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SUPER SATURDAY #5 | Thoughts on the new tracks of 2016 + my top 28 + Swedish second chances!

The title of this post pretty much says it all – besides letting you know that I actually haven’t got the time to review and predict the Estonian or Polish finals. I do have time to pass judgment on the songs that have become Eurovision entries since last Saturday, however. And to unveil my first official ranking of the year. AND to put Melodifestivalen’s Andra Chansen round under the microscope to see if I can guess who’ll walk away with the four performance slots in next weekend’s final. So all of the above is what I will do – right here, right now.

Well…in a minute.

Just so you know I know what’s going on in the Eurovision bubble over the next few nights, here are my traditional bullet points.

Tonight:

  • Estonia’s Eesti Laul – the final (will there be a Stig and Elina-style runaway winner? I suspect not)
  • Lithuania’s Eurovizijos – the semi final (believe it or not, the end is in sight)
  • Poland’s Krajowe Eliminacje – the final (Edyta, Margaret, or neither to Stockholm?)
  • Sweden’s Melodifestivalen – the Andra Chansen round (eight must become four)

Sunday night:

  • Romania’s Selecția Națională – the final (Mihai Traistariu’s chance to redo Eurovision)

Monday…sometime:

  • Macedonia present their song for Kaliopi (and she’s got her own big shoes to fill)

Now, let’s talk about the select stuff I have the chance to cover.

 

The songs and artist selections of the week, summed up in a sentence

Because ain’t nobody got the freedom for a full-length analysis – not with the week we’ve had.

  • LoveWave by Iveta Mukuchyan (Armenia) I don’t know if I’m impressed or disappointed by this unstructured, ethnically-tinged vehicle for Iveta’s raspy vocals.
  • Dami Im (Australia) She’s no Delta Goodrem (sadface), but X Factor champ Dami has the talent and dress sense to stand out in Stockholm – the only missing piece is a spectacular song.
  • Sing It Away by Sandhja (Finland) This reminds me of Belgium’s entry, but I prefer Laura to Sandhja (though I am glad Finland didn’t send Saara Aalto).
  • J’ai Cherché by Amir Haddad (France) Oui, oui and OUI.
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He’s more than all white as far as I’m concerned.

  • Pioneer by Freddie (Hungary) Hot singer + hit song = something that could be powerful on the Eurovision stage, and very successful for Hungary on the scoreboard.
  • Made of Stars by Hovi Star (Israel) If a song could be on the soundtrack of a West End musical, but a) isn’t, and b) isn’t Bohemian Rhapsody, then I’m not particularly interested.
  • Nessun Grado Di Separazione by Francesca Michielin (Italy) Classy, effortless Italian pop is a grande amore of mine, and this song is no exception (but please, please sing in Italian, Francesca!).
  • Heartbeat by Justs (Latvia) This is just/Justs brilliant, and features one of the most latch-able choruses of the year so far – Aminata, you’ve done it again.
  • Falling Stars by Lidia Isac (Moldova) The studio version, I’m keen on; the live version…well, Lidia positions herself right in the heart of screechy territory.
  • The Real Thing by Highway (Montenegro) This scares me and kind of appeals to me at the same time, but I expect it to perform terribly in its semi final.
  • Slow Down by Douwe Bob (The Netherlands) Bob’s style isn’t my bottle of Heineken, but even I can hear that Slow Down is a good example of folk/country that will do a decent job of leaving the Walk Along incident in its dust.
  • Icebreaker by Agnete (Norway) It’s incredible how Norway is managing to send two different songs to Eurovision 2016 without breaching any rules or regulations.
  • You Are The Only One by Sergey Lazarev (Russia) Sky-high expectations not met by a song that could have been lifted straight out of Eurovision 2006.
  • Blue and Red by ManuElla (Slovenia) You’ve got to do better than a Taylor Swift: 2008 Edition impersonator to impress me, Slovenia – what a step down from Here For You.

If you were wondering where the songs I’ve summed up here would factor in to a ranking including the rest, you’ll find that just below. If you weren’t, then feel free to skip to the Swedish section.

 

It’s here, and it’s uncertain! My first ranking of the 2016 season, revealed

I did put a ranking together a few days ago (not for publication’s sake but out of curiosity) and it was considerably different to the one below. What can I say? I’m fickle. This latest and first-to-be-publicised list includes all of the songs confirmed for Stockholm AT THIS PRECISE MOMENT – so Malta, who are still deciding whether Ira Losco should be a Chameleon or something else (I like to think they’ve got a backup track entitled Komodo Dragon waiting in the wings) is not included.

And so, for anyone who cares, this is my current top 28:

  1. Ukraine
  2. Hungary
  3. Italy
  4. France
  5. Latvia
  6. Norway
  7. Belgium
  8. Germany
  9. Spain
  10. Moldova
  11. Ireland
  12. Denmark
  13. Albania
  14. Georgia
  15. Cyprus
  16. Armenia
  17. Iceland
  18. United Kingdom
  19. Switzerland
  20. Russia
  21. Montenegro
  22. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  23. Netherlands
  24. Israel
  25. Finland
  26. Belarus
  27. Austria
  28. Slovenia
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I have a ridiculously photogenic top three on my hands, if I say so myself…

With fifteen songs still to be premiered or picked, there’s a lot of room for movement in all of our lists. But I want to know who’s topping yours at the moment…and who’s sitting un-pretty on the bottom. Let me know in the comments, and I (might) send you a gift basket.

 

Meanwhile, in Sweden: It’s time to give out the last remaining final tickets!

 Andra Chansen, the stage of Melodifestivalen that’s as fun to pronounce as it is to watch, has arrived. And, like last year (but not the year before that), there are four places left in the Friends Arena final for tonight’s competitors to fight for.

SVT, as usual, have paired up the eight songs placed 3rd and 4th in the semi finals, ensuring that none of those who went to AC together will be up against each other again. In the process, they’ve come up with some duels that can only be described using the letters W, T and F. And that makes a few of them hard to predict. Let’s take a closer look.

