Well, just like that (a.k.a. two weeks ago) the 2019 Eurovision selection season is over. We have a full house of 42 41 entries, with their performers starting rehearsals behind closed doors, filming postcards on the ground in Israel, and prepping for the April pre-parties.
While they’re busy doing that stuff, I’m busy not letting go of NF season yet. I can’t, not before I’ve given credit to all the amazing songs that came close to becoming ESC entries this year…and given the thumbs down to the ones that had me breathing a sigh of relief when they WEREN’T chosen. I’ve got a list of general favourites for you guys later, but today I’m focusing on the songs that, with a few extra points to their name or a little change in fortune, could easily have been traveling to Tel Aviv. They, my friends, are the songs that finished second.
26 national finals were held between December 2018 and March 2019, and I’m about to rank and review all 26 of their silver medallists on a scale from ‘DEAR LORDI, MAKE IT STOP!’ to ‘Play it again, Sam…and again…again? JUST ONCE MORE, SAM, I’M BEGGING YOU!!!’. Because I don’t like too much fun going down, I did put a few rules in place for this ranking:
- When there wasn’t a clear runner-up due to format or a lack of transparency (I’m talking to you, BBC) I’ve picked my personal fave from the pile of potential runners-up. With Hungary, for example, I chose my top song from the three that were beaten by Joci Pápai’s in the A Dal televoting decider.
- Since I tend to ramble, basically writing an essay every time I post, I decided to challenge myself to review each song in just two sentences. Some of them are freaking long sentences (a leopard can’t totally change its spots) but it’s the thought that counts. I hope you enjoy this shorter and sweeter Jaz while she lasts.
Now, let the criticising and complimenting begin! Apologies in advance if I’ve dragged a song you adore, but know that I’ve probably also gushed over one you hate. It all evens out in the end.
PS – Speaking of ‘the end’, if you didn’t get the title in-joke, that must mean you missed this glorious moment from the 2019 allocation draw:
As haughty as it is hilarious, incoming co-host Assi’s iconic line is the perfect way to describe the fate of these tracks. Agree, disagree, or agree to disagree with my ranking in the comments.
#26 | Tower of Babylon, Lorena Bućan (Dora, Croatia)
If you’ve always wondered what a musical episode of Game of Thrones would be like, wonder no more. This song was all kinds of ‘thank u, next’ to me when I first checked out the Croatian finalists, and having listened to it again, I’m even more turned off.
>The Dream? Absolutely not.
#25 | Sevdisperi Zgva, Liza Kalandadze (Georgian Idol, Georgia)
This is okay, but it doesn’t make an impression on me for better or for worse – and sometimes I’d rather hate something than be indifferent to it. Liza has a pretty voice that deserves to be used in a less dated and much more memorable way.
>Sul Tsin Iare? Not better, but equally non-event.
#24 | Sweet Lies, Kerrie-Anne (Eurovision: You Decide, United Kingdom)
Kerrie-Anne’s version of Sweet Lies is catchy and danceable, I’ll admit…but it’s also straight out of the 90s and not in a good way. My ultimate dealbreaker is The Worst Lyric of All Time™: ‘Well, but anyways and somehow, and somehow’.
>Bigger Than Us? No way!
#23 | I Will Not Surrender, Maxim Zavidia (O Melodie Pentru Europa, Moldova)
This song is better than the crappy title suggests it will be, but only just. I don’t know if Moldova dodged a disaster with Maxim finishing second to Anna or not, but I do know that I miss the Sunstroke Project like crazy right now.
>Stay? Not that it’s an achievement, but yeah.
#22 | Kaos, Raiven (EMA, Slovenia)
Raiven is slowly becoming the Sanna Nielsen of Slovenia, and there are moments of Sanna-level awesomeness in Kaos to match. Then there are the parts when she repeats the title over and over and over again and makes me even happier that Sebi swooped in (like a Raiven? HA HA HA) and took the win.
>Sebi? NOTHING IS.
#21 | You Make Me So Crazy, Markus Riva (Supernova, Latvia)
If Markus couldn’t get to Eurovision with Take Me Down or This Time, he 110% did not deserve to get there with this uninspired dance track. I hope for his sake this was a blip, not the start of a downhill journey of musical desperation.
