THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 5 (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Portugal + Ukraine)

Happy Thursday, guys! There are just a few days until rehearsals proper start inside Lisbon’s Altice Arena (I like to tell you things you already know), so it’s got to be full steam ahead for me with my horrendously late reviews.

If you’ve missed any that came before this round, or you want to relive what I’ve done so far, here are the quick links:

  • Round 1 feat. Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta + The Netherlands
  • Round 2 feat Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania + Spain
  • Round 3 feat. Albania, Finland, Greece, Lithuania + Moldova
  • Round 4 feat. Australia, France, Georgia, Ireland + Latvia

And, before I get started on today’s round, here are the results of the ‘Vote for your favourite of the five!’ polls I’ve been annoying you with at the end of each post (with my winner of each round in bold):

  • Round 1: Cyprus, 33% (Armenia, 25%; The Netherlands, 17%; Hungary, 13%; Malta, 13%)
  • Round 2: Poland, 35% (Estonia, 24%; Romania, 18%; Spain, 18%; Azerbaijan, 6%)
  • Round 3: Albania, 33%, (Finland, 25%; Greece, 25%; Lithuania, 8%; Moldova, 8%)
  • Round 4: France, 67% (Australia, 22%; Latvia, 11%; Georgia, 0%; Ireland, 0%)

That’s the story so far – so let’s get stuck into the next chapter. Sit back, relax and read about the ESC 2018 entries from Cesár, Equinox, Franka, Cláudia and Mélovin…and obviously, what I think of them. That’s the whole point of this, right?

Oh, and don’t forget to vote for your favourite out of today’s five in the poll (had to).  

 

 

My thoughts Hail, Cesár! It’s becoming a trend for Eurovision backing singers to step into the main artist spotlight, and this guy is a prime example (and prime specimen of manhood). Not only did he provide backup for Bulgaria last year, helping them earn their best-ever result, but he did the same in 2016 – even getting to strut out on stage with Poli instead of being hidden in a filing cabinet in the wings. Maybe it wasn’t BNT responsible for Bulgaria’s contest turnaround after all…and if Cesár’s a good luck charm, that bodes well for Austria now they’ve managed to pry him out of Bulgaria’s grasp. The song he’s carrying on his own is worlds apart from both If Love Was A Crime and Beautiful Mess, despite being co-written by three of the same songwriters. It’s a soulful, Sam Smith-esque gospel ballad with a 2018 twist; an upbeat sibling of Isaiah’s Don’t Come Easy, almost. This song’s subject matter, however, is actually age-appropriate for the artist (seriously, how were we supposed to believe that a 17-year-old had a long history of love and loss behind him?). I had a feeling I was going to love Nobody But You from the writing credits alone, and I was not wrong. Damn, it’s good! If Nathan Trent was an adorable golden retriever puppy last year, then Cesár is a full-grown pedigree German Shepherd (well, Austrian Shepherd technically – think Inspector Rex) with a song that’s full of feeling, beautifully produced, current, and multi-layered like a Baklava. The lyrics are simple but not clichéd, making the song easy to sing along to and to remember. And if we had any doubts about Cesár’s ability to step it up and command the attention a headline artist has to, he apparently erased them with his powerful pre-party performances (as you may or may not know, I avoid those to keep the songs fresh for the actual contest). All we need now is the right staging to make this entry pop even more and become a package people want to vote for. Sadly, I can’t, as Australia is voting in semi 2…but if Austria gets to the final I will be texting my ass off for nobody but you (not true but I couldn’t resist the wordplay), Cesár! And to get back to staging for a second, Austria does have form – their 2016 and 2017 efforts were brilliant, so let’s hope it’s three masterpieces on the trot. Time will tell, but there’s one thing I know for sure right now: this is the semi 1 song that I’m not certain will qualify, but I NEED it to or I will be inconsolable. To quote Culture Club, do you really want to hurt me, Europe? Do you really want to make me cry? If not, then vote for Austria.

2017 VS 2018? I can’t choose, unless there’s money in it. No? Well, I’m not choosing then.

My score 10

 

 

My thoughts If there’s any country (besides Belgium) that has become a big Eurovision hitter lately, it’s Bulgaria. That means the pressure is now well and truly on BNT to maintain the sky-high standard they first set for themselves with Poli Genova in 2016. This year, they certainly did a top job of piquing curiosity in the Eurofan community with their cryptic pre-song-and-act reveal clues. In the end, it was the “common framework” project (we can’t just call them a group, apparently) Equinox with the otherworldly Bones that would follow in Kristian Kostov’s footsteps…but how far exactly can they follow? There’s no doubt – not from me, anyway – that this song is a good one. It’s dark, moody and modern, with slick production and an intense atmosphere. Lyrical quality is reasonably high (though at times I have as much idea of what they’re referring to as I did when Dihaj was discussing men with horse-heads having her skeletons). And I love the melody of the verses, pre-chorus and the chorus itself. I would argue that the chorus is melodically weaker than the rest of the song, but it still sticks. The five Bulgarian and American voices blend well, at least in studio…and so I’ve heard, live. Overall, this is an infinitely more enjoyable entry than the last one that attempted to bring a bunch of personalities together for an experimental musical project (*cough*Armenia 2015*cough*). But I just don’t feel the same sense of wow that I felt – and still feel – when I listen to Beautiful Mess. Bones is a bit too alien, cold and calculating for me to connect with on the same level. Ironically, for a song that’s about loving beyond the bones, I feel like there’s not a lot under the surface of this besides a desire to do well in the contest. My impression is that it’s trying too hard to be something special. While Beautiful Mess was organically awesome and ended up living up to hype created during rehearsals, Bones has already been hyped. It seems that after coming so close to a win in 2017, Bulgaria wants to go one better so badly that their finished product is missing the magic that made Kristian’s ESC so successful in the first place. I really don’t think the social media stir-up by the Bulgarian team was the best idea ever – it was pretentious and heightened expectations of the entry so much that they couldn’t possibly be met. I probably need to pull back on the harsh judgments here because at this point, you wouldn’t believe I actually do have Bulgaria in my top 10. The song is good enough on its own to win me over, but as for winning the whole contest? I doubt it. Qualification is a given though, and another podium finish isn’t out of the question. I’m keen to see if Bones has been given the stage treatment it deserves, and if these guys (+1 girl) come across as a cohesive group…er, I mean, ‘common framework’.

2017 VS 2018? 2017, hands down (to the floor, Robin Bengtsson-style).

My score 8.5

 

 

My thoughts There are two countries competing this year that couldn’t have sent more drastically different songs to Lisbon than they did to Kyiv if they tried. Croatia is one of them (and no prizes for guessing the other – it’s pretty obvious). We’ve bid our farewells to both Jacques and their ginormous LED heads, and now we’re saying zdravo to the gorgeous Franka and her boudoir ballad Crazy. The elephant in the room on this one is the ‘Was the composition stolen from a random Romanian guy or not?’ drama of a few weeks back. That tarnished things a bit for Croatia, but to be honest I’m not sure there was that much at stake. I like this song for the most part: the questionably-sourced music is the highlight, but the overall structure is good; the lyrics, while not revolutionary and clunky at times, aren’t bad; and I dig the saucy, sexy vibe, one that Latvia taps into as well. But unlike Latvia, Croatia isn’t getting me super-psyched. Crazy is kind of one-dimensional. I know Franka’s not saying she’s crazy as she sits in an armchair knitting sweaters for her twenty cats – she’s crazy in love. But a bit of craziness might have benefited a song that doesn’t push any boundaries (except for risking people not understanding the ‘roses and horses and the rain’ line). I’m 99% sure that during Franka’s performance, my mind will be occupied by thoughts of how much she looks like Rochelle from The Saturdays rather than how much I want to vote for her (not that I can anyway since she’s in the first semi). I think Croatia is going to sink rather than swim this year, which is what I figured last year too, but in hindsight I can see how that was naive. Looking at Crazy from every angle, including what it’s sandwiched between in the running order – Lost and Found from Macedonia and Nobody But You from Austria – Croatia is too easy to sacrifice. It screams ‘12th’ to me for some reason, so we’ll see if that’s my sixth sense talking. I don’t think I have anything else to say about Croatia this year, and you have to admit, that was never a problem with My Friend. Wait a second…there is one more thing: I wish we could CTRL-Z that spoken word bit, because the cringe factor there is HUGE.

2017 VS 2018? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but…2017.

My score 6.5

 

 

My thoughts Say olá to our host entry for 2018 – Portugal’s first ever! This is also the first time Portugal has found themselves automatically qualified for the Eurovision final since the semi system was introduced, as they failed to qualify from 2004-2007. After that, nobody outside of the reigning champ and the Big Four/Five had the privilege – if you see it that way – of not having to make it out of a semi in order to perform on the Saturday night. Basically, this is a big deal for Portugal. And it’s pink-haired The Voice alum Cláudia Pascoal who’s carrying both that privilege and the pressure of not embarrassing her country on home soil on her shoulders (too bad the Czech Republic aren’t hosting…Mikolas could be carrying it in his backpack). Backed up by songwriter Isaura, can she do Portugal proud – or even do the double – with O Jardim? I wouldn’t say this song is a winner, no – but it is beautiful. Festival da Cançao was pretty dire this year, and O Jardim, IMO, was the ONLY decent option. Luckily, it’s more than just decent, with a dreamy quality, leisurely but hypnotic (and strangely soothing) pace, and meaningful lyrics. Delicate vocals from Cláudia are amped up when Isaura chimes in, though Cláudia could easily carry this on her own (and I do find it a bit awkward how Isaura does nothing for several minutes and then chimes in out of nowhere). There’s a message about a lost loved one in this song that reminds me of Germany’s You Let Me Walk Alone, but this is less overt and more moving to be honest, because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying desperately to tug at everybody’s heartstrings. If you’re not a Portuguese speaker and don’t Google Translate the lyrics (a favourite pastime of mine), you’ll miss lines like ‘The flowers are my place; now that you’re not here, I water your garden’ (SOMEONE PASS ME A TISSUE FFS) – but I know I still feel the emotion regardless of speaking literally three words of Portuguese (well, four now I know what jardim means). Overall, it’s a pretty package being delivered here; one that never feels calculating, like it’s trying to replicate Salvador’s success. There are flaw(s) in Portugal’s plan, though. For example, O Jardim is a slow three minutes, and anyone who doesn’t feel the emotion of it or like the lullaby vibes might find it monotonous. For another, it is a statement song, but it’s whispering and not shouting – so will it be remembered when 18 songs have followed it in the final? And is it realistically a vote magnet? I’m not convinced. I think Portugal will struggle for a top 10 result, not because this song is undeserving but because it will be outshone. I’m seeing a host country result more in line with Sweden 2013 than Sweden 2016 – but there’ll definitely be an improvement on Ukraine 2017 (and Austria 2015…that must’ve hurt). One thing that’s for sure is that Cláudia will get to bask in one of the biggest audience reactions of the night – and the audible support for the host country in the arena is always something I look forward to during the final.

2017 VS 2018? Sorry, Salvador, but O Jardim gives me more feels. Controversial?

My score 8.5

 

 

My thoughts The 2018 Ukrainian national final was more or less a rehash of 2017’s – Tayanna was there singing her heart out, Mélovin was there with his creepy contact lens, and many of us thought a third party would swoop in and steal the victory from under their noses. But that didn’t happen. Tayanna may have ended up in second place again (she’s the Saara Aalto of Ukraine, so she should have her happy ending eventually) but this time Mélovin made his mark and won the right to represent Ukraine with Under The Ladder. Given that he doesn’t mind chilling under the occasional ladder, we can expect him to be everything but superstitious at Eurovision – opening umbrellas inside, willingly allowing black cats to cross his path, smashing Moldova’s mirrors, etc. And I reckon we can expect him to have a much better contest than O.Torvald did last year. Mélovin would have made a great rep with Wonder back then, a song that I initially thought was better than Under The Ladder. But his ESC entry grew on me very quickly, and I can now say that I am Mélovin it (HA HA HA). First things first, it’s one of the most original songs in the entire Lisbon line-up – not as out there as Israel, but on the same wavelength when it comes to stuff we haven’t heard in the contest before. I’d call it a distant, moodier relative of Mr. Brightside by The Killers, if anything. Starting out with pared-back piano behind the vocals, before the beat kicks in and the music swells, it’s dramatic and dynamic without being OTT. The chorus might have sacrificed lyrical space for oh-oh-ohs, but they’re catchy ones. And speaking of the lyrics…I’m still working out WTF the meaning is behind them all, but damn, I love them! You won’t find any love/above or fire/desire/higher here (no disrespect to Helena Paparizou). Instead we’re treated to the opening line ‘Curtains down, I’m laughing at the trial’ which leads to the gem that is ‘You can see that whatever the weather, that the wind’s always there, always fair.’ Alliteration and good rhyming? I’m sold. Then there’s the change of pace towards the end that keeps things interesting…not that I personally need that to keep me hooked on this. Okay, so I’ve established that this song is the bomb dot com, but what about the performer? Well, I have no complaints there either. Mélovin is an onstage force to be reckoned with. And despite what a lot of fans have said, I don’t have a problem with his English pronunciation. Any issues are with his voice and enunciation more than his Eastern European accent. Can you tell I’d defend Under The Ladder to the death? Ukraine is the last country on the second semi’s setlist, and I’m only unhappy about that because it means I have to wait until the end of the second show to see Mélovin in action.

2017 VS 2018? I could leave this unsaid, but 2018 to infinity and beyond!

My score 12

 

 

25 down, 18 to go! Today’s leaderboard looks like this:

  1. Ukraine (12)
  2. Austria (10)
  3. Bulgaria (8.5)
  4. Portugal (8.5)
  5. Croatia (6.5)

With Austria getting a strong 10 from me, it was a close call…but how could I not give Ukraine top honours when I gushed about them so much? Bulgaria is just inside my top 10 at the moment with that 8.5, and Portugal’s not far outside (I’ve been trying to fit 15 songs into my top 10 for weeks and it’s just not working).

Would you put Under The Ladder over the other songs in this round, or not so much? Leave me a comment to let me know how you’d rank them, and pick your personal fave below.

 

NEXT TIME This weekend is judgment weekend for Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Macedonia and San Marino. That’s right: thanks to that irritating number 43, I’m jumping from five songs per round to six. Don’t miss the first super-sized episode of the EBJ Eurovision 2018 Reviews!

 

 

 

 

 

THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 4 (Australia, France, Georgia, Ireland + Latvia)

Hello again, and welcome to yet another round of Eurovision 2018 reviews! With two weeks to go until semi numero uno (I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE IT), I’m slowly but surely getting there with these musical judgments. You can bet your brand new ESC board game that I will have all 43 songs covered by then. #womanonamission.

Here’s a spoiler alert for this latest round: it was a big-hitter for me, with three of the five songs currently chilling in my top 10. Who out of Jessica, Madame Monsieur, Iriao, Ryan and Laura am I talking about? Keep reading to find out. And, as always (you must be sick of me mentioning this) vote for your personal favourite in today’s poll.

Now, in true Melodifestivalen style, NU KÖR VI!!!

Yeah…probably should have saved that segue for the round with Sweden in it. My bad.

