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The 2017 EBJ Eurovision Excellence Awards | Part 1 (The Artists + The Songs)

As O.Torvald would say, it’s TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME! The trophies have been polished, the red carpet has been unrolled, and I’m ready to start giving out my Eurovision Excellence Awards to the countries, artists and songs that competed in the 2017 contest.

The ceremony will take place in three parts (since I went a little crazy with the amount of awards this year). Following on from this first installment will be The Performances, then The Show + The Results – but today, I’m acknowledging the musicians and the music that made 2017 so awesome…and in some cases, the opposite. You’ll also find out the full results of five People’s Choice Awards, with the rest to be revealed in Part 2 and Part 3. Thanks to everyone who voted in the PC polls, by the way – there were more of you than I expected, and I’m so grateful for your input. I hope you’re happy with the outcomes, but if you’re not you can’t blame me. #offthehook.

Now, without further ado, I’m going to get the first lot of EBJEE trophies off to their new owners before they get dusty. Sit back, relax and enjoy (or get outraged by) the awards for The Artists + The Songs!

 

 

THE ARTISTS

Honourable Mention/s Robin Bengtsson, Salvador Sobral Winner Imri Ziv

He may be hot in an ‘I spend longer in front of the mirror each morning than any girl I know’ kind of way – but hot is hot, right? Those eyes! That smile! Those biceps! Those abs! I won’t go any further down because a) I like to keep things mostly non-smutty around here, and b) you get where I’m going, I’m sure. It’s rumoured that Israel’s finest Imri has a thing for Anja Nissen – and who could blame him – but if she spurns you, Mr. Ziv, it’s highly likely that I’ll be available as a consolation prize.

 

Honourable Mention/s Amy Vol, Lisa Vol, Shelley Vol (O’G3NE) Winner Anja Nissen

Speaking of the stunning Anja, here she is as the winner of the Hottest She Award (imagine how attractive the kids would be if she and Imri got together!). I couldn’t really choose anyone else despite the tough competition, since I have a massive girl crush on her. She’s the ultimate blonde bombshell, drop-dead gorgeous from top to toe…except when she appeared on the Kyiv stage during rehearsals in that notorious and absolutely hideous circus/swimming costume. But NOBODY could have pulled that off (not unless they were a clown competing in the Synchronised Swimming event at the Olympics). Anyway, I’m bowing down to your beauty, Anja!

 

Honourable Mention/s Ilinca, Ksienija Žuk Winner Alma

Apparently Alma has a certain je ne sais quois (both the French and Hera Björk puns are intended) that gave her the edge over the other nominees, though not by much. This award probably isn’t what she’d like to have won recently, but the fact that so many Eurofans would be happy to call her their BFF has to be flattering.

 

Honourable Mention/s Francesco Gabbani, Kristian Kostov  Winner Nathan Trent

I have one thing to say about this result: YAAASSSSS! Well done guys, on voting an actual Mr. Nice Guy (nice guys finish last on the televote, but not overall) the winner of this year’s Mr. Congeniality EBJEE. Nathan Trent is a precious angel sent to Earth to bring pure happiness and light into all of our lives, and anyone who dares dispute that should be burnt at the stake. Or be ignored, one of the two.

 

Honourable Mention/s Kristian Kostov, Sunstroke Project Winner Jacques Houdek

I’m not sure which Jacques to give this trophy to – they might have to share custody of it like a pair of divorced parents with their only child. Regardless, this is an award well deserved by a man – yes, just the one…I’ll let the joke die now – who managed to bring both incredible talent and a LOT of laughter (hvala, Hrvatska, for the comic relief) to this year’s Eurovision. Like Conchita’s facial hair, Jacques’ two voices made him instantly memorable and almost overshadowed every other aspect of his entry. We’ll never see a duet quite like this again.

 

Honourable Mention/s Nathan Trent, Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson Winner Sunstroke Project

Picking a winner for this award was a no-brainer for me, but I did very briefly ask myself which nominee’s concert I’d be the most keen to sit through. The answer, of course, was Sunstroke Project’s – though technically, I wouldn’t be sitting through it so much as dancing my ass off through it. All three of the guys are party-starters in their own right, and look like they could happily live on stage. They’re energetic, enthusiastic and charismatic, and can get even the most stubborn butts off seats without even trying. Born to entertain? Heck yes.

 

Honourable Mention/s Blanche Winner Kristian Kostov

This was one of the smallest categories for 2017, and two of the teens ended up monopolising most of the votes – 91%, in fact. Contest runner-up Kristian beats Blanche yet again, and if that’s partly due to his more confident handling of the whole Eurovision experience – as well as his higher placing on the scoreboard – then I’d say it’s the right result. Still, anyone so fresh-faced who can get up on such a big stage and sing their fully-functioning, youthful heart out deserves a high five. Great job, kids.

 

 

THE SONGS

Honourable Mention/s Gravity, Lights and Shadows Winner Perfect Life

Now, I’m not accusing anyone of plagiarism here. Even if a song is almost identical in some way to another, it doesn’t mean it was purposely plagiarised. Still, you have to wonder about that oh-so-familiar sound layered underneath the lyrics of Levina’s Perfect Life. Everyone has heard David Guetta’s Titanium, and I find it hard to believe that anyone could come up with a beat and riff combo so similar and not think ‘Hang on…I know this from somewhere.’ TBH, it’s a shame that Perfect Life doesn’t sound even more like Titanium – i.e. that it didn’t ramp up and become an equally powerful dance banger.

 

 

Honourable Mention/s Amar Pelos Dois, Beautiful Mess Winner Grab The Moment

A predicable pick? Probably not. But Grab The Moment has a set of lyrics that are interesting, full of clever rhymes (no love/above level stuff in sight) and SO neatly phrased and tightly packed. It’s wordier than I usually like my songs to be, but the rap-like delivery helps make it the modern pop masterpiece it is. Plus, there’s loads of room for lyrical interpretation, which is right up my alley as a former English major. This is my highlight: ‘Getting kinda heavy on my shoulders, try to stand straight but I’m boneless, got a pocket full of prose while I’m walking on my toes and I’m coping with a map that is roadless.’ Remind yourself of the rest here.

 

Honourable Mention/s Skeletons Winner Space

As much as I’m confused (rather than amazed) by “thorn jeans”, I can’t go past Slavko’s Space as the 2017 song with the most WTF words. It’s not that they don’t make sense, because they do. They’re just so…erotically charged. Not to mention all over the place – there’s a ton of space references, obviously, but one minute the lovers in question are Bonnie and Clyde and the next they’re possessed with superpowers. I commend the line in the chorus that connects writing a story with body language *slow clap*. But ‘Wet dreams…come into me from within’? TMI, Montenegro.

 

Honourable Mention/s Lights and Shadows Winner Amar Pelos Dois

This is a very subjective award, hence why I didn’t make it a People’s Choice. It’s for the entry that I personally didn’t rate too highly pre-contest, but grew to love between then and now. I never disliked eventual winner Amar Pelos Dois, but I didn’t love it and I definitely didn’t get the hype surrounding it (why was it second in the odds? I had no idea). For some reason, though, when I saw Salvador’s performance in the first semi final, I ‘got’ it. I was teary-eyed, my heart was warmed and I finally fell in love with the simplistic, romantic beauty of the song. Better late than never.

 

Honourable Mention/s Dance Alone, Verona Winner Occidentali’s Karma

This trophy doesn’t have to go to a song that was hyped by fans and then under-performed according to expectations, but this year it is. Occidentali’s Karma was predicted to be a runaway winner by a lot of fans in the lead-up to the show, racked up more views on YouTube than any entry preceding it, and stormed to victory in the OGAE Poll. And then, just like France did last year off the back of winning that poll, it finished 6th. As soon as I saw Francesco’s final performance, I knew that my gut feeling of months previously had been right – Italy wasn’t going to win. Falling away from the top five, for a song with so much expected of it, this was Sognu all over again.

 

Honourable Mention/s I Can’t Go On, I Feel Alive Winner Hey Mamma

It was the most successful dance track to take part in the Kyiv contest, and now the Sunstroke Project’s Hey Mamma gets another gong to add to the our engraved with ‘Moldova’s Best-Placed ESC Entry Ever.’ I have zero complaints about your choice here, people! There’s something about a good bit of sax that makes dancing more or less irresistible, and as such I can guarantee that this song will frequent the official Euroclub playlist for years to come.

 

Honourable Mention/s Occidentali’s Karma Winner City Lights

And it’s Belgium by a millimetre! The standard of preview videos was pretty high this year, and I personally wouldn’t have chosen City Lights as my favourite. Still, I can’t fault its stylish, slightly unsettling (in a good way) vibes. The isolation of being ‘all alone in the danger zone’ is expertly brought to the screen, while the titular lights have a mind of their own. Overall, it’s just as cool as the song.

 

Honourable Mention/s Keep The Faith Winner Fly With Me

Some songs are just so much better to watch than to listen to – they just come to life when performed live. Artsvik’s Fly With Me, a song that is a perfectly good but not great audio track, was given the royal treatment for Eurovision, and that gave me a new respect for it. The backdrop emphasised the ethnicity of the song as did the choreography, while the pyrotechnics upped the drama. Excellent costume choices were the cherry on top.

 

Honourable Mention/s Space Winner City Lights

And now, vice versa! Belgium’s performances over the past few years have been epic, but there was a question mark over Blanche’s ability to command an audience and take control of her nerves. She faltered in the semi, but in the end pulled off a much, MUCH better performance in the final and earned her 4th place. Even so, City Lights is a radio dream rather than a live one. The slick production and disembodied, distant sound of Blanche’s recorded vocals (minus the distraction of her looking like she wants to run screaming off the stage) is what I love about the song, and it’s just not as impressive in the ESC context.

 

 

That’s all for today/tonight, guys. I hope you enjoyed the show, and didn’t get too drunk and end up tripping and falling into a stranger’s lap which turned out to be the lap of Jon Ola Sand. It’s very awkward when that happens, let me tell you.

Who would you have given these awards to? Are you shocked by some of the People’s Choice percentages? Can I discuss Eurovision 2017 right up until Eurovision 2018 without annoying you? Let me know in the comments – it’s free (although every swear word directed at me costs $50).

 

Until next time, when 2017’s performances will be in the spotlight…

 

 

 

Siegfrids, Svensson and SAY WHAT?!?!? My reaction to all the artists of Melodifestivalen 2017

For those of us who place Melodifestivalen up on a pedestal, right next to Eurovision (because we believe it to be equally as epic) today was practically Christmas.

For today was the day we all received 28 gifts of varying shapes and sizes, in the form of the artists competing in the national final of dreams in February/March 2017. I was particularly keen to unwrap these gifts given I’m actually attending Melfest for the first time next year (!!!) and will have the chance to see twelve of the artists in the flesh come finalen…and then have some press charges in the wake of me inappropriately touching them.

