Bonjour and welcome back to my Tel Aviv Reviews! France isn’t featured in this round, so sorry if the ‘bonjour’ misled you. I was just feeling flamboyant.
As of today I’m ten countries deep into my 2019 judgments, which I hope you guys have enjoyed so far, and told your friends (and friends of friends of friends) about. Now it’s time for me to take on another five competitors: Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and North Macedonia. Keep reading for my thoughts on what Roko, Lake Malawi, Victor, Jurij and Tamara are packing in their ESC suitcases as we speak.
Am I feeling the force of North Macedonia’s girl power or is it all about the boys this time? And what’s your opinion on these five entries? There’s only one way to answer the first question – then you can answer the second one in the comments. See you there in about three hours.
Um, Croatia? Eurovision 2008 called and it wants its song back. But it can’t have it, because I’m actually kind of keen on it. The Dream has the mark of Jacques Houdek, the man of many faces, all over it. He co-wrote it, after all, and his lyrical influence is clear in the cliché-crammed English verse and chorus. Jacques did do pretty well at Eurovision himself, however, and one of this song’s other writers has an even stronger pedigree. Charlie Mason co-wrote L’Amoré è Femmina for Italy in 2012, Rise Like A Phoenix for Austria in 2014, and both Beauty Never Lies for Serbia and Here For You for Slovenia in 2015. Between them, Houdek and Mason have never finished lower than 14th in an ESC final. As a duo, you would think they’d be sure to succeed…right?
I’m not so sure. But first, let me try and explain why I actually like this entry against all the odds and my better judgement. There’s an uplifting, stirring atmosphere to it that draws me in, and the fact that it could easily pass as an Olympic Games theme helps (I’m moved by stuff like that, and I really love the Olympics a.k.a. Eurovision with sports). The song builds quickly and trots out a generous share of explosive moments. The melody is pretty simple in general, with the chorus being less of a substantial one and more of a vocal showcase for Roko. And he deserves that showcase, no doubt – this kid is jury catnip, assuming juries aren’t bothered by songs being dated and slightly cringe. Yes, The Dream is a guilty pleasure of mine, but there is a point when it flicks from guilty pleasure to genuine pleasure: the second Roko starts singing in Croatian. Without English-language clichés dragging the song down, it’s much better and makes me wish the all-Croatian version Heroj was competing instead. Still, I’ll take the language mix over full English.
Now I’ve got that off my chest, I can be more objective and say that I am worried for Croatia. I do think The Dream stands out more than Crazy did last year, but all most people will remember about it are Roko’s really subtle angel wings rather than the song itself. It’s too much to ask that the wings be ditched for ESC purposes, with Jacques Houdek loving a good gimmick or six (I’ve obtained a copy of his birth certificate that states ‘OTT’ is his middle name). Plus, dated ballads don’t have a good recent history in the contest, as Omar Naber would confirm. With Croatia stuck in that super-tough second semi, there’s only one member of their bloc nearby to potentially give them a points boost – North Macedonia – and this song just doesn’t have the goods to transcend geography. As someone who doesn’t think The Dream is a nightmare, I wouldn’t mind if Roko reached the final…but even I don’t think he’s going to.
In a line An angelic, vocally impressive power ballad too stale to get out of its semi 2018 VS 2019 2019. I must be feeling nostalgic Predicted result SF 12th-15th My score 7 points
When a country does something amazing at Eurovision out of nowhere, I always hope they’ll surf their wave of success into the following year. Germany did after Lena’s win in 2010, and Bulgaria did it even better after 2016 put them back on the map (RIP, BNT). I’m not sure why I’m talking about Germany and Bulgaria when I’m supposed to be reviewing the Czech Republic…but my point is, CZ had big sneakers to fill after Mikolas Josef gave them their best-ever result, and I was praying they’d bring something just as iconic to Israel. Well, almost as iconic – Lie To Me is basically unbeatable in that department.
I’m relieved to announce that Mikolas’ successors Lake Malawi are setting my camel in the mood for sure. These guys were far and away the smartest choice the Czech Republic could have made in a pretty weak NF (such as it was) lineup. And what they’re bringing to Eurovision is very different to what Mikolas brought, but it’s equally enjoyable and arguably more original. They’re an established band and their experience, rapport and unique style is all on show throughout Friend of a Friend. I cannot help moving to this song á la Jamala, and if I used it as an alarm I’d emerge from REM sleep in two seconds flat, shimmying the entire time. The bouncing beat, memorable chorus and creepy yet somehow endearing lyrics make it irresistible. Speaking of the lyrics, if the line ‘It sounds like you and me when we’re making love’ doesn’t capture your attention then I don’t know what would.
It may have flaws, but I love this entry anyway. It’s cute (when not creepy), fun and competitive without taking itself too seriously. And what makes it even better is, thanks to the straightforward and drama-free Ukrainian NF where Lake Malawi performed as guests, we know the boys can deliver live. The sound great, they look like they’re enjoying themselves on stage, and lead singer Albert has all the energy this song needs (I also really like his Wiggles-chic yellow sweater). Though I don’t have the Czech Republic down as certain qualifiers and wouldn’t bet on Lake Malawi sailing through like Mikolas did, I am quietly confident they will qualify. Friend of a Friend (of a friend of a friend) would make a great grand final opener. Here’s hoping Europe – and Australia, because WOOHOO, we can vote for this – gives the song that opportunity.
In a line A three-minute party I’m happy to RSVP to 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 6th-9th, GF 13th-18th My score 10 points
If you’ve been reading EBJ for a while, you might know how much I love Victor Crone’s Melodifestivalen 2015 entry with Behrang Miri, Det Rår Vi Inte För. I was disappointed back then when it didn’t get out of Andra Chansen, but surprise was what I felt when I heard Victor was entering Eesti Laul this year. I wasn’t as surprised to see him go on and win it as he was, though. It was a televoting triumph, which at least proves that Estonians wanted him to represent them.
Well, they wanted Victor AND the legendary Stig Rästa, who’s partly responsible for the country-to-club anthem that is Storm. I like this song a lot. I like it so much it may be love. There’s something charming about it, even after the beat kicks in, that I can’t get enough of. It’s less laid-back than Goodbye To Yesterday and Stig’s solo EL entry from 2018, Home, but it still has his stamp on it. The melody and music of the verses is strangely soothing, and that’s where Victor’s voice is at its best – but he did a decent job in the Eesti Laul final on those hard-to-handle choruses. Sure, he was sharp in spots, which may account for his lack of jury appeal. But that will likely be tightened up and/or disguised by backing vocalists for Eurovision (no more Lukas Meijer situations, please). I think this is a clever song for a contest because, while I can see how Storm might age fast when you’re listening to it a lot, for first-time listeners it’s very instant and easy to remember. The chorus in particular, with that ‘like this/like this’ rhyme – which tops ‘fire/desire/higher/wire’ – is one big hook. And Storm isn’t a one-trick pony, repetitive as it may be. The dance beat takes care of that, when Mumford and Sons morphs into Avicii and the world breathes a collective sigh of HECK YES.
Combine all of that with the super-cool NF performance, which I’m sure will be replicated at Eurovision, and we have a really solid entry from Estonia. I personally prefer this to La Forza (she says, hoping the backlash won’t be too bad) and I do believe Victor can follow in Elina’s footsteps as far as qualification goes. But as much as I love this and have it in my personal top 10, I can’t see it reaching the actual top 10. Still, the performance is so attention-grabbing Estonia shouldn’t be forgotten even in a 26-song final, unless they end up opening it. And I’d happily be wrong with my prediction if it means Estonia ends up on the left side of the scoreboard again.
In a line A hoedown and dance party in one very appealing package 2018 VS 2019 2019, as nervously mentioned Predicted result SF 4th-7th, GF 14th-19th My score 10 points
Let’s all be honest with each other for a second: who didn’t think Monika Marija would end up singing for Lithuania this year? Girl had not one but two great songs in Eurovizijos Atranka (unfair, but at least she delivered with both) and even when she withdrew Criminal and paid the price for it – literally – Light On remained a safe bet for the win. Then again, this NF season was full of surprises, so it shouldn’t have been shocking when Jurijus/Jurij Veklenko won instead. Run With The Lions did pop out when I was previewing the Lithuanian final, but being preoccupied with other countries I didn’t actually listen to the whole song until it had been crowned.
When I did, I was pleasantly surprised. You never quite know what to expect from Lithuania, given that their recent ESC history reads like a book with chapters alternating between evocative literary fiction and a 50 Shades of Grey disaster. But Jurij is closer to Ieva than Fusedmarc with this proficient, atmospheric piece of power-pop. Obviously it lacks the emotion and honesty of When We’re Old, and it is pretty cookie cutter (it has that ‘pumped out on a factory production line and eventually paired up with an appropriate artist’ vibe) but I don’t mind too much. Co-writer Ashley Hicklin is also responsible for Belgium’s Me and My Guitar and Mother, plus a bunch of music from miscellaneous NFs over the years, and for me this is one of his best Eurovision-related efforts. It has a great melody and flow, and I think the verses, pre-chorus and chorus itself are all equally catchy – even if the overall effect is not exactly exciting.
It’s true that the vanilla flavour of Run With The Lions puts it in the danger zone (so I guess you’re not all alone, Blanche). I’d say it has a better chance of replicating Lithuania’s 2017 result than their successes in 2016 and 2018, and that’s because it just isn’t competitive enough. Is it a great radio song? Yes. Would it make a great addition to a road-trip playlist? You bet. Is it as suited to an Olympics montage as Croatia’s entry? Maybe even more so. But none of that means it can step up and fight for qualification rights. And as much as I hate to keep mentioning this, Lithuania is in that intimidating second semi, between Malta and Russia no less. It’s a bit like the Iceland-Estonia-Portugal sandwich in semi one, only Estonia may benefit from being the most accessible song in that run…while Lithuania separating two equally accessible but more memorable songs is unlikely to do them any favours. I suspect Run With The Lions will be forgotten and miss out on the final. And to be honest, as much as I do enjoy it, I can’t argue that it’s strong enough to deserve a spot on the Saturday night. It’s good, but not great.
In a line A competent and catchy anthem not impressive enough to survive SF2 2018 VS 2019 2019, because When We’re Old never won me over Predicted result SF 12th-14th My score 7 points
North Macedonia is a land that likes recycling ESC artists. They don’t do it constantly but often enough, with Kaliopi, Karolina and now Tamara taking multiple bites of the apple (the fact that they’ve never convinced Elena Risteska to come back for seconds both mystifies and upsets me). It seems they also like recycling songs, because there’s a striking similarity between Proud and Greece’s 2015 entry One Last Breath. Tamara may not be farting tears like Maria Elena, but her ballad smells strongly of Greece’s Viennese schmaltz. That song isn’t a favourite of mine, so it’s safe to say I’m not a lover of Proud either.
In all honesty, I was hoping for Let Me Love You minus Vrčak and Adrian. That, I would have loved. This is the complete opposite – it’s not up-tempo or trashy in a good way. Instead it’s competent, powerful and packed with money notes…and totally boring. Harsh, but in my head that’s the truth. I get the message Tamara’s trying to send and how the song is supposed to be an empowering feminist anthem (written mostly by men). But I feel like empowering feminist anthems should be uplifting, whereas this one is mournful and depressing. The lyrics don’t seem to match the tone of the song either: ‘Don’t bother being proud or recognising your self-worth because we’re all going to die someday and there’s no point’ would be more fitting words. I will say that Tamara does the material justice with her vocals, but the overall feel is old-fashioned and derivative. In my opinion, of course. I know there are plenty of people loving this.
I also know I’m not alone in disliking it, so the question is this: does North Macedonia have enough people who are Proud of them to help them progress? With countries like Switzerland, Sweden, Malta, Russia, Norway and the Netherlands in SF2 to vote for, I can’t see a sizeable televote rolling in for Tamara. I can see the juries taking to her, but there are better packages on offer for them too – including the Netherlands just before North Macedonia and Azerbaijan straight after. Then there’s the curse that’s seen them miss out on the final several times despite finishing 10th (thanks to some stupid rules of yesteryear) or finish 12th so frequently it’s sparked conspiracy theories. Clearly if they finished 10th this year they wouldn’t miss out, but they’ve always qualified on the cusp – no higher than 9th – and haven’t qualified at all since 2012. I’m not confident this is the entry that’s going to change that. I guess the staging might save it…oh wait. This is (the country formerly known as) Macedonia. Never mind.
In a line A dreary, dated ballad that does nothing for me 2018 VS 2019 2018, warts and all (and by warts I mean horrendous costumes) Predicted result SF 11th-14th My score 4 points
And another round bites the dust! Time flies when you’re having fun being both overly-complimentary and brutally honest, believe me.
Let’s have a look at the standings from today.
- Estonia (10)
- Czech Republic (10)
- Lithuania (7)
- Croatia (7)
- North Macedonia (4)
I don’t see any of these songs as douze-worthy, but high fives go to Estonia and the Czech Republic for coming close. With all of the above five factored in, here’s my overall ranking so far:
- Hungary (12)
- Switzerland (12)
- Estonia (10)
- Cyprus (10)
- Czech Republic (10)
- Romania (8)
- Serbia (8)
- Albania (8)
- Lithuania (7)
- Croatia (7)
- Australia (7)
- Montenegro (5)
- Latvia (5)
- North Macedonia (4)
- Georgia (4)
How does it compare to yours, and what would you score the songs I’ve reviewed this round? Let me know below and I’ll love you forever, Leonora-style (but sans the staring).
Next time I’ll be judging Armenia, Belarus, the Netherlands, Norway and Russia, so get your thoughts on those guys together and be prepared to share. There’s a few big hitters in that bunch and I may have some unpopular opinions on them…be warned*.
*Or I may be pulling your leg and actually have very predictable opinions. You’ll have to check out Round 4 to find out. Subscribe in the sidebar or follow me on my socials @EurovisionByJaz so you don’t miss it!
Hey there, sweet people/children of the universe/other ESC-themed pet names for you guys that I can’t think of right now. Last time I attempted to introduce a post, we were four weeks away from Eurovision 2019’s semi numero uno. Now we’re four weeks away from the second semi, and before you know it we’ll be four weeks away from the final. It’s creeping closer and closer, and I am SO READY.
Unless you consider still having 36/41 reviews to take care of not being all that ready, in which case I need to make my motto less talk, more action. Without further ado, it’s time for round two!
