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.
LOOKING BACK AT EUROVISION 2016 | 41 personal pinch-me moments from my trip to Stockholm (feat. photographic evidence!)
Happy Holidays, everyone! I’m pleased to announce that yes, I did live to see Christmas Day despite what my lack of blogging over the past few weeks may have suggested (it’s a crazy time of year, and I’m not the best multi-tasker. My bad). I’m back now for the foreseeable future, which is my belated festive gift to you all – one that you may or may not want the receipt for so you can exchange it for (as Softengine would say) something better.
Now, to segue into today’s topic: as we creep closer to the end of 2016, and the most recent Eurovision Song Contest becomes not all that recent, it seems more and more timely that we look back on what was arguably the best edition ever. I’m particularly keen to reminisce since the Stockholm show was my first live one. I’ve also realised that even though I attended as a professional member of the press, and as an obsessive, shrine-possessing, single-minded and slightly rabid fan (it was a Beyoncé/Sasha Fierce sort of situation), I never actually shared that much of my experience here on EBJ. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (links are in the sidebar *she says, dropping a hint so hard it breaks the floorboards*) you’d have seen a selection of photos in May; and if you and I are Facebook friends, you would have seen way too many photos pop up in your feed between then and now. But that’s about it.
So, in the interest of leveling up as a Fix-It Lady – and before this year’s contest becomes last year’s contest – I’m going to undo your deprivation-induced sad and give up all of my gossip. Everything Eurovision-related and exciting (they go hand-in-hand) that happened while I was in Sweden has been put down in words and pictures for the first time, for you. It might come off as a bit narcissistic, but it’s meant to be an insight into what can go down when the mythical ‘going to Eurovision’ becomes a reality – an expensive but worth-every-krona reality. I hope you enjoy it!
#1. Picking up the stunning piece of art that is my accreditation badge (it’s hanging on my wall at the moment and I charge people admission to see it, so yes, it’s art).
#2. Touring the Euroclub the day before the doors officially opened with a bunch of other lanyard-wearing press people (#powerofthebadge).
#3. Trying not to laugh as Sweden perpetuated a major stereotype of itself by outfitting the entire Euroclub – in particular, the upstairs delegation lounge – with IKEA furnishings.
#4. Fangirling for the first of many, many occasions when Euroclub hostesses Velvet (!) and Shirley Clamp (!!!) appeared to chat with us.
#5. Walking down Drottningatan marveling at the Eurovision bunting strung up between buildings the entire way.
#6. Standing on the Hovet balcony overlooking the Press Centre for the first time, knowing I’d be in it in a matter of minutes without having to sneak past security to get there.
#7. Witnessing Sergey Lazarev stack it during his first rehearsal, as it happened (which, for someone who usually avoids all rehearsal footage, was a momentous event). I now know the true meaning of a rehearsal.
#8. Attending my first-ever press conference, partly for the novelty and partly because it was Hungary’s and I just wanted to see Freddie in the flesh while pretending to be a serious journalist seeking information. Nailed it.
#9. Laying not only eyes but also fingers on Freddie in what turned out to be a Freddie sandwich with my awesome fellow Aussie Jason from Don’t Boil The Sauce *screams and swoons at the mere memory*.
#10. Nearly having a heart attack when Phillip Kirkirov popped up at Sergey’s press conference, due to the alarming height of his hair and the permanently surprised look of his eyebrows.
#11. Falling in love – just a little bit – with Sergey once my Kirkirov shock had subsided, since I expected him to be an egomaniac and he was anything but.
#12. Grabbing a selfie with the most legendary of puppets, Terry Vision (who is teeming with the germs of such names as Tooji, Kaliopi, and Hovi Star, who gave him a going over at the end of the ESC Insight table as I looked on from about a foot away. Life!).
#13. Admiring Lidia Isac’s hair as she was being interviewed on a purpose-built Press Centre podium.
#14. Discovering that, based on looks, I may be related to Jüri Pootsmann. The DNA results are pending.
#15. Wearing a Frans t-shirt to Frans’ meet-and-greet, which unfortunately/fortunately, he didn’t notice (would he have laughed? Would he have taken out a restraining order? We’ll never know).
#16. Spying Sandhja in street clothes waiting at Globen station with one of her people. Did not stalk, which took a whole lot of willpower.
#17. Having a lot more to do with Ira Losco than I ever imagined I would, years after watching her do her glitter-blowing thing – then finish second – at Eurovision back in 2002.
#18. Specifically, interviewing her at Warner Music Sweden (no slumming it anywhere less), complementing her shoes, advising her not to do cartwheels on a full stomach, and riding back to Globen in a taxi with her (during which time I may have sold out Samra’s cringey rehearsal vocals, possibly in an attempt to give Ira an ego boost but also because the topic came up in conversation and I had to be honest). BEST AFTERNOON EVER.
