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.
It’s true – the Titanic wouldn’t have stood a chance against the massive, metaphorical chunk of ice (or ‘frozen water’ as Agnete likes to call it) that is This Weekend. Leonardo DiCaprio would still have died and Kate Winslet would still have let him go…but we’d all be partying like it’s 2017, because it is, and super-duper busy NF weekends like this one are Awesome with a capital A.
Don’t believe me re: the crazy schedule for Saturday and Sunday? Here’s the evidence:
- 18/2 Estonia’s Eesti Laul – semi final two (feat. Daniel Levi, Koit Toome & Laura, Kerli + Liis Lemsalu)
- 18/2 Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – heat seven (feat. Edgaras Lubys + Gabrielius Vagelis)
- 18/2 Slovenia’s EMA – semi final two (feat. Clemens, BQL + Ina Shai)
- 18/2 Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – semi final three (feat. Robin Bengtsson, Krista Siegfrids + FO&O)
- 18/2 Ukraine’s Vidbir – semi final three (feat. Payushchie Trusy + Green Grey)
- 18/2 Hungary’s A Dal – the final (feat. Gigi Radics, Joci Pápai + Kállay Saunders Band)
- 18/2 Malta’s MESC – the final (feat. Klinsmann, Kevin Borg, Maxine Pace + Richard Edwards)
- 18/2 Poland’s Krajowe Eliminajce – the final (feat. Martin Fitch, Kasia Mós + Carmell)
- 19/2 Latvia’s Supernova – the semi final (feat. Lauris Valters, My Radiant You + Triana Park)
- 19/2 Portugal’s Festival da Canção – semi final one (feat. Golden Slumbers + Rui Drumond)
There you go – CHAOS. Wonderful, wonderful chaos.
As I keep saying, I can’t discuss every single selection show without taking on an army of assistants to type at 200 words a minute for free (any takers?), so it’s time to get picky. Choosing which semis and finals to cover is like choosing a favourite child – not hard if you’re honest with yourself (that’s what my mum said, anyway, when she handed me the ‘No. 1 Kid’ sash and a bouquet of flowers. Don’t tell my brother). Ergo, this was an easy narrow-down for me.
Though three of this weekend’s shows will produce Eurovision entries, I’m only reviewing one of them – Hungary’s A Dal – and, of course, I’m going to take a good look at Melodifestivalen’s third semi too. So let’s get on with it!
SWEDEN | Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Växjö we go…for Melfest, that is!
You know what they say – another Saturday in February, another Melodifestivalen Deltävling.
This time it’s nummer tre, and I’ve got to say, it’s not a third-time-lucky sort of situation. Meaning this heat is the weakest so far, music-wise. Made up of two returnees and a record high (for 2017, at least) of five debutants, it’s probably going to be the most difficult semi to predict. Which stars will shine for the first or second time, and which will fall?
I have no effing idea.
- I Can’t Go On by Robin Bengtsson
- Snurra Min Jord by Krista Siegfrids
- Kiss You Goodbye by Anton Hagman
- Gravity by Jasmine Kara
- Boogieman Blues by Owe Thörnqvist
- Crucified by Bella & Filippa
- Gotta Thing About You by FO&O
We’ve got funk pop, dance pop, acoustic pop, country pop, boy band pop and Owe. Lacklustre overall song standard aside (compared to the previous two semis) it’s certainly going to be a variety show – and hopefully one with a happy ending.
My top four
- I Can’t Go On – If Constellation Prize was a romantic seduction song, and I Can’t Go On is the raunchy post-seduction sequel, then should we await the third installment in a trilogy from Robin in 2018 entitled something like It’s Over, You Evil Bitch? Yes or no, Mr. Bengtsson can do no wrong in my eyes. I did expect something better from this collab of Robins (Robin Stjernberg co-wrote the song, and he’s definitely marked his territory) but I suspect this will benefit from being heard and seen in full.
- Snurra Min Jord – Both of Krista’s Melfest entries have been much more plain-Jane than Marry Me. As with Faller, I do really like this one, but there’s nothing particularly special about it that gives it the edge to make Andra Chansen, let alone the final. But lycka till Krista all the same.
- Crucified – Is it just me or has this song borrowed half its lyrics from Wiktoria’s Save Me? Regardless, it’s as sweet and light as a sorbet in summertime. Repetitive (and a possible female rip-off of Darin’s Lagom) it may be, but it has an undeniable charm.
- Gotta Thing About You – I thought I was getting too old for teen boy band fodder, but apparently the flame’s still flickering in my bitter quarter-century old body. This is not a musical masterpiece, but was anyone expecting it to be? The FOOO Conspiracy FO&O fans will eat this up, and that little light-up heart in the corner of the screen will be on the verge of a myocardial infarction.
- Kiss You Goodbye – And here we have Sweden’s answer to Shawn Mendes. This song can’t hold a candle to Stitches or Mercy, but it’s cute. I like how it begins in an acoustic, alternative kind of way before launching into a more straightforward pop chorus. Also, who is Anton’s dentist?
- Gravity – I’m not sure if I like this or not. Jasmine has a great voice, great style, and a great name (even if we’re not total name twins since she’s got that ‘e’ on the end) but Gravity seems like a mixed bag of bits and pieces that don’t, ahem, come together to form a cohesive whole. I’m keen to see her perform it live.
- Boogieman Blues – This is EXACTLY what I thought it was going to be. For those of you who don’t like surprises and do like retro tunes from ageing popstars, this is for you. But it’s not for me.
Who’s going direkt? Robin Bengtsson + FO&O. Perhaps this is a predictable prediction – and I’d like things to go in a more jaw-dropping direction – but Melfest is, at times, predictable. SVT hand out the first and final performance spots to the big guns, and said big guns usually find themselves progressing as a result. Robin Bengtsson won his heat over Ace Wilder last year, and he’s got the goods to win again now, but with a weaker song and against weaker competition. FO&O’s song screams Andra Chansen, but there’s nothing else up against it (besides I Can’t Go On) that necessarily has what it takes to nab a place in the final instead.
Who’s off to Andra Chansen? Anton Hagman + Jasmine Kara. Krista Siegfrids is also in the mix here, but as she placed last in the telling audience poll after yesterday’s rehearsals, I suspect she’ll miss out and finish fifth at the highest. Bella & Filippa are underdogs. Anton and Jasmine, I think, can make enough of an impression and gain enough momentum to score themselves a second chance each – but I’m skeptical of their chances of making it out of AC at this point.
What do you think? Do we have an obvious outcome on our hands in Växjö, or will there be an upset feat. some Melfest first-timers? Let me know below.
HUNGARY | Eight becomes one tonight…but who’ll be The One?
I’ve been known to proclaim that many selection show finals are worth sacrificing for Melfest, because the music in a Melfest semi often outdoes that of other countries’ finals. But I have to say, I seriously considered ditching Sweden’s third semi in favour of tuning in to A Dal tonight.
By ‘seriously’, I mean ‘for a split second’, because I am a devout Melodifestivalist from way back. However, I will be watching the last episode of A Dal on delay just to experience its pure excellence.
After three heats and two semi finals, thirty songs have been trimmed down to just eight – and IMO, two of these are good, one is very good, and the other five are amazing. How often does that happen? About as often as Loreen releases a studio album.
Here’s the (unordered) line-up of the Hungarian final, which I realise might not seem so sensational to fans less easily-pleased than me.
- Hosszú Idők by Totova & Freddie Shuman feat. Begi Lotfi
- See It Through by Gigi Radics
- Fall Like Rain by Gina Kanizsa
- Origo by Joci Pápai
- Seventeen by Kállay Saunders Band
- Élet by Leander Kills
- Kalandor by Soulwave
- #háttérzaj by Zävodi & Olivér Berkes
Hungary clearly has faith in their own language, as Hungarian lyrics make up more than half of what we’ll hear tonight. They should, because a) it’s a gorgeous language, and b) it hasn’t stopped them from succeeding at Eurovision (Kinek Mondjam El Vétkeimet and Kedvesem, I bow to the both of you). That’s part of what makes this final so great in my eyes, but if you want more details, keep reading for my ranking of all eight finalists.
