SELECTION SEASON 2020 | Australia Decides again, Melfest goes to Gothenburg + much (much) more!
Welcome to another Saturday in February: one of four especially special (a.k.a. hectic) evenings for us Eurofans. And ICYMI, tonight is really putting the ‘super’ into Super Saturday.
On the jam-packed program? Oh, only FIVE semi-finals and FOUR finals – the latter giving us two complete entries (Australia + Latvia), one singer (Destiny Malta) and whatever Italy decides to do at the long-awaited end of San Remo. Here’s the full list of events:
- Australia Eurovision: Australia Decides (feat. Mitch Tambo, Montaigne + Vanessa Amorosi)
- Iceland Söngvakeppnin SF1 (feat. DIMMA, Elísabet + Kid Isak)
- Italy San Remo Music Festival final (feat. Diodato, Elodie + Francesco Gabbani)
- Latvia Supernova final (feat. ANNNA, Edgars Kreilis + Samanta Tīna)
- Lithuania Paubandom Iš Naujo! SF2 (feat. Monika Marija, Moniqué + Petunija)
- Malta X Factor Malta final (feat. Destiny Chukunyere, F.A.I.T.H, Justine Shorfid + Kyle Cutajar)
- Norway Melodi Grand Prix SF5 (feat. Tone Damli’s guest performance of Hurts Sometimes)
- Sweden Melodifestivalen SF2 (feat. Anna Bergendahl, Dotter + Paul Rey)
- Ukraine Vidbir SF1 (feat. Assol, Jerry Heil + Katya Chilly)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m too lazy to link to the streaming sites for these shows, so consult ESCXtra’s calendar for all of that jazz (because this Jaz can’t be bothered). Luckily I’m not too lazy to discuss what’s happened this week in the world of Eurovision 2020, or to preview my own country’s NF and my adopted country’s NF. So without further ado, let’s get on with it!
The week that was: Greece is the word, so Czech it out
Those were like, Dad-joke-level puns. I’m sorry. What I was trying to say was that both the Czech Republic and Greece blessed us with artists and songs this week, though we won’t get to hear one of them for a while yet.
After what looked like a two-horse race between We All Poop (the fan favourites) and Olga Lounova (the YouTube darling), it was actually Benny Cristo who won ESCZ with Kemama, as announced on Monday. Benny topped the public vote and finished second with the jury (made up entirely of Eurovision alumni including Kristian Kostov, Katerine Duska and Miki) while We All Poop could only manage 4th place overall, and Olga 6th. Despite me deciding not to vote for Kemama and agonising between All The Blood and Dark Water instead – eventually opting for All The Blood – I’m pleasantly surprised by the choice. It might be uptempo and male-led, but Kemama is totally different to Lie To Me and Friend of a Friend in every other department, and it’s going to be different to everything else competing in Rotterdam too (good different). I’d call it a certified bop, and though it’s not a song that convinces me it can qualify with ease, I do think it will come to life when performed live. A revamp is in progress…best of luck to Benny in the meantime.
Over in Greece, ERT confirmed that the rumour mill had been spinning in the right direction for months. To the shock of no one, former Dutch JESC contestant Stefania will be waving the white-and-blue in Rotterdam, which is probably a short bus ride from her house. A strategic move from Greece maybe, but I don’t mind. What I do mind is Stefania’s song falling victim to the curse of the exclamation mark. It’s called Superg!rl, guys! That’s not a typo. Did one of the songwriters stop watching Eurovision 2019 before that infamous ‘Germany, zero points’ and think ‘S!sters’ was both formatting genius and a good omen? Anyway, I’m all for JESC acts dropping the J, so I’m excited about Stefania herself – and if The Song That Shall Not Be Named Again For A While is decent, I should be able to put my petty peeve aside.
What do you think of Benny Cristo’s entry for the Czech Republic and Greece’s internal selection of Stefania? Let me know in the comments.
Australia Decides: Who will get the gold on the Gold Coast?
I can’t believe it’s been a year since our very first national final was held Down Under. Sadly I’m not on the ground on the GC this time, but if you want to re-read my 2019 Australia Decides diary and pretend I am, go for it. Or you can follow the comprehensive coverage from the likes of people who are actually there, á la Anita from Eurovision Union; Dale, Mike and the gang from Aussievision; and the crew from the best ESC fan club branch in existence, OGAE Australia. No, I am not biased! How dare you accuse me of that?!?
