Hello (yet) again, and welcome to (yet) another round of Eurovision 2019 reviews! Rehearsals starting this Saturday – oh to the my to the GOD – is a reminder that time is running out, and if I want to spill all my personally-brewed tea on this year’s entries before the contest begins, I better pick up the pace. So here are five more judged and scored songs for those of you who’ve been enjoying them so far, via Austria, Denmark, Malta, Moldova and Portugal.
Check out my thoughts on PÆNDA, Leonora, Michela, Anna and Conan’s (pick the odd one out) contributions to the comp, then share yours in the comments. Love is forever and I’ll love YOU forever if you do.
Austria was arguably to Eurovision 2018 what Bulgaria was to Eurovision 2016: a country that hadn’t done much for a while coming out of nowhere and shooting up the scoreboard. It was more predictable when Poli did it, but since Cesár Sampson was one of her backing singers maybe we should have predicted his 3rd place (the man has a magic touch). With PÆNDA and Limits being Austria’s follow-up to Nobody But You, I’m curious to see if she can pull off another shockingly high result for Austria. Or if she’ll squat her way to a DNQ like the last blue-haired female soloist to compete in the contest. Or if she’ll wind up somewhere in between. Limits is the sort of song that could do anything. I could justify it finishing in the top five, fifteenth, last in the final or missing out on qualification altogether.
It’s such an introverted song compared to most of the others. I almost feel like we’re intruding listening to it, like PÆNDA should be singing in a soundproof room behind closed doors (and far away from the prying ears of Lake Malawi). Yet that super personal, intimate feel of the song is one of its appealing points. That feeling is threaded all the way through, with vulnerability and genuine emotion at the core of PÆNDA’s high-pitched, delicate vocals. I can’t deny that this is a touching track with loads of musical integrity. But at the same time, it does feel like a bit of a disappointment. While I’m glad Austria didn’t do a Cyprus and carbon copy their 2018 showstopper, I was hoping for more of a statement piece. Limits is pretty same-same for its entire three minutes, and the chorus in particular fails to elevate it to interesting heights. All those bajillion-syllable ‘yous’ feel a little lazy, like nobody could be bothered to fill in the space with anything more complex. I’m sure that’s not the case, but it’s the impression I get from such a repetitive and uneventful chorus.
If Limits was a minute long I’d enjoy it more, but as a full-length song aiming to grab my attention and keep it, it doesn’t work. I do have a sneaking suspicion Austria will be bringing it with their staging this year, however. The potential is definitely there. I’m thinking moody lighting, dreamy LED graphics and a quirky-but-not-too-quirky costume choice. Maybe some dry ice too, if it doesn’t bring back more memories of Rykka and her squatting. I also expect PÆNDA to deliver some beautifully gift-wrapped vocals to our doorsteps. If she does and she is surrounded by aesthetic goodness, the juries will find her hard to resist. Televoters, I’m not so sure. I can’t vote in the second semi, but if I could I’d have other countries in mind. If most home voters are the same, we could be saying adios to Austria on the Thursday night – but until rehearsals and the real thing, I’m not game to make a set-in-stone prediction on this one. I know my Limits.
In a line Fragile and beautiful but a bit boring 2018 VS 2019 2018, because there really ain’t nobody but you, Cesár Predicted result SF 7th-12th, GF 11th-17th My score 7 points
Denmark isn’t exactly the luckiest Scandinavian country in the contest these days. Then again, you make your own luck – so they’ve only got themselves to blame for their 2015-2017 string of buh-bow (a.k.a. sad trumpet) moments. Last year they brought out some burly, bearded Vikings and were back on form and back in the top 10. So why did they decide to ditch everything Rasmussen-esque in 2019 in favour of a song that sounds like it was written for a laundry detergent commercial? I’m all for countries bouncing around rather than replicating what brought them success the previous year, but this change of direction is a shock to the system. Not on the same level as Iceland’s change of direction, but a shock nonetheless.
So, Love Is Forever. For some reason I feel differently about this song every time I listen to it. One minute I think it’s cute and I really like the campfire feel, off-the-wall lyrics and language mix. The next, I think it’s way too sugary sweet, it gets on my nerves and I’m a) creeped out by Leonora’s unblinking eye contact down the camera and b) confused by the presence of that giant chair. It is a cute song, and the lyrics are (mostly) original and rhyme super-satisfyingly without resorting to fire/higher/desire – a trademark of co-writer Lise Cabble (who’s written a heap of DMGP and Eurovision hits including New Tomorrow and Only Teardrops). At the same time, it’s so twee that it borders on being more suited to JESC than ESC, right down to Leonora’s outfit – as worn by one of Serbia’s Junior artists in 2017. It certainly can be annoying if I’m not in the mood for it. And yes, it sounds like the audio of an ad where a perfect nuclear family frolics in their manicured garden, with their golden retriever and wearing white linen, in celebration of successfully removing a miniscule stain from said white linen with a revolutionary new laundry product.
Maybe Denmark’s success this year will depend on the mood televoters and jurors are in. Though if everyone else is as nonplussed by the chair as I am – and it has been confirmed that it’s traveling to Tel Aviv – that won’t help. Leonora won’t want people distracted by oversized furniture and her death stare when they could be focusing on an adorable, vocally solid song. Beyond vocally solid, actually. Love Is Forever isn’t the most challenging song to sing, but Leonora works extremely well with what she’s been given and I’m yet to hear her drop a note. I just don’t know about this entry in its entirety. There’s no point where it’s a disastrous car crash, nor is there a moment that makes it worthy of qualifying easily. Basically, it’s borderline. And given that Denmark may have their momentum stolen by the Swedish (meat) ball of joy appearing on stage after them, I’m leaning towards the side of the borderline that results in a DNQ.
In a line Cute and charming but a potential cause of diabetes and nightmares 2018 VS 2019 2018. I miss the manly stomping, glorious beards and long flowing locks Predicted result SF 9th-14th, GF 16th-20th My score 7 points
There’s a handful of countries unexpectedly bringing their A-game to Tel Aviv, and Malta is one of them. The tiny island picked Michela as their artist as part of her X Factor winner prize, eventually pairing her with Chameleon: a creation from the bright minds behind If Love Was A Crime, Beautiful Mess, Nobody But You and Bones. With a back catalogue like that, Malta’s Symphonix song had every chance of being a cracker. I was unprepared for just how awesome it is, especially since it’s nothing like party anthem ILWAC, Kristian’s slick power ballad, gospel force Nobody But You or the otherworldly pop of Equinox.
Sitting comfortably and confidently on the fence between weird and wonderful – meaning it’s both bonkers and packed with mass appeal – Chameleon makes the Maltese entry of the same name that almost was (back in 2016) sound incredibly passé. It’s a tropically-tinged floor filler with a powerful singalong bridge, and a chorus that takes away so much musical build so quickly it stops you in your tracks. I don’t know how such a non-chorus can be so effective, but this one just is. Outside of the chorus, this song is busier than Grand Central Station – but because every bit of it is catchy, memorable and current, it works. I swear Chameleon wouldn’t have been turned down by Dua Lipa in a parallel universe, and I’ve never said that about a Maltese entry before (as a big Dua fan, that’s a thumbs up from me). What also makes me dig this is Michela’s vocal delivery. We haven’t seen her perform it live yet (well, I haven’t) but we know from her X Factor performances that she can sing, and her vocals are soulful with an edgy catch. She makes this song even more interesting.
What else could Malta possibly do to make Christabelle’s DNQ a distant memory? Well, they could hire Loreen’s Euphoria choreographer and the design team behind Jamala’s incredible tree graphic. Wait – they did? Oh, okay then. I think we all know what Euphoria and 1944 have in common. Not that I think Malta is going to win Eurovision with Chameleon or anything…I don’t think it’s quite got the goods to go all the way. But unless an unlikely mistake is made with Michela’s staging (I’m hoping for something as colourful and fun as the music video) or she develops strep throat during rehearsals (touch wood in favour of that NOT happening), they are on track to score their best result since 2013. If all goes according to whatever plans they’ve made, mid-top-10 isn’t out of the question. Malta might be entering a Chameleon, but they’re not blending into the background!
In a line A little bit of bizarre and a lot of brilliance makes for a surprise banger 2018 VS 2019 2019 hands down Predicted result SF 4th-6th, GF 5th-9th My score 10 points
Moldova are the masters of two things when it comes to Eurovision: being memeable, and finding themselves in the top 10 against the odds (literally). They don’t always bring something weirdly wonderful though, and when they don’t it seems to be a mistake – just compare the results of Hey Mamma and My Lucky Day to Wild Soul and I Want Your Love. It’s with great regret that I announce something you probably already know: Moldova’s fate is sealed this year, and sadly it involves staying in the semis. It’s what Anna wants, right? To STAAAAAAY? Maybe missing out on the final isn’t what she has in mind, but I do not see a scenario in which this song, which I’d describe as a reject from a Céline Dion album circa 1996, goes anywhere.
I should say that Stay is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I manage to enjoy it on some level despite knowing it doesn’t hold a candle to the majority of songs it’s competing against. It’s dated, more melodramatic than a Mexican telenovela, predictable, blatantly borrowed from Swedes all too eager to be rid of it, and would need Céline Dion herself to elevate it to qualifier status. And don’t get me started on the lyrics. MY LORD. Have you ever come across a chorus so by-the-numbers? ‘Stay, until I find a way to be together, forever’s here to stay, no matter what they say, we’ll be together’? S Club 7’s cheesiest love songs didn’t have such lame lyrics in the early 2000s (a time when Stay still would have sounded stale). You must be wondering how it’s possible for me to like it at all, and I’ve actually been wondering the same thing. Granted, 1990s Céline Dion is legendary, and the fact that Stay is that kind of throwback works in its favour with me. I can pick out appealing parts of the melody too – the tune is the least offensive thing about this entry.
Seeing a tiny diamond doesn’t cancel out all of the rough, though. And there are more qualification-stoppers than I’ve already mentioned. Take, for example, Anna seeming to struggle a little singing in English (pronunciation-wise, that is…her vocal strength is A+). It’s times like this I wish Moldova would remember 2013 and how Aliona Moon and O Mie flourished in Romanian. But, like Croatia this year, they’ve decided on English and it puts the cringey lyrics on full display. I do think there is potential here for stellar staging, but it wouldn’t be enough to get Anna to the final. When Switzerland struts in and makes their undeniable mark on the stage straight afterwards, who’s going to remember – let alone want to vote for – Moldova? I’m sorry, but this is a no-hoper for me. Bring back the wack in 2020 please!
In a line A cookie-cutter power ballad that belongs in the 90s 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 15th-17th My score 6 points
Portugal fell as far as a host country possibly can last year (with the exception of Austria scoring zero points in Vienna…ouch). O Jardim was a stunning song and I still think its last place was undeserved, but at the same time I can see how it happened. The song didn’t stand out, but that will not be a problem for our gracious 2018 hosts this year. Telemóveis is totally bonkers and has nothing in common with O Jardim bar being in Portuguese, unless Cláudia and Isaura stuck spoons to their faces at one point and I just missed it.
I don’t even know how to describe this song, especially since it took me weeks to figure out if I even liked it. It turns out I do – I like it a lot. That’s partly because it’s so original, partly because in spite of that it’s still very Portuguese, and partly because I’m proud of Portugal for being so adventurous. Telemóveis is striking from start to finish and undeniably unforgettable. The first thing that grabs my attention is actually Conan’s vocals, which are smooth as silk but have a haunting quality that makes his native tongue sound particularly nice (I can’t say ‘sensual’ based on his performance, but Portuguese is definitely a sexy language). Thank heavens he can sing, because a song this out-of-the-box would sound so bad if its singer was even slightly off key. The song itself has so many different layers and segments to it and they’re all intriguing. It’s like a mystery to be solved in three minutes, and I can never solve it so I’m left scratching my head…but somehow I’m still satisfied because my ears have had an artistic experience. This really feels above and beyond a lot of the other songs for Tel Aviv, and I don’t mean that in a holier-than-thou way. I just mean that next to more predictable, derivative pop, it’s on another planet. Those dance moves from Conan and his co-star are definitely unlike any I’ve seen on this planet before.
ICYMI because I was making no sense, I’m a big fan of Telemóvéis. I love the music, the vocals, the unpredictable structure and how avant-garde it is. I even love the crazy costumes and even crazier choreography that make it stand out even more. It’s by far the most experimental entry of the year, and again I’d like to applaud Portugal for picking it. I can’t say I have a clue how people outside the Eurofandom will respond. On one hand, Conan is memorable times a million and the song is one of a kind. But the whole package is also strange and potentially inaccessible – and that’s even more obvious given Portugal is performing between Estonia and Greece, two countries armed with very accessible, instant entries. One of three things will probably go down: Portugal will make everyone forget Estonia and fly into the final; Estonia and Greece will make Portugal look too bizarre and prevent them from qualifying; or I’m overthinking things and all three will advance. If you told me I could have a pasteis de nata but only if I picked one scenario, I’d have to go with Portugal missing out. But please, PLEASE prove me wrong, jurors/televoters.
In a line A sensational song so arty, it should be on display in the Tate Modern 2018 VS 2019 2019, but I love them both Predicted result SF 8th-12th, GF 8th-15th My score 10 points
30 down, 11 to go! I wouldn’t want Eurovision to shrink back down to 20-something entries, but 41 is hard work. It wasn’t difficult for me to rank today’s five, though I did have a few ties to break:
- Portugal (10)
- Malta (10)
- Denmark (7)
- Austria (7)
- Moldova (6)
Congrats Portugal, and better luck next time Moldova.
Now for an update on my overall ranking if you’re interested, and why wouldn’t you be? Actually, don’t answer that:
- Hungary (12)
- Switzerland (12)
- The Netherlands (12)
- Greece (12)
- Estonia (10)
- Portugal (10)
- Norway (10)
- Cyprus (10)
- Malta (10)
- Czech Republic (10)
- Belarus (10)
- Russia (8)
- Romania (8)
- Belgium (8)
- Armenia (8)
- Iceland (8)
- Serbia (8)
- Albania (8)
- Denmark (7)
- Lithuania (7)
- Croatia (7)
- Australia (7)
- Austria (7)
- San Marino (7)
- Moldova (6)
- Montenegro (5)
- Latvia (5)
- Poland (5)
- North Macedonia (4)
- Georgia (4)
Next time I’ll be reviewing Azerbaijan, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia and Sweden – and after that there’s just the Big 5 and Israel to take care of. Follow me everywhere at @EurovisionByJaz so you don’t miss a thing, and be prepared to tell me what you think of them all.
Speaking of which…who’s your most-streamed and most-skipped on Spotify when it comes to Austria, Denmark, Malta, Moldova and Portugal? Let me know below.
Happy Almost-Rehearsal Week!
Happy Thursday, guys! There are just a few days until rehearsals proper start inside Lisbon’s Altice Arena (I like to tell you things you already know), so it’s got to be full steam ahead for me with my horrendously late reviews.
If you’ve missed any that came before this round, or you want to relive what I’ve done so far, here are the quick links:
- Round 1 feat. Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta + The Netherlands
- Round 2 feat Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania + Spain
- Round 3 feat. Albania, Finland, Greece, Lithuania + Moldova
- Round 4 feat. Australia, France, Georgia, Ireland + Latvia
And, before I get started on today’s round, here are the results of the ‘Vote for your favourite of the five!’ polls I’ve been annoying you with at the end of each post (with my winner of each round in bold):
- Round 1: Cyprus, 33% (Armenia, 25%; The Netherlands, 17%; Hungary, 13%; Malta, 13%)
- Round 2: Poland, 35% (Estonia, 24%; Romania, 18%; Spain, 18%; Azerbaijan, 6%)
- Round 3: Albania, 33%, (Finland, 25%; Greece, 25%; Lithuania, 8%; Moldova, 8%)
- Round 4: France, 67% (Australia, 22%; Latvia, 11%; Georgia, 0%; Ireland, 0%)
That’s the story so far – so let’s get stuck into the next chapter. Sit back, relax and read about the ESC 2018 entries from Cesár, Equinox, Franka, Cláudia and Mélovin…and obviously, what I think of them. That’s the whole point of this, right?
Oh, and don’t forget to vote for your favourite out of today’s five in the poll (had to).
My thoughts Hail, Cesár! It’s becoming a trend for Eurovision backing singers to step into the main artist spotlight, and this guy is a prime example (and prime specimen of manhood). Not only did he provide backup for Bulgaria last year, helping them earn their best-ever result, but he did the same in 2016 – even getting to strut out on stage with Poli instead of being hidden in a filing cabinet in the wings. Maybe it wasn’t BNT responsible for Bulgaria’s contest turnaround after all…and if Cesár’s a good luck charm, that bodes well for Austria now they’ve managed to pry him out of Bulgaria’s grasp. The song he’s carrying on his own is worlds apart from both If Love Was A Crime and Beautiful Mess, despite being co-written by three of the same songwriters. It’s a soulful, Sam Smith-esque gospel ballad with a 2018 twist; an upbeat sibling of Isaiah’s Don’t Come Easy, almost. This song’s subject matter, however, is actually age-appropriate for the artist (seriously, how were we supposed to believe that a 17-year-old had a long history of love and loss behind him?). I had a feeling I was going to love Nobody But You from the writing credits alone, and I was not wrong. Damn, it’s good! If Nathan Trent was an adorable golden retriever puppy last year, then Cesár is a full-grown pedigree German Shepherd (well, Austrian Shepherd technically – think Inspector Rex) with a song that’s full of feeling, beautifully produced, current, and multi-layered like a Baklava. The lyrics are simple but not clichéd, making the song easy to sing along to and to remember. And if we had any doubts about Cesár’s ability to step it up and command the attention a headline artist has to, he apparently erased them with his powerful pre-party performances (as you may or may not know, I avoid those to keep the songs fresh for the actual contest). All we need now is the right staging to make this entry pop even more and become a package people want to vote for. Sadly, I can’t, as Australia is voting in semi 2…but if Austria gets to the final I will be texting my ass off for nobody but you (not true but I couldn’t resist the wordplay), Cesár! And to get back to staging for a second, Austria does have form – their 2016 and 2017 efforts were brilliant, so let’s hope it’s three masterpieces on the trot. Time will tell, but there’s one thing I know for sure right now: this is the semi 1 song that I’m not certain will qualify, but I NEED it to or I will be inconsolable. To quote Culture Club, do you really want to hurt me, Europe? Do you really want to make me cry? If not, then vote for Austria.
