Category Archives: Top 10’s

AWESOME ESC ALMOSTS | My top 10 songs of the 2017 selection season

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.

 

 

 

 

An NYE Top 10 Countdown: Saying hej då to 2016 with my highlights of the Eurovision year that was!

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.

 

Skål!

 

2015sig

 

 

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

bdalbania

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.

6.5/10

 

#9 | Serbia’s Dunja Jeličić

bdserbia

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.

6.5/10 

 

#8 | Bulgaria’s Lidia Ganeva

bdbulgaria

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.

7/10

 

#7 | Georgia’s Mariam Mamadashvili

bdgeorgia

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.

7/10

 

#6 | Ukraine’s Sofia Rol

bdukraine

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.

7.5/10

 

#5 | Armenia’s Anahit & Mary

bdarmenia

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!

8/10

 

#4 | Poland’s Olivia Wieczorek

bdpoland

‘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.

8/10

 

#3 | Australia’s Alexa Curtis

bdaus

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.

9/10

 

#2 | Macedonia’s Martija Stanojković

bdmacedonia

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.

9.5/10

 

#1 | Russia’s Water of Life Project

bdrussia

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).

10/10

 

 

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)…

 

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EBJ’s Top 10…podium-placed trios from Eurovision’s past and present!

‘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)

pp1A 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)

pp2I 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)

pp3Mystery 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)

pp4Once 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)

pp5If 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)

pp6There’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)

pp7One 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)

pp8I’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)

pp9Last 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)

pp91None 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,

 

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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.

 

PARTY FOR EVERYBODY! Celebrating EBJ’s 7th birthday with a special countdown (#shareyour7)

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!

 

hbebj16

 

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.

 

shs

 

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.

Sakis 2

 

#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.

Sakis 2.5

 

#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.

Sakis 2.5

 

#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.

Sakis 3

 

#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.

Sakis 3.5

 

#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.

Sakis 3.5

 

#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?

Sakis 5

 

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).

 

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EBJ’s Top 10…performances of Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2016

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!)…

 

2015sig

 

 

EBJ’s Top 10…incredible JESC singers even the haters have to hear

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.

top10jesc

 

#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,

 

2015sig

 

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)!

 

EBJ’s Top 10…Swedish entries of all time (The Top Five!)

Happy Weekend, and välkommen to the second installment of my Scandi-centric countdown. I’m thinking of this as a gift to you, on what happens to be my birthday (hello there, shameless cry for celebratory wishes). It may not be a quality gift in your opinion, but if it is something you’re keen to unwrap, don’t worry about getting me anything in return (although, a sizeable cheque and/or a new car wouldn’t go astray if you’re feeling generous).

Anyway…let’s get back to Eurovision, and get on with the countdown. My top five Swedish ESC entries EVER *insert dramatic music here* are waiting for your judgment, and I’ll be waiting for your personal top fives in the comments. Don’t leave me hanging, guys – not on my birthday!

FYI, here’s a recap of the list so far:

  • #10 – En Gång I Stockholm by Monica Zetterlund (1963)
  • #9 – Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015)
  • #8 – Den Vilda by One More Time (1996)
  • #7 – Euphoria by Loreen (2012)
  • #6 – Främling by Carola (1983)

Now, är du redo?

 

#5 | 1998

Kärleken Är by Jill Johnson

I’m kick-starting the top five with some kärleken – specifically, Kärleken Är, a painfully 90s (not a bad thing), super pretty ballad. Jill Johnson was and is more of a country singer than a pop singer, but quite literally changed her tune for Melfest/Eurovision purposes (in other words, she pulled a Taylor Swift, but in a less drastic manner). Her performance in Birmingham was the last to feature a shred of the Swedish language until 2012 (when Finland sent När Jag Blundar) and her song was penned in response to the death of Princess Diana the previous year. The latter makes it lyrically beautiful and sad at the same time, but despite the sadness (and Jill’s funeral-esque stage garb) ‘uplifting’ is another adjective you could use here. Kärleken Är is a fond tribute rather than a morbid three-minute moan, and that gets my tick of approval. I love the lyrics, the melody, Jill’s voice…all in all, this forces me to feel all the good feels.