               

 

My thoughts I can’t believe this is the fourth time I’ve had the chance to review my own country’s Eurovision entry – totally objectively, of course. Okay, maybe not totally. As soon as I got the opportunity to be biased with Guy in 2015, I instantly understood how easy it is to support a song that you may not normally be crazy about, so long as it’s your country that’s sending it. Don’t Come Easy was a prime example, but Isaiah’s follow-up artist Jessica Mauboy – technically a Eurovision returnee – is packing a song in her suitcase for Portugal that I honestly like a lot. I’m psyched to see Jess back in the contest and actually competing this time, after voting for her to win Australian Idol using my Nokia 3310 (in between playing Snake) way back in 2006. And though she’s dabbled in different genres during her music career, with We Got Love she’s found a perfect fit for her voice and personality. The song is three minutes of pure happiness that radiates out of her every time she performs it. It might be a song that’s obviously trying to tick Eurovision boxes, but in this case that’s not a bad thing, because it’s a) energetic enough to be irresistible on the Euroclub dancefloor; b) armed with simple, one-size-fits-all lyrics and an often-repeated title that sticks; c) the proud owner of a dangerously catchy chorus; and d) got a money note that has ‘Vote for me in 3, 2, 1, NOW!’ written all over it. It’s the kind of song that wouldn’t be out of place at an Olympics opening ceremony (and really should have been performed at the Commonwealth Games a few weeks ago) – a.k.a. it’s ultra uplifting and unifying. Could it be any more of an ESC anthem? And am I irritating you with my gushing yet? Well, don’t worry. I know I said the song was a perfect fit for Jess, but it isn’t a perfect song. We Got Love got flaws, and the biggest of the few I can find is those ambiguous lyrics. While an asset in terms of allowing the masses to relate to them and interpret their meaning individually, they are pretty aimless and clearly weren’t written with a specific situation in mind. They don’t tell a story, so there won’t be one to tell on stage. Then again, we have story songs from the Czech Republic and France, for example, that ARE about particular situations (very different ones) so what’s wrong with a three-minute, generalised but positive mantra? I do think Australia 2018 packs a punch, and in a weaker year than 2017, when we miraculously managed to make the top 10 (I know Europe still hates us for that), Jess should be there or thereabouts. If Sacha Jean-Baptiste can stage something upbeat anywhere near as well as she stages dark, moody stuff, I don’t see why Australia can’t grab a spot in the 4th-6th range. And who knows…if all goes according to plan, then repeating our 3rd place from JESC 2017 might be a strong possibility. Or maybe I’m deluded but endearingly patriotic?

2017 VS 2018? 2018…though so far, I’ve been 100% biased and loved all of our entries.

My score 10

 

 

My thoughts Once upon a time, I thought and hoped I’d be reviewing Lisandro Cuxi’s Eva as France’s Eurovision 2018 entry. I also thought I’d NEVER move on from Eva losing out to Mercy at the last minute as it did at the Destination Eurovision final. But time heals all (NF-related) wounds, and now I’m ready to talk about Madame Monsieur’s meaningful electro alt-pop ballad as another success in the string of magnifique French songs sent to Eurovision since 2016. Mercy stood out from the early stages of Destination, even though it was a selection show full of great music, and I couldn’t say I was shocked when it went on to win. It’s one of the most cutting-edge tracks heading to Lisbon, written by Emilie and Jean-Karl themselves and oozing classic French confidence, sophistication and minimalism. I’d compare it to Italy in that it’s an effortlessly classy message song; but being way less wordy than Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente – plus more in line with what streams successfully on Spotify – makes it more accessible. As message songs go, it’s also found the balance between making a statement and avoiding doing so in a sugary, overly-sentimental way (á la Running from Hungary in 2014). Baby Mercy’s story is just that, anyway: a story rather than a controversial political statement that should be banned from the competition (ya hear that, Mercy haters and 1944 naysayers?). Subject matter aside, this is just a really cool song – the kind I’d use to try and brainwash my non-Eurovision obsessed friends into becoming fans without them even realising it. It might be down-tempo and lacking in a big, showy ‘moment’, but it makes an impact in other ways. There’s something in it for Salvador Sobral types who need their music to be meaningful, something for established ESC fans looking for style and a memorable melody, and something instant that should capture the attention of first-time listeners during the final. Then we come back to Emilie and Jean-Karl who have a backstory (they’re married!), are ridiculously good-looking, and perform this song perfectly with just the right amount of emotion – in all black with red accents, of course, because the French don’t do OTT. My sole complaint re: this as a package deal is that the ‘Merci, merci’ chant at the end is a slight waste of song time (I’d have cut it in half and squeezed in another chorus). But that’s hardly a dealbreaker. I love this song regardless, and even though it’s not in my top five at the moment, it’s firmly in my top 10 (sitting at no. 7 FYI). It would be fantastique for Madame Monsieur to at least fare as well as Alma on the Lisbon leaderboard. If they can own the stage better than she did, I don’t see why the actual top 10 (as opposed to my top 10) shouldn’t have a place for France. Either that or they’ll flop and finish 22nd. Europe/Australia, have some mercy for Mercy!

2017 VS 2018? France is constantly kicking goals these days, but for me this tops Requiem.

My score 10

 

 


My thoughts If you liked Klapa s Mora in Malmö (they represented Croatia with Mižerja, ICYMI) then you’re bound to like Iriao and Sheni Gulistvis – more than someone who wanted to slapa the Klapa boys across the face, anyway. It’s a similar brand of all-male ethnic ballad that does have its supporters, but will struggle to catch enough votes in its butterfly net to qualify. Now, I was a Mižerja fan, but that had some pop elements to it so it wasn’t alienating. Sheni is fully wedged in its niche genre pigeonhole, and as much as I respect that and am happy to have something unique and cultural in the 2018 contest, it just doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t hate it, but I don’t enjoy listening to it, and that’s why it’s drifted down to the #41 position in my current ranking. It sounds like a cover of an ancient national anthem, and doesn’t have any of the power and/or touch of bat-shit craziness that we’ve come to expect from Georgia. I do find them hit-and-miss at adult Eurovision, whereas I adore them at Junior Eurovision – a contest they completely ‘get’. And if they were sending their JESC 2017 runner-up Music of the Heart to Portugal (give Grigol Kipshidze a fake ID and rip up the EBU rulebook and they’d be good to go), I‘d be dropping a great big douze on top of Georgia right now. Sadly, I can’t do that for Iriao, and I can’t connect with what they’re bringing to the table. I’m pretty sure that Georgia will have to sit out of the final for the second year in a row…but I haven’t seen Sheni performed live, and I do think there’s a chance that the boys can create a magic moment on stage. Still, I doubt a flawless vocal performance will be enough. I don’t want a DNQ to put Georgia off sending ethnic, Georgian-language (this is their first fully-Georgian ESC entry) songs though. This particular one may not my cup of cocoa, and may not have the mass appeal it needs to make the final (in my opinion), but the next one might be more appealing – while staying true to tradition.

2017 VS 2018? 2017. When a rip-off Bond theme is done right, I dig it.

My score 5.5

 

 

My thoughts What is it with Ireland associating relationships with death? Last year we had Dying To Try, and now Ryan is lamenting that he ‘thought we’d be together ‘til we die’. RTÉ should be sourcing songs for the next Romeo & Juliet film adaptation. What they should also be doing is taking a good long look at their Eurovision approach, because they still haven’t moved on from their 1990s glory days – and holding onto that isn’t helping them find favour in the 2010s. I was a Brendan supporter last year, and despite what I just said I am a fan of Ryan’s Together. I just think Ireland needs a firework set off under their backside, but more on that later. For now, I want to chat about the pros of this year’s effort, not the cons. It’s a really nice song – easy-listening, soothing, a little bit sad…a song you’d hole yourself up in your bedroom to blast during a breakup grieving period. The lyrics are simple feat. metaphors that actually make sense (yes, it IS possible), and Ryan’s voice is made for this sort of guitar-driven, singer-songwriter ballad – which it should be, since he co-wrote it. I think the vibe and melody of the verses and pre-chorus are stunning. It’s only when the chorus arrives that things start to unravel, because it’s the musical equivalent of a deflated balloon (thankfully Ireland had a fully-inflated one in Kyiv). Again, the lyrics are good, but overall the chorus is weaker than every other part of the song when it should be the star of the show. As a result, I feel like Together goes nowhere. That’s made much more painful by the fact that a powerful, statement chorus would have made a good song great, yet what we have is a good song being dragged down by one weak spot. Even so, this song has the potential for a Tom Dice (or more likely, Paradise Oskar) result. Especially if Ryan is as enchanting (if you’ll let me get away with such flowery language) on stage as I’ve heard he is from EiC etc attendees. It’s far from a cert though, and that brings me back to my irritations over Ireland never truly fixing what’s broken. When’s the last time people were Israel 2018 excited about an Irish entry? It’s as if those responsible for choosing them think it’s only a matter of time (Sennek pun intended) before everything old is new again and songs that would have won at Eurovision in 1994 start doing it all over again. Like Denmark – but to an extreme degree – Ireland sends safe, vanilla songs that are more inside the box than Azerbaijan’s trapped alter-ego man from 2013. Year after year after year! Yeah, I’ve liked what they’ve done the past two years, but neither Dying To Try nor Together were/are potential winners or guaranteed to qualify. Where’s the spark? The x factor? Not in Ryan’s chorus, that’s for sure – but there is a glimmer of hope in the rest of his song. We’ll soon see whether that’s going to pay off or not.

2017 VS 2018? Ireland was a guilty pleasure for me last year – #TeamBalloon!

My score 7.5

 

 

My thoughts Being Aminata-short on time this NF season, I didn’t get the chance to follow Supernova – so when I cleared three minutes in my schedule to listen to show winner Laura being a Funny Girl, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would the song be on the same level as Love Injected/Heartbeat/Line, or would it be a jokey, lighthearted (and potentially lame) entry as the title suggested? As it turned out, the title was a herring as red as Laura’s NF dress. There’s nothing funny about Funny Girl, and I mean that as a compliment. My honest first reaction was ‘Wow!’. This song is soulful, sexy and sad all at once, and Laura’s performance was too (with added hair flicks for maximum sass). The situation of not being taken seriously by a boy who Netta Barzilai would definitely call stupid is explored using simple but original lyrics, a musical style that’s both on-trend and throwback, and a dramatic chorus that begs for a seductive lighting scheme (I don’t think the emphasis on lights, not LEDs, on the Lisbon stage will affect Latvia at all). There’s also an atmosphere of tension, frustration and desperation built up throughout Funny Girl that feels raw and genuine on every listen. Basically, I’ve been impressed by Latvia for the fourth year running. Laura’s one of our annual American accents at Eurovision, and her extensive musical education in the US shows in an awesome song that she wrote and composed herself, and in her competent, confident live performances. Although there’s nothing I don’t love about her overall package, I have to admit that Latvia slipped down a little in my ranking through selection season, as songs I liked even more were chosen and already-established entries grew on me. They’ve also slipped down the scoreboard over the past few years, with Aminata’s 5th followed by a 15th from Justs…then a big drop to a DNQ and last place in 2017 with Triana Park (I’m still mad). I do have high hopes that Laura can do better than a semi wooden spoon. There’s a good six or seven countries accompanying her in the second semi that are dead certs or at least very likely to qualify – leaving three or four spots open. I think she’s capable of snatching one, but could finish 11th or 12th as easily as 9th or 10th. Will I be as heartbroken as Funny Girl Laura if it’s another DNQ for Latvia? Pretty much. Particularly if it’s revealed that she finished 11th and Russia went through in 10th…but that’s another story.

2017 VS 2018? Laura gave me goosebumps on listen no. 1, so 2018 it is.

My score 8.5

 

 

That’s all for today, folks – and the stats are now 20 down, 23 left. Told you I was getting there. It might be like an arthritic sloth completing a marathon, but that’s part of the Jaz charm, right?

Here’s this round’s leaderboard:

  1. Australia (10)
  2. France (10)
  3. Latvia (8.5)
  4. Ireland (7.5)
  5. Georgia (5.5)

Look, I’m sorry/not sorry, but I HAD to put Jess on top when it came to choosing between Australia and France. I’d probably be deported for being unpatriotic if I didn’t. If it makes you feel any better, it was like choosing between a deep-dish pizza and another deep-dish pizza – i.e. very difficult and almost too close to call.

Do you have a few favourites here that you couldn’t possibly narrow down to one? If not, and you know exactly where your loyalties lie, this question will be a lot easier for you to answer.

 

NEXT TIME It’s full steam ahead with Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Portugal and Ukraine. I have some strong feelings about all of them, so drop by again to see if they’re happy-dance kind of feelings…or the punch-a-hole-in-the-wall kind. Subscribe in the sidebar and/or follow me on social media @EurovisionByJaz to make sure you never miss a post!

 

 

 

 

 

THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 3 (Albania, Finland, Greece, Lithuania + Moldova)

Good *insert time of day here*, guys. In a plot twist that everyone saw coming, I’m back with more Eurovision 2018 reviews – and with rehearsals for this year’s contest kicking off NEXT WEEKEND (how did this happen?), I have zero time for one of my traditional rambling intros. Lucky you.

Speaking of you…if you saw the title of this post and decided it was worth a look, then you’re probably wondering what I think of Eugent, Saara, Yianna, Ieva and DoReDos – plus the musical offerings they’re bringing to Lisbon’s mahusive potluck dinner. Keep reading if you want to stop wondering! Then, as always, you can pick your personal fave of the five (scroll for the poll) and share your ranking in the comments. I know you want to…

 

 

My thoughts Way back in ye olde 2017, Eugent’s Mall became the first song to be selected for Eurovision 2018 (if I remember rightly). It’s a typical move for Albania, with Festivali I Këngës always falling during the festive season. The plus side is that Albanian entries have more time to grow on us and/or be reworked; the downside is that sometimes they don’t age like a fine wine so much as like a loaf of bread. So is Mall, all those months later, a drop of something delicious or a stale loaf of sourdough? And why do I constantly compare music to food? I can’t answer that second question TBH, but I can tell you that for me, this song is somewhere in the middle of awesome and awful. I think it’s quite wallpaper-like: imagine this year’s contest as a room, with Israel being the avant-garde statement armchair and San Marino being the ugly, dated fireplace (spoiler alert for my San Marino review) and you’ll know what I mean. Mall is there and it’s competing, but there’s no fire in it as far as I’m concerned, and nothing that really grabs me – even in the chorus, which if no other part does, should be the part of a song that sticks. I definitely don’t hate it, because there’s really nothing to hate. It’s not super-current but it isn’t decades too late either; it’s well-produced and the music is richly-layered, even minus the live FiK orchestra; it’s anthemic and will probably have some arms waving in Altice Arena…basically, I don’t see/hear any major flaws. What I hear actually impresses me the most about Albania, in terms of Eugent’s vocals. They’re flawless, clearer than the crystal Eurovision trophy, and powerfully projected in a way that will fill the spacious Portuguese stage even if he’s standing on it solo (no France 2017 issues are in his future). But excellent vocals aren’t enough in a competition full of great vocalists – many of whom also have standout songs up their sleeves. Mall is not a standout song in my opinion. It’s a decent song with an Albanian essence that suitably qualified Eurofans can detect with a single sniff (which I appreciate that about their entries). And I’m glad Albania is putting faith in their own tongue for the first time since Identitet in 2013. Unfortunately, I doubt it will pay off. I cannot see this qualifying, especially from the first half of death in the semi final of death (the Grim Reaper will be busy on the Tuesday night). Even though Albania will sound brilliant coming right after Iceland (spoiler alert for my Iceland review), I’m anticipating around 16th place in the semi for Eugent.

2017 VS 2018? 2017. Call me controversial, and I’ll take it as a compliment.

My score 6.5

 

 

My thoughts An unfortunate trip to Kyiv last year ended much too soon for Norma John (and if you think I’m over it, THINK AGAIN…and read this post). And so Finland brought out the big guns for Lisbon – perennial competition bridesmaid Saara Aalto, her belter of a voice, and her bucketloads of charisma and stage presence. Let’s be real, we ALL adore this woman. She’s a precious Nordic angel who had to take a turn on The X Factor UK before Finland realised they’d better just internally select her lest she be poached by the Brits. That brings me to my main point re: Monsters. The track is being showered with love by fans and in the fan-voted OGAE poll (no surprises there) but would people be raving about it if someone other than Saara was performing it? The way I see it, the song is secondary in the overall package of the Finnish entry to Saara herself. The country is sending an artist with a song, not an artist AND a song, if you know what I mean (and Norway is in a similar position). I’m not saying Monsters isn’t good enough for her or that it’s not good at all, but it could do more for its singer than it does. Sweden’s Deb duo are the driving forces behind it, and have created a dance-pop almost-banger that isn’t exactly at the forefront of the music scene right now (Ireland sent a vaguely similar song to Malmö, Estonia to Copenhagen). It is catchy, with a strong chorus and a distinctive vocal hook – ‘I ain’t scared no more’ – plus an inspirational message passed on in a way that doesn’t make me feel nauseous (Iceland, pay attention). And you can bet your entire collection of Eurovision merchandise that I’d be burning major calories in the Euroclub with this song as my soundtrack, were I going to Lisbon. Anything that makes you want to move – and not towards the nearest exit to escape it – is good, right? But while I can easily acknowledge the merits of Monsters, I can also easily admit that it’s not one of my favourite songs of the year. I like it but I don’t love it, and I think Saara is capable of more. She’s not going to be the contest winner we thought she’d be back when her name was announced (though why we thought that when she’s finished second so many times, I don’t know). Finland should be back in the final again after sitting it out (involuntarily) for three years, but at this stage I do have them under as borderline in my predictions. Am I letting my lack of enthusiasm cloud my objectivity, or is Monsters legitimately not that amazing? We’ll find out in a few weeks.