Today is Judgment-by-Jaz Day for Australia, Georgia, Hungary, Romania and Switzerland. I definitely have some favourites out of Kate, Oto, Joci, Ester and Luca’s songs, and if you do too – or if you don’t – let me know in the comments. And stay tuned ‘til the end to see where these countries slot into my overall ranking so far…
Okay…the time has come for me to try and separate my patriotic attachment to this song from my actual opinion of it. Wish me luck! There are two things you should know about me if you don’t already: one, I’m a born-and-bred Australian; and two, I was in the Australia Decides audience when KMH became our fifth Eurovision representative. Like Lordi’s Hard Rock Hallelujah (winner of the first contest I watched) and Robin Bengtsson’s I Can’t Go On (the Melodifestivalen winner the year I made it to Friends Arena) this song is automatically special to me and associated with tons of good times. However, I do pride myself on my ability to support Australia’s Eurovision journey from go to whoa AND be honest in terms of how highly I rate the entry in question. And so, I can’t say my love for Zero Gravity is as sky-high as Kate’s glass-shattering operatic notes – and to tell the truth, it is my least favourite Aussie entry to date – but I still think it’s worthy.
For starters, it’s a relief that we’re sending something outside of our usual box – something far less generic than before and not written by DNA (we seriously needed to change up our recipe). Theatrical, dynamic and more popera than any other ESC entry before it, Zero Gravity is as much of a statement piece as Kate’s dangerously spiky silver fascinator. There’s an authentic feel about it that’s been missing from the Aussie package for a few years now. Kate isn’t just a singer who’s been paired with a song and told to give it her best go – rather, this track has her name written all over it (and in the writing credits, obviously). Combining her classical music background and pop sensibilities is what she does best. Zero Gravity’s verses are for Pop Kate and the choruses are for Classical Kate, yet the mish-mash of styles somehow makes sense and doesn’t sound like a stitched-together Frankenstein’s monster song. My favourite thing about ZG is the surprising substance it has in telling the story of Kate’s postnatal depression and the freedom she felt in her recovery. And of course, I love the last thirty seconds when she really lets rip with her high notes, and then never fails to nail that bombastic finale.
Even so, I’m not totally sold on this entry. Sure, I dished out a fair few compliments just then, but that was Biased Jaz talking. Truth-Be-Told Jaz actually wishes that Electric Fields were going to Tel Aviv, and thinks that 2000 and Whatever was a potential Eurovision winner whereas she’s super uncertain of how Zero Gravity will do. I (still talking as truthful Jaz) do think it’s a solid, unique entry deserving of qualification and a left-side scoreboard spot. But as someone who thought it was WTF at first, I can understand why many fans haven’t warmed to it. The Elina Nechayeva copycat claims are unwarranted, but the big dress needed to be ditched, so I was happy to hear that’s likely the case. Also re: the original staging, it was OTT for a song that has a lot going on by itself, so I’m hoping for a stage show that is less action-packed (or dare I say ‘gimmicky’) and more refined in May. There’s no doubt that I’ll be cheering Kate on with embarrassing enthusiasm then, but I’ll be nervous about her chances…and if she doesn’t make it out of the semi or screeches to a halt in the final, my thoughts will again turn to Electric Fields and what could have been.
In a line Action-packed popera that will divide but not necessarily conquer 2018 VS 2019 2018. I’ve still got love for We Got Love Predicted result SF 7th-10th, GF 11th-17th My score 7 points
Georgia isn’t a country I think of in super positive terms when it comes to Eurovision. Junior Eurovision, yes – but there have been very few Georgian adult contest entries that I’ve been crazy about (and in 2016, part of that craziness was due to the Lolitaz’ light show which singed my retinas and had me hallucinating for hours afterwards). It seems like I’m not alone, since the past two years have seen Georgia continue to kick goals at JESC while failing to qualify to the ESC final. I want them to find a successful formula again, complete with that special brand of Georgian quirk we’ve come to love…but that will have to wait until at least 2020. Keep On Going is not going to be their saving grace.
This song is 41st in my personal ranking, and has been there or thereabouts in every single top I’ve watched on YouTube or seen on social media. It’s not bringing up the rear of my ranking because I hate it with a passion. I actually don’t. I just happen to like the 40 other songs better and think they have more to offer. The good I see in this song is that Georgia is adding to the variety in Tel Aviv with the only straight-up rock song in the lineup; and that the song is perfectly suited to Oto’s powerful, rough-edged vocals. I also want to give credit to the revamp, which created more atmosphere and a bit more build. But I don’t think the most exhaustive musical makeover possible would have given Georgia a chance of competing in the final. It’s just not meant to be, as far as I’m concerned. I wouldn’t have wanted Oto to be stuck with a song that didn’t fit him, and of course there are rock songs that have triumphed at Eurovision (Hard Rock Hallelujah, We Could Be The Same and Deli, for example). Georgia themselves even took the genre into the top 10 back in 2011 with One More Day. But this particular rock track is a plateau of three long, dragging minutes in which waiting for something exciting to happen turns out to be pointless.
As I said, I don’t mind it myself…until I think about it as the competitive song it’s supposed to be. Even in the non-bloodbath SF that is Tuesday’s, there are easily ten other entries that have more appeal for both jurors and televoters. I’d go so far as to say that there are only one or two songs that have LESS voting appeal than Keep On Going. That’s not the sort of thing I’ve ever said about a song that went on to qualify. If we could break about eight rules and enter Your Voice by Tamar Edilashvili (Georgia’s 2018 JESC entry, for those who avoid the kids’ contest at all costs) then I’d be much more hopeful right now. But as it is, I highly doubt Oto’s offering is dynamic or interesting enough to even be a borderline qualifier. If he does miraculously make it through I’ll look pretty stupid, but I’ll be too shocked to care.
In a line Solid rock destined to stay put in the semi finals 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 15th-17th My score 4 points
You guys would have enjoyed the comic relief that was me finding out Joci was back attempting to represent Hungary again. I quite literally fell off my chair and may have shed a tear or 2500. THAT’S JUST HOW MUCH I LOVE ME SOME PÁPAI, OKAY?!? You don’t even want to know what I did when he went on to win A Dal again, but it would have gone viral if captured on camera. Anyway, my point is that I couldn’t be happier to have Joci back. If you’ve been reading EBJ since 2017, you’ll know Origo was my favourite entry that year, and that it became one of my all-time faves faster than I could listen to Joci’s beautiful back catalogue. He’s really found his sound lately, with every folk/ethnic infusion he comes out with giving me goosebumps.
Naturally, that means you’re about to be hit with one heck of a biased review. Joci’s music speaks to me and Az Én Apam is no exception – I absolutely adore this song. It’s emotional and heartfelt without a hint of fakery; it blends that trademark ethnic folksiness with an easy-listening guitar-based ballad to create something spellbinding; it sounds stunning in Hungarian, as every genre of music tends to; and Joci performs it with the same honesty and raw talent we had the privilege to be introduced to in 2017. Same man, same manbun…he’s just been hitting the gym, which you’ll have noticed if you paid the same obsessive attention to A Dal as I did this year. I have to add that the reworking of this song did wonders, filling in the few gaps of build and drama from the original version. Now it’s a track that’s ready to compete, despite what a lot of (less biased) fans think.
I’m not saying Joci is invincible. Even with rose-coloured glasses glued to my face, I can see that Az Én Apám isn’t as instant as Origo. Some might say it’s too understated, though I think Slovenia will have the biggest battle in that department. I’m more worried about one of Hungary’s main selling points – the emotion of the father/son relationship depicted by the lyrics – being lost in translation. Italy managed to convey their message in Lisbon (and funnily enough, will be trying to do the same thing in Tel Aviv with another father-inspired song) but other countries have failed before. Still, the call has been put out for photos of people’s dads á la the photographic backgrounds of Malta 2014/UK 2016, which should help. No matter what happens, I don’t expect Az Én Apám to outdo Origo – but that won’t mean failure for Joci. He’s bringing something meaningful and full of feeling (Salvador Sobral stamp of approval incoming) to the contest yet again, and has another chance to tell part of his life story on the stage. That’s just as important as numbers on a scoreboard. Having said that, if Hungary doesn’t at least qualify with this, I will throw a very undignified tantrum. Thank heavens Australia is in the same semi so I can steal the phones of everyone I know and vote en masse.
In a line Majestic Magyarorság magic feat. manbun 2018 VS 2019 2019. Sorry AWS, but I know where my loyalties lie Predicted result SF 6th-8th, GF 12th-17th My score 12 points
2018 was not the best Eurovision for Romania. They missed out on a spot in the final and lost their 100% qualification record in the process, something that once upon a time would have seemed impossible (but after Greece bombed out in 2016, nobody was safe). Their trip to the contest this year involves a song that wasn’t preferred by the Romanian public but singled out by the jury, and managed to outrank two big favourites to win. On A Sunday, from Canadian-Romanian Ester Peony, is also a song that stood out to me when I was previewing the Selecţia Naţională entries – mainly, I have to say, because I was so shocked to hear something like it pop up where it did.
On A Sunday fits the Eesti Laul or A Dal mould more than anything else. There’s grit to it and a vintage sexiness (if that makes any sense) that just doesn’t sound like the Romania we know. Consider this being the same country that sent Zaleilah, It’s My Life, Miracle and Yodel It and you’ll see what I mean. None of those songs could have made the cut for the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, but if Ester’s subject matter was a little less breakup and a little more bondage (maybe she should collab with Hatari?) then she’d be a shoo-in with this. I’ve been thinking of her song as a musical mashup of Black Velvet by Alannah Myles, Ann Sophie’s Black Smoke and Croatia’s entry from Lisbon, Crazy. I like all of those songs, and I really like On A Sunday too. In fact, when it did catch my ear before the Romanian NF, it immediately became The One for me – but I never thought it would beat Army of Love and Dear Father. It didn’t seem like something Romania would ever choose, and technically, I guess they didn’t. But however the victory came about, I can’t help being happy about it.
I love the whole vibe of this song: smoky and sultry but mournful at the same time. I love the lyrics, which are pretty sparse but cliché free (unlike neighbouring Moldova’s lyrics, but I’ll get to those later). I love the hypnotic beat that draws you in as the song progresses. I love the melody. And, last but not least, I love Ester’s voice, especially when she works her way into those high notes towards the end. Her vocals at the NF were ropey at times, but no doubt they’ll be polished up by May. All in all I’m into this in a big way, and I’m seeing all sorts of staging possibilities in the hope the Romanian delegation can read my mind. I’m not totally confident Ester will take Romania back to the final – not many people are this fond of her song, and a top 10 place in that second semi won’t be easy to come by. But my fingers will be crossed for this Canadian to be closer to Celine Dion than Rykka, results-wise.
In a line Being dumped never sounded so good 2018 VS 2019 2019, though I am sad to say goodbye to Goodbye Predicted result SF 9th-14th, GF 16th-21st My score 8 points
Remember how flabbergasted (I don’t get to use that word enough) we all were when Mikolas Josef came out of nowhere with an absolute banger and gave his country their best result ever by a million miles? It was only a year ago, so you should remember. Now, I’m not saying Luca Hänni is going to give the Swiss their best-ever placing, since he’d have to win to even equal it. I just think that in many ways, Luca is and will continue to be the Mikolas of 2019. I first got familiar with him (though not as familiar as I’d like to, WINK WINK) late last year when the rumour mill was turning at warp speed in his favour, and I thought I’d better do some research in case the rumours became reality. Within minutes I was in deep and knew I’d be devastated if he was a red herring and Switzerland was actually sending Sebalter again. So danke schön, my conflict-neutral, chocolate-producing friends, for making my dreams come true. What’s not dreamy about a ridiculously good-looking singer/dancer/model armed with a crazy-catchy party anthem?
NOTHING. She Got Me is the best Swiss entry in years, with the country’s bittersweet leapfrog over Sweden in the odds (my loyalties have never been so divided) testament to that. They’re currently sitting pretty in third place, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished that high in the actual contest. Given that Luca can sing AND dance, when it comes to his last few releases I was hoping for his Eurovision song to be more like Signs than Powder, as much as I love the latter. My wish was granted. One of the ESC 2019 songs that can be compared to Fuego (basically, it’s got a beat drop) this has quickly become more talked about than Replay and Chameleon, and I’m a willing participant in the conversation. The song is iconic and infectious from the moment it starts, with a chorus so instant it should be illegal. There’s an exotic Middle-Eastern flavour found in the memorable musical hook. The whole thing is densely packed and has been produced by someone who knows what they’re doing (always good). And it strikes the right balance between ‘not repetitive enough to follow’ and ‘so repetitive I want to rip my ears off.’ Even though the chorus is repeated as a way of transitioning to the explosive last 30 seconds, the instrumental break in-between keeps things fresh and leaves room for a kickass choreographed sequence on stage.
Speaking of on stage, Switzerland have recruited Sacha Jean-Baptiste to give them a grade-A presentation…which she’d better, because She Got Me deserves the best. Dodgy staging is the only thing that could drag this entry down as far as I see it (those Amsterdam vocals will be dealt with, trust me) and Baptiste has been questionable in her choices on occasion. But at the least, her involvement shows that Switzerland is super serious about Eurovision this year. Their song alone will whip the crowd into a frenzy á la Golden Boy, and I cannot see a scenario in which it fails to qualify (unlike their last four entries). I also can’t imagine anything other than a left-side scoreboard finish for Luca. She Got Me stands out from the crowd both in terms of man-bangers (including Estonia and Finland) and in general. For me, it’s the best of the Fuego follow-ups, which is high praise. I love everything about it and can’t wait for Switzerland to have a major change of Eurovision fortune.
In a line The surprise package of the year that makes sure you can’t sit still 2018 VS 2019 2019, duh! Predicted result SF 2nd-4th, GF 4th-6th My score 12 points
From zero gravity to dirty dancing, this round is over. ‘Already?’ I can hear you saying (even though you’re actually saying ‘At last!’). Yep, that’s it. But before I go, let’s have a look at the standings:
- Hungary (12)
- Switzerland (12)
- Romania (8)
- Australia (7)
- Georgia (4)
And after Round 1, I now have a top 10 that looks like this:
- Hungary (12)
- Switzerland (12)
- Cyprus (10)
- Romania (8)
- Serbia (8)
- Albania (8)
- Australia (7)
- Montenegro (5)
- Latvia (5)
- Georgia (4)
So Hungary takes the top spot from Cyprus, and Switzerland overtakes them too. Sorry Tamta.
Next time we’ll see where Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and North Macedonia factor in as far as I see it. Be there or…well, nothing will happen if you’re not there, but I’d love you to come back and check out the rest of my 2019 reviews. Follow me on my socials (all the usuals @EurovisionByJaz) to make sure you don’t miss a thing. And once you’ve done that, share your thoughts on today’s tracks down below – but be warned, if you badmouth Joci, it might be the last thing you ever do.
What a nice note to end this post on.
< Four weeks and counting!
Excuse me for cutting the ribbon on these reviews in the most predictable of ways, but I can’t believe it’s time to do this again. How can we possibly be FOUR WEEKS away from the first semi final of Eurovision 2019? Netta only won in Lisbon like, three months ago, didn’t she?
