It’s true – the Titanic wouldn’t have stood a chance against the massive, metaphorical chunk of ice (or ‘frozen water’ as Agnete likes to call it) that is This Weekend. Leonardo DiCaprio would still have died and Kate Winslet would still have let him go…but we’d all be partying like it’s 2017, because it is, and super-duper busy NF weekends like this one are Awesome with a capital A.
Don’t believe me re: the crazy schedule for Saturday and Sunday? Here’s the evidence:
- 18/2 Estonia’s Eesti Laul – semi final two (feat. Daniel Levi, Koit Toome & Laura, Kerli + Liis Lemsalu)
- 18/2 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat seven (feat. Edgaras Lubys + Gabrielius Vagelis)
- 18/2 Slovenia’s EMA – semi final two (feat. Clemens, BQL + Ina Shai)
- 18/2 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final three (feat. Robin Bengtsson, Krista Siegfrids + FO&O)
- 18/2 Ukraine’s Vidbir – semi final three (feat. Payushchie Trusy + Green Grey)
- 18/2 Hungary’s A Dal – the final (feat. Gigi Radics, Joci Pápai + Kállay Saunders Band)
- 18/2 Malta’s MESC – the final (feat. Klinsmann, Kevin Borg, Maxine Pace + Richard Edwards)
- 18/2 Poland’s Krajowe Eliminajce – the final (feat. Martin Fitch, Kasia Mós + Carmell)
- 19/2 Latvia’s Supernova – the semi final (feat. Lauris Valters, My Radiant You + Triana Park)
- 19/2 Portugal’s Festival da Canção – semi final one (feat. Golden Slumbers + Rui Drumond)
There you go – CHAOS. Wonderful, wonderful chaos.
As I keep saying, I can’t discuss every single selection show without taking on an army of assistants to type at 200 words a minute for free (any takers?), so it’s time to get picky. Choosing which semis and finals to cover is like choosing a favourite child – not hard if you’re honest with yourself (that’s what my mum said, anyway, when she handed me the ‘No. 1 Kid’ sash and a bouquet of flowers. Don’t tell my brother). Ergo, this was an easy narrow-down for me.
Though three of this weekend’s shows will produce Eurovision entries, I’m only reviewing one of them – Hungary’s A Dal – and, of course, I’m going to take a good look at Melodifestivalen’s third semi too. So let’s get on with it!
SWEDEN | Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Växjö we go…for Melfest, that is!
You know what they say – another Saturday in February, another Melodifestivalen Deltävling.
This time it’s nummer tre, and I’ve got to say, it’s not a third-time-lucky sort of situation. Meaning this heat is the weakest so far, music-wise. Made up of two returnees and a record high (for 2017, at least) of five debutants, it’s probably going to be the most difficult semi to predict. Which stars will shine for the first or second time, and which will fall?
I have no effing idea.
- I Can’t Go On by Robin Bengtsson
- Snurra Min Jord by Krista Siegfrids
- Kiss You Goodbye by Anton Hagman
- Gravity by Jasmine Kara
- Boogieman Blues by Owe Thörnqvist
- Crucified by Bella & Filippa
- Gotta Thing About You by FO&O
We’ve got funk pop, dance pop, acoustic pop, country pop, boy band pop and Owe. Lacklustre overall song standard aside (compared to the previous two semis) it’s certainly going to be a variety show – and hopefully one with a happy ending.
My top four
- I Can’t Go On – If Constellation Prize was a romantic seduction song, and I Can’t Go On is the raunchy post-seduction sequel, then should we await the third installment in a trilogy from Robin in 2018 entitled something like It’s Over, You Evil Bitch? Yes or no, Mr. Bengtsson can do no wrong in my eyes. I did expect something better from this collab of Robins (Robin Stjernberg co-wrote the song, and he’s definitely marked his territory) but I suspect this will benefit from being heard and seen in full.
- Snurra Min Jord – Both of Krista’s Melfest entries have been much more plain-Jane than Marry Me. As with Faller, I do really like this one, but there’s nothing particularly special about it that gives it the edge to make Andra Chansen, let alone the final. But lycka till Krista all the same.
- Crucified – Is it just me or has this song borrowed half its lyrics from Wiktoria’s Save Me? Regardless, it’s as sweet and light as a sorbet in summertime. Repetitive (and a possible female rip-off of Darin’s Lagom) it may be, but it has an undeniable charm.
- Gotta Thing About You – I thought I was getting too old for teen boy band fodder, but apparently the flame’s still flickering in my bitter quarter-century old body. This is not a musical masterpiece, but was anyone expecting it to be? The FOOO Conspiracy FO&O fans will eat this up, and that little light-up heart in the corner of the screen will be on the verge of a myocardial infarction.
- Kiss You Goodbye – And here we have Sweden’s answer to Shawn Mendes. This song can’t hold a candle to Stitches or Mercy, but it’s cute. I like how it begins in an acoustic, alternative kind of way before launching into a more straightforward pop chorus. Also, who is Anton’s dentist?
- Gravity – I’m not sure if I like this or not. Jasmine has a great voice, great style, and a great name (even if we’re not total name twins since she’s got that ‘e’ on the end) but Gravity seems like a mixed bag of bits and pieces that don’t, ahem, come together to form a cohesive whole. I’m keen to see her perform it live.
- Boogieman Blues – This is EXACTLY what I thought it was going to be. For those of you who don’t like surprises and do like retro tunes from ageing popstars, this is for you. But it’s not for me.
Who’s going direkt? Robin Bengtsson + FO&O. Perhaps this is a predictable prediction – and I’d like things to go in a more jaw-dropping direction – but Melfest is, at times, predictable. SVT hand out the first and final performance spots to the big guns, and said big guns usually find themselves progressing as a result. Robin Bengtsson won his heat over Ace Wilder last year, and he’s got the goods to win again now, but with a weaker song and against weaker competition. FO&O’s song screams Andra Chansen, but there’s nothing else up against it (besides I Can’t Go On) that necessarily has what it takes to nab a place in the final instead.
Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Anton Hagman + Jasmine Kara. Krista Siegfrids is also in the mix here, but as she placed last in the telling audience poll after yesterday’s rehearsals, I suspect she’ll miss out and finish fifth at the highest. Bella & Filippa are underdogs. Anton and Jasmine, I think, can make enough of an impression and gain enough momentum to score themselves a second chance each – but I’m skeptical of their chances of making it out of AC at this point.
What do you think? Do we have an obvious outcome on our hands in Växjö, or will there be an upset feat. some Melfest first-timers? Let me know below.
HUNGARY | Eight becomes one tonight…but who’ll be The One?
I’ve been known to proclaim that many selection show finals are worth sacrificing for Melfest, because the music in a Melfest semi often outdoes that of other countries’ finals. But I have to say, I seriously considered ditching Sweden’s third semi in favour of tuning in to A Dal tonight.
By ‘seriously’, I mean ‘for a split second’, because I am a devout Melodifestivalist from way back. However, I will be watching the last episode of A Dal on delay just to experience its pure excellence.
After three heats and two semi finals, thirty songs have been trimmed down to just eight – and IMO, two of these are good, one is very good, and the other five are amazing. How often does that happen? About as often as Loreen releases a studio album.
Here’s the (unordered) line-up of the Hungarian final, which I realise might not seem so sensational to fans less easily-pleased than me.
- Hosszú Idők by Totova & Freddie Shuman feat. Begi Lotfi
- See It Through by Gigi Radics
- Fall Like Rain by Gina Kanizsa
- Origo by Joci Pápai
- Seventeen by Kállay Saunders Band
- Élet by Leander Kills
- Kalandor by Soulwave
- #háttérzaj by Zävodi & Olivér Berkes
Hungary clearly has faith in their own language, as Hungarian lyrics make up more than half of what we’ll hear tonight. They should, because a) it’s a gorgeous language, and b) it hasn’t stopped them from succeeding at Eurovision (Kinek Mondjam El Vétkeimet and Kedvesem, I bow to the both of you). That’s part of what makes this final so great in my eyes, but if you want more details, keep reading for my ranking of all eight finalists.
My top eight
- Origo – I AM IN LOVE. This track had me hypnotised before I’d even reached the chorus the first time I listened to it, and though I’m trying to accept that it’s probably 2017’s Győz A Jó (the slick, edgy ethno-pop entry that won’t win and will be sadly missed at Eurovision), my hopes of a win are still alive. Infectious and exotic but still on-trend (right down – or up – to Joci’s man-bun), Origo is OMG.
- Hosszú Idők – Here we have another song that manages to combine mysterious ethnicity with modern pop. Basically, it’s an ethno-pop power ballad. Though Totova gets slightly screamy performing it live, I can’t deny that it makes a mark, and that I could get on board with it winning even though it’s not my favourite.
- See It Through – A Disney ballad straight out of the early 2000s (Christina Aguilera sang it on the Mulan soundtrack, didn’t she?) should not work in 2017. But Gigi is such a showstopping singer with more onstage emotion than an Elina Born who wasn’t woken up, she makes it work. I would advise against the huge hair for the final, without which you’ll have a perfect package, Gigi.
- Seventeen – Last year, András and his band destroyed the brilliant Who We Are This year, they’ve done much better lives with a more pedestrian – but still extra-enjoyable – song. The Billie Jean reference is tired, but that’s my only complaint about this polished, well-produced and non-cheesy love song.
- #háttérzaj – What musical style doesn’t suit Hungarian? It totally gels in this bluesy, laid-back piano ballad. The only bother I have here is the hashtag title, which begs the question WHY GOD, WHY?!?!?
- Élet – Hard rock isn’t often my thing, but the dynamic nature of É let is interesting in a good way. There’s a soft piano intro, subdued verses and powerful choruses, and it’s almost like riding on a slow rollercoaster. There are plenty of ups and downs, but it doesn’t make you nauseous and you’re a little sad when you have to get off.
- Kalandor – Eurovision already has a folksy song for the year, and I’m not sure this one has the strength to win A Dal anyway, but it’s nice easy-listening, elevated by the fact that it’s not in English.
- Fall Like Rain – While I can acknowledge that this is a good song, I find it quite dated (and there are times when I just want Gina to shut up). I don’t think it’s the best choice Hungary can make in terms of a Eurovision entry, but I like the haunting, spiritual feel and the originality.
Now, as A Dal will make one more cut before congratulating a winner, it’s time to think about who’ll make it through the jury voting round – then be paraded in front of the public, who are the ultimate decision-makers (a good way to operate an NF, isn’t it, Spain?).
Predicting the top four I’m thinking Totova etc, Joci Pápai, Gigi Radics + Gina Kanizsa. There’s potential bumping space for Kállay Saunders Band or Leander Kills, in which case I think Gigi or Gina will miss out on the final four. But, based on the results of the heats and semis, this should be a safe bet for the top four (not that I’m actually betting. For someone who struggles to get things 50% correct, it’s a bad idea). Totova and guests plus Pápai are shoo-ins.
Who’s in it to win it? It looks like another Freddie (albeit a far less attractive one than 2016’s) will be heading to Kyiv on behalf of Hungary in May, as part of Totova’s posse. Hosszu Idők is a recipe with all the right ingredients to rise to the top, and has had the jury and public support in past weeks that it needs to fly through both stages of the comp tonight. I will be surprised if it doesn’t win.
If you’re as hungry for Hungary this year as I am, then you’ll have something to say about A Dal – so spill! Is this ticket to Eurovision Totova’s to lose, or should she be watching her back? Is there any chance András Kállay Saunders will make it to Eurovision again this year (Seventeen for 2017)? Give up your internal gossip in the comments.
Of course, if you want to chat about anything else that’s happening in the ESC bubble this weekend, I’m all ears. If you want to have an intense conversation about your personal problems, I may not be the best person to talk to, so stick with Eurovision for now. You can always book an appointment later with the same therapist you saw after Objetivo Eurovisión concluded last weekend…
Enjoy all of the national final action ahead, guys – I’ll see you on the other side when we have three more songs for Ukraine!
SELECTION SEASON 2017 | Talking all things Estonia, Sweden + Spain on the most super-sized NF weekend so far!
Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs! I feel like I can use that as a greeting with some relevance, since France dropped their Eurovision 2017 entry on us earlier in the week, just in time to steal some of Germany’s thunder. Not that Germany had that much to steal in the first place, but more on that in another post (for now, I’ll just say that red, white and blue > red, black and yellow). My point is, any opportunity one gets to throw around some random, stereotypical French should be taken. Oui oui!
France is just about the only country where there ISN’T any NF action going on this weekend – a weekend so full of finals (and heats, and semis…all the good stuff), there’s not enough room for all of them to trend on Twitter. Feast your soon-to-be-weary eyes on this lot:
- 11/2 Estonia’s Eesti Laul – semi final one (feat. Lenna Kuurmaa, Elina Born + Ivo Linna)
- 11/2 Ukraine’s untitled NF – semi final two (feat. Kuznetsov + Ilaria)
- 11/2 Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival – the final (feat. Michele Bravi, Elodie + Alessio Bernabei)
- 11/2 Hungary’s A Dal – semi final two (feat. Ádám Szabó, Kállay Saunders Band + Roma Soul)
- 11/2 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final two (feat. Mariette, Lisa Ajax + Benjamin Ingrosso)
- 11/2 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat six (feat. Mia, Sasha Song + Aistė Pilvelytė)
- 11/2 Spain’s Objetivo Eurovisión – the final (feat. LeKlein, Paula Rojo + Mirela)
- 12/2 Latvia’s Supernova – heat two (feat. Markus Riva + My Radiant You)
- 13/2 Israel’s Rising Star – the final (feat. Julietta, Diana Golbi, Beatbox Element + Imri Ziv)
Visit eurovision.tv for all of the live-streaming links. And because it might be lonely and want to have a cup of coffee and a chat with you.
What will you be watching? You’ve got about as much chance of catching everything at once as I do of covering it all here – so I guess we’ll both have to pick our priorities.
To be honest – as if the title of this post wasn’t a giveaway – I’ve already decided where my loyalties lie. So, if you want some verdicts on/predictions for Eesti Laul, Melodifestivalen and Objetivo Eurovisión, you’ve come to the right blog.
Let’s muse about the music!
Estonia: Elina Born is back as Eesti Laul begins…but is she In Or Out?
It’s a good thing there isn’t a prize for Best Blog Subtitle, ‘cause I wouldn’t be winning any for that one. Blame Elina Born, who went and signed herself up for Eesti Laul as a soloist – for the second time – with a Stig Rästa song that begs to be used in many punny ways (it’s the new That Sounds Good To Me). Girl has said Goodbye To Yesterday and hello to a shot at competing in Kyiv, and her quest begins tonight with the first semi final of Estonia’s always enjoyable NF.
Of course, she’s not the only act competing this evening, so I shouldn’t devote too much screen space to her alone. Elina will be the second of ten acts to perform, and here’s a rundown of them all:
- Slingshot by Lenna Kuurmaa
- In Or Out by Elina Born
- Everything But You by Carl-Philip
- Suur Ioterii by Ivo Linna
- Feel Me Now by Ariadne
- Supernatural by Uku Suviste
- Hey Kiddo by Laura Prits
- Have You Now by Karl-Kristjan & Whogaux feat. Maian
- Valan Pisaraid by Janno Reim & Kosmos
- Hurricane by Leemet Onno
As usual, Estonia is providing us with an interesting set of songs, many of which take some second or third listens to figure out (it’s a pre-selection of acquired tastes, IMO, which is not a bad thing because it speaks for the complexity of what ERT program the show with). Sadly, I don’t have the luxury of being able to listen more than once – and in some cases, my first impressions are based on snippets (with a Eurotrip three weeks away and other commitments calling, time is like thunder short for me at the moment). Here are the semi one songs that stood out to me with minimal exposure.
My top five In Or Out, Everything But You, Feel Me Now, Supernatural + Have You Now. My favourites from this shortlist would be In Or Out (the trumpeting might be passé, but it’s still enjoyable) and Have You Now (which is obviously an Estonian tribute to The Chainsmokers). There’s nothing super-duper dated – or plain terrible – in the whole semi, though. Not even Ivo Linna is acting his age, musically-speaking.
Predicting the ACTUAL top five Slingshot, In Or Out, Feel Me Now, Hey Kiddo + Have You Now. I won’t say where I pulled this prediction from (in the interest of maintaining some degree of ladylike elegance) but let’s just say it’s unreliable. On the other hand, if it turns out to be 60%-100% right, I’ll claim that I produced it after a careful, educated analysis. K?
Do you think Eesti Laul’s off to a good start? Is there someone in this first semi who can do what Juri Pöötsmann couldn’t and get Estonia to the Eurovision final again (without giving the impression that their hobbies include dismemberment, and preserving vital organs in formaldehyde)? Let me know in the comments.
Sweden: Melfest makes it to Malmö for a big-deal Deltävling 2
That’s right – we’re taking a trip back to Malmö Arena, where those of us who were otherwise engaged during Petra Mede’s Melfest hosting gig may have first laid eyes on her when she owned Eurovision in 2013. Unfortunately, some might say, tonight ain’t about Petra – it’s about the seven acts who all want to follow in Ace Wilder and Nano’s footsteps (I assume) since they lead straight to Friends Arena in Stockholm, and the Melfest final.
- A Million Years by Mariette
- Himmel Och Hav by Roger Pontare
- Up by Etzia
- Vart Haru Varit by Allyawan
- Hearts Align by Dismissed
- I Don’t Give A by Lisa Ajax
- Good Lovin’ by Benjamin Ingrosso
We’re down one returnee from last week, with Mariette, Roger Pontare and Lisa Ajax in the mix. In Göteborg, just two of the four comeback acts progressed, and with only one real contender standing/dancing in the way of Mariette etc’s direkt and AC spots, can they all make it through? SHOULD they? Melodifestivalen raises some tough questions. Luckily, they’ll be answered later, but I’ll have a go at filling in the blanks in the meantime.
My top four
- A Million Years – Is this better than Don’t Stop Believing? I don’t think so, but it’s similarly intriguing and contemporary. The lyrics are a little cliché, and that ticks me off as a writer who goes out of their way to avoid clichés. I really need access to the complete package before I make my mind up about Mariette 2.0. Potential for greatness is here, though.
- Vart Haru Varit – This is Adrijana’s Amare with a male singer and a slight increase in mass appeal. It’ll probably make just as much of an impression as Amare did (i.e. none whatsoever) but dang it, I love Swedish hip-hop!
- I Don’t Give A – In case you missed the barely detectable F-bomb (times ten) in Lisa’s sequel to My Heart Wants Me Dead, yes, it exists (#sarcasm). It’s not necessary in a song that lacks the Zara Larsson attitude and style I was expecting. Still, expletives aside, there’s pros a-plenty to be found in I Don’t Give A. The pop ballad style lets Lisa show off her amazing vocals, and all in all it’s very ‘now’. Well, I think it is. I’m not too tuned in to what the youths of today are into *returns to knitting an intricate sweater for my dog*.
- Good Lovin’ – Maybe I’m biased, given that I practically had a heart attack when my beloved (in a platonic way as he’s a bit too young for me) Benjamin was announced as a Melfester for 2017…but THIS KICKS BUTT. It’s everything I want in a pop song and more. It also manages to be both what I was expecting, and something completely different. Slick, smooth, and well-sung. Så brå.
- Himmel Och Hav – I actually toyed with having Roger in my top four thanks to the great atmosphere and ethnicity of this track. As someone who never fell hard for When Spirits Are Calling My Name, I could learn to like this more than that. GASP!
- Up – I know this isn’t culturally similar to Kizunguzungu, but it’s easy to compare the vibes of the two. I can’t see Etzia sharing SaRaha’s success in a) going through to Andra Chansen, and b) getting out of it. Up is catchy, but pretty pedestrian overall.
- Hearts Align – This is okay. It’s fine. The performance and costuming choices will be the biggest talking point though. No chance of direkt for Dismissed, methinks.
On that note, it’s time to make a few predictions. Last week I somehow managed to be 100% correct, so I’m going to do my best not to ruin that this time.
Who’s going direkt? Mariette + Lisa Ajax. Based on such data as Facebook likes, Mariette seems to be the Nano of this week’s show (swap the man bun for dreadlocks and the difference is undetectable) in that the heat is hers to lose. Lisa’s song might divide voters (unless the f-word is on par with ‘darn it!’ in Sweden) but I have no doubt she’ll nail it live, and it’s big enough to leave a lasting impression. The swearing actually makes the song more memorable, I must say.
Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Benjamin Ingrosso + Dismissed. I desperately want Ingrosso to go straight through, but girl power is likely to pip him at the post. Fourth place could go to Roger Pontare if Sweden is still feeling his flow, but I suspect it might go to Dismissed as Hearts Align screams Andra Chansen to me.
In the immortal words of Elaiza, is it right or is it wrong? Do you think you know who’ll go where when the results of Deltävling 2 are revealed? Tell me more!
Spain: Which of the six singers will fill Barei’s dancing shoes?
Si, amigos – Objetivo Eurovisión is back, albeit without Brequette (maybe 2018 is your year, queen). The line-up is much more diverse than it was in 2016, which makes the outcome harder to predict. But we can’t complain about variety and (reasonable) quality all round…can we?
- Do It For Your Lover by Manel Navarro
- Ouch! by LeKlein
- Lo Que Nunca Fue by Paula Rojo
- Spin My Head by Mario Jefferson
- Momento Critico by Maika
- Contigo by Mirela
I don’t know about you, but I can clearly divide up these six songs: there’s two that I absolutely adore, two that I quite like, and two that I wouldn’t miss if I never heard them again. And I have no idea whether Spain will think along the same lines, or choose a song that has no chance of reversing their Eurovision fortunes. One thing’s for sure – I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat while waiting for them to make up their collective mind.
My top six
- Ouch! – This song is ridiculously sublime. I can’t take LeKlein’s screams of ‘ouuuuuuuch’ seriously (she sounds exactly like me whenever I stub my toe on something) but I love everything else about her potential ESC entry. I love the grammatically awkward lyrics, the melody of the verses, the power and anthemic quality of the chorus, the polished production…it’s all very bueno. Now, if only she could carry it off live without numerous unstable vocal moments…
- Contigo – It’s no Nada Es Comparable A Ti (not only my fave NF effort from Mirela, but one of my fave NF songs ever) but then again, it’s not supposed to be. It’s an instantly infectious, ethno-pop triumph that needs to be a World Cup theme ASAP. The lyrics might be rubbish (I speak zero Spanish and have not yet Google-translated them) but who cares? Sometimes you just want to get up and dance and have a good time – a fiesta then a siesta – without considering the meaningfulness of lyrical content. Contigo is perfect for that purpose.
- Spin My Head – I feel like having your head spun up (as opposed to around) would be painful, but Mario seems to be welcoming it. Again, this isn’t going to win any awards for substance, but I would wave my hands in the air like I just didn’t care to it in a club (or in the supermarket. Whenever, wherever, as Shakira would say). The Spanglish chorus is decent when it could have been a disaster.
- Do It For Your Lover – Speaking of Spanglish, here’s a mixed-language version of The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars. That’s not a negative, but I do wish Manel was offering up something more original. I also wish ‘do it for your lover’ wasn’t repeated nearly THIRTY times in three minutes. What is ‘it’, anyway?
- Momento Critico – Maika is not a woman I’d want to mess with, so in case she ever reads this, I’m going to point out the positives of her Objetivo song. It’s unashamedly rocky. It has attitude. It’s somewhat memorable (although I have forgotten how it goes now that I think about it. But I know I thought it was kind of memorable). It’s not bad. Please don’t come at me with an industrial-sized blowtorch, Maika.
- Lo Que Nunca Fue – Boring. Sweet and cute and charming in a countrified way, sure, but this leaves no impression on me whatsoever. It’s totally forgettable, and if there’s a hook in it, I can’t hear it. All of this means it’ll probably win.
Who SHOULD win LeKlein or Mirela. Yes, they’re my personal top picks, but I genuinely believe they have the best odds out of the six of making Spain’s trip to Ukraine worth it. I’m not saying they’re Eurovision winners, but if either one wins tonight and takes advantage of the gap between now and the contest (to revamp and maybe take a few singing lessons) anything’s possible.