>That Night? Nope.
#20 | Space Sushi, Jakub Ondra (Eurovision Song CZ, Czech Republic)
Nothing can ruin a reasonable song faster than calling it Space Sushi and thinking the lyrics ‘My eyes are bigger than my belly and I will keep them that way, be humble, don’t mumble, for there will be a day when my eyes won’t be big enough’ are acceptable. Spoiler alert: THEY AREN’T.
>Friend of a Friend? Not even close.
#19 | Nema Suza, Dženan Lončarević (Beovizija, Serbia)
Finally this Balkan ballad is bringing us into ‘I might actually listen to that again of my own free will’ territory. It’s not a patch on anything Željko Joksimovic has composed or breathed in close proximity to, but it’s classy and dramatic and I can tolerate it.
>Kruna? No – Nevena can keep her crown.
#18 | Hvað ef ég get ekki elskað?, Friðrik Ómar (Söngvakeppnin, Iceland)
Friðrik left Euroband and This Is My Life far behind with this (impossible to pronounce) track. It’s a little vanilla and missing an obvious hook, but still a good effort from someone who probably doesn’t gyrate around in skimpy waistcoats as much as they used to.
>Hatrið Mun Sigra? Chalk and (latex-flavoured) cheese, but I don’t think so…
#17 | Igual A Ti, NBC (Festival da Cançao, Portugal)
This was one of my favourites from FdC 2019, and if Portugal hadn’t decided to go experimental (which I’m excited about) I would have happily settled for this as their entry for Tel Aviv. Comparing it to Telemóveis, though, it comes off rather boring.
>Telemóveis? No way, José.
#16 | I Tuoi Particolari, Ultimo (Sanremo Music Festival, Italy)
I am yet to find an Italian song that isn’t sophisticated AF, unlike myself. While I find Ultimo’s a bit inaccessible in terms of remembering how it sounds (I literally just listened to it and couldn’t sing it back to you to save my life) I know that it was no exception to that rule.
>Soldi? I know I said this about Slovenia already, but again, NOTHING IS.
#15 | The Bubble, Adrian Jørgensen (Melodi Grand Prix, Norway)
This song – co-written by Aleksander Walmann minus JOWST – is pretty precious, albeit kind of annoying if I’m not in a warm-and-fuzzy mood. I know it’s about a breakup, but anything with the word ‘bubble’ in it is bound to be sugary sweet to some extent.
>Spirit In The Sky? This question puts the ‘no’ in Norway.
#14 | Light On, Monika Marija (Eurovizijos Atranka, Lithuania)
MM was supposed to be the one to beat in Eurovizijos this year, but I can see how Jurijus managed to defy expectations once she’d withdrawn Criminal (arguably the better of her two entries). I do like Light On, and Monika was vocally and stylistically flawless whenever she performed it, but it’s too repetitive/radio-friendly to make much of an impact on me.
>Run With The Lions? I’d rather run with the lions than leave a light on (conserve electricity, folks!).
#13 | League of Light, Julie & Nina (Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, Denmark)
This song sits somewhere on the musical scale between ‘great’ and ‘hot mess’ – there are parts that are so dated and cringey it hurts me, whereas other parts I dig. As a package it needed work and was not totally ESC-worthy as a result.
>Love Is Forever? Me and my giant dining chair say no.
#12 | Nevinost, Ivana Popović-Martinović (Montevizija, Montenegro)
A Balkan ballad minus a lot of the Balkan isn’t ideal, and that’s what we got from Ivana (as well as a dress that made her look like she was ready to walk the Egyptian Mummy Fashion Week runway). Still, I think this was a diamond in the rough and could have become a solid Eurovision song after a revamp.
>Heaven? With a makeover, yes.
#11 | The Day I Loved You Most, Makeda (Unser Lied Für Israel, Germany)
Have some tissues handy for this one, especially if you’ve recently gone through a breakup or your favourite Netflix series has been cancelled. It’s a pretty ballad that doesn’t fall into the trap of clichéd lyrics, and I like the perspective Makeda sings it from – she’s opting to remember the best of a past relationship rather than the painful parts.