As it turns out, no, she didn’t. It was almost a YEAR ago. And with this last pre-ESC month bound to fly by faster than Salvador Sobral left the stage after handing the 2018 trophy to the singer of a song with far more fireworks than feelings, I can’t keep you in suspense any longer. It is time to take a long, hard and overly-judgemental look at all 41 (maybe 42 if I can squeeze Ukraine in somewhere) entries for Tel Aviv, in typical Jaz style. That means you’ll need energy, determination and multiple cups of coffee to get through each round of five or so songs. Are you ready for this?
Up first for critique in 2019 (after a Tribute to Ye Olde Eurovision random draw) are Albania, Cyprus, Latvia, Montenegro and Serbia. Let me know what you think of Jonida, Tamta, Carousel, D mol and Nevena’s tracks in the comments, after you’ve checked out my thoughts and scores. And remember: honesty is the best policy around here…
Let the Tel Aviv Reviews begin!
Albania’s Festivali i Këngës is THE national final of the festive season, and back in December it delivered the first Eurovision entry of 2019 direct to our doorsteps. Jonida Maliqi – with her super-cool name, razor-sharp fringe, ultra-white teeth and punch-packing vocals – is off to Tel Aviv with Ktheju Tokës, which is thankfully staying put in Albanian after Eugent Bushpepa did so well in his native tongue last year. It’s been revamped for the better and hasn’t lost its original spirit, but did I like it when it was selected and do I like it now? The answer to both of those questions is yes. This song has more mystery and intrigue than a Dan Brown novel, which is just how I like my Albanian entries. There’s often something about them that sets them apart and is just so…Albanian. Ktheju Tokës is no exception.
Everything about it is interesting: the way Jonida works her way through it with vulnerability and power; the unconventional melody of the verses; the haunting atmosphere and hypnotic beat…I mean, wow. It may not be the most radio-friendly or streamable song of the year, nor is it particularly instant and hooky – but it is original and impactful. I will say that the studio version is kind of strange (it makes Jonida sound like she’s singing slightly out of tune) whereas the live version is the one with all the impact. Here we have a singer who can belt out big notes like nobody’s business, and emotively eyeball a camera at the same time. And you just know she’s going to wear something amazing in Israel, making us forget about the possessed bride look the last Albanian female soloist went for. So for me, that’s a kickass song + a fierce vocalist + stellar styling that we’re in for from Albania.
Having said all of the above, I’m far from convinced that Jonida will sail through to the final. She’s in the second semi, which is the more competitive one – and not just because there are 18 countries competing for qualification as opposed to 17 in the first semi (thanks to Ukraine’s shenanigans). With big hitters and likely top-scorers like the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland also in the Thursday line-up, she has an uphill battle ahead of her. With the right staging and a solid all-round performance though, the hill shouldn’t be too steep to climb (even if she’s wearing stilettos). And there’s no other song remotely like Ktheju Tokës in the entire contest, let alone in her semi – so she’s bound to stand out. I’d love to have Albania in the final again. How about you?
In a line Albania doing what Albania does best: being exotic, mystical and powerful 2018 VS 2019 2019. Us ladies have to stick together! Predicted result SF 8th-12th, GF 15th-19th My score 8 points
Following up Fuego, a Eurovision entry iconic in so many ways, was always going to be a tough task for Cyprus. With thousands of keyboard warriors/amateur music critics (including myself) waiting to drag the island if they didn’t build on their 2018 success, the pressure to do so was higher than Kaliopi’s whistle tone. I feel like they have delivered, but let’s not pretend there’s no ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality at (re)play here. Tamta’s song has been co-written by three of the minds behind Fuego, and it sounds like their brief was ‘Pen another banger with a beat drop and the exact same structure in order to catapult Cyprus into the top 10 again.’ But I’m not saying Fuego was the most original song to ever exist, and I do think Replay is different enough in the realm of pop music, where lots of stuff is similar, to make calling it Fuego 2.0 a bit unfair. I can’t blame Cyprus for finding a bomb formula and sticking to it.
Catchy from the second it starts, slickly produced and perfectly suited to Tamta, Replay ticks all the boxes on the ‘Is This A Banger?’ checklist, right down to the less-ethnic-than-Fuego-but-still-ridiculously-danceable instrumental hook. It’s one of those songs where each part is equally memorable, without a weak link like an anticlimactic chorus. Unfortunately the most memorable moment comes during the first verse, when Tamta apparently says she’s ‘shitting her body tonight’. Call me immature if you must (I am, to be fair) but it’s pretty off-putting and sounds nothing like the actual lyric – ‘them sheets need my body tonight’. I’ve been trying to roll with it and tell myself that Tamta’s so keen on the subject of the song, her bodily functions go haywire at the mere thought of him. Can’t say I’ve ever met a guy who had that effect on me, but that’s not a bad thing.
Misheard lyrics aside, Replay is as flawless as Tamta’s 37-year-old skin which is way more youthful than my 27-year-old skin. No, it isn’t as iconic as Fuego, and Tamta probably won’t hit the Eurovision heights Eleni did. But I’m still impressed. That extends to Cyprus recruiting Sacha Jean Baptiste to create their staging again, a sign that they mean business. Fingers crossed the look and feel of the performance doesn’t clash with Switzerland’s, given that She Got Me is in the same musical category and is also being staged by Baptiste. Neither song needs flashy, gimmicky staging to compensate for musical weaknesses, since there aren’t any – they just need something complementary (why am I suddenly reviewing Switzerland? Save it for later, Jaz). Unless a major screw-up happens somewhere along the way, I can’t see Cyprus finishing outside of the Tel Aviv top 10, though it’s safe to say they won’t be going one better than they did in Lisbon.
In a line Obvious joke, but here’s a song I want to replay, replay, replay, YEAH 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 2nd-4th, GF 5th-8th My score 10 points
Latvia has been sending epic songs to Eurovision for some time now – I’d say consistently since 2015. Yet the last few years have seen them stuck in the semis, even languishing in last place in Triana Park’s case. I’m going to get right to it and say that for me, that run of rad entries has come to a screeching halt, but I expect the DNQ trend to continue. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate That Night. In fact, it’s so innocuous and sweet, like a no-frills vanilla cookie, I don’t know how anyone could hate it…and perhaps that’s the problem. Compared to the other songs in the Latvian national final it’s a masterpiece, and I have no doubt that the country made the best choice based on what was on the buffet table. But I feel like it lacks oomph, coasting along on the same level for three minutes and making me keen for those minutes to tick away so I can listen to something more exciting.
Yes, easy-listening and subdued songs can be exciting, holding your attention and making you want more (I’m thinking of Slovenia’s Sebi specifically). This one, however, doesn’t do anything for yours truly. I don’t mind the melody or the melancholy folksy feel, and vocalist Sabīne suits that vibe for sure. It’s more the missing dynamism + the super repetitive structure of That Night that sucks the life out of me. There’s not a lot to it, and as a result nothing much to reel you in (and when I say ‘you’ I mean ‘me’, because I know there are Eurofans who adore this). I feel like this song is a less bizarre musical version of a Lars von Trier film, and if you’ve ever tried to sit through a Lars von Trier film and lost the will to live, you’ll know I’m not being complimentary.
I know I’m coming across way harsh (to quote Clueless like I do at least twice a day), but where my personal preferences are concerned, Latvia can do a lot better than this. And I honestly think Carousel will struggle to pick up votes in that crazy-competitive second semi final. There are other acoustic-y tracks in the running order, as well as other “introverted” songs that are more captivating (think Austria and Arcade). Then there are the big, bold extroverts that are sure to hoover up votes like an industrial-strength vacuum cleaner (think Sweden, Switzerland and Sergey Lazarev). If Latvia does qualify I think it will be a borderline qualification, and I can’t see them troubling the top 10 or even the left side of the scoreboard. But what do I know? I may have followed Eurovision obsessively for over a decade, but I’m still rubbish at predicting results. Riga 2020 it is!
In a line Nice and nothing more 2018 VS 2019 Definitely 2018 Predicted result SF 10th-14th, GF 17th-21st My score 5 points
There are a few countries that can (sadly) be relied upon to produce surefire non-qualifiers over successes. Montenegro is definitely one, no matter how hard I wish they’d suddenly unveil something sensational like next-door neighbour Serbia does on a regular basis. This year their story started out with a glimmer of hope, for me at least. I’m not saying D mol ever had a chance of making the final, but I did have Heaven down as my guilty pleasure of the year. And as a tribute to S Club 7 with undeniably striking staging, the song kind of worked. I actually enjoyed it. In a nostalgic way, sure, but enjoyment is enjoyment.
But then *insert dramatic Law & Order DUM DUM here* Heaven had a musical makeover that I would describe as an over-accessorisation. Now it’s so unlike the original, sickly-sweet-but-tolerable original version that I feel like I need to judge two different songs. But I will just judge the one with multiple personality disorder that’s actually going to Eurovision – and it is a mess. There’s nothing that hasn’t been thrown at it in the quest for a more competitive edge, but the OTT approach has backfired. The structure is all over the place and impossible to follow; the beat kicking in after the first chorus takes me back to Junior Eurovision circa 2005; the vocal gymnastics are misplaced and desperate; and the synthesisers/miscellaneous other noises in the mix sound like they were dropped in as frequently but randomly as possible by someone doing the Macarena blindfolded. Why, Montenegro, why?!?
To add on to my list of negatives, I can’t see a way for Heaven to be saved by staging. Replicating the NF presentation would look amateurish, especially now LEDs are back in action – and what kind of miracle-working, mind-blowing stage concept could cool down and tidy up such a hot mess anyway? I’m sorry for dragging D mol through the mud (more than I meant to) but I have to be honest. The group themselves are not the main problem, and as a sextet mostly made up of teenagers, they do impress me with their stage presence and camaraderie. They just deserve a better song, because this one will not do anything for them other than send them packing straight after the first semi final.
In a line It was never heavenly, but now it’s hellish 2018 VS 2019 2019, believe it or not Predicted result SF 15th-17th My score 5 points
She’s baaaaaaaack! Nope, that’s not the tagline of a terrifying Carrie sequel, but rather my way of saying hey to Nevena for the third time in (J)ESC history. If you’re not a Junior Eurovision fan, you might not know that she represented Serbia in 2007, finishing 3rd – years before she’d appear at Eurovision as part of Moje 3 and unfortunately fail to qualify (I could write an essay on why that was down to those ridiculous costumes, but I won’t). It seems she fares better when she strikes out on her own, and she’s done that big time in 2019. Not only is she competing in Tel Aviv as a soloist, but she also wrote the music and lyrics of Kruna on her own. What a woman! Let’s breeze past the fact that she’s also an incredible vocalist and drop-dead gorgeous before I end up with the world’s biggest inferiority complex.
Kruna is a dramatic power ballad, one that has had the power amped up even more via a revamp (Montenegro, THIS is how you give a song a good makeover). The music starts out softly and becomes more intense in sync with Nevena’s vocals, and the combo of acoustic/electric guitar work is one of my favourite things about the song. I appreciate that the big statement chorus doesn’t take too long to arrive, because it can be boring waiting for a ballad to go somewhere. And just before it does rock up (so to speak) we get those English lyrics that do double duty: they add interest without seeming like they were shoehorned in just because, and they give us non-Serbian speakers a feel for what the song is about in a very short space of time. Overall, Kruna is the musical equivalent of wearing a floral dress under a studded biker jacket. It’s feminine and classy, but it also has an edge.
Okay, okay, I’ll talk about Nevena’s talents. She’s an amazing singer, and her delivery is passionate and believable. Her ability to sing lullaby-style and the opposite without batting her lashes is impressive, and sure to elevate her jury appeal. And of course, she’s stunning and super telegenic. Is there anything wrong with this package? Well, it doesn’t have the aura of a winner, and while I feel the feelings Nevena is putting out there, others may not. Plus, even I needed a few listens to really get on board, so I can see why the song might not be instant enough to be a vote magnet. Having said that, I do think Nevena has a better shot at making the final now she’s Moje 3 Minus 2. Serbia is competing in that less scary first semi, alongside a lot of uptempo and/or divisive songs – so they’ve got a decent chance to advance as far as I see it. With atmospheric staging and a costume choice less questionable than those 2013 creations (circus hooker chic? I still can’t land on the right label for them) the gate should open wide enough to let them through.
In a line A sophisticated, pitch perfect power ballad 2018 VS 2019 2018, but it’s a close one and kind of hard to compare the two Predicted result SF 7th-13th, GF 14th-19th My score 8 points
That’s all for today, folks! And with the first five countries taken care of, here’s my first mini-ranking for the year:
- Cyprus (10)
- Serbia (8)
- Albania (8)
- Montenegro (5)
- Latvia (5)
Congratulations to Cyprus for winning me over…but how long will Tamta stay on top? Stay tuned for the rest of my reviews to find out. I’ll be including the running ranking at the end of each round so you can see who’s sitting where.
Next time I’ll be putting Australia, Georgia, Hungary, Romania and Switzerland under my (imaginary) musical microscope. But before that, leave me a comment so we can compare notes on Albania, Cyprus, Latvia, Montenegro and Serbia. Who’s your favourite of the five? Is there a winner in there or will Eurovision weekend be Eurovision-free for this bunch? Whatever’s on your mind, I want to know…especially if we happen to agree on something.
SATURDAY SHORTLIST | The best 2019 national final songs that didn’t even come close to becoming ESC entries
I know, I know…national final season ended weeks ago and the world has moved on. Eurovision In Concert is tonight, for Serhat’s sake! But you guys are used to me being behind the times, hopefully in an endearing, ‘Oh, that Jaz and her constant lateness to the party’ kind of way. And you can’t expect me to leave those crazy months of NFs behind yet. Not before I’ve acknowledged the musical gems that may not have won through in the end, but showed so much promise that in some cases, it’s worth a dramatic soap-opera wail because they didn’t.
Last time I listed every single second-placed song from the 2019 selection season, which you can revisit (so sweet that you’d want to read it again, you super awesome human) or check out for the first time (what are you waiting for? JEEZ) here. This time I’ve restrained myself and chosen six of the best songs that finished 3rd or lower in their respective NFs – so they weren’t really in contention when it came down to it. That makes their quality even more impressive.
PS – Don’t worry, this isn’t just a six-strong list of Melodifestivalen songs. I mean, I could have chosen six from Sweden alone, but not wanting to be too predictable I forced myself to pick only one song from each country in question. My willpower > your willpower.
PPS – Or not. I don’t know if this counts as cheating, but you can find a full playlist of all of my favourite NF songs from 2019 at the end of this post. I’d been putting it together as the season progressed and then “accidentally” embedded it below. Whoops.
Now, let’s get down to business.