Just kidding.

Anyway, after months of rumours that ran right up to the start of this morning’s press conference – hosted by the adorable David Lindgren sans Clara Henry and Hasse Andersson – we now know exactly who will and who won’t be popping up in the four semi finals. Many confirmations of what we already knew were made; blanks were neatly filled in by returnees and newbies alike; and one of the biggest bombshells in Melfest artist-announcement history was dropped.

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Here they are: the terrific 28 for 2017. (Photo: Jessica Gow)

 

Let’s run through the entire list of participants and songs, and I’ll unload my initial thoughts and impressions along the way. I apologise in advance for any spelling mistakes, incorrect information or general incoherent rambling that you might encounter here. I’m both delirious with excitement and rushing to get this post up while it’s still relevant, so I’m not at the top of my game just nu.

 

 

Semi 1 | Göteborg

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  • Amare, Adrijana
  • Her Kiss, Boris René
  • Hold On, Nano
  • Mitt Liv, Charlotte Perrelli
  • One More Night, Dinah Nah
  • Road Trip, De Vet Du
  • Wild Child, Ace Wilder

We knew Adrijana, Charlotte Perrelli, De Vet Du and Ace Wilder were shoo-ins already, so the most pleasant surprises in this first roll-call – for me, at least – were Boris René and Dinah Nah.

Boris ended up being one of my favourites from this year’s comp, and I still can’t help dancing enthusiastically when Put Your Love On Me comes on shuffle (as well as shouting ‘IN A LITTERBOX’ loudly enough for my neighbours to hear and subsequently consider moving to Siberia). Suffice to say I can’t wait to discover what he has in store for us for his second shot.

Dinah Nah was heavily rumoured to return in 2016, but evidently she needed more time to find a track that might get her to the final again. I am very glad to see that her hair is still pink.

I know I should be peeing my pants with excitement about Ace Wilder, but to be honest, I wish she’d taken some more time away like Dinah did – I’m not sure I can handle her two years in a row. But I’ll reserve (most of) my judgments until we hear what she has to offer.

Apparently Charlotte Perrelli doesn’t want to win Melfest on this occasion, but has her reasons for giving it another go after The Girl failed to even make Andra Chansen in 2012. I’m guessing she won’t be disappointed if her aim is not to go to Eurovision for the third time.

I’m clueless re: Adrijana and Nano, so perhaps one of them will be the exotic stranger who has me head-over-heels for their entry (then sobbing into my specially-commissioned sequined Kleenex when it finishes last). It happens every year!

 

 

Semi 2 | Malmö  

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  • A Million Years, Mariette
  • Good Loovin’, Benjamin Ingrosso
  • Hearts Align, Dismissed
  • Himmel Och Hav, Roger Pontare
  • I Don’t Give A, Lisa Ajax
  • Up, Etzia
  • Vart Haru Varit, Allyawan

The second semi will feature just as many big hitters as the first – such as Mariette (who took home the bronze medal in the Year of Måns), Roger Pontare (a Melfest and Eurovision veteran who last represented Sweden on home soil in 2000), and Lisa Ajax (the Idol winner who also won her semi this year over eventual runner-up Oscar Zia).

I can’t say I’m as excited – on names alone – for this round. But I am pretty keen to hear from the debutants. Benjamin Ingrosso, who comes from a family of serious musical heavyweights (Pernilla Wahlgren is his mother, for starters) is one I’ll definitely be watching. And listening to, obviously. Despite the totally unnecessary extra ‘o’ in his song title (#petpeeve).

 

 

Semi 3 | Växjö 

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  • Boogieman Blues, Owe Thörnqvist
  • Crucified, Bella & Filippa
  • Gotta Thing, The Fooo Conspiracy
  • Gravity, Jasmine Kara
  • I Can’t Go On, Robin Bengtsson
  • Kiss You Goodbye, Anton Hagman
  • Snurra Min Jord, Krista Siegfrids

Again, the majority of artists competing in this semi were rumoured by the always reliable Aftonbladet. But that doesn’t make it any less awesome to have my main man Robin Bengtsson back in the mix after his success earlier in the year (when he beat Ace Wilder to win Deltävling 1). If he’s armed with a song that is anywhere near as superb as Constellation Prize, then we are in for a treat come week three. It’s highly likely, as I Can’t Go On was written by two of the three songwriters behind Sanna Nielsen’s Undo, plus my other fave Robin – Robin Stjernberg. *screams internally*.

At 87, Owe Thörnqvist will become the oldest Melfest competitor ever. That’s assuming he lives long enough (I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but he barely made it onto the press conference stage without faceplanting and breaking a hip). If he doesn’t fall off the perch within the next few months, I have a feeling he could be the Hasse Andersson of 2017 and be catapulted further in the comp than I’d prefer via an outpouring of affection from the Swedish public. Hasse Andersson, of course, is also the Hasse Andersson of 2017, seeing as he’s co-hosting the show.

I’ll be flag-waving for The Fooo Conspiracy (despite being about ten years past the average age of their fan demographic) because BOYBAND ALERT, and Jasmine Kara because…well, we Jasmins/Jasmines have to stick together. I reserve the right to retract these pledges of support should these acts’ songs be…well, crap.

I must mention the gorgeousness that is Krista Siegfrids. Our girl from Sweden via Finland has come back for another crack at securing a ticket to Friends Arena, singing again in Swedish (bad move? We’ll have to wait and see). No matter where her journey ends – Växjö, Kyiv, or anywhere in-between – she’s always fun to have around, and I suspect she’ll be hungrier for success this time. That means she should have a song up her stylish sleeve that’s a step up from the good-but-not-great Faller. Fingers crossed!

 

 

Semi 4 | Skellefteå 

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  • As I Lay Me Down, Wiktoria
  • Bound To Fall, Les Gordons
  • Du Får Inte Ändra På Mig, Sara Varga and Juha Mulari
  • En Värld Full Av Strider, Jon Henrik Fjällgren feat. Aninia
  • När Ingen Ser, Axel Schylström
  • Running With Lions, Alice Svensson
  • Statements, Loreen

Well, well, well. We know SVT like to save a name bigger than any found in the Welsh phone directory for the last semi final. But they not only outdid themselves on that front for 2017 – they also managed to keep it a secret to ensure that all of our jaws would end up on the floor.

Holy dala horses, Queen Loreen is back! With, I might add, the coolest of minimal song titles AND the songwriting dream team of Segerstad and the Debs joining her in the credits. Anyone who says they saw this coming is either a psychic or a liar (or both), and anyone who doesn’t think it will be a contender FTW needs to have their vital signs checked. It will be the toughest of tasks for Loreen to top Euphoria, but she could be the second coming of Johnny Logan that we’ve all been waiting for. Johnny Logan with a septum piercing.

Wiktoria is making an unsurprising return, but will she have wow-factor staging to elevate her entry this time? I’m interested to find out. Save Me wasn’t right up my street song-wise, so I’m hoping she’s changed things up and gone for a power ballad. The girl can SING, so she could easily handle a Céline Dion update (i.e. something like Isa’s I Will Wait).

Also reappearing in the lineup is Sara Varga, who made it in and out of Andra Chansen in 2011 with Spring För Livet, but she’s not alone. She’s also not alone in making a comeback in partnership with another artist, as Jon Henrik Fjällgren has done the same. The man who nearly put paid to MZW’s trip to Vienna is teaming up with Aninia (Google will tell you all you need to know about her, because I can’t) and I reckon the result will be original, to say the least. It’s such a relief that we’ll be able to say stuff like ‘Are you joiking?’ on Twitter again without people getting (too) annoyed.

Jon Henrik and Loreen aside, the name that most excites/intrigues me is Alice Svensson, another Idol alum who was beaten to the crown by Kevin Borg (he of Maltese national final fame). I’m basing this almost exclusively on the title of her song (that plus previous musical releases are all we have to go on at the moment) because is Running With Lions not totally badass? Both the act itself and the string of words, I mean. Bring it on!

 

 

Those are my initial thoughts on the 28 acts unveiled this morning – now it’s time for you to have your say. Are you happy with the peeps preparing to battle it out in Europe’s favourite national final? Which songs are you most excited to hear when the time comes? Do you think Loreen will walk it (or crab-dance it), given her history and supreme songwriting team? Whatever you’re thinking, put it in writing in the comments. The countdown to Melfest 2017 is officially on, guys, so let’s keep the conversation going!

 

 

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MY STOCKHOLM SUGGESTION BOX | Years & Years for the UK

Are any of you currently wearing a watch? Do you know what time it is? No? Well then, it’s my duty to inform you that it’s time to pull another slip of paper out of my Stockholm Suggestion Box! And, of course, time for me to overload you with info on the artist/s scrawled on said slip. I hope you’re mentally, physically and emotionally prepared for this.

So far this season, I’ve suggested that Darin (my favourite popstar on the planet) should put his name down for Melodifestivalen 2016, and in the past I’ve singled out Robin Packalen and The Saturdays as artists I’d choose to represent Finland and the United Kingdom respectively. For my second suggestion in the lead-up to Eurovision #61, I’m aiming for the UK yet again (sorry). I couldn’t help myself – not once it occurred to me just how perfect my favourite act of the moment are for the contest, in more ways that Sanna Nielsen has Melfest entries.

Now, I’m aware that, according to recent news, the BBC will be using an X Factor-style talent search to select their entrant for Stockholm rather than an internal selection (as per the past five years). This may sound like a good plan to someone who’s forgotten (or had treatment to erase from their memory) the disastrous cringefest of an outcome that prompted that switch to internal selections in the first place. Someone at the BBC – more than one someone, incredibly – thought that ‘That Sounds Good To Me’ lived up to its title back in 2010. Surely they can’t be trusted to mastermind something resembling a national final so soon? Then again, it was an NF that teamed Jade Ewen up with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, with the pair eventually finishing fifth in Moscow in 2009.

Basically, the UK’s next ESC experience could be one heck of a ‘Come Back’…or they could end up ‘Rock Bottom’.

With this NF news in mind, I know that any act I name as my ideal UK rep is now even less likely to end up being that rep. But that won’t stop me naming! So please, indulge my fantasy as I request the services of some musos I’ve been obsessed with for the majority of 2015.

Can I please have…

 

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WHO? WHERE? WHAT?

To cut a long story short, Years & Years = Olly Alexander, Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen: a.k.a. two Britons and an Australian (that’d be Mikey) who make insanely cool music together, and have done since 2013.

To NOT cut a long story short…here’s the long story.

Once upon a time, in a mystical land known as London, a brilliant-band-to-be was born.

