Bonjour! You’re reading eurovisionbyjaz.com – yep, the ‘.wordpress’ is finally a thing of the past, in case you missed me plastering that all over my social media on the weekend – and this is Part 7 of the Viennese Verdicts. There’s just one set of songs left to review after today, and I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s worth a ‘hooray!’ or a ‘hell no!’. Though if you’re not up for checking out the EBJ Jury’s catty critiques (with the occasional compliment thrown in to prove we’re not unfeeling cyborgs) you’d have clicked away by now. Right?
Those of you sticking around may have trouble believing this, but rehearsals in Vienna are already underway. Where the fu…er, I mean, feather boa, did the last twelve months go?
I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that it is physically paining me to not be tapping away at my laptop keyboard in the swanky Austrian press centre. I desperately wish I was on site, regularly caressing my official lanyard and socialising with other peeps who love Eurovision and write stuff *makes über-ugly cry face*. So I’m using this post, and all posts yet to come pre-ESC as a distraction from that pain. Just so you know, in case they come across all angsty.
So let the distraction commence! Facing the music (HA HA) today will be Finland, San Marino, Denmark, Estonia and Greece. Their fate is in the hands of one familiar face, one not-so-familiar face, and me. You have to feel sorry for these countries…
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Nick Provenghi: “Like one esteemed (and infamous) Valentina Monetta, I’m back! Sadly, though, I won’t make it through to the final, as I can’t come back a third time *sad face*. Nevertheless, I’m more than eager to sink my teeth into another batch of songs! But before that, it’s worth noting that ESC 2011 in Düsseldorf (loved having the umlaut, BTW) was the first contest I followed. And in this batch of songs, I actually have the country that sent my winner from 2011! Hopefully they’ve delivered something on par with their four-year-old entry (spoiler: they haven’t…no one in 2015 has).”
Visit Nick’s Eurovision blog here.
James Sayer: “Hello! I’m James, a 19-year-old Creative Writing student at Edge Hill University…which is near Liverpool (nobody has ever heard of it, I’m aware. It’s lovely though, promise.) In Eurovision circles, you may know of me from ESC Views, which I set up and co-ran with Rory [a fellow member of the EBJ Jury] for most of last year (and then uni happened, and I had to leave. Sad times. Rory keeps it going now though, and he does a fabulous job, if I do say so myself!). My favourite Eurovision entry ever is Horehronie. Gravity. Shady Lady. Olou Tou Kosmou I Elpida. THIS QUESTION IS TOO DIFFICULT. I’ve never been to see Eurovision live, although this is literally my number one life goal. Until then, I fill my time by writing poems (I’m not THAT pretentious, I swear) and hosting awesome flat parties, which may or may not be an elaborate excuse to subliminally shove obscure European music down my unsuspecting friends’ throats without them realising *mwahahahahaaa*. Also, it’s rumoured that my hair has magical powers. I cannot confirm or refute this statement.”
Jasmin Bear: “I loved the umlaut too, and for the record, I DO believe that James’ hair has magical powers.”
This round of VVs is all about groups and duos – plus a Céline Dion impersonator – by pure chance (I literally pulled these out of a hat). Read on to find out how Nick, James and I rate PKN, Michele & Anita, Anti Social Media, Elina & Stig and Maria Elena’s respective three minutes.
Aina Mun Pitää by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät
Nick: Punk and Eurovision – who would’ve thought it? Well, technically, I wished for a kind of punk to win Finland’s NF last year, but that’s the past. Anyway, when PKN won UMK, I wasn’t as enthusiastic as I am now. Initially, I was furious that my favourites, Satin Circus and Järjestyshäiriö, lost out to what sounded like pure noise. But with time, I was able to accept the losses and actually listen to Aina Mun Pitää in a fair context. And for what it is, it isn’t half bad! It’s got a strong punk sensibility and the lyrics are probably the most unique and “heartfelt” of the year. Sure, it still annoys me after about a minute, but that’s pretty much the whole song, so whatever. In the end, I’ve come around to support PKN, even more so after the (hilarious) outrage over their “every other song is crap” comment. I’m even able to support my pet country now! I don’t support the song, but having said that, a high finish from Finland could see more rock entries in the contest, and that’d be just amazing. 5 points.