On My Way, Sheppard (Australia Decides, Australia)
I remember being underwhelmed when this song came out. Sheppard was one of the biggest and most internationally-known acts competing in Australia Decides – and On My Way was kind of…average. But first impressions never last, as they say. The more I listened to it, the more I liked it and the more likely I was to scream with excitement every time it started playing on the radio (which is embarrassing at work). At this point, I have it pegged as an anthemic, infectious singalong song: just the sort of thing Sheppard does best. I actually wouldn’t have minded sending these guys to Tel Aviv instead of KMH (but not instead of Electric Fields).
Our City, Linus Bruhn (Unser Lied für Israel, Germany)
I know I’m in the minority, preferring this song over literally everything else Germany had to offer, but I don’t care. The performance would have needed to level up if Linus HAD won ULfI (and Guy Sebastian might have had something to say about those LED streetlights) but even so, I honestly think Our City was Germany’s best option for Eurovision. It’s radio-friendly but still competitive, urban and catchy, and has a chorus that would have had thousands of arms up in the air in Tel Aviv (still attached to bodies, fortunately). The best thing I can say about Sister, on the other hand, is that it’s packed with girl power.
Világítótorony, Olivér Berkes (A Dal, Hungary)
For those of us who get (potentially too) invested in certain songs during NF season, losing them along the way can be heartbreaking. I never expected Olivér, on his first A Dal attempt as a soloist, to win the whole thing – but I also didn’t expect him to crash out and not even reach the semi-finals. How is that possible with a ballad this beautiful? Világítótorony is pure class, quality and emotion, and gave me all the physical feels: goosebumps, spine tingles, watery eyes that I would blame on allergies, etc. It’s been months and I’m still both devastated and outraged that it didn’t make the (semi-final) cut.
Mr. Unicorn, D’Sound (Melodi Grand Prix, Norway)
I’m not convinced about the title of this song or the group name (one’s too novelty, the other is straight out of 1995…which makes sense since they’ve been around since 1993). But those are just personal pet peeves. Song-wise, bubblegum disco pop for millennials has never d’sounded so good! Mr. Unicorn is pure fun from start to finish, but it’s still slick and contemporary – like a Scandipop/Scandilove/Daft Punk love child. I’m a fan of Spirit in the Sky, don’t get me wrong. But I would have been over the moon if D’Sound had kept their winning streak from the jury vote going through to the Gold Final and then the battle between the last two acts standing.
I Do Me, Malou Prytz (Melodifestivalen, Sweden)
As I mentioned before, this whole list could have been based on my favourite Melfest 2019 songs – but so you guys didn’t have to roll your eyes at my Swedish obsession yet again, I made the sacrifice. After hours of deliberation (no joke) I went for I Do Me because a) it was such a surprise package and a great debut for Malou; b) it’s so cute and catchy I cannot be in a bad mood after I’ve listened to it; and c) I love Clueless, so the inspiration for the staging and Malou’s outfit (which I want a dupe of SO BAD) was right up my street. The cherry on top of all this goodness was the artist/songwriter reaction to going direkt. Their ‘Us? Really?!?’ face were adorable.
Apart, KAZKA (Vidbir, Ukraine)
First things first: the live performances of this song at Vidbir were vocally questionable at best. But in studio, like everything else KAZKA produces, it’s sublime. I have no doubt that if Apart had won the NF and no drama had followed, the performance would have been whipped into shape in usual Ukrainian style and been a contender for a great Eurovision result. In this reality though, I’ll just keep streaming the shiz out of the studio version and particularly enjoying the mysterious chanting towards the end. Is it a troupe of Ukrainian grannies á la Buranovskiye Babushki? Who knows, but I think they’re saying ‘KAZKA must get to Eurovision ASAP…oh, and Tayanna, of course’.
Listen to all of today’s tracks (plus many more) right here:
Which songs didn’t even reach 2nd place this NF season but ended up on your best-of playlist? Let me know below!
Until next time,
BUT AT THE END, THEY DIDN’T! | Ranking every single second-placed song from the 2019 selection season
Well, just like that (a.k.a. two weeks ago) the 2019 Eurovision selection season is over. We have a full house of 42 41 entries, with their performers starting rehearsals behind closed doors, filming postcards on the ground in Israel, and prepping for the April pre-parties.
While they’re busy doing that stuff, I’m busy not letting go of NF season yet. I can’t, not before I’ve given credit to all the amazing songs that came close to becoming ESC entries this year…and given the thumbs down to the ones that had me breathing a sigh of relief when they WEREN’T chosen. I’ve got a list of general favourites for you guys later, but today I’m focusing on the songs that, with a few extra points to their name or a little change in fortune, could easily have been traveling to Tel Aviv. They, my friends, are the songs that finished second.
26 national finals were held between December 2018 and March 2019, and I’m about to rank and review all 26 of their silver medallists on a scale from ‘DEAR LORDI, MAKE IT STOP!’ to ‘Play it again, Sam…and again…again? JUST ONCE MORE, SAM, I’M BEGGING YOU!!!’. Because I don’t like too much fun going down, I did put a few rules in place for this ranking:
- When there wasn’t a clear runner-up due to format or a lack of transparency (I’m talking to you, BBC) I’ve picked my personal fave from the pile of potential runners-up. With Hungary, for example, I chose my top song from the three that were beaten by Joci Pápai’s in the A Dal televoting decider.
- Since I tend to ramble, basically writing an essay every time I post, I decided to challenge myself to review each song in just two sentences. Some of them are freaking long sentences (a leopard can’t totally change its spots) but it’s the thought that counts. I hope you enjoy this shorter and sweeter Jaz while she lasts.
Now, let the criticising and complimenting begin! Apologies in advance if I’ve dragged a song you adore, but know that I’ve probably also gushed over one you hate. It all evens out in the end.
PS – Speaking of ‘the end’, if you didn’t get the title in-joke, that must mean you missed this glorious moment from the 2019 allocation draw:
As haughty as it is hilarious, incoming co-host Assi’s iconic line is the perfect way to describe the fate of these tracks. Agree, disagree, or agree to disagree with my ranking in the comments.
#26 | Tower of Babylon, Lorena Bućan (Dora, Croatia)
If you’ve always wondered what a musical episode of Game of Thrones would be like, wonder no more. This song was all kinds of ‘thank u, next’ to me when I first checked out the Croatian finalists, and having listened to it again, I’m even more turned off.
>The Dream? Absolutely not.
#25 | Sevdisperi Zgva, Liza Kalandadze (Georgian Idol, Georgia)
This is okay, but it doesn’t make an impression on me for better or for worse – and sometimes I’d rather hate something than be indifferent to it. Liza has a pretty voice that deserves to be used in a less dated and much more memorable way.
>Sul Tsin Iare? Not better, but equally non-event.
#24 | Sweet Lies, Kerrie-Anne (Eurovision: You Decide, United Kingdom)
Kerrie-Anne’s version of Sweet Lies is catchy and danceable, I’ll admit…but it’s also straight out of the 90s and not in a good way. My ultimate dealbreaker is The Worst Lyric of All Time™: ‘Well, but anyways and somehow, and somehow’.
>Bigger Than Us? No way!
#23 | I Will Not Surrender, Maxim Zavidia (O Melodie Pentru Europa, Moldova)
This song is better than the crappy title suggests it will be, but only just. I don’t know if Moldova dodged a disaster with Maxim finishing second to Anna or not, but I do know that I miss the Sunstroke Project like crazy right now.
>Stay? Not that it’s an achievement, but yeah.
#22 | Kaos, Raiven (EMA, Slovenia)
Raiven is slowly becoming the Sanna Nielsen of Slovenia, and there are moments of Sanna-level awesomeness in Kaos to match. Then there are the parts when she repeats the title over and over and over again and makes me even happier that Sebi swooped in (like a Raiven? HA HA HA) and took the win.
>Sebi? NOTHING IS.
#21 | You Make Me So Crazy, Markus Riva (Supernova, Latvia)
If Markus couldn’t get to Eurovision with Take Me Down or This Time, he 110% did not deserve to get there with this uninspired dance track. I hope for his sake this was a blip, not the start of a downhill journey of musical desperation.
>That Night? Nope.
#20 | Space Sushi, Jakub Ondra (Eurovision Song CZ, Czech Republic)
Nothing can ruin a reasonable song faster than calling it Space Sushi and thinking the lyrics ‘My eyes are bigger than my belly and I will keep them that way, be humble, don’t mumble, for there will be a day when my eyes won’t be big enough’ are acceptable. Spoiler alert: THEY AREN’T.
>Friend of a Friend? Not even close.
#19 | Nema Suza, Dženan Lončarević (Beovizija, Serbia)
Finally this Balkan ballad is bringing us into ‘I might actually listen to that again of my own free will’ territory. It’s not a patch on anything Željko Joksimovic has composed or breathed in close proximity to, but it’s classy and dramatic and I can tolerate it.
>Kruna? No – Nevena can keep her crown.
#18 | Hvað ef ég get ekki elskað?, Friðrik Ómar (Söngvakeppnin, Iceland)
Friðrik left Euroband and This Is My Life far behind with this (impossible to pronounce) track. It’s a little vanilla and missing an obvious hook, but still a good effort from someone who probably doesn’t gyrate around in skimpy waistcoats as much as they used to.
>Hatrið Mun Sigra? Chalk and (latex-flavoured) cheese, but I don’t think so…
#17 | Igual A Ti, NBC (Festival da Cançao, Portugal)
This was one of my favourites from FdC 2019, and if Portugal hadn’t decided to go experimental (which I’m excited about) I would have happily settled for this as their entry for Tel Aviv. Comparing it to Telemóveis, though, it comes off rather boring.
>Telemóveis? No way, José.
#16 | I Tuoi Particolari, Ultimo (Sanremo Music Festival, Italy)
I am yet to find an Italian song that isn’t sophisticated AF, unlike myself. While I find Ultimo’s a bit inaccessible in terms of remembering how it sounds (I literally just listened to it and couldn’t sing it back to you to save my life) I know that it was no exception to that rule.
>Soldi? I know I said this about Slovenia already, but again, NOTHING IS.
#15 | The Bubble, Adrian Jørgensen (Melodi Grand Prix, Norway)
This song – co-written by Aleksander Walmann minus JOWST – is pretty precious, albeit kind of annoying if I’m not in a warm-and-fuzzy mood. I know it’s about a breakup, but anything with the word ‘bubble’ in it is bound to be sugary sweet to some extent.
>Spirit In The Sky? This question puts the ‘no’ in Norway.
#14 | Light On, Monika Marija (Eurovizijos Atranka, Lithuania)
MM was supposed to be the one to beat in Eurovizijos this year, but I can see how Jurijus managed to defy expectations once she’d withdrawn Criminal (arguably the better of her two entries). I do like Light On, and Monika was vocally and stylistically flawless whenever she performed it, but it’s too repetitive/radio-friendly to make much of an impact on me.
>Run With The Lions? I’d rather run with the lions than leave a light on (conserve electricity, folks!).
#13 | League of Light, Julie & Nina (Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, Denmark)
This song sits somewhere on the musical scale between ‘great’ and ‘hot mess’ – there are parts that are so dated and cringey it hurts me, whereas other parts I dig. As a package it needed work and was not totally ESC-worthy as a result.
>Love Is Forever? Me and my giant dining chair say no.
#12 | Nevinost, Ivana Popović-Martinović (Montevizija, Montenegro)
A Balkan ballad minus a lot of the Balkan isn’t ideal, and that’s what we got from Ivana (as well as a dress that made her look like she was ready to walk the Egyptian Mummy Fashion Week runway). Still, I think this was a diamond in the rough and could have become a solid Eurovision song after a revamp.
>Heaven? With a makeover, yes.
#11 | The Day I Loved You Most, Makeda (Unser Lied Für Israel, Germany)
Have some tissues handy for this one, especially if you’ve recently gone through a breakup or your favourite Netflix series has been cancelled. It’s a pretty ballad that doesn’t fall into the trap of clichéd lyrics, and I like the perspective Makeda sings it from – she’s opting to remember the best of a past relationship rather than the painful parts.
>Sister? Most songs in ULFI were.
#10 | Dear Father, Laura Bretan (Selecția Națională, Romania)
I like this more before Laura ramps up and lets loose with notes that upset pet dogs worldwide – not that she doesn’t hit those highs, but they are intense on the ears and the soul. Having said that, the whole song provides a bunch of goosebump moments and is nothing if not dramatic.
>On A Sunday? Not to my taste as an enthusiastic member of Team Ester.
#9 | Superman, Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman (UMK, Finland)
All three Darude/Rejman tracks were cut from the same cloth, and to be honest I don’t know how Finland managed to separate them enough to pick a winner. Superman nearly took the prize and I would have felt the same about it as I do about Look Away – pretty positive, but far from ecstatic.
>Look Away? It’s the same song…how can I say yay or nay?
#8 | Champion, BLGN & Mirex (Eurofest, Belarus)
On purpose or by pure coincidence, the Cesár Sampson influence spread to Belarus in the form of this soulful and infectious toe-tapper. It’s no Nobody But You of course, but I’ll definitely be streaming it on the reg and singing it in the shower as a substitute for a self pep-talk.
>Like It? No, but I wouldn’t have minded this as the Belarusian entry.
#7 | Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet (A Dal, Hungary)
There were so many epic songs in A Dal this year, I couldn’t count them on my fingers AND toes. This is one of them, though it took some time before I truly appreciated it for what it is – a genuine, easy-listening slice of sunshine that, like practically every genre, sounds like it was born to be in Hungarian.
>Az Én Apám? Az if!
#6 | Tous Les Deux, Seemone (Destination Eurovision, France)
I’m glad we didn’t end up with too many songs about fathers in the ESC 2019 field (Michael Schulte is having his own effect on the comp after that surprising 4th place). Still, as much as I love Roi, I would have said oui to France sending this simple, emotional and classy ballad by Sea Anemone.
>Roi? Not quite.
#5 | Rrëfehem, Lidia Lufi (Festivali I Këngës, Albania)
DAYUM, Albania! You didn’t make a wrong decision with Jonida, but you had another right one in FiK courtesy of this complex, mystical and unique masterpiece from Lidia.
>Ktheju Tokës? Almost, I have to admit.
#4 | Muérdeme, María (Operación Triunfo, Spain)
This had all the goods to make waves in Tel Aviv…apart from María not actually wanting to go to Eurovision, which would have resulted in a half-arsed performance had she been obliged to go. As a standalone song, however, it’s fantastic.
>La Venda? That’s cute, this song is cooler…I like ‘em both.
#3 | Pretty Little Liar, Uku Suviste (Eesti Laul, Estonia)
I only need three words to review this song, and they are I LOVE IT. Catchy, powerful, full of staging possibilities and performed by a talented, attractive Estonian guy, the list of what’s wrong with it is just a blank piece of paper.
>Storm? It’s neck-and-neck.