Years & Years first formed as a five-piece in 2010. Mikey, having recently migrated to the UK, met Emre online, and it wasn’t long before they both cottoned on to Olly’s vocal talents (thanks to his habit of singing in the shower, which you can hardly blame him for. The acoustics in there are second to none). That set Mikey’s mind-wheels into motion, and he and Emre were quick to get Olly in on their music-making scheme. Joined by two other likeminded musos, and with Olly as frontman, bassist Mikey and synth player Emre released their first single ‘I Wish I Knew’ in July 2012. It didn’t exactly set the charts on fire, but good things come to those who wait – and/or those who spend a little more time honing their craft.

Five became three in 2013 (it was like Ginger leaving the Spice Girls all over again…I imagine), prior to the band signing with French label Kitsuné Records and releasing second single ‘Traps’, plus an accompanying EP. ‘Real’, the next single, was released in 2014, and became Years & Years’ first to chart in their homeland (albeit at #158. Everybody’s got to start somewhere).

A switch of label to Polydor the same year signaled the start of better luck and bigger success for the boys. Their third EP – Take Shelter, featuring the phenom single of the same name – topped the iTunes Electronic Chart in the UK. In December 2014, fifth single ‘Desire’ dropped, climbing to #22 on the UK Singles Chart, which was a giant leap for mankind improvement on the performance of all their previous material. The band made guest appearances on the singles of several other acts last year too, featuring on ‘Illuminate’ by Tourist (known as a Grammy-winning co-writer of Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’), and on ‘Sunlight’ by Belgian DJ and producer The Magician.

January 2015 arrived, and Years & Years found themselves winners of the prestigious BBC Sound Of… award, given to the most promising new music talent of the year, and previously handed to the likes of Adele, Ellie Goulding, Jessie J and Sam Smith. They were also nominated for the Critics Choice Award at the Brits, held earlier this year.

As if that wasn’t enough, then IT HAPPENED. ‘It’ being Years & Years’ sixth single, ‘King’, released in March. The song not only went straight to the top of the UK charts, but became a worldwide hit too. reaching #1 in Bulgaria, Slovakia and Croatia and the top ten in Australia, Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland.

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Y & Y giving the US a taste of ‘King’ on Late Night With Seth Meyers, April 2015.

The success of ‘King’ was followed by the band’s first album, Communion, released in July. Penned entirely by Olly, Mikey and Emre (with help from a few established songwriters), it entered the UK and Irish album charts in the top spot, also flying high in Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland (BROAD APPEAL ALERT!), before topping the US Dance/Electronic Album Charts (AMERICAN BREAKTHROUGH ALERT!).

As of October 2015, the boys are waiting to find out if they’ll be named Best UK & Ireland Act at the MTV EMA Awards taking place later this month. Previous winners of such regional EMA awards include Helena Paparizou, Lena, Loreen, Manga, Marco Mengoni, Sakis Rouvas, Voltaj and Who See (there’s a common thread there, but I just can’t figure out what it is). Whether Y & Y take that prize home or not (it’s unlikely, given that One Direction is also nominated and have won it the past three years running), and whether they ever make an appearance at Eurovision or not (also unlikely, but remember – this is a post full of wishful thinking), I’m hooked on their musical stylings. Communion is the best album I’ve heard all year – possibly ever, in fact (and no, I’m not being paid to say that). I can’t wait to hear what else they can do.

 

SOUNDS LIKE…

Speaking of hearing stuff…if you’re not familiar with the Y & Y archives, what can you expect to hear when you do get jiggy with it?

For the most part, synth-based electropop, with an 80s tinge that somehow doesn’t sound 80s at all (so it’s not quite an example of the ‘Eighties Coming Back’ that Ruffus had in mind). What I mean is, while the synths smack of a different decade, the electropop that’s often combined with R & B and/or house elements is ultra contemporary. It’s so cutting edge, actually, that you might want to wear protective clothing while you’re listening.

Communion is 110% hip (I’m down with the kids, y’all), boasting the kind of lush, layered production heard in Margaret Berger’s ‘I Feed You My Love’. And that production is present on both club-ready tracks like ‘King’, and non-soppy ballads such as ‘Eyes Shut’. All in all, it’s the kind of album that’s all killer and no filler.

It’s hard to come up with a Eurovision sound-alike for Y & Y, as we’ve never really heard anything similar on the contest stage before. However, if you were a fan of Estonia or Greece in 2014, and Belgium, Latvia or Slovenia in 2015, you might find something to fangirl/fanboy about here.

 

DISCOGRAPHY

  • Traps EP (2013) feat. ‘Traps’ and ‘You & I’
  • Real EP (2014) feat. ‘Real’
  • Take Shelter EP (2014) feat. ‘Take Shelter’ and ‘Breathe’
  • Y & Y EP (2015) feat. ‘Desire’ and ‘Memo’
  • Communion (2015) feat. ‘King’, ‘Take Shelter’, ‘Desire’, ‘Shine’ and ‘Eyes Shut’

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THE HIT LIST

‘King’ It may not be the song that started it all, but it is the song that made Y & Y famous. I’ll give you a Euro if you don’t get that chorus stuck in your head (and I don’t even have a Euro. That’s how confident I am. Confident and purely in possession of Australian money).

 

‘Shine’ More laid-back than ‘King’ but just as infectious. You could totally slow dance in a club to this track, at that point in the a.m. when energy levels have waned and the crowd is mostly made up of drunk people leaning on each other so they don’t fall to the floor.

 

‘Eyes Shut’ Why subject yourself to a lame lady ballad or man moaner when you have ballads like this at your disposal? There’s no eye-rolling required here, folks.

 

‘Worship’ Dance-worthy, but without the doof-doof beat that gives you a migraine, this is one of my definite highlights from an album with no lowlights.

 

‘Sunlight’ Chances are you’ve heard this before (especially if you’re Down Under and a regular blaster of mainstream radio, á la moi) but you may not have known who was behind it. Now you do. If you did already, then that’s fine too. Whatever.

 

 

WHY EUROVISION?

I don’t have the necessary math skills to tally up the reasons Years & Years should get their butts on a plane to Stockholm (or wherever we end up for Eurovision 2017, given that pesky UK selection announcement). So here are my top three:

  • Their sound Swooping in on the success of “atypical” entries like ‘Rhythm Inside’ and ‘Love Injected’ could be hugely beneficial for the struggling UK, and Y & Y’s trademark electropop fits that slightly misshapen mould. Plus, anything that isn’t a preachy peace-and-love ballad would be welcome, yes?
  • Their stage experience Having performed at music festivals like Glastonbury, on countless tour dates and on TV, these guys can deal with both crowds and cameras. Frontman Olly is the star of the show during live performances, and he’s got no shortage of energy to get audiences going – but he can also eyeball a lens like Loïc Nottet. At Eurovision, their performance would make use of background and lighting rather than props (think Softengine and Sanna Nielsen), making it simple but effective. After witnessing the UK throw everything, including the BBC’s office Christmas light collection, at Electro Velvet’s performance, some minimalism would be a relief.
  • Their credibility Although the UK didn’t make it to the left-hand side of the scoreboard in Copenhagen, I think they did themselves a big favour sending Molly and ‘Children of the Universe’ to the contest. Cool, contemporary and totally respectable, the entry was a step in the right direction. Anything Y & Y could contribute, IMO, would pick up where Molly left off – i.e. even if they crashed and burned, they’d be representatives the UK could be proud of.
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Did I mention that Olly looks great in glitter? Here he is rocking mahusive chunks of it at Glastonbury Festival.

Well, I’ve convinced myself…but then again, I wasn’t in need of convincing. The important question is, how do you rate Years & Years as prospective (by which I mean ‘as if, but humour me, won’t you?’) flag-flyers for the United Kingdom, now that I’ve plied you with information about them?

 

BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE!

If you need a daily Y & Y fix like I apparently do now (how did I survive twenty-three years without them?) there’s no shortage of places you can visit to get it – and to pester them re: Eurovij. Peer pressure may be frowned upon, but it is effective!

Official SiteYouTube | FacebookTwitter |Instagram

 

With that, I’ve said all I wanted to say for today (I think) so until next time, I’ll leave you to ponder this: if you had the power to pick the next UK representative, who would you choose – and why?

 

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The 2015 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 2 (The Performances, The Costumes + The Results)

Pull up a comfortable chair (you’re going to be sitting in it for a while), have food and drink within reach (you’ll need the sustenance), and generally prep yourselves for the second and final installment of the 2015 EBJEEs!

I won’t lie – it’s a mammoth ceremony. But it might just be worth it: if you voted in the People’s Choice polls, you’ll find out today whether your remaining favourites won out in the end. Plus, if you make it all the way through, I’ll give you a gift basket full of gratitude and appreciation for your dedication. You won’t be able to sell it on eBay, but hopefully it will make you feel all warm and fuzzy (once you get the feeling back in your behind after sitting down for so long).

So, without further ado, let’s get cracking!

 

mzwee

 

 THE PERFORMANCES

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Winner Guy Sebastian Honourable Mention/s Nadav Guedj, Uzari

You can send threatening notes my way calling me biased, but I’d like to see you argue against Australia’s pride and joy (at this moment in time and exclusively among Eurovision fans) possessing a flawless set of pipes. Even suffering from a cold, as he was in the days leading up to the final, Guy Sebastian demonstrated his usual smooth-as-silk singing technique, and reminded us all why he won Australian Idol back in the day.

 

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Winner Aminata Honourable Mention/s Bojana Stamenov, Polina Gagarina

Barely able to reach the ‘You Must Be THIS Tall To Ride’ marker when queuing for a rollercoaster ride, Aminata’s powerful vocals defy her petite size. Transitioning between crystal-clear high notes and big belters with ease, the control she had over her voice was second to none in this year’s contest as far as I’m concerned. If Beyoncé is #flawless, we’re going to have to come up with a whole new word for Aminata. Aminatamazing? Aminaterrific? The suggestion box is officially open.

 

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Winner Il Volo Honourable Mention/s Genealogy, Mørland & Debrah Scarlett

Singing separately, Gianluca, Ignazio and Piero are mesmerising. Singing together, they send me on a trip to Goosebumpsville, USA, every time (it’s starting to get expensive). The force that is high-quality operatics shouldn’t be underestimated, and high-quality operatics is what we got from the boys whenever they opened their mouths in Vienna. Perfection is spelled I-L V-O-L-O from now on.

 

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Winner Italy Honourable Mention/s Latvia

Let’s talk about Italy for the second time in thirty seconds, shall we? There’s something about an epic vocal performance that sends shivers down my spine. This is particularly true when the performance is given by a trio of hot Italian men…and when one of said men winks at the camera and turns me into a sad excuse for an independent woman who don’t need no man. In addition to the shivers, Il Volo also had every hair on the back of my neck standing up each time they launched into Grande Amore’s explosive chorus. As a result, I resembled a fuzzy triceratops, but it was totally worth it.