Who WILL win I want to scream ‘SEND HELP!’ on this one, because I cannot decide. I’m not even convinced that one of my preferred two will win. I’m going to rule out Maika and Mario. Paula and Manel are my dark horses. The failure of Maria Isabel’s ethno-pop to get far last year gives me doubts about Mirela…so that leaves LeKlein. She’s already proven she appeals to the public (winning the Eurocasting round is why she’s in OE) and if she produces a more polished live rendition of Ouch! tonight, she could win this too. Or not, and I’m just wishful thinking.
In a shocking turn of events, I want to know what you think about the Spanish show. What’s good, what’s bad and what’s even worse in your opinion? And, more importantly, who’s going to win? You’ve got a 1 in 6 chance of getting it right!
Whatever you’re watching this evening (or tomorrow morning, if you’ve also been screwed over by your time zone), I hope to see you on Twitter for some 140-character or less fun times. We Eurofans know how to party, even if it’s just on social media.
May the best songs win (or qualify)!
Hej och välkommen to my 500th post! I’m not kidding – there’s no crappy attempts at clickbait from me (this time). I’d say something like ‘Who would’ve thought there was that much Eurovision-related stuff in existence to be written about by someone who aspires to but has no hope of reaching the popularity status of WiwiBloggs?’…but we all know there’s enough discussable Eurovision-related stuff to last a lifetime. Especially when there’s another ESC, JESC and NF season for both every year.
In summary, there’s a 99.9% chance that I’ll be composing Post No. 1000 in about eight years’ time. Hopefully it has a less boring intro than this one.
Anyway, I know we’re in the midst of the 2017 national final season right now (with the German final taking place on Thursday and an action-packed weekend creeping closer), but I thought this milestone of a massive amount of ESC ramblings needed to be acknowledged. And, as my numero uno NF Melodifestivalen started on Saturday – the final of which I’m attending this year and that’s SO EXCITING I SIMPLY MUST USE CAPS LOCK – I’m going to celebrate Melfest-style. Someone hand me my rhinestone-spangled catsuit!
Basically, there’s a fun tag that’s been floating around Facebook lately (at least, in my feed) and it’s as simple as this: you name your favourite Melfest entry for each year that you’ve followed the comp. I thought I’d choose mine according to all the Melfests that have happened while I’ve been (apparently) busy blogging 499 times – 2010-2016. Then I realised that’s the exact period I’ve been following the show for anyway. It’s fate. So here we go…a.k.a. NU KÖR VI!!!
PS – As this is a tag, I tag each and every one of you reading this to list your favourite Melfest songs from your years of keeping tabs on the five-week extravaganza. Even if you just joined the party in 2016, let me know which entry was your most-loved last year.
2010 | You’re Out Of My Life by Darin
The first Melfest to take place after the birth of Eurovision By Jaz (a birth that was not only painless but actually enjoyable, no drugs required) was fantastisk. Well, the final was – I have to admit, there were some questionable entries in the semis. But damn, Sweden, THAT FINAL! Even so, I can narrow the field down to my personal favourite song faster than most Ukrainian men can run on giant hamster wheels. The hugely successful runner-up of Idol 2004, Darin is my most beloved Swedish soloist in the history of Swedish soloists, and his one and only (to date *crosses fingers*) Melfest entry was the pinnacle of pop balladry in my opinion. If the music doesn’t move you, then check out the wind machine usage, which nearly moved the man himself off the stage and into the wings at supersonic speed. Sadly, it didn’t blow Anna Bergendahl, Salem al Fakir and Eric Saade away and out of the running.
Andra Chansen Kom by Timoteij
2011 | My Heart Is Refusing Me by Loreen
I’m going to break some bad news to you right now by saying that *SPOILER ALERT* this is the only time Loreen will appear on this list. Who knows – her 2017 Melfest entry Statements might end up in a Top 10 of mine in the future, but for now, it’s all about Loreen Vol. I. The first time we saw her compete, she made it into Andra Chansen but not out of it (I know…crazy, right?!?). The dance-pop dream with a hint of disco that is My Heart Is Refusing Me, though, was a winner in so many ways: from the catchiness, explosive chorus and overall cool factor to Loreen’s weirdly wonderful red top (I have been trawling op-shops in the hope of finding something similar ever since, and may eventually resort to feeding a plain red sweater into a document shredder). Because this track is more complex and unpredictable than Euphoria, I ever-so-slightly prefer it – and it’s far and away my favourite song served up to us by Melodifestivalen 2011.
Andra Chansen Popular by Eric Saade
2012 | Why Start A Fire? by Lisa Miskovsky
It’s a good question. Why should you start a fire? I guess if you’re out in the wilderness and will freeze to death if you don’t rub some sticks together and get a flame going, then it’s probably a smart idea. But I’ll leave the extenuating circumstances of fire-starting at that, since they have nothing to do with my unconditional love for this song. Lisa, whose songwriting credits include boss-as-a-Billy-bookcase hits for herself and the likes of the Backstreet Boys (we have her to thank for Shape of My Heart), had a tough task topping the ten finalists of Melfest 2012. She ended up finishing second last – which wasn’t that shocking – but I for one think Why Start A Fire? is stunning. A mystical synth riff gives way to lush layers of music and vocals that, when they’ve run their course, make you (and by ‘you’, I mean ‘me) feel relaxed and re-energised – rather than exhausted, because you’ve just listened to something loud and watched a performance with more gimmicks than Sanna Nielsen has filled out Melfest application forms.
Andra Chansen Soldiers by Ulrik Munther
2013 | You by Robin Stjernberg
At last – the first Melfest year of my blogging career in which my number one competing song went on to win the whole thing! Against all the odds, too. Robin’s NF story is the ultimate underdog tale of a ridiculously good singer who entered what was a pretty weak edition of Sweden’s crowning TV glory (as they were hosting Eurovision in 2013, however, they can be forgiven for not trying too hard to produce an epic host entry). He didn’t manage to go direkt, instead ending up in Andra Chansen and making most of us count him out FTW. Then he did win, making him the first non-direct finalist in the existence of the AC round to do so. And he did it with an awesome, heartfelt pop anthem with one heck of a hook (you-ooh-ooh-ooooooooohhh, in case you were wondering). You also boasts a money note that, when Robin belted it out on the Malmö Arena stage, was powerful enough to produce a pyro curtain. I assume it was his vocal strength that did it, rather than your average pyrotechnics consultant backstage somewhere. Don’t burst my bubble.
Andra Chansen Bed On Fire by Ralf Gyllenhammar
2014 | Undo by Sanna Nielsen
Speaking of your one true NF love taking the trophy home (along with an ‘Admit One’ ticket to Eurovision) – it happened to me for the second year running in 2014. Undo marked Sanna’s seventh Melfest participation, following mixed results for her in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2011. It didn’t take seven of anything to have me hooked though. So much so that, despite having been Team Empty Room when it came to Sanna’s best entry, it wasn’t long before I’d bumped her ’08 runner-up down to the runner-up position on my list (my mental list…I don’t have a physical paper Sanna ranking). Undo, for me personally, is peak pop power ballad perfection. The soft vulnerability of the first verse, the break between the second and last chorus and the finish contrast goosebumpingly (I hereby decree that a proper word even though Spellcheck wasn’t a fan) with the simple but powerful choruses – and Miss Nielsen nailed every note, every time. This may not be a popular opinion, but I definitely think she won Melodifestivalen with her strongest submission. Nothing else would have scored her a bronze medal at Eurovision – not even Empty Room.
Andra Chansen Survivor by Helena Paparizou
2015 | Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw
It was third time lucky for MZW at Melfest, and the third year in a row that the results went my way. Can anyone really argue that Heroes shouldn’t have won the NF when it went on to win Eurovision? That’s a rhetorical question, so don’t try to start something in the comments. The song itself was worthy of winning both contests as far as I’m concerned, being the Avicii-inspired anthem with a karaoke dream chorus that it is. But you can’t mention Heroes and not talk about the visuals that elevated it from great to even greater (and I’m not referring to Måns’ muscles and THOSE LEATHER TROUSERS). We all fell in love with the original stick man – who turned out not to be so original in the end, so he got a bit fatter and wore a different hat for the ESC. We followed his journey from being downtrodden and dragged away by a balloon to having the privilege of fist-bumping his older, flesh-and-blood self (who had swapped overalls for THOSE LEATHER TROUSERS). And that, plus the slick lighting scheme and choreography, made Heroes a flawlessly-packaged entry that ticked every box, both in Melfest and at Eurovision. I love it just as much now as I did two years ago (!).
Andra Chansen Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone
2016 | Human by Oscar Zia
These days, with 28 songs competing in Melfest each year, I’m bound to like or love at least 25 of them (Swedish songwriters just know how to float my boat). So did I like or love If I Were Sorry? Yes. Was it my ideal winner/host entry for Sweden in Stockholm? No, to tell you the truth. My votes – if I’d been able to cast any – would have gone straight to Oscar Zia, who started out in the show as a backing vocalist, returned a year later on his own, then made a massive comeback – having come out of the closet and evolved stylistically and hair-stylistically – with Human. You know I love (most) modern power ballads, but when a modern power ballad comes equipped with edge and a moody atmosphere like this one, someone’s going to have to haul me up off the floor where I have swooned. As with Måns, what we saw was just as important as what we heard when Oscar had his technically-third try for the Melfest trophy. Storm clouds and intense, quick camera cuts made the performance memorable without the need for an entire supermarket aisle’s worth of bells and whistles. The whole thing was so magical, it annoys me beyond belief that there’s no watchable video of it accessible in Australia (as far as I can tell). So enjoy – or not – the lyric video I stuck here. Closing your eyes and just listening is still an epic experience, after all.
Andra Chansen Constellation Prize by Robin Bengtsson
Whew – think yourselves lucky that I didn’t discover Melodifestivalen in 1991 (I was too busy being a baby). As it stands, my waffling on is…well, off, so it’s time for you to list your own favourites. Which Swedish songs have you cheered for the most over the years? Is there ANYTHING we agree on, or is it true that one person’s treasure is another’s trash? I want answers, people!
Until next time (the upcoming NF-antastic weekend)…
In case you hadn’t noticed, today’s Saturday – but not just any old Saturday. It’s the first Saturday of February, and that means that a big ball of national final brilliance is about to bounce down on the basketball court that is the Eurovision selection season.
Did that make sense? All I meant was that Frantic February™ is here, and I’m freaking excited about it. I’m guessing you are too if you’re reading this!
What’s even more exciting than a busy Saturday night for NFs is an entire weekend of pre-ESC song contests, and that’s exactly what we’re getting. But be warned: with mostly heats and semis taking place over the next two days, only one more Eurovision entry will be chosen.
Here’s this weekend’s schedule:
- 4/1 Hungary’s A Dal – heat three (feat. Benjámin Pál + Gigi Radics)
- 4/1 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat five (feat. Sasha Song, Edgaras Lubys + Mia)
- 4/1 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final one (feat. Boris René, Dinah Nah, Charlotte Perrelli + Ace Wilder)
- 4/1 Ukraine’s untitled NF – semi final one (feat. SKAI, Monochromea + Arsen Mirzoyan)
- 5/1 Latvia’s Supernova – heat one (feat. Katrīna Cīrule + Lauris Valters)
- 5/1 Switzerland’s Die Entscheidungsshow – the final (feat. Ginta Biku + Timebelle)
You guys know I’m a one-woman band who cannot physically cover all of the above, so I’ve got to be more selective than SVT’s Melfest screening process. Right here, right now, I’m singling out the national finals from Sweden (obviously) and Switzerland (believe it or not) to review and predict. Let’s get into it!
How Swede it is: Marvellous Melodifestivalen has arrived!
Like every other epic event that takes place each year (e.g. Eurovision, Junior Eurovision, September 1st when most people carry on as normal but the collective ESC fandom sits up a little straighter) Melodifestivalen comes around very slowly – but once it’s here, it feels like we were discussing the start of the previous year’s edition five minutes ago.
And so, right on cue, the Holy Grail of national finals (in my Sweden-obsessed opinion) is back for 2017. Based on what’s being served up in tonight’s first semi – which will go live from Gothenburg’s Scandinavium in just a few hours – it’s back with a bang. That makes for an extra happy Jaz, since I’ve booked myself a butt-space in Friends Arena for the final. IS THIS EVEN MY LIFE?!?!?
