Author Archives: Jaz

The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 2 (The Performances)

It’s lucky these awards aren’t being broadcast on TV, because nobody would have hung around until the ad break dividing parts 1 and 2 was over. What can I say? Life gets busy sometimes, and since nobody as yet has offered to pay me to talk about Eurovision, other things often have to be prioritised so I can continue to have a roof over my head and eat regular meals.

Hopefully this second slice of trophy-giving will be worth the wait for those of you who enjoyed the first. Back then (last week…totally vintage times), I gave numerous back-pats to the artists and songs of Kyiv 2017. This time, the spotlight’s shining on what happened when those songs were taken to the stage by those artists. Every element of the performances – from backdrops, props and dancers to costumes and vocals – has at least one award in its honour, and the winners weren’t all decided by me. Yes, that means there are more People’s Choice results below for you to feast your ESC-admiring eyes on!

So sit back, relax and do it for your lover…’it’ being checking out my performance awards and nothing more. Get your mind out of the gutter.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Estonia Winner United Kingdom

With Lucie being a stage star and all, you’d expect her to project serious emotion via both her facial expressions and flailing limbs (i.e. arm flourishes). She did…but there were times when her inner drama switch was turned up way too high, to the point where she looked like she was in physical pain. There is a border between theatrical stage emoting and Eurovision stage emoting, and I think Lucie stayed in theatre territory when she should have crossed over to the other side. Still, I’m rewarding her here for every angtsy look and death-grip hand gesture she poured into her performance. An A for effort is all yours, Luce.

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria Winner Norway

There wasn’t half as much hi-tech trickery on the stage/screen in Kyiv as there was in Stockholm – no holograms of naked Belarusians, for instance, could be seen (you can decide if that was a great loss or not). Both Bulgaria and Norway opted for on-screen graphic overlays – the TV equivalent of the little drawings you can do on your Instagram stories – to pimp their performances. But I’m putting Norway in pole position, because they had some technical trickery going on in their audio presentation as well as their visual presentation. I still can’t wrap my head around exactly how JOWST was manipulating those ‘kill, kill, kill, kill’ bits (live sampling/bending/looping/ warping?) but at least he wasn’t just standing there pretending to DJ like we’ve seen in past contests.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland Winner Hungary

Getting emotional doesn’t always involve a box of tissues. Joci Pápai’s performance for Hungary wasn’t a sad one per se, but it was the most dynamically emotional of the year in that it featured two very different outpouring feelings. Throughout the verses and choruses of Origo, Joci portrayed the pain of forbidden love and of being a target for prejudice in a very vulnerable, mournful way – then changed gears for the rap, venting his frustration and anger over similar issues. Part of what I love about the song is the range of emotions embedded in it, as well as Joci’s talent for conveying them with authenticity.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland Winner Portugal

This was a hard one for me to narrow down, because both Blackbird and Amar Pelos Dois DID involve me fumbling for a box of tissues. But there was a delicateness to Salvador’s rendition of his song that gave me goosebumps as well as wet eyes. The lyrics, too, have the power to destroy an old romantic like myself, despite the fact (or perhaps due to the fact) that he’s professing a love big enough to sustain a two-person relationship, when I can’t even beguile a guy into buying me flowers.

 

Honourable Mention/s Finland, Hungary Winner Moldova

When a massive part of your appeal revolves around a musical instrument – the sax played by Epic Sax Guy, obviously – you know you’re using it wisely. With both sax and violin providing serious fun for Moldova’s 2 x 3 minutes on stage, Hey Mamma’s live wouldn’t have been the same without them, even though we weren’t actually hearing the boys play (it matters less with instruments like these than when you’re watching someone rip into a solo on a clearly unplugged electric guitar).

 

Honourable Mention/s The UK’s mirror shell Winner Azerbaijan’s blackboard

You voters out there surprised me a little with this one, but majority rules! Dihaj’s blackboard was definitely a standout addition to 2017’s string of acts-with-props, and made Daz Sampson’s blackboard from 2006 look even tackier than it did at the time. Although I must say, his was more explicitly relevant to his song’s subject matter – between the board, the ladder and the horse-head man, Dihaj has a LOT of explaining to do.

This looks less like one of the daydreams that Dihaj is into and more like one of my nightmares.

 

Honourable Mention/s Hungary, Moldova Winner Sweden

For most of the backing singers and/or dancers who weren’t hidden from view, staying in tune and in time would have been the biggest challenges. Robin Bengtsson’s visible backup crew, however – feat. previous Melfest contestant and ESC backer-upper Alvaro Estrella – not only had to provide vocal support and smooth moves, but do both while walking on treadmills. And we thought Ukraine’s hamster wheel dude from 2014 had a tough job! The quartet pulled it off perfectly, though, and had a big hand in Sweden’s fourth consecutive top 5 finish.

 

Honourable Mention/s Cyprus Winner Sweden

Because treadmills. Too cool for school choreography coupled with an element of danger will win out every time. Handy Hint No. 362: Next time you’re at a party trying to impress someone, why not try moonwalking barefoot on a bed of nails?

 

Honourable Mention/s France, Portugal Winner United Kingdom

It was a shiny gold showstopper for the UK this year, and though that wouldn’t be my personal pick for best backdrop, I can see the attraction. The graphics were perfectly timed to the music and made the stage virtually disappear, as if Lucie were actually singing in space (not the sexy kind Slavko was referring to, but normal, otherworldly space). The numerous glitter explosions at pivotal moments of Never Give Up On You oozed Eurovision sophistication.

A Eurovision star + actual stars…what more could you want?

 

Honourable Mention/s Croatia Winner Israel

You’ll have to forgive me if I’ve forgotten a country in this category, because there were times when it seemed like every second act on stage had found a way to incorporate their giant face/body/boobs (oh, Malta) into their performance. The country that did it best, in my opinion, was Israel, because it wasn’t OTT or used just for flashiness. Super-sized Imri didn’t stay on the screens for the entire song – instead he was used to literally illustrate the ‘breaking me to pieces’ line of I Feel Alive’s chorus. The added bonus was that we all got to stare at not one, but two Imris for a fleeting yet fabulous amount of time.

 

Honourable Mention/s Romania Winner Croatia

I don’t know if I hate to say this or not, but the ESC isn’t as crazy as it used to be – maybe it’s the influence of recent winners having been pretty pared-back on stage. There weren’t many acts that threw everything they could think of at their staging in 2017, but we can’t say Croatia was one of them. To name a few of their staging elements: violinist, cellist, half-and-half costume, giant Jacques x2, LED lightning, an instrumental duel, pyro jets AND a pyro curtain, massive sunflowers and a rainbow. The pyro operator in particular must have needed a nap after that…I know I did!

 

Honourable Mention/s Bulgaria, Sweden Winner Moldova

This award goes to the most perfectly-wrapped package of the year – the country that brought their A-game to vocals, costumes, choreography, staging, lighting and anything else you can think of. Obviously, Portugal and Bulgaria were flawless – but Sunstroke Project managed to corral more performance bits and pieces than Salvador and Kristian had to work with into a cohesive and ridiculously fun whole. And it all seemed to come so naturally.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s France Winner Italy, United Kingdom

We have a tie! I can’t say I’m surprised that Germany and Spain didn’t even come close to winning this People’s Choice prize. Nor did I see this rush of love for the UK coming, but I do get it. As over-emotional as she got at times, Lucie’s performance was vocally perfect and looked stunning on screen. And who wouldn’t get a kick out of Francesco’s three minutes? If you didn’t raise your arms and do that dance along with Gabbani + Gorilla, I have major concerns about you.

 

Honourable Mention/s Artsvik, Tamara Gachechiladze Winner O’G3NE

This is NOT an award the Netherlands would have won back in 2015, when Trijntje Oosterhuis’ black dress (*shudder*) was replaced by the reception tent for a Goth wedding (*double shudder*). But the classic little black dresses – plus one catsuit – worn by O’G3NE this year and suitably sparklified for the occasion, were gorgeous. I’m glad they didn’t go too matchy-matchy, and were able to get the girl group look even though every Vol sister wore a different style. Where do I get my own version?

FYI, these outfits will also double as appropriate attire for Verka Serduchka’s funeral one day.

 

Honourable Mention/s Joci Pápai, Sunstroke Project Winner Robin Bengtsson

One of the minor changes made to Robin’s Melfest performance for Eurovision was a suit swap – matte blue for shiny purple. You’d think I’d be too busy admiring the man IN the suit to notice such a thing, but because it was such a cool costume choice (yes, right down to the lack of socks, which somehow makes the look more crisp) I noticed.

Freaking beautiful (HAD TO).

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Martina Bárta Winner Lindita

If you read my biggest Eurovision 2017 mistakes post, you’ll already know that my eyes felt violated by the very sight of Lindita’s Vegas bride getup. If you didn’t, then you should know that my eyeballs may never fully recover from the experience of seeing her take to the stage in something so atrocious.

 

Honourable Mention/s Ksienija Žuk Winner Artsvik

I love braids, but I’ve only mastered the basic kinds – so I’d be keen to have the contact details of whoever worked their magic on Artsvik’s mane. That was art. It should be on display in the Louvre.

 

Honourable Mention/s Kasia Mós, Lindita Winner Anja Nissen

I know some of you will want to hit me with an inflatable Israeli hammer over this one, but I’m entitled to my (many, many, ESC-related) opinions! Anja just blows me away with the sheer power of her voice every time – there’s a reason she won The Voice here in Australia. Her diva vocal is always ready for action, and it’s so forceful I wouldn’t be surprised if her fire curtain was set off by the woman herself, in a Carrie-like moment of explosive kinetic energy.

 

Honourable Mention/s Jacques Houdek, Salvador Sobral Winner Kristian Kostov

Again, remember: THIS IS SUBJECTIVE. I was torn between Salvador and Kristian, aware that Salvador’s voice is more unique…but Kristian’s silky smooth, beyond-his-years vocals won my internal battle. He looks so young (and IS so young) and then he opens his mouth and it’s all maturity and polish and confidence, and I’m sold. I’m expecting big stuff from this kid.

 

Honourable Mention/s Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson Winner O’G3NE

Who else? Even if all 42 acts of 2017 had been groups, O’G3NE would have reigned supreme. Having sung together as siblings for so long, their harmonies are incomparable and absolutely perfect, always. I would happily listen to them all day long, and I’m convinced they could sing That Sounds Good To Me and make it appealing. That’s how good they are!

 

Honourable Mention/s Anja Nissen, Kasia Mós Winner Lindita

She may have worn a dress designed by the devil himself (or at least the devil’s personal seamstress), but not even that could distract from Lindita’s epic money note, one which first knocked our socks off (though not Robin Bengtsson’s, since he wasn’t wearing any) back in December 2016 when World was Botë and she won Festivali I Këngës. I have to bring back the word amazeballs just to describe it. She should become a deep sea free diver or professional balloon blower-upper with a lung capacity like that.

 

Honourable Mention/s Georgia Winner Hungary

Don’t get me wrong – Joci’s performance at A Dal was great, and a worthy winner of the NF. But I was worried Hungary would leave it be and not adapt it to fit the far bigger and grander stage of Eurovision. I also thought Joci was a little nervous and restrained back then. Fast forward to May, though, and the confidence and fire jets were out in full force. Hungary were one of only two countries to use the satellite stage too, which proved they’d really thought about how to expand on the A Dal staging. Mission accomplished!

 

 

And that concludes the second segment of the EBJEEs ceremony for 2017! Your butts must be pretty numb by now, so I’m sure that’s a relief. Still to come is the third and final part which will feature the awards for The Show: i.e. the hosts, interval acts, postcards and results. That’ll be a short one, so the only butt trouble you’ll have is if you fall asleep after reading it and then wake up with a butt on your hands (is that not the opening line of Verona?).

Between now and then, though, let me know what you thought of today’s awards. Where would your trophies go? Did the People’s Choice Awards pan out your way this time? All polite or constructively critical opinions are welcome in the comments.

 

TTYL Eurofam!

 

 

The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 1 (The Artists + The Songs)

As O.Torvald would say, it’s TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME! The trophies have been polished, the red carpet has been unrolled, and I’m ready to start giving out my Eurovision Excellence Awards to the countries, artists and songs that competed in the 2017 contest.

The ceremony will take place in three parts (since I went a little crazy with the amount of awards this year). Following on from this first installment will be The Performances, then The Show + The Results – but today, I’m acknowledging the musicians and the music that made 2017 so awesome…and in some cases, the opposite. You’ll also find out the full results of five People’s Choice Awards, with the rest to be revealed in Part 2 and Part 3. Thanks to everyone who voted in the PC polls, by the way – there were more of you than I expected, and I’m so grateful for your input. I hope you’re happy with the outcomes, but if you’re not you can’t blame me. #offthehook.

Now, without further ado, I’m going to get the first lot of EBJEE trophies off to their new owners before they get dusty. Sit back, relax and enjoy (or get outraged by) the awards for The Artists + The Songs!

 

 

THE ARTISTS

Honourable Mention/s Robin Bengtsson, Salvador Sobral Winner Imri Ziv

He may be hot in an ‘I spend longer in front of the mirror each morning than any girl I know’ kind of way – but hot is hot, right? Those eyes! That smile! Those biceps! Those abs! I won’t go any further down because a) I like to keep things mostly non-smutty around here, and b) you get where I’m going, I’m sure. It’s rumoured that Israel’s finest Imri has a thing for Anja Nissen – and who could blame him – but if she spurns you, Mr. Ziv, it’s highly likely that I’ll be available as a consolation prize.

 

Honourable Mention/s Amy Vol, Lisa Vol, Shelley Vol (O’G3NE) Winner Anja Nissen

Speaking of the stunning Anja, here she is as the winner of the Hottest She Award (imagine how attractive the kids would be if she and Imri got together!). I couldn’t really choose anyone else despite the tough competition, since I have a massive girl crush on her. She’s the ultimate blonde bombshell, drop-dead gorgeous from top to toe…except when she appeared on the Kyiv stage during rehearsals in that notorious and absolutely hideous circus/swimming costume. But NOBODY could have pulled that off (not unless they were a clown competing in the Synchronised Swimming event at the Olympics). Anyway, I’m bowing down to your beauty, Anja!