 

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Winner Spain Honourable Mention/s Czech Republic, Greece

A dramatic song like Amanecer needs a dramatic performance to go with it, and Spain certainly delivered in that respect. They didn’t rely solely on Edurne’s ability to look super-intense and wave her arms around at every opportunity; instead, they switched the drama into overdrive by adding a costume change, an aggressive dance sequence and a gale from the wind machine into the mix. Subsequently, Spain’s performance rated more highly on the drama scale than an entire year’s worth of Days Of Our Lives episodes.

 

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Winner Austria Honourable Mention/s France, Switzerland

In a move that gave a more literal meaning to Paula and Ovi’s Playing With Fire, The Makemakes’ Dominic set his piano alight at the pivotal point of I Am Yours – a cool (though not temperature-wise) way of spicing up the staging of the cruisy, down-tempo number. It didn’t help Austria score any points, but the risk factor and fresh take on pyrotechnics deserves recognition.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Lithuania, France

Sweden grabs this People’s Choice Award in very convincing style, with 58% of the votes. It’s not surprising when you consider just how much Måns’ projected stick man and all that jazz had to do with his win. The gimmick made a good song great, and made the performance of that song superior in terms of innovation and creativity.

 

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Winner Greece Honourable Mention/s Georgia, Spain, Switzerland

Maria Elena had everything one needs to pull off a classic Eurovision lady ballad: a big voice; flowing locks; a floor-sweeping gown; and the ability to fake enough anguish to moisten her eyes, but not so much to actually let a tear go and ruin her mascara. All that was required top it off was wind – and boy, did she get it! As much as I want to opt for the logical pun here and say I was blown away by Greece’s performance, I wasn’t. But if it hadn’t been for that manufactured breeze, the climax of One Last Breath would have lacked impact.

 

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Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Israel, Sweden

Robotic movements coupled with perfect pirouettes and the occasional face-grab? What a work of art. Belgium’s combo of geometric and organic movements was as complementary to Rhythm Inside as the black-and-white costumes and boxy backdrop. The choreography also played a big part in Loïc and his dance crew snapping at Måns Zelmerlöw’s heels in the creativity stakes.

 

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Winner France Honourable Mention/s Latvia, Poland

Back in 2012, Ukraine neatly sidestepped the six-person stage rule by featuring a crowd of fist-pumping – and it must be said, tacky-looking – party-goers on the screens behind Gaitana. The idea was good, but the execution was poor. Fast forward to 2015, and you’ll see that France took the same idea, and made it work. A digital army of drummers (plus a smaller contingent of living and breathing drummers) appeared behind Lisa Angell, and with that, the last thirty seconds of her performance and its atmosphere were elevated by a mile.

 

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Winner Spain Honourable Mention/s Moldova

No amount of gimmicks is too many – not according to Edurne’s team. It’s a worry when a song is deemed so unentertaining, it needs every backdrop, costume reveal, dance move and wind machine setting known to man to bring it to life (say what you will about Sweden, but at least they limited themselves to lighting and projection). Still, I can’t say I minded the OTT much on this occasion. As I said earlier, Amanecer is a dramatic number, and you have to admire Spain for carrying that through to the staging as well.

 

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Winner The Netherlands Honourable Mention/s The Czech Republic

I’m sure we’d all have forgiven The Netherlands if that horrendous opening shot had been a mistake. But, believe it or not, it was included on purpose. An entire verse of Trijntje eyeballing the camera with netting draped over her face didn’t say ‘I’m on the Eurovision stage and loving it!’ so much as ‘I’m being held hostage by an embittered fisherman who’s threatening to slap me with a sea bass unless his demands are met.’ And yet, rather than feeling sorry for her, all I could do was laugh. ‘WTF?!?’ is an understatement.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Belgium, Australia, Latvia

This People’s Choice poll was a close one, with Belgium leading until the last minute. Ultimately, it’s contest winner Sweden that can add another trophy to their collection as the All-Rounder of the Year – the country that had the best package of song and performance. Year after year, Sweden puts the ‘vision’ into Eurovision in a big way, and 2015 was no exception. Not only visually spectacular (and I’m not just talking about Måns) but vocally top-notch and full of energy, there was nothing lacking in what they had to offer most recently. This award is well-deserved.

 

 

THE COSTUMES

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Winner Nina Sublatti Honourable Mention/s Ann Sophie, Genealogy

What with Nina being the fierce, take-no-prisoners kind of woman she is, Georgia needed to dress her in something that said ‘I’m a sexy goth, and if you come near me without my permission I’ll whip a Chinese throwing star at your forehead.’ Thankfully, they did, and I am now crushing on an ESC costume like I did when Maja Keuc made Perspex platforms and provocative body armour a thing in Düsseldorf. I.e. to a crazy extent.

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Winner Trijntje Oosterhuis Honourable Mention/s Trijntje Oosterhuis

Well, there was one thing The Netherlands did better than anyone else this year. Upon seeing what Trijntje opted to wear for the show after trying out several alternatives, that haphazardly-cut, boob-baring dress suddenly didn’t look so bad. I guess she’s not one of those people who can wear a bin bag and still look fabulous.

 

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Winner Moldova’s hot cops Honourable Mention/s Ann Sophie

I’m mainly referring to the object of Eduard’s affection (and her teeny-tiny, totally non-regulation police hotpants) here. But the sprayed-on shorts the men were wearing were also grounds for arrest, and for covering the eyes of any children present. How those guys managed to move to the music without something splitting is a mystery.

 

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Winner Debrah Scarlett Honourable Mention/s Loïc Nottet

Adventurous hairstyles were few and far between in Vienna, with nobody even coming close to a Rona Nishliu-style DEAR LORD WHAT IS THAT ON HER HEAD?!? So the conventional but undeniably stunning hairdo of Debrah Scarlett wins this People’s Choice Award. Affixed with an empty pie tin repurposed as artful headwear (zoom in on Norway’s performance and you’ll probably spot some crust crumbs) Debrah’s fiery mane of curls was anything but monstrous. In fact, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that mane on my own scalp stat (minus the pie tin).

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THE RESULTS

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Winner Conchita Wurst Honourable Mention/s Alice Tumler

This wasn’t a competition, really…at least not a close one. ORF made a big mistake failing to convince Conchita to host the entire show. She’s everything a great host is made of: articulate, humorous, charismatic, and gorgeous to look at (nobody looks more banging in an evening gown).

 

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Winner Denmark Honourable Mention/s Moldova

2015 wasn’t exactly a year of jaw-dropping moments. I can’t say that any of the DNQs had me clutching my chest and feeling faint at the sheer shocking-ness of their occurrence. However, I did have Denmark down as a qualifier, thinking that as usual, the safe and competent song they were fielding would get them into the final. It did not, which was a little surprising…but not devastating, if I’m honest.

 

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Winner Albania Honourable Mention/s Poland

As much as I’m Alive has grown on me in the month or so since Eurovision, I still don’t 100% understand how it got through. Elhaida’s cape game was strong in semi final one, but girl veered right off the in-tune tracks and straight into screech territory for her last thirty seconds on stage. Ouch.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Russia

For the long-standing bookies’ favourite, there were no questions surrounding qualification. It wasn’t even worth arguing against Sweden winning their semi. We know from the Bergendahl Incident of 2010 that the Swedes can trip up when it comes to making the final, but there was no way 2015 was going to resemble that ABSOLUTE TRAVESTY, thank heavens.

 

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Winner San Marino Honourable Mention/s Portugal

Poor Anita and Michele. Come back next year (after you’ve given Ralph Siegel the flick) and you might have a chance.

 

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Winner Moldova Honourable Mention/s Romania, Switzerland

I don’t know if it’s down to better acoustics in the hall or a voice-box transplant, but Eduard went from putting all his energy into dancing and giving us the vocal performance of nobody’s lifetime, to putting most of his energy into dancing – there was even a backflip thrown in this time – and actually sounding passable. The Jedward Effect of having backing singers do most of the heavy lifting had to have something to do with it.

 

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Winner Australia Honourable Mention/s The Netherlands, Sweden

As awesome/bizarre as it would have been to see Australia win Eurovision, I never really thought it was going to happen with Tonight Again. After Guy’s outstanding live performance, though, a top five placement was not out of the question – and when we nabbed one over Latvia, I felt it was fair (not that I would’ve complained if Australia and Latvia had finished the other way round). When I do the math, 5th seems just right. The song deserved top ten, the performance deserved top five, and the vocal was deserving of the win.

 

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Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Austria, France

I’ve said this a dozen times already, but even ignoring the fact that Germany wasn’t ranked last in the televoting or jury voting and still ended up at the bottom (no pun intended, if you know what I mean), I remain confused as to how Ann Sophie was so wronged. As if she hadn’t been traumatised enough during the German NF! There was nothing deserving of nul in her sassy, sexy performance, and I for one am outraged that Black Smoke is now the only Eurovision song in history to finish 27th in the final.

 

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Winner Sweden Honourable Mention/s Russia

Aside from a last-minute challenge from Russia, and the possibility of Italy trampling all over their competition, Sweden was the one to beat this year. From the millisecond Måns won Melfest, he was the odds-on favourite to win Eurovision, and he didn’t disappoint those who’d put money on him. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t think Russia was going to snatch victory (after Polina’s final performance and until halfway through the voting sequence, that’s EXACTLY what I thought was going to happen) but the obvious winner that few of us discounted did turn out to be the actual winner. I don’t think Sweden’s sixth victory blindsided anyone.

 

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Winner Germany Honourable Mention/s Austria

Yep, we’re in agreement – Germany wuz robbed! Since Stefan Raab relinquished control of the German entries, the country’s fortunes have taken a nosedive. As such, we might have expected Ann Sophie to finish mid-table or lower. What none of us expected was to see her sitting as low as possible on the scoreboard, with the host nation and a big fat zero keeping her company. WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO? On the plus side, Ann Sophie is now a member of a rather exclusive club of losers, and will be remembered in a way that whoever finished, say, 22nd (I literally had to Google that to remind myself that it was Cyprus) will not.

 

 

And that, my European song competition-obsessed friends, is it *insert relieved round of applause here*. There are no more trophies left to hand out to the Class of ’15, which the likes of Lithuania will be sad to hear considering they didn’t get one (not This Time….HAHAHA).

I hope you enjoyed this year’s awards. Thanks again to everyone who voted in the People’s Choice polls – I promise there will be more of those, feat. more nominees, in 2016.

I still have a bit of Vienna-themed business to take care of here on EBJ, before I move on and look ahead to JESC in Bulgaria, and the 61st ESC in A City Yet To Be Named (don’t rush, EBU/SVT…I need more time to conduct accommodation research). There won’t be a dull moment here during the off-season, so do drop by over the coming months. I can assure you that, unlike Ann Sophie and The Makemakes, you’ll never have a nul-point experience!

 

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COMING UP I count down my top ten national finalists who should/could have gone to Vienna; and you’ll be seeing double as all the doppelgangers of ESC 2015 are exposed!