2017 VS 2018? I can’t choose, unless there’s money in it. No? Well, I’m not choosing then.
My score 10
My thoughts If there’s any country (besides Belgium) that has become a big Eurovision hitter lately, it’s Bulgaria. That means the pressure is now well and truly on BNT to maintain the sky-high standard they first set for themselves with Poli Genova in 2016. This year, they certainly did a top job of piquing curiosity in the Eurofan community with their cryptic pre-song-and-act reveal clues. In the end, it was the “common framework” project (we can’t just call them a group, apparently) Equinox with the otherworldly Bones that would follow in Kristian Kostov’s footsteps…but how far exactly can they follow? There’s no doubt – not from me, anyway – that this song is a good one. It’s dark, moody and modern, with slick production and an intense atmosphere. Lyrical quality is reasonably high (though at times I have as much idea of what they’re referring to as I did when Dihaj was discussing men with horse-heads having her skeletons). And I love the melody of the verses, pre-chorus and the chorus itself. I would argue that the chorus is melodically weaker than the rest of the song, but it still sticks. The five Bulgarian and American voices blend well, at least in studio…and so I’ve heard, live. Overall, this is an infinitely more enjoyable entry than the last one that attempted to bring a bunch of personalities together for an experimental musical project (*cough*Armenia 2015*cough*). But I just don’t feel the same sense of wow that I felt – and still feel – when I listen to Beautiful Mess. Bones is a bit too alien, cold and calculating for me to connect with on the same level. Ironically, for a song that’s about loving beyond the bones, I feel like there’s not a lot under the surface of this besides a desire to do well in the contest. My impression is that it’s trying too hard to be something special. While Beautiful Mess was organically awesome and ended up living up to hype created during rehearsals, Bones has already been hyped. It seems that after coming so close to a win in 2017, Bulgaria wants to go one better so badly that their finished product is missing the magic that made Kristian’s ESC so successful in the first place. I really don’t think the social media stir-up by the Bulgarian team was the best idea ever – it was pretentious and heightened expectations of the entry so much that they couldn’t possibly be met. I probably need to pull back on the harsh judgments here because at this point, you wouldn’t believe I actually do have Bulgaria in my top 10. The song is good enough on its own to win me over, but as for winning the whole contest? I doubt it. Qualification is a given though, and another podium finish isn’t out of the question. I’m keen to see if Bones has been given the stage treatment it deserves, and if these guys (+1 girl) come across as a cohesive group…er, I mean, ‘common framework’.
2017 VS 2018? 2017, hands down (to the floor, Robin Bengtsson-style).
My score 8.5
My thoughts There are two countries competing this year that couldn’t have sent more drastically different songs to Lisbon than they did to Kyiv if they tried. Croatia is one of them (and no prizes for guessing the other – it’s pretty obvious). We’ve bid our farewells to both Jacques and their ginormous LED heads, and now we’re saying zdravo to the gorgeous Franka and her boudoir ballad Crazy. The elephant in the room on this one is the ‘Was the composition stolen from a random Romanian guy or not?’ drama of a few weeks back. That tarnished things a bit for Croatia, but to be honest I’m not sure there was that much at stake. I like this song for the most part: the questionably-sourced music is the highlight, but the overall structure is good; the lyrics, while not revolutionary and clunky at times, aren’t bad; and I dig the saucy, sexy vibe, one that Latvia taps into as well. But unlike Latvia, Croatia isn’t getting me super-psyched. Crazy is kind of one-dimensional. I know Franka’s not saying she’s crazy as she sits in an armchair knitting sweaters for her twenty cats – she’s crazy in love. But a bit of craziness might have benefited a song that doesn’t push any boundaries (except for risking people not understanding the ‘roses and horses and the rain’ line). I’m 99% sure that during Franka’s performance, my mind will be occupied by thoughts of how much she looks like Rochelle from The Saturdays rather than how much I want to vote for her (not that I can anyway since she’s in the first semi). I think Croatia is going to sink rather than swim this year, which is what I figured last year too, but in hindsight I can see how that was naive. Looking at Crazy from every angle, including what it’s sandwiched between in the running order – Lost and Found from Macedonia and Nobody But You from Austria – Croatia is too easy to sacrifice. It screams ‘12th’ to me for some reason, so we’ll see if that’s my sixth sense talking. I don’t think I have anything else to say about Croatia this year, and you have to admit, that was never a problem with My Friend. Wait a second…there is one more thing: I wish we could CTRL-Z that spoken word bit, because the cringe factor there is HUGE.
2017 VS 2018? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but…2017.
My score 6.5
My thoughts Say olá to our host entry for 2018 – Portugal’s first ever! This is also the first time Portugal has found themselves automatically qualified for the Eurovision final since the semi system was introduced, as they failed to qualify from 2004-2007. After that, nobody outside of the reigning champ and the Big Four/Five had the privilege – if you see it that way – of not having to make it out of a semi in order to perform on the Saturday night. Basically, this is a big deal for Portugal. And it’s pink-haired The Voice alum Cláudia Pascoal who’s carrying both that privilege and the pressure of not embarrassing her country on home soil on her shoulders (too bad the Czech Republic aren’t hosting…Mikolas could be carrying it in his backpack). Backed up by songwriter Isaura, can she do Portugal proud – or even do the double – with O Jardim? I wouldn’t say this song is a winner, no – but it is beautiful. Festival da Cançao was pretty dire this year, and O Jardim, IMO, was the ONLY decent option. Luckily, it’s more than just decent, with a dreamy quality, leisurely but hypnotic (and strangely soothing) pace, and meaningful lyrics. Delicate vocals from Cláudia are amped up when Isaura chimes in, though Cláudia could easily carry this on her own (and I do find it a bit awkward how Isaura does nothing for several minutes and then chimes in out of nowhere). There’s a message about a lost loved one in this song that reminds me of Germany’s You Let Me Walk Alone, but this is less overt and more moving to be honest, because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying desperately to tug at everybody’s heartstrings. If you’re not a Portuguese speaker and don’t Google Translate the lyrics (a favourite pastime of mine), you’ll miss lines like ‘The flowers are my place; now that you’re not here, I water your garden’ (SOMEONE PASS ME A TISSUE FFS) – but I know I still feel the emotion regardless of speaking literally three words of Portuguese (well, four now I know what jardim means). Overall, it’s a pretty package being delivered here; one that never feels calculating, like it’s trying to replicate Salvador’s success. There are flaw(s) in Portugal’s plan, though. For example, O Jardim is a slow three minutes, and anyone who doesn’t feel the emotion of it or like the lullaby vibes might find it monotonous. For another, it is a statement song, but it’s whispering and not shouting – so will it be remembered when 18 songs have followed it in the final? And is it realistically a vote magnet? I’m not convinced. I think Portugal will struggle for a top 10 result, not because this song is undeserving but because it will be outshone. I’m seeing a host country result more in line with Sweden 2013 than Sweden 2016 – but there’ll definitely be an improvement on Ukraine 2017 (and Austria 2015…that must’ve hurt). One thing that’s for sure is that Cláudia will get to bask in one of the biggest audience reactions of the night – and the audible support for the host country in the arena is always something I look forward to during the final.
2017 VS 2018? Sorry, Salvador, but O Jardim gives me more feels. Controversial?
My score 8.5
My thoughts The 2018 Ukrainian national final was more or less a rehash of 2017’s – Tayanna was there singing her heart out, Mélovin was there with his creepy contact lens, and many of us thought a third party would swoop in and steal the victory from under their noses. But that didn’t happen. Tayanna may have ended up in second place again (she’s the Saara Aalto of Ukraine, so she should have her happy ending eventually) but this time Mélovin made his mark and won the right to represent Ukraine with Under The Ladder. Given that he doesn’t mind chilling under the occasional ladder, we can expect him to be everything but superstitious at Eurovision – opening umbrellas inside, willingly allowing black cats to cross his path, smashing Moldova’s mirrors, etc. And I reckon we can expect him to have a much better contest than O.Torvald did last year. Mélovin would have made a great rep with Wonder back then, a song that I initially thought was better than Under The Ladder. But his ESC entry grew on me very quickly, and I can now say that I am Mélovin it (HA HA HA). First things first, it’s one of the most original songs in the entire Lisbon line-up – not as out there as Israel, but on the same wavelength when it comes to stuff we haven’t heard in the contest before. I’d call it a distant, moodier relative of Mr. Brightside by The Killers, if anything. Starting out with pared-back piano behind the vocals, before the beat kicks in and the music swells, it’s dramatic and dynamic without being OTT. The chorus might have sacrificed lyrical space for oh-oh-ohs, but they’re catchy ones. And speaking of the lyrics…I’m still working out WTF the meaning is behind them all, but damn, I love them! You won’t find any love/above or fire/desire/higher here (no disrespect to Helena Paparizou). Instead we’re treated to the opening line ‘Curtains down, I’m laughing at the trial’ which leads to the gem that is ‘You can see that whatever the weather, that the wind’s always there, always fair.’ Alliteration and good rhyming? I’m sold. Then there’s the change of pace towards the end that keeps things interesting…not that I personally need that to keep me hooked on this. Okay, so I’ve established that this song is the bomb dot com, but what about the performer? Well, I have no complaints there either. Mélovin is an onstage force to be reckoned with. And despite what a lot of fans have said, I don’t have a problem with his English pronunciation. Any issues are with his voice and enunciation more than his Eastern European accent. Can you tell I’d defend Under The Ladder to the death? Ukraine is the last country on the second semi’s setlist, and I’m only unhappy about that because it means I have to wait until the end of the second show to see Mélovin in action.
2017 VS 2018? I could leave this unsaid, but 2018 to infinity and beyond!
My score 12
25 down, 18 to go! Today’s leaderboard looks like this:
- Ukraine (12)
- Austria (10)
- Bulgaria (8.5)
- Portugal (8.5)
- Croatia (6.5)
With Austria getting a strong 10 from me, it was a close call…but how could I not give Ukraine top honours when I gushed about them so much? Bulgaria is just inside my top 10 at the moment with that 8.5, and Portugal’s not far outside (I’ve been trying to fit 15 songs into my top 10 for weeks and it’s just not working).
Would you put Under The Ladder over the other songs in this round, or not so much? Leave me a comment to let me know how you’d rank them, and pick your personal fave below.
NEXT TIME This weekend is judgment weekend for Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Macedonia and San Marino. That’s right: thanks to that irritating number 43, I’m jumping from five songs per round to six. Don’t miss the first super-sized episode of the EBJ Eurovision 2018 Reviews!
Good day sir/madam/whoever is reading this from wherever in the world! I’m flattered you’ve taken the time to drop by EBJ, given all of the rehearsal goodness going down at Kyiv’s International Exhibition Centre that can be enjoyed vicariously through social media (believe me, I’ve been doing my bit in an attempt to quash my ‘Last year I was in the Press Centre at Eurovision and this year I am not’ depression).
It’s hard to comprehend that it’s May already, and that the pre-show prep is in full swing. Rehearsals for the first half of the second semi are taking place as I type this, and I’m eagerly (and sweatily #nerves) awaiting the turn of a few of my favourites. If you are too and you’re after a distraction, then look no further – you’ve found it!
I have three rounds of 2017 reviews left to squeeze in before the ESC hits our TV screens, and today it’s the moment of truth for *drum roll* *realises you’ll already have seen the title of this post* *shrugs*:
- Armenia’s Artsvik with Fly With Me
- Austria’s Nathan Trent with Running On Air
- Finland’s Norma John with Blackbird
- Moldova’s Sunstroke Project with Hey Mamma
- San Marino’s Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson with Spirit of the Night
- Slovenia’s Omar Naber with On My Way
As always, my mum has given her verdict on these six songs too…and boy, was there some serious disagreement this time. We actually haven’t spoken a word to each other since I played them for her.
So much for ‘come together’.
Anyway, keep reading to find out how we rated these entries, and feel free to share your feelings about them in the comments – love, hate or tolerate!
My thoughts If you remember what I said when reviewing Serbia, you can skip the next sentence because it’ll be pretty much the same criticism (not to say I hate either song. I don’t). I’d just like to reiterate my warning to all competing Eurovision countries that if you make us all wait until the very last minute before lifting the cloche off your song for the year, we’ll be expecting something phenomenal. So, even if said song is a solid 8/10, it won’t seem that good because you’ve let our expectations pile up like a Jenga tower taller than Jonatan Cerrada’s stilt dancer. Enter Armenia, who did exactly that by being the final country out of 43 to unveil their contribution to the Kyiv contest. If I’d personally heard Fly With Me in February, I might have thought more of it than I do now and wouldn’t have been at all disappointed by it. Rest assured, if you think this song is the best thing since the introduction of the semi-final system, I’m only a tiny bit disappointed. It’s just not a fantastic ethno-pop banger in my opinion, so much as a weird combination of classic Eurovision ethno-pop circa 2005 and the bass (?) guitar from Eneda Tarifa’s Fairytale. I like how exotic and interesting it is, and the ‘fly with me’ hook towards the end – when Artsvik ramps things up vocally – leaves a pretty powerful impression. This is another song, though, that doesn’t seem to have a solid identity. It’s like a coconut fell on its head while it was on holiday in Hawaii, and now it can’t remember its name, age or occupation. It offers up a bunch of different body parts that are disjointed when put together, just enough to be noticeable but not so much that the disjointedness actually becomes an intriguing gimmick (á la Icebreaker). As a result, I can’t decide exactly how I feel about it. I don’t know about you, but if I’m confused about something I’m not very likely to support it (e.g. by voting). Artsvik’s rehearsals have been very well received, so we can expect Fly With Me to be elevated when performed live – as Armenia’s entries often are – but since the song’s still a question mark for me, I still have to hand out an indecisive, ‘Do I like it or not?’ score of 6 points.
My mum says… I have mixed feelings about this too, but the biggest portion of the mix is dislike. I do get a kick out of the hypnotic beat, and I think the music is varied and very interesting to listen to…but everything else is too disjointed and old-fashioned for me. If it had become more cohesive and modern after the first thirty seconds, I’d score it better, but it carried on how it started (just getting more shouty as it went along). I don’t think I ‘get’ it. 3 points.
Armenia’s score 4.5
My thoughts If this was the Eurovision Adorableness Contest, Austria would be an Italy-level favourite right now. Nathan Trent is the most precious person on the planet – as far as I can tell from his press/profile videos without knowing him personally – and that’s the sort of thing that should shine through when he’s on stage, hopefully singing the shiz out of the equally sweet Running On Air. How could anyone hate this song? It’s a prime piece of feel-good inspo-pop (if that term catches on, I want full credit) that just avoids being cheesy, thanks to Nathan sounding more like a smooth R & B singer than an overly-keen finalist on The X Factor performing their potential winner’s single. The low-key, contemporary-sounding verses really show off his voice, while the catchy – if slightly passé-sounding by comparison – chorus is so easy to sing along to, it’s practically impossible to resist. Although the entry doesn’t have the same energy as Belgium’s did last year, What’s The Pressure is what it reminds me of because it’s three minutes of pure happiness that could turn any frown upside down. We need a few tracks like that to give us a break from the intensity of Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, et cetera: all of the countries who’ve taken a more heavy-going approach (in song style, subject matter or both). Running On Air is fun without being too fluffy, full of affirmations but not in an eye-rolling way, and has its own little space in this year’s line-up that lets it stand up and shout from the top of a mountain (somewhere in the Alps, obviously) ‘I’M HERE AND I AM JUST AS LOVABLE AS LOIN D’ICI!’. Seriously, if Nathan doesn’t make it to the final it will be just as heartbreaking as when I watched a shattered Jüri Pootsmann slink out of the green room in Stockholm, followed by a borderline suicidal Stig Rästa. It cannot happen! Except…it could. I don’t have Austria down as a dead cert to qualify, as they’re on stage second after Serbia and before Macedonia (in the middle of girl power on full blast, in other words). But my fingers will be crossed for Nathan, being a guy with a mid-tempo easy listener, to make his presence felt when sandwiched between two more in-your-face female pop numbers. If he can’t, I will make myself available for post-semi comfort hugs if he’s willing to fly to Australia to receive them. 8 points.
My mum says… Austria is a lot easier for me to love than Armenia – musically, that is, as I’m sure both countries are beautiful in their own way. I really liked this song. It sounds very mainstream compared to a lot of the other entries (it could be a Maroon 5 album track) but I’m not such a snob that I’d let that deflate my enjoyment! I see this as simple, straightforward pop that I’m imagining will have bucketloads of mass appeal. 8 points.