 

#4| 2013

You by Robin Stjernberg

You’ve got to root for an underdog, right? Robin’s been on my radar since he lost the 2011 Swedish Idol crown by a barely-there percentage of the vote, so I was pretty excited by and invested in his Melfest entry two years later. Then, when he became the first Andra Chansen competitor to go on and win Melfest, ‘pretty excited’ was eclipsed by ‘out of my mind with ecstasy’. What an awesome host entry Mr. Stjernberg/Fwernber gave us! I was obsessed with You back in the Malmö days, and I’m still bowing down to its greatness – and the majesty of Robin’s vocal range – today, as we look forward to another Sverige-style ESC. You isn’t what some might call a ‘typical Eurovision song’ (repetitiveness aside), and that made it distinctive. It’s another uplifting tribute to a special someone, and I think we can all identify with the titular you-ou-ou-oooo-ou. Adding to the pros of the package was the fact that Robin sung the pants off it, to the soundtrack of a noisily supportive home crowd. And dammit, he deserved some noise. You was an amazing, refreshing alternative to clinical Scandipop (not that I don’t love clinical Scandipop. I really do).

 

#3| 2010

This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl

It’s hard to believe there was a time when Sweden didn’t advance to a Eurovision final – but there was, and that time was just five years ago. Anna Bergendahl’s semi stumble was three things: one, shocking; two, devastating (mostly for Anna herself, and probably Christer Björkman) and three, narrow (Sweden finished five points behind Cyprus’ Jon Lilygreen and his Islanders). Despite a slightly shaky performance that did give off rehearsal rather than real-thing vibes in moments, I believe This Is My Life should have nabbed a place in the 2010 final (though not necessarily at the expense of Life Looks Better In Spring). The song is a stunner, with Anna’s husky vocals providing a nice contrast to her princess tiara and prom dress on stage. My only problem with it is performance-related, though it’s less of a problem than it is a mind-boggling mystery: WHERE DID THE GUITAR GO??? *hires private detective to end my five-year stretch of suffering*.

 

#2| 1995

Se På Mig by Jan Johansen

Sweden definitely went through a ‘less is more’ phase in the 1990s. You could argue that it was impossible to make a performance too ostentatious in a time before 100-metre long Russian LED backdrops and such, and you wouldn’t be wrong – but Jan’s Se På Mig, like Den Vilda after it, was simplistic in comparison to a lot of its competitors. On stage, it was just Jan, his patent leather jacket, a strategically-placed line of backing singers, some soothing dappled lighting, and one heck of a beautiful song. The kind of beautiful song that Anmary went on about in Baku: one that everybody hums, and everybody loves. I repeat, EVERYBODY. Seriously, if you’re anti-Se På Mig, what’s up with your distaste for sentimental, melodically stunning man-ballads? It ain’t normal, my friend. The magic of this song speaks for itself, so I’m going to shut up now and let it.

 

#1 | 2014

Undo by Sanna Nielsen

I’m well aware that my decision to slot Sanna into first place will make many of you want to Undo your subscriptions to this blog (and if you’re not subscribed, why not? It’s a constant Eurovision party over here!). But, before you throw whatever device you’re reading this on out the window and run screaming from the room, hear me out. Sweden’s 2014 entry being my all-time fave is not just a product of the song quality, but also of its significance being a song by an artist who I’ve loved for years, and who had tried time and time again to represent her country without success. I watched Sanna powerhouse her way through Melfest with this magnificent ballad (in an unflattering jumpsuit, but that’s irrelevant) and win over Ace Wilder by a measly margin, and I was so happy for her I cried a little bit. And that wasn’t the last time she had me reaching for the tissues – my floodgates fairly flew open when she performed in Copenhagen’s first semi last May. Girl was pitch-perfect, hit me right in the heart with her vocal and facial arrows of emotion, and looked like a goddess in a much more flattering outfit than her Melfest getup. Undo gave Sanna 180 seconds to do nothing but impress with her vocals, but it impresses me in other areas too. It has light and shade, strength and vulnerability, and an unforgettable hook (memorable = a two-syllable word that becomes a five-syllable one). Douze for the song, douze for Sanna, douze for a performance that kept the focus on her crystal-clear vocals, and douze for the whole thing being my #1 Swedish entry of all time.