2017 VS 2018? Blackbird moves me. Monsters (kind of) grooves me, but I can’t say no to Norma John.

My score 7

 

 

My thoughts Going full Greece didn’t do the former ESC darling any favours in 2016 – it resulted in the loss of their 100% qualification record. Demy got them back to the final last year with cookie cutter Greek-free dance though (go figure…so why have they opted for something ethnic this year? Answer: because Yianna Terzi could pay the right price. And thank Hellas for that! I love it when any country sends a song to Eurovision that couldn’t be from anywhere else, and it doesn’t happen that often these days. That’s my no. 1 reason to applaud this entry. Reason no. 2 is that Oneiro Mou features the kind of drama Koit and Laura name-dropped in Verona; my way of saying that it’s atmospheric and mysterious (when I pretend I never looked up the lyrics on Google Translate). The verses get a bit of intrigue bubbling as you wonder, when listening for the first time at least, where the song is headed. Then the chorus delivers extra drama – maybe not in the most bombastic  way possible, but in a way that I get a kick out of. If this song wasn’t in Greek, it wouldn’t have half the appeal that it does, so I’m grateful for that too. And Yianna, besides having an incredible head of hair á la Tamara Gachechiladze (no need to turn that volume up, ‘cause it’s already on full blast) is also a well-established, seasoned performer. Ergo, she won’t go all deer-in-the-headlights on stage and will hopefully give us a studio-grade rendition of Oneiro Mou. I say that as someone who’s yet to check out her live vocal chops (I’ve barely had time to brush my own teeth lately, so please excuse that) but I’m assuming she’s got the goods. Greece has made it out of semi finals with weaker songs than this – ICYMI it was NOT love between me and This Is Love, and I’d class that as a weak song that squeaked through. Still, 2016 proved that they’re not infallible, and even in a nautically-themed contest, Greece is unlikely to sail though to Saturday night (HA HA). Like Albania, they’re fighting to emerge from that tough first semi, and I’d say it’s 50:50 – pre-rehearsals – as to whether they’ll make it or not. If the song is staged well (Lights! Dry ice! Wind! Give it the full salon treatment) it’ll help. If not, it might blend into the background, and that would not make for a happy Jaz. The more nationalistic music we get to hear in the final the better.

2017 VS 2018? 2018. Demy didn’t do it for me.

My score 8

 

 

My thoughts I’m going to do those of you out there who love this song a favour and spare you having to read this review: it’s not going to be a positive one. Usually I’d ramble on about what happened to Country X last year and make you wonder how I feel about them this year before releasing the kraken that is my opinion. But I want to get straight to the point with When We’re Old, because it’s part of my personal Infamous Four – a.k.a. the four 2018 entries that I just don’t like. I have a top 15 (all of which I want in my top 10), a next best 5 to 10 songs, then a sizeable ‘OK’ category…but underneath that at #40-#43 lies Lithuania and three other countries that I’m yet to talk about. Ieva is at #40 rather than right at the bottom of my ranking, but she’s in my bad books. Why? Because if Lena Meyer-Landrut was only allowed to sing in her inside voice, and starred in a musical version of The Notebook wherein the soundtrack was composed by a rhyming dictionary and a wheel of vintage cheddar cheese, When We’re Old would be the result. Like Iceland’s Ari, Ieva is lovely inside and out, but she’s singing something that is sickeningly sweet and savoury at the same time. Sugar + cheese = not a nice combo (MORE FOOD ANALOGIES JAZ WTF?!?). Sure, it’s romantic and emotive, but I’m afraid my cold, unfeeling heart refuses to be affected by it (perhaps because I’m currently the most single person on the planet and cannot relate to the sentiment). There’s no doubt the song will grow on me during the contest period, and I might be eating these words by the time May becomes June. As of right now, though, I’m not keen for Lithuania to qualify, even if they have a much better chance of making it in Lisbon than they did in Kyiv (they seem to qualify when I don’t want them to and vice versa, with a few exceptions along the way). Of my Infamous Four, When We’re Old is the only one I can visualise in the final, but it will be my toilet break song if it does (and if I don’t need to go to the toilet when Ieva’s on, I’ll go and sit in there anyway). I’m feeling generous with my scores this year, so don’t be surprised by the number you see below…just know that most of those points are for Ieva, NOT her song.

2017 VS 2018? I have to say Rain of Revolution, because it’s more fun and less limp.

My score 5.5

 

 

My thoughts You can’t discuss Moldova 2018 without talking about Moldova 2017 first (well, I can’t). The Sunstroke Project are a gift from the Eurovision gods, having presented the world with an iconic meme in 2010 only to outdo themselves last year by presenting their country with its best-ever result. The problem is, like Bulgaria and Portugal, they set a standard for their successors that is not easy to meet. Repeat NF offenders DoReDos have Russian powerhouse Phillip Kirkirov in their corner, and that helped snag Sergey Lazarev the bronze position in Stockholm. That’s what this trio needs to live up to – 3rd place – but I don’t think the Phillip effect is going to get them that far. There is a heap of stuff to like about My Lucky Day: the classic Moldovan trumpets and infectious tune; the enthusiasm of the band when they’re performing it (maybe they caught that from the Sunstroke boys?); the NF/probable ESC mirrors (props that fit into the Portuguese LED-less puzzle very nicely); and the overall throwback feel that transports me back to contests from 2008-2010. It’s just a fun, fluffy song. Musical fairy floss, you might say, but it’s just light and sweet enough to make you (by which I mean me) want more. Is it a masterpiece? No, in case you thought I was under the impression it was. Lyrically, the situation could be improved…and even though I’m 26 and not 12, I can’t help thinking that the words ‘number two’ should be avoided by songwriters (maturity level = dangerously low). But because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, I don’t feel like I have to take the lyrics too seriously. Moldova hasn’t quite built on their 2017 success in the way I’d hoped, and like Bulgaria did after Poli in 2016. But when I look at this song without thinking about Hey Mamma and how it compares, I can’t complain much (which is a big deal for me). Top 3 on the scoreboard? Nope. Top 10? Maybe. Final? Almost definitely. They’ve got a guaranteed douze from Romania to help them on their way, and they might get a few votes out of me too.

2017 VS 2018? Will Moldova ever top Hey Mamma? They haven’t this year.

My score 8

 

 

Okay…now that I’ve practically written a novel about each country, the stats are: 15 down, 28 to go! I suddenly feel the need to listen to Blue’s I Can to make me feel like I can get the whole Class of 2018 covered in time.

Here’s my mini-ranking for this round:

  1. Greece (8)
  2. Moldova (8)
  3. Finland (7)
  4. Albania (6.5)
  5. Lithuania (5.5)

So it’s Yianna – by one of her amazingly-textured hairs – who wins this five-way battle. Stay tuned to see where she fits in to my ranking of all 43 songs once the reviews are (FINALLY!) done.

Do we have love for Greece in common, or is it Aalto all the way for you? Maybe you’re reeling from my review of Lithuania because you love it so much. Vote for your favourite below, and share your thoughts/spill your tea in the comments!

 

NEXT TIME Coming up on my Lisbon ‘Hit or S*%t’ list (that’s a working title for next year’s reviews…what do you reckon?) are Australia, France, Georgia, Ireland and Latvia. You won’t want to miss me trying not to be biased when I review We Got Love, so make sure you come back for Round 4.

 

 

 

 

THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 2 (Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania + Spain)

Bonjour! In case you hadn’t noticed, Eurovision 2018 is so close that the road to Lisbon is practically walkable – provided you’re not wearing giant platform boots like the lead singer of Wig Wam. I’ve definitely noticed, given I’ve got so many reviews to cram into the few weeks left before the contest kicks off.

Clearly, it’s time for less talk and more action. And today I’m talking all things Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania and Spain. Spoiler alert: there are highs, and there are lows.

How high and how low are we talking? There’s only one way for you to find out. Keep reading to see how I rate the entries from Aisel, Elina, Gromee feat. Lukas, The Humans and Amaia & Alfred. Make sure you vote for your favourite of today’s five while you’re at it…scroll for the poll!

 

 

My thoughts Last year we had their skeletons, and now – because Bulgaria has the bones covered in this year’s Eurovision Anatomy lesson – Azerbaijan has moved on to the major organs. They’ve also moved back to a non-Azerbaijani production with X My Heart, which I’m not thrilled about since Skeletons was one of their best, and certainly most original, entries in years. Aisel’s song is neither of those things in my opinion, but it does what it needs to: it’s a competent pop song and an addition to the Lisbon line-up that will deliver an adequate result without challenging for the win. If that’s what Azerbaijan is after, then a happy ending is en route. I do like the track – it’s well-written and produced, energetic enough to bop to (without having a X-my-heart attack), anthemic and catchy (for the most part…I’m on my pre-show listening ban at the moment and have forgotten how the verses go). All in all, it’s solid and doesn’t do anything wrong. But – I bet you could sense there was a big ol’ but coming – I have whipped out my fine-toothed comb and located some minor issues. Head lice on the otherwise healthy scalp of Azerbaijan’s 2018 ESC effort, if you’re up for such a gross metaphor. For starters, there’s the legacy of co-writer Dimitris Kontopoulos and how this song compares to what’s come before it. Kontopoulos is the brains behind a bunch of BANGING Eurovision songs, including Work Your Magic (Belarus 2007), Shady Lady (Ukraine 2008), This Is Our Night (Greece 2009) and You Are The Only One (Russia 2016). Sadly, this song just ain’t in the same league – but that might be the influence of Swede Sandra Bjurman, who gave us one of the contest’s most maligned winners ever, Running Scared. Another little irritation of mine is Aisel herself, who’s gorgeous to look at but is supposed to be a smoky jazz singer…so why has she been given a dance-pop song to sing that doesn’t suit her voice or show her off to maximum advantage? It seems like an odd combo of song and singer to me, and that’s a feeling that doesn’t strike me with most, if not all, of the other countries competing (think of Austria or Israel, for example. Cesár and Netta didn’t co-write their entries, but you can tell they were tailored to their voices and styles). It’s a case of Valentina Monetta Syndrome. Will the majority of other fans/casual viewers/jurors notice or care about the mismatch when they’re voting? I doubt it, and they’ll give Azerbaijan enough of a boost to reach the final and then finish around 12th-17th. I’d be satisfied with that – but if they’re not, then they need to try a different tactic in 2019.

2017 VS 2018? Skeletons – cross my heart.

My score 7

 

 

My thoughts If your home and car insurance isn’t up-to-date, you might want to get on that because Elina is about to smash your windows with her on-point operatic vocals. Just as there’s nothing quite so painful to the ear as out of tune operatics, there’s nothing quite so impressive in the vocal world as flawless, crystal-clear pipes like hers. They’re the main selling point of La Forza, let’s be honest – so fingers crossed there’s no mic fail á la Laura last year. As for the song itself, well…I find both opera and popera hit-and-miss at Eurovision (I loved Grande Amore, hated La Voix) as does the scoreboard. La Forza slots in somewhere between those two past entries on my love/hate spectrum, with Estonia being closer to Italy than Sweden (just not geographically). I feel the powerful effects of the song, but not as strongly as a lot of other fans. I can’t help being swept up in the majesty of it all when the chorus drops though, and Elina is a hypnotic performer with a slight case of crazy eyes. With THAT VOICE, her ethereal beauty, a big song that suits her to a tee (take note, Azerbaijan), and a dress designed for Mrs. Slender Man that may or may not have projections on it in Portugal (I don’t think they’re necessary myself), Estonia has a statement piece on their hands. But do they have a winner? Possibly, but not probably. La Forza is firmly in a genre that does not appeal to everyone, and Elina can only do so much – i.e. perform perfectly – to change that. There is a clinical feel to the song and performance package too that gives it a coldness, and not in a cool purposeful way like Equinox’s Bones. I can’t see that vibe overcoming more warm-hearted rivals like Toy to win the televote, but Estonia has a good chance at a top three jury vote, I think. After two years of unexpected disappointments, Estonia is looking at an almost certain qualification (I reserve the right to take that back come prediction time *covers own butt in case*) and a final result that couldn’t be classified as a crash and burn. Elina’s talent alone is top 10-worthy, and how high she can go will likely depend on how many spines she can tingle when it matters.

2017 VS 2018? Verona is more up my street (if not anywhere near as vocally impressive).

My score 8

 

 

My thoughts From Flashlight to Light Me Up, here’s Poland! They’ve switched things up from a solo female ballad to a Norway 2017 sequel (albeit a less inventive, more lyrically pedestrian and typically inferior sequel) and I am pretty pleased with the results. Swedish dominance at Eurovision – outside of the actual Swedish entry – continues with Melodifestivalen’s Mahan Moin co-writing this track alongside fellow Swede Lukas, and the end product is what you’d expect. It’s slick, simple but effective, and will whip the arena audience into a semi-frenzy – especially as Poland is due on stage right after Georgia. Light Me Up is more fun and accessible (and yes, Salvador, fast food) than Sheni Gulistvis, and will probably be rewarded accordingly. I’m not going to pretend it’s The Greatest Song In The World™, but the fact that it is Grab The Moment’s more cookie-cutter cousin gets it on my good side. The chorus is insanely catchy, and the musical hook that follows creates an epic atmosphere. What else can I say? I’m an easily pleased person when it comes to pop music – as long as something has an infectious melody and decent lyrics, it will probably end up on a Spotify playlist of mine at some stage. If I’m going to go negative for a minute, I’ll do it by saying that Lukas had what I hope is a case of Ryan Dolanitis when this song won Krajowe Eliminacje. In other words, his vocals weren’t out of this world. But I know he’s capable of ironing them out for Eurovision (I hate to repeat myself, but as I’m on my contest song hiatus, I haven’t watched Polish performances from the preview parties to compare). Factor in the limit on the number of ways a producer/singer duo song can be performed – JOWST did an A+ version last year which would be a bad idea to mimic so soon – and there are a few flaws in Poland’s plan. I say that even as someone who really likes (maybe even…loves *insert soaring violin music here*) Light Me Up. Strangely, I won’t be shocked if Gromee & Lukas just miss out on qualifying. The 8th-ish mark in semi two seems as easy to access for them as 12th. But Poland is in possession of a great recent track record: they’ve made it to the final every year since their 2014 comeback. And luckily for them, the second semi is not as diabolically difficult to get out of as the first. If Poland does advance, don’t be surprised if they end up opening the final – it would set the mood like a charm, and it’s not a potential winner to be held back for later on in the show. You (might have) heard it here first!