 

Honourable Mention/s Ilinca, Ksienija Žuk Winner Alma

Apparently Alma has a certain je ne sais quois (both the French and Hera Björk puns are intended) that gave her the edge over the other nominees, though not by much. This award probably isn’t what she’d like to have won recently, but the fact that so many Eurofans would be happy to call her their BFF has to be flattering.

 

Honourable Mention/s Francesco Gabbani, Kristian Kostov  Winner Nathan Trent

I have one thing to say about this result: YAAASSSSS! Well done guys, on voting an actual Mr. Nice Guy (nice guys finish last on the televote, but not overall) the winner of this year’s Mr. Congeniality EBJEE. Nathan Trent is a precious angel sent to Earth to bring pure happiness and light into all of our lives, and anyone who dares dispute that should be burnt at the stake. Or be ignored, one of the two.

 

Honourable Mention/s Kristian Kostov, Sunstroke Project Winner Jacques Houdek

I’m not sure which Jacques to give this trophy to – they might have to share custody of it like a pair of divorced parents with their only child. Regardless, this is an award well deserved by a man – yes, just the one…I’ll let the joke die now – who managed to bring both incredible talent and a LOT of laughter (hvala, Hrvatska, for the comic relief) to this year’s Eurovision. Like Conchita’s facial hair, Jacques’ two voices made him instantly memorable and almost overshadowed every other aspect of his entry. We’ll never see a duet quite like this again.

 

Honourable Mention/s Nathan Trent, Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson Winner Sunstroke Project

Picking a winner for this award was a no-brainer for me, but I did very briefly ask myself which nominee’s concert I’d be the most keen to sit through. The answer, of course, was Sunstroke Project’s – though technically, I wouldn’t be sitting through it so much as dancing my ass off through it. All three of the guys are party-starters in their own right, and look like they could happily live on stage. They’re energetic, enthusiastic and charismatic, and can get even the most stubborn butts off seats without even trying. Born to entertain? Heck yes.

 

Honourable Mention/s Blanche Winner Kristian Kostov

This was one of the smallest categories for 2017, and two of the teens ended up monopolising most of the votes – 91%, in fact. Contest runner-up Kristian beats Blanche yet again, and if that’s partly due to his more confident handling of the whole Eurovision experience – as well as his higher placing on the scoreboard – then I’d say it’s the right result. Still, anyone so fresh-faced who can get up on such a big stage and sing their fully-functioning, youthful heart out deserves a high five. Great job, kids.

 

 

THE SONGS

Honourable Mention/s Gravity, Lights and Shadows Winner Perfect Life

Now, I’m not accusing anyone of plagiarism here. Even if a song is almost identical in some way to another, it doesn’t mean it was purposely plagiarised. Still, you have to wonder about that oh-so-familiar sound layered underneath the lyrics of Levina’s Perfect Life. Everyone has heard David Guetta’s Titanium, and I find it hard to believe that anyone could come up with a beat and riff combo so similar and not think ‘Hang on…I know this from somewhere.’ TBH, it’s a shame that Perfect Life doesn’t sound even more like Titanium – i.e. that it didn’t ramp up and become an equally powerful dance banger.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Amar Pelos Dois, Beautiful Mess Winner Grab The Moment

A predicable pick? Probably not. But Grab The Moment has a set of lyrics that are interesting, full of clever rhymes (no love/above level stuff in sight) and SO neatly phrased and tightly packed. It’s wordier than I usually like my songs to be, but the rap-like delivery helps make it the modern pop masterpiece it is. Plus, there’s loads of room for lyrical interpretation, which is right up my alley as a former English major. This is my highlight: ‘Getting kinda heavy on my shoulders, try to stand straight but I’m boneless, got a pocket full of prose while I’m walking on my toes and I’m coping with a map that is roadless.’ Remind yourself of the rest here.

 

Honourable Mention/s Skeletons Winner Space

As much as I’m confused (rather than amazed) by “thorn jeans”, I can’t go past Slavko’s Space as the 2017 song with the most WTF words. It’s not that they don’t make sense, because they do. They’re just so…erotically charged. Not to mention all over the place – there’s a ton of space references, obviously, but one minute the lovers in question are Bonnie and Clyde and the next they’re possessed with superpowers. I commend the line in the chorus that connects writing a story with body language *slow clap*. But ‘Wet dreams…come into me from within’? TMI, Montenegro.

 

Honourable Mention/s Lights and Shadows Winner Amar Pelos Dois

This is a very subjective award, hence why I didn’t make it a People’s Choice. It’s for the entry that I personally didn’t rate too highly pre-contest, but grew to love between then and now. I never disliked eventual winner Amar Pelos Dois, but I didn’t love it and I definitely didn’t get the hype surrounding it (why was it second in the odds? I had no idea). For some reason, though, when I saw Salvador’s performance in the first semi final, I ‘got’ it. I was teary-eyed, my heart was warmed and I finally fell in love with the simplistic, romantic beauty of the song. Better late than never.

 

Honourable Mention/s Dance Alone, Verona Winner Occidentali’s Karma

This trophy doesn’t have to go to a song that was hyped by fans and then under-performed according to expectations, but this year it is. Occidentali’s Karma was predicted to be a runaway winner by a lot of fans in the lead-up to the show, racked up more views on YouTube than any entry preceding it, and stormed to victory in the OGAE Poll. And then, just like France did last year off the back of winning that poll, it finished 6th. As soon as I saw Francesco’s final performance, I knew that my gut feeling of months previously had been right – Italy wasn’t going to win. Falling away from the top five, for a song with so much expected of it, this was Sognu all over again.

 

Honourable Mention/s I Can’t Go On, I Feel Alive Winner Hey Mamma

It was the most successful dance track to take part in the Kyiv contest, and now the Sunstroke Project’s Hey Mamma gets another gong to add to the our engraved with ‘Moldova’s Best-Placed ESC Entry Ever.’ I have zero complaints about your choice here, people! There’s something about a good bit of sax that makes dancing more or less irresistible, and as such I can guarantee that this song will frequent the official Euroclub playlist for years to come.

 

Honourable Mention/s Occidentali’s Karma Winner City Lights

And it’s Belgium by a millimetre! The standard of preview videos was pretty high this year, and I personally wouldn’t have chosen City Lights as my favourite. Still, I can’t fault its stylish, slightly unsettling (in a good way) vibes. The isolation of being ‘all alone in the danger zone’ is expertly brought to the screen, while the titular lights have a mind of their own. Overall, it’s just as cool as the song.

 

Honourable Mention/s Keep The Faith Winner Fly With Me

Some songs are just so much better to watch than to listen to – they just come to life when performed live. Artsvik’s Fly With Me, a song that is a perfectly good but not great audio track, was given the royal treatment for Eurovision, and that gave me a new respect for it. The backdrop emphasised the ethnicity of the song as did the choreography, while the pyrotechnics upped the drama. Excellent costume choices were the cherry on top.

 

Honourable Mention/s Space Winner City Lights

And now, vice versa! Belgium’s performances over the past few years have been epic, but there was a question mark over Blanche’s ability to command an audience and take control of her nerves. She faltered in the semi, but in the end pulled off a much, MUCH better performance in the final and earned her 4th place. Even so, City Lights is a radio dream rather than a live one. The slick production and disembodied, distant sound of Blanche’s recorded vocals (minus the distraction of her looking like she wants to run screaming off the stage) is what I love about the song, and it’s just not as impressive in the ESC context.

 

 

That’s all for today/tonight, guys. I hope you enjoyed the show, and didn’t get too drunk and end up tripping and falling into a stranger’s lap which turned out to be the lap of Jon Ola Sand. It’s very awkward when that happens, let me tell you.

Who would you have given these awards to? Are you shocked by some of the People’s Choice percentages? Can I discuss Eurovision 2017 right up until Eurovision 2018 without annoying you? Let me know in the comments – it’s free (although every swear word directed at me costs $50).

 

Until next time, when 2017’s performances will be in the spotlight…

 

 

 

And Now, For The Not-So-Beautiful Messes: The five biggest on-stage mistakes of Eurovision 2017

Didn’t see this coming in the wake of last week’s top 5 performances of 2017 countdown? Well, neither did I. Consider my face officially palmed.

I actually have the awesome Anita from Eurovision Union to thank for inspiring this companion piece to that post: a countdown of the countries that didn’t, in my opinion, get it all right in terms of their song’s staging and/or performance in Kyiv. I’ve deliberately not made this about the five worst performances, since there wasn’t a single country that I’d say got everything wrong (although one came close). Instead, I’ve singled out the elements in a handful of acts – dodgy vocals, horrifying costume choices, bad backdrops etc – that dragged them down…and in the case of a few, may have had a hand in their non-qualifications.

Have your say on the biggest stuff-ups of Eurovision 2017 in the comments. Remember, honesty is the best policy (and there’s no fun in 24/7 sunshine and rainbows, so get critical!).

Oh, BTW – you can (and should!) still vote in the People’s Choice polls of the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards. They’ll close in a few days’ time and the results will be revealed soon after that, so do your Eurofan duty while you have the chance!

 

 

 

#5 | Montenegro steers clear of OTT…for worse, not for better

I’m starting with something that was too inoffensive rather than too offensive, especially considering the source. From my very first listen of Slavko Kalezić’s Space, I was expecting to see it on stage in the campest and most fabulous fashion imaginable. I’m talking buff, topless male dancers who had marinated themselves in body glitter in the hours leading up to the show; galaxy-inspired visuals that alternated between dramatic (for the verses) and flamboyant (for the choruses; and plenty of overuse of the core Eurovision elements – wind and fire. I was confident in Slavko’s ability to make this dream of mine come true, given that he was to 2017 what Tooji was to 2012 – only Space didn’t require the reining in of camp that Stay did. So you can imagine my disappointment when he appeared on the Kyiv stage by himself, with only a mediocre costume change and his beloved Rapunzel braid for company. It’s not that he couldn’t command the stage on his own, because he strutted around like a boss and did the hairycopter with full enthusiasm. But when a song so obviously calls for one to go full gimmick on its ass, one should obey. Space needed more colour, more choreography and a crowd (of five other people) to be everything non-Eurovision fans think the contest is. Not so much to give it a shot at qualifying, since that was unlikely to ever happen (sadface), but just to make the most of the saucy, sassy lyrics; the fun, upbeat vibe; and Slavko’s larger-than-life personality.

 

#4 | Switzerland sugar-coats their staging of Apollo

I’ve got a job for you: take all of the 2017 entries that were chosen via a national final, and compare how they were staged initially to how they were staged at Eurovision. For the most part, you’ll notice that not many changed drastically, and those that did mostly improved on their presentation. Timebelle’s Apollo, then, is the exception and not the rule, because it went downhill between NF season and contest week. In fact, the only way Switzerland went up was by sticking Miruna at the top of a spiral staircase, which she eventually descended anyway (in stilettos, without breaking a sweat or any bones, which does deserve a high five). What we saw and what we heard clashed like crazy. Apollo benefited way more from the dramatic and modern NF staging, which could have been built on for ESC purposes. Yet that was discarded in favour of cheap and predictable background graphics, the inexplicable staircase (Why was it there? What did it add?), and an equally inexplicable yellow dress that I thought was less Beauty and the Beast inspired and more like the repurposed outer layer of a certain big bird who lives on Sesame Street. And let’s not forget more pastel shades than you’d find in the maternity wing of a major hospital. Overall, the look of this would have worked wonders for the right song (minus the tacky backdrop) but it took a good song and made it below-average. If I were Switzerland, I’d be contacting Sacha Jean-Baptiste right now to book her for Eurovision 2018.

 

#3 | Australia’s hit-and-missed high note

Contrary to what you might think, I don’t enjoy bringing this up in conversation time and time again. However, as patriotic and proud of Isaiah’s work in Kyiv as I am, I can’t deny that when we’re talking about the biggest broadcast boo-boos of the year, that notorious note he aimed for during the semi final HAS to be mentioned. I don’t recall ever hearing the guy drop a note while he was singing his heart out on The X Factor last year, so perhaps the grueling rehearsal and media schedule of Eurovision took its toll…or maybe it was a combination of nerves and trying too hard. Whatever the cause, to say that Isaiah failed rather than nailed that note – one accompanied by a pyro curtain, which is the international symbol for ‘This is the moment that’s supposed to win you over and secure your votes’ – would be an understatement. It turned out to be a moment that had me convinced Australia had just lost out on a spot in the grand final instead. Thankfully, because his jury semi performance was more X Factor and less cringe factor, Isaiah did slip through in a still remarkably high sixth place. He then went on to make up for the vocal mishap to end all vocal mishaps on the Saturday night, though it has to be said that the initial pyro note still wasn’t up to scratch. Whenever I watch either of his performances back in the future, my hand will be hovering over the mute button as the two-minute mark approaches.

 

#2 | Albania dresses Lindita up for a wacky wedding…WTF?!?

I could complain until the cows come home about all of the questionable costuming choices made by the 2017 delegations. Belgium? Should have worn the jumpsuit from the flag parade. Poland? Shouldn’t have worn white. Israel? What were they thinking putting him in a shirt when shirtless clearly would have been the best way to go? But right at the top of the heap – though at the bottom of the pile in terms of suitable sartorial selections – is undoubtedly Albania. I don’t know what kind of performance Lindita’s ‘Vegas showgirl meets drunken 3am Vegas bride’ outfit would be appropriate for, but it was just plain ridiculous when paired with World. I don’t get the thought process behind it, assuming there was one. It proved to be such a distraction that I couldn’t even concentrate on Lindita’s mind-blowing vocals, which hadn’t been an issue when she won Festivali I Këngës with the song formerly known as Böte. Unfortunately, this look wasn’t a one-off, as she wore something equally frightening (in nude, not white) on opening ceremony night. She obviously felt pretty and powerful on both occasions – she doesn’t strike me as a person who’d wear what she was told if she wasn’t 100% happy about it – but in my eyes, a black bin liner would have been a better choice both times. You know, like the one Croatia’s Nina Badrić wore back in 2012.