#2 | On My Own, Bishara (Melodifestivalen, Sweden)
Don’t boycott me because you disagree (as I know most of you will) but I’m Sweden and Benjamin Ingrosso biased – so when faced with a soulful Swedish pop song co-written by Benji and performed by an adorable, freshly-discovered singer, how was I supposed to react? With instant, unconditional love, that’s how.
>Too Late For Love? Negative.
#1 | 2000 and Whatever, Electric Fields (Eurovision: Australia Decides, Australia)
You might think I’m being biased on this one too being Aussie and all, but I actually paid money to try and help this song go to Eurovision. All of my SMS votes went to Electric Fields, and I lost my voice screaming for them when they were onstage with this no-holds-barred BANGER.
>Zero Gravity? I have to be honest and say yes (here’s hoping I don’t get deported).
And that’s it! You can listen to all of the songs from today’s post right here (except Albania, Georgia, Montenegro and Serbia, which aren’t available on Spotify Australia DAMNIT):
Which second-placed songs from the 2019 NF season are your favourites…or least favourites? Which countries do you think made mistakes when it came down to their final decision? Let me know below!
‘CONGRATULATIONS, I HAVE ARRIVED!’ said Melodifestivalen as she strutted into Stockholm this week. After five Saturdays of competition – not the best competition we’ve ever had, but a competition with winners and losers nonetheless – 28 songs have become 12, and we’re about to find out who will represent Sweden at Eurovision 2019.
With reigning champ and future Grammy winner (and I’m not talking about the Swedish Grammis) Benjamin Ingrosso starting the show alongside BFF Felix Sandman, multiple ESC winners making an appearance, and the välkommen return of Lynda Woodruff, we’re in for a treat tonight without even mentioning the competing songs. It’s the last national final night of the season, and I say bring it on. Are you with me? Yes? Then DÅ KÖR VI!!!
Norrsken (Goeksegh) Jon Henrik Fjällgren
Torn Lisa Ajax
Victorious Lina Hedlund
On My Own Bishara
Ashes To Ashes Anna Bergendahl
Chasing Rivers Nano
Hold You Hanna Ferm & LIAMOO
I Do Me Malou Prytz
Too Late For Love John Lundvik
Not With Me Wiktoria
I Do Arvingarna
Well, Christer Björkman wanted a variety show, and what Christer wants, Christer gets (obviously, when he’s the commander-in-chief of such things). We have joik, big ballads, R & B, schlager, country, anthemic pop, bubblegum pop, dansband and a touch of gospel all in one running order. That’s some serious bang for our buck!
Let’s run down the list and I’ll throw in my thoughts on quality, appeal and winning chances along the way. Add yours to the mix in the comments.
Norrsken (Goeksegh), Jon Henrik Fjällgren This isn’t my favourite of Fjällgren’s three Melfest entries. In fact, it’s my least favourite – number one, Jag Är Fri, was peak joik for me. But there’s always something magical about what he brings to the buffet, and as usual he is the most distinctive act in the final. And he serenades a reindeer, so there’s that. While I do think Norrsken will be a good opener – and as much as I’d love Sweden to send something ethnic to Eurovision again – I don’t think it will win, and I’ll be surprised if it takes out a top three place like both of JHF’s previous entries have done. 7/10
Torn, Lisa Ajax I hate to repeat myself (I repeat, I hate to repeat myself) but here’s another artist on their third try who has an inferior song up their sleeve instead of being third time lucky. I know people will be outraged that I prefer both My Heart Wants Me Dead and I Don’t Give A to Torn, BUT I JUST DO OKAY?!?!? Having said that, this is a solid song – but it’s too repetitive, Lisa never seems to nail the big attention-grabbing note, and her styling doesn’t suit the song or the staging. All these little missteps worry me. 7/10
Hello, Mohombi A decent percentage of the Swedish population + me = the biggest (and perhaps only) fans of this. I’ll admit that Mohombi’s falsetto in the first semi final wasn’t exactly flawless, but besides that I think this entry is getting too much hate. The staging is cool and entertaining, without copycatting Heroes too much; the song is contemporary, dynamic and catchy; and Mohombi is very telegenic (that’s me trying to say he’s hot without actually saying he’s hot). Wave a magic wand over those wavery vocals, my friend, and this will be a package you can be proud of. 9/10
Victorious, Lina Hedlund The Party Voice of 2019 is without a doubt this track, and because there’s no way it’s going to win tonight (or even come close), I’m happy to have it add something classically Swedish and a little bit Alcazar to the final. It might come off even more dated than it is right after Hello, but Lina sells it like her life depends on the commission and looks incredible doing it. I know 40 isn’t ancient, but I don’t look half as stunning as she does and I’m still years away from turning 30. You go, girlfriend. 7/10
On My Own, Bishara The Mohombi Effect strikes again, with Bishara being another act I would have sent DTF á la Sweden, but who has been the topic of a heap of hate talk. That’s all kinds of wrong for starters, since he’s only 16 and this is his very first stage/broadcast experience. I think he’s done brilliantly so far, and shown star quality that might see him return to Melfest when his career’s matured. This is a great debut, the lyrical content VS age debate aside (I do agree – there’s no way Bishara should be saying stuff like ‘I don’t know how to live without you baaaaby’ when he’s barely LIVED). Personally, I’m hoping Spotify streams and the ‘Aww!’ factor suggest a top five finish for On My Own. 9/10
Ashes To Ashes, Anna Bergendahl Nobody has a better narrative heading into this final than Sweden’s only Eurovision non-qualifier. Her 2010 rise and fall feels like it happened yesterday, but it’s been almost a decade – and Anna was worth the wait. Ashes To Ashes is far from being a favourite of mine from these last songs standing, but the themes of redemption and resurrection ring so true with her story that I can’t help getting behind it. And I love the stage foliage and Anna’s amazing sparkly catsuit feat. cape. If she ever gets invited to the Academy Awards for some reason, an outfit repeat will be necessary. 7.5/10
Chasing Rivers, Nano Before the first semi, it seemed ridiculous to think that 2017’s televote winner wouldn’t make the final straight away…but here we are, with Nano only scoring his ticket to Friends through Andra Chansen. I actually think this song is on par with Hold On in terms of musical kick-assery. But Nano himself has been off his game for both performances so far, producing average vocals and lacking the down-camera charisma of Mohombi/Bishara/Wiktoria etc. His fate wasn’t to come back and win, clearly. I do hope he joins the three-timer club though – he’s definitely got more to give than this. 8/10
Hold You, Hanna Ferm & LIAMOO It took me a while to warm to this – maybe my standards were too high as a huge fan of both Hanna and LIAMOO. Whatever the case, I have warmed. At this point it’s in my top three of the evening, and I do believe it would make a worthy winner. Hanna is perfection in every department (vocally on point, engaging and drop-dead gorgeous…kind of like myself *flips hair*) and while LIAMOO did fade into the background a bit during the semi performance, rehearsal footage suggests he’s stepped it up and made sure this pairing is a force to be reckoned with. The song is great, the staging is simple but effective, it has broad appeal…all in all, I’d say Hold You is the biggest challenger FTW if we put aside the odds-on favourite (who I’ll get to in a minute). 9/10
I Do Me, Malou Prytz There’s a string of awesome songs in this lineup that starts with Hold You and ends with Not With Me. Am I about to say that I Do Me is the exception? To quote Malou’s stylistic inspiration Cher Horowitz, as if! This is actually right up there in my Melfest 2019 ranking, and I’m still pleasantly surprised it went direkt. It’s so much fun to watch and listen to while marveling at the fact that Malou is younger than Bishara (mind = blown). I adore everything about it and would happily have it win the comp in my fantasy land. 9/10
Too Late For Love, John Lundvik It’s not too late for me to love you, Lundvik, because I always have. Granted, I’d never heard of him before he was announced as a 2018 participant (except in passing re: that Royal Wedding thing) but he arrived last year and has somehow managed to arrive in an even bigger way this year. My Turn was a top-notch (albeit talent show winner) ballad, but trying something upbeat has paid off for John, and in my mind will most likely earn him an engraved plaque on that godawful Melfest trophy. The warmth, charisma and joy he and his backing singers are bringing to the comp is second to none. 9/10
Not With Me, Wiktoria I have a major girl crush on Wiktoria. More so on her hair than anything else (which Bilal Hassani has shown me I could purchase for the right price) but I do think she’s altogether beautiful and talented, and that Not With Me is another quality comp contribution from her. There’s nothing I don’t like about it, unless you count the lyrical clichés which I think are canceled out by her impassioned performance, sleek styling and of course, the Ruth Lorenzo rainfall. I mean, how are you supposed to be properly heartbroken if it isn’t pouring down? Girl is singing in the rain and it is working for me. 9.5/10
I Do, Arvingarna Hasse Andersson…Owe Thornqvist…Rolandz…and now Arvingarna. These guys are occupying the traditional throwback space in this final, and I have no complaints. Songs like I Do would be sorely missed from Melfest (by me, at least) if they never popped up. And since we know this isn’t going to threaten for the win, what’s the harm in shamelessly bopping to dansband pop performed by four middle-aged men with millennial hair? Sounds like a nice way to round up the competitive part of the night to me. 6/10
Who I want to win
To cut a long story short…oh god, I CAN’T cut it short! I’ve just realised how many acts/songs are standing out to me, even though I know some of them aren’t possible winners. If I was held at confetti-cannon-point and forced to choose three, I’d go for Wiktoria, Hanna & LIAMOO and John Lundvik…and then I’d overpower my captor so I could mention Mohombi too, with Bishara and Malou as wildcard backups.
I do want to say that, while I was desperate for Dance You Off to win last year because it had The One written all over it (I may have shed a tear when my dream came true) I don’t feel the same sort of fire about anything in this year’s final. I have feelings, but not feelings so strong that I’m going to cry with happiness again. Maybe next year.
Who WILL win
At this point, it does seem like we have a clear winner in John Lundvik. He’s far and away favourite with the bookmakers and has been sitting pretty on top of the Swedish Spotify Top 50 for weeks. I can’t imagine the international juries – from Australia, Austria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Israel, Portugal and the UK – leaning heavily in any other direction. John has so much personality and his performance feels so genuine (but still polished), who wouldn’t be won over? I’m convinced that it’s not a question of will he win, but how much will he win by. And if I’m right (it does happen occasionally), I’ll be satisfied, if not fangirling like crazy, when it comes to Sweden’s entry for Tel Aviv.
Side note: John representing Sweden as a performer AND the UK as a songwriter would be a first for anyone from anywhere. Take that, Željko ‘I can only host and be a songwriter at the same time’ Joksimović!
Having said that, he’s not totally untouchable – and if the juries do go in a different direction, and/or the Swedish public’s opinions are widely spread, Hanna & LIAMOO could sneak through and top the table. I wouldn’t put it past Wiktoria or even Anna Bergendahl to pull a shock win out of their nonexistent hats either.
Ultimately, I am sticking with Too Late For Love as my official prediction. And I’ve had a crack at guessing the rest of the results. Laugh at me if you must.
- John Lundvik
- Hanna Ferm & LIAMOO
- Anna Bergendahl
- Jon Henrik Fjällgren
- Lisa Ajax
- Malou Prytz
- Lina Hedlund
That brings me to the end of my last Selection Season post for the year. It’s been a hectic but enjoyable season packed with plot twists, contenders and Ukrainian controversy, and I’ll miss it.
Now we enter what is both a boring and exciting time of the Euroyear: the lead-up to Eurovision itself. I’ll be here on the reg, looking back on the NF season and dropping my ESC 2019 reviews. Before that though, follow me on my socials – Twitter especially, @EurovisionByJaz – so we can watch and commentate on Melfest together.
SELECTION SEASON 2019 | The best of three for Darude, Portugal takes their pick + Swedish second chances
Hello and welcome, yet again, to Saturday night. One more week and I won’t have to come up with different ways of introducing the same thing anymore, woohoo!
We’re still a way away from a complete Class of ESC 2019, with not long to go until it MUST be complete – so prepare for a crazy period of last-minute NFs and internally-selected song reveals. This breakdown from ESC Xtra includes all the important info that I’m not about to repeat. But to repeat some of it, here’s what’s happening tonight:
- Finland Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu, final
- Georgia Georgian Idol, final
- Iceland Söngvakeppnin, final
- Moldova O Melodie Pentru Europa, final
- Norway Melodi Grand Prix, final
- Portugal Festival da Canção, final
- Sweden Melodifestivalen, Andra Chansen round
Then on Sunday we have:
- Serbia Beovizija, final
That’s a whole lot in a short space of time. Are you ready for it? If not, maybe I can ease you in with my previews and predictions for the week, feat. Finland, Portugal and Sweden.
Let’s do this!
It’s finally time for the Finns to choose which Darude/Sebastian Rejman song will represent them in Israel, in a selection process that’s a lot like 2018 only with less Saara Aalto. On the menu are:
- Look Away
- Release Me
Remember how last year, Monsters stood out from the trio of UMK songs and we all knew it was The One? Well, this is nothing like that. I don’t think any one of these three songs is more interesting than the others. As album filler tracks/music I’d dance to mindlessly at a music festival (if I was the type of person to go to a music festival) they’re good. As songs competing against each other with one set to compete at Eurovision, however, they’re all too same-same for my liking. Listening to them one after another is the musical equivalent of looking at this:
There are fans out there loving one, two or all three songs, and I’m happy for them (you know what they say about one person’s trash…not that I reckon these tracks are trash). They just don’t stir any strong emotions in me yet. I also wonder about the chances of Darude’s style succeeding at Eurovision when in a sense it is background music. Not to mention how similar the concept is to Light Me Up from Poland last year…though no doubt Finland will pull off a better performance than Gromee and Lukas did. A pissed-off donkey could provide a better overall vocal.
Look Away is my favourite of the three…I think. Superman is also pretty catchy, but still a bit pedestrian for song about flying, and not walking. Both of those songs have more memorable hooks than Release Me, which for me isn’t competitive enough for Eurovision. I’m wanting one of the others to be chosen this evening. How about you?
Which song will go to Tel Aviv? If I had to narrow it down to one – even though I have zero idea what the Finnish public will like best – I’d pick Look Away, and not just because it’s my personal favourite. I feel like it has a little more potential to push ahead and qualify than Superman or Release Me. Mind you, I mean a little. Let’s not pretend the options are drastically different here!
Which song would you happily (or begrudgingly) have as Finland’s ESC 2019 entry?
Leaving two semi finals in its dust, the Festival da Canção final has arrived – and here are the eight remaining acts hoping to make O Jardim’s (undeserved) fate a distant memory:
- A Dois Calema
- Mar Doce Mariana Bragada
- Perfeito Matay
- Pugna Surma
- Igual A Ti NBC
- Mundo A Mudar Madrepaz
- Telemóveis Conan Osíris
- Inércia Ana Cláudia
This line-up is an unusual mixture of boring songs and bizarre songs, with one or two in-betweeners. Portugal does have more than one chance to choose something great though, and if the choice was mine it would be centred on these tracks.