>Sister? Most songs in ULFI were.
#10 | Dear Father, Laura Bretan (Selecția Națională, Romania)
I like this more before Laura ramps up and lets loose with notes that upset pet dogs worldwide – not that she doesn’t hit those highs, but they are intense on the ears and the soul. Having said that, the whole song provides a bunch of goosebump moments and is nothing if not dramatic.
>On A Sunday? Not to my taste as an enthusiastic member of Team Ester.
#9 | Superman, Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman (UMK, Finland)
All three Darude/Rejman tracks were cut from the same cloth, and to be honest I don’t know how Finland managed to separate them enough to pick a winner. Superman nearly took the prize and I would have felt the same about it as I do about Look Away – pretty positive, but far from ecstatic.
>Look Away? It’s the same song…how can I say yay or nay?
#8 | Champion, BLGN & Mirex (Eurofest, Belarus)
On purpose or by pure coincidence, the Cesár Sampson influence spread to Belarus in the form of this soulful and infectious toe-tapper. It’s no Nobody But You of course, but I’ll definitely be streaming it on the reg and singing it in the shower as a substitute for a self pep-talk.
>Like It? No, but I wouldn’t have minded this as the Belarusian entry.
#7 | Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet (A Dal, Hungary)
There were so many epic songs in A Dal this year, I couldn’t count them on my fingers AND toes. This is one of them, though it took some time before I truly appreciated it for what it is – a genuine, easy-listening slice of sunshine that, like practically every genre, sounds like it was born to be in Hungarian.
>Az Én Apám? Az if!
#6 | Tous Les Deux, Seemone (Destination Eurovision, France)
I’m glad we didn’t end up with too many songs about fathers in the ESC 2019 field (Michael Schulte is having his own effect on the comp after that surprising 4th place). Still, as much as I love Roi, I would have said oui to France sending this simple, emotional and classy ballad by Sea Anemone.
>Roi? Not quite.
#5 | Rrëfehem, Lidia Lufi (Festivali I Këngës, Albania)
DAYUM, Albania! You didn’t make a wrong decision with Jonida, but you had another right one in FiK courtesy of this complex, mystical and unique masterpiece from Lidia.
>Ktheju Tokës? Almost, I have to admit.
#4 | Muérdeme, María (Operación Triunfo, Spain)
This had all the goods to make waves in Tel Aviv…apart from María not actually wanting to go to Eurovision, which would have resulted in a half-arsed performance had she been obliged to go. As a standalone song, however, it’s fantastic.
>La Venda? That’s cute, this song is cooler…I like ‘em both.
#3 | Pretty Little Liar, Uku Suviste (Eesti Laul, Estonia)
I only need three words to review this song, and they are I LOVE IT. Catchy, powerful, full of staging possibilities and performed by a talented, attractive Estonian guy, the list of what’s wrong with it is just a blank piece of paper.
>Storm? It’s neck-and-neck.
#2 | On My Own, Bishara (Melodifestivalen, Sweden)
Don’t boycott me because you disagree (as I know most of you will) but I’m Sweden and Benjamin Ingrosso biased – so when faced with a soulful Swedish pop song co-written by Benji and performed by an adorable, freshly-discovered singer, how was I supposed to react? With instant, unconditional love, that’s how.
>Too Late For Love? Negative.
#1 | 2000 and Whatever, Electric Fields (Eurovision: Australia Decides, Australia)
You might think I’m being biased on this one too being Aussie and all, but I actually paid money to try and help this song go to Eurovision. All of my SMS votes went to Electric Fields, and I lost my voice screaming for them when they were onstage with this no-holds-barred BANGER.
>Zero Gravity? I have to be honest and say yes (here’s hoping I don’t get deported).
And that’s it! You can listen to all of the songs from today’s post right here (except Albania, Georgia, Montenegro and Serbia, which aren’t available on Spotify Australia DAMNIT):
Which second-placed songs from the 2019 NF season are your favourites…or least favourites? Which countries do you think made mistakes when it came down to their final decision? Let me know below!