 

For now, at least. Who knows what Sweden could do to me in 2016?

 

That’s a wrap on this drawn-out Top 10, and the list is complete (until I change my mind in five minutes). Here’s what it looks like right this second, though:

  1. Undo by Sanna Nielsen (2014)
  2. Se På Mig by Jan Johansen (1995)
  3. This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (2010)
  4. You by Robin Stjernberg (2013)
  5. Kärleken Är by Jill Johnson (1998)
  6. Främling by Carola (1983)
  7. Euphoria by Loreen (2012)
  8. Den Vilda by One More Time (1996)
  9. Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (2015)
  10. En Gång I Stockholm by Monica Zetterlund (1963)

Oh, and here’s the fantastisk stuff that just didn’t make the final cut…Waterloo by ABBA (1974); Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley by Herrerys (1984); Fångad Av En Stormvind by Carola (1991); Las Vegas by Martin Stenmarck (2005); Popular by Eric Saade (2011). So now you can’t abuse me for completely, 110% blanking ABBA.

Now it’s your turn. Let me know down below which of Sweden’s 55 entries have most tickled your fancy, and tested the endurance of your flag-waving arm! You know you want to…

 

2015sig

 

 

EBJ’s Top 10…Swedish entries of all time (#10-#6)

Don’t pretend you didn’t see this coming. I bet even Corinna May saw this coming.

What? I’m allowed one insensitive joke a month, and that was September’s.

Anyway, here’s the deal: I love Sweden, you love Sweden (I assume…who doesn’t?), we all love Sweden – in some respect. If le love isn’t related to their fashion, furniture or food (oh hej there, meatballs with lingonberry jam on the side!) then it has to be for Sverige + Eurovision. I mean, even if Scandipop makes you want to pull a Van Gogh and you’d much rather treat your ears to some Balkan ballads or saucy Spanish salsa, you have to admire the Swedish attitude towards the ESC. Not to mention (though I am about to mention it) their dead-serious approach to competing in it, one that has seen them win the contest twice since 2012.

Overall – out of 55 participations – the hosts of Eurovision 2016 have added a trophy to their song contest cabinet six times, and have finished inside the top ten THIRTY-SEVEN times. That’s a whole lot of Eurovisual goodness right there, and I’m about to count down my favourites of the lot. Ja, it’s time for a good ol’ fashioned top ten…Swedish-style.

But, because I’m a soap opera fan and therefore love a good cliffhanger (and because I’m trying not to overwhelm you guys with one momentous post after another) I’m going to reveal my top ten Swedish ESC entries like, ever, in two separate posts. Today, I’m counting down my 10th, 9th, 8th, 7th and 6th-favourite songs, so if you want to find out which ones made it into the top five, you’ll have to stay tuned to EBJ. Sorry.

Also, since I’m yet to attain psychic abilities, I’d love you to hit me up with your personal favourite Swedish entries in the comments (but feel free to keep me waiting for your #1 like I’m making you wait for mine).

If you need a reminder of what you’re choosing from, then check this out:

 

 

And now, let the countdown begin. Tre, två, ett, go!