Anyway, here’s the running order for tonight’s show – hosted once more by Myf Warhurst and Joel Creasey, and featuring performances from Queen KMH, Dami Im and Måns Zelmerlöw. Oh, and JON OLA SAND. Legends only, please.
- Life, iOTA
- Pushing Stars, Jordan-Ravi
- Rabbit Hole, Jaguar Jonze
- I Am King I Am Queen, Jack Vidgen
- Lessons of Love, Vanessa Amorosi
- Can We Make Heaven, Diana Rouvas
- Together, Mitch Tambo
- Proud, Casey Donovan
- Don’t Break Me, Montaigne
- Raw Stuff, Didirri
I initially thought the 2020 show was lower in quality than 2019, but I’ve changed my mind. It’s a vey different line-up for sure, feat. more alternative stuff and a very high ratio of big ol’ belter types – but at this point I’d say it’s equally as good, and even more of a level playing field.
Before I make any predictions, here’s my take on all 10 songs from the favourite to the least-favourite…though I actually like them all. No, I am not biased AGAIN! Stop it!
Lessons of Love Vanessa Amorosi is Aussie music royalty, no question. And this song is her taking the talents we first fell in love with about twenty years ago and adding a 2020 twist (plus throwing in a Swedish songwriter for good measure). It’s kind of formulaic, sure, but it’s also a powerful earworm and she sells it amazingly well. All the different melodies keep it interesting, and if our girl can hit those high notes towards the end, watch out.
Don’t Break Me What do you get when you combine the songwriting of DNA (Sound of Silence, Don’t Come Easy, We Got Love) with those of art-pop purveyor Montaigne? A kick-ass tune, that’s what. This has a pop melody with alternative lyrics, giving it mass appeal and an edge. The best part (high praise) is Montaigne’s vocals. They’re one-of-a-kind and there’s virtually no note she can not hit. Expect a confident, unique and potentially winning performance from her.
Together In terms of a culture injection, this is the 2000 and Whatever of 2020. While it isn’t as iconic or beloved (by me) as Electric Fields’ track, I love the representation of an Aboriginal language rarely – if ever – heard outside of Australia. The song is generic at times but also anthemic, and the chorus is a sky-high point. I’m hoping Mitch creates some magic live that doesn’t come through in the studio version.
Pushing Stars Underrated alert! I adore this. Co-written by two of last year’s artists – George from Sheppard and Tania Doko – it’s a breezy pop ballad with interesting (cliché-free, in other words) lyrics sung smoothly by Jordan, who the camera would be crazy not to love. It’s simple but stands out from the in-your face productions/massive vocal performances elsewhere. If it wins (it won’t, but just imagine) it could make for a Tom Dice moment.
Now for the leftovers (and I mean that in a nice way)…
I Am King I Am Queen Jack is the only male powerhouse competing tonight, and he can do things with his voice that nobody else can. IAKIAQ highlights that towards the end, and it’s on the screechy side, I must say…but it should be so impressive live on stage, nobody will notice. I really like this song. It’s from the heart, but it isn’t sickly-sweet. I just wish a beat kicked in at some point to make it more dynamic.
Can We Make Heaven I didn’t vote for Diana to win The Voice (I had my hometown boy and future JESC star Jordan to support) but she was a deserved winner – her vocals are phenomenal. This song does a pretty good job of showing them off without turning into a vocal gymnastics championship. It’s catchy, but the chorus isn’t much of a statement piece. Overall, I don’t think it can step up and be a contender. Fun fact: Co-writer Louis Schoorl also co-wrote Tonight Again and Dance You Off.
Life This reminded me of something or someone from the start. I was struggling to decide what/who and ready to rip my hair out with frustration when Twitter came to the rescue – it was Mika. Mika at the height of his fame circa 2007, that is. I don’t think this sounds too dated, and I quite like the vibe. It’s definitely unlike anything else on offer, and should be a good opener.