 

Duel 1: Håll Om Mig Hårt by Panetoz VS Hunger by Molly Pettersson Hammar

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I’ll start with a confession: I would have bet my entire trip to Stockholm on Panetoz being pit against Boris René tonight (but I’m glad I didn’t). Don’t get me wrong – I’m relieved that both acts now have a shot at progressing from AC. But if SVT wanted to ensure the Melfest final was a variety show, they shouldn’t have given up an opportunity to eliminate one of two songs in a very similar vein. But ANYWAY, back to the duel that IS about to take place…this is a tough one. There are two very different artists and styles butting heads here. Panetoz are the masters of fun, energy, and transferring all of the above to the audience. Molly’s got a hunger, but I’m not sure it’s a hunger to win – there’s something lacking in her performance package (perhaps some of the Panetoz fun and energy). It isn’t vocal ability – she’s certainly got the monopoly on that in this duel. My personal winner is Panetoz, and I think they might have Molly cornered…but it’s not a given.

Who I want to win Panetoz

 Who WILL win Panetoz

 

 

Duel 2: Rik by Albin & Mattias VS Put Your Love On Me by Boris René

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Here we have two repetitive songs up against each other. As much as I adore Albin and Mattias as artists, I have to admit that Rik is repetitive in an annoying, couldn’t-they-think-of-anything-else-to-fill-three-minutes kind of way, whereas it’s purely the chorus of Put Your Love On Me that uses the five title words and basically nothing else. Boris’ song and performance have so much more to offer, and he’s the clear winner of the second duel in my opinion.

Who I want to win Boris René

 Who WILL win Boris René

 

 

Duel 3: I Will Wait by Isa VS Kizunguzungu by SaRaha

isaraha

This is perhaps the weirdest pairing of the evening (Molly PH versus Isa? No? Okay then). I’m a big fan of both songs, but I think Isa may be trying too hard to get somewhere. Vocally (and physically), she’s can’t measure up to the lofty standards I Will Wait sets for her. SaRaha, on the other hand, owns Kizunguzungu, and is clearly completely comfortable and in her zone with Afro-pop. It’s not too intense, and she’s not straining to belt it out – which is the opposite impression I get from Isa. I think SaRaha’s ease and confidence (plus her sensational Spotify stats) will see her through to the final tonight.

Who I want to win Isa…SaRaha…I DON’T KNOW!!!

 Who WILL win SaRaha

 

 

Duel 4: Rollercoaster by Dolly Style VS Bada Nakna by Samir & Viktor

dolsam

Ah, finally! A duel that makes sense. Almost-novelty against almost-novelty. We need to get rid of one of these acts/songs, and I think Rollercoaster will be the one to get the silver platform boot. The force that is Samir & Viktor shouldn’t be underestimated, despite the fact that they didn’t manage to go direkt this time around. Their fans will be out to compensate for that “injustice” by systematically destroying Dolly Style via a tsunami of televotes. I can totally live with that.

Who I want to win Samir & Viktor

 Who WILL win Samir & Viktor

 

 

Sadly (seriously, have some tissues at the ready) that’s all I’ve got time for, folks. After all, a good-quality pre-Melfest nap must take priority over not napping.

As always, leave your thoughts on any recent or imminent Eurovisual happenings down below. And – this is not optional – enjoy this second-last Saturday of national final season while it lasts!

 

Until next time…

 

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SUPER SATURDAY #5 | Guy Sebastian, O-M-Germany and Andra Chansen predictions!

Well, well, well…what a big, controversial week it’s been in the Eurovision-verse!

After Eduard Romanyuta’s questionable win in the Moldovan final last Saturday (Belarus and their completely-legit-for-once NF are seething with jealousy) we had a) Australia announce the artist we’re sending to Vienna, a choice met with a whole lotta negativity; and b) the winner of the German final decline the ticket to Eurovision on live TV. Forget about Days of Our Lives – selection season is where all the drama’s at this year.

I’m going to be giving my verdict on said drama right here, right now. I’ll also be revealing the results of the Andra Chansen polls you guys voted in to help me predict tonight’s Melodifestivalen qualifiers. Believe me when I say that I needed all the help on the planet (not that I got all the help on the planet, but I got a decent amount, and I’m very grateful. So, yeah. Thanks).

But first, let’s take a look at the upcoming events on the ESC calendar.

  • TONIGHT: Portugal’s Festival da Canção final; Sweden’s Melodifestivalen second chance round; the United Kingdom’s entry reveal
  • SUNDAY: Romania’s Selecţia Naţională final
  • MONDAY: Poland’s entry reveal
  • TUESDAY: Belgium and the Czech Republic’s song reveals

With three events taking place this evening, we’ve arrived at the penultimate Super Saturday in the lead-up to Eurovision 2015. Enjoy it for Portugal, Sweden or the UK – or perhaps all three – while it lasts!

 

What a Guy? Idol alumni to fly the Aussie flag in Vienna; not everyone’s happy about it

…and what shocking news that is. Since when did we all not agree on absolutely everything concerning Eurovision?

Since FOREVER, that’s when. But quite frankly, I’m appalled at the negative reactions to Australian Idol’s first winner Guy Sebastian being announced as Australia’s representative. It’s amazing how quickly people can change their tune when they don’t get what they want.

Guy wasn’t at the forefront of my mind as I waited for Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang to quit stalling and just tell us who it is, goddammit, on Thursday morning. But once Guy did walk out in his triple-denim ensemble (which he was totally rocking, by the way) I felt both relieved and excited by the choice.

In front of the waiting press stood an artist who had risen to fame through a TV talent show back in 2003, and had managed to sustain his popularity and success all this time via album releases and arena tours, plus a three year stint as an X Factor judge. There, he mentored two winners in a row, no doubt drawing on his own experiences to guide them.

Sure, it was clear during the press conference that Guy was no Eurovision expert, but he’d done his homework. And, since he had accepted the offer to participate and clearly saw it as an honour (which it bloody well is!) we know he’s viewing this as a positive career move – but, as he stated, it’s much more that that. It’s a chance for him to be a part of something special and represent Australia on an international stage.

AUSTRALIAN EUROVISION ANNOUNCEMENT

Playing Jemini’s performance of ‘Cry Baby’ for Guy wasn’t the best idea SBS had ever had…

As an Australian Idol tragic from way back, I will be proud to wave a flag – or a placard reading ‘GO THA FRO!!!’ which you’ll understand if you’re a fellow Aussie – for Guy come May. I remember being a 12-year-old reality TV fan, watching him warble his way through week after week on the show, never putting a foot wrong. I also recall voting (more often than I should have at $2 per phone call) for him to win the comp over bloke’s bloke Shannon Noll.

