Mediocrity, Melodifestivalen and UMK: Welcome to February!

Madonna once said “Time. Goes. By. So. Slowly.” You can hear it for yourself on that dodgy yet somehow appealing song she did a few years ago that sampled ABBA. But let me tell you, she was a lying harlot, because literally one minute ago it was New Year’s Eve (well, not literally…but bear with my exaggeration) and now, it’s freaking February! I’ve had to change my calendar already, and that is not what I call a leisurely passing of time.  

On the plus side, February is going to make up for the pathetic showing January put on, national final-wise. The next four weeks are packed with preselections, beginning with this Super Saturday we’re about to experience. That means I won’t be posting the retro ranking I promised at the end of my last post just yet, but I plan to squeeze it in amongst all of the NF reviews and predictions that are coming your way via moi this month.

Firstly, it’s time to check out the main events of this evening, direct from Finland, Switzerland, and (saving the best for last) Sweden. Get excited, guys!

 

Who will Finnish first in the Finnish final?

UMK-2014

During its warm-up period of advancements and eliminations, Finland’s UMK has sent a whopping FOUR WHOLE SONGS packing. Eight remain in with a chance to succeed Team Ding Dong in Copenhagen.

  1. Something Better by Softengine
  2. Hope by Hanna Sky
  3. God/Drug by MIAU
  4. Going Down by Lauri Mikkola
  5. Shining Bright by MadCraft
  6. Sängyn Reunalla by Mikko Pohjola
  7. Top of the World by Clarissa feat. Josh Standing
  8. Selja by Hukka Ja Mama

Up until yesterday, I hadn’t listened to any of the Finnish songs, wanting to make the result a brand-new discovery. But having heard only good things about the finalists (bar the odd snarky comment) I couldn’t resist stopping by Youtube and feasting my ears on one of those handy recap videos made up of thirty-second snippets.

My verdict? Well, any seasoned ESC fan knows you can’t judge a song by one listen of an excerpt. That’s why I’m still holding out hope that I’m more impressed by the full song that wins than I was by any of the snippets. Don’t get me wrong, there was some promising stuff in there – but you UMK followers out there had me thinking I was going to be blown away by each and every one, darn you.

The songs that did appeal to me on snippet alone: God/Drug, Sängyn Reunalla and Top of the World. I’ve seen some of these crop up in the fandom (i.e. on social media/in blog comment sections) as favourites, and there’s a 50% chance one of them will win, so…happy face?

Truth is, I don’t have the authority to predict UMK 2014. But since I distinctly remember saying ‘meh’ to a snippet of Marry Me this time last year, that may be irrelevant.

Those in the know – what do you think? Who’s got the goods to represent Finland in Denmark?

 

Swiss-appointment in Die Grosse Entscheidungsshow  

Moving on to tonight’s second final, I must give you a warning: prepare yourself for a rather bitchy Jaz.

In all my history as an NF follower, I have never been impressed by the Swiss line-up, but I’ve always been able to console myself with the few musical gems present. Unfortunately, things have taken a turn for the even worse this year, because Switzerland is bringing us what I believe to be the worst national final line-up of ALL. TIME. I don’t even think Kanye West would interrupt me to disagree.

I actually miss Piero and his music stars. Oh dear god.

This year’s final is making me miss Piero and his music stars. Oh dear god!

For years I’ve been wondering what Switzerland’s problem is. Why have we been getting stuff on a par with The Wiggles’ Big Red Car year after year, save a couple of brief, shining examples of semi-decent music? This year, each Swiss broadcaster even had to go through an ‘Expert Check’ stage to whittle down their submitted list of songs to the best of the best (or so we were led to believe) and yet, the six songs remaining are a woeful bunch, IMHO. Perhaps the ‘experts’ in question thought their role was to sniff out any signs of potential Eurovision success and destroy them. If so, that misinterpretation has left us with these:

  1. Au Paradis by Christian Tschanz – gravelly-sung, inoffensive (read: boring) guitar pop. The only saving grace is that, since it’s in French and I hardly know any, I have no idea if the lyrics are up to the cringe-worthy standard of the English-language entries.
  2. Together Forever by 3 For All – okay, so the accordion riff is catchy, but everything else, title and group name included, is pure Swiss cheese. It makes me sicker than the thought of Engelbert Humperdinck in a mankini.
  3. La Luce Del Cuore by Nino Colonna – not awful, but forgettable. The kind of song that wouldn’t make it past the first evening of San Remo.
  4. I Still Believe by Yasmina Hunzinger – I hope you’re hungry, ‘cause here’s another hunk of Swiss cheese! This is 2014, and I think it’s beyond time for the rubbish ballads about believing and achieving and having faith and uniting as one to be shelved. Or preferably, binned.
  5. Une Terre Sans Vous by Natacha & Stéphanie – this actually borders on being nice, but that doesn’t stop it from being bland. If it goes to Copenhagen, expect it to be everybody’s toilet break song.
  6. Hunter of Stars by Sebalter – last but not least, a more alternative version of boring guitar pop. Some of the lyrics make no sense, which I happen to prefer over lyrics that encourage us to join hands and all that crap. Send this, Switzerland. Why not?

So yeah, you could say I’m disappointed in the Swiss. Last year’s Grosse Show at least had the likes of Carrousel, Jesse Ritch and Melissa raising the bar. This year, I can’t express enthusiasm for any particular song to win, and that makes me sad.

I can say who I think will win, and that’s 3 For All, Yasmina or Sebalter. Do you agree? Am I being too negative, or do you think Switzerland should just stay home and think things over this year?

 

Saturday’s saving grace, straight from Sweden

My Swiss rant is out of the way, so let’s get on to the good stuff. Melodifestivalen has arrived!

Call it a cliché, but Melfest has long been my favourite NF. The standard is always high (unless they’ve won Eurovision the year before) and it always attracts a great mixture of big names and relative unknowns. Last year Melfest provided my top ESC-related moment of the year when Robin Stjernberg emerged from Andra Chansen and won. I’ll never forget the look on his face when it dawned on him what had happened.

You could say Robin was taken by surprise...

You could say Robin was taken by surprise…

Winning saw him represent Sweden in Malmö Arena last May, and fittingly, that’s the location of tonight’s first semi final, which will begin and end with two of the aforementioned big names.

The eight competing songs were released earlier this evening. Here’s the running order.

  1. To The End by YOHIO
  2. Aleo by Mahan Moin
  3. Bröder by Linus Svenning
  4. Casanova by Elisa Lindström
  5. Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella
  6. Songbird by Ellen Benediktson
  7. Bygdens Son by Sylvester Schlegel
  8. Survivor by Helena Paparizou   
They're a handsome bunch, but are their songs as attractive?

They’re a handsome bunch, but are their songs as attractive?

It’s all about the soloists tonight, but – let’s not kid ourselves – mainly YOHIO and Helena. They may be getting a lot of love, but they’ll also be judged harshly on their previous efforts, YOHIO for Melfest 2013 and Helena for Eurovision 2001 and 2005. Did To The End and Survivor impress, or did the newer-comers leave the old-timers in their dust? Well, here’s my top 4.

Aleo this ain’t no cookie-cutter ethno-dance track, which means it’s not as instant as the Allez Ola Olés of the world, but I like that it keeps veering into unexpected places.

Bröder I expected heavy metal and death growls from the pierced and tattooed Linus (yes, I know what they say about books and covers and judging and whatnot) but this is actually really nice. There are heavier parts that allow him to get rough, but generally it’s quite nice. There’s some emotion in there that got me.

Bedroom hands down my favourite of the semi, this is a ridiculously catchy dance track that wouldn’t be out of place on the radio anywhere, if it weren’t for the risqué subject matter. I really hope this goes through, but that depends a lot on whether Alvaro can pull off a decent live vocal. If he can’t, it could be a train wreck.

Survivor how could I say no to Helena? Again, I had expectations that were defied, because this is not a schlager-scented club banger. It’s more of a pop ballad, with a strong chorus and verses. It doesn’t scream “WINNER!” but it should do her well.

Now, for prediction time…half of these semi-finalists will advance in some way as normal – the top two to the final, and the third and fourth-placers to Andra Chansen (which, as we now know, is not at all a sign they can’t possibly go on and win). This seems like an easy semi to predict as far as the finalists go, but we’ll see how what happens. This is what my gut is telling me:

To the final: YOHIO and Helena.

To Andra Chansen: Linus and Alvaro.

I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the favourites got bumped to Andra. Melodifestivalen has been both incredibly predictable and shockingly random in the past. Either way, it’s good to hear the show back at the usual standard, as indicated by this first lot of entries. I don’t think SVT will be in it (a.k.a. Eurovision) to win it again just yet, but it seems they’d like a stronger result than last year’s.