2017 VS 2018? 2018 – it’s the JOWST effect.

My score 10

 

 

My thoughts The late-1980s power ballad police called, and they want to put The Humans’ Goodbye behind bars – but I’m not keen to let them, because I’m actually really fond of it. I’ve found myself in the awkward position of being pro-Romania this year when most other reviews of their song have been negative…when last year was the complete opposite (I didn’t dislike Yodel It!, but I was in Camp Take It Or Leave It while the majority of other fans were in Camp OMG THIS IS EPIC). If you think I couldn’t possibly justify my attraction to this entry for 2018, think again! Firstly, I have zero problems with late-1980s power ballads, so Goodbye being the Eurovision edition of Alone by Heart gets a thumbs up from me. It’s definitely a slow burner, taking a solid minute or so to transition from piano ballad to big hair/shoulder pads/inch-thick eyeliner territory. Unlike most other sane people who are not stuck in a decade in which they weren’t even born, however, I think what happens is worth the wait. I’m happy to stick around listening for the beat to drop and the guitars to kick in, and I think people hearing Goodbye for the first time during semi two might be curious enough to do the same (or get bored and use the second half of the second as a toilet/snack break, I’ll admit). No exaggeration, that ‘Why don’t you see the beauty that surrounds you everywhere?’ line in the first chorus gives me LIFE. The entire chorus, in fact (when it finally arrives) is a cracker. Another thing I appreciate about this is that it doesn’t follow a predictable song structure, so it never seems to repeat itself – not in the excessive way we’re used to with a lot of ESC entries, at least. Throw in the powerful, raspy-edged vocals from lead singer Cristina and what is the greatest, most appropriate song ending of this year’s contest (it practically begs for a dramatic mic drop) and I hope you can now see why I’m on Team Romania. There are plenty of other songs that I believe are better than this – it’s sitting at the 20-ish mark in my top 43 at the moment, though as I’ve said there are literally only two songs that I dislike – but overall I think it’s a great 80s-influenced PB (power ballad) that won’t get Romania a Eurovision PB (personal best) but might grab a few of my votes. I get why people are saying it might undo the country’s 100% qualification record, but personally (in my special biased way) I have a feeling it will squeak through. Or maybe even do better than expected…

2017 VS 2018? Yodel It has worn pretty thin with me, so I’d have to say Goodbye.

My score 8.5

 

 

My thoughts It has to be said: Spain had a disastrous contest in Kyiv, with Manel’s money note fail becoming the sour cherry on top (and a sound-on GIF that did multiple rounds on social media, and that I may or may not have laughed at). Based on Do It For Your Lover – which didn’t do it for anyone – whatever followed was bound to come across as a masterpiece. But DOES IT??? *insert tense music here*. Tu Canción can best be described as a romantic lullaby, performed by a couple who got together during the quest to seek out the Spanish entry for Lisbon. I know we’re supposed to get all misty and wipe away happy tears whenever this backstory is mentioned, or whenever we see Alfred and Amaia’s onstage PDAs that are not manufactured at this point (though wouldn’t it be interesting if they broke up before the contest…I’m not hoping, I’m just curious). I must have a black hole where my soul is supposed to be though, because I find both the song and the public displays of affection too sugary sweet for my taste. It’s like the duo are in their own little love-cave when they’re performing, and that doesn’t engage me as I’m watching them. Instead, I feel like I’m looking through the window of their honeymoon suite and really should turn away to give them some privacy. Hashtag awkward! The song itself is certainly a step up from Do It For Your Lover in terms of a competition song, but I prefer the summery, fun vibes Manel offered to be honest. Tu Canción is probably the closest thing to a reigning winner copycat that we’ve got in 2018, and no doubt Salvador would approve of the lack of fireworks and flood of feelings. I just don’t have any strong feelings either way – schmaltz aside, it is a pretty and delicate ballad with a nice flow to it, but nothing more to me. I do have an approving nod to spare for the vocals – the tinkly quality and clarity of Amaia’s voice balances out the rough-edged sound of Alfred’s, and they harmonise like a match made in heaven. Maybe they are…maybe there’s an ESC wedding on the horizon! Not that I’m saying these two should get married on stage during their final performance, but in the absence of LEDs you’ve got to be creative with your gimmicks. I’m unsure how Spain will go on the Saturday night, but it’s safe to say they’ll end the night in a better position – and having put on a more polished show – than last year. Personally, Tu Canción isn’t my favourite of the Big Five + Portugal, but it’s not at the bottom of my list (so please don’t plot my death, Spanish Eurofans).

2017 VS 2018? I liked Do It For Your Lover for what it was. Don’t judge me (too harshly)!

My score 6.5

 

 

There you go: that’s another five songs for Lisbon reviewed by yours truly. I should probably stop doing this, but…10 down, (only?) 33 to go!

Here’s today’s ranking:

  1. Poland (10)
  2. Romania (8.5)
  3. Estonia (8)
  4. Azerbaijan (7)
  5. Spain (6.5)

This is a very mixed-up version of the ranking most other fans would create, I know. You can hit up the comment box below to tell me how you’d organise this bunch from best to worst. Or not-so-best, in my case…I definitely don’t hate Spain. I do really, really like Poland though. Stick around for the rest of my reviews to see how Gromee and Lukas stack up against the entire Class of 2018.

Besides sharing your own ranking, why not pick your outright favourite of these five too and see if you’re in the majority?

 

NEXT TIME I’m putting on my Eurovision lab coat (it’s still white, but white sequins) and sliding Albania, Finland, Greece, Lithuania and Moldova under my microscope to see whether good things or bad things are lurking in their entries for 2018. Don’t miss my diagnosis!

 

Until then,

 

 

 

THE EBJ EUROVISION 2018 REVIEWS: Round 1 (Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta + the Netherlands)

Hello there! I bet you thought this day would never come – the day when I’d finally get my Euroshiz together and do what every other ESC website has been doing for a month.

REVIEWS!!!

Okay, so you might have known I’d kick things off eventually if you’re familiar with my sloth-like tendencies (never visit this blog for breaking news, because it won’t be breaking by the time I talk about it). Now that there are four weeks to go until Lisbon’s first semi final, though, you’re about to be flooded with my verdicts on all 43 songs competing in Eurovision 2018. It’s a review tsunami, so strap on your lifejackets and take a big breath!

For Round 1, my high-tech random selection process – in which I copy-pasted a list of the countries, closed my eyes and pointed at it 43 times – resulted in Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta and the Netherlands being the fortunate first group to be judged (you’ll have to wait a while for the lucky last). So if you want to see how I rate Sevak, Eleni, AWS, Christabelle and Waylon, you came to the right place.

Check out my reviews, vote for your favourite of today’s five, and share your thoughts in the comments. Pretty please?

 

 

My thoughts If you’d told me a few months ago that Tamar Kaprelian would not be representing Armenia at Eurovision this year, I would have had a very melodramatic meltdown. Poison (Ari Ari) is an ethnopop masterpiece after all (Disagree? CASH ME OUSSIDE, HOW BOW DAH?!?) and when I listened to the snippets of everything else Depi Evratesil had to offer, I didn’t hear anything as awesome. As Donny Montell knows, love is blind…but it also made me deaf to the potential of eventual winning song Qami. I honestly can’t even recall hearing a snippet of Sevak’s power ballad – the first all-Armenian language song sent to adult Eurovision – even though I definitely did. Yet all it took was one look at/listen to his national final performance for me to forget about Poison (almost – a banger is always a banger) and fall head-over-heels for Qami. ‘Wind’ as it translates to – and it’s a safe assumption that he’s talking about the force of nature, not the aftermath of a particularly spicy vindaloo – ticks every box on my mental checklist for epic ballads. It’s a slow burner that starts off subtly before exploding at the end of the second chorus (kind of like the 0-100k/ph dynamism of Aram Mp3’s Not Alone). It’s haunting and mysterious. The melody is stunning, and the repetition of the title gives us non-Armenian speakers something to latch on to. Plus, the contrast between the delicate first half and Sevak’s vocal and visual strength (there’s wearing your heart on your sleeve and then there’s wearing your abs on the outside of your shirt) makes the overall package vulnerable and powerful at the same time. I know a lot of fans aren’t as psyched about this one as I am, but every year there’s one song I adore that not many other people seem to (and it can either bomb, or kick butt in the actual contest like Origo last year). I do think there is room for Qami to do some butt-kicking in Lisbon, this not being a ballad-heavy year and Sevak having the kind of song that could be a mind-blower if it’s staged right. But that’s more of a hope and prayer than a prediction, so don’t hold me to it!

2017 VS 2018? 2018, hands down (sorry, Artsvik).

My score 12

 

 

My thoughts Speaking of ethnopop masterpieces…enter Cyprus! Strutting in wearing a catsuit and a pair of sky-high heels, of course. Last year I was pleasantly surprised by Hovig’s Gravity, which was constantly compared to Rag & Bone Man’s Human – familiarity doesn’t breed contempt with me, I guess. I’m mentioning the comparison because once again, Cyprus has delivered a great pop song that happens to fit neatly into the mould of one I’ve heard before – in this case, a bunch of songs from Helena Paparizou’s back catalogue. Is there anything wrong with that? Umm, NO. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud originality, and Lisbon is lucky to have it in the form of Israel, Ukraine etc. But even a Paparizou album filler would be welcome at Eurovision, and since we can’t have the queen herself performing one (though she did record a version), Eleni and her Fuego are the next best thing. I love this, and it was an instant love strengthened by the fact that ‘You got me pelican fly fly flying’ is legitimately one of the lyrics. That IS original! I feel like this song was engineered especially to appeal to ethnopop tragics like myself because, in that department, it does everything right. Simple, neatly-rhymed verses + a chorus made up of hooky melodies and yeahs (which can be exchanged for ohs) + a memorable riff played on a traditional instrument = this, and every other ethnopop entry ever. Basically, it’s Aphrodisiac (Greece 2012) with a 2018 magic wand waved over it. With the product placement from the music video out of the question for the live ESC performance, and Eleni sure to be looking as hot as the fire she’s singing about, my only concern is how she’ll sound. The lives of hers I’ve checked out have been fine – albeit feat. some heavy lifting from backing vocalists – but I have heard she isn’t the most reliable live performer. Still, if Jedward can sing seemingly in tune (with their backup vocalists’ mics turned way up) then anyone can. And if someone can point me in the direction of proof that Eleni is actually a top-notch singer and convince me that I shouldn’t be worried, they’ll get a gold star. I really want this to be Cyprus’ fourth finalist in a row, not their first DNQ since 2013.

2017 VS 2018? This is like choosing a favourite child. NOPE. Not happening.

My score 10

 

 

My thoughts You’ve got to give Hungary credit for never sending the same song to Eurovision twice. Their bounce-around approach has, since their 2011 comeback, given us dance pop, electro rock, an acoustic alt-ballad, EDM, a charity song, anthemic rock and an ethnopop slice of heaven (Joci Papái was my favourite last year and is still a true musical love of mine). In 2018 we’re getting something different again with hardcore(ish) rock/metal/I’m clearly not an expert on the genre of AWS’ Viszlát Nyár but it sounds intense to me. It’s certainly the most hardcore, rocky song competing in Lisbon, and while that will help it stand out, such songs don’t always go over well at the ESC (I can’t imagine juries going nuts over this). The fact is that the demographic AWS are aiming at is not found, in droves at least, in the Eurovision audience (if someone did a Venn diagram to demonstrate it, the two fan bases would have a pretty tiny overlap area). I’m definitely not the kind of person who would readily abandon their pop sensibilities for anything involving screaming to music. So you might be surprised to learn that I actually like this. Like, not love (á la Origo, which I said I’d marry in my review last year if I could) but yes, I dig it. It reminds me a little of Dead By April’s Melodifestivalen entry Mystery, which I was obsessed with back in 2012 – it features the same mixture of soft moments and intense, scream-your-lungs-out moments that a) make it dynamic, and b) stop it from totally alienating people who aren’t regular purveyors of hard rock. As always, Hungarian sounds alluring and mysterious as the language of choice (is there a genre it doesn’t work with?), especially in the verses. Overall, Viszlát Nyár might be well outside my top 10 for the year, but there are only two or three songs I dislike and this is not one of them. I’m a big supporter of Hungary in the contest and I do hope AWS give the country their 8th consecutive qualification…but I think it could be a tough task. The best comparison song would be Softengine’s Something Better, which did very well for Finland in 2014 but was a lot more accessible (and the screaming was confined to the last twenty seconds or so). I don’t expect Hungary to perform as impressively as that if they do make the final, and TBH, I’ll live if they don’t. Still, it would be nice to have some rock on hand to spice up the best Saturday night of the year.

2017 VS 2018? It’s a no-brainer – Origo all the way.

My score 7

 

 

My thoughts Not for the first time – they did it last year too – Malta is sending an artist to Eurovision who’s tried to represent them before with a better song than the one they’re actually getting to go with. In Christabelle’s case, 2015’s Rush really should have been her Eurovision song, but it finished 2nd in MESC that year (Saddy McSadface). And so, three years later, we’ve ended up with Taboo, a mostly Maltese production feat. input from Thomas g:Son (shocking). I’ve developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with this song, though now I think about it, those words are probably too strong – ‘like-dislike’ would be more accurate. Basically, there are parts of it I really like and others that I really don’t. First, the negatives: it may not be as lyrically lame as past Maltese entries, but it’s all over the place with metaphors and similes, making it fairly nonsensical and the message confusing (apparently it’s about mental health struggles, ICYMI). The chorus in particular bugs me like crazy – it seems like the songwriters wanted it to be meaningful, but it turned into a mess of words that happen to rhyme with ‘animals’ (criminals, miracle, *my brain explodes*). The dubstep break is my other main gripe with Taboo, just because it feels passé and could have been left out to no great loss. Positives-wise, there’s good energy, a hypnotic beat, a contemporary-sounding melody, and an overall approving nod for Malta choosing something like this. And I have to mention the MESC performance, which was OTT but very cool at the same time…even if it might be hard to replicate on Lisbon’s LED-less stage. To her credit, Christabelle is a likeable performer with a decent voice, providing she’s not running a marathon or doing star jumps constantly during a performance (code for ‘don’t make her move too much, Team Malta!’). I think Taboo has a better chance of qualifying to the final than Claudia’s Breathlessly did last year – that proved us all right when it went nowhere. But in semi two, where five or six countries could easily advance from the first half alone, Malta’s odds are 50-50, and the shock value will be minimal whether they qualify or not. Unfortunately they’re performing just three songs before Sweden, and Benjamin is armed with an uptempo song accompanied by a slick, impressive stage presentation – much like Malta, but better. And with Sweden being almost a dead cert to qualify, if one of the two is going to be sacrificed to the DNQ gods, it will be Malta.

2017 VS 2018? 2018 fo sho. I’d rather break the taboo than be breathless.

My score 6.5

 

 

My thoughts The first question to ask someone who’s about to hear Outlaw In ‘Em for the first time is ‘How do you feel about country music?’. If their answer is ‘Not good’, then they won’t be giving it douze points, or anything close. Waylon’s solo Eurovision entry is without a doubt the countriest country song I’ve ever come across. Every lyric, every guitar lick – even the title – is dripping in the genre, and makes me feel like an idiot (or should I say ‘good for nothin’ varmint’?) for not wearing a cowboy hat. Of course, as soon as the song’s over, normal cowboy-hatless life resumes. I have to say, I do enjoy a country song or 65, but I’m more of an easy-listening cruisy country fan, as opposed to a rip-roarin’, honky-tonkin’, gun-totin’ type. In that sense, you can understand why I much prefer Waylon feat. Ilse deLange (a.k.a. The Common Linnets) with Calm After The Storm to this entry. The fact that Outlaw is so darn country – to the point where it’s about to fall off a cliff edge into Cheesy Canyon – is a turn-off for me, even though I appreciate the go hard or go home mentality (a half-assed country-tinged track for Waylon? No sirree). It reminds me of Achy Breaky Heart too much to take seriously, only it’s too fast to boot-scoot to. I know I’m in the minority here, but I don’t want all of y’all to challenge me to a stand-off just yet. I’m not totally, 110% anti-Outlaw. On the plus side, I like the lyrics: unlike Malta, the theme here is clear and consistent; and the rhyming is beautiful, which makes the overall package sound neat. The song is unique (in this competition, anyway) and definitely memorable. And Waylon is a great performer even when he’s not locking eyes with Ilse – in Portugal he’ll be making eyes at the camera instead, and I’ll imagine he’s staring straight into my soul (in a sexy way, not a demonic way). Will he end up staring down the barrel of qualification, though? The betting odds say heck yes, but I have to wonder if this song is going to be too divisive. It does come to life more on stage than in studio, so I can see it meeting expectations on the night/s that count most. Yet the mass appeal needed for a win isn’t there, and I can’t see a Common Linnets result in Waylon’s future either.

2017 VS 2018? 2017. Girl power and incredible harmonies > full-on country extravaganza.

My score 6.5

 

 

And that, guys, is Round 1 done and dusted. Five down, 38 to go in less than four weeks.

SEND HELP.