 

 

#10 | 1963

En Gång I Stockholm by Monica Zetterlund

I mentioned this entry in a previous post, not long after Sanna Nielsen performed it “alongside” Monica as part of her Melodifestivalen hosting/entertaining duties this year. That duet was spellbinding, and I couldn’t help revisiting the original performance (once my spine-tingles had subsided) to remind myself how En Gång I Stockholm (Once In Stockholm) stood up sans Sanna – particularly given that, back in ’63, it had finished equal last. That, my friends, is a travesty. The song, minus Miss Nielsen, is still lovely. It may not be as hypnotic or mystique-packed as Denmark’s winner Dansevise (which I also adore) but it does have a) a wistful quality emphasised by Monica in her performance, and b) a melody that’s so soft and beautiful you could practically blow your nose on it. I’m often an advocate for songs that exit Eurovision in last place, so naturally, this one’s a standout of the 1963 contest för mig.

 

#9 | 2015

Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw  

YES, I’M GOING THERE. In case you weren’t aware that I’m mad about Måns, and that I couldn’t be happier that the Eurovision circus is heading back to Sweden so soon, well…become aware now. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Heroes is a great song, and no, it’s not a David Guetta rip-off (an homage, perhaps, but a carbon copy? Puh-lease). It checks a ton of boxes on my list of epic ESC entry criteria: it’s catchy, contemporary and energetic; it successfully fuses together two different musical genres; it builds to a climax worth waiting for; the lyrics don’t put my gag reflex to the test; and it’s karaoke-friendly. What more could one want? Well, apart from a mind-blowing staging concept that puts all the competition to shame. Oh wait – Heroes had that too! Aurally and aesthetically, this entry is a prime example of Sweden’s ability to go above and beyond without breaking a sweat.

 

#8 | 1996

Den Vilda by One More Time

If songs that make you desperate to frolic in a lush forest with a myriad of woodland creatures are your thing, then I’m guessing you’re a fellow fan of this entry from ’96. If not, why not? This track is gorgeous and timeless. I can’t say the same about the power suit OMT’s Nanne donned for the show (Eurovision performance or marketing meeting? Who can tell the difference based on that outfit) but lack of flowing chiffon aside, Den Vilda as a package is pure, pared-back perfection. Though the verses sound very similar to the choruses, they don’t sound too similar, meaning you’re/I’m easily drawn in by the melody without suffering from any repetitive-itis. Everything (except the chiffon, because there isn’t any) just flows. This is a classic case of magnificent minimalism.

 

#7 | 2012

Euphoria by Loreen

If you want more evidence of Sweden’s ability to say N-O to O-T-T and still succeed, it’s right here. There’s no question why Loreen holds the record for the most sets of douze points received by a Eurovision winner. Euphoria was, is and always will be the bomb dot com. For me, it’s just as impressive now as it was when it topped the Melfest scoreboard three years ago (!), in terms of both sound and staging. The slick production, maximum-energy beat and infectious ‘up-up-up-up-up-uuuup’ hook are all as wonderful as Loreen’s crab scuttle*, and came together in a performance so uniquely staged, it was groundbreaking. This entry will forever be filed under ‘Unforgettable’ in the Eurovision archives, and perhaps replace ye olde Bucks Fizz skirt-rip in the ‘Eurovision in a nutshell!’ clip compilations trotted out by the media at every opportunity.

* CAN’T…RESIST…THE GIF…

Loreen_s_Crab_Dance

 

#6 | 1983

Främling by Carola

Sixteen-year-old Carola is my favourite version of Carola (although I’m happy to be fångad in her invincible stormvind any time) and she was clearly living her best life on the Munich stage, with her bouffant hairdo and weird-ass shirt that seemed to have a Dalmatian-giraffe on it (what WAS that?). Her vocal chops have always been insanely good, as this performance of the dated-but-still-magical Främling proves. The song gave Carola chance after chance to sing her heart out, and she grabbed each and every one. She also got to do a bit of strutting, because that’s the logical move to make when one is commandeering such a funky, oh-so-80s pop song. STRUT, CAROLA, STRUUUUUUT! The ‘why’ of why Främling is a favourite of mine pretty much boils down to one word: catchy. Främling is freaking catchy! It gets stuck in my head on the reg, but I never get tired of it, since it’s so peppy and all. Here’s to that continuing for many years to come *clink*.