He did, and shortly afterwards he was off to London to fly the Australian flag in the World Idol competition (which was my first taste of anything remotely ESC-like, and I LOVED it). He didn’t exactly set the scoreboard on fire there, but I wasn’t too bothered since I was busy lamenting the last place of Dutch Jamai Loman. I wasn’t to know that seeing the Netherlands’ entry fail miserably would be good prep for my future as Eurovision freak.

Fast forward to 2015, and it’s clear that the World Idol experience didn’t affect Guy negatively. In fact, it probably prepared him for Eurovision as much as something un-Eurovision related could. He’s released seven top 10 albums in Australia – two of which topped the charts – and had seven #1 singles. His 2012 single Battle Scars, featuring Lupe Fiasco, charted in Scandinavia and the US, and scored the duo a performance slot on The David Letterman Show. Not too shabby of a career, is it?

And yet many people – including a lot of Australians – couldn’t be outraged fast enough by his selection as our ESC artist. They were also quick to compose articles detailing the many acts who would be ‘better for Eurovision’. Real classy, guys. Don’t give the man a chance to pick out and premiere his song or anything. Don’t wait for five minutes until he’s tested it out at Eurovision in Concert, or until he begins rehearsals in the Stadthalle and we see how the staging and song come together – just slag him off now because he’s not your ideal representative!

That was sarcasm, in case you were unsure. We all had preconceived ideas of who would be the most suitable choice, and no matter what happened, not all of us were going to be happy. But to be one of those haters who, in Guy’s words (a.k.a. Taylor Swift’s words) were gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate when it’s not going to change anything, is unnecessary. There’s a difference between voicing your opinion and just being mean. Would Guy Sebastian be my ultimate pick to represent us? No. But as it stands, we will be represented by someone credible, talented, current and versatile, who’s in it for the right reasons. And I reckon that’s quite a coup on behalf of SBS and Blink TV.

With the March 16 submission deadline approaching, we’re sure to hear the Australian entry in the near future. That’s when I hope fans will toe the line between voicing their opinion and respecting the opinions of those who disagree with them. I also hope that when it’s go time, Guy can defy the negative expectations and give Australia a performance – and result – to be proud of.

 

Germany: Winners aren’t always grinners as Andreas makes way for Ann Sophie

Aaaaaand rant over! Now I’m turning my attention to some controversy of a different kind, which came from an unlikely source – Unser Song Für Österreich. I swear, Belarus must be horrified that they’re no longer the perpetrators of the most scandalous NF in Europe.

Germany’s final came to an end on Thursday night with wildcard entrant Ann Sophie and Black Smoke taking out the top prize. Of course, that was after initial winner Andreas Kümmert shocked everyone watching, hosting and participating in the show by refusing to be crowned champ and handing the title over to her instead. How do you say ‘Oh, the awkwardness!’ in German?

untitled

What’s the betting this was all an elaborate plan to have physical contact with Ann Sophie?

If you want to relive the cringe-fest as it unfolded, you can do so here (with English subtitles). While you’re doing that, you might wonder why Andreas decided to enter USFO in the first place. Did he not think he had a chance of winning? Was he always intending to say thanks, but no thanks (or danke, but nein danke) if it came to that, or did it suddenly occur to him that he wasn’t ready for Eurovision when it DID come to that? Whatever the reason, he’s tossed Ann Sophie a massive bag of mixed feelings, I’m guessing.

It’s like Andreas was Miss Universe (if you can picture him in an evening gown with a plunging neckline) and Ann was runner-up, only for her to nab the crown when Andreas dethroned himself on the grounds of not feeling universe-y enough. She’d be thrilled to have it on her head, but she’d always know that she hadn’t been the judges’ first choice. You’ve got to feel sorry for her, having been put into a position like that.

Still, she will be taking the short trip to Vienna – as will Black Smoke. It’s the only USFO song I’ve listened to at this point, and while it’s not an indication of Germany being back at their Raab-driven best, it has a lot of pros.

It’s not a ballad (which has turned out to be a major plus this year); it’s a well-crafted pop song that could be on the radio pretty much anywhere right now; and it has a stylish and confident performer in Ann Sophie. With a bit of work on nailing her choruses, she’ll do just fine in May. I don’t think she’s got the goods to get Germany back on the left side of the scoreboard, but she could well outdo Elaiza’s 18th place with a song that has greater mass appeal than Is It Right?

That’s assuming Andreas doesn’t change his mind and demand his winning title back. You heard it here first!

 

Sweden’s second chance round is ready to roll + the AC poll results revealed!

Week 5 of Melfest has arrived right on schedule, which means nobody lost the stage as it was being carted cross-country. Helsingborg is playing host to this year’s Andra Chansen round with a difference. Instead of two songs fighting two battles each to win their way into the final, there’ll be four qualifiers tonight. Each must win just one duel to get the golden ticket they’ve been hoping for since being relegated to AC in their respective semis.

Let’s cut to the chase and review/predict those head-to-head musical fistfights, shall we? Remember, the predictions are yours and mine. Thanks again to all of y’all who voted in the polls.

 
Duel 1: Bring Out The Fire by Andreas Weise VS Forever Starts Today by Linus Svenning

d1

WHO I WANT TO WIN: This is a tough one. I want to say Linus, but he lacks the vocal power and confidence that Andreas has in spades. Both songs are reasonably derivative, but catchy and well-staged. Hmm…I’m going to have to go with Andreas, based on the quality of the whole package.

WHO WILL WIN: With 73% of your votes, Linus. So I guess I’m in the minority, then!

 
Duel 2: Guld Och Gröna Skogar by Hasse Andersson VS I See You by Kristin Amparo

d2

WHO I WANT TO WIN: Hasse brings some old-fashioned fun to the proceedings, but it’s hard to bypass Kristin’s impeccable and powerful vocal performance. If she goes to the final, she’ll have Jessica Andersson quaking in her stilettos for sure.

WHO WILL WIN: 76% of you say it will be Kristin. Look out, Jessica.

 
Duel 3: Hello Hi by Dolly Style VS Make Me (La La La) by Dinah Nah

d3

WHO I WANT TO WIN: Hello Hi is my guilty pleasure of the year, but there is something about those three wig-wearing, pastel-clad dollies that irritates me. Dinah’s song is the equally dance-driven, but more sophisticated fighter in this battle, so I hope she takes this one out.