Talking about tonight, though…opening the comp is one of the surprise successes of ’16, Boris René. Closing will be newcomer Nano. In-between the two are Dinah Nah, Charlotte Perrelli, Ace Wilder and many, many more. Well, actually just two more, but I’m too hysterical to not exaggerate. Who’s with me?
Semi Final 1:
- Her Kiss by Boris René
- Amare by Adrijana
- One More Night by Dinah Nah
- Road Trip by De Vet Du
- Mitt Liv by Charlotte Perrelli
- Wild Child by Ace Wilder
- Hold On by Nano
Pretty much all bases (aces of bases?) are covered in this kick-off heat, with retro-pop, hip-hop, dance, acoustic, straight-up pop and EDM on offer. Who will rise to the occasion, scoring themselves a ticket direkt till finalen or to Andra Chansen…and who will fall at the first hurdle? It might take some serious song scrutinisation to figure that out (after which I’ll still be super-duper wrong).
My top four
In performance order, BTW.
- Her Kiss – This is less contemporary than Put Your Love On Me (RIP litter box) but you can’t tell me that it wouldn’t shoot straight to #1 on the charts if Bruno Mars was behind it. Don’t underestimate Boris’ ability to bring it into the now via an energetic and charismatic performance.
- Amare – Adrijana’s debut won’t be everyone’s cup of kaffe, but I have a thing for the Swedish language in an urban, rap-oriented context. It just works, hence why I loved Behrang Miri’s Det Rår Vi Inte För and why I love this.
- Wild Child – At 34, Ace is technically a wild woman. She’s also not the strongest of singers, so perhaps it’s a good idea for the verses of this song to be spoken/shouted. Surprisingly, I’m digging the sound of Wild Child so much, it may turn out to be my favourite of her three Melfest entries to date. They’ve all been different, but have always had real ‘Ace’ attitude, and this is no exception.
- Hold On – SVT know just when to throw a curvy enough curveball to convince us that they aren’t that predictable after all. It was assumed that the last song on stage would be Ace’s, but they’ve made it Nano’s instead…and I TOTALLY GET IT. It gives me goosebumps, even before the beat kicks in and the chorus explodes. Sure, it’s very reminiscent of Feel The Love by Rudimental, but you know what? That song is the bomb, and I think this one is too.
- One More Night – I’m a little disappointed in Dinah, because this song is right out of Dance Tracks for Dummies (whereas Make Me La La La was in a league of its own). It’s still catchy and well-produced though, and her hair is still pink enough for me to forgive her. Hashtag hair heaven.
- Road Trip – This is Samir & Viktor meets JTR, and I can get on board (pun intended) with that combo. It’s silly but not too silly, so rather than being a novelty song, it’s a fun contender. And it does make me want to go on a road trip, so…mission accomplished, I guess.
- Mitt Liv – I don’t get all the hate on this one. No, it’s not bringing us the Charlotte Perrelli we know and love (and once were a little scared of. Remember 2008?) but I think there’s something charming and calming about her stripped-back, not-in-it-to-win-it approach to Melfest this time. There’s a song just like Mitt Liv in basically every Deltävling 1, and it never goes anywhere – but that doesn’t mean it’s horrendous.
‘No more stalling’, I can hear you guys saying. ‘We know what you think of the songs, but where the heck are they headed?’. Well, friends, here are my attempts at predicting exactly that. Prepare to laugh until you’re gasping for breath.
Who’s going direkt? Ace Wilder and Nano. I haven’t picked Ace because she’s a predictable finalist – she’s not really, since for all I know Sweden is sick of her popping up and yelling at them. I just don’t think she should be under-hyped, and Wild Child is a standout in this semi in terms of instant, infectious pop music. Nano has the advantage of performing in a position that has only proven unlucky for two acts since the introduction of the semi system to Melfest. He also has a sensational song up his sleeve that may leave Ace Wilder in second place of the seven.
Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Boris René and De Vet Du. Boris will do a great job of setting the tone for the evening with the irresistible Her Kiss, and I’m fairly confident (or am I just hoping because I LOVE him?) that he can mimic his AC -> final journey this year. De Vet Du are a classic ‘Not Quite Direkt Material But Good Enough For A Second Chance’ act. Need I say more?
I will be saying more during the show, so visit me on Twitter (hint hint) to check out my (hopefully hilarious) comments, and to see my updated predictions after all seven songs have been performed. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on Melfest’s first semi? Which two acts will be the first to book their own bit of butt-space in the Friends Arena green room, and who’ll have to fight their way out of AC to get there? Let me know down below.
That’s Saturday’s most exciting event taken care of. YES, I SAID IT. If you want to argue about it:
Now, let’s wing our way over to Switzerland and see what they have in store for us on Sunday evening.
An (almost) all-female final for Switzerland…but which woman will win?
The Spice Girls would be psyched about the Swiss NF (‘the Swiss NF’ is easier to type and pronounce than Die Entscheidungsshow, let’s face it) because it is positively packed with girl power! The boys backing up Timebelle’s lead vocalist Miruna are it on the non-female front.
- The Fire In The Sky by Nadya
- Cet Air Là by Ginta Biku
- Two Faces by Michèle
- Gold by Freschta
- Exodus by Shana Pearson
- Apollo by Timebelle
I hate to say this, but I always have low expectations of Switzerland. They can be relied on to choose the cream of a very average crop, but the fact that their line-ups are so frequently sub-par is disappointing.
Thankfully, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the standard in 2017. There’s one song I’m not keen on, but the other five range from good to great to ‘SHUT UP AND TAKE MY DOUZE POINTS.’
My top 6
- Apollo – Timebelle’s last Entscheidungsshow entry Singing About Love was a super cute pop-rock number, but I like this pop ballad better. Is it the most original thing I’ve ever heard? Nope. Jessie J might have released something very similar five years ago. Still, it ticks all the boxes for a song of this style, and the tried-and-tested formula still works. It’s extremely enjoyable.
- Two Faces – It’s about time someone tried to get to Eurovision with a song about baking sweeteners and table seasonings! Okay, so there’s more to Michèle’s song than sugar and salt. Including a bit of a youthful, edgy, Zara Larsson vibe. The cool factor is high and the originality is too.
- Cet Air Là – This is such a mish-mash of genres, languages and time periods, it should be a disaster. But, unnecessary la la las aside, I really like it. The ethnic instrumental parts make it exotic, and the French chorus is like a sexier Loin D’ici. Eurovision 2006 meets Eurovision 2017.
- Gold – Adele called, and she wants her B-side back, Freschta. That’s not an insult, because I like this too. I’m simply saying that it’s no Someone Like You or Hello. But I appreciate Gold for what it is, which I’m going to label ‘rawthentic’.
- Exodus – Shana’s song is 80% decent, 20% not-so-much. Majority rules. And I definitely wouldn’t say no to a dance if it came on in the (Euro) club.
- The Fire In The Sky – This one’s too dated and melodramatic for my taste. Georgia let something like it win their NF, but I’m hoping Switzerland doesn’t follow in their dreary footsteps.
Measuring the quality of this final in Melfest terms, I’d say that it’s not as across-the-board awesome as the semi we looked at before (Sweden is no stranger to producing heats that outdo the concluding chapters of other countries’ NFs). But Switzerland have three or four excellent potential Eurovision entries at their disposal. Which one – if any – will they go for?
It’s time to decide.
Who SHOULD win Timebelle or Michèle. I’d also be interested to see Ginta on the ESC stage (she’d stand out, that’s for sure). For mass appeal and the best shot at success though, Timebelle is the smart option. For the sake of sending something cool and unique to Ukraine, that’s where Michèle fits in. The ball’s in your court, Switzerland. Hit it in whichever direction you want!
Who WILL win Timebelle. What can I say other than I think their timebelle has come? I think Michèle may be too offbeat FTW. My underdog pick is Freschta.
In your mind, who should and will go to Kyiv on behalf of Switzerland? Will Rykka’s squatting make an unwanted comeback when they get there (it’s no Macarena, but it may have caught on)? The comment box is waiting for your opinions, and so am I! I’m not curious – I’m just plain nosy.
I’m exhausted after all that rambling, so I’d better go have a power-nap before Melodifestivalen starts (at the perfectly civilised hour of 3am my time…but I willingly set my alarm earlier than anyone ever should at this time of year). Whether you’ll be joining me watching that magnificent beast get underway, or you’re tuning into Hungarian, Lithuanian or Ukrainian shows instead, have fun. I’ll see you when Frantic February’s first weekend is over and we have even more stuff to ramble about!
The Songs of Eurovision 2017 So Far: First impressions, 2016 vs 2017, my top five + vote for your favourite!
Happy First of February, everybody! As scary as it is that a full four weeks of 2017 have already gone by – it’s practically a permission slip for us all to Get Frighten like Lolita Zero – February is an exciting month on the Eurovision calendar, so maybe we should all “get excite” instead.
January just ended with the presentation of Kyiv’s logo and slogan (‘slogo’ to those of us who don’t have time for excess syllables):
It isn’t the most attractive logo (or the greatest slogan) in ESC history as far as I’m concerned (the colour scheme in particular is pretty drab). However, it has the potential to look slick in show-motion, as part of the postcards, and plastered all over posters/lanyards/t-shirts/toilet paper (an untapped item of merchandise that could, ahem, wipe the floor with the rest). So shall we give it a chance to shine – or not – before we throw it in the trash via salty Twitter sessions? Yes? Okay then.
In other end-of-January news, the allocation draw for the semi-finals took place yesterday, and has divided all of the non-automatic finalists into either the Tuesday or Thursday night shows. This doesn’t mean that much at the moment. Still, I’m happy to have Sweden in the first semi alongside Australia (despite the fact that they’re obviously tough competition) because we’re pretty friendly, and unless it’s third time unlucky and Australia sends something diabolically bad to Ukraine, we’re likely to get a little boost of points from last year’s hosts. If we don’t, the entire country will have a mob of angry Aussies (or perhaps just me) to answer to.
With the theme art unveiled and the allocation draw done and dusted, we can now move on to the millions (slight exaggeration) of national finals mapped out for this month – including the magnificent Melodifestivalen, which starts this Saturday. For now, though, there are five seen-and-heard songs in the race to be the next 1944…and that’s such a neat little number, I’ve got to take advantage of it. So here, have some opinions on the fabulous (and not-so-fabulous) five songs chosen to date for the 2017 contest. And stick around to the (possibly bitter) end to vote for your favourite before five becomes…more than five. #mathsskillz.
Bonjour, Albania, Belarus, Finland, Georgia and the United Kingdom. I’m about to criticise you like crazy.
Botë by Lindita Halimi (Albania)
When discussing Albania at the moment, we’re fully aware that the song we’re talking about now is probably not the song we’ll be talking about in a month or two. That’s because Lindita and her crew are currently revamping it and preparing for its English-language unveiling (not because the Botë writers are going to pull a Diell on us and actually force her to find a different song to sing in Kyiv). In its at-this-second state, Botë is classic Albania – a big, brassy power ballad in possession of a mysterious beauty. Even if any of that changes when the final version is presented, Lindita will still sing the absolute crap out of it without breaking a sweat. If she doesn’t qualify to the ESC final, I feel like someone’s going to get punched (not by me, but by her. The girl is fierce).
My current score 8 points.
Better than Fairytale? As one of the few living and breathing fans of Fairytale, I’m not 100% certain, but I think Lindita trumps Eneda. She’d definitely beat her in the boxing ring.
Historyja Majho Žyccia by NAVI (Belarus)
Like Finland, Belarus chose wisely from their NF line-up when they could easily have made a dreadful decision (in my opinion…which as always, is the right one). NAVI’s brand of fun folk-pop is wrapped up in a neat, cheerfully-decorated package with Historyja Majho Žyccia. Even though it will stay in Belarusian (which makes me want to do a little ethnic/highly embarrassing dance of joy) we’ll all be able to sing along to the various heys and hos that up the cute factor throughout. I’m not head-over-heels in love with this song – it could be the genre, which isn’t my favourite, or just a missing bit of pizzazz – but I like it a lot, and I’m interested to see how it performs at Eurovision.
My current score 7 points.
Better than Help You Fly? This is like comparing 1944 with Wadde Hadde Dudde Da (don’t try to tell me that Stefan Raab masterpiece isn’t stuck in your head now). Basically, it’s a tough call, but I’m saying yes.
