mention/s Kasia Mós, Lindita Winner Anja Nissen

I know some of you will want to hit me with an inflatable Israeli hammer over this one, but I’m entitled to my (many, many, ESC-related) opinions! Anja just blows me away with the sheer power of her voice every time – there’s a reason she won The Voice here in Australia. Her diva vocal is always ready for action, and it’s so forceful I wouldn’t be surprised if her fire curtain was set off by the woman herself, in a Carrie-like moment of explosive kinetic energy.

 

Honourable Mention/s Jacques Houdek, Salvador Sobral Winner Kristian Kostov

Again, remember: THIS IS SUBJECTIVE. I was torn between Salvador and Kristian, aware that Salvador’s voice is more unique…but Kristian’s silky smooth, beyond-his-years vocals won my internal battle. He looks so young (and IS so young) and then he opens his mouth and it’s all maturity and polish and confidence, and I’m sold. I’m expecting big stuff from this kid.

 

Honourable Mention/s Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson Winner O’G3NE

Who else? Even if all 42 acts of 2017 had been groups, O’G3NE would have reigned supreme. Having sung together as siblings for so long, their harmonies are incomparable and absolutely perfect, always. I would happily listen to them all day long, and I’m convinced they could sing That Sounds Good To Me and make it appealing. That’s how good they are!

 

Honourable Mention/s Anja Nissen, Kasia Mós Winner Lindita

She may have worn a dress designed by the devil himself (or at least the devil’s personal seamstress), but not even that could distract from Lindita’s epic money note, one which first knocked our socks off (though not Robin Bengtsson’s, since he wasn’t wearing any) back in December 2016 when World was Botë and she won Festivali I Këngës. I have to bring back the word amazeballs just to describe it. She should become a deep sea free diver or professional balloon blower-upper with a lung capacity like that.

 

Honourable Mention/s Georgia Winner Hungary

Don’t get me wrong – Joci’s performance at A Dal was great, and a worthy winner of the NF. But I was worried Hungary would leave it be and not adapt it to fit the far bigger and grander stage of Eurovision. I also thought Joci was a little nervous and restrained back then. Fast forward to May, though, and the confidence and fire jets were out in full force. Hungary were one of only two countries to use the satellite stage too, which proved they’d really thought about how to expand on the A Dal staging. Mission accomplished!

 

 

And that concludes the second segment of the EBJEEs ceremony for 2017! Your butts must be pretty numb by now, so I’m sure that’s a relief. Still to come is the third and final part which will feature the awards for The Show: i.e. the hosts, interval acts, postcards and results. That’ll be a short one, so the only butt trouble you’ll have is if you fall asleep after reading it and then wake up with a butt on your hands (is that not the opening line of Verona?).

Between now and then, though, let me know what you thought of today’s awards. Where would your trophies go? Did the People’s Choice Awards pan out your way this time? All polite or constructively critical opinions are welcome in the comments.

 

TTYL Eurofam!

 

 

The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 1 (The Artists + The Songs)

As O.Torvald would say, it’s TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME! The trophies have been polished, the red carpet has been unrolled, and I’m ready to start giving out my Eurovision Excellence Awards to the countries, artists and songs that competed in the 2017 contest.

The ceremony will take place in three parts (since I went a little crazy with the amount of awards this year). Following on from this first installment will be The Performances, then The Show + The Results – but today, I’m acknowledging the musicians and the music that made 2017 so awesome…and in some cases, the opposite. You’ll also find out the full results of five People’s Choice Awards, with the rest to be revealed in Part 2 and Part 3. Thanks to everyone who voted in the PC polls, by the way – there were more of you than I expected, and I’m so grateful for your input. I hope you’re happy with the outcomes, but if you’re not you can’t blame me. #offthehook.

Now, without further ado, I’m going to get the first lot of EBJEE trophies off to their new owners before they get dusty. Sit back, relax and enjoy (or get outraged by) the awards for The Artists + The Songs!

 

 

THE ARTISTS

Honourable Mention/s Robin Bengtsson, Salvador Sobral Winner Imri Ziv

He may be hot in an ‘I spend longer in front of the mirror each morning than any girl I know’ kind of way – but hot is hot, right? Those eyes! That smile! Those biceps! Those abs! I won’t go any further down because a) I like to keep things mostly non-smutty around here, and b) you get where I’m going, I’m sure. It’s rumoured that Israel’s finest Imri has a thing for Anja Nissen – and who could blame him – but if she spurns you, Mr. Ziv, it’s highly likely that I’ll be available as a consolation prize.

