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SELECTION SEASON 2019 | A seriously super Saturday (with a little something on a Sunday)

Knock knock, who’s there? It’s Saturday again, duh!

When you’re living for the weekends like I do during national final season, it’s a blessing for this day of the week to come around so quickly. And boy, does it have a lot to love on this occasion. Here’s everything happening tonight: 

  • Croatia Dora, final
  • Estonia Eesti Laul, final
  • Hungary A Dal, semi final 2
  • Iceland Söngvakeppnin, semi final 2
  • Latvia Supernova, final
  • Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, semi final 2
  • Portugal Festival da Canção, semi final 1
  • Slovenia EMA, final
  • Sweden Melodifestivalen, semi final 3
  • Ukraine Vidbir, semi final 2

I know what you’re thinking: ‘Is that all?’. But don’t worry, tomorrow night we also have:

  • Romania Selecția Națională, final

Do the math on this list of NFs, and you’ll find that Saturday + Sunday = FIVE more songs for Tel Aviv. And isn’t it about time? We’ve waited long enough to get into double digits.

I’m not about to preview/predict all of the above NF action, since I don’t want to send you (or myself) to sleep. I will make a quick wishlist for the countries I won’t be covering though, so listen up universe: Croatia can give me Brutalero or Redemption, Estonia Storm, Latvia Somebody’s Got My Lover or Fire, and Slovenia Kaos. Oh, and if Portugal could send Calema through as well as Conan (so I can figure out what the heck I actually think of Telemóveis) that’d be awesome.

Now, if you want to chat in-depth about Hungary, Sweden and Romania, you came to the right place.

 

 

It’s the second last Saturday of A Dal decision-making, after last week’s first semi final saw Acoustic Planet, Bence Vavra, The Middletonz (WOOHOO!) and Petruska (smaller woohoo!) make the final cut. Obviously there’s another hurdle for them to jump over in the final itself – making the all-important top four from which 100% televote will determine the winner – but qualifying to next weekend’s showdown is what everyone wants to do, and those guys have done it. Now there’s just four spots left for the taking, and nine acts after them. Let the (probably heartbreaking) battle begin!

  • Kedves Világ! Timi Antal feat. Gergő Demko
  • Kulcs Fatal Error
  • Egyszer Mocsok 1 Kölykök
  • A Remény Hídjai Nomad
  • Hozzád Bújnék Gergő Oláh
  • Az Én Apám Joci Pápai
  • Holnap Bogi Nagy
  • Forró Ruby Harlem
  • Madár, Repülj! Gergő Szekér

You guys know how obsessed I am with A Dal this year, and though I’ve lost some favourites along the way (JUSTICE FOR VILÁGÍTÓTORONY!) a few more are still in the running and competing in this semi. On the other hand, some of my least favourites are here too, and I’m hoping they’ll be among the sacrificial songs of the night.

Let’s start with the good stuff and work our way through to what will actually happen in Hungary this week, IMO.

My top four In random order, Hozzád Bújnék, Az Én Apám, Holnap and Madár, Repülj! Gergő Oláh is a perennial top pick of mine, and although Hozzád Bújnék is no Győz a Jó, it is a ballistic missile of a ballad that he – pardon my French in advance – sings the shit out of. My beloved Joci is back with a bang (well, more of a gentle tap on the door, but it’s beautiful and impactful nonetheless) and all the raw emotion required to sell such a unique ethno-ballad. Bogi is also armed with a gentle ballad, and the crystal-clear fragility of her voice takes it to another level (though the melody is worth mentioning too). As for Gergő No. 2, which is nothing like Mambo No. 5…well, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Madár, Repülj! at first, but I LOVE it now. It’s distinctive and dramatic without being throwback or an ultra cutting-edge track, and that makes it interesting.

My prediction Given that we know the results of all the heats and semis so far – an A Dal tradition that I enjoy and dislike at the same time – it makes guessing tonight’s final four qualifiers easier. There are five heat winners in this semi alone, however, with some acts having tied FTW. And in the case of Joci and Bogi, who finished equal 1st in the third heat, you cannot separate them – they both scored the same from the jury and from the public. I’m going to give Joci the edge based on his previous history though (and I better not be jinxing him by doing so). Fatal Error stormed to victory in their heat (somehow) so I’d say they were safe finalists…not that they’ve had to compete against any of tonight’s other acts until now. I’m also thinking that Gergő Oláh and Gergő Szekér have a good chance of advancing, since they also tied for the win in their heat. If there’s a wildcard who makes it out of this semi, I think it will be Bogi in place of Gergő Oláh (heaven forbid) or Joci (heaven forbid even more). But I’m locking in my final four as follows: Fatal Error, Gergő Oláh, Gergő Szekér and Joci Pápai. There’s a whole lot of testosterone there and I am not mad about it.

 

Who would you put money on to make it through to the A Dal final?

 

 

How can we be onto the THIRD Melfest semi already? Granted, the second one was a blur for me since I was busy attending Australia Decides at the time (check out my Aussie NF diary here if you haven’t yet) but I’m still shocked. Maybe it’s because – and I hate to say this – the 2019 comp has been a bit of a non-event, at least in terms of the entries (the hosts/interval acts have been fantastisk). Nothing has jumped out at me so far and screamed ‘Winner!’ of Melfest, let alone of Eurovision. Will that change this week with these seven songs?

  1. Somebody Wants Lovers of Valdaro
  2. Habibi Dolly Style
  3. Låt Skiten Brinna Martin Stenmarck
  4. Victorious Lina Hedlund
  5. Om Om Och Om Igen Omar
  6. Who I Am Rebecka Karlsson
  7. Norrsken Jon Henrik Fjällgren

Based on snippets, no, that’s not going to change. I’m not saying I hate everything on offer here, but there’s a thread of ‘good but not great’ running through the entire line-up that worries me. And yes, I’m even referring to the much-anticipated Norrsken when I say that. But I’ll give this not-quite-magnificent seven the chance to win me over with cracking live performances.

My top four Somebody Wants, Habibi, Om Om Och Om Igen and Who I Am. The Lovers of Valdaro (feat. the guy who wore the heels in Moldova’s Eurovision 2018 performance) are the wildcards from Svensktoppen Nästa, and though I doubt they’ll outdo SMILO’s record of 5th place in a semi (being the highest finish for a Svensktoppen-chosen act), I am digging the beat and production of their song – it should make a great show opener. Habibi is my guilty pleasure and honestly, has the only chorus I could remember after I first listened to the snippets. I like the deviation from bubblegum pop to a more exotic Middle Eastern flavour for Sweden’s version of The Sugababes (because they change members so often, HA HA HA).

Is It just me, or is that Kim Kardashian in the pink wig?

Omar definitely has the better song of the FO & O boys competing this year (RIP Oscar Enestad from the running) even if it is a mixed-language copycat of Side To Side/In My Cabana/Woman Like Me. Pop music is derivative, that’s just how the cookie crumbles – and I can’t wait to hear this spiced-up version all the way through. Who I Am rounds out my favourites list based on everything but the lyrics, which are so clichéd I have a hard time excusing it. Still, the power-pop style of the song and Rebecka’s vocal abilities are enough to keep me rooting for her.