WHO WILL WIN: 71% of you believe Dinah will do it, and leave Dolly Style in her dust.

 
Duel 4: Det Rår Vi Inte För by Behrang Miri feat. Victor Crone VS Groupie by Samir & Viktor

d4

WHO I WANT TO WIN: I was rooting for both of these in their separate semis, but now they’re butting heads, it’s Behrang, Victor, and apparently Malena Ernmann all the way. The addition of Malena seems like a random and slightly desperate vote-pulling tactic, but if it works, I won’t be complaining.

WHO WILL WIN: This was a close call, but edging ahead with 57% was Behrang and Victor.

 
So, to sum up, together we’re predicting that Linus, Kristin, Dinah and Behrang/Victor will progress from AC direkt til final. I’d be fairly happy with that outcome!

 

That’s it for another Saturday-night ramble, folks. I’ll leave you to your NF-viewing preparations as I undertake mine (they mostly involve pre-event napping…it’s hard work, but somebody has to do it).

Let me know what you think of all things Australia, Germany and Sweden down below – and your thoughts on anything else Eurovisual you’ve been dying to get off your chest. Just think of me as your official ESC therapist.

Seriously, I’ve put it on my résumé and I’d really like it to be true.

 
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Discussing, predicting and March-ing on with another Super Saturday!

Yes, it’s now March. But let’s not dwell on that flabbergasting fact, because this year appears to be going just as fast as the last and that scares me. Instead, let’s get straight on to the good stuff: NF talk! This is the first Super Saturday of this month, as I see it.

 

The end of Eesti Laul 

I’ll admit, I’m a pretty sad panda because I did not follow Eesti Laul in detail this year. This national final is becoming a revered one in the Eurovision community, over and above the old classics such as Melodifestivalen (still my favourite, in case you were wondering) and always produces multiple gems that get mentioned like they’re going out of style in every ‘what could have been’ post on the whole internet. Last year, for example, EL gave the world Grete Paia’s electronic epic Päästke Noored Hinged. It also gave birth to the web phenomenon – and the stuff of nightmares – that is Winny Puhh, but the less said about them, the better sleep I’ll get tonight.

The horror of the one time I watched this performance will never leave me.

The horror of the one time I watched this performance will never leave me.

What I’m trying to say is that whilst EL may not be perfect, it seems to be consistently interesting and never boring, and so I’m making a vow right now to follow it in 2015 like it’s Ott Lepland and I’m in full stalker mode. As things stand, I’ve listened to three of the ten songs in tonight’s final line-up; a.k.a. 5, 9 and 10 in the running order below.  

  1. Laule Täis Taevakaar by Brigita Murutar
  2. Für Elise by Traffic
  3. Search by Norman Salumäe
  4. Resignal by Wilhelm
  5. Supernoova by Lenna
  6. Maybe-Maybe by Super Hot Cosmos Blues Band
  7. Siin Või Sealpool Maad by Maiken
  8. Tule Ja Jää by Kõrsikud
  9. Amazing by Tanja
  10. Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad by Sandra Nurmsalu

I listened to Lenna’s because she’s Eurovision alumni (as part of Vanilla Ninja and representing Switzerland, mind you) and had a wonderful song in EL a couple of year ago. I wasn’t too impressed this time, unfortunately. I listened to Tanja’s because a ton of people were saying how amazing it was (pardon the pun) and calling her out as the favourite very early on, and I was curious. Again, I was let down.

As you’ll know if you’ve read my last few posts (the reward for which is my gratitude and a possible free dinner if we ever meet in the flesh) I listened to Sandra’s because SHE IS FLAWLESS AND I WILL LOVE HER UNTIL THE END OF TIME. Also, on a saner note, I was interested to hear something solo from her post Urban Symphony. It was third time lucky with EL 2014, because I fell in love with Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad instantly. It’s uplifting, it’s infectious, and Estonian has never sounded so pretty. Therefore, without having heard any competition that would be worthy of beating her, I am backing her FTW tonight. She’s doing wonders in popularity polls the whole web over, and whilst that may have something to do with her previous ESC benchmark, I’m hoping it also bodes well for her result. Her song is more than good enough to justify her return to Europe’s biggest and most bespangled stage.

Do you think Sandra has what it takes, or is there someone I’m missing from Eesti Laul?

 

Who will be given a second chance in Sweden?

It’s really, really hard to say. The penultimate installment of Melodifestivalen takes place tonight in Lidköping, with eight songs fighting for the last two positions in next weekend’s finale. In the past, when the Andra Chansen eight have been paired up in duels from the start, it’s been easier to guess at what the outcome might be. These days, the process is as follows: half the songs will be knocked out after a round of voting, and the remaining four will then be paired up in duels. The winners of those duels will go to the final and attempt to do a Robin Stjernberg – or at least an Anton Ewald (Anton himself, already in the final this year, will be attempting to do a Loreen…I think). So, that said, here are the songs we’re all racking our brains over:

  1. Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
  2. Bröder by Linus Svenning
  3. Love Trigger by J.E.M
  4. All We Are by State of Drama
  5. En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
  6. När Änglarna Går Hem by Martin Stenmarck
  7. Survivor by Helena Paparizou
  8. Echo by Outtrigger

It’s a strong show for the most part – Linus, Helena and Outtrigger, for example, were among my favourites in their respective semis. The math/rules dictate that I’m going to lose at least one song I’d love to see go through, and most likely more, so I’ll be all like 😀 if I get my way on one.

But who I want and who will actually get that precious second shot are two very different things. After much deliberation, and with a feeling of wrong-ness still lurking inside me, this is how I believe things will go down.

After the first round of voting: 

  1. Raise Your Hands by Ammotrack
  2. Bröder by Linus Svenning
  3. Love Trigger by J.E.M
  4. All We Are by State of Drama
  5. En Himmelsk Sång by Ellinore Holmer
  6. När Änglarna Går Hem by Martin Stenmarck
  7. Survivor by Helena Paparizou (sorry, Helena fans…I just have this feeling)
  8. Echo by Outtrigger
I think AC could be the end of the line for Helena.

I think AC could be the end of the line for Helena.