 

 

That’s the end of this chapter, Eurovisionaries (I did warn you I was going to leave you in the lurch). I’m still polishing – and possibly reordering – my top five Swedish contributions to our beloved song contest, so you’ll have to sit tight for a few days until all is revealed.

As I asked you so nicely in the intro, please leave me many, many comments feat. the what and why of your top-ranking ESC entries from Sweden…and/or make a guess as to which ones have squeezed into my top five. Guess correctly, and you win a big bag full of my admiration!

 

Until next time…

 

2015sig

 

 

EBJ’s Top 10…could-haves and should-haves of the 2015 national final season

First things first: I have an apology to issue. That apology is to this blog, for missing its sixth birthday last week. Oops.

I’m a terrible mother blogger, I know. But in the wake of my recent 400th post celebrations (and with life’s general chaos all around me) I thought all my milestones had been and gone for the year. My bad. Regardless, EBJ is now six years old (!!!) and my belated birthday gift is this hastily-constructed graphic.

ebj6

I’d like to say merci to anyone reading this right now, and to anyone who’s ever taken the time to read something I’ve posted throughout the past six years. I’m very appreciative of you. I mean, I was kind of hoping I’d have my own talk show and clothing line by now, but I guess I can live with just having (one or two) regular readers.

Still, if I get to the ten-year mark, and Drew Barrymore hasn’t been cast as me in a movie detailing  my life and times, there’ll be hell to pay.

Moving on now (mercifully) to le subject of today’s post: the ones that got away. It’s tradition for us all to moan about the national final entries that didn’t make it to Eurovision before the show, and even more afterwards as we wonder what could have been. I’ve already listed all my favourites from the 2014/15 season here, so now it’s after-party time!

I think we can agree that some countries, like Sweden, inarguably put their best foot (and most tight-fitting trousers) forward this year. Others, like Switzerland, just weren’t meant to make the final of ESC no. 60., and nothing in their NFs could have changed that.

Then there are the countries that may or may not have made the best decisions on who should represent them, if they wanted to achieve their best possible Eurovision result. Keeping those countries in mind, I’m about to count down my top ten could-haves (i.e. the songs that would have provided similar results but made nice alternative choices) and should-haves (i.e. the songs that would have climbed higher on the scoreboard for sure) in relation to the outcomes of the 2015 contest. Remember, this is a subjective topic, and all opinions are purely my own. I encourage you to disagree with them in the comments (in a respectful manner, of course).

3, 2, 1, GO!

 

#10 | Supernova by Janet

COULD have been sent by Belarus

If I had to single out one song from the Belarusian final that might have squeezed through to the Eurovision equivalent – or at least equaled Time’s not-too-terrible 12th place – it’d be Supernova. Written by Swedes Ylva and Linda Persson (if purchasing songs from Sweden is good enough for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia, it’s good enough for Belarus) this track is an interesting hybrid of ballad and electronica, with decent build and a strong chorus that sticks. If it were paired with a backdrop similar to Polina Gagarina’s, Janet in a floaty dress, intensive use of the wind machine, and perhaps some kind of cool last-minute reveal á la Moldova 2013 (although that wouldn’t be required to top Uzari & Maimuna’s nothingness), Supernova would have been…well, super, on the ESC stage. Unfortunately, it finished second-last in Belarus. Trés cray.

PS – The video above features the studio version, since the only video of the NF performance on YouTube is of rubbish quality. But do check it out if you think you can withstand the static sound and pixilated picture. Janet’s vocals aren’t the strongest, but the staging is pretty epic.