My prediction This is a hard one. Last week proved that anything is possible and that the odds are not always correct (in a good way – go Malou!) so I’m not even going to use them as a guide for my guesses. I do happen to know that Jon Henrik is sitting pretty at the top and is as guaranteed of a place in the final as one can be, so NO-BRAINER ALERT. I believe in Rebecka’s potential to also go straight to Friends Arena, or to Andra Chansen at least. Dolly Style are in the mix after winning the audience poll, but I can’t imagine – especially after seeing a shot of their staging – that they’ll place in the top two. For me the last spot is for either Omar (hopefully) or more likely Lina based on her pedigree and the Jessica Andersson effect. Victorious ain’t no Party Voice, but it’s just what you’d expect from one third of Alcazar and that might well be enough. To sum up, I think it’s Jon Henrik Fjällgren/Rebecka Karlsson DTF, and Dolly Style/Lina Hedlund to  AC. But feel free to surprise me (again) Sweden.

 

Which acts will go where in this Melfest deltävling? Let me know what you think in the comments!

 

 

Disclaimer: Normally I’d just be discussing Saturday night here, but Romania has inconveniently scheduled their final on a Sunday again (Ester Peony pun not intended, but a declaration of love for her song is coincidentally coming up) and I’ve got to talk about it. In amongst the 12 finalists there is a lot of cookie cutter music, but there’s also a handful of songs so good that I couldn’t stay quiet. Place your bets.

  1. Renegades Linda Teodosiu
  2. Right Now Olivier Kaye
  3. Dear Father Laura Bretan
  4. Skyscraper Teodora Dinu
  5. We Are The Ones Claudiu Mirea
  6. Your Journey Aldo Blaga
  7. On A Sunday Ester Peony
  8. Daina Letiția Moisescu and Sensibil Balkan
  9. Army of Love Bella Santiago
  10. Destin Trooper
  11. Without You (Sin Ti) Dya & Lucian Colareza
  12. Underground Vaida

Selecția Națională isn’t usually one of my go-to NFs, and for those of you who do adore it, sorry – I haven’t suddenly become its number one fan. But like I said, a few SN 2019 songs have caught my attention based on their potential to do very well at Eurovision, and/or how jaw-dropping it was to find them in the Romanian selection to start with.

My favourites Dear Father, On A Sunday, Daina and Army of Love. Laura Bretan is a pocket rocket with form on America’s Got Talent, and watching her semi performance of Dear Father had me shook. There’s something special in this song, and it has great build. Of all my top picks it is my least loved, but it’s the most likely to kick butt on behalf of Romania in Tel Aviv. My most-loved in this line-up is On A Sunday, which is like a musical love child of Ann Sophie’s Black Smoke and Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet. It turns out those are good genes to combine. It’s a song so slick and moody, I can’t believe it’s not competing somewhere in Scandinavia. Ester is flawless live and I wish she was more of a contender.

Daina is Romania doing what I miss Romania doing. They could have sent it to Eurovision in 2005, 2011 or 2018 and it wouldn’t have made a difference (not to me, anyway). Will they send it in 2019? Not a chance, but it’s a killer – not filler – addition to the final. Speaking of which…where there’s smoke there’s Fuego, and Bella’s Army of Love is such a Fuego soundalike that the smoke is stinging my eyes. My ears are all for it though, because it is a banger! Empowering lyrics, ethnic instrumentals and a rap verse in Tagalog make for a rip-off I’d welcome into this year’s ESC family with open arms.

My prediction As much as I’d like to believe there are multiple contenders for this NF, I think the winner has already been signed, sealed and delivered straight through the window she’s shattered with one of her sky-high operatic notes. I mean Laura, of course. Personally I’d prefer Bella, but when I watch Laura’s performance there’s more than one point where I think ‘This is unbeatable.’ The song might not be the greatest to my tastes, but she makes it great and gives me goosebumps in the process. I said this about Kate Miller-Heidke last weekend and I’ll say it again now: If this girl doesn’t win I’ll be flabbergasted. If she does, I’ll be grateful that Australia isn’t in the same semi as Romania.

 

 

Whew…aren’t you glad I drew the line at discussing three countries? I’m done now, so if you have any thoughts or predictions for tonight that you need to get off your chest, my comments box is empty and waiting for you to throw stuff into it.

Who’s going to win? Who’s going to get knocked out? Will there be curveballs or will the bookies’ favourites follow through? Wherever it’s happening and whatever your opinion is, I’m ready to hear about it. My response will be more polite if you agree with me though…

See you on the other side of this super Saturday/fun-sized Sunday!

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2019 | The third and final Hungarian heat + Melodifestivalen, nu kör vi!

It’s Saturday once again, and you know what that means at this time of year: it’s an NF fest! Believe it or not, the five shows on tonight are nothing compared to some upcoming Saturdays (but more on that later). Here’s what’s happening in a few hours’ time: 

  • Estonia Eesti Laul, Semi Final 2
  • Hungary A Dal, Heat 3
  • Latvia Supernova, Heat 2
  • Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, Heat 4
  • Sweden Melodifestivalen, Semi Final 1

My focus today is Hungary and Sweden (apologies to everyone else, but a girl’s got to have priorities) so let’s get straight into it. As always, spill as much tea as you like in the comments re: songs/acts/results/predictions. I’m ready for it!

 

 

Time flies when a national final is as awesome as A Dal 2019…isn’t that what people say? There’s got to be some explanation for how we’ve arrived at the third and final Hungarian heat already. There are only six spots left in the semi finals, with ten acts hoping to take them.

  • Holnap Bogi Nagy
  • Az Én Apá  Joci Pápai
  • Maradj Még Kyra
  • Hazavágyom Leander Kills
  • Egyszer Mocsok 1 Kölykök
  • Run Baby Run Monyo Project
  • Help Me Out of Here Petruska
  • Forró Ruby Harlem
  • Barát Salvus
  • Posztolj USNK

My two least favourite songs are listed above, which is a bummer (find out what they are here) but all is definitely not lost! I’ve been eagerly awaiting this heat for a few reasons, and the main one is spelled J-O-C-I P-Á-P-A-I.

Yes, the man who makes magic every time he opens his mouth is back for another crack at representing Hungary – and though it would be out of character for them to send the same person twice (András Kállay-Saunders is not amused), it’s not totally impossible. Or am I just biased because Origo is one of my favourite Eurovision entries ever and I love everything else that Joci has ever recorded? Check out my top picks from this heat and decide for yourself.

 

My favourites

What do you know, I’m starting with Az Én Apam! Plot twist. This is my favourite song competing this evening, and though I’m not going to say it’s as amazing as Origo, it’s just as special and emotional – just in a more understated way. I’m praying for Hungary and the A Dal jury to support it, because if Joci goes the way of Olivér Berkes and gets knocked out immediately, HELL WILL HATH NO FURY LIKE THIS WOMAN SCORNED.

X Factor winners USNK are going gangbusters on YouTube with Posztolj (6.7 million views as I type this) which IMO is deserved for anything with ByeAlex’s name attached to it. The song style isn’t my usual “thing” at all but I love it here – the edginess and intensity of the sound against the social media-themed lyrics makes for a cool contrast. Hungary isn’t averse to rap (which I appreciate) and USNK obviously have public vote pulling power, so this seems like an obvious qualifier. Maybe too obvious…

 

Leander Kills are one of 2019’s many repeat NF offenders. Since they couldn’t win A Dal with Élet in 2017, they shouldn’t win with Hazavágyom. Having said that, however, they are in with a damn good chance and I would be able to get on board with them as AWS successors. There’s something joyful and unique about Hazavágyom that I like a lot, and I expect the live performance to match – and of course, to be as competent as yesyes were INcompetent (WHY GOD WHY?!?) last week.

Kyra is serving up some diva power-pop in the form of Maradj Meg, and I am here for it. I’m 50/50 on whether her performance will be as on-point as it needs to be or a car crash (or somewhere in-between) but I’ll think positive until she proves me otherwise.