After the duels: Martin and Outtrigger. Martin’s the only AC contestant to have graced the heights of Swedish iTunes, which shows that Sweden are liking him a lot. Outtrigger’s semi performance of a damn good song was disturbing yet fascinating, and tonight should be the same.

So for me, it’s a former ESC entrant and a straightjacket-loving rock band filling those final spots. What about you…who will the lucky two be? And/or, who do you want them to be?

 

Getting Lithuania’s Attention, and is Romania a done deal?

Also on the agenda for this evening is Lithuania’s artist selection (because they chose their song a week ago. I don’t get it either) and the one-off Romanian final that is Selecția Națională. I purposely haven’t listened to Attention, the Lithuanian entry, because I’m waiting to see what final form it takes. Nor have I listened to any of the Romanian possibles, since I chose their NF as one of my surprises. Nope – I haven’t even let myself play Paula & Ovi’s Miracle, which really is a miracle. With such a lack of stuff to say here, I can ask one big question: do Paula & Ovi have the Romanian representation all sewn up? Many fans seem to think they do, and that TVR even bothering to hold their final is pointless. I’d like to think that P & O wouldn’t be chosen because of who they are in favour of a better entry – but then again, I’m finding it hard to extend that thinking to Estonia, so why should I expect that of a whole country? At the same time, it’s exciting to think that the duo that did so well back in Oslo could be back at the big show and hungry for an even better placing.

I’m so confused! Help me out if you’re clued in on the Selecția selection. Would Miracle deserve to go to Eurovision no matter who was performing it?

 

Ireland, Azerbaijan and France: past and future entries

To finish off, here are my thoughts on the NF just gone, and the two to come on Sunday.

  • Ireland chose their entry after a show that brought out Linda Martin’s inner psycho, and it’s Heartbeat by Can-linn feat. Kasey Smith. I don’t want to give a mahusive verdict pre-review, so I’ll just say it’s not a bad choice. It’s current, has a little Irish stamp on it, and the live performance seems to be more effective than the studio, which matters. I’ll see how I feel in a month or so.
  • Azerbaijan’s Böyük Səhnə ends tomorrow night, presumably with an effortlessly good pop song performed by a super-attractive guy or girl who can smoulder down the camera like nobody’s business. The person will also have some other day job or talent that makes them awesome, such as being a lawyer, speaking three languages including that of the Eurovision host country, or being a master of capoeira. It’s just Azerbaijan’s way.
  • France’s winning song will also be revealed Sunday, and I’m expecting it to be Ma Liberté or Moustache. I want TwinTwin like cray-cray, but I won’t be devastated should Joanna and the work of art that is her hairdo be the chosen ones.
It's not hard to tell which one of them wants the moustache...

It’s not hard to tell which one of them wants the moustache…

 

So that’s basically all the action of this weekend, which should keep you satisfied. Next week brings more, however. Monday, we discover just who’s representing the UK and with what (which may actually be worth looking forward to if the BBC are to be believed) and Wednesday, Mei Finegold’s song for Israel will be picked. In amongst that, I’ll be back with a themed post in honour of Melodifestivalen. Not only will you have the privilege (ha ha) of voting in my own personal ‘So, like, who’s gonna win Melfest?’ poll, but I’ll also be revealing my top 10 Melfest entries of the last five years (because the last 10+ was JUST. TOO. HARD!). Have your own lists at the ready so we can compare notes. Please?

EBJ Signature

 

Copenhagen Chat | The chosen ones from the weekend, Melfest musings and my top 13

Hello, if you’re reading this! And if you’re not, then how the heck do you know what I’m saying?

It’s the middle of the week and I’m avoiding study at all costs, so what better time to review and complain about the latest developments of NF season? Let’s get straight on it.

 

The weekend’s action – Running from all the cake, and then some 

  • Latvia: We all joked about Cake To Bake joining Cheesecake in Copenhagen in what would be a very JESC pair of song selections (kid Eurovision is usually the forum for food-themed entries). Well, it’s happened, and May’s contest looks to be the biggest bake-fest since the Buranovskiye Babushki took to the stage with their wood fire oven. Seeing as I’m Team TEO, and Aarzemnieki’s song is sweet (pardon the pun) in an offbeat, lyrically questionable kind of way, that’s fine by me. Although I haven’t listened to the Latvian runner-ups which, by all accounts, were “actual songs”. I’ll leave that utter disappointment for later.
  • Hungary: It was third time lucky for Kállay-Saunders on Saturday night, when he took out A Dal with Running, which deals with a slightly heavier subject matter than dessert. He was a favourite in the strong selection, and I’m pretty pleased he won with a contemporary, catchy, non-novelty pop song. I do feel that Fool Moon had more of the magic I found in Kedvesem last year (and that chair choreography thing would have been cool if they’d taken it to Denmark) but KS still makes it 4/4 great entries for Hungary since they made their comeback in 2011. It remains to be seen whether it’ll be 4/4 qualifications also.
These two may look a bit like Ell & Nikki, but they're not running scared...just running.

These two may look a bit like Ell & Nikki, but they’re not running scared…just running.

  • Macedonia: Tijana and her surprisingly husky voice have premiered To The Sky, and it’s not bad at all. The biggest drawcard is it can’t possibly be the train wreck that was the Esma & Lozano incident. I do suspect it’ll be a grower for most people as opposed to an instant hit, and I can’t help wondering how the originally chosen entry Pobeda would have compared. The way it was described had me excited. Changing the song was a terrible move for FYROM last year, but we may never know what could have been in this case.
  • Spain: In the battle between Brequette and Ruth Lorenzo, it was Ruth who triumphed by the hem of her fancy gown in Mira Quien Va A Eurovisión. There were three songs of the Spanish five that I thought would be great choices (the other one being Jorge’s) so I can’t complain, despite Brequette being my winner. Strangely, she’s been rumoured as a UK entry (hasn’t everyone? I’m expecting to hear my name any day now) with a source alleging the BBC have poached her to sing an English version of Más. As much as I love the song, FOR GOD’S SAKE, BBC, DON’T DO IT!