My favourites A Dois, Perfeito, Igual A Ti and Telemóveis. That’s in performance order more than anything else, but A Dois may actually be my favourite from this final (and it has nothing to do with Calema being the two most ridiculously good-looking brothers on the planet). The song isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s just the kind of well-produced, easy-listening r&b pop that I automatically adore…so there. Perfeito, on the other hand, is a timeless classic of a ballad that could be more exciting, but makes up for it with grandeur and powerful vocals from Matay that are indeed perfeito.
Igual A Ti is mid-tempo and, in all honesty, middle of the road – yet there’s something about it that I really like, even recognising that it could have represented Portugal at Eurovision in 1997. The chorus is a crown jewel set in slightly dull metal in need of a shine (I’m not going to win any awards for that metaphor, but you know what I mean). Telemóveis, meanwhile, is the song everyone’s talking about and with good reason. More bizarre than anything I’ve ever seen/heard before but so hypnotic at the same time, it’s a statement piece whether you like it or not. And at the core of it, underneath all the face armour and body paint and epileptic choreography, is a kick-ass vocalist who I could listen to all day long.
Predicting a winner This should be easy, given that there’s one song that stands out by miles. Yet I’m not totally convinced Portugal is prepared to send Telemóveis. It would be the bravest possible choice (besides Pugna, which is too strange even for me and didn’t get a heap of public support in its semi final) but with a bunch of safer options, will they take that risk? The jury might stop it in its unconventional tracks. I can see Matay or NBC beating out Conan because their songs have jury AND televote appeal, rather than swaying one way or the other. Matay in particular is the man I’d bet on to win if that’s how things unfold.
Still, I remember this time two years ago when a certain Salvador Sobral was the main topic of Festival da Canção conversation, and he went on and won. Granted, Amar Pelos Dois is way more conventional than Telemóveis, but my point is that both of these male soloists attracted/are attracting the same levels of attention. In 2019, I’d much prefer Portugal to live dangerously and divisively, especially after last year’s last-place finish in front of the home crowd. I can’t see any song from this final being more successful in Tel Aviv than Telemóveis, purely because it’s so memorable. If the ESC juries rewarded it for being artistic and original and the public responded for similar reasons, Conan could do extremely well – whereas the other likely FdC winners would be lucky to qualify. So I’m going to take a risk too and say that it will be Telemóveis that comes out on top tonight. It’s so crazy that Portugal would be crazy not to pick it.
What do you think? Is Conan too unconventional to be chosen or will this be Portugal’s year to make a statement (that doesn’t involve someone making a pompous speech about “music that actually means something”)?
It’s the second-to-last week of Melodifestivalen and time for four acts to get a second chance via Andra Chansen. We lost a few songs over the past month that I think should be duelling it out for a Friends Arena spot tonight (NOT THAT I’M ANGRY ABOUT IT OR ANYTHING *sets fire to the nearest car with Carrie-style kinetic energy*) but they’re not. So I have to suck it up and appreciate what we’ll (hopefully) have in next Saturday’s final once these battles have been won.
- Army of Us Andreas Johnson VS Ashes To Ashes Anna Bergendahl
- Nakna I Regnet Vlad Reiser VS Chasing Rivers Nano
- Låt Skiten Brinna Martin Stenmarck VS Torn Lisa Ajax
- Who I Am Rebecka Karlsson VS I Do Arvingarna
I’m still mystified as to why Andreas Johnson wasn’t paired with Martin Stenmarck, but I guess a) I don’t know how Christer Björkman’s brain works, and b) there’s always some strange match-ups when it comes to AC. In some ways, predicting the results is easier under these circumstances…and in others, it makes it so much harder. But after I’ve told you who I’d like to win, I’ll give it my best shot.
Who I WANT to win Anna Bergendahl, Nano, Lisa Ajax and Rebecka Karlsson.
Truth be told, I’m not crazy in love with Andreas’ OR Anna’s songs (as a This Is My Life lover, Ashes To Ashes just doesn’t measure up). But Anna is definitely the more exciting option – when I’m feeling particularly bitchy I have been known to refer to her duel opponent as Blandreas Johnson. Plus, I’m happy to see her perform as many times as possible in that amazing outfit. Where do I get one?
The Vlad VS Nano duel is actually the toughest one for me to take, because I really like both songs and wish they both had a chance to make the final. But my pre-existing love for Nano + the extra power and passion in Chasing Rivers compared to Nakna I Regnet makes the 2017 runner-up my preferred pick.
I like Martin and Lisa too, though his song is one of his best Melfest entries and hers isn’t as good as I Don’t Give A IMO. Still, I’m backing Lisa because I love her and her voice, and despite some shaky moments last week (she didn’t nail the money note, that’s for sure) Torn is a powerful package and gives Wiktoria some competition in the lady ballad department.
Last but not least is the weirdest duel of all, yet somehow the most evenly matched and most unpredictable. Rebecka is a great singer with a solid if not next-level song, but the staging and styling for Who I Am didn’t do it any favours. Arvingarna are here doing what they do best, and while it is vintage (a.k.a. dated) it’s well-executed and full of enthusiasm. I’d be okay with either act winning this one, but I’m more likely to listen to Rebecka on Spotify, so…I guess I’ll go for her over the guys. We always need more girl power in the final, right?
Who WILL win Anna Bergendahl, Nano, Lisa Ajax and Arvingarna. I’m pretty certain of Anna and Lisa, almost there with Nano and honestly, unsure of that last duel. Just when I’m feeling confident I remember the infamous Anton Hagman VS Loreen battle that ended as unexpectedly as possible. Let’s not have a repeat of that this year, Sweden…don’t let us down!
Give me your Andra Chansen tips in the comments and we’ll see who gets it right (it’ll be you).
That’s all from me for now. I’ll leave you to brace yourselves for a busy night and a week full of song reveals, as Eurovision 2019 creeps ever closer (which is exciting and not scary like I just made it sound).
Until next time,
In news that will shock no one, it’s Saturday. It’s almost like it comes around every seven days or something! Wild.
On this particular Saturday, ESC NF traffic is pretty high. If you don’t believe me, take a look at tonight’s event list:
- Denmark Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, final
- Hungary A Dal, final
- Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, final
- Portugal Festival da Canção, semi final 2
- Sweden Melodifestivalen, semi final 4
- Ukraine Vidbir, final
Not too shabby, is it? DMGP is shockingly mediocre this year (and so is Melodifestivalen, if I’m honest…what’s up Scandinavia?) but a final is always exciting, and the likes of Hungary and Ukraine are on hand to rescue us from the Scandi-crisis. I’m going to cover a bit of both today – a high and a not-so-high via A Dal and Melfest.
What can I say? I’m always going to make Sweden one of my priorities. But first, Hungary!
This is it! A Dal is at its most anticipated point, now that 30 songs have become eight with one disqualification along the way (for which Gergő Oláh must be very grateful). Here are the lucky last songs standing:
- Nyári Zápor Acoustic Planet
- Szótlanság Bence Vavra
- Holnap Bogi Nagy
- Kulcs Fatal Error
- Hozzád Bújnék Gergő Oláh
- Madár, Repülj! Gergő Szekér
- Az Én Apám Joci Pápai
- Roses The Middletonz
It’s a great final lineup, even if it is missing a few of my favourites (on the other hand, the few songs I disliked have also been disposed of). Before I take a stab at guessing the winner and Hungary’s representative at Eurovision 2019, I want to review what’s left while I still have the chance. From my least-loved songs all the way up to my FTW faves, this is my top eight.
Kulcs kicks off my list…at the bottom. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind it. I’d just file it away under ‘Songs That Are A Lot Like Viszlat Nyár But Not As Good’, and to me that’s not the sort of song Hungary should send to Tel Aviv (particularly so soon after Viszlat). Fatal Error are a little too frantic and noisy for me to rank them any higher.
Next up I’ve got Nyári Zápor, which has surprised me by a) getting this far in the comp, and b) scoring so well with the jury. It’s a nice, feel-good song that I’m happy to listen to in the car or while I’m housecleaning (I vacuum 47% faster accompanied by music, FYI) but I don’t get the hype coming from A Dal’s panel of music pros. Am I continuing to underestimate Acoustic Planet when I say that if they make the “super final” stage tonight I’ll be surprised? Probably.
Szótlanság is another song I thought would have been eliminated by now, but I have to give props to its (performance) props and Bence’s solid vocals. Apart from that I feel like it’s pretty anonymous compared to most of the other songs – Madár, Repülj! and Roses, for instance, are way more distinctive. But it’s still a decent track.
Heading into my top five and the songs I wouldn’t mind seeing in Israel, here’s Holnap. This flew under the radar pre-performance, only to impress a lot of us once brought to life by Bogi. I’m keeping a close eye on it and wouldn’t count it out of winning contention. It’s a simplistic but beautiful ballad, and the fragility of Bogi’s voice is captivating. She doesn’t need to swing from a hoop suspended six feet off the ground to grab attention…but that actually adds value and interest without cheapening a classy song.
Gergő Oláh is lucky to be in the final at all after Hozzád Bújnék replaced Petruska’s Help Me Out of Here earlier this week. I wanted him there all along, so I can’t help being happy that he’s making up the numbers. Of the two traditional ballads in this eight, Hozzád is the more dynamic and powerful one, and Gergő belts it out without breaking a sweat. He won’t win with it, but that’s okay because until he tops Gyóz A Jő I don’t really want him to.
It’s top three time now, and my (hypothetical) bronze medal goes to Gergő No. 2 with Madár, Repülj!. I was confused by this song at first because it’s all over the place structurally and stylistically, but those are the same things I’ve come to appreciate about it. If it goes to Eurovision, it’s sure to be a standout no matter what else is it’s up against. Side note: Gergő is super cute and I want to fly to Hungary expressly to run my fingers through his hair. Is that weird?
Funnily enough, I’ve ranked what I think is the best song in this final 2nd overall (you’ll get an explanation in a minute). I’m talking about Roses, easily the best effort from András Kalláy-Saunders in A Dal since Running. This song is contemporary, radio-friendly, original and has more hooks than a fishing supplies superstore. To top it off, I thought it might be disastrous when The Middletonz performed it live, but they NAILED it. Sadly it hasn’t had a heap of jury support, but the public vote has been strong – so if they manage to make the top four tonight a win isn’t out of the question.
Last but obviously not least is Az Én Apám. This is a sentimental favourite of mine because it’s Joci Pápai and I could not adore this guy more. His song might be more understated than Roses – and basically everything else left in the comp besides Holnap – but there’s something spellbinding about Joci’s musical style, vocals and authenticity on stage that makes my heart beat faster. And if you Google the lyrical translation of Az Én Apám (non-Hungarian speakers) and don’t experience some feels, why the heck not?!? To sum up, Joci’s sequel to Origo in terms of A Dal entries was always bound to be my most-loved track of the NF.
So there you have it. Unfortunately, I have no say in the actual results tonight. All I can do is predict them, which is the logical next step, so here goes.
Being methodical and looking at the scores from the heats helped me guess last week’s qualifiers pretty accurately, so I’ve done the same this time with the semi scores. If you do it too you’ll end up with these guys as your frontrunners:
- Joci Pápai 36 jury, 9 televote = 45
- Acoustic Planet 37 jury, 8 televote = 45
- Gergő Szekér 34 jury, 9 televote = 43
- Bence Vavra 34 jury, 8 televote = 42
- Bogi Nagy 34 jury, 8 televote = 42
Joci is in prime position despite receiving a slightly lower jury score than Acoustic Planet. Because his public vote score was higher, if both acts make it into the final four with 100% televote deciding the winner, Joci will have the edge. Gergő is a safe bet to accompany Joci and/or Acoustic Planet to that last decider, having had jury AND televote appeal at each point of the process.
This is where it gets tricky. Bence and Bogi can’t be separated based on their semi results, except to say that Bence placed equal 2nd in his semi while Bogi placed 3rd (but that just speaks to a more competitive second semi). And we shouldn’t assume that another act entirely – and I’m thinking of The Middletonz when I say this – won’t rise in the jury’s eyes on this occasion and score themselves a spot in that all-important four. If Roses does do it, the public backing is there (with a 9 on the televote in its semi) to potentially win. As annoying as it is, however, the jury is more likely to roadblock it while paving the way for something they’ve liked better previously.
Let’s get down to business. I’ve made my decision (after way too much INdecision) and this is the top four I’m going with:
- Joci Pápai
- Acoustic Planet
- Gergő Szekér
- Bogi Nagy
Once the A Dal jury input becomes irrelevant and it’s all about that public vote, there’ll probably be a battle between the male soloists. My heart wants Joci to win again and take his magical self to Tel Aviv, but my head is saying it’s Gergő who’s going. And you know what? I won’t have any complaints about that. In fact, if Hungary chooses a song that isn’t Kulcs/Nyári Zápor/Szótlanság, I’ll have the opposite of resting bitch face – and if they choose Roses/Az Én Apám/Madár, Repülj!, I’ll have a new no. 1 in my Eurovision 2019 ranking so far.
But yes, I’m officially predicting victory for Gergő Szekér. How about you?
Moving on to the last straightforward Melfest semi now, and…well, it’s been an underwhelming edition of the show to say the least. I’m easily pleased as Eurofans go and have liked most of the entries. But at the same time, there’s been hardly anything to love with a passion and literally nothing that has made me sit up, take notice and proclaim it The One for 2019.
I’m actually concerned that Sweden could be looking at a 2013-esque result off the back of last year’s televoting disaster. The upper right side of the ESC scoreboard would be a win for some countries, but not for a country that has only finished outside of the top 10 once and won twice in the last eight contests. But I might just be getting ahead of myself.
Let’s look at tonight’s seven. For all I know, The One is right here:
- Stormbringer Pagan Fury
- Känner Dig Anton Hagman
- Torn Lisa Ajax
- I Do Arvingarna
- On My Own Bishara
- Kärleken Finns Kvar Ann-Louise Hanson
- Too Late For Love John Lundvik
It’s a deltävling full of familiar faces, with Anton and Lisa already having competed against each other in the 2017 final. Lisa came out on top then, and I’ll tell you if I think she’ll do the same now or not after I’ve mentioned my personal favourites from this semi.
My top four Too Late for Love, Torn, On My Own and Känner Dig. I knew John Lundvik and Bishara (with Benjamin Ingrosso backing him as a songwriter) would be my 4th semi highlights as soon as their names were announced. That’s because I loved Lundvik last year; and because Bishara is adorable in every way, and as an Ingrosso fangirl from way back their collab was made for me. Lundvik going uptempo and Bishara sticking with what works for his voice/image is working for me so far.
