Category Archives: Top 10’s
It’s been less than two weeks since Israel won Eurovision, but to me it actually feels like longer – which makes it even more shameful that it’s taken me all this time to pick out my favourite performances of Portugal’s contest just past.
In my defence, it wasn’t an easy decision! Competition was fiercer than Eleni Foureira’s catsuit-and-stilettos combo this year, especially due to the no-LED policy of the stage design which meant countries had to get extra creative when chasing the wow factor. Better late than never, though, I’ve made my choices (just like Ari Oláfsson told me to). And, in reverse order as always, because I like to whip up a fresh batch of suspense every time I do a top 10 countdown, here they are. Let me know what our agree/disagree ratio is in the comments below…
#10| Ukraine (Mélovin with Under The Ladder)
When Eurovision meets Ukraine, the result is usually OTT – but up until 2018, it had been a while since the country lived large in terms of their contest staging (1944 and Time didn’t exactly slap you in the face with such subtle items as hamster wheels and half-naked centurions). So it was nice to see Ukraine changing up their recent less-is-more approach for a) a vampiric-looking artist slowly rising from the hellish interior of his grand piano; b) said artist removing a layer of clothing halfway through the song, which in this case looked a lot more badass than when Alexander Rybak did it; and c) yeah yeah FIRE!!! When you think about it, Mélovin’s performance could have been even more flamboyant – but he seemed to know just when to stop to give it the specific level of drama and Gothic glamour it needed. Under The Ladder on the Lisbon stage was as confident and cohesive as we’ve come to expect from Ukraine, whether they’re keeping things simple or kicking their staging up a notch or two (hundred).
#9 | Israel (Netta with Toy)
If it’s controversial to not have Netta right at the top of a ranking like this, then so be it. I didn’t vote for Israel this year and I can’t claim that Toy is the winning song I would have preferred (let’s just say that I was hoping to be trawling through Air BnB apartments in Limassol right about now). But I can’t argue with the punch this performance packed, thanks mostly to Netta herself and not so much to her dancers, who made the whole thing look more novelty than it actually was. Miss Barzilai, though, even without her looper, was a force to be reckoned with. Every facial expression, hand gesture and note was there; the attitude and sass were sky-high just as they should have been; and it was easy to believe that any guy stupid enough to cross her would be sorrier than Frans realising he really was sorry. Netta sold her song like her life depended on it, with her oriental outfit and backdrop adding an exotic touch to the appealingly bonkers proceedings (and not, IMO, falling into the category of cultural appropriation). The Altice Arena audience went crazy for this, and even on TV it was obvious why.
#8 | Austria (Cesár Sampson with Nobody But You)
Starring in this year’s episode of ‘Surprising Eurovision Third-Placers’ was Austria’s Cesár, who contributed a jury vote-winning rendition of Nobody But You to the grand final line-up. While I didn’t see that overwhelming jury love coming, I did get some spine-tingles from his performance: one that proved he could more than cope with the transition from backing singer to main artist. Commanding the stage – and a spectacular hydraulic platform – completely solo, he made it hard for me to look away from him (or even blink, lest I miss a shot of his impressive arm musculature). Austria also added a mix of shadowy and golden lighting that perfectly suited the song and its soul vibes; a bit of crowd interaction in the second half to up the human connection with Cesár; and, tapping into a trend that was way overused in 2017, the sole giant selfie of the year…which was great apart from the fact that super-sized Cesár was wearing a different shirt to flesh-and-blood Cesár. But that’s a mildly irritating detail I can overlook, based on how boss every other aspect of this performance was.
#7 | Denmark (Rasmussen with Higher Ground)
Like Sweden (a country you should expect me to mention later on in this list) Denmark rarely changes much about their staging between their national final and Eurovision. Unlike Sweden, a lot of the time they need to but just don’t. Fortunately, 2018 was not one of those years – and some credit needs to be given to the ship-inspired Lisbon stage for that. Performing a seafaring Viking song, Rasmussen must have thanked his lucky stars when he discovered how neatly Higher Ground fit in to the concept of the ESC this year. Sure, a ship wasn’t the first thing you thought of when you looked at the stage, but just knowing how appropriate Denmark’s package would appear in the year of ‘All Aboard!’ gave them a boost. Sails, snow, stomping, blue lighting, beards, and a manufactured breeze were all Rasmussen needed to create the ideal atmosphere for Higher Ground – and what came out of the oven once all of those ingredients had been combined and baked was gobbled up by televoters. They ranked Denmark first in the second semi, and in the top five in the final. That’s definitely higher ground than the Danes managed to reach in Kyiv!
#6 | Estonia (Elina Nechayeva with La Forza)
I’ve said this in a previous post, but there was a time when I thought Estonia didn’t need to stick Elina in a ridiculously expensive projection dress to make a statement. La Forza and her insanely impressive operatic talents would do the trick on their own, right? Well, we’ll never know for sure – but what I now know for certain is that The Dress: Eurovision Edition (forget about some wedding guest getup that’s black and blue/white and gold) turned Estonia’s appearance at Eurovision 2018 into a showstopper. What helped to make the performance all the more dynamic were the close-up shots of Elina during the soft, mystical verses (just to hammer home how stunning she is) interspersed with wider shots and aerial shots during the explosive choruses – those showing off the dress projections to maximum advantage. If I was being ultra picky (as I enjoy being sometimes) I would have liked the lighting scheme and projections to be totally celestial – more cool colours to take us all to a galaxy far, far away. But a bit of red lighting here and there and some psychedelic dress swirls didn’t prevent me from being speechless at the end of this three minutes.
#5 | Australia (Jessica Mauboy with We Got Love)
Okay…before you scream at your screen that I must have walked Rasmussen’s plank and drowned in a sea of my own insanity, hear me out. Firstly, I’m Australian and am therefore totally biased when it comes to our handful of ESC entries and my unconditional defense of them. Secondly, when I name Jessica’s performance as one of my favourites of the year, I’m referring more to the stronger semi-final version than the nervy final version. And thirdly, whatever your opinion on her vocals, that dress (which we now know finished 2nd in the Barbara Dex vote) or the characteristically dark Sacha Jean Baptiste staging, you have to admit that Jess is a ray of sunshine who invested every fibre of her energy into her time on stage and brought light to those overly-moody surroundings. I felt so proud (and a little bit teary) after her Thursday night performance – and part of that was to do with the freedom, rawness and authenticity that came from the dreamtime dance moves and a vocal that was a rough diamond rather than a crystal-clear one-carat diamond. Jess did what she does best by bringing her personality on stage as a prop, and I really enjoyed watching her as a result.
#4 | Moldova (DoReDos with My Lucky Day)
Discarding a cool NF staging concept in the hope of wowing people at the ESC with an even cooler concept is risky. Moldova took that risk, ran with it, and ended up providing us with an impeccably-timed slapstick-chic performance that elevated an okay song to sensational status. Try and find a flaw in DoReDos’ Eurovision creation and I will dispute whatever you come up with, because it had it ALL. Eye-catching costumes (in Moldovan flag colours, of course)? Check. Boatloads of stage presence and charisma from all three band members and their backing squad? Check. An oversized Ikea cabinet put to better use than anything with doors has been before? Check! Putting paid to the stereotype that men can’t multitask – and proving that women absolutely can – the trio sang, danced and dashed in out of those doors without missing a beat or looking like it was any sort of struggle. In a day and age of the easily distracted (myself included) keeping all eyes on you for 180 seconds can be difficult – but My Lucky Day live in Lisbon was entertainment well worth the price of admission.
#3 | Czech Republic (Mikolas Josef with Lie To Me)
From being stuck on a hospital gurney with a neck brace on to turning out a performance like this – only to go on and top it in the final? Mikolas, I salute you. For a horrifying few days early on in rehearsal week, we weren’t sure whether the Czech Republic would even get to compete in the contest with their best entry ever. But the Eurovision gods were smiling down on us (that, and Mikolas did what doctors told him to do). He got through his semi show in more restrained style than he would have liked before pulling out all of the acrobatic stops on the Saturday night – moves that capped off a super-fun, well-choreographed, part-music video/part-live performance feat. SWAG. There is nothing I would change about the Czech staging, although I wouldn’t have complained if a hologram camel had materialised at some point. The highlight – besides Mikolas landing the flip and not ending up back in the emergency room – has to be the butt wiggle/floss/backpack combo after the second chorus. That was genius, and in keeping with the saucy subject matter. I can fully understand why plenty of these greedies want to eat Mikolas’ spaghetti (apologies if I just said something super rude…I honestly don’t know).
#2 | Cyprus (Eleni Foureira with Fuego)
There’s a reason Eurofans still talk about Ani Lorak all the time, despite Shady Lady finishing as the Eurovision runner-up TEN YEARS AGO (!). Ani was a crazy-hot woman in an amazing outfit who, backed by a posse of equally attractive dancers, strutted her way through a top-notch pop song to rapturous applause from the audience. Does that sound familiar? Does it sound…fuego, perhaps? I think so. Eleni came to Portugal armed with an ethnopop banger that had all the best elements of Shady Lady in its staging, and also threw back to Secret Combination and Qele Qele (Greece and Armenia’s ’08 entries that finished 3rd and 4th respectively). I loved being reminded of those other fierce women who’d showed the ESC who was boss back in the day, while being treated to a song that was modern enough to work in 2018. Eleni looked incredible, danced like a woman possessed, and whipped her hair back and forth in amongst fake and real fire while wearing that sparkly catsuit you wouldn’t want to have to pee while sewn into. I’m not going to lie…I wanted to BE her. If we must have successful 2018 entry copycats in 2019, can they please be Fuego + Foureira copycats?
#1 | Sweden (Benjamin Ingrosso with Dance You Off)
As we arrive at my no. 1 personal pick for Eurovision performance of the year, it will either be a massive plot twist (because you’re new here and were partly responsible for Sweden’s low televoting score) or a predictable ending (because you know how obsessed with Sweden and how big a fan of Benjamin’s I am). Whatever the reason for that lack of love from the public, it was not a problem for me – someone in awe of the glow-up between Benjamin’s 2017 and 2018 Melodifestivalen performances, and then continually impressed by the Dance You Off performance that was copy-pasted to the ESC (why would you mess with something that slick?). I don’t know why people have an issue with Swedish performances being the same every time, at Melfest and in every Eurovision rehearsal. When you put that much effort in to a stage show – even though Benjamin’s was relatively simple, just extremely effective – and rehearse the crap out of it, why shouldn’t it be flawless by the time it’s going to be on TV? I love this song and I love how it was staged, unconditionally. Jean Baptiste who?
I’ve showed you mine…now show me yours! Which Eurovision performances floated your boat the most this year?
Does anyone else think it is RIDONKULOUS that we’re just over four weeks away from Eurovision 2018? Where dafuq does time go? I know it’s like thunder (thanks to the teachings of Uzari) but that aside, it’s a mystery.
My point – today, anyway – is not so much that Lisbon is so close, but that Kyiv is nearly a year old. It seems like the 2017 contest happened a few months ago at most, and realising it didn’t has me SHOOK.
The silver lining is that we can now gaze fondly (or not so fondly) back at last year’s show, and the things that made it one to remember, before version 2k18 arrives. And that’s exactly what I’m doing today, in case you misunderstood the title of this post: counting down my top 10 most memorable moments from Kyiv. And yes, the definitive ‘the’ in the aforementioned title is misleading, since the following list is based on my opinions. You know what I’m trying to say.
If it’s been a while since your last 2017 rewatch, consider this a refresher – and if you want more memories, you can check out my other Kyiv-related countdowns (e.g. my best and worst performance lists). But for now, keep reading and see what I think made last year’s contest quite the memorable one. And afterwards, vote for your favourite unforgettable moment!
#10 | Blackbird, don’t sing (in the grand final): Finland fails to qualify
There are some things that pop up at Eurovision every year without fail: WTF stage props, backup singers being the secret stars of the show, awkward conversations between the hosts and Jon Ola Sand…that sort of stuff. Also occurring every year is at least one final result or DNQ that the Eurofan community just cannot get over and will vent about on social media for months. When it comes to the most shocking scoreboard-related event of Kyiv, I was torn between Austria’s televoting zero in the final (how could that happen to the precious angel that is Nathan Trent?!?) and Finland’s failure to even make the final – and ultimately, I just can’t go past Norma John’s Blackbird getting the boot. The song had me at hello (i.e. the first time I listened to it and heard the line ‘Now you remind me of something I’ll never have’, I broke out in goosebumps and burst into tears simultaneously) and I’ve watched the performance back a bunch of times looking for reasons why it didn’t go through. Spoiler alert: I CAN’T FIND ANY. Finishing 12th in last year’s first semi, Finland would have had to knock out Georgia (11th) and Greece (10th) to reach the Saturday night, and almost a year later I still believe they should have. Let’s see if they can qualify this year for the first time since 2014, with big gun Saara Aalto (even though that won’t compensate me for all the Kleenex I’ve used crying over Blackbird).
