It’s almost the end of January (holy Helena Paparizou!), but it doesn’t seem like much has happened during national final season. We’ve still got forty Eurovision 2017 entries to find and/or hear (forty-one if you include Albania’s Botë undergoing an extreme makeover) and the weekend finals are drip-dropping through Safura-style – not flooding in like they will in February.
But remember, not all of the interesting stuff is related to end results. We’re at a point in time when NF participants are consistently being unveiled, music is being released, heats are being held (or postponed, in Hungary’s case – my thoughts are with everybody affected by that tragic bus crash on Saturday) and news is breaking. So it’s been a more exciting month than it might seem! There’s been highs, lows, claims of plagiarism…basically, it’s your bog standard selection season, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
I’m going to celebrate that today by singling out some of my favourite and least favourite parts of the glittery pathway to Kyiv to date. Anything NF-related was up for grabs, so read on to find out who/what has made me shed sneaky tears of both happiness and sadness as I bow before the Eurovision shrine I have in my bedroom (am I joking? You’ll never know MWAHAHAHA). Be sure to share your personal highlights and lowlights with me when you’re done!
The blonde bombshell is back! Anja Nissen’s return to DMGP
About a year ago, when The Voice Australia winner Anja Nissen was announced as a participant in Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2016, I was over the moon thinking that I might be able to cheer for not one, but TWO Aussies while in Stockholm. That would have given my ‘Strayan flag a workout. But it wasn’t meant to be, despite Anja producing a flawless performance of Never Alone on the night (to be honest, Simone and her Heart Shaped Hole ended up being what I was crossing my fingers for anyway…so I was still devastated by the outcome). But our girl must have been buoyed by her second-place finish, because she’s back – hopefully with a) a bang, and b) the big guns! I’ve been so down in the dumps over Oscar Zia – Melodifestivalen’s most recent runner-up – saving himself for a beyond-2017 comeback, I didn’t stop to consider who else around Europe might give Eurovision glory another go. Now, ‘Danish Star Wars Episode II: Anja’s Return’ is a sequel I’m going to be first in line to see, and I really want it to be better than the original. In other words, without knowing how Anja’s competition measures up, I WANT HER TO WIN. She’ll be belting out Where I Am, a song co-written by X Factor Australia alumnus Angel Tupai, on February 25th at the Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning. I cannot wait.
First-time native tongue: Belarus’ golden ticket goes to a Belarusian song
It sounds strange to say it, but we’ve never had the Belarusian language on the adult Eurovision stage before. We’ve heard Crimean Tatar once and made-up stuff THREE times (Belgium’s a big fan) but between 2004 and 2016, it was heavily-accented English all the way for Belarus. Those of us who are Junior Eurovision fans might feel like that’s even less true, as all the Belarusian we’ve been exposed to there blends in with the country’s thirteen past ESC entries. And I have to mention their debut My Galileo, which, as a friend and I were joking about bitchily on Twitter the other day, may as well have been in a LOTE. But the freshly-crowned winners of a ticket to Kyiv known as NAVI will become the first act to head into our favourite musical battle armed with a song in Belarusian. That’s assuming the duo don’t do an English re-write of Historyja Majho Žyccia – but, as they’re famed for their folksy, 100% foreign-language back catalogue, it’s unlikely. As much as they might benefit from throwing a token English chorus in at the end, I’d encourage them not to. With English taking over at the ESC these days, singing in something else makes you stand out and diminishes the same-same effect of one non-ethnic, all-English song after another. Keep us happy by staying true to your style, NAVI. Pretty please?