My top eight
- Origo – I AM IN LOVE. This track had me hypnotised before I’d even reached the chorus the first time I listened to it, and though I’m trying to accept that it’s probably 2017’s Győz A Jó (the slick, edgy ethno-pop entry that won’t win and will be sadly missed at Eurovision), my hopes of a win are still alive. Infectious and exotic but still on-trend (right down – or up – to Joci’s man-bun), Origo is OMG.
- Hosszú Idők – Here we have another song that manages to combine mysterious ethnicity with modern pop. Basically, it’s an ethno-pop power ballad. Though Totova gets slightly screamy performing it live, I can’t deny that it makes a mark, and that I could get on board with it winning even though it’s not my favourite.
- See It Through – A Disney ballad straight out of the early 2000s (Christina Aguilera sang it on the Mulan soundtrack, didn’t she?) should not work in 2017. But Gigi is such a showstopping singer with more onstage emotion than an Elina Born who wasn’t woken up, she makes it work. I would advise against the huge hair for the final, without which you’ll have a perfect package, Gigi.
- Seventeen – Last year, András and his band destroyed the brilliant Who We Are This year, they’ve done much better lives with a more pedestrian – but still extra-enjoyable – song. The Billie Jean reference is tired, but that’s my only complaint about this polished, well-produced and non-cheesy love song.
- #háttérzaj – What musical style doesn’t suit Hungarian? It totally gels in this bluesy, laid-back piano ballad. The only bother I have here is the hashtag title, which begs the question WHY GOD, WHY?!?!?
- Élet – Hard rock isn’t often my thing, but the dynamic nature of É let is interesting in a good way. There’s a soft piano intro, subdued verses and powerful choruses, and it’s almost like riding on a slow rollercoaster. There are plenty of ups and downs, but it doesn’t make you nauseous and you’re a little sad when you have to get off.
- Kalandor – Eurovision already has a folksy song for the year, and I’m not sure this one has the strength to win A Dal anyway, but it’s nice easy-listening, elevated by the fact that it’s not in English.
- Fall Like Rain – While I can acknowledge that this is a good song, I find it quite dated (and there are times when I just want Gina to shut up). I don’t think it’s the best choice Hungary can make in terms of a Eurovision entry, but I like the haunting, spiritual feel and the originality.
Now, as A Dal will make one more cut before congratulating a winner, it’s time to think about who’ll make it through the jury voting round – then be paraded in front of the public, who are the ultimate decision-makers (a good way to operate an NF, isn’t it, Spain?).
Predicting the top four I’m thinking Totova etc, Joci Pápai, Gigi Radics + Gina Kanizsa. There’s potential bumping space for Kállay Saunders Band or Leander Kills, in which case I think Gigi or Gina will miss out on the final four. But, based on the results of the heats and semis, this should be a safe bet for the top four (not that I’m actually betting. For someone who struggles to get things 50% correct, it’s a bad idea). Totova and guests plus Pápai are shoo-ins.
Who’s in it to win it? It looks like another Freddie (albeit a far less attractive one than 2016’s) will be heading to Kyiv on behalf of Hungary in May, as part of Totova’s posse. Hosszu Idők is a recipe with all the right ingredients to rise to the top, and has had the jury and public support in past weeks that it needs to fly through both stages of the comp tonight. I will be surprised if it doesn’t win.
If you’re as hungry for Hungary this year as I am, then you’ll have something to say about A Dal – so spill! Is this ticket to Eurovision Totova’s to lose, or should she be watching her back? Is there any chance András Kállay Saunders will make it to Eurovision again this year (Seventeen for 2017)? Give up your internal gossip in the comments.
Of course, if you want to chat about anything else that’s happening in the ESC bubble this weekend, I’m all ears. If you want to have an intense conversation about your personal problems, I may not be the best person to talk to, so stick with Eurovision for now. You can always book an appointment later with the same therapist you saw after Objetivo Eurovisión concluded last weekend…
Enjoy all of the national final action ahead, guys – I’ll see you on the other side when we have three more songs for Ukraine!
It’s almost the end of January (holy Helena Paparizou!), but it doesn’t seem like much has happened during national final season. We’ve still got forty Eurovision 2017 entries to find and/or hear (forty-one if you include Albania’s Botë undergoing an extreme makeover) and the weekend finals are drip-dropping through Safura-style – not flooding in like they will in February.
But remember, not all of the interesting stuff is related to end results. We’re at a point in time when NF participants are consistently being unveiled, music is being released, heats are being held (or postponed, in Hungary’s case – my thoughts are with everybody affected by that tragic bus crash on Saturday) and news is breaking. So it’s been a more exciting month than it might seem! There’s been highs, lows, claims of plagiarism…basically, it’s your bog standard selection season, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
I’m going to celebrate that today by singling out some of my favourite and least favourite parts of the glittery pathway to Kyiv to date. Anything NF-related was up for grabs, so read on to find out who/what has made me shed sneaky tears of both happiness and sadness as I bow before the Eurovision shrine I have in my bedroom (am I joking? You’ll never know MWAHAHAHA). Be sure to share your personal highlights and lowlights with me when you’re done!
The blonde bombshell is back! Anja Nissen’s return to DMGP
About a year ago, when The Voice Australia winner Anja Nissen was announced as a participant in Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2016, I was over the moon thinking that I might be able to cheer for not one, but TWO Aussies while in Stockholm. That would have given my ‘Strayan flag a workout. But it wasn’t meant to be, despite Anja producing a flawless performance of Never Alone on the night (to be honest, Simone and her Heart Shaped Hole ended up being what I was crossing my fingers for anyway…so I was still devastated by the outcome). But our girl must have been buoyed by her second-place finish, because she’s back – hopefully with a) a bang, and b) the big guns! I’ve been so down in the dumps over Oscar Zia – Melodifestivalen’s most recent runner-up – saving himself for a beyond-2017 comeback, I didn’t stop to consider who else around Europe might give Eurovision glory another go. Now, ‘Danish Star Wars Episode II: Anja’s Return’ is a sequel I’m going to be first in line to see, and I really want it to be better than the original. In other words, without knowing how Anja’s competition measures up, I WANT HER TO WIN. She’ll be belting out Where I Am, a song co-written by X Factor Australia alumnus Angel Tupai, on February 25th at the Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning. I cannot wait.
First-time native tongue: Belarus’ golden ticket goes to a Belarusian song
It sounds strange to say it, but we’ve never had the Belarusian language on the adult Eurovision stage before. We’ve heard Crimean Tatar once and made-up stuff THREE times (Belgium’s a big fan) but between 2004 and 2016, it was heavily-accented English all the way for Belarus. Those of us who are Junior Eurovision fans might feel like that’s even less true, as all the Belarusian we’ve been exposed to there blends in with the country’s thirteen past ESC entries. And I have to mention their debut My Galileo, which, as a friend and I were joking about bitchily on Twitter the other day, may as well have been in a LOTE. But the freshly-crowned winners of a ticket to Kyiv known as NAVI will become the first act to head into our favourite musical battle armed with a song in Belarusian. That’s assuming the duo don’t do an English re-write of Historyja Majho Žyccia – but, as they’re famed for their folksy, 100% foreign-language back catalogue, it’s unlikely. As much as they might benefit from throwing a token English chorus in at the end, I’d encourage them not to. With English taking over at the ESC these days, singing in something else makes you stand out and diminishes the same-same effect of one non-ethnic, all-English song after another. Keep us happy by staying true to your style, NAVI. Pretty please?