 

#1 | Spain’s…well, everything 

Many of us fans felt sure about two things prior to this year’s contest. One, that Italy would walk it, and two, that Spain would finish dead last. We may have been wrong about the former, but the latter did its predicted duty. Poor Manel – he had a terrible time at Objetivo Eurovisión thanks to The Mirela Incident, and then couldn’t prove anyone wrong by defying our ESC expectations of him. You might wonder why, if you’re unacquainted with both Do It For Your Lover and his rendition of it in Ukraine. Well, the song was weak to start with – great for roaring down the road in a convertible on a summer’s day en route to the coast, but too much of a repetitive flatliner to stand up in a song competition. It could have been saved by some genius stage concept, who knows…but Spain had the total opposite up their hibiscus-patterned shirt sleeve. The surfer idea was good in theory, but the execution was on par with High School Musical 2, if High School Musical 2 had been lumped with a production budget of $100. Low-quality graphics – including a Kombi van that kept on rocking without any danger of anyone knocking, an overhead shot of Manel and his band on surfboards that they just didn’t pull off, and a general air of over-casualness – made the package pretty unappealing. The fact that it was an entire verse before anyone turned around to face the camera/audience was also a turn-off. And just when we thought Spain might scrape enough points to NOT finish 26th, Manel’s voice decided to re-break at a pivotal moment, which sealed the deal. I’m sorry for seeming extra bitchy about this (you must be craving sunlight after all this shade I’ve thrown) but I’m being cruel to be kind. Both Manel and Spain deserve a LOT better.

 

 

Do you agree with any of my picks, or do you think I’M the one making the mistakes? Which competing countries of Eurovision 2017 made the wrong decisions when it came to putting on the best possible show?

 

Next time…you’ve voted (I hope) and now the EBJ Eurovision Excellence Award winners – People’s Choice + my personal choices – can be made public. First up, I’ll be handing out (pretend) trophies in the categories of The Artists and The Songs – followed by The Performances, The Show and The Results. The celebration of Kyiv’s bests and worsts will continue, and you’d be as crazy as Lindita Halimi’s costume designer if you missed it!

 

 

 

GRAB THE MOMENT | Vote in the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards People’s Choice polls!

Yes, it’s that time again – when, in the wake of Eurovision and in the midst of PED, a heap of ESC-themed sites feel compelled to hand out some trophies of their own. They may not be fancy, microphone-shaped Kosta Boda glass, but they give every country, artist, backing singer and man with horse mask on the chance of taking one home.

In the immortal words of Martina Bárta, now it’s my turn. The EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards, as they’ve been branded the past few years, are back! But before I give out any awards personally, I need you guys – yes, YOU (I love that shirt, by the way…it’s totally your colour) – to decide on some winners for me. That’s not because I’m too lazy to choose them myself, but because I love having input from anyone who takes the time to read this blog, and I definitely want to know what you thought were some of the highlights and lowlights of Kyiv 2017. So here we are.

This year, there’s not one…not two…not three…*ten minutes later* but TWELVE People’s Choice Awards up for grabs. I’ve tried to keep the nominees as numerous as possible, but if I haven’t listed someone/something that you REALLY want to vote for, leave me a comment and I will count it as a valid vote. The rules? Well, you can only vote once (on any one device, so feel free to hijack all of the phones/computers/tablets in your household) but you can make multiple choices on each poll – so if you’re struggling to decide, for instance, whether Oleks, Vova or Timur was the best host, just vote for all three.

Who says I’m not generous?

You’ve got one week to vote (and to spread the word so all of your Eurofan friends get to have their say too). Now go forth and pick your personal winners!

 

 

Miss Congeniality

She’s friendly, she’s fun, and she’s the female singer of 2017 you’d choose to hang out with above all others. It’s about personality rather than looks for this award (although all of these ladies are beautiful on the outside AND the inside).

 

Mr. Congeniality

Now it’s time to pick the most personable male artist who charmed both fans and the media in Kyiv. You’d take a road trip with him without hesitation, because you’d be guaranteed a great time and a lot of laughs.

 

Teen Act of the Year

Years and years of experience can come in handy when handling Eurovision…but teenagers can do pretty well for themselves too. All of 2017’s teen acts finished in the top 10, but which one was your favourite?

 

Dancefloor Filler of the Year

Whether you were in the Euroclub, at a Eurovision party or home alone in your pajamas, there had to be at least one song this year that you could NOT resist dancing to – and you’ll be playing it again any time you need to add some life to a future party!

 

Best Music Video

We don’t get preview videos from every single country competing in the contest (this is the one area where Sweden shows weakness) but the bunch we do get often bring their A-game. 2017 was no exception – let’s see which video you think is the best of the best.

Check out all of the nominees here.

 

Best Prop/Gimmick

The Eurovision stage sees more stand-out props and gimmicks than any other, and they (usually) add something special to a performance. Vote for the little – or large – extra something that impressed you the most this year.

 

Best Use of the Backdrop

The sky is the limit these days when it comes to pimping performances via high-def screenage. It’s a missed opportunity if the background isn’t used to a country’s advantage, but there weren’t many missed opportunities in Kyiv! Which backdrop wowed you when you laid eyes on it?

 

Best Performance From the Big 5

There are always musical hits and misses from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – but this award is for the country that stood out on stage when compared to their fellow automatic finalists (the hosts not included).

 

The Host With The Most

It’s a hard job, choosing between three attractive Ukrainian men – but somebody has to do it! Oleks, Vova and Timur took the reins between them this year, but only one can be crowned the Host With The Most. Take your pick.

  

Opening/Interval Act of the Year

We were spoiled this year when it came to pre and in-between song entertainment, with Ukraine trotting out a bunch of its biggest stars – including ESC 2016 winner Jamala three times (fine by me). Without comparing anything to Love Love Peace Peace, decide on your no. 1 performance.

Check out all of the nominees here.

 

OMG Moment of the Year

There were many jaw-on-the-floor occurrences this year, including the moment rehearsal viewers spotted a questionable (a.k.a. penis-like) image front and centre on one of Latvia’s screens (which had to be covered up). Which one had you shaking your head in disbelief?

 

The ‘How Did THAT Happen?’ Award for Most Shocking Result

Speaking of shocking…even the most talented predictor wouldn’t have seen some of the Eurovision 2017 scoreboard placements coming. Some countries defied expectations while others failed when we thought they’d flourish. Choose your personal WTF result below!

 

 

Congrats, your work here is done. Thanks for taking the time to vote…and if you didn’t but you’re still reading this, then GET BACK UP THERE AND DO YOUR DUTY!

Drop by EBJ next week for the full results of the People’s Choice Awards – and find out who won all of the other trophies in the categories of The Artists, The Songs, The Performances, The Show and The Results. Things may kick off a little sooner, so if you want to know exactly when, be sure to subscribe in the sidebar, or follow me on Twitter/Instagram.

 

Until then, stay fabulous!

 

 

 

Putting The (Freaking) Beautiful Into The Mess: My five favourite performances of Eurovision 2017

Happy Hump Day, everybody! They say time flies when you’re having fun, but apparently it also flies when you’re in the torturous throes of Post-Eurovision Depression. It’s already been a week and a half since Portugal won their first ever ESC, and to me it actually feels like it’s been longer. Shouldn’t NF season have started again by now?

I just mentioned a bad bout of PED, but I have to admit that mine hasn’t been nearly as bad as usual. I’m not sure why – maybe because I’ve been pretty busy since final weekend, dealing with all the stuff I didn’t do before the shows because I had nothing but Eurovision on the brain and couldn’t concentrate on anything else. From now until about April 2018, my brain-space will only be 90% occupied by Eurovision – that leaves 10% for everything else, which IMO is plenty.

Obviously I’m not here to talk about anything but the contest, though, and today I’m focusing on the most freaking beautiful performances of 2017, according to moi (because boy, is this a subjective topic). Staging and singing standards were high this year, but there weren’t that many acts that had every single bit of their s%#t together. Here’s my personal shortlist – from no. 5 to no. 1, for maximum soap-opera-cliffhanger suspense – of those that did.

Hit me up with your top five performances of the year in the comments, and we’ll see if we have any countries in common…

 

  

#5 | Robin Bengtsson’s performance of I Can’t Go On for Sweden

But of course! I’d be concerned for my mental health – and I’m sure you guys would be too – if I’d willingly left Sweden off this list. Just as the two certainties of life are death and taxes, the two certainties of Swedish Eurovision performances are a) they’ll be polished to perfection, and b) they’ll have been that way since we first saw the future ESC rep on stage at Melodifestivalen. There was certainly no need to change Robin Bengtsson’s risky, but super-suave and super-slick staging of I Can’t Go On between Stockholm and Kyiv – although the backdrop was revamped, two dancers were replaced, and a new suit was bestowed the privilege of being wrapped around Robin (FYI, SVT…I would have done that for free). ANYWAY, Robin’s Eurovision performances were as sharp as said suit, and just as entertaining as his first public one from the NF days. What’s to fault? I do now feel inadequate, since I can barely power-walk on a treadmill without tripping over my own feet (let alone strut on one with confidence while singing, et cetera), but that’s just me being pedantic.

 

 

#4 | Salvador Sobral’s performance of Amar Pelos Dois for Portugal

Taking an alternative approach to Sweden’s cool, calculated one paid off for Portugal. Every single time Salvador the Salvadorable took to the ESC stage, he put a slightly different spin on Amar Pelos Dois, via his vocals and unique performance style. That gave his three minute appearances an authenticity and freshness that was so endearing, it made many of us feel like proud parents watching their shy son come into his own at a school talent contest. But don’t get me wrong – his performances were world class, with an emphasis on the ‘class’. Being the only artist to use the satellite stage (Hungary’s violinist doesn’t count), he stood out without the aid of any bells and whistles (I have no problem with pimping out a performance, but we all know APD needed to be pared-back). He’s a spellbinding presence on his own, and with that stunning woodland backdrop behind him, delivered something that was impossible to ignore. There wasn’t anything else on show in 2017 that was quite so dreamy…if we don’t include Robin Bengtsson’s penetrating gaze and Imri Ziv’s biceps.

 

 

#3 | Joci Pápai’s performance of Origo for Hungary

I might be biased on this one, since as you probably know, Origo is my hands-down numero uno song of the year. But even I was worried that Joci would be too nervous on stage, or that the A Dal performance feat. dancer, violinist and suitably aggressive rap sequence wouldn’t translate well to the much bigger IEC stage. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. The intimacy of the performance – an important thing to cultivate considering the personal nature of the song’s story – was retained, but the use of the satellite stage and the fire jets expanded it to Eurovision-size. The colour scheme was perfect, the camera shots clever, and the emotion just as raw and real as it needed to be to not come across as phony (or over-rehearsed). Joci’s costume change for the final was the icing on the cake. The only thing I’d have done differently is toned down the smile on the violinist’s face – I feel like she needed to be more Sandra Nurmsalu and less Alexander Rybak for Origo purposes. Then again, I can’t blame her for smiling her way through a performance this good.

 

 

#2 | Kristian Kostov’s performance of Beautiful Mess for Bulgaria

I had no idea what to expect from Bulgaria this year in terms of staging, but I knew that Beautiful Mess deserved to be presented in an amazing way. What was ultimately done with it was incredible, and gave it all the visual interest it needed without taking away from the song or from Kristian’s beyond-his-years charisma and vocal talents. Geometric shapes and a bleak but totally on-trend monochromatic colour and lighting scheme went hand-in-hand with Kris’s Addams Family-esque clothing choice. Together, those elements made the performance seem so mature it was easy to forget that he’s a kid who only recently turned 17. The choreography was simple, and the shaky camera shots that kicked in halfway through (perhaps inspired by the treatment of Oscar Zia’s Human at Melfest last year) added to the atmosphere. As Kris sings in the chorus, I don’t want nothing more – i.e. I couldn’t have asked for anything better – from Bulgaria’s performance. That’s two years in a row now, and it makes me excited for what they might bring to the party in Lisbon.

 

 

#1 | Sunstroke Project’s performance of Hey Mamma for Moldova

A public service announcement: from now on, we’re all to spell ‘fun’ like this – M-O-L-D-O-V-A. If you were after a Eurovision 2017 performance that ticked every single box, then you’d undoubtedly have found it in the Sunstroke Project’s sophomore stage appearance. It took a great party song and made it a serious contender by doing everything right. The boys and their brides-to-be were entertaining, energetic and vocally solid; their dance moves were quirky, memorable and easy to copy after a few drinks gave you the courage (or was that just me?); and their background graphics were 10/10. They also threw in a handful of bits and pieces that ramped up the fun factor without turning Hey Mamma into a disposable novelty entry – think the backup singers’ costume change, and their synchronised bouquet toss into the audience. Moldova’s semi performance took me by surprise as I didn’t foresee it being my highlight of the night, but it was. And final night wouldn’t have been the same without them, that’s for sure. A third place well earned? You bet your epic sax!

 

 

Now I’ve shown you mine, you can show me yours! Which performances from Kyiv do you think were the most douze-worthy?

 

 

Next time…I hope your poll-taking skills are still sharp from voting in Barbara Dex, because the 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards are about to kick off, and I need you to decide who and what should win the People’s Choice trophies! From the Miss and Mr. Congeniality awards to the Dancefloor Filler of the Year, Best Music Video and OMG Moment of the Year honors, it’s up to you to vote in a whole heap of categories and have your say on the best – and worst – of Eurovision 2017. Don’t miss your chance!!

 

 

 

 

Lights and Shadows: Reviewing the good, the bad and the OMG results of Eurovision 2017

Hey guys! This is the kind of post that should have gone up about five minutes after the Eurovision final ended on Saturday, but I have been internet-less (cue Psycho shower scene music) for the whole week up until this point. So please excuse the slowness.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but on the weekend Portugal did something pretty cool by winning that Eurovision final after more than half a century of trying. No biggie.

Okay, okay…like Ron Burgundy, Portugal’s win IS kind of a big deal. And obviously you already know what went down during the show – from Austria’s giant moon to a flag-draped Ukrainian’s moon (of a different kind) and everything before, in-between and after.

The more-than-convincing win by Salvador Sobral with Amar Pelos Dois is one for the ages. Salvador is a quirky and precious gift to humankind (the Michael Cera of Eurovision, if you will) and APD is a stunning song, lovingly crafted by his equally talented sister Luisa. I’m so glad we got to witness the two of them come together (Stockholm 2016 slogan pun not intended, believe it or not) to perform the best ESC winner reprise in contest history:

I’M NOT CRYING. YOU’RE CRYING.