#9 | A meme-orable smooch: Alex Florea gives Ilinca a kiss to remember
Okay, so this one was less painful than Finland’s DNQ – maybe not for Ilinca, but for the rest of us. If I’m honest though, the celebratory smooch Alex forcefully planted on her was more iconic. I don’t have anything against it, exactly. The guy was caught up in the moment and what happened, happened (a lot like something else celebratory I’ll be mentioning later on in this list). But the image of Ilinca’s squashed-up face is burned into my brain, and obviously I had to gift you guys a GIF of it above in case any of you had managed to block it out. I need you to laugh-cringe with me all over again!
#8 | Firebrace yourselves! Isaiah’s nightmare high note
Don’t get me wrong: I was totally supportive of Isaiah last year (from 2015 onwards I’ve been a member of the ‘defend your own country’s entry to the death’ club), and even though I’m still unsure how Australia ended up in the top 10, I’m proud of him and his team for managing it. But even I can’t deny that several seconds of his semi final performance – and you know which seconds I’m referring to – can now be labeled as one of the worst vocal slip-ups in ESC history. Isaiah was only seventeen back then, and since the rest of his time on stage was infinitely more ear-friendly, I don’t want to shame him. But OUCH. Just ouch. Well, ouch with a little laughter thrown in because I’m a terrible person (the kind who will also laugh when they see someone fall over in the street…but I do feel bad about it, if that helps). Sensibly, there was no attempt in the final to hit that same note, so maybe our eventual 9th place was Europe rewarding us for not damaging millions of eardrums any further. PS – If you’re wondering why I didn’t think Spain’s vocal car-crash moment was memorable enough for this list, well…it didn’t come as much of a shock, TBH. It was more of a nail in the coffin for poor Manel, as opposed to something that almost destroyed an otherwise good performance.
#7 | Two genres + three Jacques = one heck of a performance from Croatia
When you think of the most outstanding acts of Eurovision 2017, you might think of winner Portugal, the return of Epic Sax Guy for Moldova, or Francesco Gabbani and his (pretty worse for wear) ape not quite meeting expectations for Italy. Or, your mind’s spotlight might shine straight down on Croatia, with a performance that stood out from the rest for every reason imaginable. As if the whole ‘one man singing two songs solo’ thing wasn’t enough to attract our attention, Jacques took the LED selfie trend to the next level with two massive Houdek heads representing the pop and opera sides of My Friend (as did his half-and-half costume). Plus we got to witness an onstage instrumental duel that reminded me of Harry Potter VS Draco Malfoy in The Chamber of Secrets; pyro for days; rainbows and six-foot sunflowers; and…have I forgotten anything? The kitchen sink must have been in there somewhere. You might not have liked My Friend much as a song (I didn’t) but you have to admit that Croatia created something unforgettable during their three minutes.
#6 | Nappies and nuptials: Jana Burčeska reveals she’s pregnant…then gets proposed to!
Macedonia may not have qualified (again) last year, but Jana probably didn’t mind much given she had a lot of other stuff to celebrate on the night of her semi. A pregnancy announcement via pre-performance postcard was new ground for Eurovision – and then came the on-air green room proposal from Jana’s boyfriend Aleksandar (during which one of her fake fingernails fell off…#romance). Two out of three good things on one night ain’t bad! Jana went on to give birth to a baby girl and went all meta-ESC by naming her Dona. And we all went on to remember her acceptance of a marriage proposal as the most dramatic thing to happen in a Eurovision green room since Eric Saade called Petra Mede a MILF back in 2013.
#5 | Fast food and fireworks: Salvador’s sensational victory speech
You didn’t think I was going to leave this out, did you? Salvador made headlines beyond Eurovision bubble borders with his post-win declaration that “Music is not fireworks, music is feeling.” His was a speech far less sassy than Conchita Wurst’s, but much more controversial. Even though it was spur of the moment, I can’t help admiring the guts of a guy who’ll get up on a stage in front of thousands (with millions more watching him on TV), at the world’s biggest pop music contest, and say “We live in a world of disposable music; fast food music without any content. I think this could be a victory for music…that actually means something.” The implications were pretty negative, and neither Salvador’s fellow artists nor fans were very happy with the statement. But I can see what he was trying to say, as someone who appreciates meaningful music just as much as musical fluff engineered purely to get butts on the dancefloor. If he’d had time to get his thoughts together, he might have been able to articulate his message in a way that didn’t send the Eurovillagers after him with flaming torches and pitchforks – but that wouldn’t have made for such a memorable moment.
#4 | A wet-eyes reprise: The Sobral siblings’ emotional end-of-show duet
Now, back to the Salvador who melted our hearts in Kyiv. After his sister Luísa – composer of Amar Pelos Dois – had filled in for him during rehearsals to ensure he was contest-ready, it was only fitting that she’d be invited to join him for his winner’s reprise. I didn’t know what to expect of this since, as usual, I’d avoided the rehearsal footage like it was an obligation on Eurovision night. Three minutes later, I was encrusted in the salt of my own tears and half wishing the song had been performed as a brother-sister duet the entire time (though given the subject matter, some lyrical changes would have been required). Over the years we’ve seen choked-up reprises and incredulous reprises, but we’d never seen one quite as stunning as this.
#3 | Two for one on best-ever results: Bulgaria and Moldova make history
If some mystical bearded Eurovision prophet had told you a few years ago that the 2017 top three would be Portugal, Bulgaria and Moldova, would you have believed them? I know I wouldn’t have. And yet that’s the trio we found ourselves faced with at the top end of the scoreboard last year. I’m not done with the winner talk yet, so the bronze position on this list is purely devoted to Kristian Kostov and the Sunstroke Project, who earned their respective countries’ best results ever. After failing to qualify for six years in a row (2008-2013), Bulgaria took a two-year ESC break before returning in fantastic fashion with 4th place in 2016 – only to outdo themselves in Kyiv by finishing 2nd. Moldova, meanwhile, had three DNQs behind them – and a standing peak placing of 6th from 2005 – when returnees the Sunstroke Project secured the third-highest lot of televoting points, which boosted them into 3rd position. Nearly a year on, I still do a happy dance when rewatching the results sequence that led to these Bulgarian/Moldovan milestones.
#2 | The butt of the joke: Jamala’s uninvited guest bares (almost) all
Since Jimmy Jump decided to join Spain’s performance in Düsseldorf, nobody else had been game to stage-invade at Eurovision (thank the Lordi). That is, until last year. An infamous Ukrainian prankster – draped in an Australian flag, which meant we copped the blame + bad rep for a bit – thought it would be a smart idea to make an actual arse of himself during Her Royal Highness Jamala’s grand final rendition of I Believe In U. I’m glad he didn’t ruin the atmosphere of 1944, but I’d still like to take that flag and whip him on the bare butt with it for doing something so immature. Luckily, being the classy lady and seasoned performer that she is, Jamala didn’t even bat an eyelid when that crack appeared in her performance (double entendre intended). This was another ESC 2017 event that made headlines worldwide and in some cases, overshadowed reports of Portugal’s historic win – so as cr(ass) as it was, I can’t deny that it was unforgettable.
#1 | Amar Pelos Dois does the trick: Portugal wins Eurovision for the first time
But of course! Pre-2017, the last country to win Eurovision for the first time was Azerbaijan (after a whole FOUR YEARS of trying…not that I’d call Running Scared a good try), but Portugal? Well, they’d been waiting over half a century to see how sweet victory tasted. It was a fairytale ending to the 2017 contest, but not one that everyone saw coming. Italy was the fan and betting favourite this time last year, winning every pre-contest poll and leading the odds…until a last-minute leapfrog by the Portuguese saw Francesco’s obvious win become not so obvious. But did we all really believe Salvador could Salvado it instead? I’m pretty sure I didn’t until the douze points started rolling in, one after the other. The public vote could have changed everything, but it didn’t: Portugal won that too, making them the first country since Austria in 2014 to top the jury and televote in order to win. You can’t challenge dominance like that! As a result of their result (HAHAHA) we’re off to the sun, sand and sea of Lisbon in a month, and we all get to witness the ESC Portuguese-style for the first – and hopefully not the last – time. Excelente.
So, that’s my ranking – but as always, I want your opinion.
Did I miss your favourite moment out completely? Let me know (nicely) in the comments.
Until next time, when my 2018 reviews will finally begin (with verdicts on Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta and the Netherlands, FYI)…
Is it just me who feels like we had a handful of Eurovision 2018 entries five minutes ago and were impatiently waiting for the rest to be locked in? And yet, somehow, the selection season is actually over. We have our 43, and that’s been the situation for a few weeks now.
It’s kind of sad, but there is a bright side – besides another contest being on the cards in the foreseeable future. Before looking back at Kyiv 2017 and looking SIX WEEKS (!) ahead to Lisbon 2018, we now get to glance over at this latest NF season and say ‘How you doin’?’ in a suggestive Joey Tribbiani way to all of the awesome new music we discovered throughout January, February and March (and maybe a little in December too). And today I’m finally ready to present you with my personal list of absolute favourites.
For some reason, I didn’t let myself have total free-rein fun with it (I may be my own boss, but it turns out I’m a strict one). There were conditions. DUN DUN DUN!!!
- This is an obvious one, but I couldn’t choose a song that won the NF it competed in, even if it was my favourite in the field. Once that happens, the song stops being an NF song and becomes a Eurovision entry, after all.
- Secondly, I only let myself choose one song per country, so don’t think you’re about to see me fawn over ten Melfest tracks in a row – it hasn’t happened. It would have been more like 3x Swedish songs, 3x Norwegian, 3x French and 1x token from somewhere else anyway.
Based on these rules, I’ve put together my top 10 and I’m pretty pleased with it. But, since this year offered up so much great stuff, if you make it to the end of this post – or just cut out the middle man and scroll straight through – you’ll find a playlist of my top 10 plus ALL of my other ‘best of the rest’ songs from this season. Feel free to tell me what excellent taste I have in the comments (or at least be polite when you’re criticising it). And don’t forget to leave a list of your NF favourites from 2018 too – I want to know what stood out to you and what you might have preferred to hear/see in Portugal over what will be. Because I’m nosy *hopes it’s part of my charm*.
Now, let’s get into the list!
#10 | Astronaut by Liam Tamne
Unplaced in Eurovision: You Decide (United Kingdom)
I know many of you will want to throw a pie at my face (or in this case, perhaps a plate of bangers and mash) for suggesting that ANYTHING in the You Decide lineup was better than Asanda’s Legends. Don’t get me wrong…that was dope, and in my opinion was probably the best choice the UK could have made for Lisbon (sorry/not SuRie). But while my head knew that much, my heart was with Liam and his Astronaut. Apart from taking the space metaphors a little too far at times, this song appeals to me in every way – from the modern and atmospheric production to the pretty melodies and Liam’s crystal-clear falsetto. In fact, the only thing that really bothers me is the line ‘take your body into space’, which sounds like a threat a serial killer would make to a bound-and-gagged victim after consuming a tray of hash brownies. But (bizarrely) that’s not a deal breaker. You can be my astronaut for sure, Liam (in a platonic way because I know you have a husband).
#9 | Signals by Karui
Unplaced, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix (Denmark)
When Karui didn’t even get a look in to the super final of DMGP this year, it didn’t come as a surprise. She may have turned in a stellar, soulful performance, but Signals is just not the kind of song Denmark would ever choose to send to Eurovision. As a consolation prize, though, it’s totally the kind of song I get a kick out of, and I plan to listen to it on the reg until I find a 2019 Danish reject to replace it. The song is like a less urban version of All My Friends by Snakehips, with bare-bones verses and hypnotic choruses that run smooth like a chocolate fondue (why do I always end up comparing music to food?). It’s the perfect backing track to a low-key house party or a romantic rendezvous – not, I have to admit, a great song to enter in a competition, which is another reason why I didn’t crumple dramatically to the floor when it didn’t go anywhere in DMGP. I still want to hear more stuff like this from Denmark in the future, even if it only serves to end up on a Spotify playlist of mine post-show.