A Dal delivers the goods once again: My discovery of Deák
You guys know that I’m hopelessly devoted to Melodifestivalen – but that doesn’t mean I don’t have any vacancies in the hotel of my heart for other national finals. I love both MGPs, I love MESC, I love Eesti Laul…and I absolutely adore Hungary’s A Dal. Like Estonia, Hungary always offers a handful of songs that are interesting and experimental, and don’t sound like anything you’ve heard anywhere else. The song I want to draw attention to right now popped up early in the first heat of A Dal, and though it does remind me of various K-pop songs I’ve listened to in the past (stylistically) it’s not a cookie-cutter copy of something else…and I have to admit, I don’t think we’d ever hear anything quite like it in Melfest. It’s called Deák, it’s by Spoon 21 (who competed in A Dal a few years ago with a totally different track) and though I know I’m calling it early, it may end up being my gem of this selection season. This sort of silky-smooth, anthemic synth-pop is so far up my street, one more millimetre and it’d be in the next neighbourhood. It had me at hello (a.k.a. the initial snippet of that hypnotic chorus) and I’ve been obsessed ever since. Okay, so Spoon’s live performance was questionable (not visually, but vocally). And, as they squeezed through to the semi stages in equal second place, they’re not going to win the whole thing even if they manage to make the final. But who cares? One of the things I love about NF season is how it allows us to discover truckloads of awesome new music from all over the continent that we can enjoy for the rest of our lives (or until we’re tired of it thanks to overplayage). Onto my ‘Best of the 2017 NFs’ playlist you go, Deák.
No more Mr. Nice Guys: Denmark’s ban on boy bands
If you’re confused right now, I understand. Not only have I made my unconditional love of boy bands (or man bands…the only differences between the two are time, voice depth and facial hair) as clear as Petra Mede’s now-infamous ‘let’s come together’ joke – I also just mentioned that I’ve fallen head-over-heels for an NF entry performed by a boy band. Yet I’m thrilled that Denmark is treating singing groups made up of males like vampires and refusing to invite them in? What the Emmelie de Forest is going on? Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve been desperate for a change in Denmark after two ESC non-qualifications in a row – and what’s the obvious alteration, given that the common chain-link between The Way You Are and Soldiers of Love is the amount and gender of their performers? Dictate that DMGP 2017 will be a boy/man band-free zone, of course. Yes, Denmark did very well with A Friend In London back in 2011; but it seems like they were the exception rather than the rule. A self-imposed vacation from groups lacking in ladies (and, as a matter of fact, groups WITH girl power) will ensure they’re sending something different – artist-wise, at least – to Kyiv. Maybe we’ll see them back in the top ten as a result.
And finally, the one that transformed us all into living, sobbing sadface emojis…
Gone girl: Amaya’s withdrawal from Evrovizijska Melodija 😦
Besides Ace Wilder and Anja Nissen, there was another female singer starting with A who I was super-excited to see potentially win her chosen national final. Well, her new and improved stage name starts with A, anyway. We knew her as Maja Keuc when she slayed on the ESC stage in 2011 (in one of my most lusted-after contest costumes of all time) and six years later, the time was supposed to be right for Amaya to make a comeback in Slovenia. Unfortunately, she’s decided that a different career opportunity that clashes with EMA must take priority (DAMN HER) and so, is out of the running on her own terms (DOUBLE DAMN HER). Just when my brain had established that she’d win by a landslide, flit off to Eurovision and secure Slovenia’s first ESC trophy, or at least a place on the podium! And do it all in another spectacular outfit. Talk about leaving us all with one-way tickets to What-ifs-ville USA. As someone who believes that everything – or almost everything – happens for a reason, I’m going to assume that Amaya: 2017 Edition just ain’t meant to be because something better is in her future. Meaning she’ll be back again (re-back? Alexander Re-back?) with something even more epic up her stylish sleeve than she had prepared this time. That attitude, of course, doesn’t stop me from mourning the loss of her from this year’s EMA line-up…hence why I’m complaining about it to you now. Join me, won’t you?
What have you enjoyed most about the Eurovision 2017 selection season so far? Which songs, acts and results have had you jumping for joy – or doing the opposite (whatever that is)? Let me know in the comments below!
Välkommen to the fourth and final Super Saturday of February!
There are a few more national final-filled weekends to come, but this is the last that we can honestly label as ‘Super’, ‘Frantic’, or in extreme cases, ‘So *Insert F-Bomb Here* busy, I can’t *Insert F-Bomb Here Also* handle it, so I’m off to live in an uninhabited cave in the Himalayas’. Enjoy!
Here’s what’s on the menu tonight. I hope you’re hungry.
- Finland’s UMK – the final
- Hungary’s A Dal – the final
- Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – the eighth show
- Moldova’s O Melodie Pentru Europa – the final
- Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix – the final
- Slovenia’s EMA – the final
- Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the fourth semi final
And, of course, there’s an after-dinner mint on Sunday, if you can squeeze it in:
- Latvia’s Supernova – the final
As usual, I’m not certifiably insane enough to tackle talking about every NF taking place tonight, so I’m picking a few favourites to review and predict – specifically, Hungary, Norway, and *completely unnecessary drum roll* Sweden. If you’re keen to check out what I have to say re: their line-ups, and would like to know who I think will win/qualify, read on. If not, what are you even doing here? This is what goes down on EBJ. Would you like someone to drop by your house unexpectedly only to criticise the wallpaper and the cleanliness of your toilet?
I DIDN’T THINK SO.
But I digress. Let’s kick things off with some thoughts on the songs that have become Eurovision entries since last Saturday.
STOCKHOLM SHENANIGANS: The Class of 2016, plus five
Plus five featuring some damn good songs at that. Four of the following tracks triumphed at national finals held last weekend, and during the week just gone; one was revealed in the wake of the artist’s internal selection. I’ll let you figure out which is which, because it’s extremely obvious and you already know anyway and man, I need to get some sleep after this.
- Alter Ego by Minus One (Cyprus) I probably wouldn’t have picked this as a G:son creation had I known squat about the identity of its songwriters. That’s not a good or bad thing. I mean, clearly, this is no Euphoria, but it’s not supposed to be – it’s supposed to be a Minus One song, and it does work in that way. However, although the chorus is catchy, I don’t know how far Alter Ego will carry Cyprus.
- Ghost by Jamie-Lee Kriewitz (Germany) Jamie-Lee, who could have competed in JESC until recently (and currently dresses like she should) is taking her Voice of Germany winner’s single to Stockholm, and ich liebe es. I’d like her to ditch the K-pop costume for Eurovision since it doesn’t suit the song at all, but apart from that, she’s got a voice (THE voice, in fact) and song to grab Germany a result they won’t be ashamed of.
- Hear Them Calling by Greta Salóme (Iceland) In a plot twist that no one saw coming, the favourite to win Söngvakeppnin WON Söngvakeppnin. Pick those jaws up off the floor, people! I have three things to say about this: 1) The staging is boss, and no, it’s not a do-over of Heroes (‘inspiration’ is very different to ‘imitation’); 2) The song is quirky and folksy in a beautifully Icelandic way; and 3) Why did they have to ruin that beauty by switching to English?
- 1944 by Jamala (Ukraine) I’m still receiving therapy due to the trauma I experienced watching the Ukrainian final, and part of the treatment involves my doctor telling me over and over again that JAMALA WON IT! Sure, I could have come to terms with The Hardkiss or NuAngels taking the ticket, but I’m thrilled that in the end (when it finally, mercifully came), the incredible Jamala and the emotion-heavy-yet-edgy 1944 were on top. Let’s hope nothing more than the title and a few lyrics – if anything – have to be altered to fit the EBU’s rules and regs.
- You’re Not Alone by Joe & Jake (United Kingdom) If you follow me on Twitter (HINT HINT) you’ll already know how I felt about the UK final – the first held since 2010. If not, then I’ll recap in a more polite way by saying it wasn’t of the highest possible quality. Off to Eurovision is one of the two or three (at a push) songs that I didn’t despise, so that’s good news. What isn’t good news is it’s also a song that sounds like it should be in the background of something – a heartwarming movie montage or a compilation of teamwork-oriented Olympic moments. But I’ll give it time to grow. PS – Joe’s cute. Call me even though I just insulted your song?