Austria’s score 8.00
My thoughts When you consider that Finland could have sent a song about “loving yourself” (in the privacy of one’s own home, hopefully), a song about kissing someone else’s paradise (also in the privacy of one’s own home, PLEASE GOD) or a song featuring the lyric ‘What would the X-Men do if they came to the rescue?’ (which they very nearly did, as Zühlke’s Perfect Villain finished second), it’s nothing short of merciful that they chose Norma John’s Blackbird instead. Remove all of those questionable UMK entries from the equation, though, and Blackbird remains an absolutely beautiful song, and easily one of the best ballads – if not THE best ballad – competing in Kyiv. It reminds me so much of Norway’s A Monster Like Me from 2015, which will always hold a special place in my heart as a piano ballad so powerful, it had me reaching for something to wipe my wet eyes with every time I heard it. I’m not saying the two songs sound particularly alike, but they have the same pared-back, minimalist lyrical content; the same musical interlude which sort of needs the singer/s to do something during it, but it’s still stunning when they just stand there awkwardly; and yes, that same haunting and emotional quality that makes me want to weep. Whenever Leena (not Norma, as you might expect) launches into the chorus with her crystal-clear-plus-a-hint-of-fragility voice, unleashing that ‘Now you remind me of something I’ll never have’ line upon an unsuspecting world, I turn into a tsunami of tears (and I haven’t even been jilted recently, so I hate to think what state this song would put me in if I was freshly heartbroken). There’s a shiver down my spine and goosebumps all over my body too, and you know what the last song to have that effect on me was? 1944. Before you accuse me of being delirious in thinking that Norma John have mad Francesco Gabbani-defeating skills and will win the contest, that’s so NOT what I’m thinking. I know Finland isn’t going to do what Ukraine did last year, since lightning doesn’t strike twice – not two years in a row at Eurovision, anyway. But Blackbird’s ability to move me makes it special. It deserves to do well in the comp in a way that Sing It Away (an easy song to sacrifice) couldn’t. This song, IMO, is not disposable – it’s integral to have in the final. 10 points.
My mum says… It’s not often that music manages to choke me up, but Blackbird is so beautiful, and so beautifully melancholic, I nearly had to wipe away some tears. It’s so different to all of the other ballads I’ve heard – more subdued and less dramatic, but somehow even more emotional. Leena’s voice is just perfect for expressing all of that emotion, and she has an Adele-like way of making you feel what she’s feeling, even if you’re not experiencing it first-hand. It’s stunning. 10 points.
Finland’s score 10.00
My thoughts EPIC SAX GUY IS BACK!!! The man who inspired the most famous Eurovision meme in the history of memes is returning to the contest with his fellow Sunstroke Project boys, but sans guest vocalist Olia Tira this time. That’s not news to anyone reading this, I’m guessing, but I do know something you don’t know: exactly how I feel about Hey Mamma. But don’t worry, I’m about to tell you. To put it simply, I love it. It’s so different to 2010’s Run Away – i.e. very light-hearted and lots of fun, as opposed to intense and fast-paced – that it’s hard to compare the two, but I personally prefer Hey Mamma. Trying to win over one’s in-laws is a struggle that so many people can associate with, and the fact that Moldova has produced a song that brings some humour and happiness to the situation is worth a round of applause. I’ve also found myself clapping for the insanely catchy verses and chorus, plus the inclusion of not only another top-notch sax riff, but a violin riff too. Oh, AND another copy-worthy dance that accompanies the sax riff (feat. less groin thrusting this time). Clearly, this entry shares some ingredients with Run Away, as do the songs of repeat artists that came before the Sunstroke Project (Paula Seling & Ovi, for example) – I mean, when a formula proves fairly successful, why pinball in a totally different direction on your next try? But this is everything we know and love about the boys in a new and improved package. A controversial opinion? Probably, if you think this song is garbage. But the ESC needs light and shade to make it more exciting, and Moldova – not for the first time – aren’t taking things too seriously, song-wise. Instead, they’ve given us all a Euroclub banger that will also be a banger played at Club Le Jaz’s Loungeroom (and in unrelated news, if you’re currently in Kyiv for Eurovision purposes, I hate you with a passion). Everyone needs some saxual healing from time to time. We’ll have to wait and see if the results reflect that, or if Moldova will fail to get out of their semi for the fourth year running. Even if they don’t qualify, if nobody forgets to remove their accreditation badge for the broadcast it’ll be a step up from 2016. 10 points.
My mum says… Ohhhhh no. Not a fan! This sounds like a song that was written in ten minutes after the composers forgot they had a deadline for it, and it’s really obvious. It comes across so…naff. My favourite part was when it finished, and I’ll be happy to not hear it start ever again – even though the look on Jaz’s face when I told her this was a look that could kill. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, so they say. 2 points.
Moldova’s score 6.00
My thoughts If a genie ever appears in front of me and grants me three wishes, I’m convinced I’ll just wish for the same thing three times to make 110% sure that it happens. That thing would be for some random, Eurovision-appreciating Sammarinese resident to win the lottery, and be able to bankroll San Marino’s contest participations until Ralph Siegel has fallen off the perch and cannot physically (or spiritually, fingers crossed) do it. That has to be the explanation for his constant creation of half-baked, cringe-worthy songs that have been composed by the numbers from an instruction book called ‘How To Write A Song That Sounds Like It Was Recorded In 1978 And Yet Would Still Have Been Regarded As Bollocks Back Then.’ Obviously, Serhat took the reins in Stockholm and, with a group of other misguided music “professionals”, produced something remarkably similar to a Siegel song – but at least it had entertainment value! Spirit of the Night, performed by the artist ESC fans most associate with San Marino and an artist no one has ever associated with San Marino, has none. It’s just a big wheel of cheese feat. approximately sixteen unnecessary key changes and a lyrical “conversation” that makes me want to go one better than Vincent Van Gogh and cut both of my ears off to save me from ever having to hear it again. Valentina Monetta – and no doubt Jimmie Wilson too – is so much better than this, yet NONE of her four (!) entries have shown her musical talents off to their fullest. She’d be far more suited to singing the Czech song, or something like it, in Italian. But the Monetta-Siegel saga continues. My favourite thing about San Marino 2017 is the dynamic between ValMon and Jimmie, who seem to have a great time together and can somehow perform this horror show with genuine enthusiasm (something I’ve managed to pick up on despite the waves of secondhand embarrassment that wash over me every time I see the two in action). I’d be happy for them to qualify, if there was some way they didn’t have to take Spirit of the Night through as well. But with the rules being as they are, I give this duo full permission to stay behind in the semi final. 2 points.
My mum says… Actually, maybe Moldova isn’t so bad after all. Not when compared to this THING, anyway. All right, so the singers are enthusiastic, and do their best to get us all on board with the spirit of the night (speaking of, was this song’s writer drunk on some sort of spirit when he decided it qualified as a semi-decent song suitable for public exposure?). But apart from that, I can’t find any redeeming features here. It’s like the theme from a terrible 1970s movie that no amount of popcorn could make worth watching. Sorry, San Marino, but what an epic fail! 1 point.
San Marino’s score 1.5
My thoughts Omar’s one of two artists making their Eurovision comeback in Kyiv after first participating in the same city in 2005. Like Estonia’s Laura, he’s been chipping away at a second shot at representing his country between then and now, but it wasn’t his time (again) until 2017…though many would say it should have been BQL’s time this year. But that’s another story for the post-contest conversations about which countries effed up royally in retrospect. Omar’s pulled a Sunstroke Project by taking something more uplifting and less intense than his previous entry to this contest – but on this occasion, I don’t think it’s for the better. On My Way is no Stop, which I think we can all agree (and I accept no opposition to this) was ROBBED a place in the ’05 final. However, if we pretend that never existed for the sake of viewing On My Way objectively, it’s not a bad man ballad. Sure, it’s dated – Omar’s openly said that he wrote it a decade ago and has been saving it (perhaps hoping that this sort of song would come back into fashion, which sadly for him it hasn’t). But I feel far more positively about it than most other fans do. I like how symphonic and soaring it is, especially in the chorus: it’s just as big and bombastic as you’d expect. I don’t like how clichéd and overly-simplistic the lyrics are, considering they’re the mind child of someone who’s lived in London for years and speaks fluent English. But the decent melody and Omar’s flawless vocal delivery (the star attraction) distract me from that lyrical dumb-down. I feel like I can compare the whole vibe of this entry to Ott Lepland’s Kuula, though that was far superior in every way. But the grand man ballad style and stage presentation of this song are cut from the same cloth. Unfortunately, Slovenia seems to be lost without Maraaya (hence the BQL mention) and seem destined for another DNQ. At the very least, they’ll scrape into the final and end up with a right-side score after that. 7 points.
My mum says… Okay, Omar – if you want to be on your way, I’m happy to help you along. I’ll even be a temporary bellboy and carry your bags. Anything to get you moving out of hearing range! As powerful as this song might be, I wanted it to stop pretty soon after it had started, because it just goes on and on (and on some more) in an “inspirational” way that would make it fit right in on an episode of Glee featuring a performance at a high school graduation. Eurovision, not so much. Well, not in terms of fitting in enough to win voters over, anyway. 1 point.
Slovenia’s score 4.00
There go another six songs into the ‘Reviewed Like A Boss’ pile! This is where they ended up:
- Finland (10.00)
- Austria (8.00)
- Moldova (6.00)
- Armenia (4.5)
- Slovenia (4.00)
- San Marino (1.5)
I’d shed a tear over Finland winning this round, but I think I’ve used up enough boxes of tissues over Blackbird (plus I need to save some crying energy for Norma John’s performances next week). Austria follows not too far behind, and Moldova not too far behind them. Armenia and Slovenia – after being dragged down by Mrs. Jaz – finish in the lower-middle range, which I don’t think will happen for either of them in the actual contest (take from that what you will). San Marino, suitably, is as far behind here as Ralph Siegel is behind the times when it comes to writing a good pop song.
Next time, we’re zipping around Europe – and a little further afield – to bring you potentially bitchy opinions on Australia, Belarus, Iceland, Ireland, Montenegro and Spain. What do two different generations of Australians think of Isaiah? And more importantly, how will my MOTHER react to the most pornographic song in Eurovision history (which is obviously Montenegro’s, not Australia’s)? You’ll have to come back to get the answers to those questions. Keep an eye on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (or subscribe over there –>) to be the first to know when I’ve posted. Your feeds and inboxes are already being bombarded with Eurovision anyway, so it can’t hurt…
Happy Almost-ESC Week!
I’M BACK! I guess that’s one thing I have in common with the likes of Kaliopi, Donny Montell, Poli Genova, and that one guy from Lighthouse X who played keyboard for Emma Marrone in Copenhagen.
I, however, am back in multiple senses of the word. Not only am I back at home in Australia, but I’m also back blogging after what feels like an eternity away, on the ground in Stockholm writing with the awesome ESC Insight team. In actual fact, it was only three weeks – but what an incredible blur that three weeks turned out to be! I have SO much to tell you guys, if you’re willing and able to hear it over the next few months (what can I say? It’s going to take a while for everything to come screaming back to me).
In the meantime, if you’re feeling even a hint of the Post-Eurovision Depression that I am (and I haven’t even gone back to work yet…that’ll be the true reminder that life is going back to boring *hopes my boss never sees this*) you might want to ease the pain by checking out Insight’s epic coverage of Eurovision 2016, feat. in-depth articles, thought-provoking videos and hilarious podcasts. Because this is my blog and I’m allowed to be narcissistic here, may I recommend checking out my pieces first? Like any proud mother, I want to show off my babies. In this case, quadruplets.
- I Heard It Calling Me…And This Is What It Sounds Like (an introduction to my first Eurovision in the capacity of rabid fan and professional press lady)
- Walk On Warner: First Loreen, Now Ira Losco (the result of my interview with 2002 runner-up and 2016 returnee Ira, who has Swedish career connections to continue now that the contest is complete)
- Meet The Eurovision Character That Impacts Every Song (a look at the Stockholm stage, and how it allowed each performer more flexibility than ever before)
- Applauding The Aussies: Why Europe Is Prepared To Enlist In The Dami Army (the title pretty much explains this one. Oh, and #teamdami)
Because I’m so keen on retrospective ramblings, I’ll be filling you in on what went down in and out of the Press Centre in Stockholm as time goes on (feat. such juicy gossip as the 2016 act who called me their ‘new best friend’, and the 2016 act who I witnessed being manhandled out of the Euroclub at 3am the morning after the final. SUCH JUICINESS). But for now, I’ve got some pre-ESC loose ends to tie up – a.k.a. some outstanding business to take care of, a.k.a. some very, very late reviews to make public.
My life got so crazy in the lead-up to my Eurotrip, I didn’t have a spare second to post the last part of the EBJ Jury’s 2016 reviews, or the subsequent EBJ Jury Top 43 (including the dearly departed Romania). And if I thought I’d have time to post those while I was away, I WAS WRONG. Hectic rehearsal schedules and far-too-frequent celebrity-spotting took care of that. And now, here I am – we have a wonderful new contest winner who nobody should be bloody complaining about even if 1944 ain’t their cup of coffee, and I’m yet to review it. I am definitely un-Frans-like and very sorry about this.
I won’t drag said reviews out any longer – I’ve already created the longest cliffhanger in history, after all. So, let’s make like Barei and say hey hey hey to today’s panel of Jaz-approved judges.
TODAY’S EBJ JURORS
Remember, you can meet the entire EBJ Jury properly here.
Ali, Rory and I are FINALLY about to review Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Ukraine – a.k.a. Zoë, Gabriela, Sandhja, Kaliopi, Agnete, Sanja AND Jamala. It’s all about girl power on this occasion, but who will prevail? Jamala, the actual Eurovision champ? Zoë, the fan favourite? Or someone else? Read on to find out, and let us know which of these ladies’ songs keeps your boat most buoyant in the comments below!
Oh, and FYI…all of the following reviews except mine were written before the contest took place, so if they seem to be totally unaware of the final results, that’s why. Just pretend it’s April, and all will be well.
FYI again (this is the last one, I promise)…this is one heck of a mammoth post. You might want to prepare yourself a pot of tea and a supply of Plopp to get you through this one.
Ali So, what do we have here? If one cares to delve beyond the overt ‘sweet’ simplicity, there is much to be found: a solo guitar’s rollicking strumming conjuring a roaming minstrel; strings (in pizzicato, then sweeping legato, and later pulsing staccato) which weave the ever-evolving landscape through which we are drawn; our singer, with gentle hope and resolve in her voice, in the throes of affirming to the spirit that is leading her, how faithfully she will follow. The destination? A country far from here, where the people, in a naïve search for paradise, are singing. A rhythmic, driving repetition sets our singer’s steady, determined pace, despite the apparent distance, and the dangers of straying into futility (‘si la route nous semble sans issu’), or into the despair of the abyss (‘même si on sera perdu’). There is a poignancy and potency in the fact that our pilgrim (coincidentally, no doubt?) adopts not her native tongue, but the language of the victims of some of the more notorious of those atrocities. The path proposed here is to faithfully follow the song and the music. Indeed, the spirit to which our pilgrim addresses herself is the music itself: when it sings, she sings too; when it flies, so does she; if it soars, she follows it, unencumbered by doubt. The song’s title, and the lyrics of its chorus, are the ever-present reminder that this place we seek is indeed ‘far from here’. The revolving ‘seasons’ in the (official) video, and the ever-flowing chord progressions, reinforce that this trek may indeed be never-ending. But equally, the chorus’s hopeful, trance-like mantra also reminds us that what matters is the journey itself. Those who glibly dismiss this song as ‘cotton candy’, ‘girly’, and calculatedly faux-nostalgic have failed to see the wood for the trees. Though cloaked in ‘lightness’, what we are invited to experience here is by several country miles the most profoundly philosophical and spiritual of all of this year’s creations. It delivers a lasting, symbolic homage to that ultimate musical pilgrimage, the song contest itself. But then again, maybe it’s just another DNQ fanwank?
Rory I’m just going to put it out there: I’m not a fan of Zoë this year. Austria had some really great artists in their NF – LiZZA, Céline/Farna and Bella Wagner (to a very broad extent) – and they went with a song with a very schlager beat to it, and it’s all in French. I’m not hating on her, okay? I’m just saying that with some other very different artists in their selection, Austria had a lot of other options. I can see why they picked Loin D’ici – the staging in itself was a show, coupled with her USP of singing in a completely unofficial language of her country. However, with an über-poppy, almost tween-ish beat to it, I can’t see it appealing to non-Eurovision fans. There’s making yourself stand out and there’s taking the p***, and I think that Austria might JUST have overshot it this year…maybe it’s a bit of a reality check? We’ll have to wait and see.