#19. Finding out that, because Spotify = no need for physical CDs in Sweden, Warner Music has taken to using discs to furnish their headquarters. I kind of want to do the same thing in my house.
#20. Crossing the bridge between Hovet and Globen to check out some contest rehearsals in person – namely, Estonia’s, Azerbaijan’s and Montenegro’s. I had never seen the flurry of between-song setup before, so this was an eye-opening experience. My eyes were also opened to how teeny-tiny (or ‘intimate’ if you want to be more diplomatic) the Globe is IRL despite how large it looks on TV.
#21. Celebrity-spotting in the Press Centre about once every ten minutes. Poli Genova, Petra Mede, Lighthouse X, even Aminata (she’s so small!)…so many Eurostars walked past our desk, it was ridiculous. At one point, I had Minus One behind me, Freddie to my left, and one of the guys from Argo directly opposite. In other words, I was living the dream. Apart from the bit where Freddie didn’t propose to me.
#22. Finding myself being singled out by Joe & Jake during their meet and greet, which basically means I have a photo of them in which they’re looking directly down my lens. Cheers, guys – from ‘the lady in the red shirt’.
#23. Having to tell Nicky Byrne where to look when I was taking a selfie of us. It was a waste of my breath, but I don’t care because HELLO, EX-WESTLIFE MEMBER!
#24. Joining the rest of the journos attending Jamala’s press conference to vote for which of her rehearsal dresses she should wear for the real deal. In case you were wondering, I put my hand up for the blue one.
#25. Speaking directly to some random dude called Måns Zelmerlöw. It’s on video. No biggie. Skip to 8:25 below if you want to see it, but it’s pretty boring. Aside from the fact that it MADE MY LIFE.
#26. Basking in the ambience of the Euroclub red carpet on Opening Party night by a) taking way too many photos, and b) silently judging the artists’ fashion choices (Zoë yes yes yes, ManuElla no no no).
#27. Dancing awkwardly but enthusiastically to Barei’s Say Yay! as the woman herself surveyed the crowd from the club’s balcony.
#28. Watching performances from Frans, Dami, Zoë and Poli the same night, introduced by the one and only Christer Björkman (who is Satan to some but more like a god to me).
#29. Returning to the Euroclub the next day for the Australian Embassy party feat. Dami (though the promise of free food and wine was enough to lure me in)…only to end up standing next to Eneda Tarifa and admiring her amazing handbag. Of course.
#30. Sitting through my first live, in-the-flesh, televised semi final in close proximity to the Green Room (close enough to recognise the rear of Stig Rästa and Elina Born’s heads, I might add) and pinching myself pretty much the whole time.
#31. Standing next to Ira Losco’s scorpion dancer at the post-semi qualifiers press conference.
#32. Feasting my eyes on Christer Björkman’s collection of accreditation passes from Melodifestivalens and Eurovisions past and not-so-past, at the ABBA/ESC Museum. The contest costumes corralled there were also impressive (I can now confirm that Yohanna’s dress is even uglier in real life than it was on screen).
#33. Having an obligatory photo taken with the massive Come Together countdown clock.
#34. Sitting through another live, in-the-flesh, televised semi final in the Globe Arena, in a rather sleepwalky state because HOW WAS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!?!?
#35. Experiencing the joy of a jury final mock vote – won by Belgium, if I remember correctly – as Måns and Petra ad-libbed their way through the voting sequence.
#36. Seeing Justin Timberlake perform live not once, but twice, at the jury final and the actual final. I understandably did not see that coming when I left Australia to go to Eurovision, but as a professional boy band enthusiast, it became the cherry on top of the best cake I’ve ever eaten.
#37. Lynda Woodruff. Need I say more?
#38. Standing in the mass of fans in front of the 2016 stage for the four incredible/back-breaking hours of the final, watching on and waving my flag in a desperate attempt to get my arm on a global television broadcast. I’m not sure if I did, but Dami did me proud and Jamala made all my dreams come true (and made me burst into tears in front of hundreds of strangers).
#39. Attending Jamala’s post-victory press conference knowing I could watch it back on the DVD later and think to myself ‘I was totally there!’.
#40. Spending the rest of the (freaking FREEZING) grand final night right by having a last hurrah at the Euroclub until the last possible second – as in 5am, when the staff had to herd us all out onto the street because the doors were closing for good.
#41. Witnessing (before we got kicked out of the club) the Gallagher lookalike from the Young Georgian Lolitaz get tackled to the ground by security, informing his oblivious band mate that the tackle had occurred, and bumping into Thomas G:son on the way out (the photographic evidence of which I still need to chase up). Oh, and then having a burger for breakfast. Hashtag end-of-contest goals!
