A subdued hello from someone who’s had a hell of a hard week, as have the rest of you.
Once upon a time, it was unimaginable that I’d ever have to type out the sentence ‘Eurovision is cancelled’. But thanks to You Know What, here we are.
Rotterdam 2020 is not going ahead, and while I do think it’s the most sensible choice the EBU could have made going forward (don’t forget, they know a lot more than we do about all this stuff) it doesn’t make the situation much easier to deal with. It hurts, especially now we know that none of the selected songs will be eligible to compete in 2021 either. In the blink of an eye, we’ve lost 41 painstakingly-crafted and/or chosen tracks from the contest side of things, which means we’ll have a fresh start next year at a high price. Sure, it makes more sense than having half-and-half, but OUCH. I feel so sad for the artists (and everyone else who’d invested time and energy in show preparations) and I do think they should be re-invited without a doubt.
That won’t be happening across the board, however, and I’m currently angrier at Estonia and Sweden than I’ve ever been before. Still, we do have a handful of countries who’ve done right by their acts. Among others, Blas Cantó, Gjon’s Tears, Hooverphonic and Victoria will be back and on the ESC 2021 stage doing what they won’t get to do this May. Doesn’t that make you feel the tiniest bit better?
If not, that’s okay. This cancellation sucks and you’re allowed to be devastated about it. Mourn the loss, contact me to vent anytime you need, and as the aforementioned Victoria sings in Tears Getting Sober, in time your wounds will be scars. I hope the 2020 song reviews I am going ahead with ASAP will help with the healing process.
Now, let’s move on to something that might be a good distraction for you guys. We were lucky enough to experience a (mostly) normal, entertainingly controversial NF season this year. And, as usual, it was packed with fantastic songs that didn’t make the final cut.
I’ve decided to go bigger (BIGGER) than ever in terms of talking about them this time, so brace yourselves! The title of this post says it all: here are the best (IMO) non-winning songs from all 23 national finals held from December 2019 through March 2020, ranked, plus honourable mentions for each country and a comprehensive playlist of every single song I’m about to name-drop.
Just two things before we get going: firstly, I’ve based this ranking more on the songs themselves than on their (occasionally dreadful) live performances – you’ll want to keep that in mind. Secondly, be sure to spill on your own favourites from this selection season in the comments. Let’s see if there’s anything we can agree on…
#23 | Abensonhado, Jimmy P
5th in Festival da Canção, Portugal
Rap tends to get a…well, bad rap in the Eurovision bubble. Personally I say bring it on. And on that note, I wish Portugal had taken another risk (minus the danger of last year’s death-drop) and picked this hard-hitting, wordier-than-any-Italian-entry-ever track for 2020.
Honourable Mention/s Mais Real Que O Amor, Tomás Luzia; Movimento, Throes & The Shine
#22 | Ævintýri, Kid Isak
3rd (SF1) in Söngvakeppnin, Iceland
I’m not about to argue that Iceland should have chosen anything other than Think About Things (and neither should you – it would be a waste of time). That doesn’t stop me thinking this DNQ was as overlooked as it is adorable though. Maybe they could join JESC, bend a few rules and send it there?
Honourable Mention/s Elta þig, Elísabet; Oculis Videre, Iva
#21 | Cherry Red, Roxen
3rd in Selecția Națională, Romania
I have to get down with the kids here and say that Romania SNAPPED in 2020. All five songs written for Roxen had something going for them, and I had a hard time singling one out (first world problem alert!). I chose Cherry Red because it’s super slick, exotic and catchy, feat. a kickass chorus.
Honourable Mention/s Beautiful Disaster, Roxen; Storm, Roxen
#20 | Rakata, Eden Alene
3rd in HaShir HaBa L’Eurovizion, Israel
I could pretty much copy-paste what I said about Romania here, but I’m not (quite) that lazy. When a country has a handful of great pop songs to provide their crazy-talented artist with, does it really matter which one wins? Nope. You say Feker Libi, I say Rakata, and we’re all happy.
Honourable Mention/s Roots, Eden Alene
#19 | Hello, Nastasea
12th in Eurofest, Belarus
I’m not sure if it’s Belarus that has no taste or yours truly (if you know me at all you’re probably leaning towards the latter). Either way, this more-than-pleasant piece of electropop finished dead last in Eurofest, and I am not amused. Let’s give it the attention it deserves in hindsight, shall we?