Jaz I’m going to start by reminding you again that I’m the only person reviewing and scoring this bunch of songs AFTER Eurovision (because everyone else managed to get their act together beforehand. I’m the one who let the team down). If I’d commented on Loin D’ici back in April when I was supposed to, I’d actually have a very different take on it to the one I have now. When Austria first crowned Zoë as The Makemakes’ successor, I was pretty horrified, to be honest. As cute and whimsical as the song was/is, the tragically stale Eurodance beat that kicks in after the first chorus made me want to call on Conchita Wurst to float down from the heavens (obviously she’s still alive, but I just figure she hangs out up there being perfect most of the time) and save us all from such dated un-fabulous-ness. Upon arriving in Stockholm, it became clear that Zoë was a massive fan favourite, partly due to her song being such a tribute to stereotypical Eurovision anthems of a time gone by – I was nearly danced to death by the horde of devotees basking in her Euroclub performance on Opening Party night. And I still didn’t get it. In fact, even now, I’m not about to give Loin D’ici a douze. But after being subjected to the song more times than I would have if I’d stayed home this year, I started to…well, hate it a lot less. I don’t doubt that there is as much depth under the song’s surface as Ali states, but what I rather like about it now is the face-value sweetness and light, and the almost-irresistible melody that becomes a karaoke dream once you’ve wrapped your tongue around the French lyrics. And Zoë herself is so precious, it’s hard to insult anything she’s had a hand in. I also may want to borrow from her extensive collection of frou-frou strapless dresses one day, and if I’m mean to her, there’s zero chance of that happening.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 12
- Fraser 6
- James 5
- Jaz 6
- Martin 7
- Nick 4
- Penny 7
- Rory 5
- Wolfgang 12
Austria’s EBJ Jury score is…7.11
Ali The Czech Republic’s Saturday night cherry is still unpopped, so I will try to say some encouraging things here. The intro of simple lilting piano and a slow current of low strings is very promising. The chorus’ melody is pared-back but engaging, and the pace is elegant and restrained. Gabriela has a stunning voice, and is certainly gentle enough on the eye, in a Tanya Plibersek kind of way. Plus, her floral afro in the video is the most impressive I have ever seen. Alas…the lyrics of I Stand lurch between lazily clichéd and waywardly clunky, and the narrative is befuddledly (yeah, befuddledly) circuitous, with the result that – in contrast to our songstress, who professes to ‘always care’ – I find myself quickly giving up caring about her, her various travails, and anything her song has to tell me. We can’t tell who the hero is supposed to be: on one hand, the song seems to be trying to celebrate Gabby’s own resilience; but on the other hand, it’s a ‘better half as saviour’ song. And those lyrics! ‘I’ve worn the path, I’ve hit the wall’? Did the lyricists even care what these idioms mean when they tossed them in? It jars when I hear ‘head’ attempting to rhyme with ‘cares’, ‘rain’ with ‘fall’, et cetera. Can we blame Bill Gates for the fact that the spell-checker failed to flag that the past tense of ‘to fall’ is ‘fell’, not ‘fall’? And who decided Gabby should spend the video lying down whilst saying ‘I stand’? The problems with the story and words were all easily avoidable, which makes them all the more exasperating. The unfortunate result is that I end up not giving two hoots about whether she’s standing, squatting, or doing the downward-facing dog.
Rory When I saw that the Czech Republic would be interested in taking part in Eurovision again after last year’s failure to reach the final, I thought that they must be crazy. But with I Stand, I am so grateful that they’ve continued on their quest for a Eurovision qualification – which I’m guaranteeing they’re going to get with this song. Gabriela is more used to singing rock and gothic songs, but this is a really pleasant departure from her comfort zone. The lush beats and strings really bring out the best in her vocals. The peak of the song definitely comes out at the end of the song with that screech in the lead-up to the last chorus, which just lets out so much emotion and care and you can really feel that. My one concern is how they’re going to stage the song: with Hope Never Dies, they managed to understage it, because there wasn’t really anything that made you remember the performance. With I Stand, they have to play it really carefully…maybe they can get her to be like in her music video and lie down while her hair is covered by layers of flowers? Regardless, best of luck, Czech Republic!
Jaz They may not have traveled far in the final, but congratulations must go to the Czech Republic (Czechia?) for making it to Saturday night for the first time. There were several other songs I’d have preferred to see among the last 26 standing, but it’s always nice when a struggling country finds a surprising degree of success. That said, I understand why Gabriela didn’t find any on final night. Her performance was pretty much perfect – from flawless vocals with just the right amount of emotion present, to the stunning geometric floor-and-wall patterns; from her bridal-esque outfit to the timely hair-release that thankfully didn’t end the same way as Moldova’s in 2014. But…I never found I Stand to leave much of a lasting impression, and in the final, it was up against at least twenty songs that were more memorable. That’s not to mention the fact that the Czech Republic were handed the dreaded second slot to perform in, which we all know to be legitimately cursed. Hopefully, however, this progression from the semis is a stepping stone to further success for the country in 2017. It’s got to be one of the reasons they’ve already confirmed for next year’s contest.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 2
- Fraser 8
- James 12
- Jaz 5
- Martin 6
- Nick 4
- Penny 5
- Rory 12
- Wolfgang 8
The Czech Republic’s EBJ Jury score is…6.89
Ali Apart from heartily fist-bumping the underlying ‘song-as-therapy’ message, I do dig a ditty that gets me lip-syncing along with it, and wiggling my ample tuchas (apologies for the unsolicited visual!), especially in a year that’s weighed down by dollops of dirges. Throw in some snappy brass riffs, a lively percussion track, a swag of ohh-ohh-ohh-oh-oh’s, a positive ‘friend-in-need’ message, and some evocative lyrics – ‘When heavy waters try to break you, you will be singing for life’ – and, hot-diggidy, I find myself in total lock-step: ‘YEAHHH!’. If Sandhja and her team are able to extract maximum engagement, joyfulness and life by connecting sympathetically with the cameras and the audience, then why can’t this (pretty please?) at least get through to the final?
Rory I’m going to go against the grain and say that I actually enjoy Sing It Away. I’ve a big guilty pleasure for funk, and Sandhja delivers in that aspect in ways that acts like the KMGs (Belgium 2007) couldn’t. This is sleek, sophisticated, and builds up before exploding into the chorus. I do think Sandhja needs to work on her live vocals, if she plans on moving as much as she did at UMK as she will onstage, just because it might prove to be a problem. I don’t see an issue with this making a connection, but in the ferocious first half of Semi Final 1, she’ll have to make sure her performance is memorable. That being said, singing lines like ‘I WANT YOUR BALLS AWAY!’ will definitely give her that edge (it’s supposed to be ‘All my troubles away’, but I can’t bring myself to correct it every time I hear it!). Hopefully, Europe won’t listen to her and will give her their balls in the form of votes, but it’s really a 50:50 chance!
Jaz I had some ridiculous favourites in UMK this year (Thief, Shamppanjataivas, and the comparatively normal On It Goes) as well as some songs I detested (mainly just the bookies’ number one, No Fear). Sing It Away fell in neither of those categories, but I was mighty relieved when Sandhja beat Saara Aalto nonetheless. Her song did all it could do at Eurovision – it served as an excellent-but-disposable show opener, so easily sacrificed that it might be better for us to think of it as part of the first semi’s opening act than as an actual competition song. I don’t dislike it – it’s fun and funky, and Sandhja has the personality required to pull it off and convince us that she will sing ‘it’ away (it’s great how the ‘it’ is open for interpretation. Got dandruff? She’ll sing it away. Been run over by a parade float full of schlager stars? Sandhja’s got you covered). But it lacks the fire and some of the energy that saw counterpart What’s The Pressure sail into the final and squeeze into the top 10. It’s almost as if it won UMK by accident because the decision-makers couldn’t choose between Saara and Mikael – a kind of DMGP/Eurovision 2011 situation. And that doesn’t give you a contest winner…Eurovision 2011 aside. But we’re all still scratching our heads over that one, aren’t we?
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 10
- Fraser 5
- James 7
- Jaz 6
- Martin 5
- Nick 3
- Penny 7
- Rory 7
- Wolfgang 3
Finland’s EBJ Jury score is…5.89
Ali Unlike Nika (from Georgia) and his muddied bed partner, I don’t smoke. But I will definitely be buying myself a cigarette lighter to take along to the second semi-final, just so I can do the old ‘waving-the-ciggy-lighter-back-and-forth-to-the-slow-chorus’ thing to this big, hearty Balkan tavern ballad. Sometimes it can be satisfying when a song delivers (with aplomb) a totally ‘no-surprises’ offering. Even though I have not been overly generous with my points here, this in my book has an ample supply of plombs. Staying with a more classical structure, this builds in all the right ways, and Kaliopi’s voice, as always, intoxicates us with the smokiness of an Islay single malt. There is some loss of momentum from having an unadumbrated middle verse (in contrast to the modern trend of cutting it short, e.g. Norway this year), but it is worth the price, because it makes us savour the ‘bring-it-home’ chorus all the more. Being one of only three songs this year (count them) that are entirely in a LOTE, and therefore arguably less ‘accessible’ to the full spread of jurors and televoters, qualifying is far from a ‘gimme’, but one can live in hope. Who is Dona? I have no idea. But all in all, I’m very glad someone thought she/he/it was worth singing about.
Rory DONUT, DONUT, DONUT, DONUT, DONUT, DONUT, GLAAAAAAD I MET! Oh wow, Kaliopi is back with a bang and I’m secretly enjoying it. I must admit, I was expecting something along the lines of Crno i Belo, but with Dona, I feel like I’ve been transported back to the late 80s/early 90s, with a power ballad like this. Of course, we’ll have to see how she delivers this onstage to get a feel of how it could do in the long run, but with only half the vocal range required to sing Dona than to sing Crno i Belo, I think Kaliopi will slay BIG TIME with this. Whether it qualifies or not, however, is a completely different story. I’m very sorry, but I’ve got nothing else to say about Macedonia…unless you want to hear me sing DONUT, DONUT again!
Jaz The following sentence will tell you what I think about Dona in a nutshell: I didn’t have high expectations of Kaliopi’s second official ESC entry given that I didn’t love her first…and as expected, I like this even less. That’s not to say that I detest it – and, as with a few other 2016 songs, frequent exposure during the rehearsal period ensured that it grew on me – but it’s too dated and over-dramatic for my taste. Even Kaliopi, a singer whose power knows no bounds (she can shatter glass with a single note, so it’s a good thing she wasn’t performing in the Crystal Hall this time) seemed to struggle to give her all to the demanding Dona, just ever-so-slightly. It’s for that reason that her highest-of-high notes at the end of the song never quite measured up to the clarity and pitch-perfection of Jamala’s. There are things about this track that I like – more so the gentler verses than the big, domineering choruses. But even from the beginning, I have trouble paying attention to Kaliopi for three whole minutes, without wondering if a song I like better is coming up next in my playlist/the semi. It usually always is. I thought Macedonia would make it to the final if mainly on artist name alone, but I have no issues with the fact that they didn’t.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 5
- Fraser 6
- James 12
- Jaz 3
- Martin 4
- Nick 1
- Penny 6
- Rory 6
- Wolfgang 5
FYR Macedonia’s EBJ Jury score is…5.44
Ali A lot of good, solid, ‘play-to-our-strengths’ Lapp/Nordic buttons are being pushed here, and coupling that with Agnete’s fine voice and presence, I think this may manage to sneak (break?) through to the final. Many listeners have reportedly found the tempo change for the chorus unsettling, if not disappointing, given that by all indications it was otherwise building into a Euphoria-esque up-tempo dance number. But I think, in context, it works: after all, an ice-breaker is not a particularly fast-moving vessel. And having the brakes go on the pace at that point also reinforces the arduousness of the effort our Agnete would need to put in to liberate her ‘stuck’ friend. However, the storyline here lacks traction: a lot of the song is spent cataloguing the reasons why this ex-and/or-potential partner is extremely high maintenance, if not an outright cad/cadette, so we aren’t given much of a feel for why Agnete would be so determined to save him or her. Indeed, perhaps this cad/ette would benefit from spending a bit of reflection time stuck in the ice – sorry, I mean in the ‘fro-o-o-zen water’…a.k.a. ice?
Rory I’m not really sure what to make of Icebreaker. I mean, I can see how many people could enjoy the metaphor that she’s going to be the ship to free us all from the ice we’ve been stuck in (maybe that’s why I’ve been so hypothermic), but the song just leaves me feeling…empty. There’s nothing in here for me to like or dislike. It’s just…neutral, if you get what I mean. Agnete’s vocals are exceptional and I’m sure that that will work in her favour, but the song is just very lacklustre – which is highly ironic, as I should really be enjoying this sort of genre! Norway will easily sail through to the final, just because it has a few reliable countries making its case. As for the final, I can’t exactly put my finger on their exact finishing position – it could be the bottom of the left-hand-side of the scoreboard or the top of the right-hand-side. It’s definitely a Mar(Vegi)mite song this year, a lot like I Feed You My Love – you either love it or you hate it. Suffice to say, I don’t eat Mar(Vegi)mite, so you’re better off asking someone else!
Jaz Love, hate or feel indifferently towards Icebreaker, you have to applaud Norway for managing to send two entries to Eurovision this year without breaking any rules: the first, an atmospheric Euphoria-esque dance banger; the second, an intense I Feed You My Love-style anthem that I do not recommend listening to if you have a headache coming on. The stark tempo and genre changes in Agnete’s song were initially arresting in all the wrong ways for me, back when I was still bitter that Afterglow didn’t win NMGP. But as I’ve gotten more accustomed to them, I actually think the track takes a risk that could have paid off under better circumstances. It’s adventurous in a way that we hadn’t heard at Eurovision before, and the overall effect is edgy, dramatic and powerful. It’s just a shame that Agnete was too poorly pre-ESC to trek the promotional trail (i.e. attend any pre-parties, or press conferences on the ground in Stockholm) or reshape her performance much from the national final stage. I always expected Icebreaker to have a 50:50 shot at qualifying, but if Agnete’s path to the contest had been as smooth as everyone else’s, I think she might have slotted in to Saturday night. I would have loved to see her there as I actually get multiple kicks out of this song now – but just making it through rehearsals and the broadcast was a win for her, at the end of the day.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 4
- Fraser 2
- James 4
- Jaz 10
- Martin 5
- Nick 1
- Penny 6
- Rory 5
- Wolfgang 7
Norway’s EBJ Jury score is…4.89
Ali This has huge potential, and I really want to like it. But ZAA’s stage performance will be the decisive factor. In the official video, her melodramatic gestures and facial expressions are a bit OTT, and borderline comical. This obviously tends to detract from the real potency of the song’s conflict-laden atmosphere. A more constrained presentation would more powerfully convey the inner struggle inherent in the theme. She also has to get the audience on side. One way to help do this would have been to have ZAA herself singing (with backing vocalist accompaniment) the sympathetic ‘whoa-oh-oh-ohhs’ that follow the chorus — but admittedly, that would leave her without a decent breather, so may have sapped her energy for the big finish. In terms of the song itself, I know the temptation would naturally have been to give ZAA opportunities to demonstrate her undoubted virtuosity, but I do find it a bit off-putting how, in each half of the chorus — in contrast to the controlled tension of the notes and dynamics in the verses — the notes at the end of the first two lines wobble round like a learner driver trying to work out which gear to use: ‘Every time I say goodby-Y-y-Y-yyye …’. Anyway, the ingredients are all there for ZAA to make this either a Eurovision classic or a Eurovision calamity. Hey, Laura T – you need to have a chat to ZAA about pressure, STAT!
Rory This year, Serbia has me questioning a lot of things. First off, I very much appreciate sending an unknown singer to Eurovision, but why give her two names? ZAA Sanja Vučić? Could it not just be her? The song is pleasant enough to listen to, but when it comes to the subject matter – domestic violence – I just feel like it’s ripping off András Kallay-Saunders, but with a more mature vibe to it. Secondly, Sanja is a singer who – with ZAA – normally plays ethnic-indie music (see her video for Irie&Kool for a proper reference), so why get her to sing a ballad that is so pop, it oozes Charlie Mason? Finally, why does she make so many facial expressions and jagged movements, some of which don’t even work in time with the music? I just feel like this has been very forced and I think that had she been given a more alternative song, or a song in a genre she’s more experienced in, she’d give a more convincing performance. Nevertheless, her vocals are amazing, and the versatility and flexibility of her music makes her incredibly adaptable. But I feel RTS just took a shot in the dark, and that it might not pay off.
Jaz When it comes to controversial song subject matter at Eurovision, I’m an advocate. I think it’s important for music to be used to address issues other than love and fairytales and happy endings and falling stars and donuts (say whatever you want, Kaliopi…we all know your entry is an ode to Krispy Kremes). Not all the time, but sometimes. That’s partly why I hold Hungary’s Running and Ukraine’s 1944 (which I’ll be gushing over in a minute) in such high regard. Serbia’s Goodbye (Shelter) has the kind of ambiguous lyrics that could refer to a verbally-abusive or extremely strained relationship, as much as to a physically-abusive one. That makes it less uncomfortable to listen to, but it also gives it less of an identity and less strength, message-wise. Having said that, I still believe it’s a powerful song – a rocky Balkan ballad delivered with a maturity you might not expect from a normally happy-go-lucky 22-year-old like Sanja. Given that she reined in the jerky performance style we saw when Goodbye was presented on Serbian TV, there was nothing vocally or visually wrong with her performance. Perfect colour scheme, perfect graphics, perfect costumes, perfect choreography…every piece was in place. But I still didn’t love the song enough to back it as a potential winner. It certainly deserved its place in the final, but it didn’t move me, and I understand why it didn’t bother the top 10.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 3
- Fraser 6
- James 4
- Jaz 7
- Martin 12
- Nick 5
- Penny 12
- Rory 4
- Wolfgang 6
Serbia’s EBJ Jury score is…6.55
Ali Never has there been a more soulful song about the swallowing of souls! I can report that, on more than one occasion, in the course of listening to 1944, I have detected on my upper cheeks the inexplicable presence of salt water. Jamala will indeed win many a heart with her ‘Negro-spiritual’-like timbre, and prodigious vocal range. Whether a largely uninitiated TV audience will be able to pick up on the full gamut of what is being laid out before them here is very doubtful. It may, for example, be vulnerable to the predictable Norton-esque derision for being too ‘dreary’, ‘serious’, etc. We shall see. The lyrics may have benefited in some places from having their nuances honed, to ease them back from the brink of what might be perceived as hyperbole, but that is a very minor quibble, in the context of the subject matter. If this is not in the final, the universe will be very much the poorer for it.