And that’s it…I think. So much stuff happened in a short space of time while I was in Stockholm that details are constantly falling out of then climbing back into my brain. But you’ve just read the majority of them, which I hope you enjoyed whether you’ve traveled to twenty contests or are still waiting for your first (it’ll happen!). If you have paid the ESC a visit, I think you’ll agree that the experience is unbeatable. So much so that even if everything surrounding my Eurovision “vacation” (the least relaxing vacation ever) had been rubbish, those three weeks would have kept this year high on my list of life’s best so far.
The only problem is that I’m going to want to repeat it every year, and I’m not sure my bank balance can handle that. It’s definitely not keen on me skipping Kyiv in favour of Melodifestivalen…but too bad, savings. Too bad.
I’ll be back again before 2016 turns into 2017 to say hej då to the past twelve months, Eurovision-style (I’m not 100% sure how yet, but I’ll think of something). Until then, make the most of what’s left of December – and use any Christmas leftovers to boost your energy levels for the upcoming national final season!
From one krazy Kyiv kontest to another? 10 things that happened at Eurovision 2005 that should (or really shouldn’t) happen at Eurovision 2017
* Despite what the excessive use of the letter ‘K’ in the title above might suggest, this post has not been sponsored by the Kardashians. Although, if any of them happen to be reading, a little financial help wouldn’t go astray, Kim/Kourtney/Khloé/Kendall/Kylie/somebody stop me because I’ve klearly gone krazy ~kough~.
Aaaaaaand I’m back from an unintentionally long blogging vacation. Say yay yay yay!
Yes, I’m still making that joke. No, you don’t have to like it. Blame Barei for its existence and everybody’s continued use of the damn thing.
To quickly explain my absence, before I move on to the topic of today’s comeback Euro-ramble (in case anyone out there missed me): you know how sometimes you just lose your mojo and don’t really feel like doing anything unless it’s something that you’re not supposed to be doing? And other times you’re so overwhelmed by the general hectic-ness of life, you barely have the energy to keep your eyes open when you fall through your front door let alone create something coherent that other people could/would want to read? Feel free to alter that writer-specific problem to make it identifiable for you, so you can actually say ‘YES!’ to that ‘you know how…’.
Well, I’ve been dragged down by an unfortunate combo of both of those things during the past month or so. It’s like being stuck in a rut that you’re too lethargic to claw your way out of, and it sucks harder than the City of Stockholm’s realisation that a certain Romanian flagpole had to come down.
But, THANK THE LORDI, those feelings of uselessness and non-productivity have (almost completely) passed – so I guess neither are the feelings Justin Timberlake can’t stop. As such, I’m not going to bore you about them any longer. Just remember: if you’re ever feeling crappy in the same or in a different way, Eurovision will always be there for you, and have your back once you rise like a phoenix out of the ashes seeking rather than vengeance, retribution. To quote a certain and very wise Miss Wurst (a.k.a. her songwriters).
Now, in the interest of making up for lost time + acknowledging a host city announcement that totally passed me by, I’m going to get cracking on the content I had planned before The Dark Days of Non-Blogging commenced. And I’m starting with a nostalgic nod back to the last adult ESC to take place in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine and the “recently” revealed location of Eurovision 2017. Yes, for the fourth time in a row, everybody’s favourite song contest that doesn’t start with an ‘M’ and end with ‘elodifestivalen’ is off to a European capital!
Specifically, the ESC will be hitting up Kyiv on the 9th, 11th and 13th of May next year, as we’re all aware. By then, it will have been twelve years since the contest was last hosted by the city (Junior Eurovision popped up there in 2009 and 2013, but we’re sticking with the senior show as our subject matter right now). As a result, we can expect to see a contest that, by comparison to the 2005 edition, has evolved in a big way. I look forward to assembling sets of screenshots that amusingly illustrate this (which you’ll be able to see here or on Instagram. Follow me @eurovisionbyjaz for guaranteed LOLs).
It’ll certainly be interesting comparing Kyiv 2005 to Kyiv 2017, just as it would be comparing Stockholm 2000 to Stockholm 2016 (come to think of it, why haven’t I done that yet?). After all, Eurovision ain’t the same creature now that it was five years ago, let alone over a decade ago. Still, for every little thing I’ll be happy to see has changed between Ukrainian hostings, there’s something else that will or should make a comeback. For example…
As many countries as possible bringing something traditional to the buffet table – or at least something that fuses an ethnic sound with cutting-edge pop or urban sounds. Many of us have fond memories of the likes of Hungary’s Forogj Világ (I still aspire to nailing that choreography while wearing a super glam one-legged outfit), Serbia & Montenegro’s Zauvijek Moja and Albania’s Tomorrow I Go contributing to the cultural diversity of the 2005 line-up. And that was in the wake of two traditionally-tinged winners in a row. If we had a random repeat of that in a time when the majority of entries don’t even whisper (let alone scream) ‘I was born and bred in *Insert Country of Your Choice Here*’, I wouldn’t mind at all. It’s more likely, though, that there’ll be a flood of songs attempting to emulate the reigning champion instead (I can foresee Ireland entering an avant-garde song called 1996 which tearfully recounts the last time they managed to come out on top).
