Sorry to start off a post with profanity, but SHIT JUST GOT REAL, GUYS. The Eurovision 2019 rehearsals have started! Somebody pinch me. But not too hard, I have a low pain threshold.
Cyprus was the first country to take to the stage on Saturday, and as I type this we’re well into the third day of run-throughs. You may or may not know that I never watch rehearsals (I like the element of surprise) but I do read and listen to rehearsal reviews so I have some idea what’s happening (total surprise is overrated). Even so, you won’t find any rehearsal commentary here on EBJ – my favourites for that are Eurovision Ireland’s live blogs and ESC Insight’s podcasts. What I do have for you today is the penultimate round of my Tel Aviv reviews, feat. Azerbaijan, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia and Sweden, most of whom have already hit the stage in Israel.
You know what to do: keep reading for my thoughts on Chingiz, Darude & Sebastian, Sarah, Zala & Gašper and John’s songs for the contest so close we can taste it – then let me know in the comments who scores what in your opinion. I’ll be waiting!
If there’s one thing about Eurovision 2019 we can be surer of than Montenegro making it no further than Tuesday night, it’s that Azerbaijan will be wanting back in the final after losing their qualification record in Lisbon. It’s practically seeping out of their pores – not that Chingiz has visible pores or any other obvious imperfections. And Azerbaijan isn’t messing around musically: they’ve turned to Bulgarian, Swedish and US songwriters with strong ESC pedigrees this year. Truth was written by, among others, Borislav Milanov (husband of Tamara Gachechiladze and co-writer of If Love Was A Crime, Beautiful Mess, Bones and Malta’s Chameleon); Joacim Persson (also co-writer of Bulgaria’s recent contest contenders plus Chameleon, and Mikolas Josef’s Me Gusta); and Trey Campbell (member of Equinox and co-writer of Bones). Name-dropping of that calibre alone doesn’t ensure a successful trip to Tel Aviv. After all, some of these songwriters were also responsible for Dance Alone and In Too Deep. But it turns out Truth is a banger, with all the equipment to qualify and do reasonably if not incredibly well for Azerbaijan.
I’d summarise it like this: it’s a faster, sci-fi-free version of Bones and a big step up from the competent but cookie-cutter X My Heart. I don’t know about you, but I can definitely hear the bones of Bones in this and would have guessed the same writers were behind it even if I hadn’t known. Truth is actually a little more enjoyable than Bones for me, purely because it’s more uplifting and infectious. The production is cutting-edge contemporary; the lyrics are sparse and simple which makes for great singalong material (like you haven’t already screamed ‘SHUT UP ABOUT IT!’ at the top of your lungs at least once); and as usual, a hint of ethnicity has been stuffed into the package to remind us that this is the Azerbaijani entry. I don’t know how they get away with that, but they do – mugham etc can seemingly be shoehorned into any genre, and in this case it makes what would have been a standard pop song above average. All in all I’m excited about this entry, and I swear that has more to do with the song than with Chingiz being ridiculously attractive.
Interestingly, in 2018 Aisel was a jazz singer trying her hand at dance music, and it didn’t seem to fit. Yet Chingiz, whose area of expertise is flamenco fusion, has taken to dance pop like a well-groomed, gym-toned duck to water. So what could possibly prevent Azerbaijan from returning to their old stomping ground of the top 5? Well, funnily enough I see Truth doing similar things to Bones rather than climbing that high. As much as I do like the song, it’s missing a certain extra something that would make it a cert for a top 10 finish, let alone top 5. But that’s my thinking based on the song alone, and Azerbaijan have always been good game-players when it comes to staging. Truth is a better song than X My Heart without a doubt, so if it’s staged even half as well as that it will be an unstoppable qualifier. From that point, if it is presented in an attention-grabbing way (using some of the excess fluoro body paint from the video perhaps) who knows where it could go. On the other hand, if they ruin it live and disaster strikes, I am ready and waiting to console you, Chingiz.
In a line A well-produced banger with bite that gives us an excuse to yell ‘SHUT UP!’ 2018 VS 2019 2019, and that’s the Truth Predicted result SF 5th-7th, GF 11th-14th My score 10 points
Finland’s national final UMK was another one-act, three-song affair this year. But instead of the delightful Saara Aalto we got notorious 90s DJ Darude plus singer/actor Sebastian – and people were EXCITED. About Darude, anyway (no offence, Sebastian). I can’t say I was over the moon personally, but that’s because Robin Packalen said thanks but no thanks to YLE before they approached Darude. How do you say ‘devastated’ in Finnish? Mr. Sandstorm was a prize pick on face value though, I’ll admit. And as someone who has enjoyed Eurovision’s recent DJ/vocalist combos, I was looking forward to what Finland would present us with.