My other two faves in this heat are Help Me Out of Here – the less infectious but still appealing sibling of Petruska’s last entry Trouble In My Mind – and Barát, with Salvus delivering a classic slice of Hungarian rock that will probably follow in the footsteps of A Remény Hídjai and Kulcs by qualifying.

 

Who’s going through?

I’ve got an okay success rate going for A Dal so far in terms of predictions – 4/6 correct guesses for both heat 1 and heat 2. But I wouldn’t mind going one (or two, ideally) better this week. With the risk of opting for the obvious, I’m thinking it will be Leander Kills, Joci Pápai, USNK, Petruska, Salvus and Mocsok 1 Kölykök (my debatable wildcard) who make it to the semi final stage. In other words, I suspect the girl power level will be very low once the results have come in. If there does happen to be some female fierceness in tonight’s top six, I believe it will be courtesy of Kyra.

 

That’s enough about Eastern Europe for now (no offence). It’s time to talk Scandinavia, specifically Sweden, and more specifically Melodifestivlalen!

 

 

Brace yourselves, people, because Melodifestivalen has hit its first destination for 2019: Göteborg! I’m going to spare you guys another questioning statement about how we can possibly be at this point in time again and how fast the months fly by, et cetera. The fact is that we are here again and I’M SO EXCITED. I hope you are too.

There are returnees aplenty taking part tonight, including two 2017 finalists and (of course) Anna Bergendahl, whose claim to ESC fame I’m not going to mention since I think it’s time to move on (even though it gives her the best comeback narrative of the year). Here they are in running order:

  1. Chasing Rivers Nano
  2. No Drama High15
  3. Not With Me Wiktoria
  4. Mina Bränder Zeana feat. Anis Don Demina
  5. Mina Fyra Årstider Arja Saijonmaa
  6. Hello Mohombi
  7. Ashes To Ashes Anna Bergendahl

On name value, this is not the most thrilling semi for me personally, but the first one is traditionally not supposed to be (Sweden/Christer Björkman believe in saving the best until last, or at least until later). Even so, I have managed to pluck out four favourite songs.

 

My top four

Hello, Hello! Mohombi is bringing his A-game to this semi and I am so keen to see him perform. There’s something about this song I get just from the teaser that suggests it could do more in the comp than a lot of fans expect it to. Factor in staging that echoes Måns Zelmerlöw’s for Heroes and you’ve got an entry worth watching out for.

Hello indeed…one ticket for the bumpy ride, please

Mina Bränder is the good old ‘Swedish-language radio pop song that Jaz likes but nobody else does’ á la Stark last year. As such I expect Zeana and Anis to crash out of this semi, but only after I have bopped along to their three minutes – especially the chorus, which has a strong scent of Melfest 2005 about it.

Neither Chasing Rivers nor Not With Me seem like they’re the best song their artist has competed with, but as expected both are strong. It’s particularly hard to get a feel for Chasing Rivers by only hearing a minute of it, but it has promise. Wiktoria is trotting out all the heartbreak clichés this time, but because Not With Me reminds me a lot of Isa’s I Will Wait and this is Wiktoria we’re talking about, I have to get behind it.

I know this is a top four, but I have to mention Anna’s Ashes To Ashes. It slips into my 5th place based on the jarring similes that make up the lyrics (like a this, like a that…it’s OTT for me, I’m afraid) but the melody is memorable and her voice is as distinctive as it was in 2010. Lycka till.

 

Who’s going direkt?

Nano and Anna Bergendahl. It’s hard to tell just how impactful Chasing Rivers will be from the snippet alone, but I think Nano is enough of a force to be reckoned with to place top two tonight…even if Hold On was too much to live up to. Anna might not get the fairytale ending at Friends Arena that she’s after, but I believe she will be there in March. I’ve seen her stage outfit and she deserves to win this semi based purely on how stunning it is.

 

And who’s off to Andra Chansen?

Wiktoria and Mohombi. If Wiktoria doesn’t go direkt, it’ll be her first time having to fight for a place in the final, but I have a feeling it’ll be her OR Nano to Friends straight away – not both. Mohombi is an artist I was excited about heading into this, but he took me by surprise with the vibe of Hello – I was expecting Bumpy Ride Part II (which wouldn’t have been a bad thing). He did win the rehearsal poll, and if he goes direkt I’ll be psyched…but it’s touch-and-go between the big players in this line-up.

 

Who do you think will advance to the final or to AC from this first Melfest 2019 semi? Place your (hypothetical) bets in the comments below!

 

 

Tel Aviv: Reactions from the week that was

It’s time for me to share my thoughts on what’s happened in the world of Eurovision 2019 since the last time I did the same thing. Three artist announcements and two songs await!

Austria Paenda has been decided as the artist who’ll attempt to top Austria’s surprise 3rd place from Lisbon. She’ll be singing the unreleased Limits, and somehow I’m getting the same feeling from the song title alone that I got from the likes of City Lights – like I just know it’s going to be good. As for Paenda herself…let’s hope she’s more successful than the last blue-haired competitor from that geographical region.

Czech Republic Barbara Mochowa had the voice and (to an extent) the song, but Lake Malawi have something extra – an element of fun and very questionable lyrics – that got them over the line to become the Czech entry for Tel Aviv. We might come to realise this was a mistake, but for me right now I’m pretty pleased about it. Let’s face it, anything that came after Mikolas Josef was going to be a letdown in some way. I would happily have him represent his country every year, particularly if he keeps bangers like Abu Dhabi coming.

Finland My beloved Robin may have turned the ESC ticket down, but world-famous DJ Darude did not. And so Finland brings us the DJ + vocalist combo that we got from Norway in 2017 and Poland in 2018. Fingers crossed Darude and Sebastian Rejman model themselves more after the former than the latter. They’ll present their three potential entries on March 2.

France Against all odds (by which I mean Seemone) Bilal Hassani is France’s chosen one, and I couldn’t be more excited for him – and for myself because Roi is a JAM. I loved his performance in the Destination Eurovision final and I’m glad it was the French public that got their way. Haters back off!

Malta The X Factor concluded with Michela Pace crowned champion and automatic ESC artist for Malta. There’s not much to say at this point other than yes, she can sing, so for Ira Losco’s sake give her a good song.

 

What’s next for NF season?

  • 5/2-8/2 Italy (Sanremo Music Festival, Nights 1-4)
  • 8/2 United Kingdom (You Decide, Final)
  • 9/2 Australia (Australia Decides, Final), Hungary (A Dal, Semi Final 1), Iceland (Söngvakeppnin, Semi Final 1), Italy (Sanremo Music Festival, Final), Latvia (Supernova, Semi Final), Lithuania (Eurovizijos Atranka, Semi Final 1), Montenegro (Montevizija, Final), Sweden (Melodifestivalen, Semi Final 2), Ukraine (Vidbir, Semi Final 1)
  • 10/2 Romania (Selecția Națională, Semi Final 2)

Next Saturday? HOLY CRAP. I’ll be over on the Gold Coast in the Australia Decides audience, so look out for me if you’re watching on TV or online. You’re welcome for the time difference that will allow you to watch our NF without missing any European ones.

 

Until next time (when I’ll review the Aussie songs and much more),

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2019 | The French final, another Hungarian heat + my thoughts on Tel Aviv’s latest additions!

