It’s that time again, guys. Another February weekend is upon us, and it’s another frantic one. BRILLIANT! *dances on her own á la Robyn*.
Without further ado, let’s whip out that NF calendar and see what’s on the program for today and tomorrow.
- Estonia’s Eesti Laul – the second semi final (go, Grete Paia, go!)
- Finland’s UMK – the third semi final (with three more final tickets up for grabs)
- Hungary’s A Dal – the second semi final (can returnees Passed…well, pass?)
- Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin – the final (it’s Greta Salomé’s for the taking)
- Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – the seventh show (for god’s sake, Lithuania, just get on with it!)
- Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the third semi final (SAY YAY YAY YAY)
On Sunday night:
- Latvia’s Supernova – the semi final (feat. fan favourite Justs)
- Ukraine’s Still-Untitled NF – the final (it’s going to be an epic showdown)
Okay, so it’s not quite as crazy as last weekend. But I’m hoping it won’t be as disappointing, either (Ukraine, I’m looking at you. Don’t do a Denmark). For today’s reviews and predictions, I’m narrowing my scope and focusing purely on the goings-on in Sweden and Ukraine – and throwing in some thoughts on the songs and shocks of the week while I’m at it.
Let’s get cracking.
STOCKHOLM UPDATE: Two more entries make eleven + the stage is set + point changes + Poli = spontaneous combustion
Whew! This week has been bigger than Linda Wagenmaker’s tent dress when it comes to ESC 2016 news, with song presentations, artist announcements and voting revamps all bombarding us within a short space of time. For those of you still standing there shaking your heads and wondering what the heck is going on, here’s a recap of the most newsworthy headlines from the week just gone.
Bosnia & Herzegovina, back with a bang? Ljubav Je by Dalal & Deen feat. Ana Rucner & Jala (try saying that sentence three times fast when drunk. Or when sober – it won’t really make a difference) was premiered last night, but did it meet expectations? Well, that depends on what your expectations were. Personally, I was hoping for some Balkan drama, and I would say I got it. There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen here – specifically, two vocalists, a violinist and a rapper – and they all came together (SLOGAN JOKE) to film a video clip on par with Mihai Traistariu’s Paradisio in terms of tackiness (though this one probably cost five Euros as opposed to 15 000). But…I like this track. It’s bringing ethnicity to a field that is, so far, lacking in sounds that say ‘This is where we come from’. I suspect Ljubav Je will be bigger and better on stage than it is in studio, but we’ll have to wait and see how it travels. One thing’s for sure: it’s hard to associate 2016 Deen with the hip-thrusting, bleached-blonde Deen from 2004. Are we sure it’s the same person?
Georgia’s Midnight Gold: Nika Kocharov & the Young Georgian Lolitaz officially have their tune for the contest too, and it’s…un-Eurovision, to say the least. But I have to say, I’m digging it! It’s very reminiscent of Australian alt-rock, which is not normally a genre I enjoy – but there’s something cool about Georgia’s take on it. It will do horribly at Eurovision (no Midnight Gold or any-other-time gold for Nika and his pals) but I’m happy to do some lethargic head-banging to it nonetheless.
Stockholm’s stage design, revealed: Ja – and it’s a whopper! This year’s stage has been met with overwhelming approval, with many fans citing an aversion to Vienna’s as their reason for loving Stockholm’s so much (which is a little mean, IMO). I reckon the giant, geometric performance platform will look ultra-impressive in real life. Plus, it’ll apparently allow the artists to move “within” an LED backing wall, which will be interesting and/or painful if done incorrectly.
Chasing a nail-biting conclusion, the EBU approve a massive voting overhaul: Less popular with fans was the announcement that contest voting – or at least, the method of presenting points – will change in a massive way by taking inspiration from Melodifestivalen. Basically, the jury points will be handed out as usual, with spokespersons doing their 8, 10 and 12 duties. But later on, our gracious and good-looking hosts Måns and Petra (#Måntra) will proceed to award the collective televoting points, from lowest to highest, to each country. On the surface, I love the idea – after all, it keeps the winner secret until the last possible second, meaning there can be no more early exclamations of ‘It’s no longer possible for any other country to win!’ (which I only just finished complaining about over on ESC Insight). But, as with anything, there are pros and cons to the change. Both have been explored in more detail than I could dream of by the folks at Insight (who are not paying me to promote them, by the way) so hit that article up if you want the whole picture.