Honourable Mention/s Fire, Yan Yarosh
#18 | Naivno, Marin Jurić Čivro
15th in Dora, Croatia
Granted, this is one of those songs that works better on Spotify than in the context of a competition (if you don’t believe me, scroll down to the convenient playlist I put together). Even so, second last, Croatia? Don’t be messing Marin and his long locks around like that on my watch.
Honourable Mention/s When It Comes To You, Mia Negovetić
#17 | All The Blood (Positive Song Actually), We All Poop
4th in ESCZ, Czech Republic
Ah, the song title/band name that had me and everyone on my Twitter timeline laughing it up like the immature Eurofans we are (I challenge even the most sophisticated person to take ‘We All Poop’ seriously). Behind that isn’t the novelty song some might have expected, though. This is legit!
Honourable Mention/s Dark Water, Olga Lounova
#16 | Man Like U, Lina Kuduzović
2nd in EMA, Slovenia
Ariana Grande would be shaking in her thigh-high boots if she stumbled across this soundalike song and vocal. Lina is incredible and MUST make the JESC-ESC leap one day. When she does I hope her adult entry measures up to a) Prva Ljubezen and b) this smooth-as-silk R&B number.
Honourable Mention/s The Salt, INMATE; Verjamem Vase, Gaja Prestor
#15 | By My Side, Stefan
7th in Eesti Laul, Estonia
Eesti Laul served up a sizeable share of sadboi ballads this year, and Stefan has become the European champion of the sport (proudly sponsored by Duncan Laurence). By My Side is a less depressing version of his 2019 entry Without You, and it’s too bad he didn’t do as well with it.
Honourable Mention/s Beautiful Lie, Jaagup Tuisk; Üks Kord Veel, Traffic
#14 | Lo Sappiamo Entrambi, Riki
22nd in Sanremo Music Festival, Italy
Here’s another song I dig that did nothing much in its national final. To be fair, Riki was up against an arsenal of big guns in Sanremo: Francesco Gabbani, Elodie and eventual winner Diodato to name a few. It’s obvious why Lo Sappiamo Entrambi couldn’t compete, but I love it anyway. It’s just so nice.
Honourable Mention/s Andromeda, Elodie; Carioca, Raphael Gualazzi; Musica, Elettra Lamborghini; Ringo Starr, Pinguini Tattici Nucleari
#13 | Dale Dale, Diana Rotaru
6th in O Melodie Pentru Europa, Moldova
There were some crackers in Moldova’s NF as per usual – those songs with the quirky fun factor we know and love. Diana’s Dale Dale sits pretty on the scale between “typical Moldovan party track” and “slick dancefloor filler that can be taken seriously” (not too seriously, of course). It’s a diamond.
Honourable Mention/s Die For You, Catarina Sandu; Love Me Now, Live Beat Orchestra; Moldovița, Valentin Uzun & Irina Kovalsky; We Will Be Legends, Petronela & Andreea
#12 | Human, Jasmin Rose feat. RoxorLoops
Eliminated in Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, Denmark
Was Human a total hot mess live on stage? DMGP champs Ben & Tan have the answer to that question: YES. As a studio song, however, it was the pre-show favourite for a reason. A catchy combo of contemporary and throwback dance music, plus beatboxing by an ex-ESC rep? I’ll take it.
Honourable Mention/s Screens, Sander Sanchez
#11 | Count On Me, Kasia Dereń
3rd in Szansa Na Sukces, Poland
Sorry, Lake Malawi stans. As much as I love Lucy (HA HA) this is the Szansa song that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. That chorus in particular is stickier than superglue – and in a Sliding Doors parallel universe, both Gwyneth Paltrow and I would have loved to hear it at Eurovision.
Honourable Mention/s Lucy, Albert Černy
#10 | Oči Meduze, Andrija Jo
4th in Beovizija, Serbia
Andrija Jo would have had to withstand a Hurricane if he wanted to win Beovizija this year. Short story even shorter, he couldn’t, but he should be proud of making the top five with this absolute banger anyway. Does anyone else get Danny Saucedo Amazing vibes from this performance?
Honourable Mention/s Kolači, Marko Marković; Ples Za Rastanak, Igor Simić
#9 | Save Me, TOKIONINE
6th in Depi Evratesil, Armenia
The Weeknd called and he wants his song back…but he can’t have it, because the world needs it more in my opinion. Everything about this is powerful, hypnotic and unlike anything I’ve ever heard in an Armenian NF before. Thumbs up for the polished sound production too. It’s all so good.