#8 | Ptica by BQL
2nd, EMA (Slovenia)
Okay, so it might have been BQL with Promise that technically came second in EMA…but the semi-final Slovenian version of this song is miles better. In any language, it’s no Heart of Gold (which 110% should have gone to Kyiv despite the boys being more performance-ready this year) but it has the Maraaya Midas touch, and that’s enough to warrant it a spot on my best of the rest list. I just love the cruisy vibe, the acoustic-pop sound, and OF COURSE the light-up guitars (it’s like Poli Genova personally oversaw the instrument-pimping process). Honestly, if BQL return for a third try at representing Slovenia next year with a song less impressive than this, it HAS to be their time. Maybe the musical love child of Heart of Gold and Ptica would do the trick? You’re welcome for the musical inspiration, Maraaya.
#7 | Lelya by Tayanna
2nd, Vidbir (Ukraine)
If there’s one thing we learnt from NF season 2017, it’s that Tayanna can SING…unless she’s got a throat infection. Fortunately she made a triumphant comeback to Vidbir this year, switching from a big dramatic ballad to a fast-paced retro pop banger in the process. As you’ll know if you tuned in to see her in action, she sang so studio-perfectly while dancing her ass off that she had to fend off accusations of lip-syncing on live TV. But she’s not fake – just fierce AF. And so is Lelya, with a catchy chorus and unrelenting energy that helped Tayanna hang on to her 2nd place from a year earlier. I would have preferred her to go to Eurovision on home soil with I Love You (what a host entry that would have been!) and I’m happy with Under The Ladder as Ukraine’s song for Lisbon, but Lelya would have been a worthy entry too. BTW…I’ve linked Tayanna’s semi performance above because, even though she was vocally flawless both times, I really did not like the oversized pantsuit she wore in the final. Seriously.
#6 | My Turn by John Lundvik
3rd, Melodifestivalen (Sweden)
Why are the Melfest performances geoblocked on YouTube? In Australia, anyway. It’s a travesty, is what it is. But I digress. If you read the Selection Season posts that led up to this one (which you totally would have because you just can’t get enough of me, AMIRIGHT?!?) then you might have noticed I transitioned from thinking My Turn was cheesier than a board of brie and camembert, to thinking that it was magnificent (while continuing to acknowledge the cheese). It’s not like it’s Our Choice cheesy (Iceland has a lot to answer for). It’s more of a ‘I just won Idol circa 2002 and this is my uplifting, inspirational winner’s single! Yay for me!’ situation. But it just works. It has all the moments it needs to give me goosebumps, right down to the explosive money note that we all knew would be accompanied by a fire curtain before we even saw John perform it on the Melfest stage. And speaking of which, he performs it so well with so much confidence, it’s hard to hate. Who knows, he may not believe a word he’s singing, but he makes me believe that he does. It so is your turn, John…just not to win Melodifestivalen, obviously.
#5 | Delirium by Isabell Otrębus
9th, Krajowe Eliminajce (Poland)
There’s something about Isabell that isn’t that appealing to Poland – this year in particular, when her NF outing ended with second-last place. I’ll admit that Delirium is a better song to listen to than to watch being performed (making it less than ideal to send to a contest where visuals are as crucial to a successful package as the song). But that’s what I’m ranking here anyway – songs that I have already or will be Spotifying the shiz out of over the next few months/years/centuries (because Delirium gives me enough life to guarantee I’ll live beyond 100). This song is better, I reckon, than Isabell’s 2017 Krajowe entry Voiceless. That was good, but Delirium is great. It’s not quite a pop music masterpiece, but pretty close – everything about it is contemporary, the production (Swedish, surprise surprise) is slick, and the chorus is simple but super catchy. If I’m honest, I would have preferred Poland to send it to Lisbon over Light Me Up, but I also know full well that Gromee and Lukas will fare better than Isabell would have. So I’ll just accept what actually happened, and continue to press play on this whenever the mood takes me (which is about every half an hour).
#4 | Poison (Ari Ari) by Tamar Kaprelian
DNQ, Depi Evratesil (Armenia)
Initially, I was under the impression that this was the ONLY song Armenia should send to Eurovision this year. Then they went and kicked Tamar to the curb at the semi-final stage of Depi Evratesil (THE NERVE!) and chose Qami…which I ended up falling in love with because it gives me all the Renaida-style feels. But rest assured that a) I’m still mad about the Poison rejection, and b) I will never forget what an epic piece of ethno pop it is. And that’s not just by comparison to Genealogy’s Face The Shadow, which was dire. In a parallel universe – and with some staging changes plus a boost from backing vocalists – this would have been an ESC return that gave an entire continent a bad case of the earworms. I mean, that chorus is stickier than super glue! Overall, the song is three minutes of Tamar playing Princess Jasmine in the Armenian production of Aladdin, and hers is an Arabian night I want to relive over and over again. Ari ari-lly love this.
#3 | Scandilove by Ida Maria
Unplaced, Melodi Grand Prix (Norway)
I have to start by saying that I had a hard time choosing my Norway song for this list. I had no doubt there’d be one, I just didn’t know whether it would be Talk To The Hand, Who We Are or Scandilove (and narrowing it down to those three was tricky enough. #firstworldproblems). Ultimately I opted for Scandilove because it’s the Mean Girls of music: endlessly quotable, totally iconic and SO much fun. If you don’t believe me on that first point, allow me to present you with the following lyrical gems: ‘Swim in the ocean, feel the emotion, it’s fucking freeeeezing’; ‘You’re in Scandinavia, biatch’, and of course, ‘Can you make love like a Scandinavian?’ (though I’m still not sure exactly what that entails). The whole thing is so weirdly wonderful, a part of me wishes Norway had taken a non-Rybak risk and bestowed Europe with such a magical gift of song in May. Especially since Ida performed it so perfectly (when I was expecting a car crash) and with all the energy, attitude and costume game we could have hoped for. 1990s Spice Girl pop and 2010s too-cool-for-school Scandi pop – with a sprinkling of ridiculousness – join forces here, and the result is amazing.
#2 | Compass by Alejandro Reyes
2nd, Die Entscheidungsshow (Switzerland)
Now I’m getting into the songs that I not only wanted to win, but nearly got my way with (which is me saying that this song and my #1 both finished second in their respective NFs). I do think Stones is a good song, and that Switzerland was sensible in picking it. But if I’d had the picking power over there (I cannot imagine a scenario in which this would be the case, but just roll with me) I would have gone with Compass in a heartbeat. I was impressed by Switzerland having a potential Eurovision song that was so damn now, it could be the latest thing Shaun Mendes fangirls are freaking out over (rarely something you find in a Swiss NF). Still, I would have dug this like a hole in the sand even if it had been competing in Melodifestivalen surrounded by similarly current radio hits. It’s easy-listening but still has energy; the lyrics are interesting, neatly rhymed and non-cliché; and the chorus is stripped-back (word-wise) but memorable. As a package, Compass comes gift-wrapped in fancy paper with a big fat bow on top. And, as an added bonus, Alejandro is a beautiful sight to behold and can deliver himself to my door gift-wrapped (or not) any time.
#1 | Eva by Lisandro Cuxi
2nd, Destination Eurovision (France)
Eva feels nothing but a heartache…and I was the same when Lisandro was beaten at the last minute by Madame Monsieur in France’s 2018 NF. As with Norway, there was a handful of French possibles that could have ended up on this list, and they did all end up on the playlist you’ll find below (including Emmy Liyana’s OK ou KO and Nassi’s Rêves de Gamin). But I had to make Lisandro’s Eva my number one NF song of the season because not only do I love love LOVE it, it’s also the one song that destroyed me when it finished second, not first. It didn’t help that it looked like it was going to win until, as I said, the last minute (oh, the pain!). But enough about that, since it didn’t win and I’ve now accepted that. As a standalone song outside of a competition, to me Eva is everything. It’s moody, mixes languages without interrupting lyrical or audio flow, tells a story, goes hard on hypnotic beats and power, and is generally an R & B banger that stood out to me from the moment I heard a snippet of it. Lisandro’s smooth-as-silk vocals are the cherry on top of the croissant. More than ever, I wish we could make an exception to the September 1st rule and wheel this one out to represent France in 2019, but the best I can hope for is that Lisandro tries again with a song that’s equally good, or better (if such a thing even exists).
So that’s the cream of the crop for me…but about the rest? Well, here they are alongside my top-tier NF favourites.
How long would your personal playlist be? Would any of my top 10 picks make it into your top 10? Write me a sentence or a story in the comments and let me know!
I’ll be back soon with another pre-Portugal post, and then it’ll be time for the EBJ reviews to kick off (the only time I wish Eurovision wasn’t currently a 40+ country contest is when I have to write about every single entry). Watch out for those, and/or subscribe (in the sidebar), and/or follow me on your standard social media platforms @EurovisionByJaz, for new post alerts. Oh, and ESC-related thoughts complimented by GIFs. What more could you want?
Just because national final season ended back in March doesn’t mean we should forget about it, right? After all, every year brings with it a fresh batch of boss music for us fans to add to our respective playlists, and the happy-dances danced as a result of that can last forever. AND this is all before Eurovision itself even begins! I think I speak for all of us when I say – as a totally unknown band called ABBA once said – thank you for the music, NF season.
There’s no better way to top off a thanks than with a top 10, in my opinion – so here we are. It might seem like I’m just crazy late in posting this countdown, but now is a good time to pay tribute to the 2017 selection season: firstly, because it’s Thursday and I’m a big supporter of #ThrowbackThursday (check my Instagram if you don’t believe me); and secondly, because it’s not long until the results of this year’s OGAE Second Chance Contest are revealed. It turns out that half of my favourite tracks from the recent run of national finals were chosen to compete in the SCC, so I guess I’m not as alternative as I thought. Damn.
The lone rule for this list? I only allowed myself to pick one song from any particular country – so you’re not about to see Melfest song after Melfest song. Keep reading to find out which Eurovision could-have-beens I fell in love with this season, and how I think they would have fared in Kyiv compared to the songs that actually ended up there. And don’t forget to share your personal favourite songs in the comments!
#10 | Two Faces by Michéle (Switzerland)
NF result 3rd, Die Entscheidungsshow
Is it better than Apollo? No, but…apples and oranges.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? Definitely not, though I like to think it would have been staged better than Apollo.
I’m sorry to have to say this, but I know I’m not the only one who’s come to expect a certain level of sub-standardness when reviewing the Swiss national finalists each year. 2017 was an exception in that the final bunch of songs – bar one – were actually more than mediocre. My favourite, Apollo aside, was pocket rocket Michéle’s Two Faces, which took me by surprise given how mod-pop it is. It’s not a perfect production, and my inner jury’s still out on whether the ‘sugar and salt’ analogy is good or awkward…but damn, this is catchy. And even though it does sound radio-friendly, I’ve never heard anything quite like it before.
#9 | Helppo Elämä by Lauri Yrhjola (Finland)
NF result 8th, Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu
Is it better than Blackbird? No, but again it’s hard to compare the two.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? Probably not.
If this song was sung in English (or Swedish), it would have been right at home in the Melodifestivalen line-up. That’s a big compliment from me meaning it’s a) slickly produced pop, b) minty-fresh radio material, and c) gets stuck in your head like it’s made of super glue. The fact that it’s in Finnish, though, further set it apart in the UMK field, and adds to the aloof kind of cool it projects. The fusion of country twang and electro sounds is very Avicii, and gives it an automatic x-factor. For me, it was the NF character that speaks its own language (literally) and has little hope of winning, but will inevitably end up on my selection season playlist. There’s at least one of those in every national final.
Watch the NF performance here.
#8 | I Wish I Loved You More by Holly Brewer (United Kingdom)
NF result Unknown, Eurovision: You Decide
Is it better than Never Give Up On You? No, but it’s less of an identity-crisis song.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope.