What do you think of the latest songs to be selected? Is there a Eurovision winner among them? While you’re deciding, I’m going to leave the pre-existing entries behind and move on to the possible entries from Hungary, Norway, and our hosts Sweden.
HUNGARY: A Dal not dal at all as it reaches its conclusion
There’s no doubt about it: when you have an eight-song final, and only one of those eight songs is crap, that’s the dictionary definition of a brilliant show. Of course, that’s seven very good songs and one rubbish one in my opinion…but that’s the only one that matters to me.
Just kidding. I care what you think, person reading this! So how does this final look/sound to you?
- Trouble In My Mind by Petruska
- Győz a Jó by Gergő Olah
- Who We Are by Kállay Saunders Band
- Uncle Tom by Mushu
- Why by André Vásáry
- Pioneer by Freddie
- Már Nem Szédülök by Parno Graszt
- Seven Seas by Olivér Berkes & Andi Tóth
Based on the impressive content of their recent NFs, Hungary has convinced me they’re on track to win Eurovision within the next five years. I don’t think we’re off to Budapest quite yet, but I think they’ll be back in the final for the fifth time running in May – and who knows how high a rung they could reach on the scoreboard then? If they want back on the left-hand side (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) here are my recommendations in the form of a personal top four:
- Pioneer This is the kind of music Eurovision needs more of: gritty, powerful, meaningful pop-fusion performed by chiseled Hungarians who I sincerely hope are single. I realise that’s quite specific (and shallow) so let’s just make it an ESC requirement for Hungary on this occasion.
- Győz a Jó Ethnic R & B feat. sand? That’s a surefire recipe for success, as I have now discovered thanks to Gergő. This song is far superior to his last A Dal entry in my mind, because it has it all. And any man who can pull off a bright red suit with ease deserves a round of applause.
- Who We Are Never mind Ira Losco – it’s András who’s the true chameleon. This is his third appearance in A Dal, and once again, he’s visually and aurally unrecognisable. That man-bun is the stage equivalent of Clark Kent removing his spectacles. Together with his band (as they are so named) he’s delivering multi-faceted and very cool pop-rock straight to our door, and I’m keen on it.
- Trouble In My Mind THIS IS SO CUTE. Cute in a grown-up, totally-ready-to-charm-Europe kind of way. That is all.
I’m pretty confident that one of the above four will win tonight. Petruska and Freddie won their respective semis, so it’s probably down to those two FTW – but a last-second surprise isn’t out of the question. There’s an outside chance for András Kállay Saunders, his band, and his practically non-existent singlet (not complaining) to win, and I can see Seven Seas sneaking into contention as well. This should be a final well worth watching, no matter the outcome.
So…are you going to make an official prediction, or not? Hold your horses! I’m getting there. I think the top four, determined by the in-studio jury, will be comprised of Petruska, Kallay Saunders Band, Freddie and Gergő (alternatively, Olivér/Andi could pop up instead of KS Band or Gergő). I think – and hope – we’ll see Freddie in Stockholm. But if Petruska pips him at the post, I won’t be mad. How could I feel any resentment whatsoever towards that precious bearded face?
Okay…I think now’s a good time to talk about something else. But if you have a less awkward tip/expectation for A Dal 2016, let me know below.
NORWAY: Melodi Grand Prix, Norsk Edition (but did Dansk do it better?)
Um, YES THEY DID. What happened, Norway? MGP 2015 was epic, even though it may not have produced an ESC winner. MGP 2016 is…well, I don’t want to say bad, but it’s definitely in that ballpark. We’ve actually got a reverse Hungary situation here – ten songs, and I’d only define three or four as being halfway decent. Hashtag harsh but true.
- Laika by The Hungry Hearts feat. Lisa Dillan
- Into The Fire by Stage Dolls
- Traces by Stine Hole Ulla
- Stand Up by Makeda
- Anyway by Pegasus
- Feel Da Rush by Freddy Kalas
- Afterglow by Laila Samuels
- History by Elouiz
- Anna Lee by Suite 16
- Icebreaker by Agnete
Norway’s super final will also see four songs advance to a second round of voting, as per usual, so I’ll go ahead and single out my preferred super finalists (though to be honest, I’m finding it hard to care that much).
- Afterglow Laila’s song is my hands-down favourite, because it isn’t any of these things: Bon Jovi-inspired; a cheesy, overly-theatrical operatic ballad; a cheesy, soppy mid-2000s ballad; or a poor tribute to Meghan Trainor (all of which appear elsewhere in the running order). Plus, it’s actually good in its own right. It’s a true Scandinavian ballad, and if she can nail her live vocal, it will be magical on stage.
- Feel Da Rush The pleasure is all guilty. This is part Sean Banan, part Kygo, and though I know I should hate the sum of those parts…I just can’t.
- Icebreaker I’m convinced that this is literally two different songs that were accidentally mixed in the studio, and Agnete was just like ‘Okay then.’ The complete change in genre and tempo from verse to chorus isn’t cohesive at all. And yet…Icebreaker has appeal. A little advice for the writers/producers: if it was a dance track through and through, I’d love it.
- Anna Lee Stereotypical half-arsed boy band fodder appeals to the boy band fanatic – surprise, surprise! Suite 16 have a song up their perfectly-pressed sleeves that we’ve all heard before (about three times on One Direction’s debut album alone). Does that lack of originality bother me? Not that much. Not when they’re above most of their competition regardless.
And the winner will be…one of the following, as far as I can see: Afterglow or Anna Lee. Still, Norway isn’t a country to shy away from throwing a curveball (cue throwback to the pizza song making the super final last year and Karin Park missing out) so we can expect at least one ridiculous song – Laika or Feel Da Rush – to reach the final four, and potentially win (but probably come third). My guess for that four is Feel Da Rush, Afterglow, Anna Lee and Icebreaker, with Traces possibly slotting in instead of Feel Da Rush if Norway is in a serious mood. But I’m sticking with the ‘A’ songs when it comes to the winner. With fingers crossed.
Which song from MGP 2016 do you think could bring Norway the success I’m not sure they’re craving come May?
SWEDEN: Melodifestivalen’s fourth (semi) final showdown!
It’s hard to believe, but ja – we’ve arrived at the end of Melfest’s semi stage. We’ve become accustomed to the last semi featuring some big hitters and a possible winner of the whole thing, and 2016 is no exception.
- Runaways by Eclipse
- Rollercoaster by Dolly Style
- Du Tar Mig Tillbaks by Martin Stenmarck
- Killer Girl by Linda Bengtzing
- If I Were Sorry by Frans
- Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz
- Youniverse by Molly Sandén
I wouldn’t say Deltävling 4 is as eyeball-bulgingly awesome as Deltävling 3 was, but…MOLLY! I’ve been waiting for this evening’s seventh song since we found out Youniverse would BE this evening’s seventh song. In case you weren’t aware, I am a massive Molly Sandén fan, and I’ve been basking in the ambience of her status as favourite alongside Ace Wilder for months. So, now that the almost-full versions of tonight’s competing songs have been released, how does she stack up? And, how do the other six artists stack up to her?
Take my ideal qualifiers as an answer to those questions.
My top four
- Youniverse Sure, Molly could fart into her microphone for three minutes and I’d fawn all over it, but thankfully, this is a few million steps up from that. Another sllickly-produced, ethereal pop number in a string of the same from her, it should win semi 4 comfortably.
- If I Were Sorry You don’t have to be sorry, Frans (not that he is). This is charming, Ed Sheeran-type easy listening at its almost-best. I’m not 100% sold on the repetition of the title, but I’ve already put a deposit on everything else.
- Rollercoaster Against my better judgment, I enjoyed this. It’s not a carbon copy of Hello Hi, which is good – this is a little more grown up (OMG, Dolly Style has evolved!). It’s still sweet and fluffy though, like a stick of cotton candy. And FYI, I have no clue which one is the original group member either.