Rory There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I’ll sound biased on this, but 1944 is my favourite song of the 2016 contest by millions and millions of miles. When I first heard the song on February 5th, the day before it was due to be performed at the national selection in Ukraine, it LITERALLY reduced me to tears – I’m not even exaggerating. The song is just so beautiful and emotive, it gives me goosebumps every single time I listen to it – you know that every note Jamala sings is one that she feels for both herself and her fellow Crimean Tatars. Turning to the dark side of the song, I am clearly stating that there’s no political intent in 1944 whatsoever. Jamala has said in an interview that politics aren’t her cup of tea (sorry Valentina Monetta – Jamala doesn’t get you!), and that there was no political motive behind the song. The fact that some people see a political aspect to it is just a coincidence. 1944, with its breaking-beats, Crimean Tatar lyrics and climax with the final chorus (along with that scream that just gives me the shakes every time – it’s like she’s releasing her soul whenever she reaches that note) give it that edge to stand out a mile in the semi final, and all skeptics will be proven wrong when it easily qualifies – it might even win the semi! Personally, Jamala is my winner of the whole contest, but will she actually win? She’s definitely top 10 or top 5 material. I could go on all day about her, and about 1944 and her other songs, but I won’t bore you to death. I will let you know that Ukraine is my #1 for this year’s Eurovision, in case that wasn’t already clear. DAVAI UKRAÏNA!
Jaz I’m not quite sure how to articulate my affection for 1944. ‘Affection’ is an understatement, really. This song had me hypnotised from the first few seconds of my first listen, partly because it was so different to what I was expecting – Jamala’s previous entry in a Ukrainian NF, Smile, was way too cheesy and repetitive for me, and I figured she’d be offering up something similar this time. FACEPALM!! I’ll admit, I didn’t realise how versatile she was as an artist. I did realise that her vocal range is beyond incredible, and 1944 shows that off to the fullest, while simultaneously allowing her to tap in to her emotions. I don’t think it’s just her acting abilities that give Jamala the skill to make past pain feel fresh every time she performs this song – it’s also the fact that this song is about a specific experience, even though she wasn’t around to live it. It’s the most substantial song that competed in Stockholm, and the most experimental, and I’m still over the moon that it managed to win the whole contest when its divisiveness could have dragged it down. It’s everything a winning song should be made of, in my opinion – it’s unique, contemporary, brilliantly performed (without the staging overshadowing the sound), and has something real to say. To some, it might be a vehicle for a wailing Eastern European woman; to me, it’s a victory for inventiveness and significance in a contest where the appeal of the last few winners has been in the artist’s persona (Austria 2014) and the high-tech trickery of their performance (Sweden 2015)…not to take anything away from Conchita or Måns (you guys know I love them both). Let’s also not forget that, with so few songs that weren’t entirely in English competing in 2016, not only did one of those win, but it was the one featuring a language new to the Eurovision stage. As Petra and MZW declared during ‘That’s Eurovision!’, music is a language that we all know how to speak, and Jamala’s Crimean Tatar transcended tongue barriers to entrance jurors and televoters everywhere (and make me cry in front of thousands of strangers). That’s one heck of an artist, and one heck of a song.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 10
- Fraser 8
- James 12
- Jaz 12
- Martin 8
- Nick 6
- Penny 8
- Rory 12
- Wolfgang 12
Ukraine’s EBJ Jury score is…9.78
And with judgment passed on Jamala, I finally get to say this…we’re done! It took ever-so-slightly longer than I’d intended, as I said at the start – and involved me deviating to a different hemisphere for a few weeks – but the EBJ Jury has officially reviewed all 42/43 entries of Eurovision 2016. I think a round of applause and some hysterical screaming is warranted here.
Applause and screaming should also be directed at our winner for this round, who also won the actual contest and therefore gets to be the reigning champ until Sweden wins again next year: Ukraine!
- Ukraine (9.78)
- Austria (7.11)
- Czech Republic (6.89)
- Serbia (6.55)
- Finland (5.89)
- FYR Macedonia (5.44)
- Norway (4.89)
Austria finishes surprisingly strongly (as they did IRL) in second place, with the Czech Republic and Serbia not too far behind. Finland and FYR Macedonia could only muster up mediocre scores, and it looks like I was basically the sole supporter of Norway in the EBJJ. Today’s top 4 qualified in Stockholm, while the bottom 3 didn’t – so I guess as a group, we’re pretty perceptive. Or psychic.
Of course, there’s still one loose end left to tie up, and it’s the EBJ Jury Top 43. Each round of reviews has featured its own mini-ranking, but meanwhile, I’ve been busy combining and tie-breaking until I’ve been left with one big list of favourites, and…not-so-favourites. Next time, that ranking will be revealed – and since the 2016 comp has taken place, I’ll be comparing it to the actual Top 42 to see if my elite assembly of Eurovision freaks (I mean that in the most affectionate of ways) managed to predict any of the results correctly. Hint: we actually did!
I’ll (hopefully) see you then, as I continue to play catch-up and fill you in on all the details of my first, fabulous ESC experience. Over the next month or so, you can expect some belated national finalist playlists; my extensive gallery of 2016 doppelgangers; a series of Stockholm photo albums that will send you to sleep; and the annual EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence, in which you get to play a bigger part than ever (if you want to). Watch out for all of that – it’s on the way to help ease your PED. And mine, of course. I don’t do anything unless there’s something in it for me.
IT’S TIME!!! With Eurovision so close I could almost touch it (if I had ridiculously long arms) it’s beyond appropriate for me to kick off my 2015 reviews right here, right now. But wait – there’s more!
For the first time this year, I decided I wasn’t going to review song after song (after song) all on my lonesome. Not when, thanks to modern technology, I knew I had army of Eurovision fanatics from all over the globe at my disposal. Granted, the recruitment ended with the EBJ Jury mostly being made up of Australians, but…what can I say? Together, we’re large and in charge. Kind of.
The EBJ Jury, in case you were wondering, is the highly imaginative name I came up with to describe the
slaves hard-working fans I duped into helping me out. Each week, a different pair of ESC obsessives (though some faces will appear on a few occasions) will join me to judge five of the songs that will take to the Wiener Stadthalle stage next month. We’ll each award these songs ESC-style points (what else?) and I’ll calculate an average figure that will become that country’s ranking score. It’s all pretty straightforward, though I know I’ve made it seem the opposite.
So, are you up for meeting today’s jurors? I hope so, because here they are!
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Rory Gannon: “HELL-OHHHHH guys! My name is Rory and I am the beautiful (ish) age of 16. I currently co-run a little blog called ESC Views (where your Eurovision views are brought to you..or are they?!) and…well, I suppose I’m pretty much the definition of a non-conforming Eurovision fan; in other words, if there’s a fanwank *ahem* Sweden *ahem*, I’m sure to hate it! I’ve been to two magnificent Eurovisions – Düsseldorf in 2011 and Malmö in 2013 – I know, jealous much? *wink* Oh, and just so you know, I didn’t cheer for my homeland of Ireland – that really just ain’t my thing! My favourite songs from Eurovision would have to include the AMAYYYYZIN My Słowianie (I know, weird right?!), Ein Lied Kann Eine Brücke Sein aaaaaand……hmm., Birds too. It is quite an odd range, but, myeh, each to their own!”
Matt Kelly: “I’m Matt from Adelaide (or Radelaide, as the locals like to refer to it), Australia. I “star” in a Eurovision show on YouTube called escTMI (I know, I need to get a life). In 2013 I was lucky enough to do the pilgrimage to Malmö to attend my first Eurovision. What a dream it was. This year I’ll be doing that loong flight to Europe again to attend the contest in Vienna.”
Jasmin Bear: “My name is Jasmin, but I’m known in Eurovision circles as ‘Jaz’. I’m guessing you’re somewhat familiar with me as you’re currently reading my blog. Eurovision is my life passion, even if my family and (some of) my friends can’t comprehend that, and I think about it on average six times a minute. I’ve never attended a contest, but you can bet your plagiarized stick-figure man that if Sweden wins in Vienna – and, to be honest, even if they don’t – I’m going in 2016, gosh darn it! My all-time favourite ESC entry is Lane Moje by Željko Joksimovic, as I’m a sucker for a big Balkan ballad, and I truly believe that Sanna Nielsen is angel sent from Eurovision and/or Melodifestivalen heaven…a place I’m very keen to visit in the distant future.”
Now we’re all acquainted, let’s get cracking on EBJ’s 2015 reviews – reviews that are being conducted collaboratively for the first time in my five-and-a-half-year history. Y’all must be so relieved to be getting a break from my solo Eurovisual ramblings.
Ahem. We’ll begin with Russia, and continue with Austria, France, Ireland and Serbia.
A Million Voices by Polina Gagarina
Rory: Ooohh….okay, I’m going to try not to offend anyone if I can, but that might a bit of a mammoth task! So yeah, I’m pretty much neutral on Russia’s song this year. I mean, the song is okay, a tad mediocre if I’m to say something negative about it, but Polina is a great singer. And also, I really don’t agree with the whole booing Russian artists thing – don’t blame Polina, Masha, Nastya or Dima – they didn’t do anything. Join in with Stephane & 3G and blame Putin! Getting back to the actual song here, I’m sure it’ll do well and I hope Polina does do well, but it’s just not the sort of song I would find myself listening to post-Eurovision. 4 points.
Matt: I love an anthem – a song that you can sing along to in the car at the top of your lungs. A Million Voices is an anthem with a beautiful message of peace and acceptance. The video is gorgeous, filled with beautiful, happy children dancing around with Polina. It almost has me believing that everything in the world is hunky-dory. This song would be one my favourites if it was from any country other than Russia. Why does Russia keep sending these anthems of world peace? It’s such a joke and it’s nothing more than propaganda. I know Eurovision is a song contest, and politics shouldn’t come into it, but Polina is representing her country, and the song’s message is totally contradictory to Russian politics. Russia, next year, please think about sending a simple song about love, and maybe people won’t be so upset. Cue the booing. 7 points.
Jaz: Another year, another “inspirational” ballad from Russia about peace, love and understanding, and all that nausea-inducing schmaltz. There’s very little authenticity to this entry, from the cliché lyrics to the fact that few – if any – Russians were involved in writing them (I know a ton of countries search internationally for songs, but that kind of shopping around always rubs me up the wrong way). And yet, the package is partially saved by a) a decent melody; b) a big, instant chorus; and c) Polina’s mesmerising looks and powerful (at least within the walls of a recording studio) voice. So I’m torn. It’s 2015, and this isn’t a song you’d hear outside of Eurovision, unless Celine Dion was performing it during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. That aspect, I dislike. But A Million Voices is the less cheesy cousin of 2013’s What If, which I did end up falling for and which gave Russia a very good result. I’m giving it a conflicted 6 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 5.66
I Am Yours by The Makemakes
Rory: Hmm..I really am quite indifferent to Austria this year. Okay, the song as a standalone would fare very well in terms of being on the radio and trying to promote an album of some sort, but this is a competition we’re talking about here – you either have to make a mark on people’s minds or get out, and Austria aren’t managing to make that happen this year. I hope they do well, purely for the fact that they’re gonna put on a great show, but that’s pretty much it for me. 5 points.
Matt: Austria has sent another attractive bearded singer with flowing locks. The MakeMakes’ song I Am Yours is everything a host country wants: it’s a nice, easy-listening, inoffensive song that won’t come last and definitely won’t win. The song starts off promisingly, evoking thoughts of Coldplay, but you soon realise it’s going nowhere. It’s repetitive and just plain dull. Not even setting the piano on fire can manage to inject interest into the performance. 6 points.
Jaz: Host entries usually fall into one of two categories – either they’re lacklustre as heck because the host country has bigger fish to fry and/or doesn’t want to win again; or they’re epic, presumably by accident when the host country stopped trying too hard to pick a winner because they didn’t have to. I Am Yours, however, is a mixture of the two for me. While I accept that it’s low-key and unlikely to trouble the top of the scoreboard (which for some people, would make it lacklustre) I really enjoy listening to it, and I think it’s an entry Austria should be proud to present to Europe (and Australia) on home soil. The resemblances the chorus bears to Coldplay’s The Scientist might give it a flicker of familiarity that works in its favour come May. The Makemakes make (#hadto) for a very nice, if not ground-breaking, choice to succeed Conchita. 7 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.00
N’oubliez Pas by Lisa Angell
Rory: When I heard this song for the first time, I didn’t quite get it. For me, N’oubliez Pas was just another ballad flower in the meadow. But after listening to it for a few months, I do feel like it has grown on me. It’s a little bit like Riverdance: it starts off really timid and quiet and it grows and grows until you get the dramatic climax at the end of the song. Lisa can deliver the song well live, but I just hope she can manage to repeat it onstage in Vienna – let’s face it, the French need it! 7 points.
Matt: The French entries always seem to cop a lot of flack and I’m not sure why. The good thing is it doesn’t seem to deter them. If something doesn’t work one year, they send something totally different the next. Lisa Angell is a million miles away from 2014’s Twin Twin. Her song is a haunting ballad that’s totally old-school Eurovision. It builds in all the right places and ends with a bang right on the three-minute mark. In a year full of ladies singing ballads, N’oubliez Pas is the most sophisticated – the Chanel of ballads. 7 points.
Jaz: I don’t know how much I have to say about France this year, aside from BRING BACK THE MOUSTACHE! How many adjectives can you employ to describe a rather anonymous, bordering-on-pretty ballad? A ballad that’s competing in a field overgrowing with similar, arguably better songs? This is perfectly acceptable. It plods along nicely, and Lisa performs it like the seasoned professional she is, giving those of us non-fluent in French just enough emotion to realise there’s a story behind the song…even if we’re not 100% on what it is until we Google it. But does it excite me like Twin Twin’s quirky mod-pop did? Nope. Will N’oubliez Pas fare better than last place with two points? Oui, but that means little to me. I’d rather support an entry that floats my boat and watch it fail than see one that makes me feel nothing succeed. 5 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.33
Playing With Numbers by Molly Sterling
Rory: I’m trying not to sound like a patriotic twat, but I swear to god, this normally doesn’t happen! I – for once – love my country’s song! Well, I’d have much preferred Erika instead, but Playing With Numbers was always going to be a close second place. I will admit, the song is a bit of a grower, but with all the recaps that ORF will be showing, surely that little segment will stick in people’s minds! No? Plus, I MET the one and only Molly backstage after she won (that’s right, we’re going up in the world!!) and OMG, guys, she is such a modest person for a 17-year-old. Don’t deny her the chance of showcasing her work to the world! 10 points.
Matt: Molly was my favourite from this year’s Irish selection. She was the most original and talented participant, but I’m not sure Ireland’s best will be good enough, which is a shame as Ireland has had really bad luck in the last couple of years of the contest. The song is nice – think Missy Higgins – but it isn’t interesting enough to stand out from the other, bigger ballads. I think people will listen to this for a minute, then take the opportunity to head to the loo. 5 points.
Jaz: No need to call the doctor, folks – I can tell you right here, right now that what Ireland is suffering from is a classic case of Grower Syndrome. My prescription: repeated listens that, if you’re anything like me, will have you head over heels for Playing With Numbers in no time. The first time I heard this, my brain went ‘meh’, although I was relieved Ireland had selected one of the most decent songs possible. But the more ear-time I gave to Molly’s three minutes, the more I found myself appreciating the sentiment of the song – and thinking ‘Dayum gurl, that chorus is catchy!’. Compare Playing With Numbers to Russia’s song, and it’s clear that Ireland has the authenticity and believable sentiment that Russia lacks. No doubt Molly will struggle to hit Polina’s heights, but if nothing else, I can happily say this: all is forgiven, Ireland, for that aesthetically-displeasing car crash of Copenhagen. 8 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.66
Beauty Never Lies by Bojana Stamenov
Rory: I really do like Serbia this year. It was always a sure thing that Bojana was going to represent them – she obviously had the most sass up on that stage! It did seem a bit better in its original Serbian version, but it still has that captivating and empowering message behind it and for that, I’d like to applaud Miss Stabmyknife for her ability to draw us into her performance. I just hope first-time listeners can understand the same feeling on the night! 7 points.
Matt: Oh, a diva singing a huge anthem! Yes please, and thank you Serbia – you rarely disappoint. Bojana Stamenov just blows me away. Her voice is huge. Sure, the English version of the song is a little clichéd and I do prefer the original Serbian version, but it’s brilliantly crafted. It starts out slowly and quietly, then slowly builds, and at the 1:45 mark, the disco beat kicks in and Bojana grabs you by the hand and drags you onto the dance floor. It takes me to Eurovision heaven. Amazing. 10 points.
Jaz: Oh, Serbia. What has become of you? You were once a country who could be relied upon to provide beautiful, mystical and always classy Balkan ballads. Now, after a costume-related disaster and a year of Eurovision vacation (minus JESC) you’ve come back not so much with a bang as with a fart noise. Beauty Never Lies definitely stinks, IMO – not because of Bojana, whose voice, like the Wizard of Oz, is great and powerful. It’s not even due to the song itself, since music-and-melody-wise, it’s fine. But once Ceo Svet Je Moj became Beauty Never Lies, it dropped from the halfway range of my Top 40 ranking to the very bottom. The English rewrite of this song is dreadful, packed with lame lyrics that take power away from the song rather than boosting it. I don’t think a Eurovision song has ever come this close to actually making me vomit before. Shame on you, Serbia. 1 point for the melody + 2 points for Bojana = 3 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.66
That’s it for the first episode of Viennese Verdicts, folks. After five catty and complimentary reviews, the EBJ Jury standings are as follows:
1. Ireland (7.66)
2. Serbia (6.66)
3. France (6.33)
4. Austria (6.00)
5. Russia (5.66)
I’ll be revealing the EBJ Jury Top 40 in the final episode, mid-May. For now, 35 songs remain for us to comment on, and any one of them has the potential to sweep Miss Sterling off the top of the list, or bump Polina from the bottom. You’ve already witnessed how different fan opinions can be (Serbia certainly divided us!) so anything could happen.