Unfortunately that turned out to be three versions of the same song, and that song was straight out of the decade when Darude had his biggest hit. I’m all for a throwback, but in this case it was a contemporary dance track I wanted…not something that could have been released as a single straight after Sandstorm in 1999. Look Away was the best option out of UMK despite the trio of songs being pretty damn interchangeable, and believe it or not I do actually like it. I don’t think it’s a good song for a contest in the final year of the 2010s, but I would dance my ass off to it in the Euroclub were I going to Eurovision this year (if you are, please bust a move on my behalf). I don’t even know why I like it when it’s so monotonous and depressing, but I guess the melody works for me – that pre-chorus is especially catchy. Plus there’s an intense atmosphere to the song in general that gives it a je ne sais quoi. But even I have to acknowledge the issues with this. It is dated, it is forgettable, and the lyrics leave a lot to be desired. ‘How can we go to sleep at night, and lay there in our beds, when we know what’s going on with the world today’ is passable in a Boggie-style ballad, but in a dance track it just sounds wrong (not to mention cheesy). I’m sure a lot of time and effort went into producing this song and into writing the lyrics, but it all seems a bit basic.
Another problem is that the whole ‘DJ at desk accompanied by solo male singer in leather jacket and/or hat’ schtick is, at Eurovision, clearly declining in quality. Norway nailed it in 2017; Poland had a good song last year but massacred the live performance; and now we have Finland failing to tick boxes in the song and performance departments. God knows how horrendous the 2020 attempt will be, because in 2019 it’s uninspiring to listen to and to look at. Sebastian’s vocals are far from polished, and that ‘Let’s all slow-clap with our hands in the air like we’re at a music festival!’ move is painful to watch. I didn’t mind the LED box the guys had on stage with them at UMK (complete with dancer) but it wasn’t enough to elevate Look Away. I really think Finland will struggle to qualify with this, which is a shame when the Darude name-drop was so well received. It’s just that there are easily ten more memorable, more enjoyable entries in the first semi. In my opinion, this one doesn’t have the fight to get to final night.
In a line Dated dance music with a message and not much hope 2018 VS 2019 2018 Predicted result SF 12th-16th My score 7 points
Poor Ireland. They’ve been desperately clinging on to ‘We’ve won Eurovision seven times!’ since 1996, which makes me wish Sweden would get a move on and win at least once more to shut them up. Yet they’ve never got a proper grip on what makes the ESC tick in the televoting era. There have been glimmers of hope in the form of Jedward, Ryan Dolan (before he finished dead last in the 2013 final), and Ryan O’Shaughnessy. But there’s been no streak of success, no formula found and no left-hand side of the scoreboard for the Emerald Isle since 2011. Now, in 2019, could 22 possibly be the magic number that takes them back to their glory days of not being able to stop winning?
To be blunt, no. Sarah McTernan’s song is too problematic for that. But first, some positives, because I do like this song. There’s something really charming about the retro Hairspray vibe it gives off, and it gets stuck in my head a lot because it’s so easy to sing and hum along to. The lyrics are simple and cute, and they aren’t annoying despite rhyming to an excessive extent (I think every possible rhyme for ’22’ was deployed apart from the childish and inappropriate one I know you’re thinking of right now too). The song is pretty simple in general, but that also makes it accessible – and stops it from being an assault on the senses like a bunch of other attention-demanding 2019 entries. It is funny that, like Finland, the music and tempo here doesn’t seem to match the subject matter. Sarah’s missing her ex even though she tries to move on with other people, but she’s telling us that over a sunny, boppy and poppy style of music and melody. Somehow, it works better for Sarah than it does for Darude and Sebastian. Maybe that’s because she’s more personable and believable, and can sell this song as well as anybody could. She sings it capably too. I’m a fan of her voice.
There isn’t anything else like this competing in Tel Aviv, so Ireland does stand out. There’s a passing resemblance to Serbia’s 2011 entry Čaroban too that might explain my attraction to it…though 22 is obviously Čaroban’s less energetic, more introverted and very distant cousin. And it’s time to get realistic about its chances, because as sweet as it is and as much as I wish it had the legs to leap into the final, I don’t think it’s meant to be. When I said 22 was problematic, I meant mainly in terms of it not being “extra” enough. It’s one of those songs that’s enjoyable while it’s playing, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Basically, it’s a non-event, at least in the context of a highly competitive song contest. I doubt many people will find it impactful enough, 16 performances later when the voting opens, to remember – let alone vote for. And on top of that, in the land of conspiracy theories, Ireland is the EBU’s SF2 sacrificial lamb: a.k.a. they’ve been positioned second in the running order, like Montenegro in SF1. After Armenia’s power and passion, this entry will seem flatter than a soda with the lid left off. It’s safe to say Irish win no. 8 isn’t en route yet.