- Håll Om Mig Hårt Panetoz can do no wrong. Their brand of infectiously happy tropical pop wins me over every time. Efter Solsken was better, but it left the boys with big shoes to fill, and they’ve made a good effort.
So, who’s going direkt? Molly and Frans. The former because, well, duh. The latter because it’s what my unreliable gut is telling me. Do not place a bet based on my tips, for heaven’s sake.
And who’s off to Andra Chansen? Dolly Style and Linda Bengtzing/Panetoz. I feel like there’s going to be a real fight for fifth place tonight, and though it pains me to say so (as I want them to go as far as possible) I do think Panetoz might struggle and lose out to Linda.
This is the last opportunity for two songs to go straight to the Friends Arena final in a fortnight. Am I right about which two it will be? Do you have a different take on this semi’s seven? Say so in the comments, my fellow Melfester.
Alright. That’s enough of my nonsensical, sleep-deprived rants about musical competitions for now. I’m off for my traditional pre-Melfest nap that hopefully won’t turn into a full night’s sleep resulting in me missing Melfest (oh, the horror!). Maybe I’ll see you on Twitter in a few hours’ time? If not, I’ll see you once we’ve added six more songs to the stack marked ‘Eurovision 2016’.
Happy NF Viewing!
Welcome to another Super Saturday, and an altogether action-packed weekend on the Eurovision NF calendar!
You’ll be relieved to discover that since there’s so much going on, I haven’t got time for a long-winded intro on this occasion. I can hear the globe-spanning cheers already. So let’s leap straight in by looking at this weekend’s program of events, then reviewing and predicting a few of the most important ones (according to moi).
TONIGHT: Estonia’s Eesti Laul final; Finland’s UMK semi 3; Hungary’s A Dal semi 2; Lithuania’s Eurovizijos final (the song’s chosen, now it’s artist-picking time); Sweden’s Melodifestivalen semi 3
TOMORROW NIGHT: Latvia’s Supernova final
A little housekeeping to start…
Thoughts on the Europe-wide news of the week
- Armenia: Six members sourced from six different countries. That’ll be Genealogy, singing Don’t Deny for Armenia in Vienna and so far made up of Essaï and Tamar Kaprelian. Let’s hope that the Six4One resemblance stops with the number of vocalists and the number of places they come from. Or at least that Ralph Siegel has NOTHING to do with the song (which is always a relief).
- Finland: I’m not following UMK very closely this year (any whiff of Satin Circus and I’m all over it, but apart from that…) but I know enough to have been shocked by the elimination of Siru, Otto Ivar AND Eeverest in last weekend’s semi. Still, with the so cray-cray-it’s-incredible Heart of Light in the mix, one of those three had to go. It just turned out that it wasn’t the right time for any of them.
- Iceland: Waking up on Sunday, I wanted to discover that aptly, SUNDAY would be representing Iceland. That wasn’t to be, but Iceland did choose one of my favourites from the final – Lítil Skref by María Olafsdóttir. Only now it’s Unbroken, and it’s not quite the same. This is a lovely but über-repetitive song, and I think the English lyrics reinforce that repetitiveness. Plus, Icelandic is so magical! I miss it already.
- Israel: Nadav Gedj triumphed in The Next Star comp on Tuesday. All I know about him is that he’s not The Girl With The Hair Who I Thought Would Win (Avia) and that he’s touted as a Justin Timberlake-type artist. I approve, based on that latter description.
- Italy: Three attractive Italian men, collectively known as Il Volo, took home the top prize (i.e. a questionable-looking trophy) of the 2015 Sanremo Music Festival, and with it the golden ticket to Eurovision. They appear to have accepted that ticket rather than tossed it in the trash, and on Thursday RAI confirmed that they’ll be packing winning song Grande Amore in their carryon. I professed my love (or should I say ‘amore’?) for this song in my previous post, so I won’t re-hash it here (besides, this ESC Tips article articulates everything I could say and more). Wouldn’t it be funny if Italy won two Eurovision events in a row with a song title featuring the words ‘grande amore’? I know I’d laugh. WITH TOTAL JUBILANCE!
- Montenegro: Apparently my main man Željko Joksimović is composing Knez’s entry. ZJ can NOT seem to stay away from the ESC, and I am very happy about that. There’s no excuse for Montenegro to not pick up where they left off, qualifying for the first time in 2014.
- Serbia: We have our first Serbian rep since Malmö, and her name is Bojana Stamenov. Her song is Ceo Svet Je Moj, and it’s…well, I’m going to call it a grower at this point.
- Sweden: Once again, I royally f%#$ed up my Melfest predictions, not foreseeing at all that Magnus “Schlager Fiend” Carlsson would go direkt til final. Oops. I guess schlager isn’t as stone-cold dead as I had
Now, let’s move on to the key (in my opinion) national final installments of tonight.
ESTONIA: It’s Eesti Laul’s last dance…or song…or whatever
Yep, it’s time for what is always an interesting national final to come to a close for another year. After their semi finals, Estonia has been left with a pretty strong group of ten songs to choose from, but to be honest, I’m not sure I trust them to make the right decision (to find out what I think is the “right” decision, keep reading). Last year, with the likes of Traffic and Sandra Nurmsalu in the final, the country came dangerously close to sending something dreadful to Copenhagen by putting the Super Hot Cosmos Blues Band in their superfinal instead, alongside eventual winner Tanja. Yikes.
Granted, there’s nothing among the 2015 ten that would horrify me as much as that did, but I do have my preferences, and it’s those I want to see in that ultimate stage of competition.
Here’s this evening’s running order:
- Minu Päike by Luisa Värk
- Üle Vesihalli Taeva by Maia Vahtramäe
- Goodbye To Yesterday by Elina Born & Stig Rästa
- Idiot by Kali Briis Band
- Troubles by Robin Juhkental & The Big Bangers
- Burning Lights by Daniel Levi
- Superlove by Elisa Kolk
- Exceptional by The Blurry Lane
- Unriddle Me by Elephants From Neptune
- This Is Our Choice by Triin Niitoja & John4
Third song out Goodbye To Yesterday is the one to beat, and it will be the shock of the season if it doesn’t at least advance to the superfinal. Before I consider calling it as a foregone-conclusion winner, though, it’s time to reveal whether it’s one of my personal top three.
- Goodbye To Yesterday – UH, YEAH IT IS! The first time I heard this (and I’ve noticed a trend here) I was thinking ‘meh’. But soon enough I was hooked on the 60s mod, somewhat melancholy sound, and now I’m thinking ‘This is genius!’. It tells a tale, it’s retro but very now at the same time, and the duet dynamic – Stig’s role and Elina’s – is perfect. Kind of anti-Common Linnets.
- Superlove – This is a really pretty song performed to the max, with dry ice. Dry ice always helps, unless you’re asthmatic. I don’t expect Elisa to win, but I would be happy for her if she did.
- Burning Lights – This veers into vanilla territory genre-wise, but I really like the lyrics, and the chorus has good sing-along potential.
This year, there’ll be a three-strong superfinal in Eesti Laul, and it’s hard to predict which trio of entries will end up there. Last year’s Super Hot Cosmos fiasco is one heck of an indication that Estonia and I have differing ideas of what constitutes decent music. But, as always, I’ll give it a go so you guys can laugh at my haplessness later.
TO THE SUPERFINAL: Goodbye To Yesterday, Burning Lights, Unriddle Me
FTW: Goodbye To Yesterday
If I’m wrong (which never happens…I mean, which constantly happens) then it’s not going to be Goodbye To Yesterday so much as Goodbye To Jaz Predicting Anything EVER AGAIN. But seriously, Estonia…you have the chance to compensate, and then some, for Tanja’s DNQ in Copenhagen here. Don’t stuff it up.
HUNGARY: A Dal’s second (and stronger) semi
This penultimate episode of A Dal is verging on being a hum-dinger. Translation: the hits are definitely outnumbering the misses.