Helena Paparizou. Speaking of traditionally-tinged winners…I don’t care whether she represents Greece, Sweden (though I do have Oscar Zia at the top of my wish-list for this year’s hosts) or San Marino (My Numero Uno has a nice ring to it) – she’s still got it, and Eurovision needs it! We know Helena is open to giving the show a third shot, and as Kyiv blessed her with such good fortune back in the day, it could be fate for her to make it back to the ESC stage, in the same city. Emphasis on ‘could’. Remember, I’m so far from psychic I only predicted 6/10 qualifiers of Stockholm’s first semi despite being on location and witnessing every single rehearsal *immediately regrets bringing that up again*.
Moldova recruiting a grandmamma to beat on her own personal drumma – i.e. Moldova making the same kind of splash they made with their debut entry Boonika Bate Doba. That might involve bringing Zdob și Zdub back once more or finding a fresh face to fly their flag. Either way, Moldova needs to rethink their Eurovision approach if they want to get out of the semis and shoot up the Saturday scoreboard next year, and taking some cues from when they’d just started out could work wonders in that department. If nothing else, they should remember that ZșZ didn’t debut by literally tearing their (fake) hair out, or accidentally leaving their delegation lanyards on during the broadcast.
Andorra and Monaco. Okay, so we’ve already had word that neither of these ’05 competitors will be showing up in Kyiv, and that’s not surprising. But let’s branch out by saying that ANYONE who joined the party back then but has since elected to stay home watching Netflix in their pajamas – i.e. Turkey – should put some fancy clothes on and come the heck back to the contest.
Finally, a fashion-oriented hope from someone who can’t help devoting a large chunk of time to critiquing costume choices: can we please see evidence of evening gown game that matches 2005 in terms of sheer (not literally…or maybe literally) lustworthiness? I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one who salivated over Shiri Maimon’s ‘grandma’s sofa meets glamorous soiree’ getup back in the day. Malta’s Chiara, Monaco’s Lise Darly and The Netherlands’ Glennis Grace also deserved A-grades in the evening-style stakes (by 2005 standards). 2016, by contrast, was more about flesh-flashing, jumpsuits and whatever it was that Nina Krajlić was wearing (does ANYONE have an explanation for that?). Okay, so there were a handful of red carpet-worthy dresses to swoon over in Stockholm – Dami Im’s and Ira Losco’s being my personal favourites. But there can always be more, in my opinion., as long as a greater number of evening gowns doesn’t equate to a greater number of lame lady ballads.
And now *turns table draped in crystal-encrusted fabric*…
The reigning champion taking to the stage with an industrial-sized blowtorch and singeing the eyebrows off a few dozen audience members in the process. As comical as it would be to see Jamala work that into a reprise of 1944, I love her winning entry because it isn’t a laughing matter. An oversized flaming gun would detract from the sentiment and seriousness of the song just a teensy bit, don’t you think?
Bulgaria sending a track that could be the theme of a soft porn movie centred on the ESC (something that should NEVER exist…though if it did, you can guarantee that Serhat would play a starring role). Especially one that oh-so-inventively rhymes ‘Lorraine’ with ‘rain’, ‘pain’ and ‘again’. After their criminally good – best ever, in fact – result with Poli this year, I think they’ve got the power to pull a Belgium and bring us two excellent entries on the trot. They 110% have the power to not be accused of plagiarism, á la 2005.
Portugal (because at this point, they’ve said they’ll be in Kyiv) suffering from an extreme case of ‘FOR THE LOVE OF MR. GOD, WOULD SOMEBODY PLEASE FIX THOSE DAMN MICS!’. A performance free of technical hitches was not to be for 2B in 2005, but with all the extravagant futuristic stuff we saw on stage in Stockholm, supplying the artists with fully functioning microphones shouldn’t be an issue in this day and age. Should it? Perhaps I’ve jinxed Portugal just by musing about this.
Serbia & Montenegro, obviously. Replace the ampersand with an actual ‘and’, and that gives us two countries who’ll most likely set foot on Ukrainian soil next May. But we’re definitely not going to see them hooking back up and giving Bosnia & Herzegovina a run for their money in the excessive-syllable stakes. Is that a shame? Were they better together? Not necessarily. And hey, the likelihood of an extra Balkan ballad in the ESC field has increased since 2006. Montenegro has been the weakest link since the split, with a few semi qualifications being the closest they’ve come to matching Serbia’s win and their various other successes. But when Montenegro is on point, they are a force to be reckoned with (Moj Svijet and Adio are masterpieces, no question). So while we won’t see them skipping around the 2017 stage hand-in-hand with Serbia, there’s the potential of both countries sending epic songs to the competition. Of course, whoever takes Željko Joksimović captive and demands he compose for them will have the upper hand.