In a line Retro-flavoured, romance-themed pop with loads of charm but no oomph 2018 VS 2019 2018, a song that deserved better Predicted result SF 13th-16th My score 7 points
There’s always one country that takes you by surprise during national final season, and Slovenia managed to surprise me not once, not twice, but three times this year. First I was shocked when Raiven didn’t win EMA; then I was thrown by the actual winner being a song I didn’t remember hearing when I previewed the Slovenian snippets (having had no time to listen to them all in full); THEN I was totally taken aback when I watched Zala and Gašper’s performance of Sebi without knowing what to expect. To be honest, any expectations I did have weren’t high based on Slovenia’s unsteady quality levels at Eurovision lately. Maybe that’s why I was absolutely blown away by this entry from my very first encounter with it.
This song is stunning. Gobsmackingly gorgeous, with a backdrop of romance far more realistic than that of 2018’s ESC ‘it’ couple Amaia and Alfred (who broke up shortly after the contest, ICYMI). Zala and Gašper are coupled-up creatives immersed in their own world on stage, performing to each other rather than to the camera or the crowd – which could be a disadvantage, but I’ll discuss that when I’ve listed the many pros of this track and duo. It takes them two seconds to build up an intimate atmosphere, but I don’t feel like I’m interrupting something because I’m too busy a) appreciating the uncommon performance style, and b) being distracted by the otherworldly beauty of Sebi. This song takes me to another place, almost putting me in a trance. It’s dreamy and ethereal and should really be backing a montage of fantastical landscapes filmed by a drone. There’s a coldness to it that isn’t the clinical, off-putting kind, and it draws me in. I’m also drawn to the monotonous, hypnotic sound, and find that it’s the lyrical structure – sparse in the verses and steady in the chorus – that gives the song life in the absence of key changes and big notes. Everything about this is authentic to the artists, in keeping with Sebi (the title line of the chorus translates to ‘stay true to yourself’). The song is in the mould of the music Zala and Gašper usually make – it’s not like they wrote it in the quest to create the ideal Eurovision song. For that, I am grateful.
In a world that’s just, Slovenia would outrank the likes of Russia (the ultimate tryhard song of the year) and I’d love to see it rewarded for its originality and all of its other goodness. But I have a horrible feeling Sebi might be my Qami of 2018: an amazing song dragged down by a performance too many people think is dull. The fact that Zala and Gašper perform to each other exclusively is unusual, and while I think that is part of what makes them unique, I also think it could be their undoing. That, plus the subdued nature of the song and the lack of explosive moments that attract televotes. My fingers are crossed that the juries, at least, see the musical merit and integrity in this. I know I’m not the only one who thinks Slovenia is sending something magical to Tel Aviv and deserves to be in the final again. If you do too and you can vote in the first semi, make sure you support Slovenia so we can both see them on the Saturday night (and don’t end our Tuesday night in tears).
In a line Three minutes of otherworldly, goosebump-inducing gorgeousness 2018 VS 2019 2019, 2019, 2019!!! Predicted result SF 7th-12th, GF 12th-18th My score 12 points
It has been PAINFUL waiting so long to review this song. If you’re wondering why, then you obviously don’t know about the massive country crush I’ve had on Sweden since I became a Eurovision fan. I support them unconditionally at the contest (2009 being the exception) and two out of my three ESC/NF experiences have been in Stockholm. I also have a lot of affection for John Lundvik, the third male soloist in a row to win Melodifestivalen after making the final the previous year. So if you were hoping for a review that stuffed, basted and roasted this year’s Swedish entry, I apologise (without much sincerity). On the other hand, if you want someone to sing Sweden’s praises with heavy-handed bias, I’m your gal.
Too Late For Love was the song John was meant to win Melfest with. Not My Turn last year, and not Bigger Than Us which was his initial choice for the comp. This was The One, and if his history-making jury scores in March weren’t proof of that then I don’t know what is. This entry is three minutes of glorious, gospel-powered joy, whether you’re listening to it in studio or watching John and his amazing group of backing vocalists bring it to life on stage. I love (because it’s definitely not too late for it) how the song ebbs and flows. It quickly builds onto the simplistic first verse with the pre-chorus/chorus, before winding things back abruptly for the second verse, which some people think takes the wind out of its sails but I think makes you pay attention. Then it’s all up from there with the bold backing vocals and John’s big money note, before that awesome ending that asks ‘Is it?’ (a rhetorical question that we’re under no obligation to answer). There are so many moments in the song and performance that beg for votes, and not in desperate way: that aforementioned whopper of a note, the lighting used to bathe John in gold just as he starts singing about the sun etc, the simple but effective “backing singer reveal”…the list goes on. The whole thing is full of life, spirit and happiness, making those sun/light/spark metaphors fit right in. And it’s much warmer and more likeable than Dance You Off, as hard as that is for me to admit (I still think that televote score was a travesty). I do feel like Sweden learned something from last year’s stumble.