Bonjour, my fellow Eurofreaks (a sarcastic thanks to the UK for making me never want to use the word ‘freaks’ ever again). Welcome to a 2019 Super Saturday preview, Jaz-style! This is my first proper NF season rundown for the year, and I may be weeks behind everyone else but I’m also excited to get into it – especially now we’re entering the end-of-January-to-early-March period where there are approximately 65 national finals of varying stages taking place every weekend, with other announcements and reveals in-between. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tonight isn’t the busiest night we’ll have this season, but there is plenty of goodness going down. Specifically: 

  • France Destination Eurovision, the final
  • Hungary A Dal, Heat 2
  • Latvia Supernova, Heat 1
  • Lithuania Eurovizijos Atranka, Heat 3
  • Malta X Factor, final

I’m not following Latvia, Lithuania or Malta very closely at this point (either because there are other things to focus on or I’m plain disappointed in the song selection) so today I’ll be talking all things French and Hungarian exclusively…with a few thoughts on the Class of ESC 2019 so far thrown in at the end. I’ll leave you to keep reading if you want to (please do) and to comment your opinions on what’s happened re: Tel Aviv and what might happen this evening. Meanwhile I’ll be busy deciding whether to watch Destination Eurovision or A Dal, because á la Bucks Fizz I really need to make my mind up.

Let’s go!

 

FRANCE: Is the Destination Eurovision final a three-horse race?

After two semis, a few shock DNQs and one song title switch, voilà – we have arrived at our destination. Destination Eurovision, that is. In a field that isn’t as strong as last year’s (for me, at least), eight songs remain in the fight for the French ticket to Tel Aviv. 

  1. Là-Haut, Chimène Badi
  2. Allez Leur Dire, Silvàn Areg
  3. Sois Un Bon Fils, Doutson
  4. Comme Une Grande, Aysat
  5. Tous Les Deux, Seemone
  6. La Promesse, Emmanuel Moire
  7. Roi, Bilal Hassani
  8. La Voix d’Aretha, The Divaz 

If I could go back in time and get my way with the semi results, things would be different looking at this lineup (Gabriella, Lautner and Ugo would be listed, for starters). But as it stands, all of the songs are enjoyable in their own way and should make for a final worth watching. According to the odds as I type this, Bilal is the most likely winner, closely followed by Seemone and Emmanuel. But who do I think should – and will – win?

 

My favourites

His performance in the first semi wasn’t as flawless or affecting as Seemone’s in the second, but I’m happy to have Bilal in prime position with bookmakers at the moment – Roi is my no. 1 song left in the competition. If there’s anything I could learn to love as much as I loved Lisandro Cuxi’s Eva in 2018, it’s this not-totally-dissimilar track that mixes French and English as fast and fluidly as France’s JESC runner-up Jamais Sans Toi. Bilal is an iconic performer with a great personality, and if he amps things up tonight and gives 110% to his time on stage, then he could easily end up having to keep mid-May free for Eurovision.

I didn’t “get” this until I saw it performed, but La Promesse is now right behind Roi in my ranking á la Francais. It was staged simply but beautifully, and Emmanuel matched the visual beauty with Schwarzenegger-strong vocal game. This is a classic example of a song lifted by a live performance. Dark horse alert!

Seemone is the opposite of a dark horse, and while Tous Les Deux is not the song I’d prefer to see representing France in Tel Aviv, I will be able to climb on the bandwagon if it wins. All this girl has to do is stand there and sing (in sparkly shoes for an added My Little Pony + Wizard of Oz vibe) and the majority of us will buy what she’s selling. You don’t have to be fluent in French to know that this is an emotionally-charged song, and the emotions do appear authentic. I just hope that continues to be the case over time if Seemone does go to the ESC.

Doutson rounds out my favourites with the trés danceable Sous Un Bon Fils. It’s nothing mindblowing and has zero chance of winning, but it’s fun – and cute where mini-Doutson is concerned.

 

Who will win?

Much of this final is made up of a) okay songs performed very well (e.g. Là-Haut and La Voix d’Aretha) and b) good songs that could benefit from a better performance (like Comme Une Grande). The top three favourites are the best of both worlds. I think it’s asking a little too much for Emmanuel to win, unless points are so split between Bilal and Seemone that he does it almost by default. My gut feeling though – and my prediction based on her solid win in the stronger of the two semis – is that Seemone will succeed Madame Monsieur as France’s Eurovision rep. I don’t think she’ll beat Bilal by a huge margin, but by enough to get her crowned fair and square. This means that once again, my personal favourite will be pipped by a song I like, but don’t like as much…still, the pain will be practically nonexistent compared to what I felt when Eva lost to Mercy at the last second (but whatever, I’m TOTALLY OVER IT *sobs*).

 

Now, let’s fly over to Eastern Europe and stay for a while. There’s lots to talk about!

 

HUNGARY: Big hitters in A Dal’s second heat  

 

If you read my last post, you’ll know how obsessed I am with A Dal this year. It’s always a great NF to get into, but there’s a particularly huge percentage of kick-ass music on offer in 2019 (as far as my tastes go, anyway). If you read my last post you’ll also know that I was/am in love with Olivér Berkes’ Világítótorony, which failed to qualify from last Saturday’s heat and broke my heart in the process. I’m sure you’re feeling pretty unhappy about it too, Olivér, so feel free to hit me up if you want someone to share a pity party with.

Here’s hoping this week’s heat goes more my way (since I’m still trying to tape my poor heart back together). Once again there are six spots up for grabs, with these 10 songs in contention:

  • Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet
  • Szótlanság, Bence Vavra
  • La Mama Hotel, Dávid Heatlie
  • Little Bird, Diana
  • Kulcs, Fatal Error
  • Csak 1 Perc, Gotthy
  • You’re Gonna Rise, Klára Hajdu
  • Roses, The Middletonz
  • Ő, The Sign
  • Incomplete, yesyes

Neither of the two songs I straight up dislike are in this heat, so it’s safe to say I’m excited about it. Tonight is also a battle between five-time participant and ESC alum András Kállay-Saunders (as half of The Middletonz) and 2018 runners-up yesyes, to see if there’s room for both of them to qualify. I suspect there is…and if you want to know what else I suspect will happen in this round of A Dal, keep reading.

 

My favourites

I might be in the minority here (and I say might because I actually don’t know) but IMO yesyes has topped 2018’s almost-winner I Let You Run Away with Incomplete. I’ve already professed my love for it in the post I keep mentioning, so I won’t re-ramble here. I’ll just say that it ticks all my boxes, has a definite shot at winning the whole comp and will certainly qualify from this heat.

My next pick is Roses. Urban, original and on-trend, it’s the kind of song that would stand out in any NF. I’m a little worried it will be messy when performed live as opposed to slick and cool like it is in studio, but The Middletonz should be innocent until proven guilty. I’m not sure Roses will sail through to the semis but my fingers are crossed.

Csak 1 Perc and La Mama Hotel are the best of the rest for me. The former screams radio hit and I love it, but again I’m nervous to see whether it will be a success or a fail on stage. La Mama Hotel is rocky and intense and like basically every type of song, makes Hungarian sound so damn good. Insert prayer for these two to make tonight’s top six here!

I’m not too fussed either way about the other six songs, but if I had to pick two more to advance I’d go with Nyári Zápor and Ő.

 

Who’s going through?

I’m even rustier when it comes to predictions than usual, and I had a super hard time with this one. The Hungarian public and jury can vote in mysterious ways, and realistically, almost anything from this heat has the potential to rise or fall. I am confident that yesyes will qualify and either outright win or tie FTW. Following behind in an orderly fashion will be, I’m guessing, The Middletonz, Fatal Error, Diana, Acoustic Planet and Dávid Heatlie. Don’t be surprised if Klára’s too-Disney-for-Disney ballad sneaks through though – it wouldn’t be the first time A Dal has rewarded a song like that.