Then, when you’ve dialed 911/000/whatever your country’s equivalent is on my behalf, you can take a look at today’s mini-ranking:

  1. Armenia (12)
  2. Cyprus (10)
  3. Hungary (7)
  4. Malta (6.5) 
  5. The Netherlands (6.5)

So it’s Sevak who takes the top spot, which is obviously not a shock to me because I already knew how I felt about these five songs (let me hear you say ‘DUH!’). Now the question is, can Qami hold on to the #1 position as the EBJ 2018 reviews continue? You’ll have to stay tuned – and subscribed, hint hint – to find out. Opt in for new post email alerts in the sidebar, or find me on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram (all @EurovisionByJaz) to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

Before I sign off and in turn stop begging you to follow me on social media, I do have another question:

 

NEXT TIME The Lisbon reviews are just revving up…and if I want to get them finished before Eurovision happens, I need to get a move on. Drop by on the weekend when I’ll sit myself down on the EBJ judging panel to critique Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania, and Spain!

 

Until then,

 

 

 

FLASHBACK(yiv) | The 10 most memorable moments of Eurovision 2017

Does anyone else think it is RIDONKULOUS that we’re just over four weeks away from Eurovision 2018? Where dafuq does time go? I know it’s like thunder (thanks to the teachings of Uzari) but that aside, it’s a mystery.

My point – today, anyway – is not so much that Lisbon is so close, but that Kyiv is nearly a year old. It seems like the 2017 contest happened a few months ago at most, and realising it didn’t has me SHOOK.

The silver lining is that we can now gaze fondly (or not so fondly) back at last year’s show, and the things that made it one to remember, before version 2k18 arrives. And that’s exactly what I’m doing today, in case you misunderstood the title of this post: counting down my top 10 most memorable moments from Kyiv. And yes, the definitive ‘the’ in the aforementioned title is misleading, since the following list is based on my opinions. You know what I’m trying to say.

If it’s been a while since your last 2017 rewatch, consider this a refresher – and if you want more memories, you can check out my other Kyiv-related countdowns (e.g. my best and worst performance lists). But for now, keep reading and see what I think made last year’s contest quite the memorable one. And afterwards, vote for your favourite unforgettable moment!

 

 

#10 | Blackbird, don’t sing (in the grand final): Finland fails to qualify

There are some things that pop up at Eurovision every year without fail: WTF stage props, backup singers being the secret stars of the show, awkward conversations between the hosts and Jon Ola Sand…that sort of stuff. Also occurring every year is at least one final result or DNQ that the Eurofan community just cannot get over and will vent about on social media for months. When it comes to the most shocking scoreboard-related event of Kyiv, I was torn between Austria’s televoting zero in the final (how could that happen to the precious angel that is Nathan Trent?!?) and Finland’s failure to even make the final – and ultimately, I just can’t go past Norma John’s Blackbird getting the boot. The song had me at hello (i.e. the first time I listened to it and heard the line ‘Now you remind me of something I’ll never have’, I broke out in goosebumps and burst into tears simultaneously) and I’ve watched the performance back a bunch of times looking for reasons why it didn’t go through. Spoiler alert: I CAN’T FIND ANY. Finishing 12th in last year’s first semi, Finland would have had to knock out Georgia (11th) and Greece (10th) to reach the Saturday night, and almost a year later I still believe they should have. Let’s see if they can qualify this year for the first time since 2014, with big gun Saara Aalto (even though that won’t compensate me for all the Kleenex I’ve used crying over Blackbird).

 

#9 | A meme-orable smooch: Alex Florea gives Ilinca a kiss to remember

Okay, so this one was less painful than Finland’s DNQ – maybe not for Ilinca, but for the rest of us. If I’m honest though, the celebratory smooch Alex forcefully planted on her was more iconic. I don’t have anything against it, exactly. The guy was caught up in the moment and what happened, happened (a lot like something else celebratory I’ll be mentioning later on in this list). But the image of Ilinca’s squashed-up face is burned into my brain, and obviously I had to gift you guys a GIF of it above in case any of you had managed to block it out. I need you to laugh-cringe with me all over again!

 

#8 | Firebrace yourselves! Isaiah’s nightmare high note

Don’t get me wrong: I was totally supportive of Isaiah last year (from 2015 onwards I’ve been a member of the ‘defend your own country’s entry to the death’ club), and even though I’m still unsure how Australia ended up in the top 10, I’m proud of him and his team for managing it. But even I can’t deny that several seconds of his semi final performance – and you know which seconds I’m referring to – can now be labeled as one of the worst vocal slip-ups in ESC history. Isaiah was only seventeen back then, and since the rest of his time on stage was infinitely more ear-friendly, I don’t want to shame him. But OUCH. Just ouch. Well, ouch with a little laughter thrown in because I’m a terrible person (the kind who will also laugh when they see someone fall over in the street…but I do feel bad about it, if that helps). Sensibly, there was no attempt in the final to hit that same note, so maybe our eventual 9th place was Europe rewarding us for not damaging millions of eardrums any further. PS – If you’re wondering why I didn’t think Spain’s vocal car-crash moment was memorable enough for this list, well…it didn’t come as much of a shock, TBH. It was more of a nail in the coffin for poor Manel, as opposed to something that almost destroyed an otherwise good performance.

 

#7 | Two genres + three Jacques = one heck of a performance from Croatia

When you think of the most outstanding acts of Eurovision 2017, you might think of winner Portugal, the return of Epic Sax Guy for Moldova, or Francesco Gabbani and his (pretty worse for wear) ape not quite meeting expectations for Italy. Or, your mind’s spotlight might shine straight down on Croatia, with a performance that stood out from the rest for every reason imaginable. As if the whole ‘one man singing two songs solo’ thing wasn’t enough to attract our attention, Jacques took the LED selfie trend to the next level with two massive Houdek heads representing the pop and opera sides of My Friend (as did his half-and-half costume). Plus we got to witness an onstage instrumental duel that reminded me of Harry Potter VS Draco Malfoy in The Chamber of Secrets; pyro for days; rainbows and six-foot sunflowers; and…have I forgotten anything? The kitchen sink must have been in there somewhere. You might not have liked My Friend much as a song (I didn’t) but you have to admit that Croatia created something unforgettable during their three minutes.

 

#6 | Nappies and nuptials: Jana Burčeska reveals she’s pregnant…then gets proposed to!

Macedonia may not have qualified (again) last year, but Jana probably didn’t mind much given she had a lot of other stuff to celebrate on the night of her semi. A pregnancy announcement via pre-performance postcard was new ground for Eurovision – and then came the on-air green room proposal from Jana’s boyfriend Aleksandar (during which one of her fake fingernails fell off…#romance). Two out of three good things on one night ain’t bad! Jana went on to give birth to a baby girl and went all meta-ESC by naming her Dona. And we all went on to remember her acceptance of a marriage proposal as the most dramatic thing to happen in a Eurovision green room since Eric Saade called Petra Mede a MILF back in 2013.

 

#5 | Fast food and fireworks: Salvador’s sensational victory speech

You didn’t think I was going to leave this out, did you? Salvador made headlines beyond Eurovision bubble borders with his post-win declaration that “Music is not fireworks, music is feeling.” His was a speech far less sassy than Conchita Wurst’s, but much more controversial. Even though it was spur of the moment, I can’t help admiring the guts of a guy who’ll get up on a stage in front of thousands (with millions more watching him on TV), at the world’s biggest pop music contest, and say “We live in a world of disposable music; fast food music without any content. I think this could be a victory for music…that actually means something.” The implications were pretty negative, and neither Salvador’s fellow artists nor fans were very happy with the statement. But I can see what he was trying to say, as someone who appreciates meaningful music just as much as musical fluff engineered purely to get butts on the dancefloor. If he’d had time to get his thoughts together, he might have been able to articulate his message in a way that didn’t send the Eurovillagers after him with flaming torches and pitchforks – but that wouldn’t have made for such a memorable moment.

 

#4 | A wet-eyes reprise: The Sobral siblings’ emotional end-of-show duet

Now, back to the Salvador who melted our hearts in Kyiv. After his sister Luísa – composer of Amar Pelos Dois – had filled in for him during rehearsals to ensure he was contest-ready, it was only fitting that she’d be invited to join him for his winner’s reprise. I didn’t know what to expect of this since, as usual, I’d avoided the rehearsal footage like it was an obligation on Eurovision night. Three minutes later, I was encrusted in the salt of my own tears and half wishing the song had been performed as a brother-sister duet the entire time (though given the subject matter, some lyrical changes would have been required). Over the years we’ve seen choked-up reprises and incredulous reprises, but we’d never seen one quite as stunning as this.

 

#3 | Two for one on best-ever results: Bulgaria and Moldova make history

If some mystical bearded Eurovision prophet had told you a few years ago that the 2017 top three would be Portugal, Bulgaria and Moldova, would you have believed them? I know I wouldn’t have. And yet that’s the trio we found ourselves faced with at the top end of the scoreboard last year. I’m not done with the winner talk yet, so the bronze position on this list is purely devoted to Kristian Kostov and the Sunstroke Project, who earned their respective countries’ best results ever. After failing to qualify for six years in a row (2008-2013), Bulgaria took a two-year ESC break before returning in fantastic fashion with 4th place in 2016 – only to outdo themselves in Kyiv by finishing 2nd. Moldova, meanwhile, had three DNQs behind them – and a standing peak placing of 6th from 2005 – when returnees the Sunstroke Project secured the third-highest lot of televoting points, which boosted them into 3rd position. Nearly a year on, I still do a happy dance when rewatching the results sequence that led to these Bulgarian/Moldovan milestones.

 

#2 | The butt of the joke: Jamala’s uninvited guest bares (almost) all

Since Jimmy Jump decided to join Spain’s performance in Düsseldorf, nobody else had been game to stage-invade at Eurovision (thank the Lordi). That is, until last year. An infamous Ukrainian prankster – draped in an Australian flag, which meant we copped the blame + bad rep for a bit – thought it would be a smart idea to make an actual arse of himself during Her Royal Highness Jamala’s grand final rendition of I Believe In U. I’m glad he didn’t ruin the atmosphere of 1944, but I’d still like to take that flag and whip him on the bare butt with it for doing something so immature. Luckily, being the classy lady and seasoned performer that she is, Jamala didn’t even bat an eyelid when that crack appeared in her performance (double entendre intended). This was another ESC 2017 event that made headlines worldwide and in some cases, overshadowed reports of Portugal’s historic win – so as cr(ass) as it was, I can’t deny that it was unforgettable.

 

#1 | Amar Pelos Dois does the trick: Portugal wins Eurovision for the first time

But of course! Pre-2017, the last country to win Eurovision for the first time was Azerbaijan (after a whole FOUR YEARS of trying…not that I’d call Running Scared a good try), but Portugal? Well, they’d been waiting over half a century to see how sweet victory tasted. It was a fairytale ending to the 2017 contest, but not one that everyone saw coming. Italy was the fan and betting favourite this time last year, winning every pre-contest poll and leading the odds…until a last-minute leapfrog by the Portuguese saw Francesco’s obvious win become not so obvious. But did we all really believe Salvador could Salvado it instead? I’m pretty sure I didn’t until the douze points started rolling in, one after the other. The public vote could have changed everything, but it didn’t:  Portugal won that too, making them the first country since Austria in 2014 to top the jury and televote in order to win. You can’t challenge dominance like that! As a result of their result (HAHAHA) we’re off to the sun, sand and sea of Lisbon in a month, and we all get to witness the ESC Portuguese-style for the first – and hopefully not the last – time. Excelente.

 

 

So, that’s my ranking – but as always, I want your opinion.

 

Did I miss your favourite moment out completely? Let me know (nicely) in the comments.

 

Until next time, when my 2018 reviews will finally begin (with verdicts on Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta and the Netherlands, FYI)…

 

 

 

 

EBJ’s Top 10…national final songs of the 2018 season + a playlist of ALL my favourites!

Is it just me who feels like we had a handful of Eurovision 2018 entries five minutes ago and were impatiently waiting for the rest to be locked in? And yet, somehow, the selection season is actually over. We have our 43, and that’s been the situation for a few weeks now.

It’s kind of sad, but there is a bright side – besides another contest being on the cards in the foreseeable future. Before looking back at Kyiv 2017 and looking SIX WEEKS (!) ahead to Lisbon 2018, we now get to glance over at this latest NF season and say ‘How you doin’?’ in a suggestive Joey Tribbiani way to all of the awesome new music we discovered throughout January, February and March (and maybe a little in December too). And today I’m finally ready to present you with my personal list of absolute favourites.

For some reason, I didn’t let myself have total free-rein fun with it (I may be my own boss, but it turns out I’m a strict one). There were conditions. DUN DUN DUN!!!

  1. This is an obvious one, but I couldn’t choose a song that won the NF it competed in, even if it was my favourite in the field. Once that happens, the song stops being an NF song and becomes a Eurovision entry, after all.
  2. Secondly, I only let myself choose one song per country, so don’t think you’re about to see me fawn over ten Melfest tracks in a row – it hasn’t happened. It would have been more like 3x Swedish songs, 3x Norwegian, 3x French and 1x token from somewhere else anyway.

Based on these rules, I’ve put together my top 10 and I’m pretty pleased with it. But, since this year offered up so much great stuff, if you make it to the end of this post – or just cut out the middle man and scroll straight through – you’ll find a playlist of my top 10 plus ALL of my other ‘best of the rest’ songs from this season. Feel free to tell me what excellent taste I have in the comments (or at least be polite when you’re criticising it). And don’t forget to leave a list of your NF favourites from 2018 too – I want to know what stood out to you and what you might have preferred to hear/see in Portugal over what will be. Because I’m nosy *hopes it’s part of my charm*.

Now, let’s get into the list!

 

 

#10 | Astronaut by Liam Tamne

Unplaced in Eurovision: You Decide (United Kingdom)

I know many of you will want to throw a pie at my face (or in this case, perhaps a plate of bangers and mash) for suggesting that ANYTHING in the You Decide lineup was better than Asanda’s Legends. Don’t get me wrong…that was dope, and in my opinion was probably the best choice the UK could have made for Lisbon (sorry/not SuRie). But while my head knew that much, my heart was with Liam and his Astronaut. Apart from taking the space metaphors a little too far at times, this song appeals to me in every way – from the modern and atmospheric production to the pretty melodies and Liam’s crystal-clear falsetto. In fact, the only thing that really bothers me is the line ‘take your body into space’, which sounds like a threat a serial killer would make to a bound-and-gagged victim after consuming a tray of hash brownies. But (bizarrely) that’s not a deal breaker. You can be my astronaut for sure, Liam (in a platonic way because I know you have a husband).

 

#9 | Signals by Karui

Unplaced, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix (Denmark)

When Karui didn’t even get a look in to the super final of DMGP this year, it didn’t come as a surprise. She may have turned in a stellar, soulful performance, but Signals is just not the kind of song Denmark would ever choose to send to Eurovision. As a consolation prize, though, it’s totally the kind of song I get a kick out of, and I plan to listen to it on the reg until I find a 2019 Danish reject to replace it. The song is like a less urban version of All My Friends by Snakehips, with bare-bones verses and hypnotic choruses that run smooth like a chocolate fondue (why do I always end up comparing music to food?). It’s the perfect backing track to a low-key house party or a romantic rendezvous – not, I have to admit, a great song to enter in a competition, which is another reason why I didn’t crumple dramatically to the floor when it didn’t go anywhere in DMGP. I still want to hear more stuff like this from Denmark in the future, even if it only serves to end up on a Spotify playlist of mine post-show.

 

#8 | Ptica by BQL

2nd, EMA (Slovenia)

Okay, so it might have been BQL with Promise that technically came second in EMA…but the semi-final Slovenian version of this song is miles better. In any language, it’s no Heart of Gold (which 110% should have gone to Kyiv despite the boys being more performance-ready this year) but it has the Maraaya Midas touch, and that’s enough to warrant it a spot on my best of the rest list. I just love the cruisy vibe, the acoustic-pop sound, and OF COURSE the light-up guitars (it’s like Poli Genova personally oversaw the instrument-pimping process). Honestly, if BQL return for a third try at representing Slovenia next year with a song less impressive than this, it HAS to be their time. Maybe the musical love child of Heart of Gold and Ptica would do the trick? You’re welcome for the musical inspiration, Maraaya.