Ja, I have a blind spot where Sweden is concerned, but my vision isn’t totally obscured. I’m not trying to say Too Late For Love is the greatest song ever written or that it’s performed more genuinely than anything else in the 2019 contest. That’s not true. But I believe Sweden has a fantastic package deal for us. They have a song that’s engaging, uplifting and catchy; an artist who’s ridiculously attractive, charismatic and vocally flawless; and staging (if their promised changes for the ESC aren’t too dramatic) that’s all about O’G3NE-approved lights and shadows rather than props or gimmicks. It’s definitely the most “honest” entry they’ve had since 2016, which should help them score some televotes. It still has all the boxes ticked when it comes to jury criteria, though – and I’d say it’s one of only a few entries that should rank highly with both the public and the professionals. Or is that my bias talking? I don’t know. What is certain is that John is competing against himself, since there’s no question Sweden will qualify and be up against the UK in the final. I’d bet on Swedish John outscoring UK John. Not to first place, but he hopefully won’t be too far behind.
In a line Sweden doing what Sweden does best, but on a more relatable level 2018 VS 2019 This is not a choice I’m prepared to make unless my life depends on it Predicted result SF 3rd-5th, GF 4th-8th My score 12 points
That’s all, folks. I mean, that’s all of the semi-finalists for 2019 reviewed. Holy Hatari! I have no memory of doing all 35, but apparently it’s true. I literally have it in writing.
Here’s a look at today’s leaderboard:
- Sweden (12)
- Slovenia (12)
- Azerbaijan (10)
- Ireland (7)
- Finland (7)
And here’s the usual update on my full ranking, for the one person who cares (it may or may not be me):
- Sweden (12)
- Hungary (12)
- Switzerland (12)
- Slovenia (12)
- The Netherlands (12)
- Greece (12)
- Estonia (10)
- Azerbaijan (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)
- Ireland (7)
- Lithuania (7)
- Finland (7)
- Croatia (7)
- Australia (7)
- Austria (7)
- San Marino (7)
- Moldova (6)
- Montenegro (5)
- Latvia (5)
- Poland (5)
- North Macedonia (4)
- Georgia (4)
Well, after weeks of Hungary sitting on top I have a new and unsurprising winner. Grattis Sverige! Stay tuned for the final round of reviews to find out whether France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Spain or the UK can take that top spot for themselves. I promise the verdicts will be posted by the end of this week – definitely before Eurovision Week (the greatest week of the year and the highlight of all our calendars) begins.
In the meantime, enjoy watching and/or hearing about the rehearsals as they continue, and as we get that much closer to crowning the next king/s or queen/s of Eurovision.
PS – Don’t forget to rank Azerbaijan, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia and Sweden in the comments so we can have a catfight over who has taste and who clearly doesn’t…
Bonjour! In case you hadn’t noticed, Eurovision 2018 is so close that the road to Lisbon is practically walkable – provided you’re not wearing giant platform boots like the lead singer of Wig Wam. I’ve definitely noticed, given I’ve got so many reviews to cram into the few weeks left before the contest kicks off.
Clearly, it’s time for less talk and more action. And today I’m talking all things Azerbaijan, Estonia, Poland, Romania and Spain. Spoiler alert: there are highs, and there are lows.
How high and how low are we talking? There’s only one way for you to find out. Keep reading to see how I rate the entries from Aisel, Elina, Gromee feat. Lukas, The Humans and Amaia & Alfred. Make sure you vote for your favourite of today’s five while you’re at it…scroll for the poll!
My thoughts Last year we had their skeletons, and now – because Bulgaria has the bones covered in this year’s Eurovision Anatomy lesson – Azerbaijan has moved on to the major organs. They’ve also moved back to a non-Azerbaijani production with X My Heart, which I’m not thrilled about since Skeletons was one of their best, and certainly most original, entries in years. Aisel’s song is neither of those things in my opinion, but it does what it needs to: it’s a competent pop song and an addition to the Lisbon line-up that will deliver an adequate result without challenging for the win. If that’s what Azerbaijan is after, then a happy ending is en route. I do like the track – it’s well-written and produced, energetic enough to bop to (without having a X-my-heart attack), anthemic and catchy (for the most part…I’m on my pre-show listening ban at the moment and have forgotten how the verses go). All in all, it’s solid and doesn’t do anything wrong. But – I bet you could sense there was a big ol’ but coming – I have whipped out my fine-toothed comb and located some minor issues. Head lice on the otherwise healthy scalp of Azerbaijan’s 2018 ESC effort, if you’re up for such a gross metaphor. For starters, there’s the legacy of co-writer Dimitris Kontopoulos and how this song compares to what’s come before it. Kontopoulos is the brains behind a bunch of BANGING Eurovision songs, including Work Your Magic (Belarus 2007), Shady Lady (Ukraine 2008), This Is Our Night (Greece 2009) and You Are The Only One (Russia 2016). Sadly, this song just ain’t in the same league – but that might be the influence of Swede Sandra Bjurman, who gave us one of the contest’s most maligned winners ever, Running Scared. Another little irritation of mine is Aisel herself, who’s gorgeous to look at but is supposed to be a smoky jazz singer…so why has she been given a dance-pop song to sing that doesn’t suit her voice or show her off to maximum advantage? It seems like an odd combo of song and singer to me, and that’s a feeling that doesn’t strike me with most, if not all, of the other countries competing (think of Austria or Israel, for example. Cesár and Netta didn’t co-write their entries, but you can tell they were tailored to their voices and styles). It’s a case of Valentina Monetta Syndrome. Will the majority of other fans/casual viewers/jurors notice or care about the mismatch when they’re voting? I doubt it, and they’ll give Azerbaijan enough of a boost to reach the final and then finish around 12th-17th. I’d be satisfied with that – but if they’re not, then they need to try a different tactic in 2019.