Sweden sending a song that includes the lyrics ‘Fred the limo driver’s asking polite: “Leaving Las Vegas tonight?”’. It’s not that I don’t care about Fred the limo driver’s thoughts and feelings (and despite Las Vegas being one of Sweden’s less successful entries of the 2000s, I still get a kick out of it) – it’s just that he won’t crack a mention in 2017. Sweden has moved past that kind of lyrical content. Basically, Christer Björkman will be on the hunt for another Eurovision winner after two whole years between trophy acquisitions (oh, the pain!), and name-dropping hired help does not a winning song make.
So those are the things, off the top of my head, that I’m hoping/I know we will and won’t witness when Eurovision descends on Kyiv next May. More will come to me between now and then, I’m guessing. I apologise in advance.
What’s off the top, in the middle or at the bottom of your brain when it comes to your hopes for the 2017 contest? How would you like the upcoming Ukrainian show to differ from the last, and what are you praying happens again? If your answer to the latter is ‘Ruslana’s blowtorch routine!’, then I suppose I can get on board with that, even if Jamala DOES incorporate it into a new and “improved” presentation of 1944. I mean, she is an utter queen who can do no wrong, so I’m sure she’d pull it off.
Until next time (which will be in the not-too-distant future, I promise)…
An Alternate Stockholm Scoreboard: The EBJ Jury’s Top 43 for 2016 (and how it stacks up to the actual results!)
If you’re reading this, bonjour! If not, then there’s no bon or jour for you whatsoever.
Question: do you remember when I posted the final round of EBJ Jury reviews, approximately seventeen years after they were relevant, some amount of time ago?
Me neither. Regardless, I’m going to go ahead and wrap them up once and for all today. Yes, that’s right: at long, long, long last, I’m ready to unveil my jury’s full ranking, from numero uno all the way down to the unfortunate four-three (because, in case you weren’t aware, Romania remains a player in our game. I’m not saying Ovidiu is ranked 43rd, but without him, I’d obviously be posting a top 42. Förstår du?).
This ranking will be accompanied by the highest and lowest scores each country received from the EBJJ, plus a comment from ye olde reviews that justifies their position in the list. Also, since we have actual, official results now (and have had for like, a MONTH) I’m also going to finish off with a quick analysis of the jury’s ranking VS the one compiled by the televoters and jurors of Europe/Australia back in May.
PS – For the last time, I’d like to remind you that all the info on the 2016 EBJ Jury members is available here. Go bask in their awesomeness whether you need to or not!
Let’s get this party started.
#1. France (10)
Highest score: 12 (Jaz, Wolfgang)
Lowest score: 8 (James, Nick)
‘I truly believe that if this doesn’t hit the heights of the top 10 in Stockholm, there will officially be something very wrong with the world…or some possible irregularities in the jury/televoting figures.’ (Jaz)
#2. Ukraine (9.78)
Highest score: 12 (James, Jaz, Rory, Wolfgang)
Lowest score: 6 (Nick)
‘Never has there been a more soulful song about the swallowing of souls! I can report that, on more than one occasion, in the course of listening to 1944, I have detected on my upper cheeks the inexplicable presence of salt water.’ (Ali)
#3. Italy (9)
Highest score: 12 (Ali, James, Jaz)
Lowest score: 5 (Martin, Nick)
‘This is gorgeous, and makes me want to get married again just so I can use it as my wedding song.’ (Mrs. Jaz)
#4. Bulgaria (8.67)*
Highest score: 12 (James, Rory)
Lowest score: 5 (Martin)
‘If Love Was a Crime definitely sounds like it comes from the Balkans, but it’s got a smartly-applied layer of Swedish gloss that doesn’t distract from the intended sound (hear that, Cyprus?).’ (Nick)
#5. Croatia (8.67)*
Highest score: 12 (Ali, Penny, Rory)
Lowest score: 4 (Fraser, Nick)
‘It’s a strong Balkan song that, for once, didn’t come from the nostril of Željko Joksimović!’ (Rory)
#6. Iceland (8.6)
Highest score: 12 (James, Martin)
Lowest score: 5 (Mrs. Jaz)
‘What I like about the song is the country style, and that it’s really dynamic and up-tempo. But what makes the difference on the Eurovision stage is its amazing performance.’ (Wolfgang)
#7. Germany (7.78)
Highest score: 12 (Nick)
Lowest score: 4 (Rory)
‘Melancholic lyrics, an atmospheric score and hauntingly powerful vocals were all at odds with the visual package of an 18-year-old girl obsessed with manga outfits!’ (Martin)
#8. Russia (7.44)
Highest score: 12 (Fraser)