- Úgysem Felejtesz El by Gabi Szűcs
- Untold Story by Other Planet
- World of Violence by Bogi
- A Tükör Előtt by Gergő Oláh
- Fire by Ív
- Run To You by Gyula Éliás Jnr. feat. Fourtissimo
- Ne Engedj El by Kati Wolf
- Mesmerize by Passed
- That’s How It Goes by Bálint Gájer
With just four places in the final up for grabs, and five songs I’m rather attached to, this is gonna hurt. Best case scenario, I lose one. Most likely scenario? I lose multiple. Do you care? Probably not.
No doubt you have your own favourites that you’re attempting to ESP into the final. But as I can’t hear you screaming them at me, here are mine!
- World of Violence – This is nothing on Bogi’s We All from last year. But there’s something endearing about it, and about her stage persona. Also, I am now pronouncing ‘violence’ as ‘vi-oh-lence’ because it’s a surprisingly fun thing to do. Bogi knows what I’m talking about.
- Fire – This is the kind of thing I’ve enjoyed hearing in A Dal recently. Interesting, authentic alt-pop that doesn’t try too hard to resemble a “typical” ESC entry. If it won, it wouldn’t make a huge impact on the scoreboard, but it would represent Hungary with integrity.
- Ne Engedj El – (Possibly) controversial opinion: I like this better than What About My Dreams. It may just be the power Hungarian as a musical language has over me, but this is a pop ballad that gives me the elusive feels…the feels that lead to hairs all over my body standing to attention. That’s it, I’m joining Team Kati! *speeds over to Facebook and likes her page*
- Mesmerize – Weird, trippy, and something I’d like to see given a shot on the Eurovision stage. It won’t happen, but a girl can dream, right?
After squeezing into my infamous prediction pants (I had a pizza night this week, so they’re running a little tight), I have come up with my version of A Dal’s results for the night.
TO THE FINAL: Bogi, Ív, Other Planet and Passed
I hate to leave out Miss Wolf, but a) I have this gut feeling she may miss out, and b) if I omit her I won’t be jinxing any chance she does have of qualifying. If you’re tuning into A Dal, let me know who you think has the goods to get through this all-important round on the road to next weekend’s final!
SWEDEN: Melodifestivalen heats up with returnees and debutants
It sure is a mixed bag for tonight’s third semi final. Among others, there’s last year’s surprise success Ellen Benediktson, with a whole new look and sound; brand new face Kalle Johansson; the male Sanna Nielsen (i.e. someone who just keeps on trying) Andreas Johnson; and my big hope of the week, Sami singer and Sweden’s Got Talent champ Jon Henrik Fjällgren. Here’s the full lineup:
- Insomnia by Ellen Benediktson
- För Din Skull by Kalle Johansson
- Bring Out The Fire by Andreas Weise
- Living To Die by Andreas Johnson
- Don’t Stop by Isa
- I See You by Kristin Amparo
- Jag Är Fri (Manne Liem Frije) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren
Aaaaand here’s my top four (based, as usual, on snippets alone):
- Insomnia – I wasn’t a Songbird lover, so it was always likely I’d be more into Ellen’s reinvented self.
- För Din Skull – Kalle was this year’s Svensktoppen Nästa winner. These winners have a history of going nowhere in Melfest, which makes me sad because I always like them (even when they end up at Melfest with a weaker song). This is no exception.
- Living To Die – I can’t believe I’ve got Andreas down as a favourite, as he’s never impressed me much in his previous attempts. He’s got me intrigued this time. I’ll get back to you on the ‘impressed’ front once I’ve heard the entire song.
- Jag Är Fri – I watched Jon Henrik’s audition for Got Talent as soon as I heard he was competing in Melfest, and fell in love. There’s something spellbinding about what he does when he’s got a microphone shoved in his face, and it sounds like he’s going to keep that magic going tonight.
Now, yet another chance for me to make a fool of myself, woohoo! Three will fall, but four will advance, and damn it, it’s hard to figure out which four that is. This week, I’m cheating a little and using betting odds to guide me. Both ESC Tips and NicerOdds.com have Jon Henrik, Kristin Amparo, Isa and Andreas Johnson as their top four, in that order. I can’t ignore that, but nor am I going to copy it name-for-name. So my tip is as follows:
DIREKT TIL FINAL: Jon Henrik, Kristin
TIL ANDRA CHANSEN: Ellen, Isa
*instantly feels regret at deviating from other people’s predictions*
Oh well. It wouldn’t be right if I got it 100% correct. Or 75%. Or 50%…
Well, I have to be off – lots of mundane stuff to do before falling into bed, only to drag myself back out at 3am for Melfest. I hope I will see you there, if only on Twitter. In the meantime, let me know what you think will go down where tonight, or if you’re reading this on Sunday, your verdict on THAT UNBELIEVABLE DEVELOPMENT!
Whichever final you’re watching – especially if you’re attempting to watch five at once – I hope you have fun times, and that your favourite songs succeed. Unless they’re not my favourites. In that case, I hope they fail miserably.
After what was a rather dramatic week in the Eurovisionverse (understatement alert!) it’s time for us to stop wondering what the bloody hell Australia is doing competing in the contest, and start gearing up for Super Saturday Volume II.
If you thought last weekend was action-packed, you may want to sit down and take a few deep, calming breaths (don’t mind me, I’ve just been doing a lot of yoga lately) before I remind you of all the NF happenings of the 14th and 15th.
- It’s go-time for Eesti Laul’s last semi, and with it hot favourites Elina Born & Stig Rästa. They’ll sail through to the final, no doubt, but who will join them?
- The Finnish UMK saga (which is thankfully nothing like the Twilight saga) continues as the likes of Eeverest, Opera Skaala and Siru go head-to-head in the second semi
- Hungary’s A Dal reaches its own semi final stage, with nine of the eighteen heat qualifiers competing for four precious places in the final
- Iceland rounds up Söngvakeppnin with one of the strongest finals in years
- Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival concludes by crowning the champ of the Big Artists section – a champ who has the first right of refusal to go to Eurovision (or to refuse to go again, in Nina Zilli’s case)
- Lithuania chooses their song, but not their artist. Probably. Maybe? Who really knows how the mammoth and very intricate Eurovizijos operates. You need a PhD in national finals to figure it out.
- Melodifestivalen, hits Malmö for week two of the epic tour around Sweden
- Plus, tomorrow night, Serbia’s second and final show determines their first representative since wacky-wear specialists Moje 3.
Basically, there’s a LOT you can use as a distraction if you’re single this Valentine’s Day – I know I’m looking forward to my romantic, candlelit rendezvous with Melodifestivalen (although I suspect Melfest is cheating on me with a considerable amount of other people). I dedicate the forthcoming discussions/predictions of a few of the above finals to all of you who are more excited by the selection season than by sexy times with your non-existent significant other. Even if you’re abandoning your existing significant other to tune in to one or more of tonight’s shows, this is for you. We know what out priorities are! High five! *makes plans to marry Eurovision if she’s still single at forty*
Just before I get on to the Hungarian, Icelandic and Swedish bits and pieces, allow me to introduce (because it’s the last chance to do so) my top 10 ranking for ESC 2015. In a matter of hours, we’ll no longer have the nice, even number of ten to play with, so get in while you can and share yours too.
#1. Georgia – Nina’s still on top! Georgia has never been this high in my estimation before, JESC aside.
#2. Malta – Take away the mess from this hot mess, Malta, and we’ll renegotiate.
#3. Albania – Elhaida will sing in English. Jaz will be sad.
#4. Switzerland – There’s something about this I really like.
#5. Netherlands – It hasn’t worn too thin with me yet.
Oh, France. How I miss your Moustache.
Now, onwards with the enn-effs!