James: I am still not over this. Finland should have sent Satin Circus, Solju, Opera Skaala…hell, just about ANYTHING from UMK would have been better than Aina Mun Pitää. Ignoring the elephant in the room with this one is just impossible. Yes, these guys are handicapped. Why, may I ask, does that excuse the fact that their song is a pile of steaming horse shite? Just listen to the bloody thing (if your ears can bear it). I’ve smashed plates that made a more pleasing noise than that. It’s honestly as though the four band members are all playing different songs and just happen to be doing so in close proximity to the others. They can’t keep in time with each other! I feel like I should insert a politically correct line here like ‘I appreciate the difficulties they’ve overcome, and I’m glad to see them enjoying themselves’…but in all honesty I don’t, and I’m not. The Finnish entry makes me angry because they beat some amazing songs on a SYMPATHY vote, and will probably do ridiculously well in Vienna on the same basis. This is not the X-Factor, where sob stories are part and parcel of the whole shebang. Eurovision is a SONG contest, and this mess is just not good enough. I’m sorry, but I can’t give this any more than 0 points.
Jaz: Back when PKN won UMK, my reaction was, fittingly, OMG – WTF?!? Finland may have impressed me by embracing all genres for the purposes of their 2015 NF (opera, folk, alt-rock, the ultimately triumphant punk…everything was accounted for) but they horrified me by choosing Aina Mun Pitää. I’m telling you, I spent an entire hour attempting to pick my jaw up off the floor that evening. I am not a punk fan at the best of times, and tend to avoid it like a very loud plague. So naturally, I couldn’t believe that a minute-and-a-half of migraine-inducing noise had been voluntarily selected by a country to represent them at Eurovision (over the fun and freshness that we all agree is Crossroads by Satin Circus, mind you). As I said at the time, I have nothing against PKN themselves, and I hope they have a blast in Vienna. I also think it’s great that they’re using music as an outlet for their frustrations, helping those of us who do not have to live with disabilities better understand what it’s like (there’s that PC statement James stylishly sidestepped). The problem is, I’m not 100% sure that what Finland have here IS music. I have mellowed since that fateful final, having reached the point where one must accept that a certain song is competing and that’s that. I.e. there’s no point in swearing like a profanity buzzer personified on Twitter about it. But the bottom line is that punk is not my cup of tea. Finland is not my #40 song of the year at the moment, as I actually appreciate how memorable it is, and how it couldn’t be any less cheesy even though it’s a message song of sorts. But there’s no hook here, no real tune, and no spectacular vocals to admire/distract us from the terrible song (more on Greece later). If people vote based on song, and jury members do the same, this shouldn’t qualify. If they opt for sympathy votes instead, Aina Mun Pitää may be through, and from there, anything could happen. That’s precisely what worries me, because there’s no way this deserves to outdo Something Better. It most definitely isn’t something better. 3 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 2.67
Chain of Lights by Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini
Nick: Oh, look who’s back – the only person who’s been a more frequent participant than Valentina Monetta for lovely little San Marino, songwriter Ralph Siegel. What’s different now is that he’s recruited JESC veterans Michele and Anita to do his dirty work this year. And he’s managed to out-musty Maybe as the most 80s-tastic schlager-esque revival song ever. Michele and Anita are both capable vocalists, and it’s unfortunate that their talents are wasted on this dirge. At least we’ll get to see them two more times when they come back next year and when they finally qualify in ESC 2017. 3 points.
James: I still haven’t listened to this all the way through once. I just can’t. Siegel is bankrolling the entire country, apparently, and I’m desperately sad for Michele and Anita. They’re young, talented singers, and because of unfortunate financial restrictions, they’re stuck singing this dreary monstrosity, which is basically Switzerland 2006 and ValMon 3.0 shoved into a particularly temperamental blender and regurgitated as a particularly sickly blancmange. I found an interview with them, can’t remember where, but they specifically said they wanted to sing something modern and uptempo. This is neither, and I feel like it’s going to be the cringiest, most uncomfortable thing that we’ll have to sit through in Vienna. At least we’ll only have to do so once, in their semi. 1 point, purely because it’s marginally better than Finland.