 

#7 | Lelya by Tayanna

2nd, Vidbir (Ukraine)

If there’s one thing we learnt from NF season 2017, it’s that Tayanna can SING…unless she’s got a throat infection. Fortunately she made a triumphant comeback to Vidbir this year, switching from a big dramatic ballad to a fast-paced retro pop banger in the process. As you’ll know if you tuned in to see her in action, she sang so studio-perfectly while dancing her ass off that she had to fend off accusations of lip-syncing on live TV. But she’s not fake – just fierce AF. And so is Lelya, with a catchy chorus and unrelenting energy that helped Tayanna hang on to her 2nd place from a year earlier. I would have preferred her to go to Eurovision on home soil with I Love You (what a host entry that would have been!) and I’m happy with Under The Ladder as Ukraine’s song for Lisbon, but Lelya would have been a worthy entry too. BTW…I’ve linked Tayanna’s semi performance above because, even though she was vocally flawless both times, I really did not like the oversized pantsuit she wore in the final. Seriously.

 

#6 | My Turn by John Lundvik

3rd, Melodifestivalen (Sweden)

Why are the Melfest performances geoblocked on YouTube? In Australia, anyway. It’s a travesty, is what it is. But I digress. If you read the Selection Season posts that led up to this one (which you totally would have because you just can’t get enough of me, AMIRIGHT?!?) then you might have noticed I transitioned from thinking My Turn was cheesier than a board of brie and camembert, to thinking that it was magnificent (while continuing to acknowledge the cheese). It’s not like it’s Our Choice cheesy (Iceland has a lot to answer for). It’s more of a ‘I just won Idol circa 2002 and this is my uplifting, inspirational winner’s single! Yay for me!’ situation. But it just works. It has all the moments it needs to give me goosebumps, right down to the explosive money note that we all knew would be accompanied by a fire curtain before we even saw John perform it on the Melfest stage. And speaking of which, he performs it so well with so much confidence, it’s hard to hate. Who knows, he may not believe a word he’s singing, but he makes me believe that he does. It so is your turn, John…just not to win Melodifestivalen, obviously.

 

#5 | Delirium by Isabell Otrębus

9th, Krajowe Eliminajce (Poland)

There’s something about Isabell that isn’t that appealing to Poland – this year in particular, when her NF outing ended with second-last place. I’ll admit that Delirium is a better song to listen to than to watch being performed (making it less than ideal to send to a contest where visuals are as crucial to a successful package as the song). But that’s what I’m ranking here anyway – songs that I have already or will be Spotifying the shiz out of over the next few months/years/centuries (because Delirium gives me enough life to guarantee I’ll live beyond 100). This song is better, I reckon, than Isabell’s 2017 Krajowe entry Voiceless. That was good, but Delirium is great. It’s not quite a pop music masterpiece, but pretty close – everything about it is contemporary, the production (Swedish, surprise surprise) is slick, and the chorus is simple but super catchy. If I’m honest, I would have preferred Poland to send it to Lisbon over Light Me Up, but I also know full well that Gromee and Lukas will fare better than Isabell would have. So I’ll just accept what actually happened, and continue to press play on this whenever the mood takes me (which is about every half an hour).

 

#4 | Poison (Ari Ari) by Tamar Kaprelian

DNQ, Depi Evratesil (Armenia)

Initially, I was under the impression that this was the ONLY song Armenia should send to Eurovision this year. Then they went and kicked Tamar to the curb at the semi-final stage of Depi Evratesil (THE NERVE!) and chose Qami…which I ended up falling in love with because it gives me all the Renaida-style feels. But rest assured that a) I’m still mad about the Poison rejection, and b) I will never forget what an epic piece of ethno pop it is. And that’s not just by comparison to Genealogy’s Face The Shadow, which was dire. In a parallel universe – and with some staging changes plus a boost from backing vocalists – this would have been an ESC return that gave an entire continent a bad case of the earworms. I mean, that chorus is stickier than super glue!  Overall, the song is three minutes of Tamar playing Princess Jasmine in the Armenian production of Aladdin, and hers is an Arabian night I want to relive over and over again. Ari ari-lly love this.

 

#3 | Scandilove by Ida Maria

Unplaced, Melodi Grand Prix (Norway)

I have to start by saying that I had a hard time choosing my Norway song for this list. I had no doubt there’d be one, I just didn’t know whether it would be Talk To The Hand, Who We Are or Scandilove (and narrowing it down to those three was tricky enough. #firstworldproblems). Ultimately I opted for Scandilove because it’s the Mean Girls of music: endlessly quotable, totally iconic and SO much fun. If you don’t believe me on that first point, allow me to present you with the following lyrical gems: ‘Swim in the ocean, feel the emotion, it’s fucking freeeeezing’; ‘You’re in Scandinavia, biatch’, and of course, ‘Can you make love like a Scandinavian?’ (though I’m still not sure exactly what that entails). The whole thing is so weirdly wonderful, a part of me wishes Norway had taken a non-Rybak risk and bestowed Europe with such a magical gift of song in May. Especially since Ida performed it so perfectly (when I was expecting a car crash) and with all the energy, attitude and costume game we could have hoped for. 1990s Spice Girl pop and 2010s too-cool-for-school Scandi pop – with a sprinkling of ridiculousness – join forces here, and the result is amazing.

 

#2 | Compass by Alejandro Reyes

2nd, Die Entscheidungsshow (Switzerland)

Now I’m getting into the songs that I not only wanted to win, but nearly got my way with (which is me saying that this song and my #1 both finished second in their respective NFs). I do think Stones is a good song, and that Switzerland was sensible in picking it. But if I’d had the picking power over there (I cannot imagine a scenario in which this would be the case, but just roll with me) I would have gone with Compass in a heartbeat. I was impressed by Switzerland having a potential Eurovision song that was so damn now, it could be the latest thing Shaun Mendes fangirls are freaking out over (rarely something you find in a Swiss NF). Still, I would have dug this like a hole in the sand even if it had been competing in Melodifestivalen surrounded by similarly current radio hits. It’s easy-listening but still has energy; the lyrics are interesting, neatly rhymed and non-cliché; and the chorus is stripped-back (word-wise) but memorable. As a package, Compass comes gift-wrapped in fancy paper with a big fat bow on top. And, as an added bonus, Alejandro is a beautiful sight to behold and can deliver himself to my door gift-wrapped (or not) any time.

 

#1 | Eva by Lisandro Cuxi

2nd, Destination Eurovision (France)

Eva feels nothing but a heartache…and I was the same when Lisandro was beaten at the last minute by Madame Monsieur in France’s 2018 NF. As with Norway, there was a handful of French possibles that could have ended up on this list, and they did all end up on the playlist you’ll find below (including Emmy Liyana’s OK ou KO and Nassi’s Rêves de Gamin). But I had to make Lisandro’s Eva my number one NF song of the season because not only do I love love LOVE it, it’s also the one song that destroyed me when it finished second, not first. It didn’t help that it looked like it was going to win until, as I said, the last minute (oh, the pain!). But enough about that, since it didn’t win and I’ve now accepted that. As a standalone song outside of a competition, to me Eva is everything. It’s moody, mixes languages without interrupting lyrical or audio flow, tells a story, goes hard on hypnotic beats and power, and is generally an R & B banger that stood out to me from the moment I heard a snippet of it. Lisandro’s smooth-as-silk vocals are the cherry on top of the croissant. More than ever, I wish we could make an exception to the September 1st rule and wheel this one out to represent France in 2019, but the best I can hope for is that Lisandro tries again with a song that’s equally good, or better (if such a thing even exists).

 

 

So that’s the cream of the crop for me…but about the rest? Well, here they are alongside my top-tier NF favourites.

 

How long would your personal playlist be? Would any of my top 10 picks make it into your top 10? Write me a sentence or a story in the comments and let me know!

 

I’ll be back soon with another pre-Portugal post, and then it’ll be time for the EBJ reviews to kick off (the only time I wish Eurovision wasn’t currently a 40+ country contest is when I have to write about every single entry). Watch out for those, and/or subscribe (in the sidebar), and/or follow me on your standard social media platforms @EurovisionByJaz, for new post alerts. Oh, and ESC-related thoughts complimented by GIFs. What more could you want?

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2018 | A shipload of songs for Portugal, Norway’s Grand Prix + the pointy end of Melfest!

It is with great regret – and to be honest, a little relief – that I say hey to you guys on the last Super Saturday of the 2018 ESC NF season. It feels like five minutes ago that the season started, and all of a sudden we’re in the thirties with our set-in-stone song tally and just days away from having a full house (and using the good old sorting tool to its full potential). The positive part of this, though, is that we are now just TWO MONTHS away from the main event.

No, not my birthday…that’s in September. I’m talking about Eurovision, obviously. Isn’t that all I ever do on this blog?

Before the spotlight hits Lisbon, there is more business to take care of. This is a sedate Saturday when you compare it to the last three or four – but the two finals taking place tonight are big ones. 

  • Norway (Melodi Grand Prix final)
  • Sweden (Melodifestivalen final)

Yep – it’s an all-out Scandifest! And even though I’m mad about it denying me the chance to be on Twitter throughout Melfest if I want to watch MGP afterwards sans spoilers (why did they have to be on the same night, for the love of Loreen?!?) I’m also very, very excited. And very, very keen to get on with talking about a) everything that happened last week re: Portugal’s participating songs, b) Melodi Grand Prix, and c) my beloved Melfest (to think I was in Friends Arena for the final a whole year ago!). So I’ll get straight into it.

 

 

After a drip-drop few months of the NF season (Safura pun intended), all of sudden we are DROWNING in songs (albeit drowning in an enjoyable way).

It all started with the results of last Saturday’s finals, which saw five songs selected in Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Poland and San Marino. The role call = La Forza by Elina Nechayeva, Monsters by Saara Aalto, Our Choice by Ari Oláfsson, Light Me Up by Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer, and Who We Are by Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening (a Maltese/German production for San Marino, of course). My least favourite of this bunch by far is Who We Are (and if Norway chooses a much, MUCH superior Who We Are tonight, San Marino will be even worse off) while my top pick of the night was La Forza. I’ll tell you why – assuming I still feel the same way – when the EBJ reviews for 2018 kick off. #cliffhanger.

Sweden’s Melodifestivalen stage has made its last pre-Stockholm pit stop, and the final line-up is complete (obviously, since it’s happening tonight…I’m just mentioning it now). Quashing their competition in each of the four Andra Chansen duels last Saturday were Margaret, Renaida, Felix Sandman and Mendez, paving the way for a Schwarznegger-strong final. For more on that, including my winner prediction, keep reading.

We have our host entry at long last, with Portugal choosing Cláudia Pascoal and her fairy floss hair to defend their Eurovision title with O Jardim. It’s a seriously slow burner of a song, and I definitely need time to figure out how I feel about it – but my first impression is good. Not good enough to make me think Portugal will successfully defend their first-ever win, however.

Later in the week, just when we thought the flood of songs had stopped, in surged Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia and Ireland, unveiling entries by artists that had been locked in for a long time (Belgium in particular). It’s no surprise that most of my attention was on my own country’s entry (no. 4…who would have thought), but I’m actually not going to say anything about Jessica Mauboy’s We Got Love at this stage. Do I love it? Do I hate it? YOU’LL NEVER KNOW MWAHAHAHAHA until later on when I’ve formed a proper and objective opinion. Sorry, not sorry.

If I could describe the others in one word, though, Cesár Sampson’s Nobody But You would be ‘smooth’, Aisel’s X My Heart  ‘underwhelming’, SENNEK’s A Matter of Time ‘interesting’, Franka’s Crazy ’jazzy’, I guess (and I’m glad Croatia isn’t in the same semi as Latvia, because I love Funny Girl and I don’t want two similar songs clamouring for the same points) and Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s Together ‘sweet’. Stay tuned for those 2018 reviews when I’ll say a lot more than that about all 43 entries.

 

Now it’s time to talk about some potential entries. Let the Scandifest begin!

  

 

We’ve known the artists and the songs for a good few months – and now, it’s finally time for Norway’s MGP to pit them against each other live and narrow ten down to one. And those ten are, in case you needed a refresher:

  1. You Got Me, Stella & Alexandra
  2. Talk To The Hand, Aleksander Walmann
  3. Scandilove, Ida Maria
  4. Light Me Up, Nicoline
  5. I Like, I Like, I Like, Tom Hugo
  6. Stop The Music, Charla K
  7. Tengo Otra, Alejandro Fuentes
  8. Moren Din, Vidar Villa
  9. Who We Are, Rebecca
  10. That’s How You Write A Song, Alexander Rybak

I don’t know about you, but I reckon this final is pretty freaking beautiful, to quote Robin Bengtsson *struts on treadmill and tries to type at the same time*. You did good, Norway – even if Alexander Rybak isn’t adding a surefire hit to the mix as many of us assumed he would.

Here’s my rundown of the songs that are hits, and those that missed the mark (in my opinion, obviously…feel free to disagree in the comments).

 

My favourite four (a.k.a. Jaz’s personal super final)

Who We Are In the wake of A Monster Like Me, Mørland brings us another musical masterpiece via Rebecca. It’s a power ballad that moves to morph into Sanna Nielsen-style schlager before each chorus, but (plot twist) doesn’t. The lyrics are familiar but not clichéd or a cheesefest, and each part of the song is as memorable as what comes before it – there’s no relying on a strong chorus to carry everything else. AMAZING. This is the MGP song leading the odds at the moment, and if Rebecca can deliver it close to studio-perfect tonight, there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing her on an even bigger stage in May. 9.5/10.

Talk To The Hand I was surprised to see JOWST and Aleksander Walmann so keen to give Eurovision another shot so soon – surprised, but psyched. This time Aleksander is the only billed artist, but we still get to experience JOWST’s brilliant lyrics (Grab The Moment won the EBJ Award for Best Lyrics of 2017, ICYMI). And it’s another catchy, cutting-edge pop track, with a faster pace than the Kyiv 10th-placer. I love it. It’s so much fun, and I will be Spotifying the shiz out of it whether it wins or not. 9.5/10.

‘Talk to the hand coz the face ain’t listening…and also coz I’m in the middle of servicing my car.’

Scandilove Speaking of fun…oh my Lordi, this is a party starter. At first I thought it was ridiculous, but all it took was a second listen to get me thinking it was ridiculously epic. It’s unbelievably catchy, bubblegum as heck, and hilariously quotable – ‘Can you make love like a Scandinavian?’, ‘Swim in the ocean, feel the emotion’ and ‘It’s fucking frEEEzing’ are the tip of the iceberg. Sure, it could be an absolute train wreck when performed live, but Ida is innocent until proven guilty. 9/10.

Tengo Otra Who would have thought that the Despacito effect would pop up in Norway’s national final? Or Sweden’s, for that matter? Well, believe it or not, it has – and I’m fine with that when it gives us songs like this. I have no idea what Alejandro is singing about (I’d have better luck if he’d gone with Norwegian) but his melody is exotic and makes me want to dance until sweat is pouring off me and I have to excuse myself to go and down an entire pitcher of sangria. 8.5/10.

 

The leftovers (a.k.a. the stuff that’s still good, just not great)

That’s How You Write A Song Artist-wise, this is the big one. Song-wise, this is the musical equivalent of a trashy TV movie that’s so bad it’s good. What’s not good is how inaccurate the lyrical instructions are (I think there’s a little more involved in the songwriting process than you’re letting on, Alexander) but who cares when the violin riff is so fantastically cheesy? Fairytale this song is not, but it is my guiltiest guilty pleasure of the whole NF season. 8/10.

Moren Din Up until now, the creepiest mother-related song in the Eurovision bubble was Belgium’s 2014 entry from Axel Hirsoux. Enter Vidar, who wants to get it on with someone else’s (I must stress that) mum and is not shy about making that public knowledge by singing about it on national TV. Subject matter aside, the song is folksy fun and I quite like it – all the more as it’s the only Norwegian-language song competing in MGP this year. 7.5/10.

‘Is that your mum over there? Your grandma? You know what, I’m not fussy.’