 

The tasty leftovers: what else is happening tonight?

This is a Super Saturday and a half, folks. Finland, Switzerland and Sweden aside, here’s what you can be watching while your non-Eurovision fan friends go out and socialise.

Heat 1 of Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin

Heat 2 of Hungary’s A Dal

Semi 1 of Latvia’s Dziesma

Show 8 of Lithuania’s Eurovizijos Dainu Konkursa

For a comprehensive list of what’s on, when, and where you can tune in, visit the guide over at Wiwi Bloggs. 

 

No matter what you choose as your Saturday night viewing, I hope you enjoy it. And don’t go too hard – the rest of February’s weekends will be just as busy, so you’ll need some energy for those. I know I’ll have a great time posting this ASAP then going to bed because I can’t be bothered getting up at 3am to watch a wonderful but highly predictable Melfest semi (which would be my NF of choice, obvs). Maybe I’ll dream of the day Switzerland becomes an ESC force to be reckoned with? 

 

What are you watching tonight? Who should win where? And, if you’re reading this post-Saturday night…OMG, what was up with that result?

 

About Jaz

I'm Jaz, I'm 26, and I'm 110% Eurovision-OBSESSED. The contest is one big party, and I like to keep it going 365 days a year - that's why I write about anything and everything ESC on my blog. Come join the fun, and I promise you'll never have a nul-point experience! www.eurovisionbyjaz.com/

Posted on February 1, 2014, in Eurovision 2014, Melodifestivalen and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’ve been following UMK, and with UMK I will stick, mainly because I have grown attached to MIAU and their homemade white felt spiky collars and their electro-80s-headbanger-punk-whatever-that-song-is. With the help of a link from Twitter and Google translate, I even put in a vote for it from California … at least I think I did. (Someone in Finland stole my .99 euros if not!) First time I’ve ever actually cast a vote in a Eurovision thing, and I’m stoked!

    My crusade against off-key singing is taking a beating in UMK, though, as Clarissa and Josh continue to march through the process. Yes, I know, a lot of people like the studio version, but they – especially Clarissa – are HORRENDOUS live, they will get barbecued by the juries if they make it to Copenhagen, and I don’t understand how there are people out there that can’t hear it. It’s not just me either. The UMK jurors all but PLEADED with viewers not to vote for them in the last semifinal, to no avail. I fear their fans will succeed in throwing them to the wolves, uh, sending them to Copenhagen, to be the next Tooji.

    I’m expecting the winner to be Softengine, Hanna Sky or Mikko, but still hoping for a miracle for MIAU. If MIAU wins by one vote, I’m gonna be SOOOO obnoxious …

    I figured Switzerland wasn’t worth paying any attention to (looks like a good call, sorry Switzerland) and just haven’t had time to fool with Melodifestivalin, though hopefully that’ll change.

    Like

    • On behalf of every Eurovision fan living outside of Europe, I would like to congratulate you on making a (possibly) legitimate vote happen! Unfortunately for you it wasn’t enough for MIAU. But they did well enough to be featured in many a ‘Best NF Runner-Ups’ post in the near future.

      I haven’t had the “pleasure” of watching a live of Clarissa and Josh, but based on your verdict I’m glad they didn’t win. I did really like what I heard of the studio version though.

      Switzerland = really not worth it, as much as I wish they were. I think I’ve finally learned my lesson, and will be steering clear next year.

      Like

      • Clarissa and Josh did a little better at the Final than they had previously, but were still the worst act there.

        The main thing I remember about the UMK final was that the audio mix was rather nasty for most of the acts, with the vocal mics thoroughly buried in the mix. In some cases, particularly Madcraft, it was so bad that you couldn’t understand the lyrics (whereas you could in the earlier heats). The best mixes, by far, were Softengine and MIAU. #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmmm

        Like

  2. Was I the one who over-inflated your UMK expectations? 😉 It’s honestly the strongest Eurovision-related event I’ve ever followed. All the songs bring something different to the table and I could make the case for any of the eight to get the ticket to Copenhagen.

    Like

    • It wasn’t just you!! And maybe I’m the problem anyway. You know, like Taylor Swift is to dating. UMK just can’t compare to many a Melfest of the past IMO. I would marry Melfest if it were at all possible.

      Like

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