That’s three years in row now that the Eurovision victory lap has moved me to tears, for one reason or another. If the thought of heading to Lisbon next May wasn’t appealing enough, whoever takes the trip (which might include me!) will also get to see at least one Sobral sibling perform live. BRB, off to plaster a sticker on my loose change jar that says ‘PORTUGAL FUND’.

Of course, many of us were expecting to start up an Italy fund over the weekend, if we hadn’t already. While Francesco Gabbani + gorilla hardly crashed and burned, such a steaming hot favourite finishing outside of the top 5 is flabbergasting.

Occidentali’s Karma wasn’t the only song to end the night in an unexpected place. There were plenty of surprises – good and bad – on the semi and final scoreboards…and then the full split results were made public and provided even more open-mouth moments. It’s customary for every Eurovision-related site to pick all of those results apart like a chicken carcass, so that’s what I’m (finally) doing today. Sans the grease that accompanies picking apart an actual chicken carcass. Sorry for the visual, vegetarians.

FYI 1.0: I’m not too bothered about points, because there are (other) Eurovision nerds out there who can crunch numbers with ease (I can’t) and have beaten me to it anyway. I’m more interested in other stats: agreements and disagreements between the televoters and juries; which countries continued to succeed and which countries fell off the ‘We’re Good At Song Contests!’ wagon; who outdid all of their previous results and who hit a brand new low…that sort of thing. If you want to know how many jurors from Eastern Europe gave five or more points to countries in Western Europe (or something like that), you won’t find that info here.

FYI 2.0: I like to ramble. Even if this is your first time visiting EBJ, then this overly-long intro will have made that clear. So before you go on and read this post (which I hope you do ‘coz it’s interesting, I promise), find a comfortable seat and some energy bars to have by your side – or, as Ilinca from Romania says between bouts of yodeling, ‘Get another coffee, get another one to make it through’. Wise, wise Ilinca.

Now let’s look back at the rankings from the semi finals and the final of Eurovision 2017, and see what stands out for better…or for worse.

 

 

Semi final 1

 Split results stats

  • Countries the juries and televoters agreed on were Portugal and Greece, but they both ranked Sweden, Armenia, Iceland and Latvia
  • The biggest differences of opinion were over Australia (2nd J, 15th T), the Czech Republic (7th J, 18th T) and Belgium (13th J, 3rd J). Fortunately for televoters, the juries didn’t manage to keep Blanche out of qualifying range.

 

 Combined results stats

  • Portugal won a semi for the first time this year. Their previous highest qualification came from a 2nd placing in 2008.
  • Moldova’s 2nd place overall equals their best semi result ever – they also finished 2nd the last time the contest was held in Kyiv in 2005.
  • For Sweden, this was the fifth semi final in a row (host years excluded, of course) in which they’ve finished in the top 3.
  • Australia maintained its 100% qualification record – it could be worse with two semi participations – alongside Azerbaijan (slightly more impressive given they’ve participated in nine semis).
  • The countries that did NOT qualify in 2016 but made it through in 2017 are Portugal (they didn’t compete in Stockholm), Moldova and Greece.
  • The countries that DID qualify in 2016 but failed to this year are Georgia, the Czech Republic and Latvia.

 

Moldova’s out-of-the-ordinary strong result and Sweden’s predictably excellent one put a smile on my Post-Eurovision-Depression-ravaged face. I’m also pleased with Isaiah’s 6th place, since after his performance last Tuesday I wasn’t sure Australia would even get to the final at all.

I’m not surprised by Georgia’s narrow miss of the final based on the flawless performance Tamara gave during the broadcast. I’m guessing she didn’t miss a beat, note or dramatic arm flourish during the jury show either.

I feel a bit better about losing Blackbird now that we know Finland wasn’t totally disregarded. The juries just found a few other songs that catered more to their tastes (or better met the criteria they were supposed to be searching for).

Latvia’s last place has left me shook. The juries ranking it right at the bottom makes some sense, but I expected the public to go for this particular pimp-slot song in a big way. Then again, I didn’t vote for it, and apparently I wasn’t alone.

 

 

Semi final 2

Split results stats

  • The countries juries and televoters agreed on this time were Bulgaria and Ireland, with Serbia, Switzerland, Macedonia, Lithuania and San Marino ranked closely with both.
  • It was a different story for the Netherlands (2nd J, 9th T), Austria (4th J, 14th T), Malta (8th J, 18th T), Croatia (13th J, 5th T), Romania (15th J, 3rd T) and Estonia (17th J, 6th T). The jury got their way with Estonia, but not with Malta.

 

Combined results stats

  • After qualifying for only the second time ever last year, Bulgaria did it for a third time in style by winning the second semi.
  • Hungary achieved their equal best semi result in history, with Joci doing what Magdi Ruzsa managed in 2007.
  • This semi saw Romania pick up their 100% qualifying record where they left off in 2015.
  • Switzerland may have missed out on a spot in the final for the third time in a row, but 12th place isn’t bad considering they placed dead last in their 2015 and 2016 semis.
  • Despite having a hotly tipped song up their sleeve, Macedonia failed to make it out of the semis for the fifth consecutive year.
  • The countries that did NOT qualify in 2016 but made it through in 2017 are Norway, Romania (after being expelled like a naughty school kid last year), Belarus and Denmark.
  • The countries that DID qualify in 2016 but failed to this year are Serbia, Malta and Lithuania. Where’s Donny Montell when you need him?

 

Nothing warms my (formerly cold, unfeeling) heart more than seeing Hungary’s Origo – my favourite entry of 2017 – so high in the combined ranking. I figured Joci’s rap would repel a lot of juries, but they still had him in their top 10.

I was a little surprised to see that Denmark just scraped through, but I’m biased when it comes to Anja and Where I Am. Maybe I should have seen it coming. I’m not shocked that she had more jury appeal than televoter appeal. Claudia Faniello did too, but with worse consequences.

San Marino actually finished far lower than I thought they would. Because a) Valentina and Jimmie put on a good show in spite of the material they were working with, and b) I figured I shouldn’t underestimate a Sammarinese disco song after last year, I’d prepared for them to claw their way into 12th-14th territory. Serhat must be pretty pleased with himself now!

 

 

The final

I’ve noted each country’s jury (J) and televote (T) ranking below in the overall ranking.

Split results stats

  • Just like in the semis, the juries and televoters only agreed on the ranking of two countries – Portugal and Bulgaria (who’d also been ranked first by both in their respective semis).
  • It was a close call for Italy, Azerbaijan, Greece, Israel, Germany, Belarus and Spain, who were all ranked reasonably equally by J and T. The televoters’ way would have seen Austria finish last, but the juries elevated Nathan to 16th place overall (which I’m thankful for, because I couldn’t bear to watch that adorable human fall victim to a total lack of love).
  • The biggest disagreements between J and T were over Australia, the Netherlands, Croatia, Austria, Poland, Romania and Hungary. Australia gets the award for the largest gap between rankings, with a jury 4th and a televoting 25th.

 

Combined results stats

  • We all know that the entire top 3 – Portugal, Bulgaria and Moldova – achieved their best-ever results on Saturday. Portugal and Moldova also made massive leaps after each failing to even qualify the last time they competed. This time last year, Bulgaria had just reached a best-ever placing of 4th, so well done to Kristian for improving on Poli’s already stellar result.
  • Belgium hit the heights of the top 10 for the third time in a row, and Sweden finished 5th for the second time in a row. Consistent!
  • Australia continued their top 10 trend despite receiving the second-lowest amount of public votes, while Norway found themselves back on the left side of the scoreboard after a non-qualification last year. Prior to 2016, the last time Norway had finished outside of the top 10 was 2012.
  • The Netherlands ended up in 11th place again – Douwe Bob did the same last year. Cyprus came 21st for the second straight year. More consistency!
  • 19 of the 26 finalists were also in the Stockholm grand final. Of those 19, 8 improved on their 2016 final placings and 8 dropped down. The most notable dropper is Poland, who went from 8th then to 22nd
  • In terms of host entries, Ukraine put in one of the worst performances – on the scoreboard, not on the stage – of the last decade. Austria’s 26th place with nul points from 2015 obviously outdoes O.Torvald’s 24th place (with 36 whole points) but those are the only two host entries to sink that low in recent years.
  • Spain found themselves in the bottom 5 again this year, after Barei finished 22nd in 2016. This is the first time since 1999 they’ve come last, though, which might seem surprising since they’ve had such bad luck for so long.
  • Germany, on the other hand, managed to better their last few results despite finishing second last. They trailed the pack of participants in both 2015 and 2016, so Levina shouldn’t be too One box of tissues, tops.

 

On Portugal’s win…was Amar Pelos Dois my favourite entry this year? No. Do I agree with everything Salvador said in his spontaneous slash controversial victory speech? No, but that’s more to do with the way he said it (and he’s easily defendable on that front). Am I happy that he and Portugal won the contest last weekend? HECK YEAH!!! Simple, beautiful and emotional – and yes, more about feeling than fireworks, although fireworks are fine – this winning song will be a timeless classic.

Bulgaria and Moldova achieving their best-ever results makes me do a happy dance every time I think about it (so I’d better avoid attending funerals for a while #inappropriate). Kristian’s placing was expected, but the Sunstroke Project outdid even their own expectations, I suspect. I feel strangely like a proud mother (as opposed to the hard-to-impress kind they sang about).

5th place (again) for Sweden is solid if not sensational. They had some tough competition to take out this year, and winning was never a realistic possibility. But they get to hold on to their Eurovision powerhouse title for at least another year.  

Poor Italy. After all of that buildup and so much time spent as the bookies’ fave to win, they didn’t even make the top 5. After seeing Francesco’s performance, I got the impression it wasn’t a winner, but I still thought top 3 was going to happen for him. Nope. Interestingly, France won the OGAE vote last year, like Italy did this year, and also went on to finish 6th. Spooky.

It proved to be a non-event with the juries, but Hungary’s Origo – my beloved #1 song of the year – was thankfully boosted into the top 10 by the televoters (including me…it got about 15 of my 20 votes). Since their 2011 comeback, Hungary has qualified for the final every year and has finished in the top 10 three times. Not too shabby.

On the other hand, Australia was virtually ignored by televoters but adored by the juries. I don’t really understand either response, but I can’t help being thrilled in my own biased way that we made the top 10 yet again.

I figured France was a goner after Alma appeared on stage last looking very lonely and not leaving much of an impression behind her. But 12th? Tré bien! The song definitely deserved that left-side finish, even if the staging left something to be desired.

I thought Israel might do a little better, but I think we all saw Spain’s wooden spoon coming – even before Manel sealed the deal with that cringeworthy vocal fail. I think he’s sweet, and he doesn’t deserve the hate he got before the contest and will probably get now – but I also hope Spain learns a lesson from his lack of success.

 

 

Lastly…the comeback acts, then versus now

Kyiv was a more successful contest for:

  • Sunstroke Project 22nd in 2010/3rd in 2017

…and that’s it! The trio should be particularly grateful for their success, because every single other returning artist had a worse result than they did when they last competed.

  • Koit Toome 12th in 1998/DNQ (14th in semi) in 2017
  • Laura Põldvere DNQ (20th in semi) in 2005/DNQ (14th in semi) in 2017*
  • Omar Naber DNQ (12th in semi) in 2005/DNQ (17th in semi) in 2017
  • Valentina Monetta 24th in 2014/DNQ (18th in semi) in 2017

*I’m calling Laura’s result this year worse because with Suntribe in 2005, she beat five other countries. This year, she only beat four.

 

 

Okay…I THINK I’ve gotten all of my scoreboard-related thoughts out of my system. Parabéns if you made it all the way through, and parabéns to Portugal for being the cherry on top of a contest with such discussable ingredients. I mean, EVERY Eurovision has an aftermath worth having in-depth conversations about that really confuse everyone outside of the ESC bubble. This one, though, will easily keep us going until the 2017/2018 national final season starts – or until Junior Eurovision in November, if that floats your Naviband-esque boat (it keeps mine extremely buoyant, BTW. Yes, I’m a JESC fangirl).

On that note, if there’s a result or ranking you’re burning to comment on, you’re in the right place. Did Eurovision 2017 pan out how you thought it would, or has it SHOCKED YOU TO YOUR VERY CORE and given you Koit Toome face?

 

Whatever you’re thinking, type it down below. I’m not willing to shut up about this contest until Lisbon’s (maybe) so let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.

 

Until next time – when I’m planning on counting down my top 10 performances of Eurovision 2017 – muitas felicidades!

 

 

 

Portugal, proposals and some pretty terrible predictions: My post-semi + pre-final thoughts on Eurovision 2017!

Well, Eurovision week has flown by faster than Belgium’s betting ranking dropped after the first round of rehearsals (fortunately for Blanche, they’ve crept up again). The countdown to the grand final is on, and at the last minute, Kyiv 2017 has become a bit less ‘Where in Italy are we going next year?’ and a bit more ‘Where else could we be going next year?’. But more on that later.

First, I’m going to take a quick look back at the semi finals. They may not have lived up to Stockholm’s in terms of slick production, interval entertainment value and host awesomeness (Petra, Måns, and Edward af Sillen’s genius scripting skills left three sizeable pairs of shoes to fill) but they definitely delivered on great performances from 36 countries on a sensational stage, and on qualifier shocks.

 

Semi Final 1: Treadmills, twirling braids and bye bye Blackbird

The best of Ukraine was on show on Tuesday night, with rapper Monatik kicking things off; Verka Serduchka playing a part (I’m always happy to see the namesake of my car, Vercar Serduchcar); and reigning champ and all-around goddess Jamala nailing performances of 1944 and Zamanyly. That was all on either side of/in-between the 18 acts competing for the first ten final tickets, of course.

This was the weaker semi final as far as my personal favourites were concerned – and I do think there were more disposable songs on offer, which made parting with them less painful. That was before I knew what was to come when our non-green-room hosts Vova (I may have misheard that nickname for the majority of the show) and Oleksandr announced the qualifiers. But before I have a good old groan of ‘WHY, GOD, WHY?!?!?’ about that, here are my top 5 performance highlights of the night.