 

The 2015 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 1 (The Artists + The Songs)

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Even if it’s nine o’ clock in the morning where you are, just go with the flow, because this is a special occasion.

Yes, oui, and si – the 2015 EBJEES are here! It’s about time, seeing as Eurovision took place over a month ago and the DVD isn’t far from being released (the official indicator that I’ve taken way too long to get these awards going). Today’s ceremony is the first of two, so try not to crease your formalwear. And please pace yourselves with the champagne.

My final command? Take your seats, because the awards in the categories of The Artists and The Songs are about to be handed out. The results of four People’s Choice Awards will also be revealed, so sit back, relax, and see if your favourites came out on top. Oh, and please excuse the messy formatting at times (technology is not my friend today).

Lights, camera, action!

 

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THE ARTISTS

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  • Dominic Muhrer (The Makemakes)
  • Gianluca Ginoble (Il Volo)
  • Guy Sebastian
  • Ignazio Boschetto (Il Volo)
  • Måns Zelmerlöw
  • Piero Barone (Il Volo)
  • Stig Rästa
  • Uzari
  • Vaidas Baumila

Winner Måns Zelmerlöw Honourable Mention/s: Gianluca Ginoble

Okay…so I’m biased. But I find it hard to believe that anyone of any sexual persuasion could look at the shots below and not be affected by the muscular physique, penetrating gaze and strangely alluring meadow of chest hair belonging to our reigning Eurovision champion. Can you buy a flat-pack Måns at IKEA? If not, why not, Sweden? Get on it, and make sure you include the leather pants. hhmzw

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  • Ann Sophie
  • Edurne
  • Elhaida Dani
  • Elina Born
  • Marjetka Vovk (Maraaya)
  • Mélanie René
  • Nina Sublatti
  • Polina Gagarina
  • Tamar Kaprelian (Genealogy)

Winner Edurne Honourable Mention/s Ann Sophie, Elina Born

For the second year in a row, Spain takes the Hottest She trophy home. I don’t know if there’s something in the water over there or if it’s just a coincidence, but either way, Edurne is my número uno girl crush of this year’s contest. I guess it’s not just gentlemen who prefer blondes, on this occasion. hsedn

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  • Dominic Muhrer (The Makemakes)
  • Elnur Huseynov
  • Gianluca Ginoble (Il Volo)
  • Ignazio Boschetto (Il Volo)
  • John Karayiannis
  • Václav Noid Bárta

Winner Gianluca Ginoble Honourable Mention/s Dominic Muhrer

Each year, I award a gong in honour of the previous year’s winner (so expect one for 2016 in the form of The Butt-Hugger Award For Best-Fitting Trousers). In light of that, how could I bypass a beard-themed award this year? Gianluca’s carefully cultivated stubble wasn’t quite as perfect as Miss Wurst’s, but it upped his sex appeal by a factor of five hundred. Plus, it made him look older than his twenty years, meaning I didn’t feel like such a cougar thinking he was a tasty morsel.

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  • Essaï Altounian (Genealogy) 2%
  • Guy Sebastian 33%
  • Il Volo 16%
  • John Karayiannis 16%
  • Måns Zelmerlöw 16%
  • Václav Noid Barta 18%

Winner Guy Sebastian Honourable Mention/s Václav Noid Barta

The people have spoken – and by ‘the people’, I mean you guys, and me, because of course I snuck in a cheeky vote of my own. The first of eight People’s Choice Awards goes to Guy Sebastian, which doesn’t shock me even though I *may* not have voted for him (#teammånsineveryrespectalways). Guy didn’t put a foot wrong with the press from the moment he set foot on Viennese soil, in turn endearing himself to all of us watching interviews and press conferences from home. Even pre-ESC, he was flashing that megawatt smile and working his easy charm at Eurovision In Concert and the like. Way to maintain the Aussie rep of friendliness and approachability, Guy!

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  • Ann Sophie 1%
  • Bianca Nicholas (Electro Velvet) 5%
  • Bojana Stamenov 18%
  • Elhaida Dani 1%
  • Marjetka Vovk (Maraaya) 24%
  • Marta Jandová 32%
  • Polina Gagarina 14%
  • Trijntje Oosterhuis 5%

Winner Marta Jandová Honourable Mention/s Marjetka Vovk

 When it comes to the lady of 2015 you guys would want to hang out with, the reasonably clear choice was Marta – and it’s obvious why! Václav’s partner in crime isn’t suffering from a shortage of personality, whether she’s onstage whipping her heels off or offstage joking and laughing with anyone who crosses her path. If she ever posts a personal ad looking for a new best friend, I’ll respond to it for sure. Me and a million others.

 

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  • Anti Social Media
  • Bojana Stamenov
  • Eduard Romanyuta
  • Guy Sebastian
  • Måns Zelmerlöw
  • Nadav Guedj

Winner Nadav Guedj Honourable Mention/s Bojana Stamenov, Guy Sebastian

You might have been expecting me to hand this one to a more seasoned professional. But, at sixteen years old and without the stage experience of most of the other nominees, Nadav can command a stage and pump up a crowd with ease. I’ve got to concede that he’s a natural; that he was born to be on the stage. It’s just a matter of whether that birth took place in 1998 as alleged, or 1988, which seems like the more realistic option.

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  • Elnur Huseynov (return of the screeching angel of ’08)
  • Genealogy (six singers + six continents)
  • Guy Sebastian (Aussie representation in Austria)
  • Maraaya (headphones here to stay)
  • Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini (from JESC to ESC)

Winner Guy Sebastian Honourable Mention/s Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini

 Australia, competing legitimately in Eurovision? Puh-lease. At least that’s what was thought when the EBU announced it was happening and we all assumed it was a prank. But it wasn’t, and it did happen, with Guy Sebastian at the helm. What better talking point to have associated with an act? Side note: Aussies were threefold on the Stadthalle stage (not counting Guy’s backing group members): think Mary-Jean O’Doherty lending her operatics to Armenia with Genealogy, Katrina Noorbergen songwriting and backup-singing for Russia, and Guy. Obviously.

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  • Loïc Nottet
  • Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini
  • Molly Sterling
  • Nadav Guedj

 Winner Loïc Nottet Honourable Mention/s Molly Sterling, Nadav Guedj

 Not only was he the highest-scoring teenager of them all this year, but Loïc proved himself to be perhaps the most talented one too – co-writing Rhythm Inside and choreographing the accompanying stage show in his capacity as dancer as well as singer. The guy (man? Boy? Kid?) is too cool for school, and one to watch as he continues to build his career.

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  • Australia’s smooth movers
  • Belgium’s all-white troupe
  • France’s drummer boys
  • Hungary’s peace preachers
  • Israel’s dirty dancers
  • FYR Macedonia’s MERJ
  • Moldova’s hot cops
  • Montenegro’s classy choir

Winner Belgium Honourable Mention/s Australia, Israel, Montenegro

It’s easy to give the main artist all the credit for pulling off a great performance. But the vocal support and energy backup singers and/or dancers provide rounds out a performance, and is often invaluable. I’m sure Loïc was grateful for his five double-threats who, dressed all in white, both contrasted with and complemented him as the main artist. They even took over when things got overwhelming and he had to have a mid-song nap on the floor. That’s a top-notch support system right there.

THE SONGS

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  • A Million Voices (sounds like What If by Dina Garipova)
  • Heroes (sounds like Lovers On The Sun by David Guetta)
  • One Thing I Should Have Done (sounds like More Than Words by Extreme)
  • Still In Love With You (sounds like the ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ theme)

 Winner Heroes Honourable Mention/s One Thing I Should Have Done

First things first: I think the claims of plagiarism against Heroes are ridiculous. But every year, there’s one entry that cops flak for being a “carbon copy” of something else (as in it’s slightly similar in the way that certain genres just ARE) and in 2015, that entry was our winning one. I’m giving it this award based on the attention those plagiarism claims received in the press – not because I think Heroes is a rehashed version of Lovers On The Sun (a song which annoys the crap out of me, if truth be told).

 

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  • Amanecer, Spain 23%
  • A Million Voices, Russia 4%
  • Beauty Never Lies, Serbia 6%
  • Golden Boy, Israel 11%
  • Grande Amore, Italy 17%
  • Here For You, Slovenia 9%
  • Heroes, Sweden 25%
  • Tonight Again, Australia 6%

 Winner Heroes Honourable Mention/s Amanecer

 Fanwank entries may be drooled over by hardcore ESC fans in the contest lead-up, but they have been known to crash and burn (Kate Ryan’s Je T’adore being the obvious reference point here). Your choice for Fanwank of the Year, however, met pre-show expectations that it was a potential winner by…well, winning. Runner-up Amanecer, on the other hand, was a bit more Je T’adore.

 

 

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  • A Monster Like Me, Norway
  • Autumn Leaves, FYR Macedonia
  • Heroes, Sweden
  • Hour of the Wolf, Azerbaijan
  • Love Injected, Latvia
  • N’oubliez Pas, France
  • Playing With Numbers, Ireland
  • Still In Love With You, United Kingdom

 Winner A Monster Like Me Honourable Mention/s Love Injected, N’oubliez Pas

The alternative (but boring) title of this award = Best Lyrics. How much merit a song’s lyrics have is super subjective, so keep that in mind as I say that Norway’s lyrics were my favourite, in a year where there were many interesting and insightful words put to music. The words of AMLM are quite sparse and simple, but their moodiness and ambiguity (for heaven’s sake, Mørland, put us out of our misery and tell us what you did in your early youth!) sends shivers down my spine. Debrah’s verse is the highlight.

 

 

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  • A Million Voices, Russia
  • A Monster Like Me, Norway
  • De La Capăt (All Over Again), Romania
  • Grande Amore, Italy
  • Hour of the Wolf, Azerbaijan
  • N’oubliez Pas, France
  • Playing With Numbers, Ireland

 Winner Grande Amore Honourable Mention/s A Million Voices, A Monster Like Me

 In such a ballad-heavy contest, at least we had some darn good ones to compensate for the depressing, dated ones. This was a tough category, but I have to single out Grande Amore as having the most ballady goodness. Drama, oomph, popera and gorgeous Italian (not to mention gorgeous Italian men) came together to create a crowd-pleaser and a half that ended up raking in televotes like nobody’s business. No other ballad featured more spine-tingling AND explosive moments.

 

 

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  • Adio, Montenegro
  • Amanecer, Spain
  • Golden Boy, Israel

 Winner Golden Boy Honourable Mention/s Adio, Amanecer

 It’s not as if there was a truckload of ethno-pop to choose from *sniff*….but fortunately, Israel delivered everything I desire in the genre straight to my front door. Golden Boy is a fun-packed floor-filler (though not THE floor-filler of the year IMO, as you’ll see in a second) that takes full advantage of irresistible Middle-Eastern sounds in order to get us all rump-shaking.