For Part 2 of the Viennese Verdicts, I’m bringing you my thoughts on the entries from the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Switzerland – with the added perspectives of an American Eurovision aficionado, and my mum. Yes, you read that right – Mrs. Jaz was roped into reviewing some of the 2015 competitors. And let me tell you, getting her to be honest was not a problem.
While you’re waiting (on the edge of your seats, I’m sure) for that, answer me this in the comments: how do your rankings of Ireland, Serbia, France, Austria and Russia stack up against the EBJ Jury’s? Who read your mind with their reviews, and who had you concerned for the state of their mental health? Sharing is caring, so let us know below!
Until next time…
If there’s a prize for being late to the party (the party being reviewing Eurovision 2014) then back off, because it’s mine! The thing is – and you’ll be bored of me rehashing this – since I was too excited to study during the ESC week, and too depressed to be productive in the few days afterwards, I’m now in a period of chaos where I have multiple MAHUSIVE assignments due within the next week (my last week of the semester, thank the Lordi) that I’ve barely begun. Therefore, I’m having to work my butt off with little time to blog, which sucks. That’s my excuse for why the second part of my final review is coming out over a fortnight after the contest, and over a week after the first part.
This is basically just a run through of the scoreboards from the final and the semis, with comments by moi, plus a recap of the Australian online vote and a mini post-show ranking to show you how my preferences were changed by epic lighting and/or magnificent costuming. I’m not going to get into the intricacies of the split results much, as similar analysis has been done (The Eurovision Times published a a few particularly good ones you can find here and here if you haven’t checked them out yet) so this is more of an overview accompanied by catty judgments.
The Final Scoreboard: A Closer, Totally Unbiased Look
Two things about the voting sequence before we get to the results:
a) Crossing to all of the spokespersons at once on the big screen? More of that please. Although if I’d spotted Alyona Lanskaya I would have remembered to mute her impromptu and totally unnecessary version of Solayoh. You had your moment last year, Alyona. NO ONE CARES.
b) Umm, that early winner announcement! I’ve had more than one night’s anger over that. After the backlash caused by the same thing in Malmö, I assumed it wouldn’t happen again. But oh no, charming Nikolaj and adorable Pilou lost a bit of their charm and adorableness when they announced Austria as unbeatable with about two or three countries left to vote (I know they were just doing what they’d been instructed to, but I have to lash out at somebody). We all knew Conchita was the winner – to announce it early took away from the significance of the remaining countries votes, turning them into an afterthought. I am hoping this doesn’t become a tradition.
Now, those results…we’ve all seen them, but who wouldn’t want to see them again and then hear me complain about Greece not beating Romania for several paragraphs?
1. Austria 290 – No real surprises here. After Conchita’s performance I was thankful I’d predicted Austria as a probable winner. Still, with the spread of scores and the relatively low gap between 1st and 2nd place, this was no landslide.
2. The Netherlands 238 – I’m thrilled for the Dutch, still. If Anouk had been last year’s runner-up, I’d have struggled to understand it, but The Common Linnets captured the mood and created a magic that I totally got (in the end).
3. Sweden 218 – I’m happy with this, and I hope Sanna is too. I knew my favourite song of the year wasn’t quite going to go all the way after a certain point, but because I was worried Sweden could head in the direction of Hungary in 2011, the bronze position is brilliant.
4. Armenia 174 – Again, this ain’t exactly shocking. I never saw Armenia winning with Not Alone, as much as I love it. Finishing in 4th, they’ve got to be at least a teensy bit pleased that they blew Azerbaijan out of the water.
5. Hungary 143 – This is proof that Hungary is getting better and better at playing the Eurovision game every year. A very good, very current song that many thought would bomb because of its subject matter triumphed instead. Well done Andras!
6. Ukraine 113
7. Russia 89 – Now THIS was a surprise. As the televoters much preferred it over the jurors, I put it down to the staging, which I personally couldn’t tear my eyes away from. The hair trick and giant see-saw are surely what people remembered when they picked up their phones.
8. Norway 88
9. Denmark 74
10. Spain 74 – I guess the lesson here for Spain is if they send an attractive brunette who can sing the leg off a chair to perform a typically Eurovision ballad, they’ll secure themselves 10th place. That’s a good showing for Spain.
11. Finland 72
12. Romania 72 – Romania and Moldova are experts in just missing out on the top 10. In this case, Romania should have completely missed out IMO.
13. Switzerland 64
14. Poland 62 – The jury sealed Donatan & Cleo’s fate via the drag effect of ranking them 23rd to the televoters’ 5th. Not that 14th is a terrible result – I’m just mourning what could have been for one of my favourite entries.
15. Iceland 58
16. Belarus 43
17. United Kingdom 40 – Ouch. After weeks of steadily declining odds and promising rehearsals, Molly failed to meet expectation and then some. But there was only 34 points between her and Ruth, which is something of a consolation.
18. Germany 39
19. Montenegro 37 – Not only did they make the final for the first time, but Montenegro beat big players Greece, Italy and Azerbaijan. That’s a win for them as far as I’m concerned. Figure skaters = success. Just ask Dima Bilan.
20. Greece 35 – How…just how did this happen? I am CRUSHED. Okay, so when I step back and look at all the factors I can kind of see how it happened. But even cookie-cutter, dated Aphrodisiac did better than this!
21. Italy 33
22. Azerbaijan 33 – So, they’re not invincible after all, eh? For the first time since their 2008 debut, Azerbaijan finished out of the top 10, and not narrowly. I have to admit, it pleases me to learn that they are capable of failure, since up until now I assumed they’d do amazingly even if they sent a bag of garbage (literally) to represent them, and that irritated me.
23. Malta 32
24. San Marino 14 – Props to SM for not coming last. I hope such an unprecedented result doesn’t encourage a fourth consecutive appearance from Valentina (and Ralph)…*shudder*.
25. Slovenia 9
26. France 2 – Not for the first time in recent history, one of my most-loved entries lost the final. Waldo’s People in 2009, Tooji in 2012, and now this! Maybe Moustache wasn’t very effective in such a grand setting, but…TWO POINTS?!? I guess I should just be grateful that Twin Twin didn’t pull a Jemini.
Australia calling! The results from our unofficial final vote
Over on broadcaster SBS’s Eurovision site, us fans Down Under had the chance to thumbs up or thumbs down each entry as was our want. I couldn’t even do that, because of state-related time zone issues, so it was up to the rest of my fellow Aussies to decide our “points”. Here’s our top 10, in traditional ESC fashion:
1 point went to Ukraine
2 points went to Malta
3 points went to Switzerland
4 points went to the UK
5 points went to Poland
6 points went to Iceland
7 points went to Finland
8 points went to the Netherlands
10 points went to Sweden
Aaaaaaaaand, surprise surprise…our 12 points went to Austria.
So it looks like Conchita has recruited herself a fan club over here as well. We actually agreed with Europe’s entire top 3 (albeit in a slightly different order) but put Finland, Iceland, Poland (woohoo!), the UK, Switzerland and Malta in place of Armenia, Hungary, Russia, Norway, Denmark and Spain. Oh, and in case you were wondering, San Marino came in 26th. So I guess it wasn’t so much a Maybe here as a Definitely Not.
Back To The Semis: The Winners, Losers and Almosts
Semi final 1 ↓
- The Netherlands 150
- Sweden 131
- Hungary 127
- Armenia 121
- Ukraine 118
- Russia 63
- Montenegro 63
- Iceland 61
- Azerbaijan 57
- San Marino 40
- Portugal 39
- Estonia 36
- Latvia 33
- Belgium 28
- Albania 22
- Moldova 13
- For the first time ever, the Netherlands topped a Eurovision semi final. I’m still surprised by this to be honest (because I didn’t think the majority would rule on a humble l’il country number…and it’s the Netherlands) but it’s something for all of the countries in a rut to take note of. With the right song and act, anything is possible.
- Sanna pipped Andras for the honour of qualifying second, but not by much. Hungary are going from strength to strength, having qualified every year since their 2011 comeback, and made the final top 10 for two consecutive years.
- There was a 55-point gap split between the 5th and 6th qualifiers – Ukraine and Russia. Montenegro made it to their first final on the same point level as Russia, with Iceland very close behind.
- Azerbaijan’s 9th place made quite the change from their previous stellar history. During the 2008-2011 period they qualified 6th, 2nd, 2nd and 2nd, and won their semi final last year in Malmö. It’s safe to say Dilara didn’t start many fires with her slow-burn ballad!
- Jaws all over the globe hit the floor when San Marino went through, unsurprisingly in 10th place. What we didn’t know at the time was that poor Portugal had finished just under San Marino. A single point was all that separated Valentina and Suzy, which probably left the latter wondering what she could have done to win over a few more jury members (it was the juries who sealed her fate by ranking her last).
- Moldova’s hair-ripping routine failed to get them to the final for the first time since 2008. Perhaps now they’ll realise that the classic costume reveal is still okay?
Semi final 2 ↓
- Austria 169
- Romania 125
- Finland 97
- Switzerland 92
- Belarus 87
- Norway 77
- Greece 74
- Poland 70
- Malta 63
- Slovenia 52
- Lithuania 36
- Ireland 35
- Macedonia 33
- Israel 19
- Georgia 15
- From losing their semi final and limping only to 16th place in last year’s to winning the whole thing, Austria sure rose up (pardon the pun) in the rankings this time around. Conchita’s powerful pipes won convincingly over Paula Seling’s dog-frightener of a note.
- Surprisingly high qualifiers in this semi (for me) were Finland and Switzerland, in 3rd and 4th places. Switzerland turned out to be less of a borderline entry than many of us thought it would be. Greece, on the other hand, didn’t do as well as is expected of them, nor as well as I was hoping.
- Poland’s qualification was pretty convincing for a country that hadn’t seen a Saturday night since 2008, putting them 18 points ahead of just-in Slovenia.
- Vilija can’t have been as devastated as Suzy must have been to end up 11th, as her result was brought on by much more than one point. Things were quite tight in the 11th-13th-placed range.
- Israel coming second-to-last with only four more points than bonkers Georgia was a big shock for me, and I’m not even a massive fan of Same Heart. Mei’s performance was fiercer than 100 angry Beyoncés in a fistfight, and I’m sure she’s made it her mission to hunt down and poke her sword at everyone who failed to vote for her.
- Georgia last = duh. Okay, so the song has grown on me, and the parachute thing actually worked IMO, but Three Minutes To Earth was always going to be more like Three Minutes to the Bottom of the Scoreboard.
My top 10, two weeks later
As usual, seeing the songs performed live for the real deal changed my already changeable mind a LOT. Once again I used this handy sorter to gauge my own opinion, and below you can see my post-show top fifteen (because I didn’t think anyone would want to read through my entire top 37 for the third time) and how they’ve moved from my most recent ranking done just prior to the first semi. I’m sorry to disappoint those of you who might have been hoping for a renouncement of my Team Sanna membership.
- Sweden (=)
- Poland (+5)
- Greece (-1)
- France (-1)
- Armenia (+1)
- Denmark (+4)
- Italy (+6)
- Belarus (=)
- Norway (=)
- Hungary (-6)
- Montenegro (-6)
- Ukraine (+12)
- Iceland (+1)
- Finland (+21)
- Albania (+7)
So I’m clearly crushing on Finland after Softengine rocked the Hallerne…what about you? How have your rankings changed since the show?
That’s about all I have to say on the scores at the moment. I hope this overview was worth the delay in one way or another! If you’re still up for complaining and/or rejoicing in the outcomes of this year’s contest, I’m up for listening, so comment down below with any of your unaired thoughts.
NEXT TIME: Watch out…the 2014 EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence are coming! I’m about to open my People’s Choice polls, and I want you to vote to decide each winner (duh. That’s the whole point) so make sure you drop by in a few days’ time to have your say. This year you get to vote on more awards than ever before in the two-or-three-year history of the ceremony, so get excited! Please? Just a little bit?
Well, this is belated. Having been unable to focus on study for the week leading up to Eurovision, and then over the Eurovision period itself, I was forced to make up for lost time the second Conchita Wurst ended her winner’s reprise. To cut a boring story short, I’ve only just been able to put together something of a review of last Saturday’s final from Copenhagen to follow my overviews of the semis. I’ve barely even started dissecting the results, so while that’s still in progress (I’m hoping you guys will still be interested in reading that by the time I post it) I’ll just cover everything up until the voting.
As it’s been like, FOREVERRRR since the final took place, allow me to refresh your memory via my personal highlights and lowlights of the evening; plus some extremely exciting photographs of my decorating/waving paraphernalia. Things just don’t get more epic than this…
I had a mini Molly, Conchita and Sanna (courtesy of Ben Morris’ Minipop Icons) to accompany me during the show, plus some DIY banners to wave until the Sellotape gave way.
To begin: we all know that it was Austria’s golden girl Conchita who took out the contest on Saturday evening, marking her country’s first win since 1966. It wasn’t a landslide win, but despite the EBU’s best efforts to disguise the result for as long as possible via their voting order algorithm (only to have the hosts announce the winner early AGAIN which I will complain about in detail when I talk results) there came a point where we knew we were going to Vienna. Or Innsbruck. Maybe Graz? I’m reluctant to settle on the likeliest host city for 2015 after the great “Oh, it’s definitely going to be Stockholm!” incident of 2012. Not that it matters – wherever in Austria the 60th contest takes place, I’ll be über excited to see the show. My delayed congratulations go out to Conchita, and her short but sweet victory speech. Rise Like A Phoenix may not have been up there with my favourite entries of the year, but it’s a worthy winner in so many ways. The added bonus is that it’s always nice to see a country of few recent successes do incredibly well. This could be the start of a wave of excellent results for Austria, a la Germany 2010-2012…so long as they don’t decide to send Trackshittaz again.
My favourite acts of the night
Many of those who impressed me during the semis did it again during the final. In fact, all of my highlights bar one were semi-finalists. Read on to find out which member of the Big 6 floated my boat.
- Iceland – as proud as I am of the fine Australian export that is The Wiggles, I was born a bit early to have grown up with them (the Spice Girls were my one true childhood love). Pollapönk seem like an adult-appropriate version of The Wiggles to me, so I’m not ashamed to say I was thoroughly entertained by their colourful performance yet again. No Prejudice is like the theme of Conchita’s win. I wonder if she and the boys ever got together for a chat? They seem to have a lot in common (beards included).
- Armenia – Aram was perhaps feeling some pressure in the final, as his vocal was slightly ropey. But I still found his three minutes full of impact. Waiting for the song’s climax to explode (almost literally, with those fire jets they had going), knowing it was about to go BAM, was exciting every time.
- Poland – following in the footsteps of the comparable Igranka, here was a song that could have been dreadful live but turned out to work like a charm (it must be the charming beauty of the Slavic girls). Cleo swapped t-shirts, but apart from that, Poland put on the same saucy, folksy performance that catapulted them into the final in the first place.
- Greece – no song got the crowd moving like Rise Up. At home, surrounded by junk food and feeling particularly lazy, I stayed put on the couch…but my #TeamFreakyFortune banner was getting a workout, believe me. The energy level here was through the roof, and that was pre-trampoline.
- Austria – this was a winning performance, flawless and full of the sass and drama that has become Conchita’s trademark. The roar of the crowd before, during and after was well-deserved, and gave me a strong feeling that what was a very open contest had narrowed over the course of just three minutes.
- Sweden – I didn’t cry this time, but my beloved Sanna nailed Undo just as she had in the semi, and continued to give me the feels and the chills I mentioned in my review. And I must thank her for giving me something to put on my Christmas list – my own personal (and preferably portable) cage of light.
- Finland – Softengine have wooed me, and I swear it’s not because of their clean-cut cuteness. I wasn’t fazed by Something Better at UMK, or when I watched the music video, and yet somehow the Eurovision performances have left me digging the heck out of it.
- Denmark – this has to be done, I’m afraid…SKUBA DUBA DAP DAP DIDI DAJ, I LOVE YOU! Because I honestly do, Denmark. Basim kicked home country butt, renewing my affection for Cliché Love Song in the process. The unfurling flag put off some people, but I thought it was a massive fabric cherry on top of an excellent performance.
- The Netherlands – The Common Linnets were the total package on final night. They sounded great, looked great, connected with each other and the camera well (Waylon’s smouldering eyes…) and their staging was simple but perfectly suited to CATS. My only complaint concerns the guitar soloist, who put way too much drama into his shred on a clearly unplugged instrument.
My least-favourite acts of the night
Because nobody hashtag failed (not miserably, anyway) I’m about to get rul, rul picky. Prepare yourselves.
- Romania – neither Paula nor Ovi sang as well as they had in their semi, and all the elements of the act that were awkward then seemed even more so on this occasion. I draw your attention to the hug, which resulted in Ovi almost choking on a chunk of Paula’s hair. He’ll be producing hairballs for weeks.
- Italy – Emma’s vocals are rough around the edges, and that’s part of her appeal. But to me her performance was a bit messy and aggressive. I felt like she was shouting directly at me for most of the song. Amazing outfit though – it was like she smashed a bunch of mirrors, poured PVA glue all down her front and then rolled in the debris. I am totally copying that for my next night out.
- Spain – don’t get me wrong, Ruth’s a great singer, and stunning to look at (the wet look really works for her). But there were moments when she was over-singing those money notes so much, I thought she was going to explode. I don’t think the janitors would have appreciated having to Hoover up bits of Ruth from all over the arena.