Proud I’m one of those people who can’t help thinking of North Macedonia when I see this song title, and when I hear the song itself I think ‘Definite Chanel VS Walmart’…Casey’s Proud being the Walmart. That’s not to say it’s terrible. The vibes are similar to every classic TV talent show winner’s single (uplifting but on the cheesy side) which is fitting for Casey as a former Idol champ. But for Eurovision 2020? I have to pass. I do love her, however.
Raw Stuff I like this. It’s unconventional and emotional without being inaccessible or sappy (I really feel for both Didirri and Rachel). But it doesn’t really grab me, and it comes across as a little aimless – fine for an easy-listening radio track, but probably not for a competition song. I prefer more hooks and more light and shade in my Eurovision entries, but I’m still glad Didirri is in this contest.
Rabbit Hole This is a fan favourite, but it’s not a favourite of THIS fan. I appreciate how interesting and indie it is – we Australians need to prove we can do out-of-the-box as well as we do cookie cutter – but for me, it’s too monotonous and repetitive. Not my “thing”, basically. Jaguar herself is great though (and my new style icon).
What’s going to go down? I think there are a few possible winners here – namely, Vanessa and Montaigne, with dark horses Jack and Casey lurking in the background. Unfortunately I have ruled out Mitch after disappointing rehearsal/jury reviews. I suspect Vanessa might win the jury vote, but not by a landslide. Montaigne is my bet to win the public vote, but again, I don’t think she’ll dominate it. My gut says Vanessa has the overall victory (almost) sewn up. I reckon the surprise success of the night could be Didirri.
Who do you think will win Australia Decides tonight? Make your prediction while you still can – and don’t forget to vote for your favourite (if you’re in Australia, obviously) by texting their performance number to 1999 2222.
Melodifestivalen, Week 2: A scandalous semi-final
Moving on to Melfest now (briefly, because I’m sure you’re losing the will to live) and things have changed for this week’s heat in Gothenburg. The song formerly sung by Thorsten Flinck will now be sung by the legendary Jan Johansen (the face and voice of one of my all-time ESC favourites) and I can’t say I’m mad about it. You know why Thorsten was given the Flinck, so I won’t get into that – let’s just say he’s been a naughty boy lately. His loss is our gain.
With that adjustment accounted for, here’s the rollcall for tonight:
- Nobody, Klara Hammarström
- Miraklernas Tid, Jan Johansen
- Bulletproof, Dotter
- Vamos Amigos, Méndez feat. Alvaro Estrella
- Alla Mina Sorger, Linda Bengtzing
- Talking In My Sleep, Paul Rey
- Kingdom Come, Anna Bergendahl
I’m happy to say, after a ‘meh’ first semi, that this week is serving up some solid gold. No likely Melfest winners IMO, but some really good songs nonetheless from both debutants and comeback acts.
My favourite four Bulletproof, Vamos Amigos, Talking In My Sleep + Kingdom Come. Dotter has returned with a vengeance, and while I can’t see myself liking Bulletproof as much as Cry, there’s a lot of strength in it – particularly in the chorus (important). I knew I’d love Vamos Amigos since I loved Méndez’ Everyday and I love Alvaro in general. And yes, it ticks all the Despacito-flavoured boxes on my list without sounding too passé. I had high hopes for Paul Rey as a fangirl, and based on the TIMS snippet he has not disappointed. I can’t wait to hear the song in full, because it already sticks out from the other six. Last but not least is Anna with her Ashes to Ashes follow-up. It is a true sequel, but I think I might actually prefer it. She has a good chance of bypassing Andra Chansen this time and going direkt.
My crystal ball says… Anna and Méndez/Alvaro to go DTF; Dotter and Paul Rey to Andra Chansen. Linda in 5th, Klara 6th and Jan (SADFACE) in last place.
Have I cracked it this week, or do you think something completely different is on the cards for Melfest when vi har ett resultat? Let me know below!
And now it’s time for me to say my goodbyes, as I go and prep for the only NF I can watch without having to set a painfully early alarm beforehand. Whatever you’re watching tonight (or whenever, depending where you are in the world) I hope you enjoy it, and get at least one result that makes you jump for joy.
PS – Sorry for saying ‘toodles’. What compelled me to a) type it in the first place and b) elect not to edit it out is beyond me.
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