Honourable Mention/s What’s Going On Mama, Vladimir Arzumanyan
#8 | Lessons of Love, Vanessa Amorosi
3rd in Australia Decides, Australia
Vanessa was the biggest name in Australia Decides this year, and she delivered a song almost as massive as her celebrity status circa 2000. Plus a car crash of a performance in the best kind of way. Lessons of Love = a belt-it-out breakup anthem for anyone who’s ever been romantically wronged.
Honourable Mention/s Pushing Stars, Jordan-Ravi; Raw Stuff, Didirri; Together, Mitch Tambo
7 | Tridymite, Edgars Kreilis
7th in Supernova, Latvia
This guy literally cannot win. But hey, the same could have been said about Sanna Nielsen for a while, so keep on trying, my man! I think Tridymite (which I figured was a Latvian word and Googled it for a translation) would have been a worthy winner. The verses are mysterious, the chorus is epic.
Honourable Mention/s Be My Truth, Toms Kalderauskis; Impossible, Markus Riva; Polyester, ANNNA
#6 | Bananas, F3M
3rd in UMK, Finland
I might be the only person on the planet who had Cicciolina as their THIRD favourite of UMK 2020. Behind surprise winner Looking Back for me was Bananas, 90s-inspired pop with more hooks than a fisherman’s tackle box. It’s bubblegum and fairy floss at the same time, and I have a big sweet tooth.
Honourable Mention/s Cicciolina, Erika Vikman
#5 | Out of Air, Didrik & Emil Solli-Tangen
Eliminated in Melodi Grand Prix, Norway
Judge me all you want to, but this carbon copy of a Westlife album filler from around 2002 is the stuff my schmaltzy arena pop dreams are made of. If there’s anything better than an ageless Solli-Tangen sibling, it’s two of them teaming up and giving me goosebumps that I am not ashamed of.
Honourable Mention/s Pink Jacket, Alexandru; Pray For Me, Kristin Husøy; Som Du Er, Akuvi; Wild, Raylee
#4 | Bonfire, Tvorchi
4th in Vidbir, Ukraine
If you heard this track blind, not knowing which country it came from, would you guess correctly? I wouldn’t. In amongst all of the ultra-Ukrainian and alt-pop songs Vidbir is famous for was this epic, edgy and urban three minutes that reminds me of Labrinth’s Earthquake – and that’s a great thing.
Honourable Mention/s Call For Love, Khayat; Maze, Moonzoo feat. FMF Sure; Save It, Assol
#3 | Me Tana, Elvana Gjata
2nd in Festivali I Këngës, Albania
Emergency services must have been inundated with calls re: this robbery. I’m not anti-Arilena or anything, but whenever I listen to Me Tana I think ‘man, Albania really missed an opportunity here’. Or not, as the case may be. Whatever. This is an ethno-bop that cannot be ignored.
Honourable Mention/s Ajër, Sara Bajraktari; Ajo Nuk Është Unë, Robert Berisha
#2 | Molnljus, William Stridh
5th (SF4) in Melodifestivalen, Sweden
I think the word ‘underrated’ applies to this song more than any other I’ve mentioned so far. Perhaps it wasn’t quite polished enough to make a massive splash at Melfest, but to me it’s a perfect example of modern Swedish-language balladry and a boy with emotions. Stunning staging too.
Honourable Mention/s Ballerina, Malou Prytz; Boys With Emotions, Felix Sandman; Bulletproof, Dotter; Talking In My Sleep, Paul Rey
#1 | Tave Čia Randu, Gabrielius Vagelis
8th (SF1) in Pabandom Iš Naujo!, Lithuania
Between dressing gowns, bizarre dance moves and distracting hairstyle choices, it was easy to forget how breathtaking – in my opinion – this song is, and how smooth Gabrielius’ vocals are (smooth as the satin of that robe, you might say). But that’s the truth, and I’m head-over-heels for both. HBU?
Honourable Mention/s Alligator, KaYra; If I Leave, Monika Marija; Make Me Human, Moniqué
That’s it, at long last: all of my favourites from every 2020 national final in one list. Well, two lists, technically. Here’s the other one for your listening pleasure (assuming you’re a fan of some of these songs too, and aren’t boycotting me for having Cicciolina as an Honourable Mention).
Thanks for joining me on this rollercoaster ride – one that I hope distracted you from the elephant in the room for a few minutes. I might squeeze in some more fun Eurovisual content during the next few weeks (including a belated 600th post celebration!) and then it’s on to those 2020 song reviews, regardless of the poor babies not being able to complete. Let’s keep calm and carry on, Eurofans.
Which non-winners from the 2020 NF season can you not get enough of? Do we have any favourites in common? Let me know below and we can get into an argument about whose taste is worse – woohoo!
100% te ljubam,