 

#9 | Jazz & Sirtaki by Thomai Apergi & Legend

SHOULD have been sent by Greece

As we all know, Greece did send a glamorous woman in a gown with a belter of a ballad to Vienna. Too bad for them that such entries were a dime a dozen there – and done better by the likes of Russia and Latvia. I know Greece would have qualified even if Maria Elena had actually farted tears and fears into the microphone for three minutes, but I can’t help thinking they should have sent their NF runner-up Jazz & Sirtaki instead of One Last Breath. It’s the kind of thing we expect from Greece: it’s ethnic, catchy, fun, and instantly identifiable as being Greek, and I don’t see those as negatives. Not only would it have upped the energy and the amount of ethno-pop in the 2015 lineup, it would also have had a good chance of getting Greece back onto the left side of the scoreboard, if only just.

 

#8 | Burning Lights by Daniel Levi

COULD have been sent by Estonia

Okay, Team GTY…you can put that pitchfork down. I’m not here to claim that Stig and Elina, who won Eesti Laul 2015 by a massive margin and finished a respectable 7th in Vienna, shouldn’t have represented Estonia. I’m just saying that the more joyful Burning Lights is an alternative that I wouldn’t have minded seeing/hearing at Eurovision. It’s a tasty slice of contemporary, anthemic pop-rock, with great lyrics in which nobody smiles to the dog (definitely a bonus). And, like Softengine’s Something Better did in Copenhagen, it would have stood out from the crowd as a rockier song in a field full of – yep, you guessed it – ballads.

 

#7 | Rush by Christabelle

SHOULD have been sent by Malta

After hearing this song for the first time, I started to believe that fate had forced Christabelle to trip up in her previous MESC attempt purely so she could make a victorious comeback with a much better song. Ultimately, she made a comeback that resulted in second place, which is something – but in my opinion, Malta made a mistake opting to leave Rush behind. Amber’s Warrior didn’t know what it was as a song, and the revamp only emphasised that. There was a sense of cohesiveness missing from the overall package put forward. Rush, on the other hand, was straight-up fresh-and-fun pop that would have been difficult to stage badly. We’ll never know for certain, but I swear to Chiara…if Warrior only just missed out on qualifying, then Rush would have made the cut for sure.

 

#6 | Wechselt Die Beleuchtung by Laing

COULD have been sent by Germany

Eurovision 2015 was all about (well, somewhat about) the wonderfully weird. Entries like Rhythm Inside and Love Injected – which aren’t commonplace in the contest just yet – proved incredibly popular, and I for one fell head-over-heels for them. I’d be saying the same about this number from Laing, had they represented Germany instead of Ann Sophie (via Andreas Kümmert). I’m a Black Smoke fan, but I think Germany could have sent Wechselt instead and not regretted it – mainly because something so intriguing wouldn’t have finished last with the dreaded nul points (in my mind, anyway). This song is so cool, and its staging at Unser Song Für Österreich was even cooler. Trust Germany to make a costume reveal edgy, not cheesy.

 

#5 | Human Beings by Karin Park

COULD have been sent by Norway

In case you didn’t know already, Mørland and Debrah Scarlett were the pinnacle of MGP ’15 pour moi, and there’s no way I would have wanted anything but A Monster Like Me to go to Eurovision. But in a parallel universe in which they didn’t enter the NF, it’s the amazing Karin Park I’d have been crossing my fingers for. The woman behind I Feed You My Love decided to enter as an artist this year, with the equally cutting-edge and atmospheric Human Beings. She gave a performance that sent shivers down my spine (that bit over the wind grate with the billowing kimono was a defining moment in my life). Hypnotic is the key word here, aurally and visually-speaking, and that’s always a helpful adjective to be labeled with when you’re trying to secure people’s votes. Not that it worked too well in Norway…Karin didn’t even make the top four. I’m still mystified.