Who do you think will make the grade in this Hungarian heat? Let me know in the comments while you still can!

 

The ESC 2019 songs and singers so far

My bad – I’ve realised I’m yet to react to ANY of the recently (and some not-so-recently) selected songs and/or artists for Eurovision 2019. Let’s fix that, shall we?

Albania It’s Jonida Maliqi and her amazingly white teeth (seriously, who does her dental work? I need the inside info) who’ll be flying the Albanian flag in Israel. Ktheju Tokës is a promising track with all the grandeur and mysteriousness of a typical Albanian entry, but I’m not sure that it can hit the heights of Mall. I’ll save any further thoughts for the inevitably revamped version.

Belgium Voice graduate Eliot Vassamillet is dropping his dope surname for the ESC and will be aiming to pick up where Blanche left off rather than where Sennek did. The trend has been for RTBF’s acts to do consistently well (Roberto Bellarosa/Loïc Nottet/Blanche) – and since Eliot’s song will be penned by City Lights writer Pierre Dumoulin, I’d say watch out, everyone else. Fun fact: Eliot was born in 2000 and is somehow old enough to be out of nappies and of ESC age. My god, I feel old.

Macedonia She’s been in the background and foreground of a few contest performances in her time, and now Tamara Todevska has been selected to solo for Macedonia. Her 2008 entry is a slightly guilty pleasure of mine and I’ve liked what she entered previous Macedonian NFs with, so I’m thinking this was a good choice. Here’s hoping she can do better than her sister Tijana did back in Copenhagen.

The Netherlands Fairly unknown (not complaining) Duncan Laurence will follow in Waylon’s footsteps for the Netherlands, though hopefully not to the point of wearing a leopard-print pimp coat on stage. What we do know about Duncan is that he’s easy on the eyes, and has a beautiful and distinctive voice at his disposal (thanks to a leaked demo version of a song that may or may not be his ESC entry). I’m quite excited about this guy.

San Marino Was San Marino trolling us all by letting us think the Human Ken Doll was representing them? I don’t really care, I’m so relieved that he isn’t. That left the door wide open for Serhat to come strolling through as he did in 2016, and I feel stupid for not seeing it coming. I don’t know how to feel about this news, but there’s a chance we could get a decent song out of him this time (i.e. one that isn’t the guiltiest of guilty pleasures). That’s what I’m hanging on to.

Spain In a disappointingly non-dramatic outcome, Spain chose Miki and the super-fun La Venda to go to Eurovision rather than risking a televised ‘Why me?!?’ tantrum and subsequent refusal to go from Maria. Overall, I think they made a smart choice. Miki has loads of energy and charisma, looks like Amir back in Amir’s university party days, and is armed with three minutes of Latin-flavoured happiness. I like the song and expect it to grow on me even more, but I think some fans are getting ahead of themselves with the top 5 proclamations.

PS…I’ll slip in a little word here about the freshly-revealed host quartet for 2019. First things first, I am not a fan of the four-host scenario – it puts too many cooks into the Eurovision kitchen and gets messy very easily. But on face value, the four handpicked by KAN – supermodel Bar Refaeli, and TV presenters Erez Tal, Assi Azar and Lucy Ayoub – look promising, and like they’ll have a decent dynamic. Rumour has it there’ll be a divide between Refaeli and Tal as the main hosts, and Azar and Ayoub as the green room hosts, so that should help.

 

What’s next for NF season?

  • 27/1 Romania (Selecţia Natională, SF1)
  • 28/1 Czech Republic (ESCZ winner announcement), Eurovision 2019 (allocation draw)
  • 29/1 Finland (artist announcement)
  • 31/1 Estonia (Eesti Laul, SF1)

 

I think I’ve finally said all I had to say for now, so congrats if you got through it. If you have any energy left, head down to that comment box and spill the tea on anything to do with Eurovision 2019, national finals, what you’re watching and expecting tonight and your personal problems if they’re interesting.

 

I’ll see you on the other side of this (sort of) Super Saturday!

 

 

 

A DAL, YOU’VE DONE IT AGAIN | A love letter to Hungary’s Eurovision 2019 song selection feat. my top 30!

In case you didn’t know, Sweden is my all-time favourite Eurovision country and the one I support unconditionally every year (2009 aside…La Voix was a moment of insanity on their part). But I have to say, there’s another nation nipping at their stylishly-shod heels.

Hungary has gifted three minutes of greatness (in every genre imaginable) to the ESC almost every time they’ve participated, and while I’ve been waiting for them to finally win I’ve kept a close eye on their national final A Dal. And this year, the competition is seriously wow. I mean, if I had to sum up how I feel about it in just a few words, ‘VISZLAT NYASSS!!!’ would do it.

Thankfully I don’t have to limit myself to just a few words, so instead I’m going to devote an entire blog post to how awesome it is. The upcoming A Dal is too good NOT to discuss in detail to the point where you guys are snoring and drooling – so maybe grab some coffee (triple shot) before you check out my thoughts on all 30 entries as we wait for the comp to start on Saturday night. And as always, share your agreements and disagreements in the comments. I’m desperate to know if you’re as impressed by Hungary this year as I am!

 

 

My A Dal douze pointers

Working from best to worst, this is my top 10 in a comp that’s setting the standard for song quality this NF season. If the Eurovision gods are smiling down on me when the A Dal final rolls around, one of these tracks will win it. If not, I may cry a little.

Lighthouse, Olivér Berkes This song does to me what I think Amar Pelos Dois did to a lot of people (but NOT me): it makes me feel feelings that manifest in the form of goosebumps, spine tingles and moist eyes that I may or may not blame on allergies. It’s one of the prettiest piano ballads my ears have ever been exposed to, and Olivér – competing in A Dal for the first time as a soloist and the third time overall – delivers it emotively and with the perfect mix of flawless and rough-edged vocals. I do think the Hungarian version Világítótorony is extra special, so I’m hoping Olivér opts to sing that during A Dal. Either way though, it will be stunning.

Wasted, Barni Hamar Barni might look like he should be competing in a JESC NF, but his song is totally ready for adult Eurovision. Wasted – composed and written Mikolas Josef style by Barni himself – is exactly the kind of cutting-edge, catchy as heck radio pop I always gravitate towards when the A Dal songs are unveiled. I’ve had it stuck in my head for days and I’m not complaining about it. This song is the bomb, and if you love it too, check out Barni’s EP Different on Spotify – the whole thing is in the same musical and lyrical neighbourhood.

Incomplete, yesyes Truth time: I didn’t get the yesyes hype last year, when they finished just behind AWS with I Let You Run Away. With this comeback track, they’ve taken the skeleton of that song and fleshed it out, bringing something to life I can definitely say yesyes to. Incomplete has every box on my douze-point checklist ticked – it’s current, dynamic, edgy, atmospheric and catchy. Plus, the potential for a kick-ass light show to accompany it is sky high, and that tends to make me happy. Watch out for this one, because it could run away (see what I did there) with the win very easily.