 

Bits and pieces hot (ish) off the press

  • Poland: Speaking of rumours…one that turned out to be very true was that of Donatan & Cleo taking My, Słowianie to Eurovision. The Polish broadcaster confirmed the duo’s participation last night to the shock of nobody, but to the über-divided opinions of the masses. I listened to the song for the first time after the announcement (I didn’t want to love it/hate it until I knew it was going) and apart from ‘why all the boobs?’ all I could think was ‘Igranka!’. The resemblance is good because I loved/still love Igranka, but bad because that song was just as divisive, and not even a perfect performance could get it into the final. I’m afraid if Poland doesn’t at least qualify this year, they’ll opt out of the comp for good. The ESC doesn’t need to get any smaller at this point.
  • Estonia: I’ve been anxiously awaiting the Eesti Laul final for weeks, and now it’s almost upon us, with the running order draw recently revealed. I’ve only exposed my ears to three entries, all of which happened to make it into the final, and there’s one you’ll probably know I want to win above anything else – Sandra’s. Tanja’s is generic, Lenna’s is too bland, and I don’t know about the rest, but I do know that Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad is FREAKING PERFECTION (like Sandra herself) and if it wins, it will rocket straight to the top of my rankings so far. With such a great song, previous ESC experience behind her and now a plum draw in the running order (last but not least) I feel like it’s meant to be. Please, please let Estonia feel the same way!
How could anyone not vote for this face, or that awesome haircut?

How could anyone not vote for this face, or that awesome haircut?

 

Melodifestivalen: two weeks to go!

And that means we’ve heard the Swedish entry for 2014 – I just have no clue what it is. With only the second chance round left before the final, the list of songs already in is reading unpredictable. Will YOHIO manage to make it with a worse song than he had last year (in my opinion…don’t kill me, super fans) or will the international juries turn on him again? Can Sanna finally go all the way with her beautiful ballad? Or, will we see an Andra Chansen song win for the second time in a row? It’s unlikely, but after last year, I for one would never say never.

In case you’ve forgotten, here are the eight songs in it to win it at the moment:

  • To The End by YOHIO
  • Songbird by Ellen Benediktson
  • Undo by Sanna Nielsen
  • Efter Solsken by Panetoz
  • Yes We Can by Oscar Zia
  • Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder
  • Blame It On The Disco by Alcazar
  • Natural by Anton Ewald

There are only a couple I wouldn’t want to see go to Eurovision, but I feel like you can’t write anyone off at this stage. It’s hard to pick a frontrunner, and even harder to imagine where the Swedish and international points might go. That will hopefully make for a nail-gnawing voting sequence that will keep me from dozing off when it takes place at 5am my time.

As I mentioned and as we all now know, you can’t discount whichever two songs emerge from Andra Chansen from the race either. I’ll be having a guess at the identity of those two on Saturday, so drop by if you want my thoughts. Otherwise, I’ll drop by your house and force you to listen to my thoughts with the threat of duct-taping you to a chair and blasting Cry Baby through your sound system for twelve hours straight. In the meantime, who do you think should get that all-important second shot?

 

Time for a top 13…

…because nobody got the chance to do a top 10. There have been six or so new additions to the class of ’14 since I last went a-ranking, so there was a lot to consider. It took me a good few minutes of blood, sweat and tears to put this together. I present to you the results, a.k.a. my personal top 13:

  1. Belarus
  2. Hungary
  3. Poland
  4. Albania
  5. Iceland
  6. Ukraine
  7. Malta
  8. Spain
  9. Latvia
  10. Finland  
  11. Italy
  12. Switzerland
  13. FYR Macedonia

I apologise, but it’s going to take nothing short of Sandra Nurmsalu to push the Cheesecake aside. What can I say? I’m easily pleased. So much so that I can’t confess to hating anything so far. There’s the meh/yet to grow category, and that’s as low as it goes.

Let me know how your top 13 is looking down below, so long as you’re in the mood for intense arguments over other people’s horrifying musical taste.

 

Coming up this weekend are seven national finals of sorts, kicking off on Friday with Ireland and concluding on Sunday with Azerbaijan, and France’s announcement that TwinTwin are going to Copenhagen (hopefully). It’s a busy one, so put aside all other responsibilities such as bill paying or school work or that knee reconstruction you’ve been waiting to have for eighteen months, and get your streams ready. I’ll be here on Saturday to discuss the chaos. #JoinUs?

EBJ Signature

 

Selection Season Day 8: Continental song-offs and Swedish second chances

Hello again. It’s March, and another Super Saturday is upon us, but this time there’s a Super (ish) Sunday to go with it. This weekend, we have:

–  Sweden’s Andra Chansen round

–  Israel’s version of the above

–  a Serbian semi and final

–  decisions from Armenia, Estonia, Hungary and Bulgaria

–  so many NFs, so little time, basically

That, combined with the fact that I’ve just gone back to university and am currently in way over my head, means there isn’t a second to spare for a wordy intro, so let’s crack on!

 

Entries of the week: my verdict

Five songs were released/chosen this week, and though I don’t want to give too much of my opinion away before my reviews, I feel compelled to inform you of my first impressions.

Croatia (Mižerja) – As a lover and learner of Croatian, I do appreciate a second consecutive year of native tongue from this country, especially after the train wreck that was Celebrate…ick. I also appreciate the traditional ethnicity of this entry, not to mention (even though I’m about to mention it) the top-notch live vocals from Klapa s Mora (so much more fun to say than ‘Super Klapa’). However, I can’t see this qualifying.

Georgia (Waterfall) I do like this song, and again, the vocals from Sophie and Nodi are faultless. But sending a ready-made, cookie-cutter ballad penned by Swedes is a terribly Azerbaijan thing for Georgia to do, and it comes off as being an effortless selection in a negative way.  

And here I was thinking Macedonia had this year's Ell & Nikki...

And here I was thinking Macedonia had this year’s Ell & Nikki…

Macedonia (Imperija) – I had no idea what to expect from this duo, and yet it wasn’t this. It was the best song to premiere this week by far IMO. There’s something dated about it, something vaguely 90s…but I grew up in the 90s, and it was a great decade for me. Methinks I’ll be retrieving my FYROM flag from the depths of my wardrobe before May.

Russia (What If) – What if, indeed. What if this song had different lyrics, or a Russian version even, that turned it from a sentimental cheese-fest into a reasonable ballad? If, if, IF! It was always going to be hard for Russia to follow the grannies, and in light of this, I say bring those saucy minxes back!

Spain (Contigo Hasta El Final) – How does this go again? I can’t remember. Pastora Soler blew me away last year, and even if you weren’t a fan you can’t deny that Quedate Conmigo went somewhere. This song really doesn’t.