Blackbird by Norma John (Finland)
I was holding out a little hope that this track would win UMK, but until I saw the performances, I assumed Emma had it in the bag. Or that Finland would think ‘f%#k it’ and pick Günther & D’Sanz. Fortunately, they pleasantly surprised me by doing neither of those things. Blackbird has plenty of people pretending to puke whenever it’s mentioned, but for me, it has a bit of the magic of A Monster Like Me plus the raw emotion of Silent Storm. That amounts to something special, if not spectacular. Some pre-ESC crafting of the staging concept should elevate it to semi top ten status, but it’s early days and most of Norma John’s competition is a question mark. They might blend into the background, or make a statement with their subtlety. If you ask me, it’s Option B!
My current score 10 points.
Better than Sing It Away? As a party-starter/dancefloor-filler, nope. In every other department, yep.
Keep The Faith by Tako Gachechiladze (Georgia)
Tako nearly made it to Moscow in 2009 as part of the peeps that brought us We Don’t Wanna Put In. To be honest, I’d rather listen to that disco-flavoured, thinly-veiled dig at Russia’s main man than this melodramatic, been-done ballad. When you’re watching a song being sung, and you’re thinking about how sparkly the singer’s dress is and how voluminous her hair is and where you can buy a lipstick in that exact shade because it’s gorgeous…but not about the song itself as it kind of sends you to sleep, that’s bad news. And that, my friends, was me watching Tako do her thing at the Georgian final. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, so I know Keep The Faith has its fans. I’m just not one of them at this point.
My current score 5 points.
Better than Midnight Gold? No way. Bring back the drug references and epileptic lighting sequences.
Never Give Up On You by Lucie Jones (United Kingdom)
Was it my number one (like, the only treasure I’ll ever have) choice of the six You Decide songs? Not before the comp. But I’ve got to admit, this song has grown on me very rapidly after only a few listens and a look at Lucie’s pared-back performance from Friday night (in which she sang like a songbird, wore an amazing velvet dress and reminded me a little bit of Lena circa 2010 if Lena had taken a Valium before stepping onto the Oslo stage). It’s an almost-exceptional, well-worded minimalist ballad that Emmelie de Forest has co-created here – and may I remind the haters that every single song she’s written that has made it to the ESC has won the contest? True fact.
My current score 10 points.
Better than You’re Not Alone? Definitely. Joe + Jake were a much less hyperactive and more sensible-haired version of Jedward, which can only be a good thing – but Lucie is a step in a more successful direction.
For those of you who made it through all of the above, here’s my top five:
- United Kingdom
How long will it be before somebody, if anybody (*sneezes in a very timely fashion with a ‘SWEDEN!’ instead of an ‘AACHOO!’*) steamrolls over the UK and parks in my personal top spot?
I have no idea.
Here’s an easier question to answer:
If you want to justify your poll pick or say something snarky about a song you don’t like (this is not a bitchiness-free zone, so go ahead), drop by the comments below. Also, feel free to send your personal top five my way so we can compare our rankings while secretly wondering why the heck each of us has THAT song in first/last place.
Until Saturday, when the clouds part and a heavenly glow covers Gothenburg because it’s Melfest Semi One Day (can’t you hear the angels warming up their vocal chords in anticipation?)…
Hello there, you stunning creatures! No, I haven’t dived off the deep end (yet). It’s just that, well…didn’t you know that when One Direction sang ‘that’s what makes you beautiful’, they were talking about obsessing over Eurovision? It gives us all a constant, pregnancy-esque glow, except the only thing we’re pregnant with is excitement about all the NF action of the moment.
Speaking of which, let’s get straight into discussing it. We’ll start with what’s happening this weekend:
- 27/1 The United Kingdom’s You Decide – the final (feat. Olivia Garcia + Lucie Jones)
- 28/1 Finland’s Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu – the final (feat. Alva, Emma + Norma John)
- 28/1 Hungary’s A Dal – heat two (feat. Kállay Saunders Band, Zoltán Mujahid + Ádám Szábo)
- 28/1 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat four (feat. Alanas Chošnau + Audrius Janonis)
It’s not quite as crazy as some upcoming weekends will be, but there’s definitely enough to keep us happy (and/or complaining bitterly) until the same time next week. I’m going to filter my focus down to the goings-on in the UK and Finland, tonight and tomorrow respectively.
3, 2, 1, GO!
The UK’s songs for Europe: A step up or a stack down the stairs? You Decide…
See what I did there? I hope so, because without trying to be offensive, I think even Corinna May saw what I did there.
Yep, it’s You Decide that will decide this year’s UK entry, yet again. But in the meantime, all of us fans have been deciding what we think of the line-up – with a different opinion coming from anyone who’s asked. A lot of people seem to be describing the overall quality, variety and fun factor of Danyl, Holly, Lucie, Nate, Olivia and Salena (who should just form a band called ‘We All Sound Super British’ already) as beige, via Pantone colour charts. As someone who’s rather fashion-focused (i.e. I never get tired of critiquing Eurovision costumes), I’m going to try something slightly different:
That sums up my general attitude towards the tracks. I’m not peeing my pants with excitement over them (probably not a bad thing), but in my opinion, they’re not half as bland and boring as their 2016 counterparts, of which Joe and Jake were definitely the most interesting choice. Here they all are in we-have-no-running-order-yet order:
- Light Up The World by Danyl Johnson
- I Wish I Loved You More by Holly Brewer
- Never Give Up On You by Lucie Jones
- What Are We Made Of by Nate Simpson
- Freedom Hearts by Olivia Garcia
- I Don’t Wanna Fight by Salena Mastroianni
All six are semi-decent songs (some more than others) performed by perfectly good (in studio, at least) singers, all of whom have appeared on The X Factor (nothing wrong with that – TV talent shows dot the background of bajillions of ESC artists these days). I feel confident in saying that there isn’t a Eurovision winner among them, but it’s too early to predict what the UK may be capable of besides clawing their way back to the top of the scoreboard for the first time since 1997. Let’s take things, as Maria Olafs would say, one step at a time, and see who produces a live performance that scores them an automatic spot in the Eurovision 2017 final.
My top 6
- I Wish I Loved You More – I know this sort of pop power ballad has been done to death and is pretty passé in 2017…but I still enjoy it! This particular example is catchy, climactic and not too lyrically clichéd. 10 points.
- Freedom Hearts – There’s something about this that makes me feel like it needed another week or two of tweaking by the writers/producers. But it’s still good. Kind of like an updated (or sequel to) Children of the Universe. 8 points.
- Never Give Up On You – We can’t discuss this one without mentioning co-creator Emmelie de Forest. It’s not quite what I expected from her, but there’s appeal in the pared-back production and heartfelt delivery from Lucie. I still want some drums and strings to drop in and elevate the last chorus. 8 points.
- I Don’t Wanna Fight – If there were ever a movie musical starring Dua Lipa as a Miss Universe contestant demanding world peace, this would be her swan song. Miraculously, that kind of works for me (although the lyric ‘only love survives’ HAS to be a bad ESC-related omen for Salena). 7 points.
- What Are We Made Of – I hated this after my first listen, but giving it another go led to me liking it as much as I like the average John Legend piano ballad – which is a reasonable amount. 6 points.
- Light Up The World – Musically and melodically, I enjoy this. Lyrically, it makes me want to go on some sort of King Kong-like rampage. It’s 2017…when will the cheese be binned? It’s well past its use-by date. 5 points.
Now my verdicts are in, the usual questions can be answered. Firstly, this one:
Who SHOULD win Holly, Olivia or Lucie. Basically, because they’re my favourites. If Holly can deliver a vocal that even comes close to her studio version, it will be amazing – her live could really lift IWILYM to a higher level. Olivia and Lucie have the most original songs up their sleeves, and that should be rewarded.
Now for this question, which will cement my status as The Crappiest Predictor in the World™ (although I did guess Belarus correctly last week. It scared me a little).
Who WILL win Olivia or Lucie. They’re top two with the bookies (Lucie first, Olivia second) but I typed their names before I checked the You Decide odds. That’s because their songs stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of giving off winner vibes. Freedom Hearts is a good example of a contemporary pop anthem, mature enough for the ESC but youthful enough to suit sixteen-year-old Olivia. Never Give Up On You has the de Forest advantage, which may or may not matter to the juries and voters, but it gives the song a certain calibre. It stands out as the most stripped-back and sentimental song of the six too. I’ll be surprised if it isn’t one of these ladies who gets the UK’s golden ticket.
In the interests of not fence-sitting for once, here’s my number one pick FTW.
Who’s yours? Which of these X Factor exes has got the goods to go all the way to Kyiv…and how far can they go once they get there?
As I said in a previous post, I don’t trust UMK to crown a champ who’s the best possible Eurovision rep for Finland. Sandhja herself caused an upset by beating out fan favourites Saara Aalto and Mikael Saari…and look what happened as a result. The Finns have been ESC semi final stayers for two years now, and what they’ve got going on in the UMK 2017 line-up is 50% songs that could change that, and 50% songs that will have them missing out on the final for the third time in a row. Can you guess which are which, IMO?
- Circle of Light by Emma
- Arrows by Alva
- Love Yourself by Günther & D’Sanz
- Reach Out For The Sun by Anni Saikku
- Caveman by Knucklebone Oscar & The Shangri-la Rubies
- Blackbird by Norma John
- Helppo Elämä by Lauri Yrjölä
- My Little World by Club Le Persé
- Perfect Villain by Zühlke
- Paradise by My First Band
I’ll drop some heavy hints with my ranking + mini-reviews.
My top 10
- Helppo Elämä – This is weird in a wonderful way. I love that the lyrics are native language (Finnish is so whimsical-sounding, it immediately adds interest to anything from songs to conversations about compost), and I love the overall production and sound. 10 points.
- Blackbird – Simple and beautiful. The chorus brings actual tears to my eyes. 8 points.
- Arrows – I know I’ve already mentioned Maria Olafs once in this post, but I have to do it again. This is Unbroken updated for 2017, but it far better on the grounds that it isn’t half as repetitive. 8 points.
- Reach Out For The Sun – I can’t remember how this goes, but I know I quite like it, even though it never escalates into a statement piece. 7 points.
- Paradise – I’d rate this higher if the lyrics weren’t so unnecessarily suggestive (and at times, nonsensical). I don’t want to be left alone with any of these guys. 7 points.
- Circle of Light – The final installment in the Only Teardrops trilogy (part two was Hear Them Calling) is the fan favourite, but it’s not my thing and I feel like it’s past its prime. 6 points.
- Perfect Villain – I think Eurovision has moved on from stuff like this, but I have to applaud the lyrical originality. It’s so thought-provoking. I mean, what WOULD the X-Men do? 6 points.
- Love Yourself – Nope. 3 points.
- Caveman – Double nope, and not even close to wunderbar. 2 points.
- My Little World – How many nopes have you got time for? 1 point, because the chorus isn’t totally obscene.
How does your ranking stack up to mine? Do you despise the three (!) novelty entries, or are you hoping one of them comes out on top. It wouldn’t shock me if one of them did.
Who SHOULD win Norma John or Alva. As much as I personally would love to see Lauri on the Eurovision stage, Blackbird and Arrows would make for better, more successful ESC entries. Norma John would bring the bare-bones emotion (á la Never Give Up On You from the UK) while Arrows would be a sweet sorbet for us to enjoy between bigger, louder and more serious songs.
Who WILL win Emma or My First Band. These are the acts that topped the UMK pre-vote, so I’m not game to discount either of them, even though I’m convinced that Finland could pick any of the ten possibles depending on which way the wind blows on the night (sorry to any Finns reading this – I’m not suggesting that you’re fickle, but UMK seems to be). If Circle of Light takes the prize, I suspect it will be more Hear Them Calling than Only Teardrops at the big show, but it’s too soon to say so for sure. Peer pressure – and yes, those pre-vote results – pushed me into calling My First Band as likely victors, despite THOSE LYRICS. They make the song more disturbing than Serhat’s I Didn’t Know, which is really saying something. But hey – that’s a gimmick in itself, right?
Ultimately, I’m going to side with Emma-lie de Finland Forest.