A Dal ramps up: it’s semi final time
I’m still doing a happy dance over Kati Wolf’s qualification last weekend, but I suppose I can stop for a few minutes to take a look at the next stage of Hungary’s always intriguing NF. The heats are finito and it’s time for the best of those to fight in a musical battle to the death. Well, it’d be to the death if Katniss Everdeen was competing, anyway. As it stands, we’ll have to settle for a battle that will see just four of the nine competitors nabbing spots in the final. That’s brutal enough!
There are plenty of decent songs on offer this year, but for me the second semi has the stronger bunch. Justification for that will come in seven days (though it really just comes down to personal preference), as right now is the time to focus on what must come before. Which is the first semi. Obviously.
It looks like this (running order TBA at time of posting):
Give Me Your Love by Ádám Szabó
Wars For Nothing by Boggie
Time Is Now by Karmapolis
Homelights by New Level Empire
Kacsi A Világ, De Nagy Világ by Panktastic!
Keep Marching On by Spoon
Woke Up This Way by Timi Antal
Gyémánt by Vera Tóth
Beside You by Zoltán Mujahid
There’s a lot of variety in there, which is nice – some rock-pop, a few ballads, a folksy number, the lead single off One Hungarian Direction’s new album…the list goes on. Here are the four I’d choose to put through to the final if I was the great and powerful Lord Jaz of A Dal (I applied for the job but it’s still pending).
Time Is Now – It’s not that distinctive or groundbreaking, but it’s mod and I just like it, okay?
Keep Marching On – There is a BOY BAND behind this. Need I say more?
Gyémánt – This is a slightly unusual ballad with a mystical atmosphere. Very nice.
Beside You – Generic man pop with a rock edge, that’s just catchy enough to win me over.
In terms of who I think WILL advance, I have to go with a half-different foursome, namely Ádám Szabó, Boggie, Karmapolis and Vera.
Ádám can’t be discounted after his heat result, though I don’t hear anything special in his song at this stage. I don’t connect with Wars For Nothing in the way others have, and I assumed it would have been eliminated in the heats, but Boggie clearly has fans, since she won her heat. Karmapolis too, have semi success on their side and are likely to deliver again. And Vera’s ballad is captivating to watch and listen to – who could resist it? Alright, maybe a lot of people. Time will tell. I’ve been so shockingly bad at predicting so far this season (as usual), don’t be surprised if nothing I come out with turns out to be true!
Iceland – make your Eurovision decision now!
I have very mixed feelings about Söngvakeppnin’s last dance (i.e. final) for 2015. On one hand, I’m pumped because the line-up is stronger than I’ve ever seen/heard it. On the other, I’m depressed because Iceland has a history of picking what I feel is an unimpressive entry that doesn’t best represent the cool, quirky pop music the country has to offer. There are two songs in the field of seven that I don’t really enjoy, and I can’t help assuming one of those – or the favourite, of course – is going to Vienna.
1. Fyrir Alla by Cadem
2. Fjaðrir by SUNDAY
3. Piltur Og Stúlka by Björn and Friends
4. Lítil Skref by María Ólafsdóttir
5. Í Kvöld by Elín Sif Halldórsdóttir
6. Í Síðasta Skipti by Friðrik Dór
7. Milljón Augnablik by Haukur Heiðar Hauksson
Let’s start with the best of the best, in my opinion: my top three. Fjaðrir, Fyrir Alla and Lítil Skref all qualified from last Saturday’s semi, making me happier than Gianluca Bezzina on laughing gas. Another thing they have in common is that they’ll be switched over to English should any of them win, another thing Iceland like to do on a regular basis. As Icelandic is such a magical language, this move always saddens me a bit, but until I’ve heard the English versions on this occasion – if I do – I’ll refrain from judging.
Whether performing Fjaðrir or Feathers, SUNDAY is my top choice for the win, but I’d be shocked if they did. Two of the songs will progress to a superfinal towards the end of this evening, and one of those will be the chosen one, and I don’t like the chances of my top two being either of them. María has a better shot.
But, in the hope of not jinxing anything, I’m going to go with one song I dislike and another that’s the bookies’ favourite for my top-two prediction. That’d be Elín (the style of her song is not my thing, and her voice is SO IRRITATING) and Friðrik (the song’s not bad, but would still make for a ‘meh’ selection). And from that super final, I’m siding with the favourite and pegging Friðrik as the champ-to-be. That wouldn’t be a devastating outcome, but he’s close to the bottom of the pack according to my taste and I’d much rather any of the four I’m extra keen on. If you love me, Iceland, you’ll make my wish come true. It IS Valentine’s Day after all, and I did send you a bunch of flowers.
Sweden leaves the controversy behind as Melfest takes Malmö
Well…most of the controversy. In a new week and a new city, it’s easy to start afresh, but the Eric Saade-level sting of Molly Pettersson-Hammar apparently falling victim to the Melfest app’s flaws has not been forgotten. Now that people have downloaded the app and actually know how to use it, the odds are as fair for the first few competitors in tonight’s semi as they are for the last. But that may not stop the app from changing Melfest in a multitude of ways, which are detailed here if you’re interested.
But just who will Sweden be thumbing at their phones for this week?
1. Forever Starts Today by Linus Svenning
2. Där Och Då Med Dig by Emelie Irewald
3. Groupie by Samir & Viktor
4. If I Was God for One Day by Neverstore
5. Nonetheless by Marie Bergman & Sanne Salomonsen
6. Möt Mig i Gamla Stan by Magnus Carlsson
7. Don’t Stop Believing by Mariette
Last year’s surprising success Linus Svenning is going for less emotion, more inspiration in his second attempt at representing his homeland. He’ll open the show, followed by The Artist Formerly Known As Danny Saucedo’s Girlfriend. Samir & Viktor had an epic hit in Sweden last summer and are hoping to follow it up with a Melfest victory (hope away, boys) while Neverstore fill the obligatory soft-rock gap. Veterans Marie and Sanne, who I have to say come across as a pair of old witches (visually speaking), are peddling a country song that should do alright as long as they don’t have a bubbling cauldron and a broomstick on stage. Finally, we have a sole slice of schlager from the one and only Magnus Carlsson, and something of an ethereal pop number from Idol alumni Mariette. Whew!
Having listened to the rehearsal snippets (again, I’m saving the full songs for the live stream itself, so all my thoughts/predictions are based on notsomuch) these are the four songs that grabbed me:
- Forever Starts Today – There is something very You (yes, Sweden’s host entry of 2013) about this, which is fine by me as I was that song’s biggest fan. I like that Linus is returning with something different, and not just a rehashed version of Bröder.
- Groupie – This ain’t so different. Success was Samir & Viktor’s incredibly infectious summer hit and Groupie is very similar. Do I care? NOPE. Loved them then, love them now.
- Nonetheless – I didn’t expect to like the sound of this, but here we are.
- Don’t Stop Believing – Fortunately this isn’t as cheesy as the title makes it sound. In fact, snippet-wise, there’s no cheese. I’m intrigued and I want to hear more.
After I correctly guessed that Eric Saade would go direkt last week (like that was hard) and that Behrang/Victor would get a second chance, I’m feeling more confident. 50% is still a crappy rate of rightness, but it beats my usual 0%-25%. So, with my infamous prediction pants on, here I go again…
DIREKT TIL FINAL: Linus Svenning, Samir & Viktor
ANDRA CHANSEN: Neverstore, Mariette
Let’s see if I can keep that stellar 50% record alive!
By the way, if you think you can out-predict me (it shouldn’t be hard) on Melfest or any other final, put your money where your mouth is and let me know below. Who are you fist-pumping for tonight? Who’s going to stroll to expected triumph or qualification, and who will shock us all by taking the top prize? I want to know what’s rattling around in your brainbox, so let it allllll out.
Enjoy your romantic evenings, everyone. I hope you get some. Some of the results you are hoping for, that is. Don’t forget, you can join me @EurovisionByJaz on Twitter and together we can pick apart the action – so long as it’s in 140 characters or less.