Roses, The Middletonz This is the fifth time András Kállay-Saunders has attempted to represent Hungary at Eurovision (with a 1/5 success rate, obviously). This latest try is giving him a pretty good shot at victory in my opinion (as someone whose own success rate at predicting the outcomes of national finals is laughable). Roses is a love it or hate it sort of song, but clearly I love it. What I love most about it is how it’s ever-evolving, shapeshifting in sound constantly throughout the three minutes but in a pattern that you can follow. I’ve never heard a song quite like it before, and neither has Eurovision. Just saying…

Az Én Apám, Joci Pápai My boy is back! I nearly passed out when I heard that Joci, the man behind one of my all-time favourite ESC entries and a string of other amazing songs, was giving A Dal another go. Given Hungary’s tendency to bounce from genre to genre and never send the same act twice, I don’t think we’ll see him at Eurovision 2019 – but they could do a lot worse than sending this heartfelt ethno-folk ballad. It might not be as dramatic as Origo (topping that is impossible) but it’s just as beautiful and arresting in its own way.

Posztolj, USNK As soon as I found out that ByeAlex co-wrote this, I knew I’d soon be professing my love for it on this blog. And here we are! That songwriter credit is the only thing Posztolj has in common with Kedvesem (another favourite ESC entry of mine), but I’m a fan regardless. It serves swag, attitude and grit, and makes me feel cooler than I actually am just by listening to it. USNK, fresh from winning Hungary’s X Factor, obviously have public vote-pulling power too. I don’t think Hungary would be afraid to send this to the A Dal final.

Százszor Visszajátszot, Konyha I’m strangely bummed that I like this so much because it means I have to type out that crazy long title more often (JK…I’ll be copying and pasting). But it’s too good to resist. Hungarian is one of my most beloved musical languages, and this song is a great example of why. It’s slick, it’s neat, and that chorus is infectious times infinity. I also think it works as chill party background music, a song you’d sing along to on the radio in the car AND one that can compete in a contest. That’s no mean feat. 

Maradj Még, Kyra Here’s the powerhouse female pop I knew would be in A Dal somewhere, since this NF leaves no genre stone unturned. Again, because this is Hungary, it’s not straightforward, middle-of-the-road cookie cutter pop we’re talking about here. Maradj Még has bite. It moves from solid verses to an awesome bridge, then on to an epic chorus feat. big vocals and a little EDM influence. I hope to heck that Kyra can deliver this live – if not it will be a mess, but if she can, HECK YES.

Hozzád Bújnék, Gergő Oláh Another returnee, Gergő is in it to win it for the fourth time, and while Hozzád Bújnék is no Győz A Jó (a song that deserved Eurovision and so much more) it’s still top notch stuff. Soaring, powerful and all class, it’s like a talent show winner’s single but actually decent. Gergő will want to be at his vocal best performing this, since it showcases his voice without spotlighting much else (i.e. there’s no bells and whistles to distract from a dodgy vocal). I’m pretty confident he can handle it.

Csak 1 Perc, Gotthy You might see this as a wildcard in my top 10, or at least as a song that wouldn’t be so highly thought of by many other people. But there’s always an underdog in with my favourites, and congrats Gotthy – it’s you this time! I don’t expect Csak 1 Perc to progress too far in A Dal. Unlike Százszor Visszajátszot (copied and pasted) it’s a definite radio song rather than a radio song AND a competition song. But that just means I will be streaming the shiz out of it on Spotify and enjoying every minute.

 

The rest of the best

I’ve listed all my absolute favourites from A Dal 2019 now, but I wouldn’t be devastated if any of these next entries won instead.

Hazavágyom, Leander Kills This is something a bit different from Leander Kills – and it’s damn good different. I prefer epic Élet from 2017, but this ethnic, unique and folksy creation is a song I wouldn’t mind winning the whole thing.

La Mama Hotel, Dávid Heatlie I love the intensity and energy of this one. It passed me by a little when I was first running through the 30, but I’m glad I gave it the attention it deserves.

Ide Várnak Vissza, DENIZ I’m a sucker for a rap/vocal combo (it’s one of the billion reasons I love Origo so much) so what DENIZ is bringing to A Dal is A+. How similar does the vocalist sound to Medina though? Listen to 100 Dage, her collab with Thomas Helmig, and you’ll know what I mean.

Holnap, Bogi Nagy If you’re looking for a female equivalent of Olivér Berkes – or a female-led song that’s simple, pretty and emotive like Lighthouse – here’s your girl and here’s your song. It’s far from being in Lighthouse’s league, but it’s a really nice ballad and Bogi’s vocals are practically angelic.

Help Me Out of Here, Petruska I loved Petruska’s last entry Trouble In My Mind, and for me this one doesn’t quite measure up to that. But the Paul Simon Graceland vibes put me in a good mood.

Barát, Salvus The early 2000s called, but they can’t have this Christian rock-esque number back because I want and need it here in 2019.

A Remény Hídjai, Nomad Mid-tempo soft rock is on the vanilla side of things for me, and this is no exception. But vanilla is still appealing! Hungarian sounds boss in this genre like it does in EVERY GENRE IN EXISTENCE.

Ő, The Sign This is a weird song, and most of it is taken up by ‘Őőőőőőőőőőőőőő.’ But, even though it may not maximise the 180 seconds it has to work with, I find it so soothing and pleasant to listen to that I still like it a lot.

Frida, Rozina Pátkai ’Ethereal’ is a word I don’t use very often when I’m talking music, but it’s fitting for this track. I wish it had more x-factor to take it to the next level, but that’s a small pet peeve and I’m still impressed by it.

Nyári Zápor, Acoustic Planet I didn’t like this much based on the teaser, and I still think the guitar parts are way too throwback. But the rest is easy-listening enjoyment all the way, and it puts a smile on my resting bitchface.

Little Bird, Diana There’s one thing stopping me from ranking this way higher, and it’s Diana’s voice – it just grates on me. That aside, Little Bird is an awesome addition to A Dal this year. I’m hoping I’ll find the vocals more agreeable live.

 

I’m undecided…

I need some more alone time with these songs to see how I really feel about them, but there’s something appealing about them all.

Madár, Repülj!, Gergő Szekér I think I like this. It’s original and dramatic, no doubt, but a bit messy. Chaotic messy, not artfully messy like Gergő’s hair.

Szótlanság, Bence Vavra I’ve listened to this as often as I’ve listened to everything else, and I cannot remember how it goes. Yet when I do press play, I always think ‘Yeah, this isn’t bad!’. Go figure.

Egyszer, Mocsok 1 Kölyök I don’t feel any fire from this in terms of competing FTW, however I wouldn’t skip it on a shuffling playlist. The 90s grunge feels are strong.

You’re Gonna Rise, Klára Hajdu There’s usually a carbon copy of this song in A Dal (it reminds me particularly of Fall Like Rain from a few years back) and I’m never a big fan. This time it’s a guilty pleasure for me, though. The lyrics are beyond cliché, but the melody is nice and overall I find it a relaxing listen.

Kulcs, Fatal Error I have to be in the right mood to listen to this, otherwise the noisiness and frantic pace send me into meltdown mode. If I am in the right mood, I will headbang until I need a chiropractor.

Someone Who Lives Like This, László Váray Would I miss this if it wasn’t invited to the party? No, but I don’t mind it being on the guest list.

Kedves Világ!, Timi Antal feat. Gergő Demko Okay, nothing special. I welcome every song that’s in Hungarian though.

 

Thank u, next

Loving or liking 28 out of 30 in this lineup is what made me want to write this ramble in the first place – but yes, there are a few songs I don’t like.

Forró, Ruby Harlem The style of this is not my bowl of goulash at all, and I find the chorus super irritating.

Run Baby Run, Monyo Project The verses aren’t bad but the chorus (another song-ruining one) is so repetitive and monotonous, it gives me a headache.