Do you think Finland will be safe in the circle of light, or heading off to paradise? Or neither? Make your predictions public now to be in with a chance of saying ‘I told you so!’.
That’s all I have to say on the UK and UMK for now, but when the shows are over, another conversation can start. When I say ‘conversation’, I of course mean an all-out war of words between those of us who love the winning songs and those of us who wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot-pole. There’s something to look forward to!
Have fun tuning in to your NF/NFs of choice this weekend. If there’s anything you want to say about them, before, during and after, then hit up the comment box down below 🙂
It’s almost the end of January (holy Helena Paparizou!), but it doesn’t seem like much has happened during national final season. We’ve still got forty Eurovision 2017 entries to find and/or hear (forty-one if you include Albania’s Botë undergoing an extreme makeover) and the weekend finals are drip-dropping through Safura-style – not flooding in like they will in February.
But remember, not all of the interesting stuff is related to end results. We’re at a point in time when NF participants are consistently being unveiled, music is being released, heats are being held (or postponed, in Hungary’s case – my thoughts are with everybody affected by that tragic bus crash on Saturday) and news is breaking. So it’s been a more exciting month than it might seem! There’s been highs, lows, claims of plagiarism…basically, it’s your bog standard selection season, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
I’m going to celebrate that today by singling out some of my favourite and least favourite parts of the glittery pathway to Kyiv to date. Anything NF-related was up for grabs, so read on to find out who/what has made me shed sneaky tears of both happiness and sadness as I bow before the Eurovision shrine I have in my bedroom (am I joking? You’ll never know MWAHAHAHA). Be sure to share your personal highlights and lowlights with me when you’re done!
The blonde bombshell is back! Anja Nissen’s return to DMGP
About a year ago, when The Voice Australia winner Anja Nissen was announced as a participant in Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2016, I was over the moon thinking that I might be able to cheer for not one, but TWO Aussies while in Stockholm. That would have given my ‘Strayan flag a workout. But it wasn’t meant to be, despite Anja producing a flawless performance of Never Alone on the night (to be honest, Simone and her Heart Shaped Hole ended up being what I was crossing my fingers for anyway…so I was still devastated by the outcome). But our girl must have been buoyed by her second-place finish, because she’s back – hopefully with a) a bang, and b) the big guns! I’ve been so down in the dumps over Oscar Zia – Melodifestivalen’s most recent runner-up – saving himself for a beyond-2017 comeback, I didn’t stop to consider who else around Europe might give Eurovision glory another go. Now, ‘Danish Star Wars Episode II: Anja’s Return’ is a sequel I’m going to be first in line to see, and I really want it to be better than the original. In other words, without knowing how Anja’s competition measures up, I WANT HER TO WIN. She’ll be belting out Where I Am, a song co-written by X Factor Australia alumnus Angel Tupai, on February 25th at the Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning. I cannot wait.
First-time native tongue: Belarus’ golden ticket goes to a Belarusian song
It sounds strange to say it, but we’ve never had the Belarusian language on the adult Eurovision stage before. We’ve heard Crimean Tatar once and made-up stuff THREE times (Belgium’s a big fan) but between 2004 and 2016, it was heavily-accented English all the way for Belarus. Those of us who are Junior Eurovision fans might feel like that’s even less true, as all the Belarusian we’ve been exposed to there blends in with the country’s thirteen past ESC entries. And I have to mention their debut My Galileo, which, as a friend and I were joking about bitchily on Twitter the other day, may as well have been in a LOTE. But the freshly-crowned winners of a ticket to Kyiv known as NAVI will become the first act to head into our favourite musical battle armed with a song in Belarusian. That’s assuming the duo don’t do an English re-write of Historyja Majho Žyccia – but, as they’re famed for their folksy, 100% foreign-language back catalogue, it’s unlikely. As much as they might benefit from throwing a token English chorus in at the end, I’d encourage them not to. With English taking over at the ESC these days, singing in something else makes you stand out and diminishes the same-same effect of one non-ethnic, all-English song after another. Keep us happy by staying true to your style, NAVI. Pretty please?
A Dal delivers the goods once again: My discovery of Deák
You guys know that I’m hopelessly devoted to Melodifestivalen – but that doesn’t mean I don’t have any vacancies in the hotel of my heart for other national finals. I love both MGPs, I love MESC, I love Eesti Laul…and I absolutely adore Hungary’s A Dal. Like Estonia, Hungary always offers a handful of songs that are interesting and experimental, and don’t sound like anything you’ve heard anywhere else. The song I want to draw attention to right now popped up early in the first heat of A Dal, and though it does remind me of various K-pop songs I’ve listened to in the past (stylistically) it’s not a cookie-cutter copy of something else…and I have to admit, I don’t think we’d ever hear anything quite like it in Melfest. It’s called Deák, it’s by Spoon 21 (who competed in A Dal a few years ago with a totally different track) and though I know I’m calling it early, it may end up being my gem of this selection season. This sort of silky-smooth, anthemic synth-pop is so far up my street, one more millimetre and it’d be in the next neighbourhood. It had me at hello (a.k.a. the initial snippet of that hypnotic chorus) and I’ve been obsessed ever since. Okay, so Spoon’s live performance was questionable (not visually, but vocally). And, as they squeezed through to the semi stages in equal second place, they’re not going to win the whole thing even if they manage to make the final. But who cares? One of the things I love about NF season is how it allows us to discover truckloads of awesome new music from all over the continent that we can enjoy for the rest of our lives (or until we’re tired of it thanks to overplayage). Onto my ‘Best of the 2017 NFs’ playlist you go, Deák.
No more Mr. Nice Guys: Denmark’s ban on boy bands
If you’re confused right now, I understand. Not only have I made my unconditional love of boy bands (or man bands…the only differences between the two are time, voice depth and facial hair) as clear as Petra Mede’s now-infamous ‘let’s come together’ joke – I also just mentioned that I’ve fallen head-over-heels for an NF entry performed by a boy band. Yet I’m thrilled that Denmark is treating singing groups made up of males like vampires and refusing to invite them in? What the Emmelie de Forest is going on? Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve been desperate for a change in Denmark after two ESC non-qualifications in a row – and what’s the obvious alteration, given that the common chain-link between The Way You Are and Soldiers of Love is the amount and gender of their performers? Dictate that DMGP 2017 will be a boy/man band-free zone, of course. Yes, Denmark did very well with A Friend In London back in 2011; but it seems like they were the exception rather than the rule. A self-imposed vacation from groups lacking in ladies (and, as a matter of fact, groups WITH girl power) will ensure they’re sending something different – artist-wise, at least – to Kyiv. Maybe we’ll see them back in the top ten as a result.
And finally, the one that transformed us all into living, sobbing sadface emojis…
Gone girl: Amaya’s withdrawal from Evrovizijska Melodija 😦
Besides Ace Wilder and Anja Nissen, there was another female singer starting with A who I was super-excited to see potentially win her chosen national final. Well, her new and improved stage name starts with A, anyway. We knew her as Maja Keuc when she slayed on the ESC stage in 2011 (in one of my most lusted-after contest costumes of all time) and six years later, the time was supposed to be right for Amaya to make a comeback in Slovenia. Unfortunately, she’s decided that a different career opportunity that clashes with EMA must take priority (DAMN HER) and so, is out of the running on her own terms (DOUBLE DAMN HER). Just when my brain had established that she’d win by a landslide, flit off to Eurovision and secure Slovenia’s first ESC trophy, or at least a place on the podium! And do it all in another spectacular outfit. Talk about leaving us all with one-way tickets to What-ifs-ville USA. As someone who believes that everything – or almost everything – happens for a reason, I’m going to assume that Amaya: 2017 Edition just ain’t meant to be because something better is in her future. Meaning she’ll be back again (re-back? Alexander Re-back?) with something even more epic up her stylish sleeve than she had prepared this time. That attitude, of course, doesn’t stop me from mourning the loss of her from this year’s EMA line-up…hence why I’m complaining about it to you now. Join me, won’t you?
What have you enjoyed most about the Eurovision 2017 selection season so far? Which songs, acts and results have had you jumping for joy – or doing the opposite (whatever that is)? Let me know in the comments below!
Say Fri-yayayay! Not only is it now the weekend (cause for celebration in itself), but it’s also the true start of the Eurovision 2017 national final season. What’s happened before tonight was the warm-up, and now that we’re all stretched and dying to get going…well, things are getting going. So that’s good.
In case you can’t tell, I’m not a fully functioning, able-to-string-a-decent-sentence-together human person at the moment. My working week was pretty exhausting, and my extra-curricular plate is more overloaded than the Buranovskiye Babushki’s pie tray. Still, I couldn’t bear to miss out on making some rash judgments and ridiculous predictions re: tonight’s NFs, which I’ll regret later.
Speaking of tonight’s bits and pieces (and tomorrow’s), what’s on?
- Friday Belarus’ Eurofest (feat. Napoli, NAVI + Nuteki); Georgia’s unnamed NF
- Saturday Hungary’s A Dal (Heat 2 feat. Gigi Radics); Lithuania’s Eurovizijos (Heat 3 feat. Vilija)
There’s something for everyone in there, even if you’re saving your girlish screams for the Scandinavian selections (like me). Let’s talk about the shows that are putting the ‘final’ into ‘national final’ by actually producing entries for Kyiv.
A very mediocre Georgian marathon (or ‘Why This Post’s Title Was Belarus-Centric’)
I’ll get straight to the point here – I’m NOT reviewing or predicting this year’s Georgian NF.
That’s partly because I’m pressed for time, but also because I was so uninspired by the stuff in it that I can’t be bothered. The impression I got from hearing all 5000 (approximately) tracks, one after the other, is that waking up at an ungodly hour to watch them be performed would be like tuning into a parallel-universe version of the ESC 2007 semi final, in which every single competing song is Time To Party by The Jet Set.
I.e. a terrible plan not worth sacrificing sleep for.
But hey – first impressions never last. I’ll give a second chance to whatever becomes the winner.
Also, I apologise for flicking my bitch switch up to max in the paragraph above. I’m just being honest, though.
Nudity + wolves = so 2016…but what’s next for Belarus?
Where do you go after the Ivan Incident? Anywhere that erases Giant CGI Babygate from our memories is fine by me.
There are 13 (ooh, lucky/ooh, unlucky – pick a side) songs battling it out tonight to represent Belarus in the not-very-far-away land of Ukraine. Among them are a few that could certainly improve on the DNQ of Help You Fly, given some polishing time. How convenient, then, that it’s January, and Eurovision’s not until May! No excuses, Belarus.
After another year of excruciatingly amateur (oops, must’ve hit that bitch switch again) auditions – seemingly held in a studio with all the acoustic calibre of a shoebox – here are the finalists.
- Children of the World by July
- Be Stronger by Alexandra Tkach
- Follow The Play by Vladislav Kurasov
- Historyja Majho Žyccia by NAVI
- On The Red Line by Isaac Nightingale
- Wild Wind by Kattie
- Take My Heart by Nuteki
- Let’s Come Together by NAPOLI
- Voices In My Head by Nikita Hodas
- We Should Be Together by Angelica Pushnova
- We’ll Be Together by Anastasiya Sheverenko
- Heartbeat by Lermont x Julic
- #mylove by PROvokatsiya
There are a few returning artists in the mix – including NAPOLI, who peddled My Universe at both Eurofest and Poland’s Krajowe Eliminacje last year. Will any of them finally get the chance to move to the next stage (literally)? I’ll tell you what I think in a minute. But first…
My top 13
Because compiling rankings is as natural as breathing to us Eurofans.
- On The Red Line – It’s on the red line but off-the-wall, and that’s what I like about it. This doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before, and there’s not a cringely, clichéd lyric to be heard. I’m YAASSSing all over the place about that.
- Historyja Majho Žyccia – NAVI, once again, are bringing all kinds of adorable to the Belarusian NF. This is the only non-English track on offer and that instantly makes it stand out. It’s super catchy, cute, and full of happy in a folksy way.
- Take My Heart – I think this is my favourite musical attempt-to-make-it-to-Eurovision of Nuteki’s. It’s not going to win any awards for originality, but it’s a good example of energetic mid-tempo pop rock in the We Are The Heroes
- Be Stronger – There’s something about the sweet lyrics and vulnerability in Lexy’s voice and look (I don’t know how old she is, but she looks like she’s still in school) that has me reaching for the tissues when I hear this. It makes my heart hurt in a good way.