Poli Genova doing her duty for Bulgaria, again: To nobody’s surprise, Junior Eurovision 2015 hostess and Eurovision 2011 alumni Poli is back for a second crack at escaping her semi final. I think the majority of us agree she should have qualified in Düsseldorf, so now’s her chance to get revenge. On whom, I’m not quite sure. But she’s amazing, so let’s hope her song is the same.
Speaking of amazing music…let’s move on to Sweden and Ukraine, the locations of this weekend’s best NF installments as far as I’m concerned.
No offence to Iceland, or anywhere else, intended.
SWEDEN: Melfest’s next stop = Norrköping!
It’s hard to believe we’re at the halfway point of the six-week Melfest saga already. And, due to the recent Molly Sandén Incident (a.k.a. Leakgate), we’ve already heard snippets or full versions of every competing song for 2016. We’ve heard the host entry, in some capacity. Which song will have that title bestowed on it remains a mystery – especially in the lead-up to a semi as strong as this evening’s. I’m just saying, don’t put all your savings down on Ace or Molly S just yet.
Deltävling 3 looks like this:
- Kizunguzungu by SaRaha
- You Carved Your Name by Swingfly feat. Helena Gutarra
- Weight of the World by Smilo
- Kom Ut Som En Stjärna by After Dark
- My Heart Wants Me Dead by Lisa Ajax
- Put Your Love On Me by Boris René
- Human by Oscar Zia
The first comment I have to make is this: ‘Kizunguzungu’ is my new favourite word. I have absolutely no idea what it means – if anything – but SaRaha is having it given to her by the object of her affection, so I’m guessing it means ‘an expensive, diamond-studded Rolex’ or something like that. Or, you know…the other thing.
But I’m not here to deliver a sex talk, so let’s move on to my second, less smutty comment: this semi is TOO DAMN GOOD. There are more than four songs I want to see advance, and knowing that’s impossible is driving me crazy. #firstworldmelfestfanproblems. I’m pretty convinced that, while one ticket till final is more or less taken by a certain someone who may or may not be performing in slot seven, the other – and the two second chances – could be anybody’s.
These are the songs I’d like to see fighting over places one to four:
- Weight of the World The Svensktoppen Nästa winners always bring something special to Melfest, and they’re NEVER rewarded for it. I sincerely hope Smilo are the exception, because their blend of tropical house (their words, not mine) and Avicii-style folk-dance is the bomb. I really love this. It may not be a great performance piece, though.
- My Heart Wants Me Dead I’ve been familiar with Lisa ever since her unsuccessful JESC bid a few years back, and I’m so happy she’s popped up in Melfest. Her song is a little bit Selena Gomez, a little bit Zara Larsson, and 100% killer. She won over the Swedish public on Idol…can she do the same tonight?
- Put Your Love On Me Not bad for a footballer! If Panetoz sung in English, this is just the kind of thing I’d expect them to come out with, and that’s a huge plus. The chorus is repetitive, but when a song’s this irresistibly catchy, who cares? Not me.
- Human Last, but not least (he is, in fact, my favourite) is the beautiful creature that is Oscar Zia. His second attempt to represent Sweden comes with a maturity that was lacking in his last Melfest entry Yes We Can. Human is a contemporary, ear-catching power ballad that will end tonight’s performances with a bang, and a ticket to the final. Watch out, Ace/Molly S.
PS – I also love the joyous Afro-pop of Kizunguzungu. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: anything that could have made the cut for The Lion King soundtrack is guaranteed to be up my street.
So, who’s going direkt? I DON’T KNOW!!! Besides Oscar, of course. Him aside, I need major help. I’m leaning towards SaRaha or Lisa, but this is such a tough semi, I can’t split them – and there’s always the chance of someone else sneaking through (apart from After Dark). I don’t want to sit on the fence, so I’ll be brave and say Oscar…and SaRaha.
Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Swingfly and Lisa? Smilo and Lisa? This bit’s just as hard to predict. I think Smilo’s song is stronger than Swingfly’s, but a precedent has been sent for Svensktoppen wildcards to fail at the first hurdle. I’m going to stick with Swingfly and Lisa.
What do you think? This semi is the most competitive yet, so we’re likely to see another surprise (such as Isa’s failure to go straight to the final last week). Who’s off to Friends Arena, who’s getting a second chance, and who’s going home to consume copious tubs of ice cream in the wake of a crushing defeat?
UKRAINE: Six sensational songs must become one…so who IS the one?
It’s not as clear-cut a final as you might think.
Based on the results of the two semi finals, the frontrunners are Jamala and SunSay. But, with staging and costuming supposedly being ramped up for Sunday’s show (how The Hardkiss are planning on upping their costume game, I don’t know) – and the desire to win burning feverishly in the six acts’ bodies (I assume) – anything is possible. Ukraine can choose between very good and superb when it comes to the cream of their crop. That’s these guys:
- Every Monday by Brunettes Shoot Blondes
- Higher by NuAngels
- Helpless by The Hardkiss
- 1944 by Jamala
- Love Manifest by SunSay
- We Do Change by Pur:Pur
THEY’RE ALL SO GOOD. There’s nothing here that I would turn my nose up at in the context of this NF – but there are songs that would make better Eurovision entries than others, and songs I personally prefer.
My top three 1944, Higher and Helpless. As I said when I reviewed the first semi, I hated Jamala’s song in 2011, but she has blown me away this time around. 1944 is stunning. Poignant and unique, it blends 90s sounds with now sounds to create something that’s sentimental in the least nauseating way possible. And her vocal? Wow. I have no other words. NuAngels and The Hardkiss don’t even measure up, but they do have great songs up their sleeves. Higher is as catchy as heck, and the anti-Cezar nature of the ladies’ voices is a talking point (I think they took outfit advice from Cezar, funnily enough). As a package, this entry could serve Ukraine well at Eurovision. The Hardkiss have an intense, melancholy-but-powerful ballad in Helpless, which is wonderfully dramatic (it needs to be used to back a movie trailer, stat). If they make it to Eurovision, they’d have the potential to pull an Alyosha, should the scene be suitably set.
Who should win? Yes, I have three favourites – but the fairest of them all is Jamala, by a mile. This final has the potential to devastate me like Denmark’s did, should she not win. 1944, though kind of controversial in subject matter, is hauntingly beautiful and incredibly alluring (no bells, whistles or fire curtains are required to make it stand out). Nothing else in this final stacks up in terms of substance or style. I feel like everything happens for a reason, and in this case, I think Jamala lost out back in 2011 so she could come back with 1944 in 2016 (if that made any sense) and win her way to the ESC with zero cheese involved. Make it happen, Eurovision gods…or even Kanye West will cower in terror at the sheer force of my tantrum.
Who will win? It’s between Jamala, SunSay and NuAngels, I’m thinking. The former two acts won their respective semis, but should voters and jurors be divided when the pair go head-to-head, NuAngels could be the ones to nab the bulk percentage of points (making them this week’s Lighthouse X, only female and in possession of a more memorable song). Ultimately, my heart and head say Jamala. But is that wishful thinking? You tell me.
Seriously, tell me. If you have any hopes, dreams or expectations for this weekend’s NF results – and not just concerning the NFs I’ve rambled about today – let me know below. Is Greta Salomé a shoo-in to win in Iceland? Could Melfest’s fan favourite (and mine) Oscar Zia stumble and end up in Andra Chansen? Spill, people. You know you want to.
I’m going to say goodbye for now, but if you want to catch up with me on Twitter tonight (during Melfest) and tomorrow night (during the Ukrainian show), tweet me @EurovisionByJaz. I can’t guarantee any particular country’s outcome, but I can guarantee hilarious banter. That’s just as good, right?
Until next time…