Yes. Oui. Totes. Five years ago today (a.k.a. five years ago on June 27th…nobody reads this blog for its timeliness) I uploaded my very first and probably most cringeworthy post.
The story goes that back in 2009, having been forced to create a blog at uni, I decided to start one in the wake of the spectacular Moscow show that wouldn’t feature boring analyses of design theories. It would instead be about said Russian extravaganza, plus all the contests that had come before it and that we were yet to experience. I had been a grade-A Eurovision freak for four years prior, so I had a LOT of feels to express in the form of (hopefully) witty articles, lists, reviews and the like. So, keen to unload, I picked a blog theme that I thought was super sexy at the time, settled on Eurovision By Jaz as my nom de plume because I clearly wasn’t feeling overly creative, and got typing.
Fast forward half a decade, and I’m still here, whether you like it or not! EBJ may not be as wildly popular as certain other blogs that began after it (I’m not bitter…) but it has at least one regular reader (not including myself) and it has given me the opportunity to write for and be interviewed by other Eurovision websites, centre my life around Eurovision almost as much as I’d ideally like to, and connect with peeps in the Eurovision community from all over the world.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth putting in all the effort that I do – most of the time – to make EBJ a place that people want to come to; a place that treats the contest with the respect it deserves without taking it too seriously (i.e. I like to make funnies). Then I’ll get a comment or message from someone who not only read but also enjoyed one of my posts, or who just wants to lavish some love on the blog in general, and I remember why I’ve lasted this long and why I always want EBJ to be the best it can be (even if that’s mediocre). So to anyone who’s ever done that and made my day, or anyone who’s more of a silent type but who read something I’d written from start to finish, thank you/merci/grazie/tack/danke schön. My appreciation is like, THIS big (obviously you can’t see me right now, but I’m stretching my arms out extra wide).
Sorry for the cheese. I just wanted my 5th anniversary/birthday to come with a heartfelt speech, as all milestone celebrations should. Now it’s out of my system, I can tell you how I plan on marking this event, a month overdue. Today’s post will be the first of five to look back on all the contests I have witnessed as a blogger, from Oslo 2010 to Copenhagen 2014. I wanted to pick out some of the bests and worsts during this period that have made it memorable, and not just in terms of music.
I’m beginning in a pretty predictable place, but as I’ve only established my top 10 ESC entries of all time, not from a particular span of time, I figured it would be interesting for me and for you (anyone not interested wouldn’t be reading this, right?) if I sussed out which entries of the Years EBJ I really love most. So I did. Yeaahh.
These are my top 10 Eurovision songs that were selected and sent in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 or 2014. While you check them out, I’ll be deliberating over whetheror not to go all the way down Pathetic Street and bake myself a party cake (which I wouldn’t be doing with the help of Aarzemnieki since they’ve got like, NO clue at all). Enjoy?!?
#10 | I know that if the sky would fall, I’d survive it all, because of you…
You by Robin Stjernberg (Sweden 2013)
Melodifestivalen, my most beloved national final in the land, was pretty rubbish last year. Understandably rubbish – after all, hosts Sweden had no desire to win on home soil. I’m betting all they wanted was not to be embarrassed in front of millions of people. There were two or three (five at a push) entries in Melfest ’13 that would have granted them that wish, and underdog Robin’s You was one of them. I love this song because it’s a different and interesting pop song, plus a perfect platform to show off Mr. Stjernberg’s epic range. It has an authenticity to it that the more relaxed attitude towards host entries gives, and while that didn’t catapult it to success, it gave Sweden a respectable enough placing sans embarrassment.
#9 | Nije ljubav stvar, da bih ti je vratio…
Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović (Serbia 2012)
The day that Željko – the man behind my all-time ESC favourite Lane Moje – was announced as Serbia’s representative for Baku was one of the happiest I can remember (sad, I know). It was always going to be difficult for him to meet the standard he’d set on multiple past occasions with his second entry as artist/composer, and I have to admit, Lane Moje reigned supreme. But Nije Ljubav Stvar is a stunner of a Balkan ballad (a genre I am partial to) that puts as much emphasis on instrumentation as it does on lyrics, and slow-burns to an impressive crescendo. It is as mysteriously beautiful as everything ZJ produces. How about getting Serbia back in the game for show #60, my man?
#8 | Între soare si ploi se nasc mii di culori, dar noi vedem doar nori…
O Mie by Aliona Moon (Moldova 2013)
As much as I mourned the loss of the line ‘The Maya were not so wrong, it’s the end of the world…’ the Romanian version of this entry is lovely (and far less questionable, grammar-wise). Even if it was in Klingon I would love it. Who would have guessed that Pasha Parfeny of the trumpets and leather aprons could compose such an elegant, classy and ultimately explosive – in a good way – ballad? Not to mention appear onstage with Aliona and resist the temptation to do any ridiculous dancing. Props to you, Pasha.