Lowest score: 4 (Rory)
‘This is precisely thought-out, clinical and slickly-produced schlager dance, and it is dangerous.’ (Jaz)
#9. Latvia (7.4)
Highest score: 12 (Jaz)
Lowest score: 3 (Rory)
‘I must admit that I like this year’s Latvian song and artist much more than last year’s. Justs really is a great vocal performer, and his song is by far catchier than last year’s injected love.’ (Wolfgang)
#10. Sweden (7.3)
Highest score: 12 (Fraser)
Lowest score: 1 (Rory)
‘If I Were Sorry is in the mould of Sweden’s recent host entries, in that it’s more organic, less precise, and simplified in comparison to the stuff they send when they’re competing on foreign ground.’ (Jaz)
#11. Malta (7.22)
Highest score: 10 (Fraser, James, Martin, Wolfgang)
Lowest score: 3 (Nick, Rory)
‘It was definitely the right decision to change songs for Malta! Walk On Water makes full use of Ira’s amazing vocal ability and range, combining it with a much more contemporary sound that is radio-friendly enough to stay in voter’s memories far past Eurovision.’ (Martin)
#12. Austria (7.11)
Highest score: 12 (Ali, Wolfgang)
Lowest score: 4 (Nick)
‘Those who glibly dismiss this song as ‘cotton candy’, ‘girly’, and calculatedly faux-nostalgic have failed to see the wood for the trees.’ (Ali)
#13. Belgium (7.1)
Highest score: 12 (Ali, Rory)
Lowest score: 2 (Nick, Wolfgang)
‘This is right up my street – a song that has me yelling ‘Somebody get me some roller skates and take me back to the disco era, ASAP!’. (Mrs. Jaz)
#14. Estonia (7)*
Highest score: 12 (Ali)
Lowest score: 4 (Nick)
‘It’s definitely one of the most original songs in this year’s line-up, and it’s fresh and relevant whilst oozing the kind of timeless classiness that Estonia are so good at of late.’ (James)
#15. Azerbaijan (7)*
Highest score: 12 (Wolfgang)
Lowest score: 4 (Rory)
‘Sometimes there are songs that need some time until I like them much, but then there are songs that I love from the very first moment. Samra’s entry belongs in the latter category.’ (Wolfgang)
#16. Czech Republic (6.89)
Highest score: 12 (James, Rory)
Lowest score: 2 (Ali)
‘Gabriela is more used to singing rock and gothic songs, but this is a really pleasant departure from her comfort zone. The lush beats and strings really bring out the best in her vocals.’ (Rory)
#17. Switzerland (6.8)
Highest score: 12 (Wolfgang)
Lowest score: 1 (Rory)
‘I’m a ballad fan if said ballad fits my definition of ‘decent’, and Last of Our Kind definitely does.’ (Mrs. Jaz)
#18. Spain (6.78)
Highest score: 12 (Fraser)
Lowest score: 1 (Ali)
‘Overall, I find this a little wallpaper-like. It’s there and it’s nice, but I’m not going to be paying that much attention to it when there’s opulent statement furniture elsewhere in the room.’ (Jaz)
#19. United Kingdom (6.7)
Highest score: 10 (Rory)
Lowest score: 3 (James)
‘It’s pleasant to listen to, but reeks of the kind of song that backs a movie trailer or montage of some kind. If the Rio Olympic organisers are after a song that can soundtrack ‘The Top 10 Team Efforts of the XX-whatever Olympiad’, then they should look no further than Joe & Jake’s.’ (Jaz)
#20. Serbia (6.55)*
Highest score: 12 (Martin, Penny)
Lowest score: 3 (Ali)
‘The song is pleasant enough to listen to, but when it comes to the subject matter – domestic violence – I just feel like it’s ripping off András Kallay-Saunders, but with a more mature vibe to it.’ (Rory)
#21. Lithuania (6.55)*
Highest score: 10 (Fraser, Wolfgang)
Lowest score: 3 (Ali, Rory)
‘Yes, this has ‘Melfest Reject’ written all over it, but you know what? I don’t mind at all.’ (James)
#22. Israel (6.5)
Highest score: 10 (Jaz)
Lowest score: 2 (James)
‘The build of the song resembles somehow the ‘drama queen’ ballad by Conchita from 2014, only this one goes nowhere and suddenly ends when you expect more to come.’ (Wolfgang)
#23. Australia (6.44)*
Highest score: 10 (Fraser)
Lowest score: 2 (Nick)
‘Dami is definitely destined to get at least a respectable placing in Stockholm, but there’s something missing that means she will not win Eurovision.’ (Martin)
#24. Armenia (6.44)*
Highest score: 12 (Penny, Rory)
Lowest score: 2 (Nick)
‘LoveWave has a lot of interesting parts – mainly the music and the structure – but it never coalesces like it should.’ (Nick)
#25. Hungary (6.33)
Highest score: 12 (Wolfgang)
Lowest score: 1 (Nick)
‘I couldn’t remember what this song sounded like until listening to over forty ranking videos. And although I can now remember what (part of) it sounds like, I don’t understand how it’s in almost everyone’s top 10.’ (Penny)
#26. Poland (6.22)
Highest score: 10 (Wolfgang)
Lowest score: 2 (Nick)