- Follow The Play – This sort of pop ballad is right up my street, but it’s a bit passé at Eurovision (and everywhere else) in 2017. Dima Bilan and his ’06 mullet would probably agree.
- Children of the World – This is a blatant rip-off of Nick Jonas’ Chains, only with much cheesier lyrics crammed in. And yet I don’t mind it. WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!?!?
- Voices In My Head – I’m torn on this one. I quite like the alternative vibe (this song is the hipster vegan café of the music world) and Nikita’s vocals, but the spoken word sections don’t speak to me.
- Heartbeat – I can’t tell whether this is a good song sung badly, or a bad song made worse by crappy singing. In summary, ???
- We Should Be Together – Dated, predictable dance-pop does not rub me up the right way…anymore (I think I can use the phrase “I’m too old for this s%#t’ and really mean it at this point in my life).
- Wild Wind – Donald Trump is about to be inaugurated as US President. Ergo, there’s so much depressing stuff happening in the world already that we don’t have room in it for such a melodramatic, morbid ballad about unfortunate weather conditions to go to Eurovision.
- We’ll Be Together – I’m pretty sure that this is a decent song…but Anastasiya’s voice is so bizarre (has she swallowed a sponge at some point?) that it’s a distraction.
- Let’s Come Together – Of the 75 songs competing in Belarus with the word ‘together’ in the title, this is by far the worst. It’s obvious that NAPOLI is desperate to get to Eurovision, but three solid minutes of clichés isn’t going to do the trick.
- #mylove – Nope. To the hashtag, the melody, the style and the words, I say ALL OF THE NOPES.
Who SHOULD win? This is basically the same as asking me ‘Who do you personally want to win?’, and my answer would be (based on the ranking I typed out two seconds ago) Isaac Nightingale, NAVI or Nuteki. To my tastes, these three (plus one or two others at a push) are diamonds in the rough that is this national final. Isaac has the least chance of actually winning, as I’ll admit that On The Red Line isn’t exciting enough to demand attention (which would translate into votes). I’d love NAVI to win since they’re the sole reps of their native tongue in the entire show, and to see that win out via such a sweet song would make me smile. Nuteki’s entry this time around doesn’t set the world on fire like it’s a piano belonging to The Makemakes, but it’s competent and catchy and karaoke-friendly – multiple boxes of mine are ticked by it.
Who WILL win? *drumroll* Let Jaz’s horrendously inaccurate NF predictions begin! I’m not a betting woman (mainly because I am so bad at foreseeing the future that I’d be constantly broke if I was) but NAVI, Nuteki or Napoli (yeah, I know what I said before) are the names I’d drop some dollars on.
Ask me to single one out FTW, and I’d say…
Last but not least, I’m going to throw in a random underdog, because why the heck not. It’s Lermont x Julic. Don’t ask me why; just know that, like Justin Timberlake, I got this feelin’…inside my bones.
SUDDEN ENDING ALERT!!! I’m going to say my goodbyes now, before I fall asleep on my keyboard and risk waking up tomorrow with ‘QWERTY’ imprinted on my forehead. Hit me up with your opinions on and predictions for this weekend’s NFs in the comments, if you have any. Don’t be shy!
If you’re settling down with some snacks and a potentially pixilated stream from somewhere in Europe, enjoy. I’ll see you on the other side when we have two more songs to welcome (with open arms or middle fingers, we’ll see) into the Eurovision family.
Love, love, peace, peace out!
THE KOUNTDOWN TO KYIV | The countries I don’t trust to make the right choices this NF season (a.k.a. Jaz gets way too judgmental!)
Believe it or not, Eurovision’s next national final season is about to begin. THE FEELS!
Sure, Festivali I Këngës was our early Christmas present, and Hungary and Lithuania have kicked off the heat stages of their selections already (Lithuania really should have started theirs in September if they wanted to be sure of a pre-ESC finish). But the coming weekend is when the craziness starts – in the awesome way it always does for us Eurofreaks. It’s more or less non-stop NFs from the moment Belarus and Georgia get going on Friday until the EBU demands the handover of all 43 entries sometime in March. Are you ready? Me neither, but that’s too bad.
Of course, NF season brings with it as much heartbreak as it does happiness, when the songs we fall in love with don’t rise to the top. And there’s a handful of countries that, to me, are more likely to deliver on the ‘WHY, LORDI, WHY?!?’ front than any others. Before the 2017 season switches to supersonic speed, I’m going to expose those countries in the hope that they might not disappoint me this time around.
In other words, I’m about to complain my InCulto-style sparkly short-clad butt off. Who WOULDN’T want to stick around for that?
First, a few FYIs:
- This post = my personal opinion on the most unreliable national finals. I still believe that every country has the right to send whatever they want to Eurovision for whatever reason (maybe they’d rather make a statement than be in it to win it. That’s fine!). I also believe that, as with the ESC itself, whichever song wins is the right winner because it triumphed according to the rules. However, NF mistakes have been made more than once by certain selection shows the way I see it, and I just wanted to point that out.
- Don’t take anything I say below too seriously, and don’t call me out for insulting the intelligence and decisions of entire nations. This is only what I’d dictate in a parallel universe in which the whole season goes my way. Which will NEVER happen, btw.
- I’m using the results of 2016’s finals as my main examples of what went wrong, but don’t be surprised if I throw back to something from ye olden days of 2010-2015 too.
Right – now that we’ve established that I’m not some sort of Eurovision Satan, let’s get started. Here are the countries and their accompanying pre-selections that I’m worried about as we head into the 2017 season.
Belarus (The NF Formerly Known As Eurofest)
Since the Belarusian final is taking place this Friday, I feel like there’s still time for me to give the country that confused and scared us all with a giant baby hologram in Stockholm some passive-aggressive advice (besides ‘Maybe don’t do THAT again…like, ever’). I remember Help You Fly being my least favourite song on offer last year, and I also recall jinxing the results in a big way by joking that because I disliked it so much, it’d probably get the go-ahead for Eurovision. Sure, it grew on me as Ivan’s horrendous audition performance blossomed into something far more polished and professional (though OTT and nonsensical at the same time). But I still believe that Belarus could have chosen something that would at least have flicked them into the ESC final (like Kirill Yermakov’s Running To The Sun or NAVI’s Heta Ziamlia which finished 3rd and 4th respectively), and not had us laughing and cringing in equal measure. Therefore, here’s my tip: think about the big picture, Belarus, and pick the best of what is usually a pretty average bunch. Switzerland does it every year – so can you!
Denmark (Dansk Melodi Grand Prix)
I think I’d need more than two hands to count Denmark’s DMGP missteps on. The past two years in particular have seen them select the most mediocre, inoffensive song possible, only to be surprised when it didn’t make the grade required to see Eurovision’s Saturday night show (presumably because inoffensive mediocrity has, I must admit, worked in their favour before). Two DNQs on the trot should speak for themselves, but I still get the impression that we all need to come together (Eurovision 2016 slogan pun intended) and light a fire (Eurovision 2012 pun NOT intended) under Denmark’s butt to ensure that they don’t do the exact same thing for a third year running. The DMGP line-up in 2016 was actually stellar in my opinion, with at least seven of the ten competing entries worthy of leveling up to the ESC. Two of them even made the super final. Then – *insert sound of a balloon deflating here* – the worst case scenario became a horrifying yet bland reality. Basically, I’ve been betrayed by Denmark too frequently to trust the tastes of their televoting public. It’s on par with feeling personally victimised by Regina George, and it HAS TO STOP.
Estonia (Eesti Laul)
Don’t get me wrong – I think Eesti Laul is an excellent national final, and I’m not about to claim that Goodbye To Yesterday was a mistake of magnificent proportions (clearly, it wasn’t). But Estonia are so hit-and-miss with the calibre of song they crown EL champion, I can’t put too much faith in their decision-making skills. They did a Denmark in 2013 by sacrificing something edgy and exciting for something that could send you to sleep circa Eurovision 1994; then they assumed that a Stig Rästa songwriting credit would be enough to distract from the creep factor of Play’s presentation in 2016 (again, don’t drop that jaw. I love Play and I’m still devastated that it didn’t qualify, but I totally understand why). Those unfortunate turns of events have left me wondering what could have been if Grete Paia’s Päastke Noored Hinged and Mick Pedaja’s Seis (my entries of choice in those years) had won through instead. I reckon they would have made memorable moments for all the right reasons, and that’s what I want from the Estonian entry in 2017. But I’m not holding my breath, because I would like to live to see the Kyiv contest take place.
Finland (Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu)
Sandhja’s Eurovision experience can be more accurately summed up by the existence of a camel toe (the NSFW Urban Dictionary will help you out if you have no idea what I’m referring to) than by Sing It Away being a raging success…because it wasn’t. With a different position in the running order, more creative staging and weaker competition, the outcome might have been different. But at the end of the day, as fun and energetic as the song is, it was disposable. Finland were guilty of failing to bring ‘it’ (i.e. the x factor that has ‘We’re going to the final, bitches!’ written all over it) before 2016, so I worry that they’ll bring ‘it’ only to leave ‘it’ behind in UMK yet again this year. They’ve done it to poor Mikael Saari twice, and Satin Circus suffered the same fate in 2015 with Crossroads, which I believe would have been a dead cert for the ESC final. As I mentioned in this post’s ‘Better Cover My Arse’ disclaimer, every country is at complete liberty to choose what they want to represent them for whatever reason (as much as it wasn’t up my alley, I accept that Aina Mun Pitää brought an until-then uncharted genre to Eurovision and that Finland should be proud of being such musical pioneers). But do I think the Finns are consistently giving themselves the greatest chances of success on the contest stage? Umm, no. So if a pleasant surprise is in store for us re: UMK this year, you’ll be able to consider me a happy Jaz!
This one goes out to all of y’all who never forgot SUNDAY’s Feathers (or Fjaðrir, as it was known during Iceland’s 2015 semis). It also goes out to the two or three people (myself included) who thought that Iceland might have been suffering from ‘Ooh, it’s Greta!” syndrome when they settled on Miss Salóme for Stockholm. You guys will know what I mean when I say that Iceland has issues with sending their best-bet song to Eurovision. They also tend to take a Danish approach sometimes, by shoving innovative, contemporary songs aside to make way for slightly stale and often repetitive middle-of-the-road music (which is not at all representative of the epic, inventive music that the island can produce). Those issues are why I have issues of my own with the Icelandic selection process. At this point, we’re yet to find out who and what will be competing in Söngvakeppnin 2017, but I swear I’ll start feeling anxious as soon as we do, knowing that it’s highly likely the NF will end in…well, perhaps not disaster, but an ‘Oops, our bad!’ at least. Remember, this is my opinion, and Iceland is free to do whatever the heck they want. But they really should listen to me if they want to take full advantage of putting their musical talents on a global platform.
Norway (Melodi Grand Prix)
I can’t accuse Norway of opting for non-groundbreaking/icebreaking music for Eurovisual purposes. With songs like I Feed You My Love, A Monster Like Me and Icebreaker (which was highly original in that it crammed two song styles into one) in their archives, they’re certainly closer to Sweden than Denmark in the above-average stakes. However…Icebreaker was divisive, and I could easily argue that Norway had a mass-appeal, ready-made ESC gem at their disposal with Laila Samuels’ Afterglow. A modern, haunting ballad that would have eaten Croatia and the Czech Republic for breakfast (with some minor costume and staging tweaks), the song wasn’t completely overlooked by the Norwegians – but enough to leave Laila wearing her best gracious loser face as Agnete celebrated victory. You might say, depending on your definition of good music, that NMGP 2016 was like the shampoo aisle at the supermarket – an endless parade of high-quality choices that impress, but also overwhelm. I.e. there can be too much of a good thing, and it’s possible that Norway decided on the wrong good thing if building on Mørland & Deborah Scarlett’s success was their aim. That’s why I wouldn’t bet on NMGP producing the best possible winner this year – whereas I’d bet my life savings on Sweden’s Melodifestivalen whittling its entries down to the one that will guarantee them the most commendable Eurovision result they could have achieved.