  • Sweden Yeah, like you didn’t know this was coming. As a Swedeophile who saw Robin win Melodifestivalen in the flesh, I was never going to be anything less than psyched to see him at Eurovision. I Can’t Go On was a great show opener, and Mr. Bengtsson made all the right moves. We expect perfectly polished performances from Sverige, and that’s what we got.
  • Finland Norma John are another act that made barely noticeable changes to their national final performance for ESC purposes. They didn’t need to overhaul Blackbird’s presentation, because it already had all the power it needed to be stunningly heartbreaking. At least, that’s what I thought.
  • Moldova I’d single out the Sunstroke Project as my absolute evening highlight. Everything about Hey Mamma on the Eurovision stage was on point – energetic, irresistible and fun without being tacky, AND it had a costume reveal. I danced my butt off to this one, and burned a lot of calories in the process. Thanks, Moldova!
  • Cyprus Theft of Loïc Nottet’s backdrop aside, Cyprus made a massively positive impression on me, which is just what I was hoping for as a Gravity Kudos to Hovig for finding the point of balance (pun totally intended) between singing in tune and working one’s way through complicated choreography. You can’t say the man’s not multitalented.
  • Armenia The most impressive thing about this was Artsvik’s hair, which had obviously been braided by angels who then moved along to work their magic on O’G3NE’s vocal chords. That’s a compliment, because her costume, vocals and staging were all excellent. The whole package did justice to what’s one of the most unique songs in the 2017 contest.

 

 

Other performances to note include Georgia’s – Tamara blew me away even though I’m not a big fan of Keep The Faith ; Montenegro’s, during which Slavko’s sass level was off the charts, but his spinning braid stole the show; and Iceland’s, because Svala wore Baby Spice platform sneakers and actually looked good (something I aspired to back in 1998). Sadly, none of these three countries made the cut when it came to qualifier crunch time. So who did? And more importantly, how accurate were my pre-show predictions?*

*If I’m honest with myself, I know you probably don’t care how right I was…but I do, so let me be narcissistic for a second.

I pulled Poland out of my predicted ten at the last second, but in favour of Cyprus. Finland was already on my list as a certain qualifier, so it’s safe to say that I didn’t see their DNQ – Finland’s third in a row – coming. And when I watched Norma John’s performance again, looking for reasons as to why they didn’t make it, I couldn’t see any (partly because I was weeping over the emotional lyrics and my vision was blurred). This fail to advance will go down in history as one I will NEVER be able to figure out. I figure Finland must have finished 11th or 12th, which we’ll find out soon after the final, but even that doesn’t make sense to me. So if you have the answer, I’m begging you to tell me what it is so I can get some closure!

Finland excepted, I was happy with the results of this semi. Australia managed to make it through (possibly by the skin of our teeth) which was obviously a huge relief, and it gave me the warm fuzzies to see Moldova (who last made it to the final in 2013) and Portugal (they haven’t seen a Saturday night since 2010!) qualify.

How much pleasure, and how much pain – if any – did the semi final one blood puddle (it wasn’t a full-on bloodbath, after all) give you? How did your predictions pan out? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Semi Final 2: A pregnancy, a marriage proposal and another early exit for Estonia

Three things happened during Thursday’s second semi final that I hadn’t expected, and none of them had anything to do with the eventual qualifiers. The first was that Vova and Oleks actually attempted to live up to Love Love Peace Peace, which was a bad idea (though I appreciate the effort and the Ukrainian feel their musical number brought to the proceedings). The second – and third – were the two Major Life Event Checklist boxes that Jana Burčeska managed to tick off in one night (as I sat on my couch in a very glamorous pair of pajamas with only a farting dog for company). As you know, she revealed her pregnancy via her video postcard, only to be proposed to about an hour later by her boyfriend in the green room. It’s lucky Macedonia DIDN’T qualify, because she might have exploded with happiness (and that’d be a lot harder to clean up than the confetti that’s apparently banned from this year’s show).

Jana’s performance didn’t do much for me, but there were plenty that did. Here are five of my second semi highlights: 

  • Hungary Origo is my favourite entry of the year, and Joci did everything I was hoping for on a stage much bigger than he had to work with at A Dal. Nerves didn’t affect him, the fire jets added more visual interest and the use of the satellite stage for the violinist worked like a dream. FLAWLESS.
  • Denmark Umm, speaking of flawless…after Joci came blonde bombshell Anja, who may have done exactly what she did in DMGP (down to wearing the same red dress, which was a welcome change from the clown swimsuit she wore during rehearsals) but nailed every second of it. I love Where I Am too, a lot of that has to do with Anja’s powerful delivery.
  • Croatia Yes, this was a personal highlight! I couldn’t help being amazed at Jacques’ ability to sing a solo duet live with ease, but the comic relief of his performance is what made it stock in my memory. The half-and-half costume, those turns from “pop” camera to “opera” camera…it was exactly what I was hoping to see (and laugh at continuously for three minutes).
  • Norway This was very similar to what won JOWST the right to represent Norway, but it was SO much slicker. And after a success slump with Agnete in 2016, it was fantastic to see Norway present such a cohesive and current package. I also really like Aleksander’s hat, so that helped.
  • Bulgaria Even though I’ve seen countless Junior Eurovision performers take to the stage with confidence and talent beyond their years, there’s something compelling about Kristian Kostov, who’s a little older but still the youngest artist in the adult contest this year. His voice is amazing, and his stage persona is ‘cool as a cucumber’, and packed with genuine (or well-faked) feeling.

 

This semi served up far more than five epic performances, and others I’d say fall into that category include Austria’s, because it was beautiful and adorable in equal measure; The Netherlands’, what with O’G3NE’s incredible sisterly harmonies; and San Marino’s. Yes, I said San Marino’s. What can I say? Valentina and Jimmie were having so much fun on stage, they almost made Spirit of the Night seem tolerable. It wasn’t a night of good spirits in the end, though, since they didn’t progress from the semi. Here’s who did (like you didn’t already know) compared to who I thought would go through.

Yet again, I had Norway in only to drop them out at the last minute, replacing them with Croatia. As I said, I’m super glad JOWST did qualify, but I feel super sorry for Estonia, who couldn’t shake off the Shock DNQ Syndrome they developed last year. But this time, I found it easier to figure out what went wrong. Verona didn’t work live in the way they’d opted to present it, and the dynamic between Laura and Koit was…well, weird. Koit’s über-dramatic facial expressions were up there with Croatia’s entire performance in the hilarity stakes, and have now become a meme, so that’s something.

I have to admit, although I do love Verona as a song, I didn’t bat an eyelid when it didn’t qualify because I was too busy doing a celebratory dance over Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark and Hungary.

Did any of the second semi’s winners get you on your feet (with excitement or shock value)?

 

  

And final-ly…some grand final opinions and predictions

The 2017 final has turned out to be a banger, musically-speaking. There are strings of songs in the running order that’ll barely give us time to take a breath.

 

Israel will be an ovary-bursting opener – so much so that we might still be fanning ourselves when Poland (in the dreaded second slot) takes their turn. Moldova through Denmark is a worrying stretch for me, since it involves three of my favourite entries mixed in with the two bookies’ favourites. Belgium-Sweden-Bulgaria is an interesting run too. France isn’t as strong a closer as we’ve gotten accustomed to: from what I’ve seen and heard, Alma’s too small on the big stage, and her voice has its wobbly moments.

I’m not going to analyse the running order, because plenty of other sites have already done it with way more finesse than I would, but let’s just say it’s raised some questions, and made the competition a little less predictable.

 

The biggest question is one I’ll have a go at answering…

 

Who’s going to win?

I’ve been back and forth on this one. A month ago, I had a gut feeling that Italy was going to finish second. Then I gave in and decided Francesco had it in the bag. Now I’m totally confused and unsure what to expect when the votes come in feat. dramatic music and the kind of tension that brings on heart palpitations (if it’s anything like the Stockholm voting sequence, which nearly killed me).

Realistically, we could be looking at a Fairytale-type landslide for Italy. But the real fairytale ending would be a Portuguese win. If they can do it, it will be their first in 49 attempts (48 if you don’t count 2006’s Coisas De Nada as an attempt to win Eurovision, which TBH you probably shouldn’t).

In doubt about Salvador’s classic song and quirky performance style combining to produce a scoreboard topper? Well, in a last-minute shocker, he’s loosened Francesco Gabbani’s unwavering grip on the odds-on favourite title to become the current favourite to win – and his performance from Tuesday’s semi final has been viewed 1.5 million times, making nearest rival Blanche’s 980k view count look pretty paltry by comparison.

It’s clear Portugal has captured a lot of imaginations (and votes…DUH!) and as someone who didn’t totally get the hype until I suddenly found myself reaching for the tissues during Salvador’s semi performance, I can say that it’s not too late for the country to charm even more people with voting power.

Bulgaria has to be noted as a contender, but I don’t see Beautiful Mess as winning material. Top 3 or top 5, yes.

To throw in a few random, much less likely potential winners – how hilarious would you find it if I named the United Kingdom and Romania? Lucie Jones’ staging is literally gold standard, and she’s scored herself a great performance spot. I still think people are getting a little over-excited, and that a lower top 10 placing is more likely for the UK, but stranger things have happened. Romania would be the perfect package if they actually had something coming out of their cannons. You never know, though…the slogan of next year’s contest could be ‘Yodel It!’. Alex and Ilinca would need one hell of a televote score to make that a possibility, though.

When it comes to the crunch – meaning I’m about to stop fence-sitting – I still think Italy will win, but not by a massive margin. And if Eurovision doesn’t travel to Milan in 2018, then it’ll probably head to Lisbon. I’d be totally fine with that, having spent a half hour this morning Googling photos of the Portuguese capital and swooning at the sheer beauty of it.

But does Salvadorable outshine namaste, alé?

 

Predicting the top 10, and the bottom 5 😦

Without further ado, this is my best guess at the top 10 – a.k.a. the most sought-after bunch of positions. But I really have no idea what’s going to happen. What else is new?

#worsteurovisionpredictorontheplanet.

  1. Italy
  2. Portugal
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Romania
  5. Sweden
  6. Armenia
  7. The Netherlands
  8. Belgium
  9. United Kingdom
  10. Moldova

Now let’s head down to the opposite end of the scoreboard. This is my predicted bottom 5:

  1. Greece
  2. Poland
  3. Ukraine (sorry!)
  4. Germany
  5. Spain

Seriously, though…douze points, fifty million dollars and a muffin basket for anyone who can nail either end of the scoreboard down before the final begins.

 

Speaking of which, the hours before said final are now in single digits, so I’m going to sign off and try to get a power nap in so I don’t fall asleep during the show (thank god Malta didn’t qualify, or I’d definitely be having a snooze). Whether you’re prepping for a fabulous Eurovision party or getting ready to go it alone tonight, I hope you enjoy what’s left of this year’s contest. Join me on Twitter @EurovisionByJaz if you want (which you totally should) – and if you don’t, then I’ll see you on the other side when we have the next 1944.

MUCH EXCITE.

 

May the best song (according to the majority of televoters and/or jury members, obviously) win!

 

 

 

 

JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Ukraine, the UK…and Russia

Happy Eurovision Eve, guys! If it’s still Eurovision Eve Eve when you’re reading this, then Happy That to you too.

As promised, I’m back with the final round of EBJ reviews for this year’s adult contest. It’s down to the wire given that Kyiv’s first semi is so close, and the jury semi even closer (timezone-ally speaking again, it may be over by the time you read this). Plus, there’s still the all-important – and in my case, hilariously inaccurate – predictions to be made, which I may end up posting on social media only (if you don’t see them here, check out my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, all @EurovisionByJaz). So – and I’m saying this to myself – let’s have a little less conversation and a little more action, please!

Read on to find out how my guest juror/mother and I rate the entries from Belgium’s Blanche, Croatia’s Jacques, Israel’s IMRI, Ukraine’s O.Torvald, the UK’s Lucie…and yes, Russia’s Yulia. I couldn’t come this far and then leave her out, even though she’s out of the competition.

Here’s the last seven songs of 2017, according to two extremely intelligent and attractive Australian women.

*tumbleweed blows*

Moving on…

 

 

My thoughts I don’t know what’s gotten into Belgium lately, but they’ve been batting the ball right out of the field with their Eurovision entries – 2013, 2015, 2016 and now 2017 being the gold star examples (the less we say about the creepfest of 2014, the better). Blanche’s City Lights took me by surprise, because for some reason I was expecting her to be assigned some twee, folksy guitar-strummer á la Joan Franka, which is SO not up my street. I don’t know why I expected that – she must just have that look about her. Anyway, I apologise, Blanche. You/your songwriters have given us a skillfully-crafted, cutting edge alt-pop song that’s melancholy in all the right ways. If Kristen Stewart were a song, this would be it: edgy, flat and lacking in emotion, but bizarrely attractive nonetheless. There’s nothing about it I can pick on – even the repetitiveness makes it more hypnotic. Blanche’s voice is way smokier and sultrier than you’d expect from a seventeen-year-old, and it sets off the song perfectly. The contrast between Belgium last year and now (with different broadcasters behind each entry) is huge, and I love them both. The only issue is that there’s one negative difference between Laura and Blanche, and it’s to do with their on and off-stage personalities. Laura, with all of her theatre and TV experience, was a ball of energy and enthusiasm with more charisma than Triana Park’s Agnese has wigs. She charmed the press, audience and home viewers with ease. Blanche is virtually the opposite, as far as I can tell – reserved, quietly-spoken and pretty nervy on stage. Obviously she shouldn’t smile her way through performances of City Lights, since that wouldn’t make any sense. But her uncertainty and lack of emotion at times put what is a fabulous, should-be-a-surefire-hit song right into the danger zone she’s singing about being alone in. That’s why Belgium has dropped considerably in the odds since rehearsals started, and why we could be looking at a (somewhat shocking) non-qualifier here. But, not having seen any rehearsals myself and not knowing what Blanche might muster up for the jury and broadcast shows, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and base my score of 10 points on the song itself.

My mum says… Wow – that’s a voice with depth! I can’t believe it’s coming out of someone so young. It kind of makes Blanche the antithesis of Ireland’s Brendan. Her song is just as impressive as her voice. It doesn’t sound manufactured, and its moody in a way that kept me interested even though it was really repetitive, which is a hard thing to do. Bravo, Belgium! 8 points.