2017 VS 2018? Skeletons – cross my heart.
My score 7
My thoughts If your home and car insurance isn’t up-to-date, you might want to get on that because Elina is about to smash your windows with her on-point operatic vocals. Just as there’s nothing quite so painful to the ear as out of tune operatics, there’s nothing quite so impressive in the vocal world as flawless, crystal-clear pipes like hers. They’re the main selling point of La Forza, let’s be honest – so fingers crossed there’s no mic fail á la Laura last year. As for the song itself, well…I find both opera and popera hit-and-miss at Eurovision (I loved Grande Amore, hated La Voix) as does the scoreboard. La Forza slots in somewhere between those two past entries on my love/hate spectrum, with Estonia being closer to Italy than Sweden (just not geographically). I feel the powerful effects of the song, but not as strongly as a lot of other fans. I can’t help being swept up in the majesty of it all when the chorus drops though, and Elina is a hypnotic performer with a slight case of crazy eyes. With THAT VOICE, her ethereal beauty, a big song that suits her to a tee (take note, Azerbaijan), and a dress designed for Mrs. Slender Man that may or may not have projections on it in Portugal (I don’t think they’re necessary myself), Estonia has a statement piece on their hands. But do they have a winner? Possibly, but not probably. La Forza is firmly in a genre that does not appeal to everyone, and Elina can only do so much – i.e. perform perfectly – to change that. There is a clinical feel to the song and performance package too that gives it a coldness, and not in a cool purposeful way like Equinox’s Bones. I can’t see that vibe overcoming more warm-hearted rivals like Toy to win the televote, but Estonia has a good chance at a top three jury vote, I think. After two years of unexpected disappointments, Estonia is looking at an almost certain qualification (I reserve the right to take that back come prediction time *covers own butt in case*) and a final result that couldn’t be classified as a crash and burn. Elina’s talent alone is top 10-worthy, and how high she can go will likely depend on how many spines she can tingle when it matters.
2017 VS 2018? Verona is more up my street (if not anywhere near as vocally impressive).
My score 8
My thoughts From Flashlight to Light Me Up, here’s Poland! They’ve switched things up from a solo female ballad to a Norway 2017 sequel (albeit a less inventive, more lyrically pedestrian and typically inferior sequel) and I am pretty pleased with the results. Swedish dominance at Eurovision – outside of the actual Swedish entry – continues with Melodifestivalen’s Mahan Moin co-writing this track alongside fellow Swede Lukas, and the end product is what you’d expect. It’s slick, simple but effective, and will whip the arena audience into a semi-frenzy – especially as Poland is due on stage right after Georgia. Light Me Up is more fun and accessible (and yes, Salvador, fast food) than Sheni Gulistvis, and will probably be rewarded accordingly. I’m not going to pretend it’s The Greatest Song In The World™, but the fact that it is Grab The Moment’s more cookie-cutter cousin gets it on my good side. The chorus is insanely catchy, and the musical hook that follows creates an epic atmosphere. What else can I say? I’m an easily pleased person when it comes to pop music – as long as something has an infectious melody and decent lyrics, it will probably end up on a Spotify playlist of mine at some stage. If I’m going to go negative for a minute, I’ll do it by saying that Lukas had what I hope is a case of Ryan Dolanitis when this song won Krajowe Eliminacje. In other words, his vocals weren’t out of this world. But I know he’s capable of ironing them out for Eurovision (I hate to repeat myself, but as I’m on my contest song hiatus, I haven’t watched Polish performances from the preview parties to compare). Factor in the limit on the number of ways a producer/singer duo song can be performed – JOWST did an A+ version last year which would be a bad idea to mimic so soon – and there are a few flaws in Poland’s plan. I say that even as someone who really likes (maybe even…loves *insert soaring violin music here*) Light Me Up. Strangely, I won’t be shocked if Gromee & Lukas just miss out on qualifying. The 8th-ish mark in semi two seems as easy to access for them as 12th. But Poland is in possession of a great recent track record: they’ve made it to the final every year since their 2014 comeback. And luckily for them, the second semi is not as diabolically difficult to get out of as the first. If Poland does advance, don’t be surprised if they end up opening the final – it would set the mood like a charm, and it’s not a potential winner to be held back for later on in the show. You (might have) heard it here first!