‘It is a beautiful and timeless classic entry that easily could have been in any other ESC in the past. Every time I listen to Color of Your Life it grows on me and gives me goosebumps.’ (Wolfgang)
#27. Finland (5.89)
Highest score: 10 (Ali)
Lowest score: 3 (Nick, Wolfgang)
‘Sandhja’s song did all it could do at Eurovision – it served as an excellent-but-disposable show opener, so easily sacrificed that it might be better for us to think of it as part of the first semi’s opening act than as an actual competition song.’ (Jaz)
#28. Slovenia (5.78)
Highest score: 10 (Ali, Fraser)
Lowest score: 2 (Jaz, Wolfgang)
‘A lyric like “blue is blue, and red is red” definitely isn’t winning any songwriting awards, but it fits the air of naïveté that the song so beautifully creates.’ (Nick)
#29. Cyprus (5.7)
Highest score: 7 (Ali, James, Martin, Penny, Rory)
Lowest score: 2 (Fraser)
‘I think I’d need further listens to appreciate this, but as I got bored halfway through this one (I zoned out and did some online shopping during the last 90 seconds) I’m not too keen to hear it again.’ (Mrs. Jaz)
#30. Greece (5.67)
Highest score: 10 (Rory)
Lowest score: 3 (Fraser, James)
‘Overall, it’s a non-dynamic, non-event kind of entry, with lame English lyrics and far too much repetition.’ (Jaz)
#31. The Netherlands (5.55)
Highest score: 10 (Penny)
Lowest score: 3 (James, Rory, Wolfgang)
‘It’s supposed to make you feel happy, but by the third line I just want to Sellotape Bob’s smug little mouth shut so he actually “can’t go on”.’ (James)
#32. FYR Macedonia (5.44)*
Highest score: 12 (James)
Lowest score: 1 (Nick)
‘I didn’t have high expectations of Kaliopi’s second official ESC entry given that I didn’t love her first…and as expected, I like this even less.’ (Jaz)
#33. Bosnia & Herzegovina (5.44)*
Highest score: 8 (Wolfgang)
Lowest score: 4 (Ali, Fraser, James)
‘I think I might be getting tired of the Balkan ballad formula, because I can’t find that ‘magical’ aspect in the verses, despite them being performed well. Also, I’m still trying to get over the fact that Deen’s face has morphed into an Easter Island moai head…’ (Penny)
#34. Albania (5.33)
Highest score: 8 (Rory)
Lowest score: 2 (Nick)
‘What was a powerful and passionate emotional rollercoaster, with lots of interesting nuances in Tirana, has now become a repetitive low-key ballad that no longer holds my attention.’ (Martin)
#35. Georgia (5.3)
Highest score: 10 (Ali)
Lowest score: 1 (Fraser, Wolfgang)
‘Immediately this sounds like some average 90s Brit-pop band is making a comeback. There is nothing that sounds remotely Eurovision about it.’ (Fraser)
#36. Ireland (5.22)*
Highest score: 10 (Martin)
Lowest score: 1 (Nick)
‘Everything about this screams desperate, from the wannabe 2013 Avicii composition to the recycling of 90s “heart-throb” Nicky Byrne to screech-er, I mean, sing it.’ (Nick)
#37. Denmark (5.22)*
Highest score: 8 (Fraser, Jaz, Penny)
Lowest score: 2 (Ali)
‘I want this to melt my marshmallows, but all it does is brown them ever-so-slightly. Basically, it’s perfectly fine, and therefore very vanilla.’ (Jaz)
#38. Moldova (5.11)
Highest score: 8 (James, Wolfgang)
Lowest score: 2 (Fraser)
‘Falling Stars is the sort of song that a DJ might put on as filler before a killer tune is played.’ (Martin)
#39. Norway (4.89)
Highest score: 10 (Jaz)
Lowest score: 1 (Nick)
‘I can see how many people could enjoy the metaphor that Agnete’s going to be the ship to free us all from the ice we’ve been stuck in…but the song just leaves me feeling empty.’ (Rory)
#40. Belarus (4.8)
Highest score: 7 (Jaz, Mrs. Jaz, Penny)
Lowest score: 1 (Nick, Wolfgang)
‘This song is easy to sing along to, and not bad as a bit of background music. I’m struggling to see how it has anything to do with wolves…but hey, this is Eurovision, so who cares!’ (Fraser)
#41. Montenegro (3.78)
Highest score: 8 (Ali, Jaz)
Lowest score: 0 (Wolfgang)
‘Deep voices aren’t usually my thing to begin with, and especially not when I’m being crooned at with such lyrics as ‘I’m gonna run, gonna feel good.’ Assuage me of fears that does not, and it really harms what could’ve been a strong entry.’ (Nick)
#42. Romania (3.22)
Highest score: 7 (Martin, Penny)
Lowest score: 0 (James, Wolfgang)
‘To get straight to the point with Romania in one word: HORRIBLE! Just horrible!’ (Wolfgang)
#43. San Marino (2.44)
Highest score: 8 (Ali)
Lowest score: 0 (James, Wolfgang)
‘I had hoped for a trumpet-backed, updated version of Mambo No. 5 from Serhat, which would have been a bit of fun. But what we got instead more closely resembles something you’d step in by mistake at the local dog park.’ (Jaz)
*Tie broken via Twitter poll.