 

 

And that’s every single song on offer in A Dal this year from my perspective. I love so many that I’m guaranteed to get heartbroken during the heat and/or semi stages, but I’m confident we’ll get a great winner and Eurovision entry from Hungary in the end. Stay tuned to EBJ for my predictions when the time is right…

 

Which potential Hungarian ESC entries are you excited about at the moment? Is A Dal 2019 as dal-ightful in your opinion as I think it is? Let me know below!

  

 

 

 

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

Just because national final season ended back in March doesn’t mean we should forget about it, right? After all, every year brings with it a fresh batch of boss music for us fans to add to our respective playlists, and the happy-dances danced as a result of that can last forever. AND this is all before Eurovision itself even begins! I think I speak for all of us when I say – as a totally unknown band called ABBA once said – thank you for the music, NF season.

There’s no better way to top off a thanks than with a top 10, in my opinion – so here we are. It might seem like I’m just crazy late in posting this countdown, but now is a good time to pay tribute to the 2017 selection season: firstly, because it’s Thursday and I’m a big supporter of #ThrowbackThursday (check my Instagram if you don’t believe me); and secondly, because it’s not long until the results of this year’s OGAE Second Chance Contest are revealed. It turns out that half of my favourite tracks from the recent run of national finals were chosen to compete in the SCC, so I guess I’m not as alternative as I thought. Damn.

The lone rule for this list? I only allowed myself to pick one song from any particular country – so you’re not about to see Melfest song after Melfest song. Keep reading to find out which Eurovision could-have-beens I fell in love with this season, and how I think they would have fared in Kyiv compared to the songs that actually ended up there. And don’t forget to share your personal favourite songs in the comments!

 

 

#10 | Two Faces by Michéle (Switzerland)

NF result 3rd, Die Entscheidungsshow

Is it better than Apollo? No, but…apples and oranges.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Definitely not, though I like to think it would have been staged better than Apollo.

I’m sorry to have to say this, but I know I’m not the only one who’s come to expect a certain level of sub-standardness when reviewing the Swiss national finalists each year. 2017 was an exception in that the final bunch of songs – bar one – were actually more than mediocre. My favourite, Apollo aside, was pocket rocket Michéle’s Two Faces, which took me by surprise given how mod-pop it is. It’s not a perfect production, and my inner jury’s still out on whether the ‘sugar and salt’ analogy is good or awkward…but damn, this is catchy. And even though it does sound radio-friendly, I’ve never heard anything quite like it before.

 

#9 | Helppo Elämä by Lauri Yrhjola (Finland)

NF result 8th, Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu

Is it better than Blackbird? No, but again it’s hard to compare the two.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Probably not.

If this song was sung in English (or Swedish), it would have been right at home in the Melodifestivalen line-up. That’s a big compliment from me meaning it’s a) slickly produced pop, b) minty-fresh radio material, and c) gets stuck in your head like it’s made of super glue. The fact that it’s in Finnish, though, further set it apart in the UMK field, and adds to the aloof kind of cool it projects. The fusion of country twang and electro sounds is very Avicii, and gives it an automatic x-factor. For me, it was the NF character that speaks its own language (literally) and has little hope of winning, but will inevitably end up on my selection season playlist. There’s at least one of those in every national final.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#8 | I Wish I Loved You More by Holly Brewer (United Kingdom)

NF result Unknown, Eurovision: You Decide

Is it better than Never Give Up On You? No, but it’s less of an identity-crisis song.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope.

You guys know mama loves her female power ballads (when they’re good ones…I am fairly discerning). Why do you think I was such an enthusiastic member of Team Denmark this year? Speaking of blonde powerhouse vocalists, here’s Holly Brewer, who sang the shiz out of the sensational PB that is I Wish I Loved You More. I can admit that this sort of song had its heyday circa 2007, but the genre never stopped floating my boat. I love that IWILYM promises to become something dynamic and explosive, and then delivers – first with big + bold choruses, then with that money note that you KNOW is coming, but it still packs a punch when it arrives. It’s a knockout (and so is Holly, on whom I have a raging girl crush).

 

#7 | Heart of Gold by BQL

NF result 2nd, EMA

Is it better than On My Way ? HELL YEAH!

Would it have done better in Kyiv? HELL YEAH!

BQL (made up of two musos who are apparently blood brothers…who’d have guessed?) broke hearts throughout the Euroverse when they failed to get Slovenia’s golden ticket in 2017 – Slovenia’s fault, obvs. Okay, so their live performance was a little rough around the edges, while Omar Naber’s was flawless (it was another Margaret/Michał Szpak situation). And Heart of Gold itself is a bit all-over-the-place as a song, needing a restructure and a revamp. But like everything created by Maraaya, it has SO much going for it. Simple but effective lyrics, and not one, but about five epic melodies, for example. If it had won EMA and undergone a pre-ESC facelift, wonderful things might have happened to a country that has now chosen two questionable entries in a row.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#6 | One by Ida Una (Denmark)

NF result 2nd, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix

Is it better than Where I Am? Not according to moi.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? I have to say yes (but I don’t want to).

Here’s a prime example of the safe, sugary pop songs that dominate DMGP – and this one is actually about love and peace (I don’t know if Måns and Petra would approve or be appalled). I’m not normally a supporter of either cookie-cutter music or lame lyrics, but I have totally dug the vibe of Ida Una’s One since day one. The lyrics are the main drawback, because everything else is very Scandi-2017…and how about the insane singalong-ability of the chorus? It turns one word into ten syllables, making it a surefire hook without it being too simplistic. I was pretty convinced this track was going to Kyiv because it’s right up Denmark’s street, and I wouldn’t have minded that result since the song is right up my street too.

 

#5 | Places by Ulrikke (Norway)

NF result 4th, Melodi Grand Prix

Is it better than Grab The Moment? No, but it’s a close call.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? I think it would have finished just outside the top 10, so no.

I wouldn’t willingly swap Grab The Moment – one of my true ESC 2017 loves – for anything. But if I had to for some random reason, I’d have sent Ulrikke’s Places to Ukraine in a heartbeat. That’d be on the condition that Norway totally rethought the MGP staging of the song, which wasn’t nearly ‘tropical beach party WOOHOO’ enough. Places itself, though, is a JAM – a summer jam that I’m being forced to play in winter as I imagine being by the ocean. My buzzwords for this countdown have been ‘current’ and ‘catchy’, and I have to use them again to describe this because it has bucketloads of both. More so than Dansk MGP and Melodifestivalen, Norsk MGP tends to deliver on pop with a bit of edge, and pop that’s very now – not squeaky-clean, sugary or safe. Places is an excellent example of that, I reckon.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#4 | Hold On by Nano (Sweden)

NF result 2nd, Melodifestivalen

Is it better than I Can’t Go On? In some ways, yes. In others, no.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? Nope – I think it would have done the same thing.

As you may or may not know (have I mentioned it often enough? I’m not sure…) I was in the audience for the Melfest final this year – and holy Herreys, it was amazing! I didn’t quite get the happy ending I was hoping for, however, as someone supporting Nano rather than Robin. Don’t get me wrong (Bengtsson lyrical pun intended), Sweden NEVER puts a foot wrong at Eurovision IMO (2009 excepted). But Hold On gets to me in a goosebumpy way that the perfectly-polished I Can’t Go On never did. Maybe it’s because it seems more authentic, or because it’s more dynamic and powerful. Or maybe it’s just a cracking song that appeals a teensy bit more to my tastes. Whatever the case, I can’t help being disappointed that Nano was Sweden’s choice to go to Eurovision, but got pipped at the post anyway.