Stop The Music This is a strange name for a song, but I can’t even make a stupid joke about it along the lines of ‘I wish they had stopped the music’ (HAHAHA not) because it’s a nice song. As ballads go, it’s not the cookie-cutter kind, and I appreciate that. 7.5/10.

You Got Me Holy Haba Haba – Stella’s back! And she’s got her groove back too by the sounds of it (I owe you a congratulatory handshake if you got that reference). Her duet with Alexandra – as opposed to Alexander, Aleksander and Alejandro – is full of energy and packs a decent punch with the chorus, but it doesn’t exactly set my Scandipop-loving soul on fire. 7/10.

Light Me Up This is probably the most nondescript song of the ten. It’s good for radio play or the movie soundtrack of a John Green adaptation, but it’s too lacklustre to compete in a contest. There’s no fight in it. Sorry, Nicoline. 6.5/10.

I Like, I Like, I Like Now here’s a song title I can joke about! It’s not that I don’t like, don’t like, don’t like Tom’s track (though TBH, calling it I Like x1 would have been totally fine) – it’s just one of the few weak links here, and I’d be shocked to see it progress to the super final unless the live performance is miraculously mind-blowing. 6/10.

  

Making my predictions (a.k.a. embarrassing myself)

Traditionally, the four spots in the Melodi Grand Prix super final/gold final/whatever they’re calling it in 2018 are filled by a few predictable betting favourites, plus a few left-field options that few saw coming (and by ‘few’, I mean ‘me because I’m not very perceptive’). I’m not even sure I would have anticipated Grab The Moment making the cut last year if I’d followed MGP (I was busy swanning around Stockholm at the time). So, I’ve thought long and hard about who I think the final four will be this time…

…which didn’t help at all.

That means it’s stab-in-the-dark time, y’all! And I’m taking a stab at Aleksander Walmann, Vidar Villa, Rebecca and Alexander Rybak being the final four. If Walmann fades into the background after performing in the dreaded second slot, or Vidar isn’t the curveball I suspect he might be (remember En Godt Stekt Pizza?) we could see Ida Maria (if Norway’s feeling frisky) or Stella & Alexandra stepping up instead. Rebecca and Rybak are more or less already there, as far as I’m concerned, but don’t make me bet anything on it.

As for the winner, I do think Rebecca will do it if a) her live vocals are up to scratch, and b) the staging hasn’t been stuffed up and does Who We Are justice. That means the music video should definitely NOT be replicated on stage, as cool of a concept as it is.

 

What do you think? Am I crazy for not naming Rybak the runaway winner, or is there someone I’ve overlooked? Who do you want to represent Norway in Lisbon? Let me know below.

 

 

It’s here. After five cities, four semis and one second chance round, Melodifestivalen has arrived in Stockholm, and the capital is prepping for a final that has turned out to be pretty fantastisk considering the overall, weaker-than-usual standard of this year’s competition. 12 songs remain, and outside of victories on the Spotify charts, only one can win. So who’s going to Eurovision?

  1. Everyday, Mendez
  2. All The Feels, Renaida
  3. A Bitter Lullaby, Martin Almgren
  4. My Turn, John Lundvik
  5. Party Voice, Jessica Andersson
  6. Last Breath, LIAMOO
  7. Shuffla, Samir & Viktor
  8. For You, Mariette
  9. Every Single Day, Felix Sandman
  10. In My Cabana, Margaret
  11. Dance You Off, Benjamin Ingrosso
  12. Fuldans, Rolandz

That golden ticket to the ESC is still up for grabs. There’s no crystal-clear winner forging ahead far enough to make betting on them worthwhile (at least for a scaredy cat with a fragile bank account balance like me). Benjamin is leading the odds and won the audience poll; Felix is topping the charts and gaining more support by the second; Mariette or John Lundvik could still surprise; and LIAMOO might be a miracle worker who raps his way to first place.

A lot is going to come down to who Sweden votes for now that the best songs are in direct competition, and what the international juries take to as well (so we probably won’t see Samir & Viktor shuffla in Lisbon). Before I make my best possible winner prediction, I want to run down the full list of tonight’s twelve songs: not in performance or even alphabetical order (gasp!) but by how much I want them to win. Tell me if you feel the same – or not – in the comments.

 

Nej, tack…the songs I DON’T want to win Melfest 2018

A Bitter Lullaby I think there is a place for this in the final, and as long as it isn’t first place (which is about as likely as San Marino winning Eurovision this year) I can make peace with it being there. The song has grown on me since listen no. 1, but I still see it being too vanilla to get Sweden a result on par with what they’re accustomed to. 6.5/10.

Party Voice Melfest wouldn’t be Melfest without a touch of schlager, and since Jessica is one of only four females competing tonight, Party Voice is representing schlager and girl power in Stockholm. But, like Christer Björkman, I do NOT want a song like this winning through to the ESC and setting Sweden back 15-20 years. Again, it’s not going to happen…but I just want to make my feelings clear (while dancing like a mother). 7/10.

For You It’s not Mariette’s fault that she had so much pressure on her to produce a clear Melfest winner. Nonetheless, she didn’t. I think she’s almost out of contention for the win (if she couldn’t do it with A Million Years, she shouldn’t be able to with For You). The song and the performance are good, but missing the x factor. 7/10.

‘I think I deserve a high five for not falling off this pyramid, don’t I?’

Fuldans I can’t be mad that Rolandz went direkt – didn’t we all see it coming? They are officially the Owe Thornqvist of 2018, right down to being handed performance slot 12 in the final. As with Boogieman Blues, I’d be lying if I said I got zero enjoyment out of Fuldans. Knowing it shouldn’t and won’t come anywhere near winning means I’m not worrying about it much. 6/10.

 

The songs I could get on board with (or should I say ‘All Aboard’ with?)

Everyday This is a bop. So much so that I can forgive the line ‘We were always meant to be’ (seriously, couldn’t they come up with anything else?). The chorus is possibly the catchiest of the year, and the colourful, frivolous staging contrasts well with Mendez’ all-black ensemble. 8/10.

All The Feels Fiercest, most flawless female in the final alert! I’m so thankful Renaida made it out of Andra Chansen so we get to witness her smash it on stage again. All The Feels is addictive, contemporary and perfectly choreographed. The odds aren’t in its favour to win, but if it did I would be happier than Nathan Trent after a lottery win. 8.5/10.

Shuffla They’re leading the pack on Spotify – and it’s understandable – but as with Rolandz, it will be the international juries who drag Samir & Viktor down a scoreboard they might have topped if Sweden had 100% of the power. I’m not super keen on a Shuffla win, so that’s okay with me. Still, imagine the energy this would bring to Eurovision, and how jättebra it would be to have Sweden send a song in Swedish for the first time since 1998! 7/10.

They might not win over the juries, but they could be up for a Colgate advertising campaign.

Every Single Day Comparing this song – and Felix himself – to Frans’ win with If I Were Sorry is easy. I ended up loving and supporting that in Stockholm (right down to wearing Frans’ face on my t-shirt) and I can see myself doing the same thing if the Sandman becomes the second-ever winner to come out of Andra Chansen. At this point, though, I like this song, but love others. 8/10.

 

The songs I want to win

My Turn How did I go from labeling this as a total by-the-numbers cheeseboard to adoring it when I’ve only listened to it once since semi 1? Your guess is as good as mine. But there’s something about the melody, power, and John’s beautiful face that’s worked magic on me. Don’t underestimate this one! 9/10.

Last Breath I get that rap isn’t for everyone, but it’s what LIAMOO does best and that makes his performance of Last Breath authentic and moving. The staging is simple but complementary, and the song is dynamic thanks to the uplifting chorus that gives rap-haters a break from the more intense verses. As Sanna Nielsen would say, I’m in love. 9/10.

In My Cabana But of COURSE. I don’t care if Margaret sings like a drunk pack-a-day smoker (although she has come a long way from her Polish NF performance of Cool Me Down). This song is the bomb dot com – a tropical-reggae-pop banger with numerous insanely catchy bits. Oh boy, oh boy. 9.5/10.

‘FYI, when I say ‘go ape’, that’s not an invitation for Francesco Gabbani’s man in a monkey suit to come party with me.’

Dance You Off Last but not least, it’s my boy Benjamin with a slick R & B/dance track and the most epic staging I have ever seen. Together they’re an ESC-ready package that I’ll be cheering for tonight so loudly I’ll wake up everyone else in my house, and you’ll probably hear me even if you’re in Friends Arena. 9.5/10.

 

Predicting the winner, with sweaty palms (and sweaty other places)

I’m going to keep this (kind of) short. Realistically, I think there are four songs that are in it to win it – My Turn, Last Breath, Every Single Day and Dance You Off. As I said before, Samir & Viktor will be dragged down by the international juries, whereas I think Swedish love for Mariette will be decreased now there are stronger songs and performances in play.

Last Breath is too divisive to win, in my opinion – as much as I’d enjoy that. My Turn is probably not current enough. That leaves a likely top two of Benjamin and Felix (who have a bromance going on that Shakespeare would write a sonnet about if he were alive today) and I’m having trouble deciding what’s more likely: the song I actually want to win winning (Dance You Off ) or an Andra Chansen qualifier winning again (Every Single Day). All I feel 100% confident in saying is that Sweden will be sending their fourth guy in a row to Eurovision (so could we please get some girl power á la Sverige in 2019?).

That being said, YOU HAVE TO MAKE AN ACTUAL PREDICTION, JAZ!!! So, for the win, I’m settling on *drumroll*…

Felix. Because I don’t want to jinx Benjamin, but also because I got this feeling inside my bones (Justin Timberlake knows).

 

Who’s your pick to fly the Swedish flag in Lisbon? Do we agree, or do we have to agree to disagree?

  

NF UPDATE: What’s Up Next (The Last NF of the Season, Noooooooooo!)

    • 11/3 Lithuania (Eurovizija final)

And we still have song reveals from Bulgaria, Georgia, Israel, Macedonia and Russia to look forward to. Are we spoiled or what?

 

I think I’d better stop the Scandifest now since I could probably publish all of the above as an encyclopedia-thick novel (that nobody would want to read). I hope you enjoy Melfest or MGP if you’re watching one/both tonight, and that you don’t decide to be Eurovision Satan and DM me spoilers from Norway on social media. Have a heart!

 

Until next time, when the real ESC countdown begins…

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2018 | Nine more songs, an Estonian decision + Swedish second chances!

Holy guacamole, guys! If you thought the last four or five Saturdays were busy when it came to the ESC NF calendar…then you’re not entirely wrong, they totally were. But this Saturday is on another level, because we’re about to find ourselves with five more songs for Lisbon. FIVE, I TELL YOU!!! THAT’S FOUR MORE THAN ONE!!!

In addition – and I won’t use aggressive all-caps on you this time – Lithuania is edging ever closer to the end of Eurovizija (so they say, but I’ll believe it when I see it) and Sweden’s penultimate Melfest show has arrived. Nights like this are exactly why ‘Super Saturday’ was coined, and I am pumped. Are you?

Here’s a rundown of the evening:

  • Estonia (Eesti Laul final)
  • Finland (UMK final)
  • Iceland (Söngvakeppnin final)
  • Lithuania (Eurovizija heat 8)
  • Poland (Krajowe Eliminacje final)
  • San Marino (1in360 final)
  • Sweden (Melodifestivalen Andra Chansen round)

As usual, I’m going to review everything major that went down in ESC terms this week, and I’ll also be talking Estonian eventfulness and Swedish shenanigans (that’s Eesti Laul and Melodifestivalen, for those of you who’d prefer I speak like a normal person). Sorry if you were hoping for a UMK (Monsters please), Poland (Delirium please), etc ramble. Maybe next year, if my time management skills have become superhuman by then!

 

 

Let’s rewind to last Saturday, which saw Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Slovenia and Ukraine take their picks for Portugal. Enrolling in the Class of 2018 were: AWS with Viszlát Nyár; Laura Rizzotto with Funny Girl; DoReDos with My Lucky Day; Lea Sirk with Hvala, Ne!; and Mélovin with Under The Ladder. Along the way we lost BQl and Tayanna, who’ve now finished second two years running in EMA and Vidbir respectively – but it wasn’t for nothing. My favourite choice of last Saturday night was Latvia’s (as they continue to bring it for the fourth year in a row…we’ll see if they get rewarded this time). Having not had the time to follow Supernova at all this season, I had no idea what to expect when I checked out Laura’s winning performance. Afterwards, all I could think was ‘Wow!’ – so you could say it took me (pleasantly) by surprise.

Over in Sweden, the fourth and final semi of Melodifestivalen ended with direkt qualifications for Mariette (shocking) and Rolandz (*sigh*), plus Andra Chansen tickets for Felix Sandman and Olivia Eliasson. It wasn’t a jaw-dropper of a show by any means – Mariette was the favourite, Rolandz obviously is the Owe Thornqvist of 2018 (as I suspected) and Felix will probably get to the final via the scenic route – and it doesn’t look like this week’s AC round will see any major surprises either…OR WILL IT?!? More on that later on in this post.

The NF action didn’t all go down on Saturday: Sunday night was Armenia and Romania’s turn to crown a couple of champions. Armenia could have gone any which way after pre-Depi Evratesil fave Tamar Kaprelian didn’t even advance to the final – and they opted for the first song performed on the night, Qami by Sevak Khanagyan. Now, I do want to keep my poker face on as much as possible until I officially review the entries for Lisbon, but I just have to say that I totally forgive Armenia for letting Tamar go (i.e. we may have lost a bop, but we’ve gained a GORGEOUS ballad in its place). As for Romania, who settled on Goodbye by The Humans…well, I think I need some grow time on that one. The lack of yodeling is something we’ll all have to get used to.

The week ended with two ‘ta-da!’ moments – a.k.a. on Friday, Cyprus and The Netherlands unveiled their entries at last. Eleni Foureira’s Fuego is the ethnopop banger I’ve/we’ve all been waiting for, and once again I think Cyprus has the competitive edge over Greece (I’m still not over Gravity finishing lower than This Is Love last year. JUSTICE MUST BE SERVED). Waylon’s Outlaw In ‘Em – revealed as his Eurovision pick after five consecutive nights of musical possibilities – is not an ethnopop banger (shocking). Instead it’s a full-on, no-holds-barred twang-a-langin’ country anthem in which he is sporadically possessed by Jon Bon Jovi circa 1987. I’ll leave you to wonder (until review time) whether that’s a pro or a con as far as I’m concerned.

 

 

I wanted to talk a little bit about Eesti Laul, which isn’t an NF I usually follow from go to whoa – I’ve barely had time to glance at it this year – but it can always be relied on to spit out some really interesting songs that would never be mistaken for Melfest rejects (they’re just so inherently Estonian somehow).

A few semi finals ago there were 20 potential successors to Koit & Laura’s Verona in play; now, 10 remain (DUN DUN DUN!) and tonight is the night for Estonia to name the best one (hopefully, although we all have a different opinion of which one that is) winner.  

  1. Young, Karl Kristjan & Karl Killing feat. Wateva
  2. Sky, Eliis Pärna & Gerli Padar
  3. Knock Knock, Nika
  4. Thousand Words, Sibyl Vane
  5. Home, Stig Rästa
  6. Laura (Walk With Me), Vajé
  7. La Forza, Elina Netšajeva
  8. (Can’t Keep Calling) Misty, Frankie Animal
  9. Drop That Boogie, Iiris & Agoh
  10. Welcome To My World, Evestus

The top three in the odds are Elina, Stig and Vajé (well, they were when I wrote this), but are any of those acts in my personal top three? Short answer: yes. Long answer: keep reading.

 

My favourites

La Forza I initially listened to this after hearing Eurofans left, right and centre raving about it, and I didn’t feel it much at first (probably because my expectations were higher than Elina’s glass-shattering soprano notes). But a few listens later, my skin is goosebumping during the chorus. Elina’s performance looks and sounds like nothing else in Eesti Laul 2018, and nothing else in Eurovision 2018 at this point. She is stunning, vocally flawless, and the wearer of a skirt bigger than Aliona Moon’s and just as arresting.