A Dal delivers the goods once again: My discovery of Deák
You guys know that I’m hopelessly devoted to Melodifestivalen – but that doesn’t mean I don’t have any vacancies in the hotel of my heart for other national finals. I love both MGPs, I love MESC, I love Eesti Laul…and I absolutely adore Hungary’s A Dal. Like Estonia, Hungary always offers a handful of songs that are interesting and experimental, and don’t sound like anything you’ve heard anywhere else. The song I want to draw attention to right now popped up early in the first heat of A Dal, and though it does remind me of various K-pop songs I’ve listened to in the past (stylistically) it’s not a cookie-cutter copy of something else…and I have to admit, I don’t think we’d ever hear anything quite like it in Melfest. It’s called Deák, it’s by Spoon 21 (who competed in A Dal a few years ago with a totally different track) and though I know I’m calling it early, it may end up being my gem of this selection season. This sort of silky-smooth, anthemic synth-pop is so far up my street, one more millimetre and it’d be in the next neighbourhood. It had me at hello (a.k.a. the initial snippet of that hypnotic chorus) and I’ve been obsessed ever since. Okay, so Spoon’s live performance was questionable (not visually, but vocally). And, as they squeezed through to the semi stages in equal second place, they’re not going to win the whole thing even if they manage to make the final. But who cares? One of the things I love about NF season is how it allows us to discover truckloads of awesome new music from all over the continent that we can enjoy for the rest of our lives (or until we’re tired of it thanks to overplayage). Onto my ‘Best of the 2017 NFs’ playlist you go, Deák.
No more Mr. Nice Guys: Denmark’s ban on boy bands
If you’re confused right now, I understand. Not only have I made my unconditional love of boy bands (or man bands…the only differences between the two are time, voice depth and facial hair) as clear as Petra Mede’s now-infamous ‘let’s come together’ joke – I also just mentioned that I’ve fallen head-over-heels for an NF entry performed by a boy band. Yet I’m thrilled that Denmark is treating singing groups made up of males like vampires and refusing to invite them in? What the Emmelie de Forest is going on? Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve been desperate for a change in Denmark after two ESC non-qualifications in a row – and what’s the obvious alteration, given that the common chain-link between The Way You Are and Soldiers of Love is the amount and gender of their performers? Dictate that DMGP 2017 will be a boy/man band-free zone, of course. Yes, Denmark did very well with A Friend In London back in 2011; but it seems like they were the exception rather than the rule. A self-imposed vacation from groups lacking in ladies (and, as a matter of fact, groups WITH girl power) will ensure they’re sending something different – artist-wise, at least – to Kyiv. Maybe we’ll see them back in the top ten as a result.
And finally, the one that transformed us all into living, sobbing sadface emojis…
Gone girl: Amaya’s withdrawal from Evrovizijska Melodija 😦
Besides Ace Wilder and Anja Nissen, there was another female singer starting with A who I was super-excited to see potentially win her chosen national final. Well, her new and improved stage name starts with A, anyway. We knew her as Maja Keuc when she slayed on the ESC stage in 2011 (in one of my most lusted-after contest costumes of all time) and six years later, the time was supposed to be right for Amaya to make a comeback in Slovenia. Unfortunately, she’s decided that a different career opportunity that clashes with EMA must take priority (DAMN HER) and so, is out of the running on her own terms (DOUBLE DAMN HER). Just when my brain had established that she’d win by a landslide, flit off to Eurovision and secure Slovenia’s first ESC trophy, or at least a place on the podium! And do it all in another spectacular outfit. Talk about leaving us all with one-way tickets to What-ifs-ville USA. As someone who believes that everything – or almost everything – happens for a reason, I’m going to assume that Amaya: 2017 Edition just ain’t meant to be because something better is in her future. Meaning she’ll be back again (re-back? Alexander Re-back?) with something even more epic up her stylish sleeve than she had prepared this time. That attitude, of course, doesn’t stop me from mourning the loss of her from this year’s EMA line-up…hence why I’m complaining about it to you now. Join me, won’t you?
What have you enjoyed most about the Eurovision 2017 selection season so far? Which songs, acts and results have had you jumping for joy – or doing the opposite (whatever that is)? Let me know in the comments below!