Jaz: The reign of Valentina may have ended *sighs with relief* but that (apparently) doesn’t mean that Ralph Siegel has given up on Eurovision. Presumably because San Marino made the final last year with one of his compositions – which I still believe was an ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake…just give them what they want!’ vote – they figure Siegel is their third-time-lucky charm. Well, if the mess that is Chain of Lights is any indication, they are very, very wrong. I had such high hopes for Anita and Michele. They’re both talented, camera-ready, and, thanks to their Junior Eurovision experiences in 2013 and 2014 respectively, well-equipped to handle the hullabaloo (that word does not get used enough) of the adult Eurovision weeks, despite their young age. All they needed was an age-appropriate song that was remotely contemporary, and they would have been well on their way to not being humiliated in front of millions of people. What they have instead is a megamix of three different entries from Eurovision 1982, none of them good ones. This song leaves me with so many questions. Why do I know it’s a mish-mash disaster, yet at the same time I have trouble remembering how it goes? Why does the chorus remind me so much of Lionel Richie’s Hello, a song I actually like? And why is Siegel still under the impression that he can succeed at Eurovision when he hasn’t since the 1990s? I may never get the answers to these questions, but one I can answer myself is ‘will San Marino qualify this year?’. No, they will not. And that really blows for two teens who could have put the Tolmachevy Sisters to shame with a better song up their sleeves. 3 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 2.33
The Way You Are by Anti Social Media
Nick: Ooh, controversy! Just like Finland’s, Denmark’s selection generated huge amounts of rage when fellow JESC veteran and Eurofan favourite Anne Gaadegard’s Suitcase lost out to this. And having totally forgotten both the winner and runner-up since my first listens (my fave was Julie Bjerre’s adorable Tæt På Mine Drømme), I came to the unpopular agreement with the Danish jurors. Anti Social Media’s song has a lot of pop simplicity that I appreciate, and since it technically falls into the genre of pop-rock, I have an automatic bias for it. The chorus is immediate and very catchy, and the groove is a fun one, a rarity for 2015! That being said, the live performance is shaky, and I’m not a huge fan of the lead singer’s voice. And after a while, it really did get on my nerves, but I’m coming around to it again. Considering that the last Danish entrant to do that was one Miss de Forest, that could bode well (or badly, if you’re DR) for Denmark. 6 points.
James: Luck of the draw has saddled me with a load of entries which will make you guys think I am a complete bitch. I do apologise, and I promise you there ARE songs I love this year…but Denmark’s ain’t one of ‘em. This infuriatingly faux-happy THING offends me, and I don’t even know why – it’s just the way it is (see what I did there? Jaz will be proud). It just makes me frown a lot, and want to skip it every time I hear that intro. Denmark do this quite often. I hated Cliché Love Song, I hated Should’ve Known Better, I hated New Tomorrow…need I go on? Stop with all this fake happiness!! I mean, come on – this is a country where the music industry is full of fabulously moody electro divas like Medina. WHY CAN’T WE HAVE ONE OF THEM FOR THE ESC?!?!? Ugh. If it’s any consolation, my friend Izzy really likes this one. And it’s probably gonna qualify and do annoyingly well. There, I said something positive. 2 points, purely because it’s marginally better than San Marino. There’s a pattern emerging here…
Jaz: Ah, Denmark…another country that had me swearing on social media once their national final had concluded. There’s got to be irony in that somewhere, considering the winning act was Anti Social Media. I was almost as outraged by their DMGP win as I was by PKN’s victory, as The Way You Are was my least favourite contender to represent last year’s hosts. I didn’t think it was dreadful – like, San Marino-level dreadful – but it was musical wallpaper to me. Hence why I may have had an over-dramatic reaction to it beating Anne Gadegaard’s Suitcase by a miniscule margin. But over time, I’ve stopped sobbing and screaming ‘IF ONLY!’ into my pillow, and come to accept that this song does have its place in the 2015 field. It is peppy, after all, and reasonably energetic, and god knows we need an injection of peppiness and energy in Vienna. It’s also cool by default because it’s retro: 1960s-esque, so still set apart from the 1920s-esque UK entry. However, I still have a problem with The Way You Are, which is a problem I often have with Danish entries (Cliché Love Song not included, because that was the bomb dot com). They’re competent, they’re catchy, and they’re well-performed…but they don’t excite me. I can’t connect with them on a level that in the past, would make me cheer for them, and this year, will make me vote for them. Anti Social Media are personable boys/men, and their song is good, but it’s not great by my standards. Still, I’m not a harsh judge, so they get 6 points from me.