Belgium’s score 9.00

 

 

 

My thoughts There are only a few duos competing at Eurovision 2017, but Croatia’s is the most notable given that it’s a duo made up of Jacques Houdek…and Jacques Houdek. Yes, we have a man duetting with himself in the contest, via a song that isn’t so much well-blended popera as it is pop-opera with a definitive divide between the two. And it is HILARIOUS. Hilariously terrible, that is. Things don’t get off to a good start when Jacques opens with some wannabe inspirational (i.e. retch-worthy) spoken lyrics that even the most warm-hearted person would find hard to take seriously. It’s not exactly downhill from there – that, IMO, is the worst part of the song – but when cheesy lines give way to Pop Jacques and Opera Jacques fighting for attention, it’s time to laugh (because it’s absolutely mental) or cry (because it’s a Disney-fied disaster). No other song so strongly begs the question ‘What were they thinking?’ than My Friend. Yet apparently, it works well enough on stage to be in contention for qualification. Whenever I hear or see someone say that, it makes me wonder if I’ve woken up in my worst nightmare. I think the only aspect of Croatia’s entry deserving of a place in the final is Mr. Houdek himself, because he’s a top bloke with bucketloads of talent (I can’t deny that he nails both the Jekyll and Hyde vocal segments of his song). Apart from that…no. Just no. I take a little sugar in my coffee, but I don’t fill the entire cup with an unpleasant combo of white and raw, if you know what I mean. That would be way too sickly. 2 points.

My mum says… Oh my gosh. If the TV show Touched By An Angel was ever made into a musical, this would be the theme song. Not that I’d know that for sure, because I would NOT be buying tickets to see it. Is ‘abysmal’ too harsh a word to describe this song? I mean, the voices are good – great even, when you realise that they’re both coming out of the same person – but everything else is…ugh. 2 points.

Croatia’s score 2.00

 

 

 

My thoughts It’s still hard to comprehend the fact that Greece lost their 100% qualification record last year. You’d think that would be the kick in the pants they needed to reclaim their Eurovision glory days of 2004-2013, when they could hardly keep themselves out of the top 10. The announcement of Demy as their artist confirmed that, and I was excited. Then along came the three candidate songs, one of which she’d end up singing in Kyiv…and they were all utterly average and totally uninspired. This Is Love, a dance track that feels half 2000s ESC and half cookie-cutter club hit, was the best option, I’ll give them that. But all it does is satisfy the requirements for an okay pop song. It takes zero risks, feels super familiar (like it’s a Frankenstein creation of other dance songs stitched together) and doesn’t feel lyrically original. It’s not offensive, but I have no reason to fall head over heels in love with it (hence why I’ve taken to calling it This Isn’t Love in my head). It’s just there, in the line-up, not measuring up to a good 75% of the other entries. If anything can save it – and I suspect it will be saved – it’s Demy and the staging. I’m pretty confident that will get Greece back into the final, and for all I know, back into the top 10. That’s not a result I’d rejoice in, though, as much as I love Demy. She’s better than this song, and I expected something much stronger. Hashtag disappointed! 5 points.

My mum says… I have to admit, I’ve already forgotten how This Is Love goes, but when I was listening to it I was pretty bored. I feel like Greece did try to start a fire with it, but there’s just no spark. I wasn’t even moving to the music – danger alert! Demy has a nice voice, but her stage performance will have to be incredible to make up for the weaknesses in her song. 3 points.

Greece’s score 4.00

 

 

 

My thoughts It’s convenient that my random selection resulted in Israel being reviewed right after Greece, since they’re so stylistically similar. It makes it even easier for me to say that I Feel Alive is miles ahead of This Is Love in every department (in my opinion, of course). And no, that’s not because Imri has the power to melt me into a human puddle of swoonage with one brief, smoldering gaze. I’m not (quite) that shallow, guys! I just think it’s a far better and far more original song. It’s definitely more current-sounding, and I like how even though each part of the song is different, the whole thing is cohesive and the energy/intensity level never wavers. It’s also great to have a bit of ethnicity shoehorned in via the instrumental break. Overall, I find this entry very catchy and danceable, and we need some of that to break up the ballads that are a bit hard to dance to if you’re alone á la Jana Burčeska. Unfortunately, there’s a question mark over Imri’s ability to pull off a pretty tricky (if my in-shower attempts are any indication) vocal. He has enough stage presence (and muscle tone) to win people over, and as he’s sung backup for Israel the past two years in a row, he can handle the Eurovision experience in general. But can he hit those high notes? Notes that could be Jemini-level awful if he doesn’t nail them? If he wasn’t doing double duty as a singer and dancer – because I’m guessing there’s some choreography for him to work with – he’d have a better shot. But I’m worried. He has the honour of closing the second semi final, and he needs to leave a good impression behind if he wants to be the lucky charm that helped Israel make the final in 2015 and 2016. I’m not sure, but I hope that he can do it. I Feel Alive would be a cracking song to have on the Saturday night. 8 points.

My mum says… Here’s a song that had my foot tapping very quickly. That’s a good sign for me, because I react to music how I react to books: if it doesn’t grab me and make me feel something fast, I’ll give up on it. I Feel Alive is very catchy, and I love the instrumental bit that sounds a bit like an Irish jig (don’t worry, I know it isn’t). I’m keen on stuff like that! And I’m told Imri is a beautiful sight to behold, so it sounds like Israel has the total package. 7 points.

Israel’s score 7.5

 

 

 

My thoughts I know I shouldn’t be dwelling on stuff that happened during national final season, but I’m still convinced that Tayanna’s I Love You would have been one of the best host entries in Eurovision history. It’s heartbreaking that she ended up sick prior to the Ukrainian final and barely managed to sing her way through the whole song when it mattered the most. In that sense, I can see how O.Torvald won instead. Their final performance, elevated by some gruesome but awesome prosthetics that took Time literally in a jaw-dropping way, was fantastic. Sadly, that’s not the staging they’re using for the ESC (I guess it’s not that suitable for what’s considered a family show) so they’re relying more or less on song alone to get the job done. The ‘job’ being ‘host entry that scores enough points to not be an embarrassment, but doesn’t put Ukraine in danger of having to host again in 2018’. I have a feeling a right-side scoreboard finish is in the band’s future, though. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy to have rock in the competition. Time stands out just because of its genre, and I think it’s got a lot going for it, apart from adding variety to the grand final. But I don’t think it’s memorable enough to thrive on simplistic staging, and I can’t see it outdoing Sweden’s 2013 result with Robin Stjernberg. In fact, I’m predicting it will finish lower than that – in the 16th-20th range – in spite of the support it’ll get from the crowd, being the host entry and all. Ukraine shouldn’t suffer the indignity that Austria did on home soil in 2015, but it’s very unlikely they’ll do what Sweden did last year and finish in the top five. O.Torvald’s musical rivals are too hard to handle. 6 points.

My mum says… I don’t know why, but this reminds me of a B-side to a 1980s ballad. The music’s interesting, but I didn’t like much else. It’s quite a dramatic change from Jamala, so at least Ukraine aren’t creatures of habit. 3 points.

Ukraine’s score 4.5

 

 

 

My thoughts I’m not as partial to Emmelie de Forest as a lot of other people. Only Teardrops is far from being one of my favourite ESC winners, and I much prefer Anja Nissen’s Where I Am to the song de Forest co-wrote for her DMGP appearance last year. My point is, when I heard she was responsible for a Eurovision: You Decide song, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy. Never Give Up On You quickly won me over, however, because I loved how bare-bones it was at the NF, with hardly any instrumentation backing it and no beat that kicked in when it seemed obvious that a beat would kick in (when Lucie hits her big note towards the end). But apparently I’m fickle AF, as I then decided the song would benefit from some sort of driving beat to give it some oomph. When the revamp was unveiled feat. just that….you guessed it, I found myself preferring the original version. The ESC version has a bit of an identity crisis – it’s halfway between understated piano ballad and soaring power ballad, with an electronic influence creeping in that does make it contemporary, but ultimately sounds wishy-washy. The UK are in danger of becoming musical wallpaper once again – but if reports on their stage presentation are to be believed, they might have hauled themselves out of trouble at the last minute. From the photos I’ve seen, they’ve gone for a gold-heavy, art-deco theme that I wouldn’t have imagined suiting the song, but it looks like the camera will love it. If it does suit the song, then this entry could be a very well-wrapped package. The song is certainly up Lucie’s alley, as it caters for both her pop side (as an ex-X Factor contestant) and her theatrical side (as a past and future star of Legally Blonde: The Musical). I’d love to see her do well, but there are better ballads that are 99% likely to make it to the final and be in direct competition with her – think Finland and Portugal. And it is the United Kingdom we’re talking about. I’m always doubtful. But you can’t say they haven’t taken the contest seriously this year, or put in the level of effort required to succeed. 7 points.

My mum says… This is very nice. I like a ballad that’s powerful without being too loud and screamy, and this definitely falls into that category. I can imagine Lucie in a long, flowy dress with the (fake, wind machine-generated) wind in her hair as she channels all of her emotion into it. Her voice is gorgeous, and it’s not hard to picture her on the West End stage…or the Eurovision stage, for that matter. I’ll have my fingers crossed for the UK, because I don’t want to have to pretend I wasn’t born there! 7 points.

The United Kingdom’s score 7.00

 

 

 

My thoughts I don’t like the way Russia’s departure from Eurovision this year played out, on the Russian or Ukrainian ends. But try as I might, I can’t help being relieved that Flame Is Burning won’t be competing in Kyiv and won’t be taking a spot in the final away from a higher-quality song. Sorry to be so blunt, but OMG, I HATE IT. Maybe that’s partly because it came from Russia, and every time they (try) and send an “inspirational” preaching-for-peace ballad to the contest, it makes my skin crawl. That doesn’t just apply to Russia, though…see my Croatia review for proof. Anyway, just as a song, if you don’t think about its origins, it’s awful. Lame lyrics, a lacklustre melody and a style that went out of style about 25 years ago do not make for something I’d voluntarily listen to. The other problem is Yulia’s thickly-accented English, which makes it hard to understand anything she’s singing (although you could look at that as a blessing). With a better song in Russian, her talents would be put to way, way better use – which, with any luck, is what’ll happen next year if Russia re-involve themselves and send her. So, the moral of my story is, I won’t miss Flame Is Burning, just like I didn’t miss Romania’s Moment of Silence last year. I’ll just feel super sorry for their performers. 1 point.

My mum says… I don’t hate this like Jaz does (which made her jaw drop about a kilometre) but it’s nothing outstanding, that’s for sure. If it was competing, it sounds like it would be forgotten five minutes after it was performed. That’s not the key to Eurovision success, is it? And her accent is so strong, it’s distracting. 2 points.

Russia’s score 1.5

 

 

I can’t believe I get to say this, but that’s it – 43/43 reviewed! The ranking for this round looks like this:

  1. Belgium (9.00)
  2. Israel (7.5)
  3. United Kingdom (7.00)
  4. Ukraine (4.5)
  5. Greece (4.00)
  6. Croatia (2.00)
  7. Russia (1.5)

Belgium (pretty unsurprisingly) takes out the nonexistent trophy, with Israel and the UK hot-ish on their heels, and the others not even lukewarm. But did Belgium do enough to top the full EBJ Jury ranking? Watch this space to find out.

How would you rank the songs we reviewed today? Would Belgium be your number one too, or is there something else floating your boat? Let me know in the comments.

I’ll probably be making another appearance here pre-semi 1, but in case I don’t, I want to wish all of you a very merry contest experience! I’m looking forward to a low-key one myself, after a few years of not watching from my couch, but I will be on Twitter, typing away through all of the live shows. Maybe I’ll meet you there? It’s going to be freaking beautiful!

 

 

 

 

JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | Australia, Belarus, Iceland, Ireland, Montenegro + Spain

Hello again, and welcome to the second-last round of my Eurovision 2017 reviews! Obviously nothing has changed in my life since I was at university, because I’m still battling to get stuff done by certain deadlines. Just expect a lot of reviews in a short period of time, and everything will be fine (something I’m telling myself at least three times a day at the moment).

There’s just two days to go until the first semi final, and all 42 songs have now been rehearsed on the real-deal stage. We’ve seen our likely winner in action (monkeying around to massive rounds of applause) but that doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about all of the other songs. So that’s what my mum (she keeps coming back, even though I figured I’d have scared her off by now) and I are up to today.

Keep reading to find out what we think of the songs from Isaiah, NAVI, Svala, Brendan Murray, Slavko Kalezić and Manel Navarro. Spoiler alert: there are some major disagreements involved!

 

 

 

My thoughts A seventeen-year-old fresh from a TV talent show win – which followed an audition during which he forgot his lyrics (for the second year running) – wouldn’t have been my ideal choice for my country’s 2017 Eurovision act. On paper, it doesn’t sound that promising…and me bringing all that stuff up makes me sound mean, I know. But I wanted to make the point that when Isaiah was revealed as our act in March, I had a LOT of doubts that he was ready for such a big-scale show. As it turns out, I think he’s grounded and mature enough, and has gained enough on-stage confidence in the wake of his X Factor victory, to do Australia proud next week. He’s going to do that with a song that may be missing the x factor (ironically) that saw Guy Sebastian and Dami Im smash their respective shots at the contest, but has been a major sleeper hit with me. Don’t Come Easy is a soulful ballad that Sam Smith would totally approve of, and it couldn’t be any more suited to Isaiah’s voice. Lyrically, it could be more suited to his age – it’s hard to buy such tales of woe and heartbreak from a seller who’s still considered a kid in many ways (he can’t legally drink, gamble or complain bitterly about adult responsibilities). But if he can use those epic eyebrows to emote as much as possible, and not just sing the words – even though he’ll sing them terrifically – his age may end up being just a number. Most people watching him belt out the song in front of his own super-sized face (check out some rehearsal footage if you’re confused RN) won’t be worrying about it. I hope the staging doesn’t end up being a worry and lives up to what Australia’s put together the last two years, as both times it has made our songs stronger competitors. Don’t Come Easy has grown on me a lot since I first heard it, and now I find it really sticks in my head and makes me feel some feels (not on a Finland level, but there’s something there). There’s potential in the build of the song to create an explosive moment, like Israel did last year, and I believe we’ve even got a pyro curtain to help that along (just like Hovi did). If it all comes together, then another top 10 result is achievable. I don’t think top 5 is on the cards, but I will be waving my Aussie flag with pride (and probably a sweaty palm) in any case. 8 points.