You guys know mama loves her female power ballads (when they’re good ones…I am fairly discerning). Why do you think I was such an enthusiastic member of Team Denmark this year? Speaking of blonde powerhouse vocalists, here’s Holly Brewer, who sang the shiz out of the sensational PB that is I Wish I Loved You More. I can admit that this sort of song had its heyday circa 2007, but the genre never stopped floating my boat. I love that IWILYM promises to become something dynamic and explosive, and then delivers – first with big + bold choruses, then with that money note that you KNOW is coming, but it still packs a punch when it arrives. It’s a knockout (and so is Holly, on whom I have a raging girl crush).
#7 | Heart of Gold by BQL
NF result 2nd, EMA
Is it better than On My Way ? HELL YEAH!
Would it have done better in Kyiv? HELL YEAH!
BQL (made up of two musos who are apparently blood brothers…who’d have guessed?) broke hearts throughout the Euroverse when they failed to get Slovenia’s golden ticket in 2017 – Slovenia’s fault, obvs. Okay, so their live performance was a little rough around the edges, while Omar Naber’s was flawless (it was another Margaret/Michał Szpak situation). And Heart of Gold itself is a bit all-over-the-place as a song, needing a restructure and a revamp. But like everything created by Maraaya, it has SO much going for it. Simple but effective lyrics, and not one, but about five epic melodies, for example. If it had won EMA and undergone a pre-ESC facelift, wonderful things might have happened to a country that has now chosen two questionable entries in a row.
Watch the NF performance here.
#6 | One by Ida Una (Denmark)
NF result 2nd, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix
Is it better than Where I Am? Not according to moi.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? I have to say yes (but I don’t want to).
Here’s a prime example of the safe, sugary pop songs that dominate DMGP – and this one is actually about love and peace (I don’t know if Måns and Petra would approve or be appalled). I’m not normally a supporter of either cookie-cutter music or lame lyrics, but I have totally dug the vibe of Ida Una’s One since day one. The lyrics are the main drawback, because everything else is very Scandi-2017…and how about the insane singalong-ability of the chorus? It turns one word into ten syllables, making it a surefire hook without it being too simplistic. I was pretty convinced this track was going to Kyiv because it’s right up Denmark’s street, and I wouldn’t have minded that result since the song is right up my street too.
#5 | Places by Ulrikke (Norway)
NF result 4th, Melodi Grand Prix
Is it better than Grab The Moment? No, but it’s a close call.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? I think it would have finished just outside the top 10, so no.
I wouldn’t willingly swap Grab The Moment – one of my true ESC 2017 loves – for anything. But if I had to for some random reason, I’d have sent Ulrikke’s Places to Ukraine in a heartbeat. That’d be on the condition that Norway totally rethought the MGP staging of the song, which wasn’t nearly ‘tropical beach party WOOHOO’ enough. Places itself, though, is a JAM – a summer jam that I’m being forced to play in winter as I imagine being by the ocean. My buzzwords for this countdown have been ‘current’ and ‘catchy’, and I have to use them again to describe this because it has bucketloads of both. More so than Dansk MGP and Melodifestivalen, Norsk MGP tends to deliver on pop with a bit of edge, and pop that’s very now – not squeaky-clean, sugary or safe. Places is an excellent example of that, I reckon.
Watch the NF performance here.
#4 | Hold On by Nano (Sweden)
NF result 2nd, Melodifestivalen
Is it better than I Can’t Go On? In some ways, yes. In others, no.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope – I think it would have done the same thing.
As you may or may not know (have I mentioned it often enough? I’m not sure…) I was in the audience for the Melfest final this year – and holy Herreys, it was amazing! I didn’t quite get the happy ending I was hoping for, however, as someone supporting Nano rather than Robin. Don’t get me wrong (Bengtsson lyrical pun intended), Sweden NEVER puts a foot wrong at Eurovision IMO (2009 excepted). But Hold On gets to me in a goosebumpy way that the perfectly-polished I Can’t Go On never did. Maybe it’s because it seems more authentic, or because it’s more dynamic and powerful. Or maybe it’s just a cracking song that appeals a teensy bit more to my tastes. Whatever the case, I can’t help being disappointed that Nano was Sweden’s choice to go to Eurovision, but got pipped at the post anyway.
#3 | I Love You by Tayanna (Ukraine)
NF result 2nd, Vidbir
Is it better than Time? Absolutely.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? For sure, providing Tayanna’s throat was in full functioning order at the time.
There were a handful of massively missed opportunities during the 2017 selection season, and sadly, host country Ukraine was responsible for one of them. I can understand how it happened, though. The Ukrainian final was super strong, with Tayanna, Mélovin and Rozhden being my personal standouts – but Tayanna’s incredible power ballad (here I go again with the PB love) was the cream of the crop…prior to that final. Tragically, her vocal ability was compromised by some sort of illness when she needed it most, leading to a performance full of cringe-worthy moments. That’s not the performance above – I had to choose the video of Tayanna at her best since it helps me to daydream about how I Love You would have been one of the best and most wildly-applauded host entries of recent times. Oh, and how it would have given Ukraine a respectable result without forcing another fork-out of contest hosting funds.
#2 | Ouch! By LeKlein (Spain)
NF result 3rd, Objetivo Eurovisión
Is it better than Do It For Your Lover? Well, yeah. I’d say ‘What isn’t?’ but that would be unnecessarily cruel to Manel and also not technically true.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? You bet your butt it would have!
EPIC ERROR ALERT NO. 3!!! Call this a controversial call, but if Spain made any mistake at their NF this year (which they did, though when I say ‘Spain’ I mean the Objetivo judging panel) it wasn’t picking Manel over Mirela. It was leaving LeKlein in 3rd, which definitely made me say Ouch! She might not have been everybody’s cup of sangria, but I’m convinced Ouch! was the best option for Spain in 2017, and would have secured them a spot on the left side of the scoreboard (I can say that with authority because there’s no way of proving me wrong). This song is an anthem of rock-electro-pop proportions, with a sense of fun and a simple hook that would have been memorable in the Eurovision final for sure. Unless, that is, I’m the minority and everyone else would have seen an aggressive androgynous woman yelling at them down the camera for three minutes #possible.
Watch the NF performance here.
#1 | Deák by Spoon 21 (Hungary)
NF result DNQ (semi-final), A Dal
Is it better than Origo? It’s equally epic.
Would it have done better in Kyiv? No.
Funnily enough, I’m glad this song – my favourite find from the 2017 season – didn’t end up at the ESC. Spoon 21’s live performance just wasn’t up to scratch, and that was all to do with vocals. Hungary still would have sent my number one entry of the year if they’d sent Deák instead of Origo, but you’ll never catch me disputing Joci Pápai’s place in the contest. Still, as a song for listening to (ten times a day) Deák is superb. It’s the most K-pop sounding NF song I’ve ever heard, and I love it for that. It’s unique, infectious and gets a zillion cool points just by being in Hungarian. And speaking of cool points, I feel like a cooler person just listening to it – it’s a little bit hipster but mainstream enough to have mass appeal. All in all, it’s a kickass track that proves Spoon 21 – who entered A Dal 2015 with something completely different – isn’t a one-trick pony boy band.
Watch the NF performance here.
So, how did I do? Do you think any of these songs would have made better Eurovision entries than what we actually got? Which musical masterpieces from A Dal to Vidbir and every NF in-between got you excited this year? If you have something (nice) to say, say it in the comments box below J
I’d better go now – it’s time for daily listen no. 10 of Déak, and I can’t keep Spoon 21 waiting.
Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! Speaking as someone who wasn’t ready for Christmas (although I still managed to get all of my shopping done on time), I’m sure as heck not ready for 2016 to become 2017. But it’s happening, so I’m going to use the last few hours of the year to have a massive Throwback Thursday extravaganza…on a Saturday. I like to live dangerously.
As always, the past twelve months have been very exciting ones, full of ups and downs, for us Eurovision freaks (no offence intended by that terminology. I say let your freak flag fly!). But unless you want to drown your sorrows and wake up tomorrow morning with a huge hangover and feeling the remorse than Frans Jeppsson-Wall does not, I suggest focusing on the highlights rather than the lowlights. That’s what I’m doing here and now for my last post of the year: counting down a few of my favourite things from the 2015/2016 NF season, Eurovision 2016, and Junior Eurovision 2016. These were the songs/artists/results/events et cetera that had me hollering ‘Say yay yay yay!’ instead of a Michele Perniola-style ‘No’. Check out my picks and then let me know which moments made you a happy fan in 2016.
Let’s make like Hannah Mancini + love by diving straight in!
#10 | Better late than never: The Czech Republic finally makes it to an ESC final
The Czech Republic hasn’t had the driest of dry spells when it comes to Eurovision. It’s true that they hadn’t qualified from a semi until this year, but they did only compete five times between 2007 and 2016 (ten tries with zero qualifications would be a far more depressing statistic). Still, it was nothing less than a fist-pump moment when the country clawed their way out of Stockholm’s first semi final – for me, at least, because I love a good Cinderella story. I Stand isn’t one of my favourite entries from this year, and in Jaz’s Argo-inspired utopian land, Estonia’s Play would have replaced it in the semi’s top 10 (despite the creep factor). However, I do think that it deserved a spot in the final more than any of the Czech entries that came before it, so…go Gabriela! You’ve broken the drought.
#9 | The real fan favourites of Eurovision 2016: Zoë, the contest princess + Serhat, the cult superstar
It’s never just the songs of an ESC that get fans frothing at the mouth (and sometimes down south, if I may be so saucy). Often, it’s the personalities performing them who get tongues wagging and cause social media follows to flood in. In that respect, the real winners of Eurovision 2016 were Austria’s Zoë and San Marino’s/Turkey’s Serhat. Zoë earned an army of fans thanks to her general gorgeousness, being bubblier than a bottle of champagne and being the closest thing to a Disney princess we’ve ever seen at the contest. Serhat had people on the ground in Sweden stalking him for photos on a Sergey Lazarev level because I Didn’t Know was so bad it was *almost* good – and though we didn’t know whether he knew that or not, we did know that he was bringing his own brand of swag to the proceedings. Both artists brought a bit of old-timey ESC to 2016, and owned the shiz out of it. As such, I’m hopping off the train at Admiration Station here.
#8 | If it’s good enough for Christer, it must be pretty damn good: Belarus brings out the big guns for JESC + wins over Björkman
This is random, but sometimes it’s the little things that make you jump for joy, or at least do a tiny hop for happiness. Belarus brought their signature youthful spunk to Junior Eurovision this year, which has won them the contest twice before and nabbed them a handful of great results. An extra ingredient for 2016 was the humble household hoverboard, a fleet of which were navigated effortlessly by Alexander Minyonok and his dancers in Valletta. The gimmick was there, the choreography was slick, the vocals were on point…overall, this was a polished and entertaining package that harked back to the more childlike JESCs of the mid-2000s. And you know who acknowledged that? Mr. Christer Björkman. He was the only expert juror to award Belarus one of his top scores, and his precious douze at that, rewarding an entry that put the Junior into Junior Eurovision. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy seeing a formidable force in the ESC-verse hand his highest points to Belarus.
#7 | A tiny island changes their tune for the better: Malta swaps Chameleon for Walk On Water
I’m not too keen on national finals that stipulate a change in song is (not perfect, but) a-ok after a particular artist/song combo has already won. It feels a bit like cheating on the public and/or juries that chose the original song as The One (and also, WTH is the point of holding an NF? Just opt for an internal selection if that’s how you want to play it). However…Malta’s move from the MESC-winning Chameleon – performed by inevitable singer Ira Losco – to the Swedish penned and produced Walk On Water was an excellent action to take. Chameleon, while catchy, was suffering from an identity crisis, and wasn’t exactly cutting-edge pop music. Walk On Water knew exactly what it was – powerful soul-pop peppered with gospel and electronic sounds that allowed Malta to hold their own against the likes of Russia and Australia. Still not sold? Well, if it wasn’t for the switch, we wouldn’t have experienced the sheer joy of a liquid-filled USB stick with #WOW stamped on it *mic drop*.
#6 | All out of luck: Bosnia & Herzegovina + Greece lose their 100% qualification records
Before you start hurling abuse at me, let me explain why the 2016 non-qualifications of Bosnia & Herzegovina and Greece were a highlight of my year. I have nothing against either of these countries, and I was actually quite disappointed to see the unique Utopian Land left behind in its semi final. But because it was, alongside Ljubav Je, countries who advance to the final every year can now no longer assume their safety. That, I think, is a good thing. It proves that bloc/diaspora voting can’t be relied upon (despite what some people outside the ESC bubble believe); and that if your entry is worse than ten others you’re competing against, you’re out, no matter who you are. So, from big hitters like Russia to residents of Struggle Town like San Marino, everybody needs to bring something delicious to the Eurovision buffet table, or they’ll be tossed straight into the trash. And anything that keeps the level of musical quality sky-high in the contest gets a thumbs-up from me.