2017 VS 2018? 2018 – it’s the JOWST effect.
My score 10
My thoughts The late-1980s power ballad police called, and they want to put The Humans’ Goodbye behind bars – but I’m not keen to let them, because I’m actually really fond of it. I’ve found myself in the awkward position of being pro-Romania this year when most other reviews of their song have been negative…when last year was the complete opposite (I didn’t dislike Yodel It!, but I was in Camp Take It Or Leave It while the majority of other fans were in Camp OMG THIS IS EPIC). If you think I couldn’t possibly justify my attraction to this entry for 2018, think again! Firstly, I have zero problems with late-1980s power ballads, so Goodbye being the Eurovision edition of Alone by Heart gets a thumbs up from me. It’s definitely a slow burner, taking a solid minute or so to transition from piano ballad to big hair/shoulder pads/inch-thick eyeliner territory. Unlike most other sane people who are not stuck in a decade in which they weren’t even born, however, I think what happens is worth the wait. I’m happy to stick around listening for the beat to drop and the guitars to kick in, and I think people hearing Goodbye for the first time during semi two might be curious enough to do the same (or get bored and use the second half of the second as a toilet/snack break, I’ll admit). No exaggeration, that ‘Why don’t you see the beauty that surrounds you everywhere?’ line in the first chorus gives me LIFE. The entire chorus, in fact (when it finally arrives) is a cracker. Another thing I appreciate about this is that it doesn’t follow a predictable song structure, so it never seems to repeat itself – not in the excessive way we’re used to with a lot of ESC entries, at least. Throw in the powerful, raspy-edged vocals from lead singer Cristina and what is the greatest, most appropriate song ending of this year’s contest (it practically begs for a dramatic mic drop) and I hope you can now see why I’m on Team Romania. There are plenty of other songs that I believe are better than this – it’s sitting at the 20-ish mark in my top 43 at the moment, though as I’ve said there are literally only two songs that I dislike – but overall I think it’s a great 80s-influenced PB (power ballad) that won’t get Romania a Eurovision PB (personal best) but might grab a few of my votes. I get why people are saying it might undo the country’s 100% qualification record, but personally (in my special biased way) I have a feeling it will squeak through. Or maybe even do better than expected…
2017 VS 2018? Yodel It has worn pretty thin with me, so I’d have to say Goodbye.
My score 8.5
My thoughts It has to be said: Spain had a disastrous contest in Kyiv, with Manel’s money note fail becoming the sour cherry on top (and a sound-on GIF that did multiple rounds on social media, and that I may or may not have laughed at). Based on Do It For Your Lover – which didn’t do it for anyone – whatever followed was bound to come across as a masterpiece. But DOES IT??? *insert tense music here*. Tu Canción can best be described as a romantic lullaby, performed by a couple who got together during the quest to seek out the Spanish entry for Lisbon. I know we’re supposed to get all misty and wipe away happy tears whenever this backstory is mentioned, or whenever we see Alfred and Amaia’s onstage PDAs that are not manufactured at this point (though wouldn’t it be interesting if they broke up before the contest…I’m not hoping, I’m just curious). I must have a black hole where my soul is supposed to be though, because I find both the song and the public displays of affection too sugary sweet for my taste. It’s like the duo are in their own little love-cave when they’re performing, and that doesn’t engage me as I’m watching them. Instead, I feel like I’m looking through the window of their honeymoon suite and really should turn away to give them some privacy. Hashtag awkward! The song itself is certainly a step up from Do It For Your Lover in terms of a competition song, but I prefer the summery, fun vibes Manel offered to be honest. Tu Canción is probably the closest thing to a reigning winner copycat that we’ve got in 2018, and no doubt Salvador would approve of the lack of fireworks and flood of feelings. I just don’t have any strong feelings either way – schmaltz aside, it is a pretty and delicate ballad with a nice flow to it, but nothing more to me. I do have an approving nod to spare for the vocals – the tinkly quality and clarity of Amaia’s voice balances out the rough-edged sound of Alfred’s, and they harmonise like a match made in heaven. Maybe they are…maybe there’s an ESC wedding on the horizon! Not that I’m saying these two should get married on stage during their final performance, but in the absence of LEDs you’ve got to be creative with your gimmicks. I’m unsure how Spain will go on the Saturday night, but it’s safe to say they’ll end the night in a better position – and having put on a more polished show – than last year. Personally, Tu Canción isn’t my favourite of the Big Five + Portugal, but it’s not at the bottom of my list (so please don’t plot my death, Spanish Eurofans).