My mum says… I own and treasure a copy of Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour, so the fact that this song could have fit right in to that album’s tracklist will give you a good idea of how I feel about Don’t Come Easy. I really like it! It’s retro in a wonderful way, with powerful music and lyrics that are set off by Isaiah’s incredible (especially for a teenager) voice. There’s a bit of an Adele feel to the soul of the song as well, and yes, you guessed it – I also own all of her albums. Is this a biased review? Nope, because I listened to it without knowing which country it was representing. Now I know, I’m proud. 8 points.

Australia’s score 8.00

 

 

 

My thoughts This song is like a musical version of Nathan Trent – so adorable you can’t help your urge to hug it so tightly it almost suffocates. The difference between the two is that the cuteness of Story of My Life doesn’t totally win me over, even though I acknowledge that it’s there. I think it’s fantastic that we get to hear Belarusian on the adult Eurovision stage for the first time ever thanks to NAVI – and I’m so appreciative of the fact that their entry is one of just four this year to feature 100% non-English lyrics *weeps internally*. I also think the sing-along factor of the song is a real asset, giving it an anthemic quality not often found in folk music. But – and you can call me bitter and/or soulless once I’ve said this – the overall ‘aww!’ vibe of Belarus that a heap of other fans feel, I don’t AT ALL. I wouldn’t skip the song if I was shuffling the 2017 album, but I wouldn’t wait for it to play with bated breath. For the sake of Belarus succeeding in the contest, and for the sake of filling the final with as many foreign languages as possible, I hope NAVI do qualify on Thursday. If they don’t, though, I’ll be okay with it. Overall, SOML is too repetitive and maybe too folksy for my tastes. 5 points.

My mum says… I couldn’t have less of a clue what these two are singing about, but it can’t be anything heavy going – the whole song is light and bright, and I really got into it. I especially like the use of instruments. However, that final stretch of hey-ho shouts went on way too long for my liking. That space could have been filled with something less repetitive, and in turn I’d have been giving this entry more than 6 points!

Belarus’ score 5.5

 

 

 

My thoughts There are some songs you can’t help but cut to the chase with when you’re talking about them. And cutting is an appropriate term to use when talking about Svala’s Paper, which I worship. At least 75% of my devotion to the entry has to do with Svala herself, a.k.a. Iceland’s answer to Gwen Stefani. She’s an age-defying, super-stylish GODDESS of a woman, and I am the personification of the heart eyes emoji whenever I think about her. But Paper also rubs me up in all the right ways. It’s like the cutting-edge, 1980s-inflenced love child of Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love and Aminata’s Love Injected – two songs I love to pieces. It’s ice cold and Svala is the ice queen with impeccably styled hair and makeup, plus bone structure that would have made Michelangelo weak at the knees. Not to say that I’m fixating on her cheekbones when she’s performing such an earworm of an electro-pop ballad (IDK how else to describe it). I’m actually getting lost in the dreamy atmosphere that the 80s synth sound provides, which contrasts beautifully with the slick production. It’s a perfect marriage. My only problem with Iceland this year is Svala being a visual force to be reckoned with, yet she’s singing a song that should bring out a vulnerable side based on the story told by the lyrics. She’s a little too intense, pulled-together and in control to pull off Paper with 110% authenticity. At least, she has been up until this point. From what I’ve seen (like, one photo) and heard (*insert long, long list of Eurovision sites/podcasts here*) of the rehearsals, she still needs to soften to match the emotions present in the song. Even if she does, I’m not that confident in Iceland’s ability to score themselves through to Saturday night. But I reckon this song would be an interesting and very contemporary (feat. a throwback sound that somehow makes it even more modern) addition to the final line-up. After the country’s shock DNQ last year – and failure to make the final the year before that – they seriously need a pick-me-up. I don’t want Svala using her Paper to wipe away tears of post-semi sadness. 10 points.

My mum says… This is far from being the worst entry I’ve heard, but it’s also far from being one of my favourites. I quite like Svala’s voice (though I’m incredibly jealous that she looks so young for her age and am wondering if it’s too late for me to up and move to Iceland) but I’m not a fan of a metaphor based on office supplies. I find the lyrics a bit lame in general. It’s just not for me! 5 points.

Iceland’s score 7.5

 

 

 

My thoughts Ireland – or at least those responsible for their recent Eurovision entries – needs a slap. Either that, or Sweden needs to hurry up and overtake them in the wins department so they’ll have to step up rather than falling back on the old line ‘Oh, but we’ve won the contest more than anyone else!’, which is usually accompanied by an entry of the same mould they were sending in the 2000s…which in turn paid tribute to the songs that won for them in the 1990s. Not much has changed in 2017, as the country’s collective face is still looking like it needs a high five. However…my relationship with Brendan Murray’s Dying To Try (not Trying To Die, thankfully) is love-hate. Here’s what I love: the first minute and a half. The understated start, the echo-y beat that kicks in, the melody, the frailty of Brendan’s voice (Svala needs to borrow some of that) and even the lyrics, which are a little cliché but have been neatly phrased and sparingly used, are all really nice. And, if the songwriters had carried on with another verse similar to the first, then a bigger second chorus that transitioned into an even more explosive final chorus without using a cringingly passé key change, all would be well. Instead, the entire second half of the song is one long, whiny chorus that doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. It’s like they literally couldn’t be bothered to write anything after that first chorus, so they dragged it out in order to fill as many seconds as possible. Except, it hasn’t. There’s an emptiness there as you wait for a second verse that never comes. I mean, who’d mix up a bowlful of cake batter and then only pour half of it into the pan? Ireland, that’s who. It’s a wasted opportunity of a song that could have totally tickled my fancy. I honestly love the first half enough to give it 10 points, but the rest deserves about 3. I’ll settle somewhere in the middle and give Dying To Try 7 points.

My mum says… THIS IS A GUY?? Mind = blown. It’s not like I’ve never heard high-pitched male vocals before, but I was completely convinced I was listening to a lady here. That aside (because it has nothing to do with what I think of the song) it’s a nice ballad with a good beat and a soothing quality. I think that comes both from the music and from Brendan’s voice. This is quite an emotional song – not so much that I’m in need of a tissue or ten, but enough to make me feel something. I like that in my music. I do think that this can be categorised as a forgettable ballad though. Describing something as ‘nice’ often leads down that path. 6 points.

Ireland’s score 6.5

 

 

 

My thoughts I never, not even in my wildest dreams, imagined that we would someday have an entry competing in Eurovision that could be considered camper than Deen’s In The Disco and Zoli Ádok’s Dance With Me combined. But Montenegro has given us the gift of Slavko’s Space, and I am SO here for it. It’s like a highly sexualised Alcazar made it to the contest with the help of a sponsor that manufactures hair extensions. What about that description makes it a bad thing? Nada, people. This is a BANGING disco-dance track that somehow doesn’t seem dated and lame like San Marino’s – possibly because it’s right up Slavko’s flamboyant street, and he owns the shit out of it. He whips his hair back and forth (I’m hoping it doesn’t fly off into the audience during the broadcast…or am I?), struts like it’s an Olympic event and has me lip-syncing along with the most outrageously pornographic lyrical metaphors I’ve ever encountered in a Eurovision song (mainly because the line ‘I trample in your arse’ from Slovenia’s 1999 song turned out to be a misheard lyric). I enjoy every second of every minute, even if I feel like my pleasure should be guilty. Generally speaking, I want Eurovision to evolve and be much less of what skeptics think it is (i.e. all novelty, cheese and the worst word ever – ‘kitsch’), but at the same time, I love that Space brings a touch of schlager back to the show. We’ve got plenty of edgy, deadpan entries this year – think Azerbaijan, Belgium, Iceland and Latvia – plus a classic ESC ballad from Portugal. So Montenegro are bringing some variety along with a suitcase exclusively reserved for body glitter (I assume). Uptempo, catchy and oh-so-danceable, this is the song that’s most making me miss the Euroclub. I would have busted some memorable moves to it on that dance floor, let me tell you. Unfortunately, I can also tell you that it probably won’t qualify, as sublime is likely to beat ridiculous (with the exception of Romania). As I can see that coming from a mile away, I won’t be too upset about it. But I’ll console myself anyway by playing it on full blast at every opportunity, until my neighbours file a complaint regarding excessive noise and sexual innuendos. Bring it on! 10 points.

My mum says… It’s hard to stay focused on how catchy the tune of this song is when the lyrics are so suggestive. That’s an understatement, really – Slavko seems to be less about suggesting than explaining in detail. Just when I thought ‘When you look this f*%$ing beautiful’ was the most controversial (almost) Eurovision line I’d ever heard! I could be convinced to dance to Space, but for the most part I can’t get past the ridiculous, R-rated lyrics. 5 points.

Montenegro’s score 7.5

 

 

 

My thoughts I’m not going to mention the words ‘Mirela’ or ‘contigo’ in this review (apart from mentioning them to say I won’t be mentioning them) because I think it’s about time we all moved on from The Spanish NF Incident of 2017. Manel Navarro is the one rehearsing in Kyiv right now, and Do It For Your Lover is the song representing Spain this year – that’s all there is to it. Speaking of which, there’s not a lot to this song apart from some simple charm, a cruisy surfer vibe and the most repetitive chorus since Ivi Adamou’s ‘La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la loooove.’ Those three things don’t add up to something spectacular, but I have to admit to liking this more than most other people I come across. Any music that sounds perfect for playing while on a road trip, with the windows down and no responsibilities to speak of for a few days, is bound to appeal to me to a certain extent. DIFYL ticks about 60% of my boxes – it’s inoffensive without being too bland, but it doesn’t push any boundaries either, and that repetition of the title (in case we forgot it, it was declared that Manel would repeat it 947 times in three minutes) is pretty irritating. As a result, I enjoy the Spanish-language verses more than any other part of the song. Manel’s aesthetic is casual street busker, which isn’t the sort of thing that does super well at Eurovision: Douwe Bob was a more polished exception. With his song failing to light a fire even for me, the odds are against him to strum his way out of the final’s bottom five. It might be time for Spain to revaluate their approach to the ESC on several levels, unless Manel shocks us all and defies our expectations. I can’t picture it, but I could live with it for sure. 6 points.

My mum says… Well, you can tell where this one comes from, and I like that about it. The Spanish parts are nice, easy-listening material, and I sort of wish that English didn’t feature at all in the song. It’s when that kicks in that things get monotonous. I especially dislike the stutter effect stuck in after each chorus. There needs to be more to a song than Do It For Your Lover has at its disposal to win me over completely. 6 points.

Spain’s score 6.00

 

 

 

That’s our six taken care of for this round…and here’s the ranking: 

  1. Australia (8.00)
  2. Iceland (7.5)
  3. Montenegro (7.5)
  4. Ireland (6.5)
  5. Spain (6.00)
  6. Belarus (5.5)

Naturally, I’m HORRIFIED that Australia topped the list. Not. Congrats go to Iceland for not being far behind, and commiserations to Belarus for being very far behind. Lucky for them that this scoring couldn’t have less bearing on the actual contest results.

There’s six more sets of scores for the mini EBJ jury to hand out, and then the full ranking will be revealed! Drop by on Monday to check out our thoughts on Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Trust me, you don’t want to miss my mother’s reaction to a man duetting with himself.

In the meantime, let me know how you’d rank today’s tracks. What do you think will happen to them this week as the competition gets going? I want all the dirt. You guys know how nosy curious I am.

 

Get (even more) excited – Eurovision is nearly here!!!

 

 

 

JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | Armenia, Austria, Finland, Moldova, San Marino + Slovenia

Good day sir/madam/whoever is reading this from wherever in the world! I’m flattered you’ve taken the time to drop by EBJ, given all of the rehearsal goodness going down at Kyiv’s International Exhibition Centre that can be enjoyed vicariously through social media (believe me, I’ve been doing my bit in an attempt to quash my ‘Last year I was in the Press Centre at Eurovision and this year I am not’ depression).

It’s hard to comprehend that it’s May already, and that the pre-show prep is in full swing. Rehearsals for the first half of the second semi are taking place as I type this, and I’m eagerly (and sweatily #nerves) awaiting the turn of a few of my favourites. If you are too and you’re after a distraction, then look no further – you’ve found it!

I have three rounds of 2017 reviews left to squeeze in before the ESC hits our TV screens, and today it’s the moment of truth for *drum roll* *realises you’ll already have seen the title of this post* *shrugs*:

  • Armenia’s Artsvik with Fly With Me
  • Austria’s Nathan Trent with Running On Air
  • Finland’s Norma John with Blackbird
  • Moldova’s Sunstroke Project with Hey Mamma
  • San Marino’s Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson with Spirit of the Night
  • Slovenia’s Omar Naber with On My Way

As always, my mum has given her verdict on these six songs too…and boy, was there some serious disagreement this time. We actually haven’t spoken a word to each other since I played them for her.

So much for ‘come together’.

Anyway, keep reading to find out how we rated these entries, and feel free to share your feelings about them in the comments – love, hate or tolerate!

 

 

 

My thoughts If you remember what I said when reviewing Serbia, you can skip the next sentence because it’ll be pretty much the same criticism (not to say I hate either song. I don’t). I’d just like to reiterate my warning to all competing Eurovision countries that if you make us all wait until the very last minute before lifting the cloche off your song for the year, we’ll be expecting something phenomenal. So, even if said song is a solid 8/10, it won’t seem that good because you’ve let our expectations pile up like a Jenga tower taller than Jonatan Cerrada’s stilt dancer. Enter Armenia, who did exactly that by being the final country out of 43 to unveil their contribution to the Kyiv contest. If I’d personally heard Fly With Me in February, I might have thought more of it than I do now and wouldn’t have been at all disappointed by it. Rest assured, if you think this song is the best thing since the introduction of the semi-final system, I’m only a tiny bit disappointed. It’s just not a fantastic ethno-pop banger in my opinion, so much as a weird combination of classic Eurovision ethno-pop circa 2005 and the bass (?) guitar from Eneda Tarifa’s Fairytale. I like how exotic and interesting it is, and the ‘fly with me’ hook towards the end – when Artsvik ramps things up vocally – leaves a pretty powerful impression. This is another song, though, that doesn’t seem to have a solid identity. It’s like a coconut fell on its head while it was on holiday in Hawaii, and now it can’t remember its name, age or occupation. It offers up a bunch of different body parts that are disjointed when put together, just enough to be noticeable but not so much that the disjointedness actually becomes an intriguing gimmick (á la Icebreaker). As a result, I can’t decide exactly how I feel about it. I don’t know about you, but if I’m confused about something I’m not very likely to support it (e.g. by voting). Artsvik’s rehearsals have been very well received, so we can expect Fly With Me to be elevated when performed live – as Armenia’s entries often are – but since the song’s still a question mark for me, I still have to hand out an indecisive, ‘Do I like it or not?’ score of 6 points.