#5 | The comeback king (and queen) who kicked butt: The triumphant artist returns of the 2016 adult contest
These days, every Eurovision seems to bring with it a crop of artists that we’ve seen before. They end their second/third/fifteenth attempts at gaining ESC glory in different ways, and this year was no different in that sense. But it’s the success stories that I like to focus on rather than the fails (Deen, Greta Salomé and Kaliopi – sorry, but I’m “skinning you out”). The abovementioned Ira Losco may have gotten Malta back in the final, but she couldn’t come close to equaling or topping her 2002 second place (I think it was the lack of glitter-blowing). So it was up to Poli Genova and Donny Montell to fly the ‘We outdid ourselves!’ flag for Bulgaria and Lithuania respectively…and boy, did they ever. Donny’s goal was to beat Love Is Blind’s 14th place from 2012, and he did so by finishing 9th and giving his country their best result since 2006. Poli went from a DNQ in 2011 to achieving Bulgaria’s first qualification in nearly a decade, followed by their best result ever. Bravo, you two!
#4 | Never mind the colour of your life – let’s talk the colour of success: Poland picks Michał Szpak over Margaret, regrets nothing
One of the most shocking happenings of the 2015/2016 selection season was Margaret and her monster hit Cool Me Down NOT being Poland’s entry of choice for Stockholm. Even those of us who were immune to Margaret’s charms (i.e. me) figured she was a shoo-in to win Krajowe Eliminacje – and if she had an off night, surely Edyta Górniak would step in? Um, no. Jaws dropped globally as Michał Szpak and his majestic mane won the NF with ease (nearly 36% of the public vote, to be precise). Surfing on a sea of haters and doubters shouting ‘IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN MARGARET!’, he went on to qualify to the Eurovision final….and then came the voting sequence to end all voting sequences. Your moment of the night might have been when Russia tried but failed to push past Australia and Ukraine at the last second to win, but mine? Poland’s ultimate leapfrog over TWENTY countries into 6th place – thanks to the televoters – which led to an eventual 8th-place finish. Now that’s #WOW.
#3 | Edward af Sillén’s way with words: The entire Eurovision 2016 script
As a writer, I always find myself paying more attention than most to the scripting of Eurovision. I rarely find the hosts’ dialogue to be above average, excluding the perfection that was 2007 (Jaana and Mikko are my all-time favourite host duo) and 2013. The common ground between 2013 and 2016, besides Petra Mede? Screenwriter and genius Edward af Sillén. The man behind the words of Oslo 2010 and Malmö 2013 outdid both of his previous ESC gigs this year with a hilarious host script. Not only was it packed with banter that highlighted the chemistry between Petra and Måns, it also used humour to push the limits of what flies during a family entertainment program – which I love. Then there was ‘That’s Eurovision!’ – one of the best semi openers in history – and the now iconic ‘Love Love Peace Peace’, which we’ll still be singing when the next Swedish-hosted ESC takes place (probably in 2018). Basically, anything we heard in Stockholm that af Sillén had put down on paper was smart, sassy, and memorable. It played a big part in what I believe to be one of the best contests ever.
#2 | Beating Europe at their own game: Australia wins the jury vote and finishes second in Stockholm
If you thought this Australian was going to list her personal highlights of the Euro-year and NOT mention Dami Im, you were sadly mistaken. Until it actually happened, I had no idea that she was capable of giving us such an incredible result in our second year of contest participation. Guy Sebastian’s 5th place last year was awesome enough, but Dami almost winning the comp when Australia is still a newbie being made to feel quite unwelcome by some (which is understandable, but we’re here to stay so PLS STAHP) topped it by a mile. For a year, I was crushed that I couldn’t be in Vienna to see us compete for the first time. But then I made it to Stockholm to watch Dami nail her final performance, and I felt the support from a crowd of countless nationalities. After that, I got to witness her top the jury vote and wondered if I was about to see an unprecedented Aussie win of the whole contest. I didn’t, which as a Jamala devotee didn’t bother me too much. But I was there when we proved how seriously we take Eurovision, and when we scored ourselves such an amazing spot on the scoreboard. In hindsight, I wouldn’t change a thing.
#1 | Yasligima toyalmadim, men bu yerde yasalmadim: Jamala, 1944 and the ESC
Now we’ve arrived at my number one “thing” (song, artist, event…whatever), and fittingly, the only thing that could beat Dami’s epic Eurovision effort is the story of the entry that actually beat her in the competition. I wasn’t thrilled when I found out that Jamala was trying to represent Ukraine again, five years on from the 2011 Mika-Zlata-Jamala Incident. That’s because Smile made me do the opposite. Still, I cued up 1944 the first chance I got, not expecting to like what could have been a carbon copy of Smile. Three minutes later, my mind had been blown. I felt connected to the haunting, experimental beauty of 1944 immediately, drawn to its combination of vulnerability and strength, and the pain unleashed by Jamala as she told her grandmother’s story through song. It was magic, and I felt that from first listen through to the, ahem, *interesting* Ukrainian NF, then on to Eurovision. Every time she performed, it was as heartfelt as ever, and never has a vocal possessed such emotion and sincerity while still knocking our socks off with its sheer power. The overall impact of 1944 won Ukraine their second ESC trophy – and it was a victory not of gimmicks or of a personality, but of a song that meant something. Even now I can’t hear those first few bars without tearing up…which is why I never listen to it in public. Thank you for the music, Jamala. I’ll get some tissues ready for your reprise in Kyiv.
Congratulations, you made it to the end of this marathon countdown! If it’s past midnight wherever you are, then Happy New Year – I’m sorry you spent it trying not to fall asleep while I rambled my little heart out. If it’s still pre-midnight, then you have time to salvage the evening, so I’ll wrap things up by wishing you all the best for the start of 2017 (and the middle and end, obviously). Whether you’re celebrating by partying it up Russian granny style, tuning in to the ESC 250, or lying on the floor in the foetal position weeping because you failed to keep your New Year’s resolutions (which one am I? I’ll never tell), enjoy yourself.
I’ll see you next year for another January-December filled with Eurovision. In the meantime, don’t forget to fill me in on your NF/ESC/JESC highlights of 2016. I definitely didn’t keep my resolution to be less nosy, so I want to know everything.
Joining the Fashion Police to take on JESC 2016: My top 10 best-dressed acts of this year’s contest!
If your guilty pleasure is the ‘What Are They Wearing?’ pages of trashy gossip magazines, and you don’t mind comprehensive critiques concerning children, then a) you might actually be me; and b) this list is for you.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I can’t help commenting on the costumes that grace the Eurovision stage, as well as the music/dance moves/everything else in the mise-en-scène – the more hideous they are, the more fun the conversation generally is. But when it comes to Junior Eurovision, strangely, there’s never as much hideousness to be found (which is probably one of the reasons there’s no official version of the Barbara Dex Award for JESC). So I’m going to celebrate that AND my love for chatting clothing today, by counting down my favourite costumes from the contest we’ve just witnessed. Anti-Junior + anti-fashion fans: avert your eyes!
#10 | Albania’s Klesta Qehaja
I don’t know if the thought of being in Malta had everyone busting a gut to dress like Gaia Cauchi (circa 2013) but there was a definite trend going down in Valletta of ballad-belting brunettes wearing voluminous white dresses. Klesta’s bow-tied confection was perhaps the cutest of them all, and emphasised her childlike innocence – something that made it all the more shocking when THAT VOICE came out of her.
#9 | Serbia’s Dunja Jeličić
I’m guessing Dunja’s glittery jacket-and-scalp combo wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but I really liked it because it was the party version of Fiamma Boccia’s outfit. And as somebody who has a sequin-covered blazer of their own hanging in her closet, I’m not about to question Serbia’s choice of shiny silver apparel. It may have been a bit too glam to coordinate with the urban graffiti graphics in the background, but looking at the costume only, the ‘YAAAAS!’ box gets a tick in it from me.
#8 | Bulgaria’s Lidia Ganeva
See what I was talking about with the white dresses? Lidia’s looked like it had been mistaken for a blank canvas at a watercolour painting workshop – and the result was actually super pretty! It was one of the more princess-like dresses worn on JESC weekend, but the pastel palette on the skirt stopped her from giving off ‘entitled teenage debutante’ vibes, instead keeping things light, bright and youthful. Basically, the relationship between the song and the costume was rock-solid.
#7 | Georgia’s Mariam Mamadashvili
The white dress strikes yet again! I kind of like the fact that Mariam didn’t end up in predictable yellow/gold/orange/red, since Mzeo means ‘sun’ – though I wouldn’t have complained if she had. My favourite thing about the dress she did wear was the feel of classic JESC Georgia it had about it, while still fitting in with the style of the song. What I mean is that what we saw had an element of quirk in the shape and appliqués, but it was as classy and elegant as what we heard.
#6 | Ukraine’s Sofia Rol
The Fairest White Dress of Them All Award – a category with a seemingly endless conveyor belt of competition – goes to Sofia, for her bridal chic take on the trend. I’m surprised she didn’t go as far as to wear a veil and carry a bouquet given Ukraine’s tendency to opt for OTT (the oversized umbrella/mime combo is testament to that) but I’m relieved at the same time. Pretty and understated, this dress was a winner even though Planet Craves For Love wasn’t.
#5 | Armenia’s Anahit & Mary
You’ve got to love a concept outfit at Eurovision (junior or senior – it’s always awesome). That is, one that does more than just look nice, by bringing a song’s lyrics to life. Yep, you better believe that Armenia’s funky costumes (before they became less funky but more sparkly) were deep and meaningful. Well, they illustrated the personality differences between the characters Anahit & Mary were playing through Tarber, anyway. Circus clown couture FTW!
#4 | Poland’s Olivia Wieczorek
‘Unplucked swan princess’ may not sound like an appealing look for…well, ANY occasion. But Olivia’s blush pink feather-fest winged its way to JESC and worked very well indeed. A ballad as powerful as Nie Zapomnij practically demands a dress worthy of a diva (even if said diva was born post-2000) and I’m pretty sure even Mariah Carey herself would be happy to wear this one (after a few alterations, if you know what I mean). The girl was living her/my fairytale fantasy.
#3 | Australia’s Alexa Curtis
I really don’t think – despite being an Australian who should unconditionally scream ‘AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE’ whenever one of our ESC/JESC entries is mentioned – that Alexa’s We Are stood out much in Valletta (though according to the scoreboard, I am clearly wrong). Her choice of clothing, however, was a standout selection. The perfect combo of glitzy and relaxed (i.e. it was a sequined playsuit), it allowed Alexa to move freely on stage but still fit in at such a glam event.
#2 | Macedonia’s Martija Stanojković
If there’s anything I possibly love more than a sequined playsuit, it’s a sequined jumpsuit – and when said jumpsuit is ROSE FREAKING GOLD, well…I’m dead. You just can’t get more gorgeous than that (although Macedonia’s costumes are my second faves from this year’s contest). Martija’s look echoed the effort her delegation put into her song and choreography, being encrusted in embellishments and matching both her boots and backup dancers. I’m in ljubov.
#1 | Russia’s Water of Life Project
Yeah…the ‘a rose gold jumpsuit is the pinnacle of perfection when it comes to the sartorial side of a song contest’ thing was a lie. For me, it would seem that exquisite, tribal-printed maxi dresses feat. intricate hair braiding and unconventional tiaras are superior. What can I say? The Water of Life Project looked incredible, in an extended + edited version of what Sofia wore in the Russian NF when she was a soloist. I’m asking Santa for a rip-off dress for Christmas (orange, please).
Okay – I think I’ve gotten all the clothing talk out of my system. But have you? Cast your vote in my poll and see how your outfit opinions compare to everybody else’s.
Now, if you paid even a tenth of the attention to the JESC 2016 costumes that I did, then let me know which ones were on fleek (The Netherlands are solely responsible for my use of that term) enough to be your favourites. Alternatively, were they all so ugly that you’ll be listening to future run-throughs of the contest rather than watching them? I know it’s children we’re talking about here, but they have to learn to take criticism! That’s so they won’t turn out like me and burst into tears when someone tells them they’ve got their shirt on backwards or that no, they can’t take that puppy home because it actually belongs to someone else. It’s a tough world out there, kids, so you gotta get used to it.
