SELECTION SEASON 2020 | My five favourite ESC entries of the week + previewing/predicting the UMK and Melfest finals
Well, this is it: the last-but-not-least Saturday of national finals pre-Rotterdam. It won’t be the busiest night we’ve experienced this season, but it will be a big one nonetheless…and very Nordic-centric at that. Check out what’s on the calendar for the final (*sniff*) time in 2020:
- Bulgaria Song reveal for Victoria (Tears Getting Sober)
- Denmark Dansk Melodi Grand Prix final (feat. Ben & Tan, Jasmin Rose feat. RoxorLoops + Sander Sanchez)*
- Finland UMK final (feat. Aksel Kankaanranta, Erika Vikman + F3M)
- Portugal Festival da Canção final (feat. Bárbara Tinoco, Jimmy P + Tomás Luzia)
- Sweden Melodifestivalen final (feat. Anna Bergendahl, Dotter + Hanna Ferm)
*Sadly, DMGP will be audience-free this year after coronavirus concerns led the Danish PM to ban public gatherings of 1000+ people. Obviously, that put the estimated 10 000-strong crowd for tonight out of commission. It’s a terrible shame and a potential sign of things to come, but it’s also an understandable move. Make sure you support your favourites from the sofa if you’re in Denmark during the show.
All that’s left after all of the above – knowing everything must be done and dusted on or before this Monday – are the song reveals for North Macedonia (8th), San Marino (9th, after Senhit’s surprise mini-NF), Azerbaijan, Malta and Russia. Then, the Class of Eurovision 2020 will be complete at long last. To paraphrase Mohombi (who’s conveniently competing in tonight’s Melfest final) it’s been a bumpy ride, but a fun one too. Next stop, the Netherlands!
But before that, let’s take a look at the tsunami of entries from the last seven days and preview/predict a couple of this evening’s most interesting selection shows…
What went down this week + my five favourite freshly-added songs
If all the counting I just did on my fingers is correct, FOURTEEN Eurovision 2020 entries have been chosen or released since last Saturday. National finals in Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Israel, Moldova, Romania and Serbia gave their golden tickets to Divlji Vetre by Damir Kedžo, What Love Is by Uku Suviste, Think About Things by Daði & Gagnamagnið, Feker Libi by Eden Alene, Prison by Natalia Gordienko, Alcohol You by Roxen and Hasta La Vista by Hurricane.
Meanwhile, the long-awaited (some more than others) songs from Austria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Ireland, The Netherlands and Switzerland were made public/leaked, leaving us blissfully happy and gasping for air at the same time. Out of all of those plus the NF winners from this week, these are my top picks.
Cyprus Sandro being a self-confessed sadboi, and co-writer of his song Alfie Arcuri (AUSTRALIA REPRESENT!) being in the same ballpark, I was expecting a heartstring-tugging pop ballad from Cyprus. After their last few years, I should have known better (rookie mistake, right?). Running is no Fuego sequel á la Replay, but it is prime Euroclub material – and while it doesn’t have a hook-you-in chorus like its predecessors, it’s super slick, catchy and contemporary to compensate. I do think Cyprus will struggle to qualify with this in that Semi of Death™, but I’ll probably be too busy dancing to care.
Iceland This country may have made an objectively awful choice (pun intended) in 2018, but boy have they redeemed themselves since then! Hatari was a major talking point in Tel Aviv and you can be sure Daði & Gagnamagnið will be too in Rotterdam. If I had to sum up Think About Things in a word, I couldn’t – it’s brilliant, epic AND genius, just for starters. Watch out, On Fire…you now have a rival in the fun, memorable and memeable song-with-accompanying-dance department. PS – as I type this, Iceland is leading the betting odds, and long may they reign I say.
Israel There is such a long list of all the things that are right about this. Feker Libi was my preference of Eden Alene’s four possible Eurovision entries, and not just because it was written by Idan Raichel (whom I adore and who performed during last year’s grand final) and Doron Medalie (who wrote a few songs called Golden Boy, Made of Stars and Toy…you might have heard of them). It’s such an interesting song and brings some much-needed ethnic sounds to the line-up, wrapped up neatly in a ray of sunshine. As for Eden herself, well…she’s a little superstar. If THE ROOP need to keep an eye out for Iceland in the final, then Destiny definitely needs to look out for this girl during SF1.
Serbia There was a girl group/trashy pop sized hole in the 2020 contest up until last weekend, when Serbia managed to fill it with Hasta La Vista by Hurricane. If O’G3NE are good-girl Sandy from Grease, Hurricane are Sandy when she steps out in her leather pants and says ‘Tell me about it, stud’. Both = great. I’m celebrating Hurricane’s NF win triply, because not only do I love the song (Salvador Sobral wouldn’t) but Sanja Vučić is back in the ESC family AND Knez’s daughter Ksenia is now involved too (I’m not sure if she’s the daughter who performed on stage with her dad in Vienna or not, since he has two). Here’s hoping Serbia fares better this time than when they last sent a female trio.
Switzerland I saved it for last, but the Swiss song is actually my highlight of the whole week. We couldn’t have blamed Switzerland if they’d copycatted themselves and chosen She Got Me 2.0 after Luca Hänni’s 4th (should have been 3rd) place finish last year. But admirably, they’ve headed in a totally different direction – recruiting Sacha Jean Baptiste to stage-direct again aside – with a spectacular French-language ballad by The Voice France alumnus Gjon’s Tears. Kind of like a Francophone Beautiful Mess in parts but with a haunting, emotive feel all of its own, Répondez-Moi is a stunner and easily (for me) one of the best ballads selected so far.
Which song chosen/released this week was your favourite? Let me know in the comments!