Which of these, if any, is giving you douze vibes?

 

Sweden’s penultimate showdown

In my experience, it’s usually the worst couple of songs from the eight that make Andra Chansen that get out of it. So even though the line-up this year is stronger than the actual final, I won’t be surprised if my favourites don’t advance. Seriously, check this out and tell me the standard isn’t higher here.

  1. You by Robin Stjernberg
  2. Vi Kommer Aldrig Att Förlora by Eric Gadd
  3. Hon Har Inte by Caroline af Ugglas
  4. Jalla Dansa Sawa by Behrang Miri
  5. Hello Goodbye by Erik Segerstedt & Tone Damli
  6. Begging by Anton Ewald
  7. Burning Flags by Cookies ‘n’ Beans
  8. In And Out Of Love by Martin Rolinski

SVT has messed around with the AC structure for 2013 in a way that makes no sense to me. Instead of immediately pairing the eight songs up in the sudden-death duels that we love so much, they’ve decided to pit them all against each other in a round of voting to determine the top 5 (so far, fair enough, right?). But then, they’ve chosen to hold another round of voting just to cut one song. What is the point? Why not at least take it from a top 6 to a top 4? Sheesh.

Anyway, after that, the duels – just two – will come into play, and the lucky winners will take the final two places in the Friends Arena final. I wouldn’t be too happy if I was one of them, because let’s face it: they ain’t gonna win Melodifestivalen. But, you know. Good luck and all that.

I’d really love Robin, Behrang, Erik & Tone or Martin to nab a place. This is how I think things will go down.

The top 5 – Robin, Eric, Caroline, Behrang, Anton

The top 4 – Robin, Caroline, Behrang, Anton

The winners of Andra Chansen Robin and Caroline, a.k.a. a half happy, half not-so-happy outcome for yours truly.

I really do want it to be 'you', Robin.

I really do want it to be ‘you’, Robin.

Who do you think deserves those second chances?

 

Elitsa & Stoyan, take two

The dynamic duo that took Bulgaria to the dizzying heights of 5th place in Helsinki is back, looking a little older (funny, that) but sounding much the same. The three songs Elitsa and Stoyan put forward as potential entries were released a few weeks ago, and I have two words to describe how I felt when I listened to them: intrigued and disturbed.

  1. Dzupai, Libe Boso
  2. Kismet
  3. Samo Shampioni

I dig the fusion of ethnic and contemporary they offer, and Stoyan’s drumming is as appealing as it was six years ago. But there is something frightening about Elitsa’s ahem, unique voice when accompanied by such things as rappers and dance beats. Could the European public be frightened into voting for them? I don’t know.

I do know my pick would be Dzupai, Libe Boso, even though I know it shouldn’t be. But there isn’t a lot separating them in my book, so whichever one goes to Malmö, I’ll make my peace with. Even Samo Shampioni, which reminds me of washing my hair. But I just don’t think these two will be able to do what I assume BNT recruited them to do – recapture the magic of Water and in doing so, get Bulgaria a decent result for once. There may be a place in the final for them, though. We shall see.

 

Do enjoy the program tonight and tomorrow (that is an order). Maybe I’ll see you on the other side? (Not an order, but a polite request for you to get on over here next week).

 

What are you hoping to get out of this weekend? Which finals will you be tuning in to?

 

Selection Season Day 9: Announcements, more finals and Swedish second chances

Guess what? I’m not going to make this a post with a long, boring intro. It’s Saturday (again) and this is what’s happened and/or happening – and that’s all you need to know.

 

Israel and the UK presenting and representing

Israel officially premiered their song Time by Izabo on the first of the month, and as it turns out it is the song that has been on Youtube for the past week or so under the dubious title of ‘The possible actual but still unofficial entry’. Damn that dastardly internet for spoiling Israel’s plans! Although as a result of that evil entity we have had the chance to get to know the song better by this point. Who in this day and age doesn’t like getting something earlier than expected?

I suppose it’s Time for me to tell you how I feel about the entry. Well, I can certainly say that it more closely resembles something you’d find on alternative radio than at Eurovision, but why should there be a genre that isn’t ‘Eurovision’ in sound anyway? The song’s quirkiness may be its saving grace. It’s not like any of the 2012 songs so far and is unlikely to be like any yet to come. I’d describe it as a happy little ditty (if I was about seventy years older than I actually am), something left-of-field fromIsrael. I think it has the potential to be a (good) surprise on the live stage.

Speaking of things old and surprising, the UK finally broke the silence on who their act is, only to leave gazillions of fans speechless. As I’m sure you already know, a certain Mr. Engelbert “The Hump” Humperdinck – who on one hand is tremendously popular but on the other is tremendously aged by ESC standards – will be shuffling onto the stage May 26th on behalf of the UK, and there he will most likely a) rake in the votes and make the top five or b) fail miserably, which would be more consistent with the United Kingdom’s recent results. He will be 76 years old by then, which means that not only can we make lots of hilarious jokes about his name (“Hump”…hehehehehe) but we can also make references to his being up way past his bedtime when it comes to the show.

'STOP! Humpertime!!!'

In all seriousness, I do respect the man’s skill and credentials, and with some experienced songwriters at the helm of his entry, who knows; maybe he’ll be the live surprise. Part of me is still wondering what on Earth the BBC were thinking, but the other part can’t help but root for the underdog – or the old, arthritic dog in this instance (I’m sorry, I can’t help it!). Perhaps we should reserve our judgments for his song, as this is a song contest. For some reason I’m always forgetting that…  

 

It’s the final countdown for Estonia, Lithuania and Spain

Well, that’s what Wikipedia is telling me, anyway. Both Estonia and Lithuania qualified last year, but after the less-than-impressive positions they ended on, both could stand to improve by picking something stand-out. As for Spain, we’ve known since December that it’s the firmly established Pastora Soler who’ll be carrying their flag. All that’s left is for her song to be chosen from a field of three. They too didn’t live up to expectation in Düsseldorf, so will bringing out the big guns (or just the one gun) change their fortune? Maybe, so long as they keep the actual guns at home, unless we are talking about the ‘guns’ of some shirtless dancers in which case I’m all for the use of weaponry.  

I should really stop with the gun thing.