Anyway…fashion! Discuss it down below! I definitely don’t have any psychological problems!
Until next time (assuming you actually come back to this house of crazy feat. Eurovision)…
‘The top three is the place to be’ – Jaz, 2016. That’s a quote that that must hold truth because it rhymes. And because it just does. I mean, if you entered a contest and neither first nor second was on the cards, third wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize (and there’d probably be an actual consolation prize involved too. Bonus!).
What I’m trying to say is that the upper echelons of the Eurovision scoreboard are the spaces every act wants to be occupying by the end of final night. Making the top 10 is awesome; the top 5, even better. But it’s the bronze, silver and gold positions that everyone aims for, and that have been secured by countless douze-attracting songs since the ESC’s early days.
As such, I thought it was about time to shine the spotlight on the best of the best in that department – at least as far as I’m concerned (as always, you’ll get your chance to disagree with me afterwards). So, with that in mind, here’s a countdown of my favourite top three trios from the entirety of Eurovision history *insert trumpet fanfare feat. dubstep breakdown here*.
By the way, this post was inspired by the Rio Olympics (gold, silver and bronze medals, reaching the “podium”…you get the idea), and yes, it was supposed to be published in August. Oops. Well, if orange is the new black and forty is the new thirty, then I guess October can be the new September. So it’s not even that late, really.
Let’s get into it!
#10 | Harrogate 1982
Ein Bißchen Frieden by Nicole (Germany), Hora by Avi Toledano (Israel), Amour On T’Aime by Arlette Zola (Switzerland)
A little peace, a little dance and a little love kick off my countdown based on their collective strength. Sometimes less is more (yes, even at Eurovision), and that was extra evident in 1982 when the Bucks Fizz Skirt-Ripping Schtick™ was succeeded by Nicole’s sentimental ballad. That’s not to say that an in-your-face, high energy piece of pop didn’t have its place – it snapped up second, as a matter of fact. Hurray for Hora! Subtlety sandwiched Israel, however, with Germany on top and Switzerland’s Arlette in third. The ranking was right, I reckon.
My personal top pick Ein Bißchen Frieden
#9 | Brighton 1974
Waterloo by ABBA (Sweden), Si by Gigliola Cinquetti (Italy), I See A Star by Mouth & MacNeal (The Netherlands)
I don’t doubt that the right song and act won Eurovision in Brighton. Anyone who does deserves to be decapitated with a vinyl copy of Arrival, to be honest. But ABBA had some stiff competition snapping at their platform heels back then, in the form of some great songs that have stood the test of time. Gigliola’s comeback Si nearly secured her a second contest win, with its grandiose sophistication proving she wasn’t ‘too young’ anymore. I See A Star is serious fun that didn’t have quite the same earworming ability as Waterloo, but made a wonderful impression nonetheless. All three songs are Seventies gold (ABBA pun possibly intended).
My personal top pick Waterloo
#8 | Dublin 1995
Nocturne by Secret Garden (Norway), Vuelve Conmigo by Anabel Conde (Spain), Se På Mig by Jan Johansen (Sweden)
Mystery and drama were the buzz words of the ’95 top three, with Sweden and Spain having one apiece up their respective sleeves and Norway boasting both (massive sleeves were clearly the go back then). I must admit that Vuelve Conmigo, the fan favourite, pales in comparison to the songs that surrounded it on the scoreboard, in my opinion. But that’s not an indication of how inferior I think it is. It’s actually an indication of how deep my love is for Nocturne, and in particular, Se På Mig. Ja, my Swedish bias is still alive and kicking.
My personal top pick Se På Mig
#7 | Copenhagen 2014
Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst (Austria), Calm After The Storm by The Common Linnets (The Netherlands), Undo by Sanna Nielsen (Sweden)
Once again, two broadly similar songs were divided by something totally different with Copenhagen’s highest-scoring trio. Austria = a big, Bond-type ballad performed to perfection by a hot woman in a stunning dress. Sweden = a big, electro-tinged ballad performed to perfection by a hot woman in a stunning dress. The Netherlands = the sleeper hit that few of us saw coming until we saw it on the Hallerne stage. To sum up, that’s three awesome songs with charismatic artists and impressive staging elevating them even higher.
My personal top pick Undo
#6 | Rome 1991
Fångad Av En Stormvind by Carola (Sweden), C’est le Dernier Qui a Parlé Qui a Raison by Amina (France), Kan by Duo Datz (Israel)
If I must momentarily hop off the top-three train at Justification Station for this one, then I’ll do so in numbers. 1 – Carola. 2 – Dreamy, ethnic pop from France with an exotically long title. 3 – Carola. 4 – Duo Datz upping the fun and the size of their shoulder pads. And 5 – CAROLA! Let’s face it (if you’re reading this as a fellow Carola enthusiast, you’ll agree): the entries below hers could be utter crap and she’d still drag up the quality because she’s so fabulous. However, they weren’t. In fact, France’s was so magnifique, it lost to Sweden’s entry on countback rather than by points.
My personal top pick Fångad Av En Stormvind
#5 | Istanbul 2004
Wild Dances by Ruslana (Ukraine), Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović & Ad-Hoc Orchestra (Serbia & Montenegro), Shake It by Sakis Rouvas (Greece)
There’s a clear weak link in this top three for me, and I can’t just Shake It off (#seewhatIdidthere). But the mind-blowing brilliance of the other two entries more or less cancels that out. Ukraine’s first winner (I’m so happy we can say that now) is iconic on Planet ESC for being whip-cracking ethno-pop perfection that stood head, shoulders and skimpy leather outfits above the rest. Apart, of course, from a little thing I like to call MY ALL-TIME FAVOURITE EUROVISION SONG WITHOUT QUESTION. Sometimes, I even call it Lane Moje. It’s the pinnacle of Balkan ballads, and I refuse to hear otherwise.
My personal top pick Lane Moje
#4 | Riga 2003
Every Way That I Can by Sertab Erener (Turkey), Sanomi by Urban Trad (Belgium), Ne Ver, Ne Bojsia by tATu (Russia)
One of the most tense voting sequences ever – possibly the most nail-biting in the era of random point-giving orders – took place in 2003, if you can remember that far back in time (I know it seems like five years ago, but it was actually THIRTEEN). Favourites Russia had the least impressive entry of the three fighting for first place, but even when they’re not brilliant, they’re far from bad. In a turn of events echoed in 2016, Russia finished third. Ahead of Ne Ver were the epic Sanomi and the oh-so-Eurovision ethnopop of Every Way That I Can, both of which helped make this a tremendous top three.
My personal top pick Every Way That I Can
#3 | Brussels 1987
Hold Me Now by Johnny Logan (Ireland), Lass Die Sonne in Dein Herz by Wind (Germany), Gente Di Mare by Umberto Tozzi & Raf (Italy)
I’m not about to dispute a win by Mr. Eurovision himself (not to be confused with Mr. Lordi, who prefers distressed leather and hard rock to white suits and power ballads). Hold Me Now is my number one – the only treasure I’ll ever haaaaave – of Johnny Logan’s three ESC winners, no doubt. Still, there was some great stuff mere points behind it. German reggae totally works when Wind are responsible for it, and LDSIDH always has me searching for sunshine and craving piña coladas. Gente Di Mare just makes me admire the effortless class of Italian music.
My personal top pick Hold Me Now
#2 | Vienna 2015
Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden), A Million Voices by Polina Gagarina (Russia), Grande Amore by Il Volo (Italy)
Last year’s gold, silver and bronze-winning musical masterpieces were another example of vastly different songs fighting for first place. It was dance-pop with an Avicii-esque country twang (SHRN…or at least SHAYA, meaning so hot a year ago) that topped the table, followed by a peace ballad feat. the traditional Eurovision key change, which in turn was followed by the sexiest Italian opera I ever did see. That’s variety, my friends, and I for one LOVED it.
My personal top pick Heroes
#1 | Athens 2006
Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi (Finland), Never Let You Go by Dima Bilan (Russia), Lejla by Hari Mata Hari (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
None of these three entries are my favourite of all time, but their overall awesomeness sent them shimmying straight to the top of my list (Lejla is up there with my most beloved Balkan ballads, anyway). Hard Rock Hallelujah was a winner that opened the minds of non-rock lovers and surprised those who didn’t think something so heavy could succeed in the contest. Dima Bilan’s first ESC trip displayed Russia’s talent for fusing R&B with pop (and their talent for stuffing people into pianos). And Lejla…well, let’s just say that Željko Joksimović is capable of working his magic (in a way that would have impressed Koldun) for countries other than just Serbia and/or Montenegro.
My personal top pick Lejla
That brings me to the conclusion of this countdown – and let me tell you, it’s reminded me in a big way of what it takes to enter top three territory at Eurovision (I was asking for a friend). In case you didn’t get the memo, ‘it’ = stuff like lots of white, whips, horns (the musical and monster kind)…basically, anything lifted from the lyrics of Love Love, Peace Peace. Who would have thought?
Now, since I’ve showed you mine, it’s time for you to show me yours. Which top three entries from ESC history have impressed you the most – a collection of classic chansons, or a more modern first, second and third? Let me know in the comments so I can judge your poor taste as much as you’ve judged mine. It’s more fun if we all get to bring out our inner bitches so they can party together!
Until next time,
PS – If you suspected that Stockholm 2016 might make it on to my list, then you should know that I purposefully omitted it. That’s because I didn’t think enough time had passed since Ukraine, Australia (!) and Russia topped the table to determine whether they make up a classic top three; one that holds its own against the rest and will do for years to come. For the record though, it would have made my personal top 5.
For most people, today is Tuesday. For some people, it may still be Monday. For other people – the really slack ones who didn’t get the memo that I’d posted this and just happened to stumble across it belatedly (subscribe or stop by my social media to avoid such disasters by receiving new post alerts *SHAMELESS PLUG*) – it could be any old day of the week. But for me, it’s June 28, and that’s kind of a big deal.
Why? Because seven years ago today (!) I decided to inflict my obsession with/ability to talk constantly about Eurovision upon the world, via a blog that would become known as Eurovision By Jaz…since that’s what I decided to call it that day, duh. Back then in 2009, I couldn’t have foreseen that I’d still be running the blog in my own haphazard manner after so much time had passed – let alone off the back of an ACTUAL TRIP to the contest after ten years of frenzied fangirling (I still have to pinch myself on the hour every hour to remind myself that I was in Stockholm). The reason I’m still around is simple, though: I do it for the love. I mean, if I did for popularity and adoration I would’ve lost the will years ago.
Here and now, in case you were wondering, I’m certain that as long as I enjoy chatting all things ESC with you guys, and as long as at least one person out there seems to be a fan of my material (besides me), I’ll be here doing what I do. I.e. criticising contestants’ costume choices and objectifying whoever happens to be the hottest guy of the latest contest line-up (in 2016, I’ve moved on from Måns to Freddie, FYI). If you’re willing to come along for the ride, I can guarantee a safe, yet entertaining and occasionally controversial journey through the years to come.
Before I let loose and blow my own kazoo (not a euphemism), I want to thank anyone who’s reading this intro. If you are, it means you’ve taken the time to drop by EBJ, probably out of habit or to see if it’s your cup of kaffe. You might have been with me from the beginning, be a recent reader, or be someone who’s sick of me already and plans to stick with Wiwi Bloggs exclusively from now on – I don’t mind whichever way. I’m just grateful for your visit and confident that you must be a pretty cool person since you’re attracted to rather than repulsed by the word ‘Eurovision’.
Now, to kick off my 7th birthday (blogday?) celebrations, here’s a substandard graphic I prepared earlier!
I’ve decided to celebrate this milestone with a countdown that’s not your usual countdown. It’s not a Top 10, for starters – it’s actually a Top 7, and (brace yourselves for a theme to emerge here) it will feature my personal top 7 songs that have placed seventh in the ESC since EBJ began. In other words, I’m about to rank, from my least loved to my most loved, the seventh placers of 2010-2016. Given that I started blogging just after Eurovision 2009, Sakis Rouvas Vol. 2 will not be included in this list. But, as I know he’d be devastated to be un-invited so unceremoniously from this partay (and be likely to release a song entitledThis Is (Not) Our Night), I’m going to use him to rate each of the seven entries using a system I like to call ‘The Sakis Head Scale’.