EBJ Jury Score: 4.67
Goodbye To Yesterday by Elina Born & Stig Rästa
Nick: My Danish love story was repeated on a grander scale with the Estonian entry, as I downloaded it in January and called it something to the effect of a “beacon of light.” Nowadays, it’s fighting a losing battle to stay in the good graces of my scoreboard. The problem hasn’t necessarily been overplaying, it’s been that the song is starting to show its weaknesses. Lyrically, it’s a bit of a mess, repeating the same words over and over but maintaining a façade of depth. The music is probably its strongest asset, and I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for the opening, but after that, it doesn’t really do anything for me. Finally, the worst part has to be the live vocals, which have sounded ropey from both parties from what I’ve heard. All that means that Estonia’s falling onto the wrong side of six points. 5 points.
James: Didn’t like this at first. Didn’t get it AT ALL…until I got the CD and started actually listening to it, that is. Because yeah, okay, I must admit it’s pretty fantastic. I still don’t understand the ‘OMG IT’S GONNA WIN’ hype, but I’m really enjoying the song now, so I’ll roll with it. I’ve known about Elina Born for a while, and I still think she can do better than this, and sonically, that ‘breathing in a deep sleep pace’ line still makes me cringe every time…I don’t even know why, Stig just spits it out and it’s horrible. And it doesn’t even really make sense. But enough of that, I’m nitpicking. Probably trying to justify why I didn’t like it at first. It’s such a grower, it really is. It’s got nothing on the absolute magic of Calm After The Storm and the comparisons are unavoidable, but it’s a nice entry nonetheless. 6 points.
Jaz: Stig and Elina won their way to Eurovision in a landslide victory that would have been comparable to Andreas Kümmert’s, had he accepted his win. They wiped the floor with the competition in their own country, and they’re a formidable force coming into the next, most important stage of battle. Of course, much of that status is being attributed to their Common Linnets resemblance, which as far as I can see extends to Stig being a man á la Waylon, and Elina being a woman á la Ilse DeLange. Calm After The Storm and Goodbye To Yesterday are different creatures, and with a totally different dynamic between the pairs performing them. I didn’t see The Netherlands as the dark horse they turned out to be last year, as I liked but didn’t love their song (though I felt the same way about Anouk’s Birds, so perhaps I should have seen it coming) but Estonia 2015, I see. I’m not convinced we’ll be headed to Tallinn next May, but all in all I am very impressed with what the strangely attractive Stig and the not-so-strangely attractive Elina are bringing to Vienna. Goodbye To Yesterday is another retro-tinged track (although it’s far more subtly so than the Danish/UK entries) and it’s blended with a guitar pop sound that is super on-trend outside of the ESC sphere. It’s moody and melancholy without being depressing, and it’s lyrically rather clever – it tells a tale while repeatedly reinforcing the central idea via the choruses. That dynamic I mentioned earlier is intriguing. Stig and Elina are having a musical conversation with each other, but they’re letting us in on it too as they each reveal their side of the story. ‘I didn’t want to wake you up/why didn’t you wake me up?’ just works. I can’t help but be hooked on this, folks. There are songs I like more, but the bleakness and uniqueness of GTY is mesmerising to the ears – and that so-close-but-so-distant NF presentation is mesmerising to the eyes. This is a strong package that should be feared by most, if not all, of the 2015 participants. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.00
One Last Breath by Maria Elena Kyriakou
Nick: Where’d it all go wrong, Greece? The refreshed NF format born in 2013 has thrown up some gems, but this year it just flopped completely. This ballad was the only non-ethno touched song of the five, and I initially gave it pity points for that. But then it had to stand on its own and it nearly fell down the stairs. It’s the definition of a lame lady ballad (stealing that term from you, Jaz!), with its sappy lyrics and ridiculous score. That’d kinda be okay if Maria Elena could save the song, but judging that performance from the NF, she can’t. Maybe that’ll change in Vienna, but for now, this is a basement dweller for me. And, if nothing improves, it should keep Greece in the semis for the first time ever. Poor thing. 1 point.