 

Honourable Mention/s Amy Vol, Lisa Vol, Shelley Vol (O’G3NE) Winner Anja Nissen

Speaking of the stunning Anja, here she is as the winner of the Hottest She Award (imagine how attractive the kids would be if she and Imri got together!). I couldn’t really choose anyone else despite the tough competition, since I have a massive girl crush on her. She’s the ultimate blonde bombshell, drop-dead gorgeous from top to toe…except when she appeared on the Kyiv stage during rehearsals in that notorious and absolutely hideous circus/swimming costume. But NOBODY could have pulled that off (not unless they were a clown competing in the Synchronised Swimming event at the Olympics). Anyway, I’m bowing down to your beauty, Anja!

 

Honourable Mention/s Ilinca, Ksienija Žuk Winner Alma

Apparently Alma has a certain je ne sais quois (both the French and Hera Björk puns are intended) that gave her the edge over the other nominees, though not by much. This award probably isn’t what she’d like to have won recently, but the fact that so many Eurofans would be happy to call her their BFF has to be flattering.

 

Honourable Mention/s Francesco Gabbani, Kristian Kostov  Winner Nathan Trent

I have one thing to say about this result: YAAASSSSS! Well done guys, on voting an actual Mr. Nice Guy (nice guys finish last on the televote, but not overall) the winner of this year’s Mr. Congeniality EBJEE. Nathan Trent is a precious angel sent to Earth to bring pure happiness and light into all of our lives, and anyone who dares dispute that should be burnt at the stake. Or be ignored, one of the two.

 

Honourable Mention/s Kristian Kostov, Sunstroke Project Winner Jacques Houdek

I’m not sure which Jacques to give this trophy to – they might have to share custody of it like a pair of divorced parents with their only child. Regardless, this is an award well deserved by a man – yes, just the one…I’ll let the joke die now – who managed to bring both incredible talent and a LOT of laughter (hvala, Hrvatska, for the comic relief) to this year’s Eurovision. Like Conchita’s facial hair, Jacques’ two voices made him instantly memorable and almost overshadowed every other aspect of his entry. We’ll never see a duet quite like this again.

 

Honourable Mention/s Nathan Trent, Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson Winner Sunstroke Project

Picking a winner for this award was a no-brainer for me, but I did very briefly ask myself which nominee’s concert I’d be the most keen to sit through. The answer, of course, was Sunstroke Project’s – though technically, I wouldn’t be sitting through it so much as dancing my ass off through it. All three of the guys are party-starters in their own right, and look like they could happily live on stage. They’re energetic, enthusiastic and charismatic, and can get even the most stubborn butts off seats without even trying. Born to entertain? Heck yes.

 

Honourable Mention/s Blanche Winner Kristian Kostov

This was one of the smallest categories for 2017, and two of the teens ended up monopolising most of the votes – 91%, in fact. Contest runner-up Kristian beats Blanche yet again, and if that’s partly due to his more confident handling of the whole Eurovision experience – as well as his higher placing on the scoreboard – then I’d say it’s the right result. Still, anyone so fresh-faced who can get up on such a big stage and sing their fully-functioning, youthful heart out deserves a high five. Great job, kids.

 

 

THE SONGS

Honourable Mention/s Gravity, Lights and Shadows Winner Perfect Life

Now, I’m not accusing anyone of plagiarism here. Even if a song is almost identical in some way to another, it doesn’t mean it was purposely plagiarised. Still, you have to wonder about that oh-so-familiar sound layered underneath the lyrics of Levina’s Perfect Life. Everyone has heard David Guetta’s Titanium, and I find it hard to believe that anyone could come up with a beat and riff combo so similar and not think ‘Hang on…I know this from somewhere.’ TBH, it’s a shame that Perfect Life doesn’t sound even more like Titanium – i.e. that it didn’t ramp up and become an equally powerful dance banger.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Amar Pelos Dois, Beautiful Mess Winner Grab The Moment

A predicable pick? Probably not. But Grab The Moment has a set of lyrics that are interesting, full of clever rhymes (no love/above level stuff in sight) and SO neatly phrased and tightly packed. It’s wordier than I usually like my songs to be, but the rap-like delivery helps make it the modern pop masterpiece it is. Plus, there’s loads of room for lyrical interpretation, which is right up my alley as a former English major. This is my highlight: ‘Getting kinda heavy on my shoulders, try to stand straight but I’m boneless, got a pocket full of prose while I’m walking on my toes and I’m coping with a map that is roadless.’ Remind yourself of the rest here.