Home Ott Lepland did it to me in 2012, and now it’s Stig who’s making me want to fly to Tallinn ASAP and propose to him on the spot. What a romantic! As always, I’m surprised to see him back in the comp considering he looks like he stumbled across it by accident but decided to just roll with the punches. That aside, I adore this song. It’s sweet and heartfelt without being gag material (FYI, Stig, this is me telling you that I’m currently free for GoT viewings).

‘Why didn’t you wake me up? Game of Thrones was on!’.

Young This is too cute, gosh darn it! One of the Karls even has BRACES, for heaven’s sake (I think it’s one of the Karls…there are a lot of cooks in this kitchen and I’m confused). No, it’s not the most distinctive song on the planet (and it won’t win tonight) but it’s fresh and fun, which gets a YAASSS from me.

 

Who’s going to win it?

I don’t want to discount anyone and look stupid later (which has already happened a handful of times this selection season), but in my mind the most likely winners are Stig and Elina (not to be mistaken for the Stig and Elina duo of 2015). And I can narrow it down even further than that, because I just don’t think Home is powerful enough to outshine La Forza – though that depends on what Estonia is looking for. Stig gets the authentic, singer-songwriter vote; Elina has the ‘wow!’ moments (La Forza is one long ‘wow!’ moment in itself, actually). I’m thinking it’ll be wow over ‘aww!’ this time.

Oh, and to cover my butt…my underdog winner prediction would be Sibyl Vane or Frankie Animal.

 

What do you think? Who’s getting on the plane to Portugal on behalf of Estonia, and will their microphone work once they get there?

 

 

Kristianstad is the name (does Sweden has a Kostovstad tucked away somewhere?) and Andra Chansen is the game, people. The eight songs that finished 3rd and 4th in their respective Melfest semis throughout February will be chopped in half tonight, with four acts to join Benjamin Ingrosso, John Lundvik, Samir & Viktor, LIAMOO, Martin Almgren, Jessica Andersson, Mariette and *takes a breath* Rolandz in the final. The AC round is often made up of both the obvious and the WTF (results-wise), making it well worth watching even if you’re impatient for the final to just get here already.

Speaking of things just happening already, I’m going to get straight into the duels and share my thoughts on who I’d like to win, and who probably will.

 

Duel 1: In My Cabana, Margaret VS Cuba Libre, Moncho

First up, two songs that both make me want to go on holiday to a tropical island. Given that Moncho couldn’t have been paired with Mendez for a duel, In My Cabana VS Cuba Libre is the next best thing. There should be a clear winner here – i.e. if Margaret doesn’t walk away with victory in this battle, then there will be something very weird going on in the world (or at least on Planet Eurovision). Then again, I never expected Moncho to get to Andra Chansen in the first place…so I shouldn’t underestimate him again. Still, it’s GOT to be Margaret.

Who should win (IMO) Margaret

Who WILL win Margaret

 

Duel 2: All The Feels, Renaida VS Never Learn, Olivia Eliasson

Here we have a female soloist in black and fluorescent sports-chic, singing a slick and modern dance-pop song, versus a female soloist in black and fluorescent sports-chic, singing a slick and modern dance-pop song. Well, you can’t say Renaida and OIivia aren’t evenly matched. Having both in the final wouldn’t make a lot of sense, although I do like both songs. But Renaida is the superior performer – her energy and confidence sell All The Feels at a price I’m more than willing to pay, whereas Olivia struggled to perform Never Learn with conviction. I do think this could be the most closely-fought duel of the night considering how similar the options are – sometimes it’s a lot easier choosing between pizza and cake than choosing between pizza and pizza.

Who should win (IMO) Renaida

Who WILL win Renaida

 

Duel 3: Every Single Day, Felix Sandman VS Songburning, Mimi Werner

We all have our painful AC duels – the ones that are bittersweet because we love both songs and want them both to score a spot in the final. This is mine for the year, in case you hadn’t guessed. I love Felix and his Frans impersonation (Felix is totally sorry, though) plus the bare-bones staging that made the whole thing feel genuine. And yep, I also love Mimi’s country cracker that was staged to perfection (colour scheme, backup drummers and fire curtain were all on point) even if her vocal was wobbly at times. Oof. At the end of the day, my heart (the one in my chest, not the on-screen Melfest app one that drives me INSANE) says Felix a little louder than it says Mimi. Based on his impressive Spotify stream count (it’s more like a flood) and Mimi’s lack thereof, I’d say we’ll be seeing Mr. Sandman in Stockholm next Saturday.

Who should win (IMO) Felix

Who WILL win Felix

 

Duel 4: Patrick Swayze, Sigrid Bernson VS Everyday by Mendez

Sunny slice of Scandipop goes head-to-head with Latin pop summer song – but who comes out on top? I have been back and forth on this one more times than Sanna Nielsen has filled out Melfest application forms. My personal preference is Mendez, but Sigrid and the effervescent Patrick Swayze have grown on me since the Karlstad semi. And I just don’t know what will win out in the end! SEND HELP.

Who should win (IMO) Mendez

Who WILL win Mendez…or Sigrid. One of the two for sure.

 

I’ve showed you mine, now you have to show me yours! Who would you bet on to make it out of Andra Chansen tonight?

 

 

NF UPDATE: What’s up next?

  • 4/3 Portugal (Festival da Canção final)
  • 10/3 Norway (Melodi Grand Prix final), Sweden (Melodifestivalen final)
  • 11/3 Lithuania (Eurovizija final)

 

We are so close to the end of national final season, which is sad – but there’s something satisfying about having a freshly-full house of Eurovision entries to talk about. May the best songs win this weekend (the best according to me, that is, because I’m selfish and want things to go my way musically), and may you enjoy whatever you choose to watch!

 

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2018 | A five-song Super Saturday + Melfest’s final semi final

Greetings, guys! Here we are again, staring down the barrel of the glitter-filled cannon that is another Super Saturday (a phrase meaning nothing to non-Eurofans but so much to the rest of us). NF action on the agenda tonight is coming live from:

  • Hungary (A Dal final)
  • Latvia (Supernova final)
  • Lithuania (Eurovizija heat 7)
  • Moldova (O Melodie Pentru Europa final)
  • Slovenia (EMA final)
  • Sweden (Melodifestivalen semi 4)
  • Ukraine (Vidbir final)

Yes, you read that right – we get not one, not two, not three, not even four, but FIVE (bet you didn’t see that coming) Eurovision entries this evening. That’s in addition to the last standard Melfest semi before the Stockholm final; and another heat in the long, long, loooooong line of Lithuanian Eurovizija episodes (will it ever end?).

As I have to be picky, I’m shining my conversational spotlight on Sweden and Ukraine only for this post – but before that, let’s take a look at the results/song reveals from the week that was.

 

 

Finland finished off Saara Aalto’s song reveals on Friday (well, kind of…track three was actually leaked by UK media before YLE had a chance to go ‘Ta-da!’). Queens is the name, and another competent pop song is the game – but I’m not totally into playing. In my opinion – and please pardon the approaching pun – it’s third in line to the throne of being Finland’s 2018 ESC entry. I’m saying that before we’ve seen Saara smash the trio of songs out live on stage, of course, and when she does on March 3rd it could change everything. But for now, solely based on studio versions and video clips, it’s Monsters all the way for me. How about you?

We have a winner in Germany, and it comes in the form of Michael Schulte and You Let Me Walk Alone. A ballad not-so-subtly focused on the death of his dad, it’s engineered (in the nicest way possible) to be a tearjerker. Basically, it’s to music what The Fault In Our Stars is to cinema. But I either have dried-out tear ducts or a bitter, empty soul, because the song does zip to me. It’s pleasant – I feel that much – but I can’t see myself making the effort to vote for it in May. I can see a slightly better result than that achieved by Levina’s Perfect Life, but if Michael didn’t have German auto-finalist status in his corner, I’m not sure he’d qualify from a semi.

Anyone who was hoping for a Balkan ballad this year got it this week from Montenegro: yes, the same country that sent the iconic and super-sexual Slavko Kalezić to Kyiv. Vanja Radovanović and Inje couldn’t be more of a contrast to Slavko and Space (Vanja doesn’t even have a hair extension to whip around in a helicopter-like fashion…how will we cope?!?). It’s sombre and down-tempo, and not quite up there with a Željko Joksimović creation. Even so, I’m happy to have it add variety to the Lisbon line-up.

Serbia has gone full Serbian on us – which I welcome with open arms – and chosen Nova Deca by Sanja Ilić and Balkanika. This is the kind of song that popped up at contests circa 2004-2010, but I wouldn’t say it was dated – it’s more of an ultra-ethnic throwback to Eurovisions of the past. A fusion of modern and traditional sounds will usually get a gold star (or at least an approving nod) from me, but I think Nova Deca and I need to spend more time together to see what I’m prepared to give it. I’ve literally listened to it once!

Over in Sweden, Melodifestivalen proved it’s not always predictable by throwing a spanner in the works of everyone who thought Mendez and Dotter would walk the Malmö show (i.e. me). Jaws dropped worldwide as Dotter didn’t even make the first cut, Mendez only reached Andra Chansen alongside Moncho, and schlager reigned supreme (Christer Björkman’s worst nightmare) as Jessica Andersson became the first female to go direkt in 2018. Oh, and Martin Almgren made the final too (but I may have been asleep when that happened). This plot twist makes predicting the last semi final a tough task…in a first world kind of way.

 

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to talk more about Melfest (#seguechampion).

 

  

It’s hard to believe that we’re already approaching the pointy end of Melfest for the year. It’s been a lacklustre one to date, so there was one big question hanging in the air and being feverishly tweeted out by flabbergasted Eurofans: had the best songs been saved for last? There was, after all, one song in particular tucked away in heat 4 that was supposed to be The One.

So IS IT? *insert dramatic cliffhanger music here*.

  1. Icarus, Emmi Christensson
  2. Mitt Paradis, Elias Abbas
  3. Break That Chain, Felicia Olsson
  4. Fuldans, Rolandz
  5. Never Learn, Olivia Eliasson
  6. Every Single Day, Felix Sandman
  7. For You, Mariette

Overall, there are more songs I like in this semi than there have been in any of the others. But the best one (IMO) isn’t as good as the almost-best we’ve had in semis of past years – and that’s a good indication of a sub-standard Melfest. But it is what it is, so let’s focus on the positives for a while. Well, my positives.

 

My top 4

Mitt Paradis Cookie cutter tropical dance pop it may be, but that genre is a crowd-pleaser…and a Jaz pleaser. Elias is bringing the first of two Swedish-language songs to the table for this semi, and I prefer his by miles.

Break That Chain I’m calling this a guilty pleasure, because I feel like I shouldn’t like it since nobody else does. Sure, it could have been a mid-tempo lady ballad from any time between 2004-2013, but that’s part of the appeal. I was expecting Felicia to be starring in the sequel to Make Me No. 1 (her first Melfest entry from, coincidentally, another weak year) so props to her for surprising me.

Every Single Day Felix has gone from FO&O to Frans (ish) in the space of a year, and though I loved and still love Gotta Thing About You (in spite of some ridiculous lyrics), I’m impressed by how different this solo sound of his has turned out to be. I do feel like I need to hear the full song to decide whether it’s good or great, but the snippet is promising.

For You *cliffhanger music from earlier makes a comeback* So is Mariette 3.0 also Mariette, winner of Mello 2018? I’m not convinced. She’s already lost her top spot in the odds to Benjamin Ingrosso, which doesn’t bode well for a supposed runaway winner. Yet I do think For You is one of the best songs on offer tonight, and an almost-definite direkt qualifier. Extra points for not resembling Niamh Kavanagh’s It’s For You in the slightest.

Is this the mug shot…ah, I mean PROMO shot, of a winner?

 

So, who’s going direkt til final? Mariette + Rolandz. The former because it’s an easy prediction to make (then again, so was Mendez last week), and the latter because it’s something I don’t want to happen but can see happening á la Owe Thornqvist in 2017. If it’s not a cringeworthy man band joining Mariette in the final, it could be one of the solo boys – most likely Elias given Felix’s shock 6th place in the rehearsal audience poll.

And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Elias + Felix. I can’t bring myself to say that Felix might go nowhere and feel some of Dotter’s pain in the process, so AC it is (I am prepping for the worst though). If he slips further down, it might make way for Emmi or Olivia. BYE, FELICIA is sadly on the cards.

 

What do you think? Will a curveball be thrown again this week at Melfest, or are we back to knowing exactly what’s going to happen?

 

  

Flying east to Ukraine, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for…right? Yes or no, last year’s hosts are about to pick their song for Portugal. After two semis, six possibilities remain, and the standard is as high as the Vidbir finals of 2016 and 2017 (ICYMI, I thought those finals were awesome). It’s almost a do-over of last year anyway, with multiple familiar faces taking another shot at representing Ukraine. 

  1. Beat of the Universe, Kadnay
  2. Lelya, Tayanna
  3. Heroes, The Erised
  4. Waiting, Laud
  5. Forest Song, Vilna
  6. Under The Ladder, Mélovin

Is there a dud here? I don’t think so.

 

My top 3

Lelya Tayanna’s I Love You from last year would have become one of my most beloved host entries ever, had she not come down with a super ill-timed, voice-ruining sickness. As far as I know she’s healthy this time round, and ready to deliver another flawless, sassy and energetic performance of Lelya, which shows off her incredible vocals without sounding like she’s having a screaming match with herself. The chorus of this song is catchy on an alarming level. 9/10.

Under The Ladder Like Tayanna, Mélovin has come back to Vidbir with a song that’s not as good as his last, but is still Eurovision-worthy. It’s his performance that really makes Under The Ladder something special, but the interesting lyrics and easy-to-chant-while-a-bit-drunk ‘oh-oh-oh’ bits make it a decent standalone song. 8/10.

Beat of the Universe This one’s more hardcore and unique than Lelya or Under The Ladder, and though I suspect it wouldn’t do as well at the ESC as they would, nothing else like it is likely to end up in Lisbon (which could give it an advantage). It’s a little bit Imagine Dragons and a little bit Marvel movie soundtrack. Those are good things, by the way. 7.5/10.

 

Thoughts on the rest

Heroes What, no leather pants or cartoon stick men with balloons? Shame. This Heroes is no Eurovision winner – and probably no Ukrainian representative either – but I can see/hear how it got this far. If the Vidbir final was an album, it’d be considered for a single release rather than kept back as filler. 7/10.

Waiting Like Heroes, this is not likely to be ESC-bound. I wouldn’t complain about Laud proving me wrong though, after my Tayanna/Mélovin grieving period was over. 7/10.

Forest Song I’d give this a solid 6/10, even though it’s my least favourite of the six. If Emmelie de Forest ate a special brownie from an Amsterdam coffee shop, Vilna and her musical stylings would be the result. 6/10 (as I said).

  

Who’s going to win this thing? O. Torvald were not on my radar this time last year, so I don’t want to assume anything…but Mélovin’s televote in his semi was substantial to say the least. Tayanna’s was surprisingly humble, and I don’t think any of the songs that haven’t competed against Under The Ladder yet are strong enough to beat it. The jury could shift things, obviously, and I can see Tayanna or Kadnay edging a win if they also grab a bigger percentage of the televote than before. But a lot has to work in their favour – and NOT in Mélovin’s – to make that happen. To sum up, I’m saying Mélovin will take it!

 

I’ve been pretty hit and miss this NF season with predictions (what else is new) so feel free to help me out in the comments. Who do think will go to Portugal on behalf of Ukraine, and who do you want to see get there?

 

NF UPDATE: What’s up next?

  • 25/2 Armenia (Depi Evratesil final), Romania (Selecţia Naţională final)
  • 27/2 San Marino (1in360 final)

 

That’s all I’ve got time for, folks (sad but true). I’ll be back next Saturday – hopefully with a less hasty post, having had about thirty seconds to put this one together – to review the latest highlights of the selection season and discuss the shows still to come, feat. big hitters Eesti Laul, UMK, Norsk MGP and Melfest (duh).

Right now though, I’m going to attempt to fit eight hours of sleep into the few hours left before my NF alarm goes off. FYI, I’ve set it to play Tamar Kaprelian’s Poison in tribute to what could have been a cracking piece of ethnopop among the Class of ’18. Sadface.