 

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  • Beauty Never Lies, Serbia
  • Golden Boy, Israel
  • Here For You, Slovenia
  • Heroes, Sweden
  • I Want Your Love, Moldova
  • Still In Love With You, United Kingdom
  • Tonight Again, Australia

 Winner Tonight Again  Honourable Mention/s Golden Boy

 Call me overly-patriotic if you like…but I can assure you, this winner is at least 67% based on my objective opinion of which song would take a Euroclub from boredom central to buzzing in no time. If you were in the arena, feel free to smugly inform me that Israel or Serbia had way more people on their feet and flailing their limbs about. Meanwhile, I’ll be figuring out which dance move is best suited to the lyric ‘tonight’s so good’.

 

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  • Aina Mun Pitää, Finland
  • Face The Shadow, Armenia
  • One Last Breath, Greece
  • Still In Love With You, United Kingdom
  • The Way You Are, Denmark

 Winner Face The Shadow Honourable Mention/s Aina Mun Pitää

 Based on the ratio of how much I hated it when I first heard it (and every time I listened to it up until I witnessed Genealogy’s live performance) to how much I actually almost kind of enjoy it now, Armenia wins this one. If you read my previous post (which of COURSE you did!) then you would have seen Face The Shadow on my list of the best-performed songs of 2015 – and it was the performance that was solely responsible for changing my opinion of the song.

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  • Face The Shadow, Armenia
  • Golden Boy, Israel
  • Hope Never Dies, Czech Republic
  • Tonight Again, Australia

 Winner Tonight Again  Honourable Mention/s Face The Shadow

 Don’t get me wrong – I reckon the debut Aussie entry is a great song in studio, and a perfect radio track. But it does ascend to superb status when it’s live. Guy is an artist who always appears to be having a ball on stage, and that’s the kind of attitude Tonight Again needs to make it a party-anthem…and to distract us from the fact that it is quite repetitive.

 

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  • Autumn Leaves, FYR Macedonia
  • Here For You, Slovenia
  • Hour of the Wolf, Azerbaijan
  • Time, Belarus
  • Unbroken, Iceland
  • Walk Along, The Netherlands

 Winner Here For You Honourable Mention/s Hour of the Wolf, Walk Along

 Speaking of perfect radio tracks, here’s one Slovenia prepared earlier! Here For You is an audio dream, but for me personally, Maraaya were unable to keep it from being overly static – and therefore devoid of enough energy – on the stage. This wasn’t a major issue in the Slovenian NF, but was a definite problem on the less intimate ESC stage.

 

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  • Amanecer, Spain 20%
  • A Monster Like Me, Norway 26%
  • De La Capăt (All Over Again), Romania 13%
  • Face The Shadow, Armenia 2%
  • Grande Amore, Italy 13%
  • Love Injected, Latvia 9%
  • Still In Love With You, United Kingdom 4%
  • Time, Belarus 13%

 Winner A Monster Like Me Honourable Mention/s Amanecer

 Norway’s unconventional dinner party triumphs over Spain’s CGI everything in this People’s Choice Award – and as I gave my vote to Mørland and Debrah, that’s fine by me. The only bad thing about their glamourous-yet-messy video, in which the duo is cool, calm and collected in the midst of chaos, is that it makes me mourn the loss of a similar atmosphere in Norway’s stage performance. I’m not saying they should have emptied KFC buckets over each other’s heads or anything; but a gloomier, retro-glam look would have upped Monster’s cred as a live song.

 

 

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  • Albania
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • Lithuania
  • Poland
  • Slovenia

 Winner Lithuania Honourable Mention/s Italy, Slovenia

 To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed with any of the postcards this year (though the concept of them was cute). But how can I not acknowledge how badass Vaidas and Monika were in taking a literal leap of faith together for the sake of a This Time intro? While other acts were frolicking in fields with wild horses and dancing down Austrian avenues, those two were putting their trust in a cable that could have snapped at any moment (in my mind). One word, two syllables: bravo.

 

And that’s Part 1 *insert round of applause here*! I’m going to wrap things up before you lose 100% of the feeling in your popo, but I will be back later in the week to reveal the winners of The Performances, The Costumes and The Results EBJEEs.

Don’t miss it, especially if you want to check out the remaining People’s Choice results. And even more especially if you don’t want me to feel sad and lonely and stuff #guilttrip.

Let me know what you think of the winners above, and tell me which awards you’d like to be able to vote for next year. I can promise more polls with more nominees in 2016!

nsig

HAVE YOUR SAY: Vote, vote, vote for the winners of the 2014 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence!

Never mind Golden Globe and Oscar time – we all know the best awards season is Eurovision awards season! When the contest (and most of the residual PED) is over, it’s time to reflect on the best and worst of everything, from the songs to the scoreboard shockers, the vocal performances to the vile outfits (and I’m actually not referring to Lithuania…I NEVER agree with the Barbara Dex) and everything in-between. Though more important and popular ESC sites have been staging awards ceremonies for weeks, the time for my own – known for three years as the EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence – is fast approaching, so iron the creases out of your tuxedoes and brush the lint off your evening gowns in preparation. If you don’t mind? I have a dress code, you know.

Before my star-studded ceremony can take place, however, there’s a little business to take care of. Namely, I need you guys to decide the winners of my super-awesome personalised trophies that were definitely not put together haphazardly in MS Word with Clipart. This year, the EBJ EEs will feature more awards in the categories of Artists, Songs, Costumes, Performances and Results than ever before, and I need more help than ever with choosing the winners. So, instead of having a sole People’s Choice Award for All-Rounder of the Year (which went to Norway’s Margaret Berger in 2013) I’m letting you decide six of the awards. Woohoo! There are many more that I’ll be deciding myself, of course, but just think yourself lucky that you don’t have to spend 48 straight hours going through an endless parade of polls.

So here today, I’m asking you to vote on these particular six which have been taken from each category. I’ve narrowed each list of nominees down to a small group, so if you’re really desperate to vote for someone who’s not included, leave me a comment saying so and I will count that as a vote. The results will be kept secret until the all the awards are revealed next week. Hashtag mysterious.

Without further ado, get ready to make your choices (and share the link to this post to get more people voting, if you’re feeling generous). Here are the People’s Choice Awards for the 2014 EBJ EEs!

 

The Artists

The friendliest, most charismatic guy on the ground in Copenhagen.

  

The woman you’d want to be your BFF.

 

 

The Songs

The most entertaining, amusing or attractive MV of the year.

 

 

The Performances

The act that ticked all the boxes – vocals, costume, staging and so on.

 

 

The Costumes

The most stylish artist/s to take to the stage.

 

 

The Results

The final placing that left you scratching your head.

 

There’s your six! I hope you chose wisely…JK, it doesn’t really matter. But hey, you could be giving a country that didn’t win anything on the night/s a prize of sorts after all, and that’s a big deal. Kind of.

ANYWAY, thanks for voting (and sharing, if you were up for that). Stay tuned for the revelation of the results as well as the revelation of all of the other award victors, when the EBJ EEs kicks off next week. Before that, I’ll be presenting you with my Top 10 Could’ves and Should’ves of 2014 – that is, the national finalists who, on reflection, should have been sent to Copenhagen instead, or who would have had similar success to those songs that were chosen. Putting that list together was no easy task, but I got by with a little help from a friend…

Until next time ↓

EBJ Signature

 

The 2013 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence | Part 1 (Artists and Songs)

Hello there. Long time, no new Eurovision rambling from yours truly. Well, it’s been just over a week, but in blog time that’s an eternity, so I apologise to anyone who cares. I do this, as Krista ‘Ding Dong’ Seigfrids would say, for you-ah, for you-ah, for you, yeah, I do it for youuuuu. Or as Robin ‘I won Melfest?’ Stjernberg would say, for you-ooh-ooh-oohoohooh-oh-ohhhhhh.

OH DEAR GOD, SOMEBODY STOP ME!

Thanks. So, today it’s finally time for me to hand out the first of my awards for the best and worst of all things Eurovision 2013. I realise it’s a bit odd to say they’re for excellence and still rate the bad stuff (costumes etc) but if you think about it, one of the artists who did badly in some way was the most excellent at doing badly in that way. I’m just trying to figure out which one.

Part 1 is devoted to the best and worst of this year’s artists and songs – from the most attractive performers (’cause I’m shallow like that) to the biggest personalities, most unoriginal entries and more. Let the ceremony begin! Oh, and let me know who your winners would be down below. Mine are highlighted in bold.

ebjees

The Artists

1

Andrius Pojavis

Farid Mammadov

Ilias Kozas (Koza Mostra)

Jonas Gygax (Takasa)

Marco Mengoni

Ryan Dolan

 

He may belong in an insane asylum (judging from his behaviour during interviews and the now infamous ‘crotch readjustment’ incident of the jury final) but Marco Mengoni, the San Remo-winning Italian stallion, is also insanely attractive – and when you’re objectifying people by handing out “trophies” to the best-looking, that’s what counts. He can fly to Australia and act like a total space cadet in my company any time.

Marco: the hair of a madman, the face of my future husband.

Marco: the hair of a madman, the face of my future husband.

 

 2

Alyona Lanskaya

Amandine Bourgeois

Natália Kelly

Natalie Horler (Cascada)

Nevena Božović (Moje 3)

Zlata Ognevich

 

If you’re a female and you’ve never secretly hoped that Zlata has bad breath or a problem with flatulence, because NOBODY can be as beautiful and talented and generally perfect as she is, then you’re a better person than I am. I’ll push my jealousy to one side for a second to say this: she is a stunner. If she and Marco Mengoni ever had a love child (never gonna happen, back off Ognevich etc etc) it would be ridiculously gorgeous. Or alternatively, hideous because two lots of super-hot genes coming together might cancel out the attractiveness.

 

3

Andrius Pojavis

Farid Mammadov

Gianluca Bezzina

Gor Sujyan (Dorians)

Marco Mengoni

Roberto Bellarosa

 

This was a tough category, what with 2013 being a year full of animated brows, all jostling for our attention. But the hypnotic quality of Andrius’ pair secures him the disco ball. I’m pretty sure he got into the final by using them to put the jury members and TV viewers into a trance, during which time they were compelled to vote Lithuania. That weird trip-effect halfway through the performance was just a distraction.

'Hush. The eyebrows have spoken.'

‘Hush. The eyebrows have spoken.’

 

 

4

Adrian Lulguraj

Gianluca Bezzina

Ralfs Eilands (PeR)

Robin Stjernberg

Ryan Dolan

 

Perhaps I’m biased because I love Robin to pieces (‘Pieces’ coincidentally being the title of his new album, to be released on June 26th, hashtag shameless plug) but I reckon he was the nicest guy to set foot on Malmö soil during Eurovision week. His priceless reaction of shock at winning Melodifestivalen carried through to the big show, as he was constantly thrilled and amazed just to be there. He was charming with all 468, 952 members of the press he had to speak to (so I hear), taught Australian commentator Sam Pang how to wrestle, and went out of his way (literally; he ran in the wrong direction) to greet fans at the opening party. What a top bloke.