2017 VS 2018? I liked Do It For Your Lover for what it was. Don’t judge me (too harshly)!
My score 6.5
There you go: that’s another five songs for Lisbon reviewed by yours truly. I should probably stop doing this, but…10 down, (only?) 33 to go!
Here’s today’s ranking:
- Poland (10)
- Romania (8.5)
- Estonia (8)
- Azerbaijan (7)
- Spain (6.5)
This is a very mixed-up version of the ranking most other fans would create, I know. You can hit up the comment box below to tell me how you’d organise this bunch from best to worst. Or not-so-best, in my case…I definitely don’t hate Spain. I do really, really like Poland though. Stick around for the rest of my reviews to see how Gromee and Lukas stack up against the entire Class of 2018.
Besides sharing your own ranking, why not pick your outright favourite of these five too and see if you’re in the majority?
NEXT TIME I’m putting on my Eurovision lab coat (it’s still white, but white sequins) and sliding Albania, Finland, Greece, Lithuania and Moldova under my microscope to see whether good things or bad things are lurking in their entries for 2018. Don’t miss my diagnosis!
That’s right – we have to say hej då to the ‘hej!’ greetings that preceded Stockholm 2016 (at least temporarily…as someone still learning Swedish, expect me to throw around random words á la Svenska on a regular basis, no matter which country is hosting the show). It’s time to hop on board the Ukrainian bandwagon! That’s because we’re less than a month away from the first semi final of Eurovision 2017 (!!!) which, at the time of typing, will still be held in Kyiv. Sans Russia, surprise surprise.
So now I’ve said hello accordingly, there’s some important business to take care of: FINALLY kickstarting my song reviews. Sadly, I haven’t had time to pull together an EBJ Jury for 2017, having just been sightseeing, Melfesting and eating too much cake in Europe for a month (which I will be using as an excuse for not achieving stuff until approximately October). But guess who offered to help me out by listening to and passing judgment on all 43 42 competing entries?
MRS. JAZ! Yes, my mum is back on EBJ, just after traveling with me to Melfest and then requesting a copy of the 2017 album with genuine enthusiasm (like I said in my last post, the brainwashing is going swimmingly, guys). So get ready to hear verdicts on the Class of 2017 from someone who may have seen Robin Bengtsson strut his freaking beautiful stuff in the flesh twice, but hadn’t heard any of the other competing entries before reviewing them. She’s got the fresh perspective, I’ve got the constant comparisons to last year on lock. Let’s get going!
First up…well, the title says it all. Read on to find out if Dihaj, Anja, Tamara, Joci, JOWST and Salvador managed to impress both a hardcore ESC fan and a first impression-ist.
My thoughts Say whatever you want about Azerbaijan at Eurovision (be it good or bad; be you polite or potty-mouthed) – you can’t deny that they’re dangerous. They’ve never failed to qualify for the final, and despite a dip in results recently, more than 50% of their time in the contest has been spent sitting pretty in the top five. So will it be a sky-high finish or another slump for Dihaj’s Skeletons: a song that makes a big move away from Melodifestivalen discard Miracle? If it were up to me, Azerbaijan would definitely be back on the left side of the 2017 scoreboard – and I mean WAY up on that side. This song kicks butt! It’s everything I was hoping for from the often experimental Dihaj – interesting, edgy, moody and current – but still has a Sia-esque, accessible pop sound, making it less divisive and giving it more mass appeal. The verses, pre-chorus and chorus itself blend together brilliantly; yet each one has its own distinct vibe without any weak links letting the team down. And is the whole thing catchy or what? The lyrics (particularly in the chorus) make zero sense, if you can even interpret them in the first place – my first impression was ‘I’m a skeleton…and I love my minions’ – but that doesn’t bother me at all. Factor in Dihaj’s quirky sense of style, powerful-but-raspy vocal and Azerbaijan’s tendency to make staging their bitch, and you’ve got the formula for something that, annoyingly, won’t reach the ranks of Running Scared or Always…but totally deserves a top ten finish. 10 points.
My mum says… Oh yes – I liked this straight away (so it was a good start to the marathon of listening I’ve gotten myself in for). Dihaj has a great voice with great range, and took me on a bit of a musical journey reminiscent of an exotic, mysterious Contiki tour. The song is catchy for sure, but not in a commercial ‘How many times have we heard this before?’ kind of way. It sounds like it’s going to have a heck of a stage show to go with it at Eurovision. Well, that’s what I’d be hoping for, anyway! 8 points.