- United Kingdom – nothing was particularly wrong, but something wasn’t right here. I didn’t connect and I didn’t feel the anthemic-ness of COTU was genuine. A UK win was a lost cause when I found myself thinking more about how awesome Molly’s shoes were than anything else.
What else went down?
- The Danish version of the Swedish artist parade gets my tick of approval. Taking us through the running order and introducing each act in one hit was genius. I hope the Austrians were taking notes!
- The hosts were…well, there. Nikolaj was charming, Lise was a pro, and Pilou continued to be adorable and have a stage name that reminds me of a certain Claymation penguin. BUT THEY WEREN’T JANA AND MIKKO! Three is an odd number (duh) but I always find it extra odd with Eurovision hosts. One or two people is enough, and makes it far easier to divvy up duties such as chatting awkwardly with the contestants in the green room.
- I have to mention the postcards again. I touched on them briefly in my semi reviews, but I don’t think that adequately conveyed my feelings for them. I love it when the postcards make you want to watch them over and over again (unlike the touristy ones from the likes of Baku which become little more than attractive yet annoying breaks between songs) and these ones definitely did that. Aside from giving us a look at the next artist up, they entertained AND informed us that, for example, Andras Kállay-Saunders trots around with pre-solved Rubik’s cubes in his backpack, and Emma maintains her figure by making flags out of her food instead of eating it. These postcards made our #MyEurovisionFlags look amateur.
- It was a relief to see Emmelie de Forest deviate from singing Only Teardrops for the billionth time in order to perform Rainmaker, a song I prefer. It’s been a year and she still hasn’t stumbled upon a shoe store, but at least she’s found a hairbrush and added some colour to her wardrobe – she looked like Pocahontas at a rave, and it was glorious. All the artists in the final joining her on stage to sing along was as heart-warming as I imagined it would be, although I bet they spent the whole time surreptitiously elbowing each other out of the way to get in shot.
Well, that’s my fan’s-eye view of the grand final, albeit over a week after the fact (oops). Of course, there are the all-important results – the shocks, surprises, and expectations pretty much met – remaining to be discussed (by me…the rest of the planet has got their act together and done it already) and I’ll be doing that sometime in the next few days. Following that, I have some exciting stuff re: Copenhagen planned – i.e. my annual EBJ Awards. For this edition, I want you guys to vote for more than just one award á la last year, so have your poll-taking fingers poised!
Looking waaaaaaay back at the final of Eurovision 2014, what were your performance (or other) highlights and lowlights? Did the right song win the contest? And have you managed to undo your post-ESC sad yet?
I’m back! After close to a week of social media avoidance, I’ve witnessed both semi final 1 and 2 on Aussie TV with much DIY banner-waving and popcorn consumption, and I can now temporarily rejoin you all in Eurovision Land before I have to hunker down again to avoid final spoilers. I’m going to take advantage of this, not just by checking my backlog of Twitter notifications and comments, but by having my say on the semis in brief, and taking another look ahead at the final now the participants and running order is locked in. 3, 2, 1, go!
SEMI FINAL 1
Together, Pilou, Lise and Nikolaj were no Petra Mede or Anke Engelke, but despite their lame jokes and the lack of segue from ‘Good evening, Europe!’ into postcard numero uno (unless our broadcast was edited down…grr) they hosted without fault. Of course, they had an amazing setting and massive audience to work with, which helped.
As someone who can take or leave Only Teardrops, I tolerated the semi-opener by Emmelie de Forest, and quite enjoyed the Ugly Duckling interval act as a lover of fairy tales (that guy’s sequined tracksuit WILL BE MINE! Mwahahaha!). But it’s the performances of the competing songs and the results that we really want to discuss, right? Here’s what I thought.
My performance highlight/s
- Sweden – Having been invested in Sanna from the moment she was announced as a Melodifestivalen contestant (yet again) and Undo being my #1 song of the contest, my best hope for victory, my shoulder, my shelter, my satellite – oops, veering off into Hirsoux territory there – Sweden’s performance was always going to float my boat. What I did not expect was to burst into tears at the end of the three minutes. I think it was a combination of excitement, emotion and…well, my general pathetic-ness, let’s face it. I welled up when Sanna won Melfest, so I should have seen this coming. She was spellbinding, as usual. Perfection with a blonde bob and in black lace. #creepymuch?
- Iceland – Pollapönk dried my tears, coming straight after Sanna and brightening everything up. They looked sharp, sounded great, oozed personality and all in all just had a great time up there, and as a result I did too. I’m finally on board with their decision to sing in English now. Watching them, I thought to myself ‘this has GOT to be a qualifier.’
- Albania – Aside from the tattoo (that’s got to be the most painful postcard of all time) I have to give props to Hersi for singing so beautifully. I love the sound of her voice. Also, she didn’t look hideous as I may have predicted she would earlier this week. I had to pick someone!
- Russia – Here was proof that good staging can make you love a mediocre song. I enjoyed everything about this performance, even though I’m still not sure how most of it – the hair thing, the see-saw, the Perspex light sabers, etc – was relevant to the song or its message. All I know is that it looked awesome. The twins’ vocals were on point too, and they looked very nice. I didn’t see the immature act I was expecting.
- Ukraine – Again, an A+ for staging goes to Russia’s non-BFF Ukraine. That hamster wheel was used to full advantage, both by Maria and her man friend (who I’m assuming wasn’t asthmatic or anything since he had to run pretty much the entire time) in what was a simple but effective staging device. This was actually pared back by Ukrainian standards, but after the initial shock of Maria not being carried onstage by a giant, I appreciated it.
- Portugal – This was old-school Eurovision that still worked like a charm IMO. The crowd was very responsive to it. It was full of energy and Kati Wolf Suzy had the best costume of the night – she looked UH-MAYZING. I didn’t want this performance to end, and I really wanted it to qualify. Sniff.
My performance lowlight/s
- Moldova – First things first: nobody was terrible in this semi. No-one looked awful, sang badly or fell into the moat around the stage (that was a bit of a disappointment). But if I had to choose my least favourite act, it would have to be Moldova because a) it wasn’t as slick a performance as we usually get from them; b) the costuming was fine, but I expected more; and c) WHAT THE %@!* WAS WITH THAT HAIR THING? Whatever happened to tearing off a part of your dress or something? The classics are still okay, guys. Which is more than I can say for Cristina’s scalp right about now.
- Montenegro – What else can I say except YEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSS! It could have gone either way, but I’m so happy it went this way. Welcome to the final, Montenegro!
- Hungary – Our Australian commentators were surprised by this, but I wasn’t, and I doubt you were either.
- Russia – Saved by staging, Russia went through and broke the JESC Curse. I’m glad some Junior alumni have finally made it to Saturday night.
- Armenia – Duh. That is all.
- Azerbaijan – How shocking for Azerbaijan to qualify! Ha. Ha. They turned out a perfect performance as always.
- San Marino – My jaw actually hit the floor here. As lovely as Valentina looked and sounded, you CANNOT tell me this wasn’t a pity vote in large part. I’m convinced this qualified 10th and stole a final spot from Portugal or Estonia. Still, congrats to SM for making the final for the first time alongside Montenegro.
- Ukraine – Another shocker here. Who on earth foresaw it happening?
- Sweden – I was having palpitations by the time Sanna went through, so thank god they didn’t leave her ‘til last. I may not have been here to type this.
- Netherlands – Riding the wave of Anouk, are we? CATS will add some genre variety to the final.
- Iceland – I’m not sure why Iceland was left until last, but woop woop! I desperately wanted them to fill the final spot, and I got my wish.
How accurate were my predictions?
Fairly, but far from totally! I correctly predicted 7 of the 10 qualifiers, stumbling on Estonia, Belgium and Moldova. After seeing Axel and Cristina in action, I changed my mind, but it was too late to change my prediction. I am shocked by Estonia’s fail, and I bet Tanja is too…but can I just say, Estonia – if you’d picked Sandra, that would not have happened!
SEMI FINAL 2
This was a semi where I knew I was going to lose a country I liked, and to make matters worse, everyone was on top form. Kind of. I didn’t mention the postcards earlier, but I found them very interesting viewing again, and I can’t wait to see the final six. Australia was represented with a song-and-dance that could have been less cringe-worthy, and by the lovely Jess Mauboy who did us proud despite some vocal wavering (having seen the doco about her trip to the ESC broadcasted beforehand, I put it down to nerves). The other interval act, featuring Europe’s finest dancers (who videoed themselves and submitted it to eurovision.tv) was great. Now, on to the main event: the competing entries.
My performance highlight/s
- Poland – That’s it…I’m running away to Poland to be a Slavic girl. This was freaking EPIC! It ticked all of my boxes (not that I normally have a check-box for ‘gratuitous display of boobs’). Cleo has everything a star attraction needs to have, plus attitude in spades; the costumes were as folk-mod awesome as I knew they’d be; handkerchiefs were used to great effect…the list goes on.
- Austria – How could you not be impressed by the power of Conchita? Standing on that platform in her gold dress, looking like a particularly glam Academy Award statuette, she sung the crap out of RLAP like she always does, with a passion that never once appeared forced. Dana International, eat your heart out.
- Lithuania – This was everything I didn’t expect it to be and more. In the minority I may be, but I LOVED it. Vilija looked amazing (even in a leather tutu), sung like a champ and looked totally unfazed by the man who refused to come out from beneath her skirt. 110% on point.
- Finland – Yes, the adorable boys from Softengine did win me over some way with their simple but perfect-version-of-what-it-was performance. They get a gold star for using lighting to add so much to the visual of their act, and lead singer Topi gets a mug of hot lemon and honey tea to conserve his screamability for tonight.
- Greece – You know I’m a little obsessed with Greece this year (song-wise and man candy-wise) so naturally, I was jumping for joy (get it?) after their appearance. It doesn’t take a stack of cash to entertain, and that’s exactly what they did, with the crowd (and moi) going crazy for Rise Up. Plus, thanks to Lise, we now know that Nikolas has a cat called Gary, and that is invaluable information.
My performance lowlight/s
- Ireland – Again, there were no train wrecks in this semi, which was a bit disappointing actually (somebody better screw up BIG during the voting to make up for it) but Ireland’s performance was rather messy and uncomfortable. Kasey’s costume was distracting because it looked like she was wearing three different outfits at once, so that wasn’t the best either.
- Switzerland – Every time the Swiss qualify, I go ‘aww!’, whether I like the song or not. Hunter of Stars has a certain charm, so I was pleased to ‘aww!’.
- Malta – Yeah, they did. There was never a question.
- Slovenia – I’m not sure of where all the votes came from to get Tinkara in the top 10, but she’ll add some ethnicity to the final.
- Norway – I want to congratulate and hug Carl so badly, assuming his ‘silent storm’ isn’t a metaphor for irritable bowel syndrome.
- Poland – YESYESYESYESYESYES!!! Happiness for Jaz is when the Slavic girls make it through when she didn’t think they would.
- Romania – Ugh. I was secretly hoping they’d miss out so I could laugh, but alas, Paula & Ovi are set to lame it up in the final. I’ll only keep the sound on to hear Paula’s glass-breaking note sequence.
- Greece – I’m as happy as a guy in spandex on a trampoline. Which is very.
- Belarus – That’s right, Anti-Cheesecake Brigade. We did it.
- Finland – As with Slovenia, I am slightly confused as to where all the interest for this came from, but as the boys are so cute and were so competent, I say well done Finland!
- Austria – This was always the one that would be left until last. I’ve never seen anyone so relieved as Conchita was to nab that final spot.
How accurate were my predictions?
Slightly more so than in Semi 1! I scored 8/10 this time around, with Israel and Macedonia being my incorrect predictions. But with Poland (one of my favourites) and Switzerland (it’s always precious when they qualify) replacing them, I’m happy I was wrong.
A WORD BEFORE THE FINAL BEGINS…
Right now I’m in that brief gap of time between having seen both semis on Aussie TV, and when the final begins in real time (which I won’t see until Sunday night). Having now seen all but the auto-finalists perform once, I feel it’s only fair I get to update my predictions for what’s going to go down on the scoreboard in the final. And not just because two of the countries I predicted to win didn’t even qualify *blushes*. So…
Who will win?
I’m not much surer of this than I was when I last predicted, but at least now I can say it will definitely not be Estonia or Israel (hashtag FAIL). This contest is still wide open, and all I can do is have a stab in the dark. So here are my stabs:
- Armenia – It’s the favourite. I’ll feel like the world’s biggest moron if I take Aram out of the equation and then he wins.
- Austria – It’s powerful, memorable and interesting. A dated-style winner maybe, but a worthy one based on Conchita’s power and passion alone.
- Malta – There’s just something comforting about this that draws you in, and if it draws enough jury members and televoters in…
- Spain – This is too typical-ESC for me to want it to win, but it has a decent draw, and Ruth has the potential to out-diva Conchita.
- UK – There was already so much going for this entry, and then the UK only go and get drawn in the plum spot of 26! The BBC couldn’t have hoped for a better slot. If waiting all that time to perform doesn’t affect Molly negatively, there’s a good chance she could take this.
Who will make the top 10?
Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Sweden and the UK. I still feel like I’m being too obvious, and there’s sure to be a few surprises up there, so…don’t laugh at my terrible predicting skills. Not to my face, anyway.
Who will be left at the bottom?
Surely it’s San Marino? I know I said that about the loser of semi 1, but my god…it has to be, right? I really wish we didn’t have wait until song 25 to sit through it, but I suppose the UK will look even better coming afterwards. If you’re looking for a shock loser (which we’ve had more than once in recent history) I’d say unless it’s a favourite, it won’t be that shocking.
Who’s not going to do as well as we think?
Romania. Okay, so not everyone is convinced Miracle will be exactly that, but it has none of the spark that Playing With Fire had. It’s relatively early on in the draw, and I think it will be overshadowed.
Who’s going to do better than we think?
Poland and/or the Netherlands. One’s big, brash and full of boobs and the other’s super humble (guess which is which!) but I have this feeling either one (or perhaps both) could defy expectation and neither be considered too OTT or get lost in the field.
With all of that said (‘at long last!’ I can hear you saying) it’s time for me to go to bed while those of you in Europe and those of you planning to watch the final live online get your celebration on, damn you. To be honest, I’m still none the wiser about where we’re headed for the 60th ESC, and that is very exciting. The chances of a runaway victory are slimmer than the chances of this being the last we hear of Valentina Monetta (she’s like Freddy Krueger…no matter what happens to her, she will rise again and attempt to murder you in your sleep) so the voting sequence should be a nailbiter. But before that, we have 26 performances to watch. I hope you make the most of every moment, and that the final doesn’t go by as fast as the semis did. I’ll be back early next week to join you all in the throes of Post-Eurovision Depression. Let’s ride it out together by dissecting every little detail of Eurovision 2014.
May the best song (preferably in my opinion) win!
Hit me up with your highlights and lowlights of the semis, plus your picks for the winner!
Hey there, ladies and gents. You’ll be ecstatic to learn that I have zero time for a long, waffly intro today, since I’ve already spent too much time prioritising writing my Eurovision 2014 reviews over “more important” stuff like major uni assignments due on Monday, etc. So I’ll get on to those while you hopefully get on to reading this first installment of verdicts on the Class of Copenhagen. Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and France (whew!) are on the program first up, and whilst there’s not a ton of hate in there, there’s quite a bit of ‘meh’…and some high praise too. Read on to find out which belongs to which, and let me know where you stand on these entries.
One Night’s Anger by Hersi
Better than 2013: Albanian version, yes. English version, nope.
Top 10 material: No
IMO: You can always rely on Albania to crown something a little bit off-the-wall the winner of Festivali I Këngës – and I mean that in a nice way, for the most part. One Night’s Anger is no exception, even without that intense instrumental opening that didn’t end up making the Eurovision cut. The song is a ballad, but an unusual one that’s difficult to predict the destination of, and I bet it’s difficult to sing too. The rhythm and melody are interesting in their own right, but when combined with Hersi’s unique voice, the overall impression is ear-catching. There was a haunting quality to the song that grabbed me when it won FiK, and at first I couldn’t figure out if I was being grabbed in a good or bad way (unlike being manhandled by a Marco Mengoni type, which would definitely be a good grabbing. Wink wink) but after subsequent listens, I realised I did have a positive appreciation for the balance it strikes between classic and bizarre. Unfortunately, the change from Albanian to English that this country often makes has been to this song’s detriment in my opinion. I’ll readily confess that I tend to prefer whichever language version I heard first in my Eurovision entries, but in this case, it really was the mystery of the Albanian and the emotion Hersi could put into it that’s making me miss it. I still have a regard for One Night’s Anger, the same interesting song now with questionable lyrics – but given the choice, I’d be sending Zemërimi I Një Nate off to Copenhagen next week.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Not Alone by Aram Mp3
Better than 2013: Yes
Top 10 material: Yes
IMO: Armenia started out so strongly in Eurovision with André in Athens, securing 8th place then and notching up four consecutive top 10 placings after that. Then Emmy failed to Boom-Boom her way into the final, Armenia sat the Baku show out for obvious reasons, and Gor Sujyan’s double denim squad qualified but deservedly didn’t get much further. On those sour notes, it’s wonderful to see this country back in potential top 10 (and even potential winning, if the bookies are to be believed) form after three years of misfortune. The difference between Not Alone and those entries from Armenia’s heyday is a lack of ethnicity, but I find this equally as enjoyable. The pan-flutes have been traded in for dubstep beats and minimalism, and the result has a lot of impact. The song is a slow burn of the best kind – the kind that really draws out the build, then explodes, in this case into a dramatic, symphonic crescendo. And yet…I’m not sure I do believe the bookies when they put the odds in Aram’s favour, for two main reasons: firstly, as much as I like the song, that ‘minimalist builder’ element makes me wonder how much focus it can hold as a standalone number. It would be ideal in the background of a Hunger Games montage, but can I imagine the credits rolling over it as Mr. Mp3 reprises the crap out of the Hallerne? Not really. Secondly, the reports that came back from Eurovision In Concert implied that this guy is having issues with owning his performance and commanding the stage. If that was the case in the intimate Melkweg, how’s he going to fare on what we’ve seen is a rather massive stage in the arena? There are questions surrounding Armenia, and one of them is still very much ‘Yerevan 2015? Hmm…’
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst
Better than 2013: No
Top 10 material: Yes
IMO: Seriously, if the Bond moviemakers don’t call the next one The Phoenix Rises and make this song the theme tune, something is wrong with the world. There’s no denying that Conchita’s entry is totally Bond-ified; nor is there any denying that this genre suits her perfectly, allowing her to let her inner and outer diva shine like a diamond…and rise like a phoenix (duh). She has the power and passion to make her performance one to remember even for those who aren’t fans of her song. Now would be the best time to say that I’m afraid I’m one of them. I don’t hate it by any means, and I LOVE Conchita – after hearing ESC Insight’s interview with her I want us to be BFFs. Like I said, there’s no doubt she’s got the goods to do her demanding song justice. It’s just that the Bond thing is not my thing. Generally (stuff like Adele’s Skyfall included) I find it overly-dramatic and old-fashioned, although very glamorous. Speaking of glamour, I cannot wait to see what Conchita’s wearing for the big event. I’m seeing sequins, plunging necklines, tulle everywhere…OTT sass. I guess the fact that I’m more pumped for costume choices than listening to the song again says more about my feelings than any more rambling could do. The audience, however, will go nuts for this, and that will be a reaction worth waiting for.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.