 

#3 | I Love You by Tayanna (Ukraine)

NF result 2nd, Vidbir

Is it better than Time? Absolutely.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? For sure, providing Tayanna’s throat was in full functioning order at the time.

There were a handful of massively missed opportunities during the 2017 selection season, and sadly, host country Ukraine was responsible for one of them. I can understand how it happened, though. The Ukrainian final was super strong, with Tayanna, Mélovin and Rozhden being my personal standouts – but Tayanna’s incredible power ballad (here I go again with the PB love) was the cream of the crop…prior to that final. Tragically, her vocal ability was compromised by some sort of illness when she needed it most, leading to a performance full of cringe-worthy moments. That’s not the performance above – I had to choose the video of Tayanna at her best since it helps me to daydream about how I Love You would have been one of the best and most wildly-applauded host entries of recent times. Oh, and how it would have given Ukraine a respectable result without forcing another fork-out of contest hosting funds.

 

#2 | Ouch! By LeKlein (Spain)

NF result 3rd, Objetivo Eurovisión

Is it better than Do It For Your Lover? Well, yeah. I’d say ‘What isn’t?’ but that would be unnecessarily cruel to Manel and also not technically true.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? You bet your butt it would have!

EPIC ERROR ALERT NO. 3!!! Call this a controversial call, but if Spain made any mistake at their NF this year (which they did, though when I say ‘Spain’ I mean the Objetivo judging panel) it wasn’t picking Manel over Mirela. It was leaving LeKlein in 3rd, which definitely made me say Ouch! She might not have been everybody’s cup of sangria, but I’m convinced Ouch! was the best option for Spain in 2017, and would have secured them a spot on the left side of the scoreboard (I can say that with authority because there’s no way of proving me wrong). This song is an anthem of rock-electro-pop proportions, with a sense of fun and a simple hook that would have been memorable in the Eurovision final for sure. Unless, that is, I’m the minority and everyone else would have seen an aggressive androgynous woman yelling at them down the camera for three minutes #possible.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

#1 | Deák by Spoon 21 (Hungary)

NF result DNQ (semi-final), A Dal

Is it better than Origo? It’s equally epic.

Would it have done better in Kyiv? No.

Funnily enough, I’m glad this song – my favourite find from the 2017 season – didn’t end up at the ESC. Spoon 21’s live performance just wasn’t up to scratch, and that was all to do with vocals. Hungary still would have sent my number one entry of the year if they’d sent Deák instead of Origo, but you’ll never catch me disputing Joci Pápai’s place in the contest. Still, as a song for listening to (ten times a day) Deák is superb. It’s the most K-pop sounding NF song I’ve ever heard, and I love it for that. It’s unique, infectious and gets a zillion cool points just by being in Hungarian. And speaking of cool points, I feel like a cooler person just listening to it – it’s a little bit hipster but mainstream enough to have mass appeal. All in all, it’s a kickass track that proves Spoon 21 – who entered A Dal 2015 with something completely different – isn’t a one-trick pony boy band.

Watch the NF performance here.

 

 

So, how did I do? Do you think any of these songs would have made better Eurovision entries than what we actually got? Which musical masterpieces from A Dal to Vidbir and every NF in-between got you excited this year? If you have something (nice) to say, say it in the comments box below J

I’d better go now – it’s time for daily listen no. 10 of Déak, and I can’t keep Spoon 21 waiting.

 

 

 

 

SELECTION SEASON 2017 | More Melfest magic + A Dal decision time = the tip of the NF iceberg!

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.

  1. I Can’t Go On by Robin Bengtsson
  2. Snurra Min Jord by Krista Siegfrids
  3. Kiss You Goodbye by Anton Hagman
  4. Gravity by Jasmine Kara
  5. Boogieman Blues by Owe Thörnqvist
  6. Crucified by Bella & Filippa
  7. Gotta Thing About You by FO&O

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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.

 

The rest

  • 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.

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  • 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. #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?!?!?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!

 

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THE KOUNTDOWN TO KYIV | My picks for the best and worst music + moments of the season so far

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!

 

 

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SUPER SATURDAY #4 | New entries, first impressions + A Dal, Melodi Grand Prix and Melfest!

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.
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Jamie-Lee, ready for action in her ghost-busting gear.

  • 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

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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.

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The top is pointless, Andras. Just take the damn thing off *pulls out camera*.

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.

norway-2016-melodi-grand-prix-artists

  1. Laika by The Hungry Hearts feat. Lisa Dillan
  2. Into The Fire by Stage Dolls
  3. Traces by Stine Hole Ulla
  4. Stand Up by Makeda
  5. Anyway by Pegasus
  6. Feel Da Rush by Freddy Kalas
  7. Afterglow by Laila Samuels
  8. History by Elouiz
  9. Anna Lee by Suite 16
  10. 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.

  1. Runaways by Eclipse
  2. Rollercoaster by Dolly Style
  3. Du Tar Mig Tillbaks by Martin Stenmarck
  4. Killer Girl by Linda Bengtzing
  5. If I Were Sorry by Frans
  6. Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz
  7. Youniverse by Molly Sandén
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Dolly Style clearly didn’t get the dress code memo.

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!

 

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SUPER SATURDAY #3 | The end of Eesti Laul + Hungarian and Swedish semis!

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!
IL-VOLO_Photo_

How could you not want to vote for these faces (or the voices behind them)?

  • 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 hoped thought.

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:

  1. Minu Päike by Luisa Värk
  2. Üle Vesihalli Taeva by Maia Vahtramäe
  3. Goodbye To Yesterday by Elina Born & Stig Rästa
  4. Idiot by Kali Briis Band
  5. Troubles by Robin Juhkental & The Big Bangers
  6. Burning Lights by Daniel Levi
  7. Superlove by Elisa Kolk
  8. Exceptional by The Blurry Lane
  9. Unriddle Me by Elephants From Neptune
  10. 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.
2_5_Elina_Born_Stig_Rasta

‘If you’re going to insist on looking at the back of my head, Stig, can you at least be useful and check for dandruff?’

  • 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.

  1. Úgysem Felejtesz El by Gabi Szűcs
  2. Untold Story by Other Planet
  3. World of Violence by Bogi
  4. A Tükör Előtt by Gergő Oláh
  5. Fire by Ív
  6. Run To You by Gyula Éliás Jnr. feat. Fourtissimo
  7. Ne Engedj El by Kati Wolf
  8. Mesmerize by Passed
  9. 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*
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Kati tries her best not to sabotage her A Dal performance by sneezing.

  • 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:

  1. Insomnia by Ellen Benediktson
  2. För Din Skull by Kalle Johansson
  3. Bring Out The Fire by Andreas Weise
  4. Living To Die by Andreas Johnson
  5. Don’t Stop by Isa
  6. I See You by Kristin Amparo
  7. Jag Är Fri (Manne Liem Frije) by Jon Henrik Fjällgren
Melodifestivalen-semi-final-three-2015

Is Kalle super-tall, or is everyone else just super-short? #importantquestions

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.

JUST KIDDING.
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SUPER SATURDAY #2 | A bit of A Dal, Melfest in Malmö + Iceland takes their pick!

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.

To be honest, I'm too scared to rank her any lower.

To be honest, I’m too scared to rank her any lower.

#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.
#6. Belarus
#7. Macedonia
#8. Denmark
#9. Cyprus
#10. France

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!

A_Dal_2015_stúdió_MTVA

The stage is set. Tonight there’ll be bums on those seats.

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.

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It may be Saturday, but SUNDAY get my vote.

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

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Where’s Emelie Irewald? Hmm…I reckon it was Magnus, in the dining room, with the candlestick.

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.
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