Lisa Ajax is another artist I’ve cheered for previously in Melfest, and though I prefer I Don’t Give A to this latest entry (which you can tell was originally meant for Loreen), I think Torn could be more successful for her. It’s a moody ballad with sparse verses and a belter of a chorus, and I’m curious to see how she handles it live. There won’t be any toilet paper hanging from the roof or useless but pretty raincoats this time, that’s for sure!
And yes, I enjoy a bit of Anton Hagman even if nobody else does. I mean, if he butchers Känner Dig tonight we can just hit mute and look at him, right?
So, who’s going direkt? John Lundvik and Bishara. But take this with a grain of salt because I actually have NO IDEA. Turning to either the odds or the rehearsal poll (which was topped by these two) isn’t helpful when you consider how wrong those indicators have been for the last few shows. I think this prediction is more of what I want than what I’ll get – but Lundvik is a safe bet and the most likely to go DTF. Bishara could be too JESC, or could score well with tweens, teens, mums and grandparents all over Sweden. Based on rehearsal reports I’m not convinced Lisa will have more mass appeal than he does.
Who’s getting a second chance? Arvingarna and Lisa Ajax with the possibility of a Pagan Fury curveball. Arvingarna has their Melfest/ESC history and nostalgic brand of musical Prozac to stand on, and I think they could actually squeeze straight in to the final…but I’ll leave them with AC. Lisa could blow everyone’s minds or underwhelm, and that’s the kind of risky business that deserves a compromise (though I’d happily have her in the final in a way that Wiktoria would not). If one of these guys only gets as far as 5th place, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Stormbringer slip in to Andra Chansen instead.
And that concludes this monster of a prediction post in which I didn’t actually do much predicting. It’s not always the fun part, to be honest.
Let me know what YOU think will happen tonight, anywhere and everywhere in Europe. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram @EurovisionByJaz, for catty selection show comments and first impressions of the songs for Tel Aviv as they come along. I’ll follow back if you like to talk about Eurovision and send me some freshly-baked cookies!
Knock knock, who’s there? It’s Saturday again, duh!
When you’re living for the weekends like I do during national final season, it’s a blessing for this day of the week to come around so quickly. And boy, does it have a lot to love on this occasion. Here’s everything happening tonight:
- Croatia Dora, final
- Estonia Eesti Laul, final
- Hungary A Dal, semi final 2
- Iceland Söngvakeppnin, semi final 2
- Latvia Supernova, final
- Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, semi final 2
- Portugal Festival da Canção, semi final 1
- Slovenia EMA, final
- Sweden Melodifestivalen, semi final 3
- Ukraine Vidbir, semi final 2
I know what you’re thinking: ‘Is that all?’. But don’t worry, tomorrow night we also have:
- Romania Selecția Națională, final
Do the math on this list of NFs, and you’ll find that Saturday + Sunday = FIVE more songs for Tel Aviv. And isn’t it about time? We’ve waited long enough to get into double digits.
I’m not about to preview/predict all of the above NF action, since I don’t want to send you (or myself) to sleep. I will make a quick wishlist for the countries I won’t be covering though, so listen up universe: Croatia can give me Brutalero or Redemption, Estonia Storm, Latvia Somebody’s Got My Lover or Fire, and Slovenia Kaos. Oh, and if Portugal could send Calema through as well as Conan (so I can figure out what the heck I actually think of Telemóveis) that’d be awesome.
Now, if you want to chat in-depth about Hungary, Sweden and Romania, you came to the right place.
It’s the second last Saturday of A Dal decision-making, after last week’s first semi final saw Acoustic Planet, Bence Vavra, The Middletonz (WOOHOO!) and Petruska (smaller woohoo!) make the final cut. Obviously there’s another hurdle for them to jump over in the final itself – making the all-important top four from which 100% televote will determine the winner – but qualifying to next weekend’s showdown is what everyone wants to do, and those guys have done it. Now there’s just four spots left for the taking, and nine acts after them. Let the (probably heartbreaking) battle begin!
- Kedves Világ! Timi Antal feat. Gergő Demko
- Kulcs Fatal Error
- Egyszer Mocsok 1 Kölykök
- A Remény Hídjai Nomad
- Hozzád Bújnék Gergő Oláh
- Az Én Apám Joci Pápai
- Holnap Bogi Nagy
- Forró Ruby Harlem
- Madár, Repülj! Gergő Szekér
You guys know how obsessed I am with A Dal this year, and though I’ve lost some favourites along the way (JUSTICE FOR VILÁGÍTÓTORONY!) a few more are still in the running and competing in this semi. On the other hand, some of my least favourites are here too, and I’m hoping they’ll be among the sacrificial songs of the night.
Let’s start with the good stuff and work our way through to what will actually happen in Hungary this week, IMO.
My top four In random order, Hozzád Bújnék, Az Én Apám, Holnap and Madár, Repülj! Gergő Oláh is a perennial top pick of mine, and although Hozzád Bújnék is no Győz a Jó, it is a ballistic missile of a ballad that he – pardon my French in advance – sings the shit out of. My beloved Joci is back with a bang (well, more of a gentle tap on the door, but it’s beautiful and impactful nonetheless) and all the raw emotion required to sell such a unique ethno-ballad. Bogi is also armed with a gentle ballad, and the crystal-clear fragility of her voice takes it to another level (though the melody is worth mentioning too). As for Gergő No. 2, which is nothing like Mambo No. 5…well, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Madár, Repülj! at first, but I LOVE it now. It’s distinctive and dramatic without being throwback or an ultra cutting-edge track, and that makes it interesting.
My prediction Given that we know the results of all the heats and semis so far – an A Dal tradition that I enjoy and dislike at the same time – it makes guessing tonight’s final four qualifiers easier. There are five heat winners in this semi alone, however, with some acts having tied FTW. And in the case of Joci and Bogi, who finished equal 1st in the third heat, you cannot separate them – they both scored the same from the jury and from the public. I’m going to give Joci the edge based on his previous history though (and I better not be jinxing him by doing so). Fatal Error stormed to victory in their heat (somehow) so I’d say they were safe finalists…not that they’ve had to compete against any of tonight’s other acts until now. I’m also thinking that Gergő Oláh and Gergő Szekér have a good chance of advancing, since they also tied for the win in their heat. If there’s a wildcard who makes it out of this semi, I think it will be Bogi in place of Gergő Oláh (heaven forbid) or Joci (heaven forbid even more). But I’m locking in my final four as follows: Fatal Error, Gergő Oláh, Gergő Szekér and Joci Pápai. There’s a whole lot of testosterone there and I am not mad about it.
Who would you put money on to make it through to the A Dal final?
How can we be onto the THIRD Melfest semi already? Granted, the second one was a blur for me since I was busy attending Australia Decides at the time (check out my Aussie NF diary here if you haven’t yet) but I’m still shocked. Maybe it’s because – and I hate to say this – the 2019 comp has been a bit of a non-event, at least in terms of the entries (the hosts/interval acts have been fantastisk). Nothing has jumped out at me so far and screamed ‘Winner!’ of Melfest, let alone of Eurovision. Will that change this week with these seven songs?
- Somebody Wants Lovers of Valdaro
- Habibi Dolly Style
- Låt Skiten Brinna Martin Stenmarck
- Victorious Lina Hedlund
- Om Om Och Om Igen Omar
- Who I Am Rebecka Karlsson
- Norrsken Jon Henrik Fjällgren
Based on snippets, no, that’s not going to change. I’m not saying I hate everything on offer here, but there’s a thread of ‘good but not great’ running through the entire line-up that worries me. And yes, I’m even referring to the much-anticipated Norrsken when I say that. But I’ll give this not-quite-magnificent seven the chance to win me over with cracking live performances.
My top four Somebody Wants, Habibi, Om Om Och Om Igen and Who I Am. The Lovers of Valdaro (feat. the guy who wore the heels in Moldova’s Eurovision 2018 performance) are the wildcards from Svensktoppen Nästa, and though I doubt they’ll outdo SMILO’s record of 5th place in a semi (being the highest finish for a Svensktoppen-chosen act), I am digging the beat and production of their song – it should make a great show opener. Habibi is my guilty pleasure and honestly, has the only chorus I could remember after I first listened to the snippets. I like the deviation from bubblegum pop to a more exotic Middle Eastern flavour for Sweden’s version of The Sugababes (because they change members so often, HA HA HA).
Omar definitely has the better song of the FO & O boys competing this year (RIP Oscar Enestad from the running) even if it is a mixed-language copycat of Side To Side/In My Cabana/Woman Like Me. Pop music is derivative, that’s just how the cookie crumbles – and I can’t wait to hear this spiced-up version all the way through. Who I Am rounds out my favourites list based on everything but the lyrics, which are so clichéd I have a hard time excusing it. Still, the power-pop style of the song and Rebecka’s vocal abilities are enough to keep me rooting for her.
My prediction This is a hard one. Last week proved that anything is possible and that the odds are not always correct (in a good way – go Malou!) so I’m not even going to use them as a guide for my guesses. I do happen to know that Jon Henrik is sitting pretty at the top and is as guaranteed of a place in the final as one can be, so NO-BRAINER ALERT. I believe in Rebecka’s potential to also go straight to Friends Arena, or to Andra Chansen at least. Dolly Style are in the mix after winning the audience poll, but I can’t imagine – especially after seeing a shot of their staging – that they’ll place in the top two. For me the last spot is for either Omar (hopefully) or more likely Lina based on her pedigree and the Jessica Andersson effect. Victorious ain’t no Party Voice, but it’s just what you’d expect from one third of Alcazar and that might well be enough. To sum up, I think it’s Jon Henrik Fjällgren/Rebecka Karlsson DTF, and Dolly Style/Lina Hedlund to AC. But feel free to surprise me (again) Sweden.
Which acts will go where in this Melfest deltävling? Let me know what you think in the comments!
Disclaimer: Normally I’d just be discussing Saturday night here, but Romania has inconveniently scheduled their final on a Sunday again (Ester Peony pun not intended, but a declaration of love for her song is coincidentally coming up) and I’ve got to talk about it. In amongst the 12 finalists there is a lot of cookie cutter music, but there’s also a handful of songs so good that I couldn’t stay quiet. Place your bets.
- Renegades Linda Teodosiu
- Right Now Olivier Kaye
- Dear Father Laura Bretan
- Skyscraper Teodora Dinu
- We Are The Ones Claudiu Mirea
- Your Journey Aldo Blaga
- On A Sunday Ester Peony
- Daina Letiția Moisescu and Sensibil Balkan
- Army of Love Bella Santiago
- Destin Trooper
- Without You (Sin Ti) Dya & Lucian Colareza
- Underground Vaida
Selecția Națională isn’t usually one of my go-to NFs, and for those of you who do adore it, sorry – I haven’t suddenly become its number one fan. But like I said, a few SN 2019 songs have caught my attention based on their potential to do very well at Eurovision, and/or how jaw-dropping it was to find them in the Romanian selection to start with.
My favourites Dear Father, On A Sunday, Daina and Army of Love. Laura Bretan is a pocket rocket with form on America’s Got Talent, and watching her semi performance of Dear Father had me shook. There’s something special in this song, and it has great build. Of all my top picks it is my least loved, but it’s the most likely to kick butt on behalf of Romania in Tel Aviv. My most-loved in this line-up is On A Sunday, which is like a musical love child of Ann Sophie’s Black Smoke and Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet. It turns out those are good genes to combine. It’s a song so slick and moody, I can’t believe it’s not competing somewhere in Scandinavia. Ester is flawless live and I wish she was more of a contender.
Daina is Romania doing what I miss Romania doing. They could have sent it to Eurovision in 2005, 2011 or 2018 and it wouldn’t have made a difference (not to me, anyway). Will they send it in 2019? Not a chance, but it’s a killer – not filler – addition to the final. Speaking of which…where there’s smoke there’s Fuego, and Bella’s Army of Love is such a Fuego soundalike that the smoke is stinging my eyes. My ears are all for it though, because it is a banger! Empowering lyrics, ethnic instrumentals and a rap verse in Tagalog make for a rip-off I’d welcome into this year’s ESC family with open arms.
My prediction As much as I’d like to believe there are multiple contenders for this NF, I think the winner has already been signed, sealed and delivered straight through the window she’s shattered with one of her sky-high operatic notes. I mean Laura, of course. Personally I’d prefer Bella, but when I watch Laura’s performance there’s more than one point where I think ‘This is unbeatable.’ The song might not be the greatest to my tastes, but she makes it great and gives me goosebumps in the process. I said this about Kate Miller-Heidke last weekend and I’ll say it again now: If this girl doesn’t win I’ll be flabbergasted. If she does, I’ll be grateful that Australia isn’t in the same semi as Romania.
Whew…aren’t you glad I drew the line at discussing three countries? I’m done now, so if you have any thoughts or predictions for tonight that you need to get off your chest, my comments box is empty and waiting for you to throw stuff into it.
Who’s going to win? Who’s going to get knocked out? Will there be curveballs or will the bookies’ favourites follow through? Wherever it’s happening and whatever your opinion is, I’m ready to hear about it. My response will be more polite if you agree with me though…
See you on the other side of this super Saturday/fun-sized Sunday!
Hey you…it’s me again. Yes, that’s a Kate Miller-Heidke reference – it seemed like the perfect way to introduce this post, one that’s coming to you from Past Jaz. She recently arrived back from her trip to the Gold Coast for Australia’s first-ever national final, and she kept a diary while she was there that she wants to share with you now. Present Jaz figures you won’t mind reading about something that’s already happened, since it’s Eurovision-related. And so, without further ado – because this is a loooooooong read and you guys are going to need stamina to get through it – let’s rewind a week to the day I got to the GC and the magic started to happen.
Thursday February 7, 6.15pm
Somewhere between Sydney and the Gold Coast
Okay, so that was the worst opening for an Australian-themed post ever. I apologise. I just couldn’t bring myself to say ‘G’day, mate!’ – it’s not in my nature to go Full Australian™.
I will be doing my best to be Miss Patriotic for the next two nights though, as I scream hysterically in the audience of the Australia Decides jury show and televised final. I’m on the last leg of my cross-country trip as we speak (because even attending an Aussie NF requires me to travel a minimum of seven hours) and at the moment, things feel pretty surreal…and not just due to my altitude-induced air-headedness. Sure, I’ve made the pilgrimage to Stockholm for Eurovision and for Melodifestivalen (not-so-humble brag alert). But an Aussie NF is a different story. If you’d told me a year ago that Australia would be selecting their entry for Eurovision 2019 via a national final — and that I’d be there in person to see it happen — I’d probably have laughed in your face.