#7 | I don’t know where to run from reality…
Love In Rewind by Dino Merlin (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2011)
Here’s another man from the Balkans who impressed me once at Eurovision prior to doing it again years later. A younger, partnered-up Dino who was yet to discover the joys of a tartan jacket performed Putnici in Jerusalem, which I’ve always found intriguing (Balkan artists do mystery better than Agatha Christie). It wasn’t a ‘typical’ ESC song, and neither was Love In Rewind, which Dino brought to the table in Düsseldorf. It’s not an easy song to describe, but I can pick out the elements that made me fall in love with it – for example, its charm, ethnicity, bouncy tempo and all-round infectiousness. The only unfortunate thing is I suspect the success of a man on the wrong side of young and fresh might have given the BBC the idea of recruiting Engelbert.
#6 | Undo my sad, undo what hurts so bad…
Undo by Sanna Nielsen (Sweden 2014)
Yeah, this is happening. Accept it. My love for Queen Sanna should have been apparent to y’all way before this point, so I’m sure you won’t mind my gushing just a teensy bit more re: Undo. The fact that I was invested in this woman before she even cropped up for stab seven in Melfest, flipped out when she won and cried when she debuted in the first semi in Copenhagen = a slight bias, but I genuinely believe Undo is her best effort to get to Eurovision – and hey, it worked! While some call it clinical and cliché, the tinkling piano, electronic influences and Sanna’s crystal-clear vocal gets me every time. And despite my role as a senior sergeant in the Grammar Police, I will be using ‘undo my sad’ as a legitimate phrase on a regular basis.
#5 | Che da sempre sei per me l’essenziale…
L’Essenziale by Marco Mengoni (Italy 2013)
I throw the word ‘catchy’ around a lot when describing songs I like, because it’s a heavily-weighted piece of criteria for me. I don’t often get all deep and meaningful with ‘emotional connections’ and stuff like that. However, I get the big-time feels from the (probably unreliable internet) translation of this classy Italian number. Italy has put forward four very different but equally worthy entries since they made their big comeback, but this is the one I’ve loved most because not only is it catchy (in a down-tempo, arm-waving kinda way) but I connect with it on that emotional level. #obscureyetcheesy.
#4 | I’m done tipping on my toes…
This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (Sweden 2010)
You don’t need a magnifying glass to see why this didn’t qualify based on the performance – and yet, I still weep a little inside whenever I think about it (while wearing my Anna-brand party dress and Converse in a poor imitation). I LOVE this song. Lyrically, it makes no sense, but it just sounds so pretty, and Anna’s voice has a huskiness to it that makes it rough around the edges – a.k.a. less cookie-cutter than some other Swedish entries. I can see why so many people thought it had a winning chance.
#3 | Ne jednom, ne dvaput, tri puta me…
Ovo Je Balkan by Milan Stanković (Serbia 2010)
I feel like this should be a guilty pleasure, but at the same time I’m not embarrassed to proclaim my love to the world (my 2010 crush on Milan and his ridiculous haircut, however, MUST stay between you and me). How could anyone resist those trumpets and Balkan Balkan Balkans? NOT ME!! Everything about this is fun and loud and effortlessly ethnic…in fact, it really speaks for itself.
#2 | Mert nekem nincs most más, csak a kedvesem, az én kedvesem…
Kedvesem (Zoohacker Remix) by ByeAlex (Hungary 2013)
Hungary is fast becoming one of my favourite competitors, and a country I’m watching based on suspicions that a Eurovision in Budapest ain’t too far away. Since they joined Italy in making a 2011 comeback, it’s been bam after bam after bam (the bams of course representing quality entries) and for me, nothing bammed more than last year’s Kedvesem. It packs a quiet punch, but the extra impact given by the Zoohacker remix – as beautiful as ByeAlex’s original version is – is undeniable. It was love at first listen for me and this unique masterpiece.
#1 | Sa kuula, ka südamel on hääl…
Kuula by Ott Lepland (Estonia 2012)
I didn’t know quite how enamoured I was with this until I couldn’t rank anything above it – at least, nothing from 2010 onwards. And before you say it, no, my judgment has not been clouded by my unconditional, unwavering and as yet unrequited love for Ott (believe me, one of these days you will be calling me Mrs. Lepland). To some, Kuula is dull, but to me, it’s a stunner that shows off both Ott’s epic vocal capabilities and the beauty of the Estonian language. I love that it ends where it begins: softly, having built up to a crescendo in-between. Just…sigh.
So now you know which songs have made me the happiest kind of fan since EBJ got off the ground, whether you wanted to or not (mwahahaha). As your birthday gift, try not to object to my taste too aggressively when you tell me your top songs from recent history down below.
The next post in my 5th anniversary series will naturally cover the entries that make me want to rip my ears off, or at least plug them up with whatever’s lying around, so look out for that. I promise the gaps between postings will become less mahusive from now on.
Thanks again for being here, whether you’ve stuck by me for years or you’re a newbie who’s yet to realise what you’ve got yourself in for. Viva la ESC ramblings!
Until next time…