 

Second chance time in Sweden

Andra Chansen is the final obstacle (albeit one I don’t mind getting over) before the fabulous Melodifestivalen final, and the last chance for a lucky twosome to nab a place there. There’s about a 0% chance that one of the AC winners will win the whole of MF, but you never know how well they’re going to do – last year The Moniker made it out of Andra to come third in the final, beaten only by two good-looking guys in leather jackets.

Anyway, here are the four pairings that will turn into two, from which will emerge the final two songs in the March 10th decider:

Duel #1: Dynazty VS Top Cats

Duel #2: Andreas Johnson VS Timoteij

Duel #3: Thorsten Flinck & Revolutionsorkestern VS Lotta Engberg & Christer Sjögren

Duel #4: Sean Banan VS Youngblood 

There are some tricky-to-pick partnerships there, but I’ve made my predictions. Check them out with the aid of this nifty and highly complicated table (FYI, green means go).

 

I don’t really mind who makes it through so long as one of them is Timoteij. Although if I’m honest I would like the other one to be Sean Banan (cue everyone throwing banana skins at me for my poor taste).

 

That’s about all I’ve got to say for the moment. This NF season sure is making me tired, although I guess that could also be due to the countless hours I spent dancing with joy yesterday on finding out that Dima Bilan will be trying again to represent Russia next week (but more on that another time – like when he wins, for instance!). See you on the other side of Saturday…

 

Jaz

 

Slovakia, second chances and another Saturday night!

It’s actually a bit said that we are getting to the point where all of this year’s songs have been chosen. There’s Eurovision excitement going on all year round of course, but there’s something particularly squeal-worthy about the busy weekends (and frenzied blogging) that accompany the February-March period. Still, that pesky deadline for having the entries decided means that the contest itself is edging ever closer, and that has to be a good thing!

We are at the 65-days-to-go mark right now, with eleven countries still to let us hear their songs (the wait is killing me – I hope I live to see Düsseldorf!). So here is a run-through of what’s happening in some of those countries tonight, as well as some things that have caught my attention over the last few days, from some others…

GERMANY: Obviously we’ve hated Lena’s song…er, I mean, had knowledge of Lena’s song, for a while now, but earlier this week the music video was released (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFciOb0diQE), and I must say, it made me like the song a whole lot more. It’s a very slick and gothic-looking production, inspired by Black Swan if Lena’s disobedient reflection is any indication. Unfortunately, what happens in the clip can’t be replicated onstage, and I think that’s where the entry will fall flat. It is literally an album-filler song, and without a good visual it’s going to be most useful as my tea break. And I don’t even drink tea.

PORTUGAL: Festival da Canção concludes tonight with 12 contestants fighting for the golden ticket. Will one of Eurovision’s most prolific songwriters, Andrej Babić, get another chance to compete with his song after Canta Por Mim was left behind last year? Will the winner shed a tear at the end of their performance or faint in the dress rehearsal? So many important questions! 

 

Slovakia's seeing double

SLOVAKIA: The TWiiNS entry I’m Still Alive should be retitled I’m Still Stuck In Your Head and It’s 3am in my opinion, as that was exactly the situation I experienced upon hearing the song in the full last night (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6DNmKB45aQ). The 19-second teaser that was released last week was promising, and it turns out that the song is basically that same 19 seconds repeated over and over again. But it works! Well, it worked on me anyhow. It’s a good, modern, R & B slash pop ballad and a definite ear worm. I’ll be interested to see how it goes down live on stage, but just as a standalone song it’s a 7 pointer.

SWEDEN: The aforementioned Melodifestivalen reaches its penultimate stage tonight with the Andra Chansen round. Four duels will be fought, followed by two more, until the pair of songs emerge that complete the line-up of next Saturday’s much anticipated final. I had imagined the outcome would be easier to predict than that of the semis (which, as I have said maybe one too many times, I failed miserably at). Still, I had a hard time making a decision on the lucky two. Here they are for you to agree with/laugh at/ignore as you wish! My predictions are in bold:

ROUND #1

Jenny Silver (Something In Your Eyes) vs Love Generation (Dance Alone)

Loreen (My Heart Is Refusing Me) vs Sara Varga (Spring för Livet)

The Moniker (Oh My God!) vs Linda Pritchard (Alive)

Shirley’s Angels (I Thought It Was Forever) vs Pernilla Andersson (Desperados)

ROUND #2 

Jenny Silver vs Loreen

The Moniker vs Pernilla Andersson

So I think Jenny and Pernilla will be the lucky ones tonight, although in my ideal world (in which Eurovision features as a tri-annual event) I’d be taking Loreen and Shirley’s Angels through. Whatever happens, it will be a stellar final for the Swedes this year, and an entry much the same. According to me taste, of course.

That’s about all that’s on my mind for the moment, but before I go I feel I must tell you that I won’t be able to leap on tomorrow’s news the second it comes out of the oven, and burn myself on its wonderfulness, because it happens to be my mother’s birthday (Happy Birthday Mum!) and I am taking her out to lunch (a.k.a having lunch bought for me as I am currently too poor a student to treat her). But as soon as I’m home I’ll be onto it, bringing you another opinion on the matter just because I love to. Three countries select tonight: may they all pick a winner in the best sense of the phrase!

(Below are my thoughts on Armenia and Croatia – they are supposed to be at the beginning, but WordPress was misbehaving. Don’t worry, I gave it a good slap.)

Emmynia's representative

ARMENIA: Emmy is finally performing tonight after the Armenian final was delayed due to her father’s sad death last month. She’ll sing four songs: Ayo, Hi, Boom-Boom and Goodbye, which can be heard at www.eurovision.am. I have listened to them, and I have to say that like Greece, Armenia is just not up to its usual standard this year, and I think they’ll struggle to make the top ten – something they have done on every appearance at the contest (save one year at Junior). Ayo is by far the best one, and their best hope, so I’ll be crossing my fingers for that to triumph.

 CROATIA: The Dora selection festival has been a veritable marathon, blowing Sweden’s six-week Melodifestivalen out of the water. But finally, the obnoxiously long list of contestants has been narrowed down to two – Jacques Houdek and Daria Kinzer (neither of whom sound particularly Croatian, but who’s caring). They’ll each perform the same three songs in a final that echoes 2010’s Unser Star für Oslo, from which the winner will be decided. At long last!