 

#4 | Ne Engedj El by Kati Wolf

SHOULD have been sent by Hungary

It’s never fun when your least favourite song in an NF ends up winning it, and that’s what happened to me with A Dal this year (and UMK, and DMGP). In time, Wars For Nothing did grow on me. However, it’s still too sleepy for my liking, and I can’t connect with it emotionally. That’s not a problem I have with Ne Engedj El, performed by the fabulous Kati Wolf sans 2011’s massive hair and shiny satin disco dress. Yes, it’s a lady ballad, but it has more life to it than Boggie’s (then again, so does Knez’s face, which is really saying something) and I personally feel the feels when I listen to it (which is about ten times a day). It’s a beautifully constructed song with a pretty melody, and Kati did it justice in the NF with a performance that was both fragile and powerful. I really, really wish Hungary had given her the second shot she was after with this.

 

#3 | Manjana by Babou

SHOULD have been sent by Denmark

Denmark and I rarely see eye to eye, meaning they hardly ever pick my favourite DMGP entry to represent them (2014 excluded, as I scubidubidapdapdididid love that). A few months ago, I was desperate for Anne Gadegaard’s Suitcase to go to Vienna on behalf of last year’s hosts, but in hindsight, I’ve changed my tune (so to speak), at least with regards to which DMGP song would have served Denmark best. For me, it’s Babou’s infectious Manjana. This song is a three-minute tropical party – kind of like a more urban version of Allez Ola Olé. Sure, it’s a tad generic, but so is The Way You Are, and generic dance > generic retro rock. Plus, a) it would have been great to hear Danish at Eurovision for the first time since 1997; and b) we desperately needed more floorfillers in the 2015 field, and Manjana would have been different enough to those we did have (from Israel and Serbia, for instance) to hold its own.

 

#2 | Crossroads by Satin Circus

SHOULD have been sent by Finland

FYI, I don’t want to take anything way from PKN; nor do I feel that they didn’t deserve their UMK victory. This list is about the national finalists I would have preferred to see/hear at Eurovision, and/or those that would likely have given their countries a better result. In the case of Crossroads, it’s both: a song I really wanted to represent Finland, and one that I believe would have gotten them into the final. Satin Circus may have qualified based on their less divisive, more mainstream musical style, which isn’t necessarily a positive thing (Finland made an awesome decision to send punk to a contest unaccustomed to the genre, even though it backfired) but I feel like there was a Crossroads-shaped hole in the Viennese lineup of down-tempo, melancholy pop and preachy ballads. It’s such a fun sing-along song, and, like Tonight Again, it’s perfectly suited to being performed at Europe’s biggest party (‘Tonight we can be young’ = so apt). Basically, I missed it in a big way, and I’m hoping that the boys bring their brand of youthful pop-rock back to UMK, ASAP!

 

And now, my most painful missed opportunity of the year…

 

#1 | Fjaðrir by SUNDAY

SHOULD have been sent by Iceland

It’s not just the Danish who disappoint me: Iceland does the same on a regular basis by leaving something quirky and brilliant behind at Söngvakeppnin in favour of something boring vanilla. Exhibit A? The 180-second-long chorus that is Unbroken triumphing over the bizarre yet beautiful creation that is Fjaðrir (or Feathers, but I’m specifically talking about the Icelandic version here) by SUNDAY. I know, I know…SUNDAY didn’t even come second to María, so it’s not technically a case of ‘if only!’. But Fjaðrir is so amazing, with its Margaret Berger-esque visuals and mesmerising industrial-pop sound, that I’m going to say ‘if only!’ anyway. There are no shrill choruses to be found here – in fact, the choruses are more low-key than the verses, which is part of what makes the song so interesting. And, as usual, the use of Icelandic adds an extra something special. I’m in love.

 

Put your thinking caps on, ‘cause it’s time to tell me: which national finalists do you think could have – or SHOULD have – been given tickets to Eurovision 2015? A.k.a. which countries got it right and which countries got it oh-so-wrong?