James: Oh, Greece? I genuinely forgot this song was even in the competition. It came up on shuffle the other day, and it was at about 2 minutes 30 seconds before I finally remembered which one I was listening to, having mentally crossed off a whole host of more memorable lady ballads from this year first. That can’t be a good sign. I mean, once I get over the fact that I forgot it existed, One Last Breath isn’t too bad as a song, I guess. But at the same time, it’s one of those LLBs that does absolutely bugger-all for 90% of the song and then gets all dramatic and angsty in the last chorus, and leaves you feeling a bit like ‘um…okay, calm down love, what was all that for?’ Nah, sorry Greece. You’ve lost the plot. 4 points (wow, I’m being nice…).
Jaz: In this year of ballads, it’s great that we have a country like Greece – a country that can be relied upon to liven things up with some big, fun, ethno-pop number. The last thing we needed from them was an aspiring Céline Dion in an evening gown, peddling a mournful love ballad that would suck the life out of us all. So it really is wonderf-what? What’s that you’re saying? That IS what Greece has given us? Oh yeah, I forgot. On PURPOSE. I get that last year’s rap/dance fusion feat. trampoline didn’t fare so well (which is a complete mystery to me, by the way) but is that justification to head off in the total opposite direction? I mean, there are like, zero trampolines involved in Maria Elena’s entry. One Last Breath – a final intake of air that is not the result of too much trampolining – is a power ballad in the vein of Anna Vissi’s Everything, which worked on home ground in 2006 because a) it was way more powerful, b) it was way more memorable, and c) it was 2006. Even though Maria Elena is as beautiful as her voice, her song is passé, which is even more evident when it’s placed beside more relevant ballads like Norway’s and Italy’s. This is Greece we’re talking about, so no doubt they’ll qualify to the final. But I cannot foresee One Last Breath making much of a splash once it gets there. Then again, I thought Rise Up was a top 10 cert, and look how wrong I was about that. Athens 2016, anyone? 4 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 3.00
Well, that was…unimpressive. The quality of the songs in this round, that is – not what we said about them (we were hilarious). Here’s proof of the mediocre scoring we couldn’t avoid doling out:
- Estonia (7.00)
- Denmark (4.67)
- Greece (3.00)
- Finland (2.67)
- San Marino (2.33)
So Elina and Stig win the day, albeit with one of the lowest winning average scores to date.
Estonia hasn’t scored highly enough with the EBJ Jury to squeeze into our collective top 10. How far up have they been ranked? And is poor San Marino sitting at #40? You’ll have to drop by for the final installment of the Viennese Verdicts to find out. If you want to know exactly when that post goes live and you’re not already subscribed to EBJ/stalking my social media, you can subscribe or follow me on Twitter/like my Facebook page (all links are over in the sidebar). I would appreciate it like Dima Bilan appreciates nobody bringing up Mulletgate ’06!
All will be revealed then…but not before James returns to judge, alongside Fraser from escTMi and moi (duh), Portugal, Australia, Latvia, Macedonia and Belarus. Whether you need a break from reading rehearsal gossip by then or not, please come and check it out. ‘Tis the season to be all over all things Eurovision, ‘tis it not?
On that note, I want to know how you’d rank today’s reviewed entries, so spill in the comments.
Until next time…
PS – I must quickly mention the results of the 2015 OGAE poll, which started and finished in a flash. As you’re probably aware, Italy took the prize (meaning I am doing a very stylish victory dance as I type this) which may signify that they’re going to follow suit on May 23rd, or that they’ll have to settle for bronze like last year’s OGAE winner Sweden. Of course, it could also signify nothing of the sort. But I have to celebrate the implications of my entire top 3 ending up in the poll’s top 5 – Italy first, Sweden second, and Norway fourth. My fingers are crossed that these results bode well for Eurovision success of some sort. Let me know below how your favourites scored with the OGAE clubs!