Hey hey, it’s Saturday! No, this post isn’t about the TV show of the same name that you will know if you’re a fellow Australian. It’s actually about Eurovision (shocking). At last, we have a Saturday that is truly super, with multiple entries being decided and one being debuted. As such, there’s no time to waste with long intros. I’ll make up for that next time with an extra long and extra boring intro, but for now…lights, camera, action!
Hungary…for Eurovision victory?
Since they rejoined the Eurovision family in 2011 (when the last memory we had of them was an over-tanned dance machine wearing the tightest pants ever manufactured) Hungary has been on form. Sure, they haven’t constantly hit the highest of heights, but they’ve qualified for the final every year since Kati Wolf of the Bouffant Hairdo, and made top 10-worthy magic with Kedvesem last year (still my one true love). ByeAlex got me excited to see what his country would produce next, and then so did all the fans who said the A Dal lineup for 2014 was über awesome. As such, I couldn’t resist having a sneak listen to the final eight, chosen after quarter and semi finals – despite my earlier decision to leave Hungary as a total surprise. So yeah. I did. And here they are.
- Running Out of Time by Victor Király
- We All by Bogi
- The Last One by New Level Empire
- Csak A Zene by Depresszió
- Running by Kállay-Saunders
- It Can’t Be Over by Fool Moon
- Brave New World by Dénes Pál
- A Legnagyobb Hős by HoneyBeast
The video of snippets I watched told me that yes, the level is pretty high. A few of the songs grabbed me immediately, and the rest stroked me gently on the shoulder as if to say ‘you could grow to love us’. If I had to pick favourites based on just a taste, these would be my most delicious picks:
Running Out of Time – cute but not cheesy pop with a chorus that sticks.
The Last One – it’s kind of dance and kind of not. The mystery intrigues me.
Running – this guy did very well in A Dal last year, but I like this song much better.
It Can’t Be Over – I do love me some Group Cosmos, but if this wins it could well be the best a cappella entry to have graced the ESC stage.
So who’s going to try and out-score Kedvesem in Copenhagen? I guess a more important question is, should I step back and leave the predicting to those of you who’ve heard the songs in their entirety? I think yes. I would be happy for any of my preferences to win, so let me know below if that’s likely to happen, or if I’m going to have to learn to love something else. How high do you think Hungary can go at Eurovision this year?
Hola, Mira Quién Va A Eurovisión!
That’s ‘Look Who’s Going To Eurovision’, if Google Translate is correct. I have to hand it to Spain for being extremely organised without seeming to be at all. They had their songs, they had their NF date, and we knew nothing about either of them until very recently. Since then, however, we’ve all listened to and passed mostly positive judgment on the five prospective entries, and tonight is the moment of truth. Which one of these ridiculously good-looking Spaniards will fly the red and gold in May?
- Más (Run) by Brequette
- Estrella Fugaz by La Dama
- Dancing In The Rain by Ruth Lorenzo
- Aunque Se Acabe El Mundo by Jorge González
- Seguir Sin Ti by Raúl
We have dance, we have ballads, and we have key changes. We also have a lot of awkward Spanglish which seems unnecessary, but that can be taken care of later (it better be *shakes fist threateningly*). There are great, good, and not-so-good elements in all of them, but there is one that stands out for me. If I had the power, I’d rank them as follows:
- Más (Run)
- Aunque Se Acabe El Mundo
- Estrella Fugaz
- Dancing In The Rain
- Seguir Sin Ti
Si – Brequette’s the one, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not convinced she could do a Pastora Soler, but her song is the only one that doesn’t put me off with something dated or cliché (such as the painful key change in Raúl’s song). It does bear a resemblance to a certain other song, and if it wins the cries of plagiarism will be heard around the world because that’s what people do these days (just STAHP!) but let’s face it, most songs do sound like other songs in some way (so JUST STAHP!).
Going by the predictions of the masses, tonight is ultimately a catfight between Brequette and Ruth Lorenzo, so it will be interesting to see how the results pan out. I do believe it will be one of the two that ends up on top, and even if that one is Ruth I can make peace with it. What about you? Who should Spain select and who should they steer clear of?
Sweden – have they saved the best for last?
It’s hard to comprehend that we’ve already arrived at the last semi of Melodifestivalen. Time flies when you’re enduring the agonizing wait between national finals that are actually final.
The Örnsköldsvik semi includes a lot of returning artists, i.e. Alcazar and last year’s surprise success, Anton Ewald (a.k.a. one of my many future husbands). But do big guns come armed with big songs? Listen and decide for yourself here.
- Blame It On The Disco by Alcazar
- Fight Me If You Dare by I.D.A
- Hollow by Janet Leon
- Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
- Hela Natten by Josef Johansson
- Ta Mig by Linda Bengtzing
- En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
- Natural by Anton Ewald
I think Sweden has almost saved the best for last. This semi’s just a little weaker than last week’s, which I thought was the best so far. The returning artists are bringing it for the most part, and there are a few newcomer surprises too. Here’s my top 4:
Hollow – this is hard to compare to Janet’s last entry Heartstrings, but I think I prefer this. It’s a pop ballad that is less depressing than the title would have you believe.
Hela Natten – say hello to my hands-down favourite of the semi! Josef looks like a younger version of Darin (Swedish superstar/Melfest alumni/my beloved) and his song could have been lifted from a Darin album easily. His voice is different though, and if he’s a good live performer this could be amazing in the arena.
Ta Mig – Linda has swapped schlager for electronic pop with a rock edge, and it works for her. Song-wise, I’d rather E Det Fel På Mig (her last effort) but this has appeal.
Natural – Anton’s Begging was a surprise success last year, and he’s the favourite of favourites in this semi. Natural isn’t quite as original, but it’s a perfectly wonderful club banger. I hope his backing singers are up to the task of carrying him, Eric Saade-style…
Now, to predict. I’ve been trying to figure out why my Melfest predictions always feel wrong no matter how I configure them. I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t know how Sweden thinks, so I’m constantly uncertain. Oh well…embrace the uncertainty!
To the final: Linda and Anton
To Andra Chansen: Alcazar and Janet
I might be putting too much faith in the returning artist gimmick there. We’ll see. I’m actually hoping for yet another favourite + underdog pairing to go straight to the final. Anton and Josef, anyone?
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe…
There are a couple of other things happening tonight, but they’re hardly worth mentioning. All we’re getting out of them is THREE MORE SONGS, PEOPLE! Gosh! Why are you being so blasé about it?
Oh wait, that was me.
- Latvia’s Dziesma final (another one as yet unfollowed by moi) is ready to roll with 12 songs in the running to represent. I’ve never considered Latvia’s NF one not to be missed, and in missing it again, all I know is that one half of PeR obviously didn’t take their Malmö fail too hard, since he’s back already to have another shot. And also that Samanta Tina is becoming the Latvian equivalent of Sanna Nielsen, so if she wins tonight I’ll take it as a good omen for Sanna.
- FYR Macedonia is presenting their (freshly changed) song tonight after internally selecting Tijana Dapčević around the same time dinosaurs began to walk the earth. Instead of premiering the initially selected Pobeda, they’ll be premiering the English version of Tamu Kaj Što Pripagjam…at least from what I gather. It’s called To The Sky, which I suppose is a better name for a competition song than To The Bottom of the Scoreboard With Zero Points. My fingers are crossed for a gem.
- Lithuania’s mammoth quest to find their entry/rep continues with show no. 456386858711…haven’t we all lost count? This time, something significant IS taking place, with the song (but not the artist) to be determined. That’s as far as I can see, anyway. It’s Confusion Central over there in Lithuania.
Yikes – I think that’s enough to satisfy even the most demanding ESC fan. The only bad thing is that, if you don’t want to fry your brain, you’ve got to choose which NF/presentation to tune in to. Whatever you watch, enjoy it, and may your favourite win! Unless it’s different to mine, in which case stuff you, I want mine to win.
What? Honesty is the best policy.
See you on the other side of Saturday…