Well, I think that’s the majority of my complaints officially off my chest. Maybe they’ve sent good vibes out into the NF universe…or maybe the vibes I’ve created are so negative, they’re now the Jemini of juju. Time will tell (and is also like thunder, according to Uzari. It’s multi-talented).
Now it’s your turn to vent. Which Eurovision 2017 selection shows are you most concerned about? Do you trust every country to make the “right” decision, or are there some that need a high five to the face with one of Poli Genova’s giant geometric earrings? Which countries made mistakes last year that have you thirsty for justice this year? Tell all in the comments below.
I’ll be back at the end of the week to preview and predict the Belarusian and Georgian NFs. You better prepare yourselves, because life on Planet Eurovision is about to get busy!
Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! Speaking as someone who wasn’t ready for Christmas (although I still managed to get all of my shopping done on time), I’m sure as heck not ready for 2016 to become 2017. But it’s happening, so I’m going to use the last few hours of the year to have a massive Throwback Thursday extravaganza…on a Saturday. I like to live dangerously.
As always, the past twelve months have been very exciting ones, full of ups and downs, for us Eurovision freaks (no offence intended by that terminology. I say let your freak flag fly!). But unless you want to drown your sorrows and wake up tomorrow morning with a huge hangover and feeling the remorse than Frans Jeppsson-Wall does not, I suggest focusing on the highlights rather than the lowlights. That’s what I’m doing here and now for my last post of the year: counting down a few of my favourite things from the 2015/2016 NF season, Eurovision 2016, and Junior Eurovision 2016. These were the songs/artists/results/events et cetera that had me hollering ‘Say yay yay yay!’ instead of a Michele Perniola-style ‘No’. Check out my picks and then let me know which moments made you a happy fan in 2016.
Let’s make like Hannah Mancini + love by diving straight in!
#10 | Better late than never: The Czech Republic finally makes it to an ESC final
The Czech Republic hasn’t had the driest of dry spells when it comes to Eurovision. It’s true that they hadn’t qualified from a semi until this year, but they did only compete five times between 2007 and 2016 (ten tries with zero qualifications would be a far more depressing statistic). Still, it was nothing less than a fist-pump moment when the country clawed their way out of Stockholm’s first semi final – for me, at least, because I love a good Cinderella story. I Stand isn’t one of my favourite entries from this year, and in Jaz’s Argo-inspired utopian land, Estonia’s Play would have replaced it in the semi’s top 10 (despite the creep factor). However, I do think that it deserved a spot in the final more than any of the Czech entries that came before it, so…go Gabriela! You’ve broken the drought.
#9 | The real fan favourites of Eurovision 2016: Zoë, the contest princess + Serhat, the cult superstar
It’s never just the songs of an ESC that get fans frothing at the mouth (and sometimes down south, if I may be so saucy). Often, it’s the personalities performing them who get tongues wagging and cause social media follows to flood in. In that respect, the real winners of Eurovision 2016 were Austria’s Zoë and San Marino’s/Turkey’s Serhat. Zoë earned an army of fans thanks to her general gorgeousness, being bubblier than a bottle of champagne and being the closest thing to a Disney princess we’ve ever seen at the contest. Serhat had people on the ground in Sweden stalking him for photos on a Sergey Lazarev level because I Didn’t Know was so bad it was *almost* good – and though we didn’t know whether he knew that or not, we did know that he was bringing his own brand of swag to the proceedings. Both artists brought a bit of old-timey ESC to 2016, and owned the shiz out of it. As such, I’m hopping off the train at Admiration Station here.
#8 | If it’s good enough for Christer, it must be pretty damn good: Belarus brings out the big guns for JESC + wins over Björkman
This is random, but sometimes it’s the little things that make you jump for joy, or at least do a tiny hop for happiness. Belarus brought their signature youthful spunk to Junior Eurovision this year, which has won them the contest twice before and nabbed them a handful of great results. An extra ingredient for 2016 was the humble household hoverboard, a fleet of which were navigated effortlessly by Alexander Minyonok and his dancers in Valletta. The gimmick was there, the choreography was slick, the vocals were on point…overall, this was a polished and entertaining package that harked back to the more childlike JESCs of the mid-2000s. And you know who acknowledged that? Mr. Christer Björkman. He was the only expert juror to award Belarus one of his top scores, and his precious douze at that, rewarding an entry that put the Junior into Junior Eurovision. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy seeing a formidable force in the ESC-verse hand his highest points to Belarus.
#7 | A tiny island changes their tune for the better: Malta swaps Chameleon for Walk On Water
I’m not too keen on national finals that stipulate a change in song is (not perfect, but) a-ok after a particular artist/song combo has already won. It feels a bit like cheating on the public and/or juries that chose the original song as The One (and also, WTH is the point of holding an NF? Just opt for an internal selection if that’s how you want to play it). However…Malta’s move from the MESC-winning Chameleon – performed by inevitable singer Ira Losco – to the Swedish penned and produced Walk On Water was an excellent action to take. Chameleon, while catchy, was suffering from an identity crisis, and wasn’t exactly cutting-edge pop music. Walk On Water knew exactly what it was – powerful soul-pop peppered with gospel and electronic sounds that allowed Malta to hold their own against the likes of Russia and Australia. Still not sold? Well, if it wasn’t for the switch, we wouldn’t have experienced the sheer joy of a liquid-filled USB stick with #WOW stamped on it *mic drop*.
#6 | All out of luck: Bosnia & Herzegovina + Greece lose their 100% qualification records
Before you start hurling abuse at me, let me explain why the 2016 non-qualifications of Bosnia & Herzegovina and Greece were a highlight of my year. I have nothing against either of these countries, and I was actually quite disappointed to see the unique Utopian Land left behind in its semi final. But because it was, alongside Ljubav Je, countries who advance to the final every year can now no longer assume their safety. That, I think, is a good thing. It proves that bloc/diaspora voting can’t be relied upon (despite what some people outside the ESC bubble believe); and that if your entry is worse than ten others you’re competing against, you’re out, no matter who you are. So, from big hitters like Russia to residents of Struggle Town like San Marino, everybody needs to bring something delicious to the Eurovision buffet table, or they’ll be tossed straight into the trash. And anything that keeps the level of musical quality sky-high in the contest gets a thumbs-up from me.
#5 | The comeback king (and queen) who kicked butt: The triumphant artist returns of the 2016 adult contest
These days, every Eurovision seems to bring with it a crop of artists that we’ve seen before. They end their second/third/fifteenth attempts at gaining ESC glory in different ways, and this year was no different in that sense. But it’s the success stories that I like to focus on rather than the fails (Deen, Greta Salomé and Kaliopi – sorry, but I’m “skinning you out”). The abovementioned Ira Losco may have gotten Malta back in the final, but she couldn’t come close to equaling or topping her 2002 second place (I think it was the lack of glitter-blowing). So it was up to Poli Genova and Donny Montell to fly the ‘We outdid ourselves!’ flag for Bulgaria and Lithuania respectively…and boy, did they ever. Donny’s goal was to beat Love Is Blind’s 14th place from 2012, and he did so by finishing 9th and giving his country their best result since 2006. Poli went from a DNQ in 2011 to achieving Bulgaria’s first qualification in nearly a decade, followed by their best result ever. Bravo, you two!
#4 | Never mind the colour of your life – let’s talk the colour of success: Poland picks Michał Szpak over Margaret, regrets nothing
One of the most shocking happenings of the 2015/2016 selection season was Margaret and her monster hit Cool Me Down NOT being Poland’s entry of choice for Stockholm. Even those of us who were immune to Margaret’s charms (i.e. me) figured she was a shoo-in to win Krajowe Eliminacje – and if she had an off night, surely Edyta Górniak would step in? Um, no. Jaws dropped globally as Michał Szpak and his majestic mane won the NF with ease (nearly 36% of the public vote, to be precise). Surfing on a sea of haters and doubters shouting ‘IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN MARGARET!’, he went on to qualify to the Eurovision final….and then came the voting sequence to end all voting sequences. Your moment of the night might have been when Russia tried but failed to push past Australia and Ukraine at the last second to win, but mine? Poland’s ultimate leapfrog over TWENTY countries into 6th place – thanks to the televoters – which led to an eventual 8th-place finish. Now that’s #WOW.
#3 | Edward af Sillén’s way with words: The entire Eurovision 2016 script
As a writer, I always find myself paying more attention than most to the scripting of Eurovision. I rarely find the hosts’ dialogue to be above average, excluding the perfection that was 2007 (Jaana and Mikko are my all-time favourite host duo) and 2013. The common ground between 2013 and 2016, besides Petra Mede? Screenwriter and genius Edward af Sillén. The man behind the words of Oslo 2010 and Malmö 2013 outdid both of his previous ESC gigs this year with a hilarious host script. Not only was it packed with banter that highlighted the chemistry between Petra and Måns, it also used humour to push the limits of what flies during a family entertainment program – which I love. Then there was ‘That’s Eurovision!’ – one of the best semi openers in history – and the now iconic ‘Love Love Peace Peace’, which we’ll still be singing when the next Swedish-hosted ESC takes place (probably in 2018). Basically, anything we heard in Stockholm that af Sillén had put down on paper was smart, sassy, and memorable. It played a big part in what I believe to be one of the best contests ever.
#2 | Beating Europe at their own game: Australia wins the jury vote and finishes second in Stockholm
If you thought this Australian was going to list her personal highlights of the Euro-year and NOT mention Dami Im, you were sadly mistaken. Until it actually happened, I had no idea that she was capable of giving us such an incredible result in our second year of contest participation. Guy Sebastian’s 5th place last year was awesome enough, but Dami almost winning the comp when Australia is still a newbie being made to feel quite unwelcome by some (which is understandable, but we’re here to stay so PLS STAHP) topped it by a mile. For a year, I was crushed that I couldn’t be in Vienna to see us compete for the first time. But then I made it to Stockholm to watch Dami nail her final performance, and I felt the support from a crowd of countless nationalities. After that, I got to witness her top the jury vote and wondered if I was about to see an unprecedented Aussie win of the whole contest. I didn’t, which as a Jamala devotee didn’t bother me too much. But I was there when we proved how seriously we take Eurovision, and when we scored ourselves such an amazing spot on the scoreboard. In hindsight, I wouldn’t change a thing.
#1 | Yasligima toyalmadim, men bu yerde yasalmadim: Jamala, 1944 and the ESC
Now we’ve arrived at my number one “thing” (song, artist, event…whatever), and fittingly, the only thing that could beat Dami’s epic Eurovision effort is the story of the entry that actually beat her in the competition. I wasn’t thrilled when I found out that Jamala was trying to represent Ukraine again, five years on from the 2011 Mika-Zlata-Jamala Incident. That’s because Smile made me do the opposite. Still, I cued up 1944 the first chance I got, not expecting to like what could have been a carbon copy of Smile. Three minutes later, my mind had been blown. I felt connected to the haunting, experimental beauty of 1944 immediately, drawn to its combination of vulnerability and strength, and the pain unleashed by Jamala as she told her grandmother’s story through song. It was magic, and I felt that from first listen through to the, ahem, *interesting* Ukrainian NF, then on to Eurovision. Every time she performed, it was as heartfelt as ever, and never has a vocal possessed such emotion and sincerity while still knocking our socks off with its sheer power. The overall impact of 1944 won Ukraine their second ESC trophy – and it was a victory not of gimmicks or of a personality, but of a song that meant something. Even now I can’t hear those first few bars without tearing up…which is why I never listen to it in public. Thank you for the music, Jamala. I’ll get some tissues ready for your reprise in Kyiv.
Congratulations, you made it to the end of this marathon countdown! If it’s past midnight wherever you are, then Happy New Year – I’m sorry you spent it trying not to fall asleep while I rambled my little heart out. If it’s still pre-midnight, then you have time to salvage the evening, so I’ll wrap things up by wishing you all the best for the start of 2017 (and the middle and end, obviously). Whether you’re celebrating by partying it up Russian granny style, tuning in to the ESC 250, or lying on the floor in the foetal position weeping because you failed to keep your New Year’s resolutions (which one am I? I’ll never tell), enjoy yourself.
I’ll see you next year for another January-December filled with Eurovision. In the meantime, don’t forget to fill me in on your NF/ESC/JESC highlights of 2016. I definitely didn’t keep my resolution to be less nosy, so I want to know everything.