 

Honourable Mention/s Skeletons Winner Space

As much as I’m confused (rather than amazed) by “thorn jeans”, I can’t go past Slavko’s Space as the 2017 song with the most WTF words. It’s not that they don’t make sense, because they do. They’re just so…erotically charged. Not to mention all over the place – there’s a ton of space references, obviously, but one minute the lovers in question are Bonnie and Clyde and the next they’re possessed with superpowers. I commend the line in the chorus that connects writing a story with body language *slow clap*. But ‘Wet dreams…come into me from within’? TMI, Montenegro.

 

Honourable Mention/s Lights and Shadows Winner Amar Pelos Dois

This is a very subjective award, hence why I didn’t make it a People’s Choice. It’s for the entry that I personally didn’t rate too highly pre-contest, but grew to love between then and now. I never disliked eventual winner Amar Pelos Dois, but I didn’t love it and I definitely didn’t get the hype surrounding it (why was it second in the odds? I had no idea). For some reason, though, when I saw Salvador’s performance in the first semi final, I ‘got’ it. I was teary-eyed, my heart was warmed and I finally fell in love with the simplistic, romantic beauty of the song. Better late than never.

 

Honourable Mention/s Dance Alone, Verona Winner Occidentali’s Karma

This trophy doesn’t have to go to a song that was hyped by fans and then under-performed according to expectations, but this year it is. Occidentali’s Karma was predicted to be a runaway winner by a lot of fans in the lead-up to the show, racked up more views on YouTube than any entry preceding it, and stormed to victory in the OGAE Poll. And then, just like France did last year off the back of winning that poll, it finished 6th. As soon as I saw Francesco’s final performance, I knew that my gut feeling of months previously had been right – Italy wasn’t going to win. Falling away from the top five, for a song with so much expected of it, this was Sognu all over again.

 

Honourable Mention/s I Can’t Go On, I Feel Alive Winner Hey Mamma

It was the most successful dance track to take part in the Kyiv contest, and now the Sunstroke Project’s Hey Mamma gets another gong to add to the our engraved with ‘Moldova’s Best-Placed ESC Entry Ever.’ I have zero complaints about your choice here, people! There’s something about a good bit of sax that makes dancing more or less irresistible, and as such I can guarantee that this song will frequent the official Euroclub playlist for years to come.

 

Honourable Mention/s Occidentali’s Karma Winner City Lights

And it’s Belgium by a millimetre! The standard of preview videos was pretty high this year, and I personally wouldn’t have chosen City Lights as my favourite. Still, I can’t fault its stylish, slightly unsettling (in a good way) vibes. The isolation of being ‘all alone in the danger zone’ is expertly brought to the screen, while the titular lights have a mind of their own. Overall, it’s just as cool as the song.

 

Honourable Mention/s Keep The Faith Winner Fly With Me

Some songs are just so much better to watch than to listen to – they just come to life when performed live. Artsvik’s Fly With Me, a song that is a perfectly good but not great audio track, was given the royal treatment for Eurovision, and that gave me a new respect for it. The backdrop emphasised the ethnicity of the song as did the choreography, while the pyrotechnics upped the drama. Excellent costume choices were the cherry on top.

 

Honourable Mention/s Space Winner City Lights

And now, vice versa! Belgium’s performances over the past few years have been epic, but there was a question mark over Blanche’s ability to command an audience and take control of her nerves. She faltered in the semi, but in the end pulled off a much, MUCH better performance in the final and earned her 4th place. Even so, City Lights is a radio dream rather than a live one. The slick production and disembodied, distant sound of Blanche’s recorded vocals (minus the distraction of her looking like she wants to run screaming off the stage) is what I love about the song, and it’s just not as impressive in the ESC context.

 

 

That’s all for today/tonight, guys. I hope you enjoyed the show, and didn’t get too drunk and end up tripping and falling into a stranger’s lap which turned out to be the lap of Jon Ola Sand. It’s very awkward when that happens, let me tell you.

Who would you have given these awards to? Are you shocked by some of the People’s Choice percentages? Can I discuss Eurovision 2017 right up until Eurovision 2018 without annoying you? Let me know in the comments – it’s free (although every swear word directed at me costs $50).

 

Until next time, when 2017’s performances will be in the spotlight…