My mum says… I have mixed feelings about this too, but the biggest portion of the mix is dislike. I do get a kick out of the hypnotic beat, and I think the music is varied and very interesting to listen to…but everything else is too disjointed and old-fashioned for me. If it had become more cohesive and modern after the first thirty seconds, I’d score it better, but it carried on how it started (just getting more shouty as it went along). I don’t think I ‘get’ it. 3 points.

Armenia’s score 4.5

 

 

 

My thoughts If this was the Eurovision Adorableness Contest, Austria would be an Italy-level favourite right now. Nathan Trent is the most precious person on the planet – as far as I can tell from his press/profile videos without knowing him personally – and that’s the sort of thing that should shine through when he’s on stage, hopefully singing the shiz out of the equally sweet Running On Air. How could anyone hate this song? It’s a prime piece of feel-good inspo-pop (if that term catches on, I want full credit) that just avoids being cheesy, thanks to Nathan sounding more like a smooth R & B singer than an overly-keen finalist on The X Factor performing their potential winner’s single. The low-key, contemporary-sounding verses really show off his voice, while the catchy – if slightly passé-sounding by comparison – chorus is so easy to sing along to, it’s practically impossible to resist. Although the entry doesn’t have the same energy as Belgium’s did last year, What’s The Pressure is what it reminds me of because it’s three minutes of pure happiness that could turn any frown upside down. We need a few tracks like that to give us a break from the intensity of Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, et cetera: all of the countries who’ve taken a more heavy-going approach (in song style, subject matter or both). Running On Air is fun without being too fluffy, full of affirmations but not in an eye-rolling way, and has its own little space in this year’s line-up that lets it stand up and shout from the top of a mountain (somewhere in the Alps, obviously) ‘I’M HERE AND I AM JUST AS LOVABLE AS LOIN D’ICI!’. Seriously, if Nathan doesn’t make it to the final it will be just as heartbreaking as when I watched a shattered Jüri Pootsmann slink out of the green room in Stockholm, followed by a borderline suicidal Stig Rästa. It cannot happen! Except…it could. I don’t have Austria down as a dead cert to qualify, as they’re on stage second after Serbia and before Macedonia (in the middle of girl power on full blast, in other words). But my fingers will be crossed for Nathan, being a guy with a mid-tempo easy listener, to make his presence felt when sandwiched between two more in-your-face female pop numbers. If he can’t, I will make myself available for post-semi comfort hugs if he’s willing to fly to Australia to receive them. 8 points.

My mum says… Austria is a lot easier for me to love than Armenia – musically, that is, as I’m sure both countries are beautiful in their own way. I really liked this song. It sounds very mainstream compared to a lot of the other entries (it could be a Maroon 5 album track) but I’m not such a snob that I’d let that deflate my enjoyment! I see this as simple, straightforward pop that I’m imagining will have bucketloads of mass appeal. 8 points.

Austria’s score 8.00

 

 

My thoughts When you consider that Finland could have sent a song about “loving yourself” (in the privacy of one’s own home, hopefully), a song about kissing someone else’s paradise (also in the privacy of one’s own home, PLEASE GOD) or a song featuring the lyric ‘What would the X-Men do if they came to the rescue?’ (which they very nearly did, as Zühlke’s Perfect Villain finished second), it’s nothing short of merciful that they chose Norma John’s Blackbird instead. Remove all of those questionable UMK entries from the equation, though, and Blackbird remains an absolutely beautiful song, and easily one of the best ballads – if not THE best ballad – competing in Kyiv. It reminds me so much of Norway’s A Monster Like Me from 2015, which will always hold a special place in my heart as a piano ballad so powerful, it had me reaching for something to wipe my wet eyes with every time I heard it. I’m not saying the two songs sound particularly alike, but they have the same pared-back, minimalist lyrical content; the same musical interlude which sort of needs the singer/s to do something during it, but it’s still stunning when they just stand there awkwardly; and yes, that same haunting and emotional quality that makes me want to weep. Whenever Leena (not Norma, as you might expect) launches into the chorus with her crystal-clear-plus-a-hint-of-fragility voice, unleashing that ‘Now you remind me of something I’ll never have’ line upon an unsuspecting world, I turn into a tsunami of tears (and I haven’t even been jilted recently, so I hate to think what state this song would put me in if I was freshly heartbroken). There’s a shiver down my spine and goosebumps all over my body too, and you know what the last song to have that effect on me was? 1944. Before you accuse me of being delirious in thinking that Norma John have mad Francesco Gabbani-defeating skills and will win the contest, that’s so NOT what I’m thinking. I know Finland isn’t going to do what Ukraine did last year, since lightning doesn’t strike twice – not two years in a row at Eurovision, anyway. But Blackbird’s ability to move me makes it special. It deserves to do well in the comp in a way that Sing It Away (an easy song to sacrifice) couldn’t. This song, IMO, is not disposable – it’s integral to have in the final. 10 points.

My mum says… It’s not often that music manages to choke me up, but Blackbird is so beautiful, and so beautifully melancholic, I nearly had to wipe away some tears. It’s so different to all of the other ballads I’ve heard – more subdued and less dramatic, but somehow even more emotional. Leena’s voice is just perfect for expressing all of that emotion, and she has an Adele-like way of making you feel what she’s feeling, even if you’re not experiencing it first-hand. It’s stunning. 10 points.

Finland’s score 10.00

 

 

 

My thoughts EPIC SAX GUY IS BACK!!! The man who inspired the most famous Eurovision meme in the history of memes is returning to the contest with his fellow Sunstroke Project boys, but sans guest vocalist Olia Tira this time. That’s not news to anyone reading this, I’m guessing, but I do know something you don’t know: exactly how I feel about Hey Mamma. But don’t worry, I’m about to tell you. To put it simply, I love it. It’s so different to 2010’s Run Away – i.e. very light-hearted and lots of fun, as opposed to intense and fast-paced – that it’s hard to compare the two, but I personally prefer Hey Mamma. Trying to win over one’s in-laws is a struggle that so many people can associate with, and the fact that Moldova has produced a song that brings some humour and happiness to the situation is worth a round of applause. I’ve also found myself clapping for the insanely catchy verses and chorus, plus the inclusion of not only another top-notch sax riff, but a violin riff too. Oh, AND another copy-worthy dance that accompanies the sax riff (feat. less groin thrusting this time). Clearly, this entry shares some ingredients with Run Away, as do the songs of repeat artists that came before the Sunstroke Project (Paula Seling & Ovi, for example) – I mean, when a formula proves fairly successful, why pinball in a totally different direction on your next try? But this is everything we know and love about the boys in a new and improved package. A controversial opinion? Probably, if you think this song is garbage. But the ESC needs light and shade to make it more exciting, and Moldova – not for the first time – aren’t taking things too seriously, song-wise. Instead, they’ve given us all a Euroclub banger that will also be a banger played at Club Le Jaz’s Loungeroom (and in unrelated news, if you’re currently in Kyiv for Eurovision purposes, I hate you with a passion). Everyone needs some saxual healing from time to time. We’ll have to wait and see if the results reflect that, or if Moldova will fail to get out of their semi for the fourth year running. Even if they don’t qualify, if nobody forgets to remove their accreditation badge for the broadcast it’ll be a step up from 2016. 10 points.

My mum says… Ohhhhh no. Not a fan! This sounds like a song that was written in ten minutes after the composers forgot they had a deadline for it, and it’s really obvious. It comes across so…naff. My favourite part was when it finished, and I’ll be happy to not hear it start ever again – even though the look on Jaz’s face when I told her this was a look that could kill. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, so they say. 2 points.

Moldova’s score 6.00

 

 

 

My thoughts If a genie ever appears in front of me and grants me three wishes, I’m convinced I’ll just wish for the same thing three times to make 110% sure that it happens. That thing would be for some random, Eurovision-appreciating Sammarinese resident to win the lottery, and be able to bankroll San Marino’s contest participations until Ralph Siegel has fallen off the perch and cannot physically (or spiritually, fingers crossed) do it. That has to be the explanation for his constant creation of half-baked, cringe-worthy songs that have been composed by the numbers from an instruction book called ‘How To Write A Song That Sounds Like It Was Recorded In 1978 And Yet Would Still Have Been Regarded As Bollocks Back Then.’ Obviously, Serhat took the reins in Stockholm and, with a group of other misguided music “professionals”, produced something remarkably similar to a Siegel song – but at least it had entertainment value! Spirit of the Night, performed by the artist ESC fans most associate with San Marino and an artist no one has ever associated with San Marino, has none. It’s just a big wheel of cheese feat. approximately sixteen unnecessary key changes and a lyrical “conversation” that makes me want to go one better than Vincent Van Gogh and cut both of my ears off to save me from ever having to hear it again. Valentina Monetta – and no doubt Jimmie Wilson too – is so much better than this, yet NONE of her four (!) entries have shown her musical talents off to their fullest. She’d be far more suited to singing the Czech song, or something like it, in Italian. But the Monetta-Siegel saga continues. My favourite thing about San Marino 2017 is the dynamic between ValMon and Jimmie, who seem to have a great time together and can somehow perform this horror show with genuine enthusiasm (something I’ve managed to pick up on despite the waves of secondhand embarrassment that wash over me every time I see the two in action). I’d be happy for them to qualify, if there was some way they didn’t have to take Spirit of the Night through as well. But with the rules being as they are, I give this duo full permission to stay behind in the semi final. 2 points.

My mum says… Actually, maybe Moldova isn’t so bad after all. Not when compared to this THING, anyway. All right, so the singers are enthusiastic, and do their best to get us all on board with the spirit of the night (speaking of, was this song’s writer drunk on some sort of spirit when he decided it qualified as a semi-decent song suitable for public exposure?). But apart from that, I can’t find any redeeming features here. It’s like the theme from a terrible 1970s movie that no amount of popcorn could make worth watching. Sorry, San Marino, but what an epic fail! 1 point.

San Marino’s score 1.5

 

 

 

My thoughts Omar’s one of two artists making their Eurovision comeback in Kyiv after first participating in the same city in 2005. Like Estonia’s Laura, he’s been chipping away at a second shot at representing his country between then and now, but it wasn’t his time (again) until 2017…though many would say it should have been BQL’s time this year. But that’s another story for the post-contest conversations about which countries effed up royally in retrospect. Omar’s pulled a Sunstroke Project by taking something more uplifting and less intense than his previous entry to this contest – but on this occasion, I don’t think it’s for the better. On My Way is no Stop, which I think we can all agree (and I accept no opposition to this) was ROBBED a place in the ’05 final. However, if we pretend that never existed for the sake of viewing On My Way objectively, it’s not a bad man ballad. Sure, it’s dated – Omar’s openly said that he wrote it a decade ago and has been saving it (perhaps hoping that this sort of song would come back into fashion, which sadly for him it hasn’t). But I feel far more positively about it than most other fans do. I like how symphonic and soaring it is, especially in the chorus: it’s just as big and bombastic as you’d expect. I don’t like how clichéd and overly-simplistic the lyrics are, considering they’re the mind child of someone who’s lived in London for years and speaks fluent English. But the decent melody and Omar’s flawless vocal delivery (the star attraction) distract me from that lyrical dumb-down. I feel like I can compare the whole vibe of this entry to Ott Lepland’s Kuula, though that was far superior in every way. But the grand man ballad style and stage presentation of this song are cut from the same cloth. Unfortunately, Slovenia seems to be lost without Maraaya (hence the BQL mention) and seem destined for another DNQ. At the very least, they’ll scrape into the final and end up with a right-side score after that. 7 points.

My mum says… Okay, Omar – if you want to be on your way, I’m happy to help you along. I’ll even be a temporary bellboy and carry your bags. Anything to get you moving out of hearing range! As powerful as this song might be, I wanted it to stop pretty soon after it had started, because it just goes on and on (and on some more) in an “inspirational” way that would make it fit right in on an episode of Glee featuring a performance at a high school graduation. Eurovision, not so much. Well, not in terms of fitting in enough to win voters over, anyway. 1 point.

Slovenia’s score 4.00

 

 

There go another six songs into the ‘Reviewed Like A Boss’ pile! This is where they ended up:

  1. Finland (10.00)
  2. Austria (8.00)
  3. Moldova (6.00)
  4. Armenia (4.5)
  5. Slovenia (4.00)
  6. San Marino (1.5)

I’d shed a tear over Finland winning this round, but I think I’ve used up enough boxes of tissues over Blackbird (plus I need to save some crying energy for Norma John’s performances next week). Austria follows not too far behind, and Moldova not too far behind them. Armenia and Slovenia – after being dragged down by Mrs. Jaz – finish in the lower-middle range, which I don’t think will happen for either of them in the actual contest (take from that what you will). San Marino, suitably, is as far behind here as Ralph Siegel is behind the times when it comes to writing a good pop song.

Next time, we’re zipping around Europe – and a little further afield – to bring you potentially bitchy opinions on Australia, Belarus, Iceland, Ireland, Montenegro and Spain. What do two different generations of Australians think of Isaiah? And more importantly, how will my MOTHER react to the most pornographic song in Eurovision history (which is obviously Montenegro’s, not Australia’s)? You’ll have to come back to get the answers to those questions. Keep an eye on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (or subscribe over there –>) to be the first to know when I’ve posted. Your feeds and inboxes are already being bombarded with Eurovision anyway, so it can’t hurt…

 

 

Happy Almost-ESC Week!