Start A Fire by Dilara Kazimova
Better than 2013: No. No glass box, no contest!
Top 10 material: Yes
IMO: In the most shocking move of the year (that’s sarcasm, people) Azerbaijan have popped into the supermarket and bought themselves a Swedish-made, albeit Azerbaijan-infused ballad to send to Eurovision. They’ve been doing this same thing long enough now that it’s become a tradition/running joke, and on one hand, I have to give them props for it – they take the contest super seriously, and if they’re not in the mood for contending the win, they at least want a decent placing. On the other hand, this recipe for success involves little of Eurovision’s original essence. They’re not so much sending a song that represents their country as sending one to represent their country and do a great job. There’s nothing you or I can do about that, so having got it off my chest I will now say that this particular Swedish ballad is actually a refreshing change from the norm. Look at the differences between Start A Fire and, to use another example, Georgia’s Waterfall from 2013. The former sounds a lot more genuine and interesting than the contrived and clichéd latter. It’s perhaps not as instant, but I quite like it when a song is unusual enough that you need to pay attention to it and get to know it to formulate an opinion. It kind of wanders along for three minutes, never in your face, but always sparking curiosity as to where it’s headed. All in all, it’s not up there with my absolute favourites, but I think it’s pretty and not at all cheesy, which is a big plus.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 8 points.
Cheesecake by TEO
Better than 2013: Yes
Top 10 material: No
IMO: Belarus was one of the first countries to choose their entry for 2014, and before their NF even took place, I’d picked this song out as a favourite of the lineup – if mainly as a guilty pleasure because I figured I’d be in the minority who liked it in all its sleazy glory. I didn’t think it was going to win that final, but it did and here we are. Cheesecake has gone through a few changes, including one to the lyrics, but it’s essentially the same song as always, and I still get a kick out of it. What can I say? I’m a girl of simple tastes, meaning my main requirement in a good ESC (or non-ESC) song is catchiness, and this song has enough of that to fill twenty cake tins. Yes, it’s a little cheesy and as previously mentioned, a little sleazy, what with the whole Robin Thicke vibe TEO’s got going on. But for a song that at face value is about a dessert (and for those of you who are wondering why I’m suddenly discussing the Latvian entry, nope, I’m still on Belarus) it’s actually deep and meaningful…ish. And, in addition to that Thicke vibe, TEO’s also a confident, entertaining and vocally proficient performer. I’m not trying to make this entry into some masterpiece – I know what it is and that it won’t be taken 110% seriously – but I think it has some merit. And damnit, dat catchy chorus!
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
Mother by Axel Hirsoux
Better than 2013: No
Top 10 material: No
IMO: Eurovision royalty Ruslana bursting into tears at the opening bars of your song is no indication that it’s going to get the same reaction from the rest of us. I suppose I did well up a bit the first time I heard Mother – but while Ruslana’s emotion came from barely-restrained adoration of Axel and his ode to the woman who lugged him around for nine months, mine was brought on by the realisation that Belgium was actually sending this pompous, melodramatic and sickly sweet THING to Copenhagen. BUT WAIT! We all know you can’t judge a song on one listen, so wanting to familiarise myself with Mother in order to review it, and to give it another chance, I listened to it again. This time, I found it slightly less hideous, I have to admit. I do find the popped-up opera genre OTT (more so when the singer is pushing the lyrics out with so much force that their head reaches boiling point) and when its subject matter is the mother of a fully-grown man and not an adorable gap-toothed child, it’s not cute – it’s creepy. However, I’m now seeing the positive aspects of this entry, e.g. the class, the sentiment, and Axel’s wonderful voice. I won’t be sobbing along with Ruslana anytime soon, and I have no idea why Belgium has decent odds to win Eurovision with this (I’d love to go to Brussels, but not this way!) but it’s no longer at the bottom of my pile. PS – I watched an interview with Axel in which he was rather precious, admitting that flying to Copenhagen will be his first time on a plane. This is a man you can’t be mean about without feeling like the worst person on the planet.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.
Cliché Love Song by Basim
Better than 2013: Yes
Top 10 material: Yes
IMO: Judging a host entry can be a tricky business. You know the host country hasn’t tried too hard to pick a winning song to represent them on home soil – just one that won’t embarrass them on home soil. Therefore you can’t abuse them for not putting in enough effort. In 2014, it seems that hosts Denmark have inadvertently tried hard enough to get fans thinking that history could continue to repeat itself. The story goes like this: Denmark won the ESC in 2000 when Sweden was hosting. Then last year, in Sweden, Denmark won again. If the pattern continues, Tanja’s Amazing (see the next review for my thoughts on that) will win this year just like Estonia did in Copenhagen 2001, and Denmark will narrowly miss out on the win with Basim’s Cliché Love Song. I’m not convinced it’s going to do that well, but a respectable result is on the cards for this infectious, Bruno Mars-esque foot tapper, and it’s infectious, Bruno Mars-esque performer. The song has a hook that gets stuck in your head, light-hearted lyrics, a bit of whistling which is always welcomed, and an energetic singer who can get the job done with ease and knows how to work a crowd. This is going to go down über well in the final, and I think one performance will be enough to get it onto the left side of the scoreboard. I can’t say it wouldn’t be spookily awesome to experience the déjà vu of Denmark coming second in Denmark, and stranger things have happened…so Basim may end up further up that left side than I’m expecting.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.
Amazing by Tanja
Better than 2013: No
Top 10 material: Yes
IMO: Eesti Laul’s early favourite came through this year, beating some competition that actually was amazing. Amazing the song kind of set itself up for a fall in the way of Don’t Play That Song Again (UK 2000) and That Sounds Good To Me (UK 2010). Many of us have used its title against it, unless of course we genuinely believe it is amazing. For me, it’s way too derivative for such praise. The obsession with dance music that’s taken over the world for way too long now means we’ve heard this kind of song a million times before, so it’s not originality that will get Estonia to the final (most likely) and beyond. What will is Amazing’s annoying ability to worm its way into your brain; the irresistible urge to dance it brings on (or is that just me?); the eye-catching choreography, which I say is not a cheap Loreen impersonation; and Tanja herself, who is very pretty to look at and can seemingly dance and sing at the same time. So long as she swaps the bland dress from Eesti Laul for something better (Softengine are apparently good at locating such things if she needs help) there’ll be nothing wrong enough with her act to stop her from doing well. There are plenty of more original songs in this year’s contest that maybe deserve to beat Estonia – not something I’d be saying if Sandra or Traffic, for example, were in Tanja’s position – but the likelihood is that they won’t. As someone who doesn’t want to but can’t help liking this entry, I can come to terms with that, so long as Estonia compensates by sending something magic in their native tongue next year. That’s when I love them the most.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Something Better by Softengine
Better than 2013: No
Top 10 material: No
IMO: Just as I became attached to a couple of Eesti Laul entries in particular, so too did I have two songs in Finland’s UMK that caught my attention and never let it go. Unfortunately, neither of those songs was Something Better. This song is on my Copenhagen periphery – it’s there, in the outer field, not offending me but definitely not doing anything for me. I can’t find anything about it that would summon me to pick up the phone and vote for it…you know, if I could (*weeps pathetically all the way from Down Under*). The chorus is okay, verging on catchy, but I cannot for the life of me remember how the rest goes, and I’ve listened to it just as often as everything else. For me to like rock, it has to have something special, and this just doesn’t. I do have a strong opinion on one aspect – the screaming at the end. That hurts my ears. Plus, I fear for lead singer Topi’s vocal chords, having to deal with that through all the rehearsals, the semi final performances and (possibly) the final as well. Then again, if his voice goes I won’t have to put up with the screaming, so bring it on! Sorry, Team Softengine, but I have to be honest, and Something Better is exactly what I’m on the hunt for after listening to this.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.
Moustache by Twin Twin
Better than 2013: Yes
Top 10 material: No
IMO: I may be one of those people whose bedrooms are full of French-themed…well, everything, but I have never been able to truly get behind France in Eurovision. When I say ‘get behind’, I’m talking gushing over their song choice and waving a tricolour flag so enthusiastically that it disintegrates. I came close four years ago (and I still bust a move to Allez Ola Olé on a regular basis) and I have enjoyed some of their entries in my years of ESC fandom, but until now, I’ve never fangirled over one. That’s right, I said ‘until now.’ A moustache has come along and changed my life. Ever since listening to the snippets of the three potential French entries, I’ve had this in high regard. Back in the snippet days, it was the one of a strong threesome that stood out to me, seeming to embody all that I love about French pop music. Thinking Joanna had the repping rights in the bag, I was trés trés thrilled when Twin Twin took the win win with the incredibly catchy, quirky Moustache. It takes me right back to other fun French entries that I’ve almost waved a flag for, such as L’Amour A La Française and Divine. It’s not to be taken too seriously, nor is it a novelty song about a guy trying really hard to grow a moustache (that’s Justin Bieber’s next single). The message is a little deeper than that. To be truthful, I wouldn’t care if it wasn’t. I love this for superficial reasons. It sounds great to me, and though I don’t expect it to do wonderfully in the final, I hope it at least looks great too. I’m expecting moustache motifs, clashing prints and the most extensive use of hairspray since Jedward just to keep lead singer Lorent’s ‘do in place. C’est magnifique!
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. DOUZE POINTS!!!
And with that, France receives my first and only set of douze so far, which I’m guessing I’ll get some stick for from the Anti-Facial Hair Brigade (a.k.a. anyone who’s hating on Moustache). But remember, I do my very best to respect your opinion – even if you think it totally makes sense that Belgium is being considered a possible winner – so please try to respect mine! To recap it, here’s a mini-ranking of the countries in this first lot of reviews.
I’m yet to label any entry a ‘loser’, so that last place for Austria at this point doesn’t mean I have no desire to see Conchita rise like a phoenix. I’m just not that bothered.
Next up, in a few days’ time, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel and Italy will be the countries in my judgment zone, so if you enjoyed reading these reviews be sure to drop by for that. If you didn’t, come back anyway and give me another chance to win you over?
How do you rate the entries from Albania-France? Will we have to agree to disagree or are we thinking alike?
Hello everyone, and Happy Valentine’s Day, blah blah blah. I’ve decided to take a break from sifting through the sack of cards and gifts I got from secret admirers in the post to talk Eurovision (what a sacrifice) and since there is quite a lot of talking to do, I’m going to get straight into it.
Random news of the week…
…from Bulgaria: there I was thinking that the announcement of the Bulgarian artist would be of no interest to me whatsoever because I wouldn’t have a clue who they were and would still have to wait to hear the song to form an opinion, when BAM! BNT revealed that they’d rounded up their most successful representatives ever to try and turn Bulgaria’s luck around. Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankoulov (who must be looking pretty rough these days. She’s probably okay) drummed their way into 5th place back in 2007, which is far and away Bulgaria’s best result in ESC history since that was the only time they’ve appeared in the final. This exciting turn of events (for those of us who liked their entry Water, that is) is the result of that super-massive survey BNT put out last year to get “the people’s” opinion on what they should send to Eurovision to get the best result possible. All I can say is, thank you people! And may we see more epic drumming and chain-mail outfits when the guys step on stage in Malmö.
…from Finland and Norway: two blonde bombshells, two very different songs, and at least one satisfied customer came out of Saturday’s double decision. As expected, Margaret Berger blitzed Bombo to take out the 2013 Melodi Grand Prix in Oslo, whilst over in Finland, Krista Siegfrids won over the public and jury by asking them to marry her. Let’s just hope they don’t accidentally marry Margaret instead, who was also wearing a white dress. How embarrassing. I really like both of these entries, but Margs would get my vote, if I could give one. Oh wait, I can! And you can too. Find out how at the end of the post, if you make it that far.
…from San Marino: this is technically news of last week, I think, but up until now I haven’t had a chance to mention it. Yes, she of The Social Network Song will be singing for San Marino again, which no doubt sent some of you into a state of shock, unable to log in to Facebook for hours. I reckon Valentina deserves another chance though, singing a more age-appropriate and generally less bonkers song, because she actually can sing. Fingers crossed we get that from Crisalide, which sounds über promising to me. If it’s good, the only problem Miss Monetta will have to face is getting people to take her seriously only a year after she uttered both ‘cybersex’ and ‘so you wanna make love with me?’ on the ESC stage.
…from Sweden: speaking of ESC stages, SVT have released an artist’s rendition of sorts of the Malmö stage from above. It didn’t take long for the criticism to start rolling in, which I find ridiculous because you can’t exactly judge what the thing will look like IRL from a 2D illustration. Be patient, guys. When the real stage gets built and it sucks, then you can go to town trashing it.
Valentine’s Day? No, it’s Unser Song Für Malmö Day!
And thank heavens for that. There’s always at least one country picking their entry on V-Day, which I really appreciate because I get to talk about that instead of the fact that yet again, I coincidentally have no Valentine *weeping noises*. This year, it’s Germany, straying from the Unser Star format for the first time in a while. It’s Unser Song in 2013, and I am pleased to say it looks like that song will be a good one. Here’s the line up.
- Meerstern, Sei Gegrüßt by Die Priester feat. Mojca Erdmann
- Change by Finn Martin
- Little Sister by Mobilée
- Heart On The Line by Blitzkids mvt.
- Lalala by Betty Dittrich
- The Righteous Ones by Ben Ivory
- Craving by Saint Lu
- Nackert by LaBrassBanda
- Elevated by Nica & Joe
- Lieblingslied by Mia Diekow
- One Love by Söhne Mannheims
- Glorious by Cascada
There are only one or two rubbish numbers in there, so the odds for another gold-star worthy pick from Germany are high. Personally, I’m hoping for one of these:
The Righteous Ones – I LOVE this. In fact, this song can be my Valentine, because it is brilliant (and would never cheat on me). It’s an 80s-inspired synth-pop-electro-rock masterpiece with knobs on, and it’s my favourite of the lot.
Glorious – okay, so you can easily compare this with Euphoria (gloooooorrious/ euphooooooorrria – come on) and a million other songs, but damn, it is catchy. Cascada are pretty well known internationally, and that would give them an edge of sorts if they won USFM.
Change – this is decent pop with a nice sentiment, and less of the fanfare that’s sure to come with the previous two songs.
Little Sister – Lena Meyer-Landrut had no hand in this, but it sounds like she could have. Infectious indie-pop may not do as well at Eurovision when she’s nowhere to be seen, but it could be worth a try.
Craving – How many cigarettes/bowls full of sandpaper does it take to get that voice? That’s not a joke, it’s a serious question. Raspy Saint Lu has a unique entry up her sleeve that’s really growing on me.
I think it’s going to be Blitzkids, Betty, Ben or Cascada coming out on top tonight. What do you think? Who could keep Germany in the top 10?
Österreich Rockt Den Song Contest
Do they? Do they really? Because I’m seeing Austria boring the song contest rather than rocking it, with a selection like this.
Feels Like Home by Yela
Rise Above The Night by Falco Luneau
Back To Fantasy by The Bandaloop
Shine by Natália Kelly
Give Me A Sign by Elija
Tomorrow night, these five will battle it out to represent Austria in May, if they can stay awake long enough to perform after hearing each other. Feels Like Home is cruisy but very forgettable. Rise Above The Night is just plain forgettable. Back To Fantasy is the most exciting of them all, about a 6 on the Scale of Excitement. Shine isn’t bad, but is (yet again) forgettable and has a super awkward key change. Give Me A Sign is my favourite, and yet I still can’t remember how it goes.
Bring back Trackshittaz!
Or in the event that that’s not possible, give the victory to The Bandaloop or Elija. That is all.
POLL TIME: have your say!
Have you been wondering who would win Eurovision if it was held right now? Me neither, but I did do this poll last year, and I figured it was time to do it again. So…
Thanks for voting (assuming you did. If you didn’t, DO IT NOW!). I’ll bring you the highly predictable results this weekend, along with other stuff that is 99.4% likely to include Melodifestivalen. Until then…