Sadly, as we know, France couldn’t translate their OGAE poll win into a Eurovision win (although given that Amir’s sixth is their best result since 2002, we can probably loosen the definition of ‘win’ a little). However, they steamrolled ahead of actual champ Ukraine to claim another prestigious prize here. In fact, who needs OGAE poll results when you’ve got the hugely-delayed results of some random blog’s jury voting in your favour? Not France, that’s (not at all) for sure.
That was my long-winded and delusional way of congratulating Amir for taking out the top spot in the EBJJ vote for 2016. As aforementioned, Jamala was hot on his heels, and creeping up on her in turn were Francesca from Italy and Poli from Bulgaria. Rounding out our top 5 (though this one had nothing to do with me) was Croatia’s Nina, who didn’t need to win here as she recently won the most coveted prize of them all: the Barbara Dex Award. Reaching the latter heights of the top ten = Iceland, Germany, Russia, Latvia and Sweden. High fives and metaphorical gift baskets go out to those guys too!
I would like to point out that my kick-ass jury, while not psychic, managed to predict Bulgaria’s future by ranking Poli 4th. We also got pretty darn close with our positioning of Austria in 12th (Zoë came 13th). Overall, as you’ll see in a second when I compare our ranking to the official outcome/s, we did very well when it came to predicting who’d end up in the final, even if we weren’t too top-notch on the specifics. A correct guess wasn’t what we were aiming for anyway – our reviews and scores were based on personal opinions, not which entries we thought would triumph or crash and burn.
EBJ versus ESC: Let’s compare the pair!
23 of the countries in our top 26 appeared in the actual final. Six were already there (the automatic finalists and hosts Sweden, of course), but the remaining seventeen were correctly, collectively predicted by the EBJ jury. If I could pat my entire team of Eurovision experts on the back right now, I would.
Estonia, who were awarded the dishonour of placing 42nd out of 42, were ranked 14th with us – and I personally think they deserved to be closer to 14th than 42nd. But I’m totally over it. Whatever.
Our highest-ranked non-qualifier was Iceland in 6th place. As we all know now, Greta Salóme missed out on a Saturday night spot by a mile rather than a millimeter – she placed 14th in her semi.
13 of the countries we considered non-final material turned out to be exactly that. We did underestimate the Cypriot, Dutch and Georgian abilities to advance, but 13 out of 16 is pretty impressive regardless. A lot more impressive than the 6 out of 10 that I personally rightly predicted before semi final 1. But the less people who know about that, the better. Don’t expect me to confess that online any time soon.
The EBJ Jury’s lowest-ranked qualifier of the abovementioned three was Georgia, in 35th place. I’m going to take most of the credit for seeing something in Nika and his not-actually-that-young Lolitaz that few others did.
Looking down the list, you can see that the EBJ Jury greatly underrated the likes of Australia, Armenia and Poland. Conversely, we overrated Italy, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. We also placed Germany in our top 10, and therein lies the difference between voting mainly on the merit of a song, and voting based on a manga-marinated visual version of that song.
And now, because this post has gone on way too long in traditional Jaz style, I’m going to stop observing and start winding things up. If you have any further observations re: the EBJJ or actual top 43/42, though, you know my comments section is always open for business!
In a few days’ time (I swear to Mr. God) I’ll be asking you for even more opinions – only all you’ll need to do then is click a bunch of times. Translated, that means the EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence – 2016 edition – are imminent, and that the People’s Choice polls are just about ready for public viewing and voting. Say yay yay yay!
What? Barei would. Be like Barei.