 

5

Hannah Mancini

Krista Seigfrids

Natália Kelly

Natalie Horler (Cascada)

Sara Jovanović (Moje 3)

 

Okay, so Krista and her entourage/bridal party may have been a bit loud at times, and prone to disturbing the relative peace of artist interviews-in-progress…but underneath that noise was someone genuinely excited to be representing her country and someone who wants to make friends with everyone she comes into contact with. Despite her negative result in the final, I’ll bet she and her team spent the plane trip home ding-donging up and down the aisles.

 

6

Bonnie Tyler

Cascada

Koza Mostra

PeR

Robin Stjernberg

Who See

 

In this case, it’s ‘Born EntertainerS’. I’m not including Agathonas as one of the said entertainers, despite how much I love his moustache fondling. It’s just that Koza Mostra, as a fivesome, kind of outshine him in the energetic, crowd-revving, kilt-wearing stakes. I reckon you could hire these guys to perform at a party specifically for people who are bored by everything, and within ten seconds those people would be dancing on tabletops with various items of clothing tied around their foreheads.

It's also entertaining to wonder what's under those kilts.

It’s also entertaining to wonder what’s under those kilts.

 

7

Alyona Lanskaya (the two-time NF winner who finally made it)

Birgit (expecting on the ESC stage)

Elitsa & Stoyan (return of the drum-tastic Bulgarians)

Gianluca Bezzina (the singing doctor)

Moran Mazor (chic geek)

Valentina Monetta (from social networks to sophistication)

 

Miss Monetta takes out this award, and not just because she came straight back to the contest without even a coffee break in between. It’s because she went from ‘inappropriately dressed thirty-something forced to gyrate around singing about cybersex and googling, giggling, gaggling (whatever that is)’ to ‘mature, talented chanteuse with excellent Italian ballad-cum-disco-number and adequately floaty outfit.’ We all wondered whether the Social Network stigma would ruin her second chance, or if she’d be able to shake it off; though she didn’t manage to make the final, I think she well and truly proved that Crisalide Valentina is the real Valentina.

 

 

The Songs

 8

Glorious (sounds like Don’t You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia)

L’Enfer Et Moi (sounds like Rolling In The Deep by ADELE)

Samo Shampioni (sounds like Water by Elitsa & Stoyan)

Solayoh (sounds like Aphrodisiac by Eleftheria Eleftheriou)

Something (sounds like Mr. Brightside by the Killers)

Tomorrow (sounds like Hey Soul Sister by Train)

 

Last year’s Greek entry sounded at least five years old, and this year’s Belarusian entry, which was more or less a carbon copy, actually turned out to be five years old (read: stale as a bread crust left behind in the pantry for six months). As catchy as it is, it’s that lack of originality and dated-ness that makes me want to never hear the “word” ‘solayoh’ ever again. But my congratulations to Alyona’s songwriters (if they’re still alive…they did write it all those years ago) are sincere. You guys really deserve this award for creating a song so structurally and melodically similar to another one that hadn’t even been thought of at the time.

 

9

Glorious

Hold Me                                                                                            

I Feed You My Love

Only Teardrops

Solayoh

Waterfall

 

A fanwank song is one that a big percentage of ESC lovers go crazy over, that may or may not have been written expressly to appeal to said lovers and that may or may not succeed in the contest itself. Waterfall was (and still is) a ballad stuffed with Eurovision-specific clichés, and had many people booking hotel rooms in Tbilisi for May 2014 before Eurovision week had even begun. Unfortunately for Georgia (and the people who’d booked in to a hotel with a no-refund policy) taking a chance on a fanwank didn’t pay off.

'Whyyyyyyyy couldn't we beeeaaaattt Ell and Nikkiiiiiiiiii?'

‘Whyyyyyyyy couldn’t we beeeaaaattt Ell and Nikkiiiiiiiiii?’

 

95

Contigo Hasta El Final

Et Uus Saaks Alguse

Hold Me

Igranka

Lonely Planet

 

The first time I listened to Hold Me, I was all like ‘Errgh. Yawn. But dammit, Azerbaijan is going to win again with another average song!’ Then a few months went by, and the contest rolled around and the guy in the box happened…and I suddenly became one of the people who wouldn’t have minded if Farid had won, excepting the fact that going back to Baku so soon would have been a tad same-same. As annoying as it is, I love this song as of now. Can we go back to 2011 and make it win in place of Running Scared?

 

91 

Birds

Gravity

Hold Me

L’Essenziale

O Mie

Rak Bishvilo

Waterfall

 

Besides Birds, L’Essenziale was the only subtle, lyrical ballad in the above sea of big, brash belters. That’s not why it’s my personal ballad of 2013 – I love an in-your-face ballad as much as the next person (assuming that next person is a fan of them). I just think it’s beautiful in its simplicity. But it is also lyrically and musically on a different level to most of the others, and I really appreciate that. Are those empty words coming from someone whose main requirement for a good song is catchiness? Maybe. But non mi importa.

 

 92

Contigo Hasta El Final

Identitet

Pred Da Se Razdeni

Samo Shampioni

Solayoh

 

Sadly, the ethno-pop of this year was hard to find, and you could argue that some of the above don’t technically fit into the category. Namely my winner, which is ethno-rock if you want to be picky. You don’t? Great, I’ll carry on then. Identitet is the kind of rock song that appeals to people who aren’t usually rock fans, much like the Turkish rock from Mor ve Ötesi and MaNga (who are responsible for two of my favourite Eurovision songs like, ever). There’s something about it – the melody, those tinges of ethnicity perhaps – that I really like. It’s more instant than Contigo Hasta and more cohesive than Pred Da Se Razdeni, the two songs that I’d name as runner-ups.

 

 93

Alcohol Is Free

Glorious

Marry Me

Only Love Survives

Solayoh

Straight Into Love

 

IMO, Cascada gave us the Macarena of Year Malmö – the up-tempo track that more or less prizes you out of your seat and marches you over to the nearest open space so you can give in to the overwhelming desire you have to shake your thing. Sure, you might not be able to do so at the top of a staircase with a wind machine at your beck and call, but whatever. As Lady Gaga so wisely once said, ‘just dance’. You know you want to.

 

 94

Finland

France

Greece

Iceland

Malta

Ukraine

 

Ukraine threw everything, and I mean everything, at their music video this year, which is so unlike them (ha ha ha). There were CGI unicorns, butterflies, flowers that gave birth to Zlatas, diamonds falling from the sky (not a good thing unless you have a reinforced steel umbrella)…and that’s just to name a few. But the OTT was OMG. The ‘all or nothing’ attitude Ukraine has with regard to Eurovision paid off this time. I’m only disappointed that they didn’t utilise hologram technology to get a unicorn on stage.

'This one'll do nicely for my engagement ring.'

‘This one’ll do nicely for my engagement ring.’

 

Well, that concludes this half of the 2013 EBJAEEs. I hope you enjoyed yourself. If you did, you may want to come back in a few days for the final instalment, which will be commending the yays and nays of the performances, costumes and results from Malmö. Plus, you can find out if your favourite won the People’s Choice Award for All-Rounder of the Year. You wouldn’t want to miss that! I’ll save you a front-row seat, shall I?

In the meantime…

 

Did I make the right decisions? Who/what would you hand these trophies to?

 

 

EBJ’s top 10…random favourites from Eurovision artists

For the first time in a looooooooong time, here’s a post that doesn’t require an intro. The title pretty much says it all, don’t you think?

 

#1 / Dyshi by Serebro (Russia 2007)

This has got to be one of my favourite songs of all time, possibly because the lyrics make no mention of anyone tasting anyone else’s “cherry pie” but probably because it’s got a haunting quality that gives me goosebumps every time. One of the singles from Serebro’s debut album Opiumroz (one of the few albums I own on which no song needs to be skipped over) what makes it particularly memorable is the video, which is beautifully shot…but seriously random.

 

#2 / Mechtateli by Dima Bilan (Russia 2006/2008)

Here’s another Russian pop ballad that, I have to admit, could sound less like Dyshi. What can I say? I have a type. It’s the almost-title track from Dima’s most recent album, coincidentally (or not) another one that requires no skip button. For those of us who would argue that the guy is at his best when singing in Russian, it could also be Exhibit A in the case for.

 

#3 / Skorpion by Urban Symphony (Estonia 2009)

* The version below is shortened. Give the full one a listen if you haven’t before – you won’t regret it!

Italian may be regarded as the world’s most musical language, but I’ve got a soft spot for Estonian. When it’s sung by the amazingly/annoyingly talented Sandra Nurmsalu and backed by pretty much every string instrument ever created, the magic reaches a whole new level. Skorpion is the second single US released post-Moscow, and it’s the same blend of classic and contemporary that got them to 6th place back then.

 

#4 / Broken Angel by Arash (Azerbaijan 2009)

Arash swapped Aysel for Swedish singer Helena Josefsson on this track, which was more of a homage to his Iranian ethnicity than his more distant Azeri. For me this song is better than Always, though it would no doubt have done worse at Eurovision (mainly because it doesn’t scream ‘I need to be danced to by very flexible women in revealing Lycra!’). Side note: Arash calls Malmö home, so here’s hoping he crops up somewhere in the contest next year.

 

#5 / Hasta Que Me Ames by D’Nash (Spain 2007)

If you wanted to like Spain’s entry in Helsinki, but found it too shouty and/or too Spanish, I have two things to say to you. Firstly, what is wrong with you? That entry kicked butt. Secondly, this song may be more to your liking being by the same quartet of hot men, just with a more mainstream boyband sound. I imagine a music video would feature them wearing white and dancing energetically yet mournfully on majestic cliff tops.

 

#6 / Vysoko by Julia Savicheva (Russia 2004)

More proof of Russia’s talent for producing haunting ballads, coming right up! I never thought that much of Julia’s Eurovision entry, but once she’d stopped dancing with clumsy men who’d obviously fallen into a massive paint puddle, her musical stylings suited me better. This song would make a great backing track for a Russian tourism campaign.

 

#7 / Solo by Milan Stanković (Serbia 2010)

I was torn between including this, from Milan’s debut album of the same name, or the more recent Perje – a Balkan ballad in the Željko Joksimović mould – but ended up going for the upbeat one since there’s been so many ballads already (I have a weakness). Solo makes Milan out to be a bit of a ladies’ man, which is hard to believe given that haircut, but it also makes me want to shake my thing. Sometimes that’s all you need.