You can see why.
If you’re keen to rate any of the following tracks – or ANY seventh-placed song from Eurovision history, for that matter – using the Sakis Head Scale/conventional 0-12 points (ugh, how normal), head to the comments section below. Alternatively, tweet me @EurovisionByJaz using the hashtag #shareyour7, and tell me which sixth runner-up is your favourite…or least favourite.
Without further ado (you know how I love ado, but I’ll restrain myself on this occasion), let’s kick off the countdown!
#7 | ‘May the winter stay away from my harvest night and day…’
Apricot Stone by Eva Rivas (Armenia 2010)
I fully expect to be pelted with apricot stones and verbal abuse over this one. I wasn’t surprised by Armenia’s lower-end-of-the-top-ten finish in Oslo, but that doesn’t mean I ‘got’ Apricot Stone. It’s not a bad song, per se – but push my buttons, it does not. It reminded me a bit of the Dutch entry two years previously, and that (Hind’s Your Heart Belongs To Me, for anyone having a brain-blank) was dated in 2008. Based on that, I never found the Armenian version very fresh – especially its chorus. And I hate to say this, because I’m totally pro-Rapunzel letting down her hair…but Eva’s super lengthy locks kind of freaked me out.
#6 | ‘Watch my dance, head up high, hands like wings and I’ll fly…’
Watch My Dance by Loukas Giorkas feat. Stereo Mike (Greece 2011)
Ah, Greece and their love of fusing rap with…not rap. There has to be some irony in the fact that they blended rap and ethnic sounds better in 2016 than in 2011, yet lost their 100% qualification record this year and finished seventh five years ago. If I remember correctly, a lot of us fans were convinced that Loukas and Stereo Mike (now known as Spotify Mike, most likely) would be Greece’s downfall, and that included me at the time. Nowadays, I like this song more than I did then, but it’s still too intense and too melodramatic for me to play that often – not to mention jarring enough to resemble an edit of a movie put together by a monkey. All in all, I prefer it when Greece takes a lighter approach to their rap fusion entries, á la Rise Up (#ROBBED). Though I’m not unwilling to watch Loukas’ dance, if he’s still after an audience and will be shirtless.
#5 | ‘My life is on a string when I see you smile, our love will last a thousand miles…’
Shine by the Tolmachevy Sisters (Russia 2014)
Here’s a song that I hated when I first heard it, only to find myself humming along shortly thereafter. I guess there’s no shortage of wonders an oversized see-saw can work, particularly when combined with twins who temporarily become conjoined via their ponytails. To be honest, I still don’t think Shine is a great song – it certainly has nothing on the duo’s Junior Eurovision winner Vesinniy Jazz – but there’s something nice about the melody and the way the girls harmonise (as only identical twins can) that had it growing on me even before the giant papier mâché sun was unfolded by a Portuguese national finalist (naturally). In fact, I have it stuck in my head right now.
#4 | ‘I didn’t want to wake you up, my love was never gonna be enough…’
Goodbye To Yesterday by Elina Born & Stig Rästa (Estonia 2015)
The song that won Eesti Laul by a landslide last year couldn’t do the same at Eurovision, but 7th? Totally respectable, especially given the unfortunate and unjust outcome of Estonia’s entry in Stockholm. Goodbye To Yesterday is one of many fine feathers in Stig Rästa’s compositional cap, and while it wasn’t up there with my personal douze-pointers in 2015, I can’t deny that it has something special. The dynamic between the two characters in the song’s story makes for a perfect duet, and the song itself is one that feels both retro and fresh. And who could resist a lyric like ‘As I got outside, I smiled to the dog’? Not me, that’s for sure. Or the dog, I’m guessing.
#3 | ‘You shook my life like an earthquake, now I’m waking up…’
LoveWave by Iveta Mukuchyan (Armenia 2016)
And here we have the latest track to reach the seventh rung of Eurovision’s top 10 ladder – one that makes me hopeful for a future in which cutting-edge, experimental music outnumbers stale cookie-cutter-type stuff in the contest. When a song doesn’t grab me straight away, but intrigues (rather than horrifies) me, I’m happy, because I know I’m going to love it eventually. LoveWave is initially disarming with its spoken-word start, but it makes you wonder where it’s headed and what kind of ground it’s about to break (so to speak). Ultimately, it’s a powerful punch-packer of a track, fronted by the femme fatale figure of Iveta who sells it vocally and visually. You can’t tell me this doesn’t kick Apricot Stone’s ass.
#2 | ‘I am a lonely sailor drinking the night away, my ship is made from hope, she’s searching for your bay…’
Love Me Back by Can Bonomo (Turkey 2012)
The last time we saw Turkey compete in the ESC, they gave me everything I want in my ethno-pop. That includes a) a generous dollop of traditional sounds that set the song apart from its rivals; b) three minutes of fun and frivolity without any ‘this is a novelty act and it can’t be taken seriously’ vibes; and c) back-up dancers who can transform their costumes into a sailboat at a second’s notice. Basically, it’s the whole package. Catchy, unique and easy to sing along to (or yell drunkenly over in the midst of an enthusiastic round of the Eurovision Drinking Game), Love Me Back is also a masterclass in how to make a cultural mark on the contest without alienating anyone…besides people prone to seasickness.
#1 | ‘While the world breaks into pieces, I compose new places and desires which also belong to you…’
L’Essenziale by Marco Mengoni (Italy 2013)
If you hadn’t guessed already, given that only one 2010-2016 7th-placer is yet to be mentioned, Italy takes out the top spot with one of my favourite Eurovision songs of ALL TIME (if your name is Kanye West, don’t bother trying to dispute that). An entry that truly puts the ‘song’ into Eurovision Song Contest, L’Essenziale is lyrically and melodically magic, and comes equipped with a message that doesn’t make your skin crawl thanks to its cheesiness (yes, Russia, it CAN be done without resorting to love love, peace peace). I would marry this song if that were at all possible, I’m so crazy about it. Although, if Marco is available, I’d rather marry him instead. Then he could serenade me with the song whenever I wanted. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Well, I’ve shared my seven – a song for every year I’ve been blogging here at EBJ. Holy Hard Rock Hallelujah! Remember, if you want to do the same, I’d consider it a birthday gift and therefore wouldn’t be offended by the lack of fruit baskets being delivered to my door. You should also feel free to tell me what you thought of my ranking. How would you rearrange it? Was seventh place too good or not good enough for these tracks? Exactly how offended are you right now?
While you’re letting me know, I’ll be off raising a glass to myself…and, of course, planning seven more years’ worth of Eurovisual entertainment for anyone who currently reads or will someday stumble upon this site. I hope you enjoy what’s to come as much as I’m going to enjoy creating it for you (if the Sakis heads are any indication, I’ll have an epic time).
If you’ve heard a faint sobbing sound over the past few days and weren’t sure where or who it was coming from, I have the answers. Australia is the location, and I’m the crier. Since Saturday night, I’ve been busy mourning the loss of what would have been my new numero uno entry of Eurovision 2016 – Simone’s Heart Shaped Hole. In a shock conclusion that very few of us saw coming, Denmark selected Lighthouse X to represent them in Stockholm with the solid-but-far-from-spectacular Soldiers of Love. There may be some truth to the theory that the three-piece man-band’s super final rivals (a.k.a. the blonde bombshells) cancelled each other out – but even taking that into consideration, it’s hard to fathom how Lighthouse X managed to attract 42% of the public’s votes.
But…at the end of the day, they did, and they are off to the ESC in May. We’ll see what happens to them when they get there (which, at this early stage, could be anything. Miracles never cease). I’m not here today to trash them like a tissue I just blew my nose on. I’m here because, underwhelming winner or not, DMGP was stellar this year – and I want to talk about it some more before we all move on to (hopefully less jaw-dropping) pastures. As there were ten acts competing at the weekend, what better way to both review and rank the NF than with a Top 10? Having critiqued all of the acts based on their performances (an umbrella term covering staging, choreography, costumes and vocals) I proudly present my Top 10 performances of DMGP 2016!
#10 | Muri & Mario’s performance of To Stjerner
It pains me to say this, as someone very much pro-To Stjerner…but what the actual heck was going on here? Vocally, Muri & Mario (well, I say both, but Muri was doing all the heavy lifting) were A-grade – as the majority of the ten acts were on Saturday night – but their staging and street-wear styling get a D minus from me. From Muri’s awkward and uncomfortable bopping (he clearly knew how stupid he looked) to the out-of-sync and out-of-place gymnasts hanging from the rafters, this was three minutes of pure cringe, culminating in the addition of ‘Ridiculous Guitar Man Making Constipation Face’ (as I have chosen to call him). There was that one magical shot of Muri reaching out to a hanging hula-hooper prior to the final chorus, but that wasn’t enough to salvage anything from the wreckage of this car-crash performance.
#9 | Kristel Lisberg’s performance of Who Needs A Heart
Meh. To me, Kristel’s was the weakest ballad competing in DMGP, and although it was staged how such a song should be, the whole package was a bit of a snoozefest (and I wasn’t even watching it at three in the morning. I was wide awake until song no. 7). And surprisingly, her vocals weren’t up to scratch either. All in all, this performance was as bland and beige as the dress Kristel had on underneath all of that bling. But it beats Muri & Mario’s on the basis of being yawn-worthy rather than cringe-worthy.
#8 | Jessica’s performance of Break It Good
Reggae usually puts me in a good mood, so even though I knew Jessica wasn’t a contender for the super final, let alone Stockholm, I was looking forward to her time on stage. She didn’t really disappoint. Costumes that clashed prints and energetic dancers equaled visuals that suited the song well. Still, this was quite a slow 180 seconds, and I wasn’t unhappy to move on to the next lot once Break It Good was finished (for good).
#7 | Veronicas Illusion’s performance of The Wrong Kind
For a song that could have suffered live on stage, The Wrong Kind was successfully executed via commendable vocals and a lot of strutting, on the part of Veronica herself and her posse (they can’t be compared to Taylor Swift’s squad, but they had a decent amount of fierceness). If I had to nitpick, I’d say that Veronica looked a little unsteady in her high-heeled boots. Had she borrowed Anja Nissen’s fancy sneakers, she’d have been better off (and her strutting would have been Academy Award-winning…if there was a category at the Oscars for such a thing. There totally should be).
#6 | Lighthouse X’s performance of Soldiers of Love
This was a song and performance that in no way screamed ‘OBVIOUS WINNER!’, which probably explains why Denmark chose it to represent them at Eurovision. On stage, it was competent and enjoyable, and the trio of acceptably attractive Scandi men were acceptably engaging and charismatic. None of that, of course, disguises the fact that Denmark could have sent something spectacular to Stockholm, but opted to send something safe instead – AGAIN (but I’ll save a lengthier rant on that subject for my 2016 reviews). The most interesting thing about Lighthouse X + DMGP was learning that the band name is pronounced ‘Lighthouse Ten’, not ‘Lighthouse Ex’ (I personally think the latter sounds cooler, but whatever).
#5 | David Jay’s performance of Rays of Sunlight
This was like the second coming of Basim, so naturally, I dug it. Rays of Sunlight is such a sunny (EXCEEDINGLY APPROPRIATE ADJECTIVE ALERT!), funky song that it didn’t require gimmicks to sell itself – just some peppy dance moves and a stylish hat. David Jay is a decent showman, and took advantage of his opening slot to elevate the energy levels of the crowd watching (and dancing) on. Okay, so I wasn’t 100% convinced about the presence of pink turtleneck sweaters, on men, in 2016. But I got such a kick out of the rest of the performance that I’ll forgive DR’s stylist-in-residence for that faux pas.
#4 | Bracelet’s performance of Breakaway
The lead singer of this “band” (let’s face it…he was the star of the show and should have entered as a solo artist) may have been a member of Panic At The Disco circa 2007 if his hair, fashion and nail varnish choices were anything to go by – but the guy can deliver a studio-perfect vocal, and that’s what matters (plus, he should be able to dress however the hell he wants. Judgmental snobs like me should be ignored). Breakaway is a fun stadium anthem, and that was really reflected in Bracelet’s staging. With glitter and pyrotechnics aplenty, the trio were having a party up there that we were all invited to. It rocked.