Finland: Six songs become one in an OMG edition of UMK
I mentioned the Icelandic glow-up before, but they aren’t the only country to have lifted their game lately. Finland has transitioned from a dire NF feat. Darude and three songs with ‘meh’ written all over them to a six song NF feat. a grand total of zero duds. That’s not to say every song is amazing, but the worst of the bunch (IMO) is still a solid 7/10 and that is impressive. Here are the six in question, in running order:
- Eternity, Catharina Zühlke
- Cicciolina, Erika Vikman
- Looking Back, Aksel Kankaanranta
- Bananas, F3M
- Lover View, Sansa
- I Let My Heart Break, Tika
Eternity, being one of those bipolar songs in the mould of Crisalide and Beauty Never Lies, isn’t a cup of tea I would rush to drink…but it goes down pretty smoothly anyway.
Cicciolina is the fan favourite, and while I’m standing on the platform instead of jumping on the hype train, I do think it’s quirky, bubbly and uniquely Finnish, and I like it a lot.
Looking Back is one of my personal favourites – it’s slick and solid but still genuine, and I fell in love with it from my first listen.
Bananas is my other absolute favourite because every second of it is a hook, and I reckon if the Spice Girls were a 2010s/2020s girl group they’d be releasing bops just like it.
Lover View is more of a Spotify song than a competition song, but I love the dreamy feel – it gives me the urge to go on a scenic road trip and watch the sun set over the ocean somewhere.
I Let My Heart Break, not counting the clichés, is a decent example of a modern pop-power ballad, and Tika belts it like a loose-waisted pair of trousers.
My favourites As I’m not totally on board the Cicciolina bandwagon, I have to go for Bananas and Looking Back – my two very different musical children whom I love equally. Expect to see them on my upcoming ‘Best of the NFs’ playlist.
Who’s going to win? It seems like one song is unbeatable at the moment: Cicciolina. As much as I’d prefer a few others to leapfrog it, I’m bracing myself for Erika to win, pending a suitably bonkers performance. If by chance she doesn’t, I have a feeling about Aksel.
What do you think…does Erika have UMK all sewn up or is someone else going to swoop in and steal her (flower) crown? Which song would you rather Finland sends to Rotterdam? Let me know below.
Sweden: Will Girl Power prevail for the first time since Sanna?
It certainly looks like it. After five rounds of semis and second chances across five different cities, Melodifestivalen has arrived in Stockholm for the final – and if the betting odds are to be believed, Sweden’s five-year streak of male soloists is about to be broken. Dotter has an impressive lead with a 50% chance of winning that unfortunate bird-topped trophy, and on her tail are The Mamas, Anna Bergendahl and Hanna Ferm. Anis Don Demina is the highest-ranked male in the mix, followed by Felix Sandman. Who would’ve thought?
The Mamas won SVT’s special pre-show poll; Anis blitzed the rehearsal exit poll (!); and only Mr. God knows what the international juries will go for. Basically, Dotterdam isn’t a done deal yet, so get excited for one of the least predictable Melfest finals in years! Here’s the program for this evening if you need a refresher:
- Troubled Waters, Victor Crone
- Talking In My Sleep, Paul Rey
- Move, The Mamas
- Winners, Mohombi
- Brave, Hanna Ferm
- Vamos Amigos, Méndez feat. Alvaro Estrella
- Bulletproof, Dotter
- Take A Chance, Robin Bengtsson
- Shout It Out, Mariette
- Boys With Emotions, Felix Sandman
- Kingdom Come, Anna Bergendahl
- Vem E Som Oss, Anis Don Demina
Who should win (IMO) On today’s episode of Things That Are Not Going To Happen…as much as I want a woman to take this one out, my favourite songs are coincidentally by dudes. Paul, Mohombi (with better staging in mind), Felix and Anis are my picks of this bunch, and of the four I think Felix would be the best choice for Eurovision. He’s a very outside possibility, and I don’t realistically expect him to do one better than he did in 2018, also coming from Andra Chansen. I will give kudos to one lady in particular who has the best package of the finalists: Dotter. If she wins as the odds suggest she will, I’ll be satisfied if not as psyched for the Swedish entry as usual.
Predicting the winner and everything else If this is going to be a three-way battle between Dotter, The Mamas and Anna (beware of plot twists!) then any of them could push ahead and win by the tiniest of margins. I still feel like Dotter has the most impressive package deal, one that has clearly appealed to the Swedish public and should score well with the juries too. Anna’s redemption arc might be too good to resist, but I still have issues with her staging/styling not matching Kingdom Come, and I think that disconnect is off-putting enough to do some damage. Sending The Mamas, as fantastic as they are, would feel a bit like recycling. But their joy is infectious (no, I am not going to make a coronavirus joke) and they can’t be counted out. Ask me for a shock winner and I will present Anis to you on a silver platter.
This is how I’m seeing the scoreboard ending up with my questionable prediction vision:
- Kingdom Come
- Vem E Som Oss
- Boys With Emotions
- Take A Chance
- Troubled Waters
- Talking In My Sleep
- Shout It Out
- Vamos Amigos
It’s such a hard one to call, I’m SWEATING. Anything is possible, so please don’t laugh at me when my prediction turns out to be as wrong as it could be (I’m having a bad season, ICYMI). If you can do better – which I’m sure you can – pay a visit to the comments and make your guess.
Now I’ll wrap up my Melfest ramble with the likeliest winner of the 2020 comp…I think. Don’t worry, Dotter, none of us are bulletproof.
That’s all from me for now as Selection Season comes to a close. I hope you’ve had a good one, and if you’re yet to see a personal favourite win an NF, fingers crossed it happens tonight (unless your faves aren’t the same as mine in which case I want mine to win instead, of course).
Happy multi-screen streaming!
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