 

#8 / Moon of Dreams by Ruslana (Ukraine 2004)

I thought Ruslana, champion of Eurovision and human rights, could do no wrong. That was until she decided that teaming up with T-Pain was a good idea. Overly-autotuned rappers aside, it’s another cracker that doesn’t stray too far from her formula of ethno-R-and-B-pop. Nor does the video give any indication that she’s ever strayed from using Xena Warrior Princess as her style icon.

 

#9 / Baby It’s Over by Helena Paparizou (Greece 2001/2005)

Helena is arguably the second-most glamorous lady in ESC history (nobody out-glamours Dana International) as well as a supremely successful recording artist. This track comes from her epic Greatest Hits and More album, and if it’s the first you’ve heard of her since she won the contest, you may be surprised at the lack of Greek-ness involved. Unsurprising is the radio-friendliness.

 

#10 / Break of Dawn by Eric Saade (Sweden 2011)

Speaking of radio-friendly fodder, here’s something from Sweden’s favourite manboy before he was Popular. The song’s excellent, if you like this sort of thing (which I do) but the video is even better, because Eric does more ‘intense face’ in the few minutes of running time than anyone I’ve ever seen. You can’t say the guy’s not talented.

 

Got any  favourite random songs from ESC artists? Let me know below…

 

EBJ’s top 10…artists I want to hear more of (2012 edition)

Just as the national final season is a great way of discovering new music, so too is Eurovision a great way of discovering new artists – artists that appeal to your taste.

For example, think back to 2006, when Lordi won the contest with an epic rock song about angels and lambs and stuff (hardcore!). Hard Rock Hallelujah is one of my all-time favourite winners, but I knew I wasn’t likely to be interested in what the band had produced before and after it. On the other hand, there was a Russian guy with a mullet named Dima Bilan, who I fell in love with (not physically…I did just mention that mullet, didn’t I? I mean musically) and so spent the next six years squealing girlishly every time his name was mentioned, especially in relation to the ESC.

My point is, this year’s contest was no different. I’ve come away with the intention of acquainting myself with a bunch of artists I’d never heard of six months ago. Now that I’ve got a bit of time to do that, I plan to. So here is my list of the performers who impressed me in Baku, at least enough to make me search for their albums on iTunes and consider giving them a listen.

NB – Obviously, I’ve excluded anyone I was familiar with prior to the 2012 season, so please don’t abuse me for leaving out Loreen or Željko or Anybody Else.

 

#1

Mandinga

Club de Mandinga (2012)

There are few things I love more than catchy, summery, ethnic pop music, and I hear that’s Mandinga’s specialty. I am slightly perturbed by the fact that the graphic of Elena on the cover of their latest album looks nothing like her, but as that has nothing to do with their music and my potential future enjoyment of it, I’ll push it aside. I wonder if you can hear the moonwalking bagpiper in any of the tracks (hear him moonwalking, that is, not bagpiping).

 

#2

Ivi Adamou

San Ena Oneiro (2011)

Ivi’s not the best live vocalist, but she sounds great in studio, and as her preferred genre fits in nicely with what I usually listen to (outside of Eurovision-land – when I’m inside, I listen to everything) I’m excited to rifle through her back catalogue. I did listen to one of her hits, Crashing Down, back when she was announced as Cyprus’ representative, and I gave that douze points.

 

#3

Pastora Soler

Una Mujer Como Yo (2011)

Quedate Conmigo was basically a three-minute showcase for Pastora’s uh-mazing voice, so I’m eager to see how she works with less epic material. This woman has been around for a while, so attempting to listen to everything she’s ever done could take me until Eurovision 2060, but I’ll give it a try.

 

#4

Ott Lepland

Laulan Ma Sind (2011)

I can’t deny that one of the best parts of Ott’s performance in Baku was him being there and me getting to stare at him because of that. But he is genuinely talented, something I managed to notice on those occasions when I tore my eyes away from his wonderful eyebrows. I love a bit of piano ballad-ness and I love listening to Estonian, so further exploring Ott’s repertoire should be disappointment-free.

 

#5

Compact Disco

II (2011)

These guys were doing electro-rock-pop way before Katy Perry tried it out, so whilst they may not look as good in latex leotards as she does, I’m guessing they’ve got the edge when it comes to the sound.

 

#6

Nina Zilli

L’amore è Femmina (2012)

Judging by her San Remo entry Per Sempre and her Eurovision song, I’m expecting a hybrid of classic chanteusery and retro sassiness from Nina. Italian really is one of the most musical languages, so my hopes are high.

 

#7

Can Bonomo

Meczup (2010)

Can’s latest album begs to be heard – the title translates as ‘lunatic’. Who wouldn’t want to investigate that further? It’s the kind of album title I’d expect from Rambo Amadeus, but in this case I’ll be listening voluntarily.

 

#8

Rona Nishliu

Suus (2012)

Apparently Rona’s genre of choice is experimental jazz, a departure from Suus and not my thing in the least. But I’ve got to see (or rather, hear) what else she can do with that ridiculous voice of hers. I’m beginning to think that her dreadlocks hold some sort of mystical powers that make her sing like nobody’s business. That would explain why she had to wrap one around her neck…

 

#9

Litesound

Going to Hollywood (2010)

I’m assuming that back in 2010, these guys hadn’t disco-fied their music to death. If so, their debut album should be worth a spin. If not, well, I could get used to wearing flares and leathers when I’m listening.

 

#10

Soluna Samay

Sing Out Loud (2012)

She may be one of those people who make me feel inadequate and talentless, but her adequateness and talent drew me to her at Eurovision (as did her hat-and-shoulderpads combo. I must visit a costume store and find me one of those). It will be a relief to answer that eternal question: what happens when a busker gets a record deal?

 

Which artists were your favourite discoveries this year?

Lessons that can be learned from Eurovision 2012

I am a firm believer in education for all, and that includes the artists of Eurovision. If they could only take something valuable away from their time at the contest, to pass on to their successors, their countries could potentially be looking at decades of improved results.

As Baku 2012 has just been and gone, and many of us are still scrubbing flags off our faces (I blame Sharpies) and trying to get all the popcorn kernels out of our shagpile carpets (I blame Jedward) I thought, why not start some lessons now? There’s plenty of time for Rona, Loreen, Engelbert and the rest of this year’s entrants to look back at their own successes/complete failures and learn from them so the artists of 2013 get to experience the same highs, or at least avoid the same plunge to the depths of the scoreboard. So listen up, Europe…

 

Albania

Dreadlocks will get you far in the contest (just ask Beth, Spain’s 2003 representative) so the more obvious you can make it that you have them, the better. Wearing one around the neck is a good start, but why not make an entire costume out of dreads?

If that is a little too out there for you, then just stick with the vampiress look, because that works just as well (just ask Kseniya, Mika Newton’s sand artist from last year). Don’t go completely Twilight on us though. You must vamp it up in moderation (just ask DJ Bobo and his Swiss bloodsuckers).

It’s not exactly warm in winter, but the dreadlock scarf spells Eurovision success

 

Azerbaijan                                                                        

No matter how hard you try to ensure you won’t win Eurovision two years in a row – for example, if you hire someone to vocally drown you out for the last half of your performance – you will always find yourself challenging for the title. Just accept it. Even if you sent a baboon dressed as Verka Seduchka you’d make the top 10.

PS – please do not send a baboon dressed as Verka Seduchka to Sweden.

 

Estonia

Estonian-language songs tend to get you more points, especially when they are sung by hot men with very expressive eyebrows. I suggest you continue to send both of the above, and feel free to try and upgrade the hotness of the man by year. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as bettering yourself (and giving pathetic fans such as myself someone to drool over).

 

Greece

You are not invincible. Just because you made the top 10 every year during the period of 2003-2011, 90% of the time with the same ethno-pop song (you just gave it a remix, a new title and a new singer with a clothing allergy) does NOT mean you’re a shoo-in. I have no idea why that is. It just…is.

 

Ireland

There is only so much tin foil and Jahn Teigen air jumps a continent can take, particularly two years in a row, as evident in your disappointing result. If you must return to the contest in the future, give us all at least a decade to forget about you (that’s about how long it will take your costume designers to construct a new set of shoulder pads for you both, anyway).

 

Lithuania

It turns out that rhinestone-encrusted blindfolds are not as silly as they look.

Okay, maybe they are, but they also get votes – votes which may not lift you to a winning position, but get you commendably far. If you bring the blindfold back next year, you might want to go totally crazy with the bling. Why not add some feathers (I hear Joan Franka is selling them by the bundle) or fairy lights? The more tacky and garish it is, the more people will pick up the phone for you, and the more jury members will think to themselves ‘this person has to be blind to have picked out such a heinous accessory! I simply must give them douze points in sympathy.’

Donny was just a few glitter pens away from the top spot

 

Norway

Never, ever tell anyone that you are going to come first. Trust me, if Loreen had insisted to some journalist that she was going to win, we would all be looking forward to St. Petersburg 2013 and wondering if all the grannies will be alive by then to give a reprise.

 

Russia

Speaking of the grannies…when sending someone to represent you who witnessed the discovery of fire, make sure you provide them with a posse of other advanced-agers. Plus a couple of spares in case of emergency.  

 

Slovakia

Flesh-flashing does not guarantee you a place in the final, whether the flesh belongs to super-hot female twins or a twenty-something wannabe rock star in a Farrah Fawcett wig. Neither does performing your song five notes south of its original key, come to think of it…

 

Slovenia

Marija Šerifović is an evil witch who will place a curse on anyone attempting to bring a Molitva-esque song to Eurovision. She will never allow another uplifting but mystical non-English ballad featuring an uprising of coordinated backing singers to succeed in the contest, especially when it is co-composed by the man behind Molitva (her archnemisis). Not unless someone defeats her by forcing her to listen to the considerably more popular ABBA’s entire back catalogue, that is.

 

Sweden

The 177464673910th time’s the charm. In the future, always find a songwriter who has sent a ridiculous amount of songs to the contest and its preselections, but never quite hit the heights, to mastermind your entries. If you can find artists who are willing to crab-dance in front of a live audience of thousands and a TV audience of 120 million, that helps too.

 

Ukraine

If you were going to dress like a ShamWow, you should have at least offered your services to Jedward after they’d soaked themselves in that fountain. You could have dried them off in a jiffy!

‘If you could just empty that pitcher of water on the floor, sir, I’ll demonstrate the amazing absorbence level of my outfit…’

 

United Kingdom

As mentioned under “Russia”, one geriatric singer = failure. Six to eight = success. No matter how much the fame of the former exceeds the latter. Also keep in mind that older men do not go down as well as older women (although neither of them go down well on their knees because they’re all riddled with arthritis). 

 

What lessons did you learn from Eurovision this year?

 

NEXT TIME: Forget about the Marcel Bezençon Awards – it’s time for the annual EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence. In 2012, they’re going to be bigger and better than ever!