#3 | Anja Nissen’s performance of Never Alone
At last! Now we know what Emmelie de Forest’s Eurovision performance would have looked like if she was less Lord-of-the-Rings-extra and more Step-Up-film-franchise-extra (which isn’t meant to be an insult, by the way). Anja’s performance, coupled with the De Forest composition Never Alone, was basically Only Teardrops Part 2 (The Pumped-Up Kicks and Polka Dots Edition). That being the truth and nothing but the whole truth (IMO), I’m glad she finished as the runner-up. But she did give her all to the competition, injecting her performance with personality, enthusiasm, and a powerful vocal. This was the only song of the night that had a distinct “moment” – one that signifies a song is in it to win it. When Anja sank down on her knees and belted out that big, big note as sparks flew behind her, it was magic. You go, girlfriend.
#2 | Sophia Nohr’s performance of Blue Horizon
While one of my DMGP favourites failed performance-wise (To Stjerner), one of my least favourites impressed me with its staging. A sultry, smoky rendition of Blue Horizon from Sophia – complete with a giant image of her head in the background, lip-syncing to her own song á la Anastasia Prikhodko in Moscow – set the scene for the folksy number, and her styling was perfection in gypsy form. Considering she barely moved for three minutes, it’s commendable that she kept me transfixed the entire time. This was proof that you don’t have to employ ‘big’ and ‘loud’ and ‘in your face’ as performance buzzwords if you want to make an impact.
#1 | Simone’s performance of Heart Shaped Hole
I’ll be honest. I had very high hopes for the staging of this song, and they weren’t met. I wanted moody, edgy and shadowy; what I got instead was romantic, shiny and stringy (seriously, that giant heart-hole looked like it was made out of spangled seaweed). And Simone was far too cheery the entire time given that her song wasn’t an airy-fairy ode to true love (it’s quite the opposite, in fact). But I can’t not make her third DMGP performance my number one pick, because it still managed to set off a physical reaction in me (i.e. spine tingles) in addition to a multitude of emotional feels. And, tackling a song that doesn’t mess around in the key change department, Simone sang flawlessly. She lights up whatever stage she’s standing on, and watching her do her thing is glorious…even if she really should wipe the smile off her face.
Hmm…I may have to settle in for a repeat viewing of Denmark’s selection ASAP, having reminded myself of how super-duper awesome it was. Not that I particularly want to relive my beloved Simone and fellow Aussie Anja being beaten by a band I hadn’t even considered potential winners.
It still hurts SO BAD *sniff*.
But the pity party’s got to end sometime. Did you feast your eyes and ears on DMGP on the weekend? If so, I want to know what you thought of the performances and the results. Were Lighthouse X deserving champs in your opinion, or have Denmark just planted their feet firmly in the semis for the second year running? Who would have given the hosts of 2014 their best shot at another win on Swedish soil? Let me know below.
Until next time (a.k.a. Super Saturday #3!)…
You may have heard the saying ‘A song is only as good as its singer’. Then again, you may not have, because I just made it up. If it were true, though, then the following ten songs would be the ten best in Junior Eurovision history, given that the 10-15 year-olds who performed them are so vocally talented I want to cry (but won’t *sniff*).
Yep, Eurovision’s younger, more effervescent sibling has seen its fair share of top-notch singing talents between 2003 and 2014 (as well as some kids who shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near a microphone…but that’s a topic for another post). Those of you who aren’t JESC fans might not be convinced of that, but can I give you some advice? At the very least, keep an eye and ear out for these ten tiny(ish) talents: five + five of the most jaw-dropping vocalists to have competed in JESC to date. If you are on Team JESC, then I hope you’ll agree with me re: their amazing-ness.
#10 | Mariam Kakhelishvili, Georgia 2010
If you don’t like Lady Gaga, you probably won’t like the so-called Baby Gaga either. But since this whole list will be a drag for some of you, what’s one more thing to give the thumbs-down to? Mariam represented Georgia at JESC having previously placed third in Georgia’s Got Talent. She’d definitely fulfilled the brief of that show, so it didn’t come as a shock when Junior Eurovision no. 8 saw her blow the roof off the Minsk Arena with the sheer volume of her voice. I totally get that listening to a precocious tween shout in an imaginary language for three straight minutes is not everyone’s cup of tea (even I can’t watch back her rendition of Mari-Dari if I’m feeling remotely headache-y) but I do think Mariam’s yells were remarkably in-tune. She sang like she was in musical battle – which was more or less the case – and it was not a battle she was willing to lose. Of course, she didn’t win in the end…but fourth place is nothing to do any off-stage screaming about.
#9 | Mimmi Sandén, Sweden 2009
Mimmi’s sister Molly will be a more familiar face to non-fans of Junior Eurovision (what with two Melodifestivalen participations on her résumé, and fellow seasoned Melfester Danny Saucedo as her arm candy) but her own JESC performance in 2006 was far from flawless, vocally – and third Sandén sister Frida’s turn in 2007 was only just above average (which is woeful by Swedish standards). Youngest of the three Mimmi, however, compensated for her sisters’ sub-standard moments, putting in a stellar vocal performance of her electro-pop ballad Du in Kyiv. The song – one of my all-time Junior favourites – sounds like a tough one to tackle, but Mimmi did it with ease, effortlessly belting out the baby notes and the big ones. So talented back then at age thirteen, you can imagine how off-the-charts awesome she is in 2015.
#8 | Krisia Todorova, Bulgaria 2014
Teeny-tiny and absolutely adorable, Krisia is currently the darling of JESC – despite herself, Hasan and Ibrahim narrowly losing out to Vincenzo Cantiello (who may just feature later on in the countdown) in Malta last year. She’ll be performing the theme song of this year’s show. #discover, on home soil in three weeks’ time, and if she pulls off that performance anything like she pulled off Planet of the Children’s last year, those of us tuning in will be in for a treat. The power of the voice that came out of this girl was immense, and the fact that you practically needed a microscope to spot her on the stage gives that massive voice even more of a wow factor.
#7 | Noni Răzvan Ene, Romania 2004
The girls have dominated so far in this countdown – possibly because they aren’t prone to on-stage puberty-related problems (i.e. voice breakages). Romania’s Noni, fortunately, made the journey to JESC prior to his vocal chords taking a trip of their own to the Deep South. ‘Angelic’ is the word I’d use to describe his vocal performance of the powerful Îţi Mulţumesc. He looked as if he might burst a blood vessel before his final note, but his ability to channel that much emotion and effort into his song despite being so young was impressive. And, he trademarked tearing up post-performance at a Eurovision event well before Polina Gagarina (though his moist eyes may have just been due to relief that he DIDN’T explode into smithereens on live TV). It’s no wonder that he’s gone on to be pretty darn successful in his home country, releasing a string of singles and dabbling in television hosting and acting.
#6 | Sofia Tarasova, Ukraine 2013
Now, make way for the Ukrainian child version of Christina Aguilera! Sofia represented Ukraine when they hosted JESC for the second time, and she very nearly scored them a second consecutive win with We Are One. It was a cutting-edge, contemporary number that needed to be vocally nailed if it was going to have an impact, and Sofia did not disappoint. Being the home girl, she’d have received rapturous applause even if she’d trotted on stage and burped the alphabet, but her huge reception was well deserved. She’s a prime example of a small person who can fill a giant arena with their voice alone – no backup dancers or gimmicks (save for a laser light show, naturally…this IS a Eurovision event we’re talking about) required.
#5 | Gaia Cauchi, Malta 2013
Confession time: Gaia’s The Start was my least favourite competing entry of 2013. That may not be much of a confession if you read my scathing review of it back then, but I just thought I’d throw it out there. I wasn’t even in the mood for admiring her vocal prowess in those days, what with that nasal quality to her voice that Ann Sophie couldn’t even compare to. However, I have changed my tune (HA HA) on both song and singer, and I can no longer deny that Gaia is an amazing vocalist, with a seemingly unending supply of oxygen that she can use for show-stopping notes. The Start was full of them, and that impressed both the televoters and juries enough to claim Malta their first win in any competition featuring the letters E, S and C. A year later, Gaia proved her power hadn’t diminished as she returned to JESC as an interval act. You can pretty much expect her to enter Eurovision the second she’s sixteen.
#4 | Federica Falzon, Malta 2014
It’s always surprising when a voice like Céline Dion’s comes out of someone young enough to be Céline Dion’s grandchild – but when the pipes of an ageing opera diva have apparently inhabited that someone, ‘surprising’ no longer covers the feels one experiences. Federica represented the host country last year at the ripe old age of eleven, and her voice has to be heard – and seen – to be believed. Actually, it’s the only one on this list that can be seen, heard, and still not believed because it’s so incongruous with her appearance. If you’re yet to listen to what she has to offer, I recommend you do so right now…just be ready to pick your jaw up off the floor about twenty seconds in.
#3 | Sophia Patsalides, Cyprus 2014
JESC’s last few years have produced some ridiculously talented singers – of the seven I’ve mentioned so far, only three took part prior to 2013. Here’s another voice from the most recent contest (until November 21st has been and gone) who will knock your socks off, if she hasn’t already. Sophia, like Sofia (that’s not confusing at all) appeared all by herself on stage, but managed to get the crowd going while delivering a faultless vocal that would have floored any backing dancers she might have had. Her entry I Pio Omorfi Mera started and ended softly, but packed a punch in between, featuring a key change that seasoned singers thrice her age would have struggled to execute. That turned out to be the goosebump, this-could-win moment for Cyprus. Spoiler alert for the unaware: Cyprus got ripped off big time, finishing 9th…but that key change was still a win-worthy one as far as I’m concerned.
#2 | Ana Khanchalyan, Georgia 2011
If Sofia Tarasova is Ukraine’s answer to Aguilera, then Ana Khanchalyan is undoubtedly Georgia’s. And if you didn’t know her by name, you’d know her by voice once you’d watched her group Candy’s winning performance at JESC 2011. The fivesome blended well together, and all of their solo parts were strong. But Ana was unquestionably the standout, and Georgia used that knowledge to serious advantage when wrapping up the Candy package. Most aspects of this entry really put the ‘Junior’ into Junior Eurovision – Candy Music’s lyrics and sound, the girls’ costumes, etc – so the maturity of Ana’s vocals allowed Georgia to strike a memorable balance between childlike and competent-beyond-their-years. Three years after she took (one fifth of) the JESC trophy home, Ana successfully auditioned for a place on The Voice of Armenia, and went on to win the whole thing. Don’t be shocked if she ends up repping Georgia or Armenia at Eurovision sometime soon.
#1 | Vincenzo Cantiello, Italy 2014
He was number one in Malta last November, and now he’s numero uno again – on this insignificant list that he’ll never know exists and wouldn’t care about if he did! Woohoo! Vincenzo, our reigning Junior Eurovision champ, stood out as the only male main artist to participate last year (my apologies to Bulgaria’s Hasan & Ibrahim, but Krisia was the main attraction there). This kid also shops in the ‘Unbelievable’ section of the singing department, and that obviously struck a chord (pun intended) with the juries in particular, who placed Italy on top of their leaderboard. Vincenzo’s vocals are the kind that send a shiver down the spine of anyone who isn’t a heartless, soulless shell of a human being (in my opinion). Mark my words: he’s going to go far. Further than Sofia, where he’ll be announcing Italy’s JESC 2015 votes – and, hopefully, performing a reprise of Tu Il Primo Grande Amore, a song Il Volo would be proud to have in their back catalogue.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to listing European kids who can sing better than I can even when I’m in the shower (which is really saying something, because I sound freaking awesome with those acoustics) but these ten are my personal favourites.
Let me know below which JESC participants have warbled their way into your heart over the years – or, if you normally recoil at the mere mention of Junior, what you thought of those who made my countdown, if you managed to sit through any of their three minutes (Halloween weekend has just gone, so I thought you wouldn’t mind doing something scary).
Until next time,
PS – Speaking of which…
NEXT TIME JESC avoiders beware! With the Sofia show less than three weeks away, it’s time for me to kick off my Junior Eurovision 2015 reviews – but I’m not doing it alone. I’ve put together an expert EBJJJ (Eurovision By Jaz Junior Jury) and they’re ready to compliment, criticise and score all seventeen songs competing in Bulgaria. And don’t worry: just because there’s children involved doesn’t mean we’re going to hold back (although I do draw the line at swearing…it’s not f%*#ing appropriate)!