But here we are. And since it’s a special occasion, I thought I’d document it with this diary-style post so that those of you outside of Australia/unable to attend this weekend’s shows can live vicariously through me (or get bored by my ramblings, one of the two). There’s not much to say right now except something about the competing songs, considering I haven’t actually done that yet. I want to give you guys my first impressions before I give you a rundown of who nailed it/failed it in the jury show, and prior to me predicting a winner.
So, The Songs…*insert dramatic Law and Order DUM DUM here*. Well, if you follow me on Twitter – which you should, I’m hilarious – you’ll know that I am happier than Nathan Trent on Christmas morning with the line-up for this NF. I always thought that if we had one, it would have the cringe factor of its almost-namesake You Decide (sorry, UK). But SBS has come through and delivered some serious musical goods. As people born after 2000 and who don’t have dark circles under their eyes yet would say, it snaps and I stan.
Friday February 8, 11.15am
No Name Lane Café, Broadbeach
Sorry for that short break that lasted an entire night, but I had to stop typing so my plane could land. How inconvenient. To pick up where I left off, it’s time to review the Australia Decides songs in as few words as possible, and in terms of song quality/any artist biases that I may or may not have.
In alphabetical order by performer, let’s do this thing.
To Myself I didn’t watch Alfie’s season of The Voice, so listening to this song for the first time was also the first time I’d heard him sing. Clearly, he’s pretty good at it. And suitably, this song sounds like it could have been a winning TV talent show song, only it’s got more edge and less cringe than a typical track of that variety. It’s anthemic, goosebumpy in parts, and underrated, I reckon.
Dust I did watch Aydan’s season of The Voice, and my inner 14–year-old totally voted for him (and would have had a poster of him on her bedroom wall if she wasn’t actually 27). I LOVE his voice, and this song suits his smooth tones and Benjamin Ingrosso-esque falsetto perfectly. Great lyrics, slick production and a kickass chorus = excellence, IMO.
Fight For Love Frivolous? Yes. But fun and fabulous at the same time? Absolutely. Courtney is a pro with the perfect amount of theatricality, personality and actual talent, and this song is so her. I don’t really want it to go to Eurovision on Australia’s behalf, but I am dying to dance to it in the mosh pit (such as it is) on Saturday night.
2000 and Whatever Cards on the table, this is my favourite Aus Decides entry and exactly what I want to see in Tel Aviv. It’s everything I’d hoped we’d send to the ESC since our story started, but never thought we would. It ticks box after box despite being outside of the box, if you know what I mean: it’s original, high-energy, dynamic, hook-laden and features an Indigenous-language bridge that’s uniquely Aussie. Electric Fields, you have yourself a new and very devoted fangirl!
Data Dust In the battle of the dusts, Aydan is my pick by far. Still, Ella’s song fills a genre spot in this line-up, and gives us all the chance to have a mild headbang while watching the show. It’s catchy, got a good beat and seems like something she’ll enjoy performing, and that enjoyment should transmit to viewers at home. The chorus is pretty sticky too. It’s a good one to shampoo your hair to in the shower, trust me.
Zero Gravity KMH is a big favourite, and after an adjustment period I can see why. My first listen of this song ended with a WTF face because it was such an assault on the senses. But after a few more run-throughs, I realised what’s special about this – everything. It grabs your attention from the beginning whether you like it or not, and doesn’t let go. Reminiscent of Alenka Gotar’s Cvet Z Juga but with a stronger pop sensibility, it combines Kate’s classical and contemporary talents into one distinctive package. No wonder it’s a contender.
Set Me Free Anyone who predicted that an unknown 16–year-old would produce a song as killer as this must have super-psychic powers. I sure didn’t see it coming, but I’m glad it did. Leea’s moody, Scandinavian NF-worthy pop ballad is right up my street (I’ve saved her a space in my garage with an engraved plaque). The verses set up a beautiful, fragile atmosphere that flows into a punch-packing chorus, taking Leea from a place of vulnerability to a place where she’s not going to take crap from this mystery jerk of a guy any more. You go, girlfriend.
This Is Not The End We were spoilt by Il Volo back in 2015, because no male operatic song will ever measure up to Grande Amore (including Il Volo’s own song in SanRemo this year). I don’t mind this one, and there’s nothing that would have shown off Mark’s amazing vocals better. I just prefer almost every other song competing.
On My Way This has Sheppard written all over it with a big fat Sharpie. It’s anthemic, danceable and light-hearted without being cheesy (just) and as always, the O’G3NE-ish camaraderie between the siblings is appealing and sure to give them brotherly and sisterly chemistry on stage. I won’t lie, this song doesn’t blow my mind…but it’s what I expected from the band, and it’s a solid effort.
Piece of Me This was the last AD song to be released and sadly, it wasn’t a case of leaving the best until last. For someone who’s spent a decade living in Sweden, the home of successful songwriters of cutting-edge pop, Tania has thrown it back with this 2000s example of elevator music. Granted, it’s GOOD elevator music, but a little uninspired and dated. Also, the verses are stronger than the choruses which is a worry. Can’t she just perform Bachelor Girl’s Buses and Trains instead?
Friday February 8, 6.30pm
Casa de Jaz (a.k.a. My Air BnB)
That was another abrupt ending – maybe get used to those, guys. And now you know who I will and won’t be backing FTW, I’ve got to say goodbye already. It’s for a legit reason – it’s time to head down the road (literally…I can see the Convention Centre from my apartment) and see what the Australia Decides jury show has to offer. I’m meeting up with Anita from Eurovision Union (if you missed our recent Melfest collab, you can check it out here) and we’ll keep you informed on our socials as the show unfolds. Of course, you’ll be reading this after the fact, so if you weren’t following us on Twitter etc then, do it now and see what we thought in the past. Be overcome by our incredible observations and precise foresight and bitchy comments because sometimes they’re just called for. I’ll see you on the other side!
Friday February 8, 10.55pm
My Air BnB again
And I’m back, after one seriously impressive jury show – albeit one that could do with some trimming to make it less of a marathon. Still, SBS has done an incredible job transforming the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre into an ESC-worthy space, complete with a stage that looks stunning on and off camera.
I can’t say the entire run-through was as flawless tonight, but the performances aside – which were obviously being judged – it didn’t matter that there were some technical difficulties. That basically extended to Aydan having to restart his performance after his mic failed á la Estonia at Eurovision 2017, and hosts Myf and Joel visiting Struggletown for a few seconds when the autocue decided to have a breakdown. Fingers crossed these are kinks that will be ironed out before we go live.
Regardless, Australia Decides looks like it’s going to be an awesome debut NF, with (lots of) great interval acts – including two songs from Dami Im – plus Eurovision vignettes and host scripting that’s closer to Petra and Måns than the Portuguese quartet on the humour scale. To touch on the most important stuff, here’s my quick take on the 10 acts’ jury performances:
Who impressed Electric Fields, Mark Vincent, Aydan, Courtney Act and Kate Miller-Heidke. EF raised the roof and Zaachariaha’s flamboyance filled the room. Mark’s vocal power was undeniable. Aydan’s vocals were more understated but smooth as silk, and there was an intimate stage setup at the start that made him stand out. Courtney delivered the exact level of pizzazz feat. props we all hoped for, and Kate? Well, more on her in a minute.
Who disappointed Sheppard and Tania Doko. Sheppard might have suffered from expectations being too high – they were okay, but rough around the edges and looked messy on stage. Tania’s vocals were on point but her choreography was so bizarre I couldn’t take it seriously. Trying to make Piece of Me more interesting backfired a bit.
Who did neither Ella, Leea Nanos and Alfie Arcuri. They all turned out good but not great performances. Ella provided an energetic opener and an eye-wateringly tight jumpsuit, Leea showed maturity and sophistication beyond her years and Alfie sang like the champion he is (and flashed some welcome flesh in a shirt open enough to appeal to Sakis Rouvas). But none of them went above and beyond to come forward as contenders.
In terms of who would have scored big with the jury tonight, there’s one person who stood head and shoulders above everyone else…literally. Kate Miller-Heidke was in another league, and between her world-class vocals, elaborate costume and action-packed staging (it looked like there was more money thrown at her than at the other nine artists combined) it was a winning package. As much as I love Electric Fields and will be praying for a 2000 and Whatever win instead, I suspect KMH has just booked herself a ticket to Tel Aviv. If so, that might shock a lot of ESC fans who’ve accused Australia of playing it too safe recently (something I haven’t been able to argue with). At this point, I’m all for divisive – it’s much better than dull.
If there is a challenger to Kate apart from Electric Fields, I’d say it was Sheppard despite an underwhelming performance. And if I was taking a major punt, I’d say don’t rule out Courtney completely. Not only did she give her all to an intense three minutes in a latex outfit without breaking a sweat, she also did things in stilettos that I couldn’t do in sneakers.
My tip for the final top 3 based on the jury show is:
- Electric Fields
- Courtney/Sheppard (Australia might be about to decide, but I can’t.)
As I said, my personal favourite is Electric Fields. I think if I hated 2000 and Whatever it would actually stand a better shot at winning, so that’s a shame.
Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me (for now, MWAHAHAHAHAHA) because based on the length of tonight’s show and the energy I know I’ll need to get through it – and dance through it – in the “mosh pit” tomorrow night, I’ve got to get a good night’s sleep. It will probably involve dreams of giant silver caterpillar cocoons, fire-engine-red latex and Joel Creasey dressed as Dami Im. You know, the usual. Good night!
Saturday February 9, 5.43pm
My Air BnB yet again
This is it, guys! The day Australia’s entire Eurovision-obsessed population – and a lot of non-Aussies – have been waiting for. I’ve just eaten a bowl of cereal as my pre-show fuel, which is pathetic but I’m way too excited to eat something substantial. I’ve also just spent 20 minutes writing ‘2000 and’ on one cheek and ‘Whatever’ on the other cheek in eyeliner, and it was time well spent.
I’ve been thinking about the likely outcome of this inaugural NF since last night, and I stand by what I said then – if Kate Miller-Heidke doesn’t have it in the bag, I’ll be SHOCKED TO MY VERY CORE. That wouldn’t be my ideal result, but I think I’ll be so grateful for Australia to have chosen something non-vanilla, I will happily stand behind Kate as our representative (not that you’ll be able to see me). After four years of mostly-successful but always safe entries, it’s time for us to be daring and show Europe that we’re more creative than we get credit for.
Speaking of time to do stuff, it’s time for me to get going. Hysterical screaming, awkward white girl dancing and other typical Saturday night activities await. Let’s do this!
Sunday February 10, 12.10pm
Between the sheets (in a very non-sexy way, believe me)
Okay, so I may have just woken up…but if a super late night followed by a 5am wakeup to watch Melodifestivalen (makes a nice change from 3am) isn’t a good excuse to sleep in until midday, then I don’t know what is.
I didn’t party after the show last night, unless you consider stumbling back to my apartment complex in the rain and falling face down on the bed to lie in wait for the midnight snack (a.k.a. pizza) I’d just ordered a party…which I definitely do. I did have an event invitation courtesy of OGAE Australia, but to be honest I was in PAIN after all that standing. Sounding more like a 77-year-old than a 27-year-old, my groans of ‘My back! My feet!’ were heard across the Gold Coast, and the concept of bed was too desirable to resist. I did pull an all-nighter after the Eurovision final in 2016, so there is a party animal inside me somewhere.
Anyway, on to more important info: we have an Australia Decides winner, and as predicted by moi and most other people with functioning eyes who watched the jury show, it’s Kate Miller-Heidke with Zero Gravity. Topping the jury and public vote meant a win you can’t really argue with (though I have tried a few times in my head) and her performance tonight was breathtaking.
But…AAGH, Electric Fields came so close! They were just 4 points behind KMH after the jury scores had come in, and not much further away after all was said and done. I almost wish they’d finished lower so that all the ‘What if?’ scenarios in my head were useless. On the other hand, 2000 and Whatever being the banger that it is = a probable OGAE Second Chance Contest entry and possible winner. I just hope we didn’t throw away a Eurovision winner, that’s all.
You could have predicted last night’s results by audience volume, which made it quite clear that the original three-horse race (between Kate, Electric Fields and Sheppard) had become a two-horse race between the quirkiest songs/acts on offer. That makes me proud to be an Aussie Eurofan, since clearly we’re not scared to take a risk. A risk I don’t think I want us to take is keeping Kate’s performance so similar to a bunch of Eurovision stage setups that have come before her (which I don’t think I need to mention). There are many ways to get her up off the ground that won’t cause cries of ‘copycat!’ come May – think trapezes, floating platforms or mechanical swings. Just not all three at once please…this isn’t Cirque Du Soleil, SBS, and we want Kate to live to a ripe old age.
All 10 acts upped their game tonight, and though somebody had to come last nobody deserved to. This has been such a strong start for us in NF terms, and Australia Decides has made a great addition to selection season. There were mistakes we can learn from – mainly re: show length and unnecessary padding – but the pros outweighed the cons by far. I don’t have to, but if I did need to wake up at 3am to tune into an NF like this, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
All in all, I’d call Australian NF no. 1 a big success that definitely warrants a sequel in 2020. And if that is the case, you can guarantee I’ll be there.
Monday February 11, 9.30am
Gold Coast Airport
And just like that, my whirlwind trip to the other side of Australia is over. I’m sitting in a café at the airport waiting on a flight that’s been delayed, and feeling that inevitable comedown that we call PED in May and I’m calling PADD at the moment. The niggling feeling I have that Electric Fields would have been a better way to go is actually getting more insistent rather than less so, but I think it’s being fuelled by some super critical Twitter types who think they know exactly what’s going to go down in Tel Aviv even though it’s February and we have 8 songs out of 42. Oh, and they’ve all got hate to spare for Kate, BTW. Hopefully she’ll prove them wrong in a few months’ time on a bigger stage, but if she doesn’t, I’m still happy that Australia opted for something adventurous given the chance.
I caught the show on TV last night on replay, and obviously it was my first time seeing it on screen. The first thing I noticed was my back popping up four times in the first 30 seconds, so it is now more famous than my face will ever be. I expect it to have its own Wikipedia page any day now.
Something else I noticed was that the bulk of vocals didn’t sound as good on TV as they did from inside the Convention Centre, but I found that at Eurovision too. It was still an excellent show feat. great songs, and an event I’ll be reliving a lot in the lead-up to Eurovision. I hope you guys enjoyed it too from wherever you are in the world (and if you were in the live audience, how RUDE of you to not come and say hi! JK, you can do it next year).
At the end of the day this NF was called Australia Decides, and you know what? Australia decided. Now it’s entirely up to Europe to choose our fate. In the meantime, Down Under we’ll be bowing down to our newly-crowned queen of Eurovision: Glinda the Good Witch, a.k.a. Kate Miller-Heidke.
I’m off to start winging my way home (finally). I’ll be back in a few days to resume normal NF reviews and predictions, as the season continues and we wonder which song will be The One for 2019. Who knows…we might have heard it already.