Azerbaijan’s score 9.00
My thoughts For many Eurofans, The Voice Australia winner Anja was the “real” winner of DMGP 2016. With the Emmelie de Forest creation Never Alone finishing second (shockingly), I don’t think any of our jaws hit the floor when she was announced as a returnee to the comp this year. She changed genre and the all-around vibe of her performance with the all-Aussie Where I Am, which hasn’t completely paid off in the Eurovision bubble (according to some, this entry is yet another hashtag fail for Denmark). But I disagree as much as I possibly could. I LOVE THIS SONG! Love, love, love it. Sure, the pop ballad style may be slightly passé, but there’s something – and by that, I mean everything – about Where I Am that makes it my dream pop ballad. The melody is extraordinarily earwormy, the layers of instrumentation (with an ever-so-slight electronic influence) are contemporary, and Anja’s powerful delivery is unparalleled. She can sing the pants off an entire arena without even trying (so make sure you don’t go commando if you’re heading to Kyiv), and that does elevate a song that I’ll admit would be more pedestrian if sung by a lesser vocalist. And it has to be said that, as always, she looks stunning while she’s doing it (GIRL CRUSH ALERT). Can you tell the whole Danish package is parked up my street? The Australian-ness of it all is an added bonus. My only dilemma is, which flag do I wave if both Australia and Denmark make it to the final? I know I’ve got two hands, but one is reserved for the national flag of my favourite song’s country. I suppose the Aussie one covers both bases, whether Denmark likes it or not. Anyway, I digress. I’m giving Anja DOUZE POINTS!!!
My mum says… If you told me to describe how I feel about this one in two letters, I could do it. I’m not sure why you would, but my point is that the letters would be O and K. It’s no more than nice, and I feel like I’ve heard it before – which I don’t feel at all with Azerbaijan (and I like to hear something different). If I was Denmark, I’d be worried about being forgotten in the 42. As me, I’m just not too keen to listen to this one again anytime soon. It’s not horrible, but I don’t feel the love from above. 5 points.
Denmark’s score 8.5
My thoughts Let’s be honest – the standard of the Georgian NF was pretty mediocre this year. That being the UNDENIABLE TRUTH (assuming you agree with me) then it’s safe to say that Tako/Tamara, who almost made it to Moscow in 2009, was probably the optimal option to send to Kyiv. Sadly, however, that is the biggest compliment I can bestow on Keep The Faith, which ironically makes me lose faith in Georgia as a Eurovision country that can bring it on. 2016’s Midnight Gold was bat-shit crazy and I bloody loved it, but this bargain basement Bond ballad sucks the soul out of me. Lyrically, it could be lamer, given the overall concept of the song (which is like ‘Let’s take Polina Gagarina’s Million Voices and turn it into a melodramatic musical marathon fit for The Phantom of the Opera!’) but Tamara’s constant droning of ‘keep the faaaaaaith’ almost makes me wish they’d gone full cheese when writing it. It just goes on and on, and then on some more, until you’re expecting her head to explode from the pressure. Don’t get me wrong, because I don’t loathe this song with a passion (which I’m guessing sounds like a lie after all the hate I’ve let loose so far). It’s not in my bottom three. Simply put, though, I don’t like it. Like Anja, Tamara has a powerful set of pipes up her glittery sleeve, but in this case I don’t think they make the song any better. This is all my opinion, of course, which I’m entitled to as much as you’re entitled to metaphorically slap me while screaming ‘TBLISI 2018!!!’…so if you’re Team Georgia, I tip my hat to you. But I won’t be joining you on the playing field. You’ll find me sitting on the sidelines blasting Midnight Gold instead. 3 points.
My mum says… For something so dramatic, there’s a lack of x-factor and general satisfaction here. It may have been a better fit for a Broadway musical than a song contest. It promises more than it delivers, even though there’s an obvious crescendo reached…maybe Tamara’s voice isn’t quite strong enough for the song? She certainly wants it to be, and I admire her for going for it and really attacking her performance. But I don’t think her aggression is the way to win Eurovision. 4 points.
Georgia’s score 3.5
My thoughts There was a time when I thought I’d never move on from the traumatic loss of Spoon 21 at A Dal’s semi-final stage. Sure, their live performance of Deák was pants, but the song was/is peak electropop – and who’s to say the band couldn’t have made Ryan Dolan-level progress between the NF and the ESC anyway? True as that may be, it’s Joci Pápai and Origo heading off to Kyiv on Hungary’s behalf…and in hindsight, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Consider my poker face gone and my entire deck of cards on the table, folks, because this is my favourite song of the contest. I am in love with it, and would totally propose to it if that was a socially acceptable thing to do (apparently you can marry the Eiffel Tower, but not a three-minute Eurovision song). It’s haunting and hypnotic from beginning to end, with the mix of Hungarian (one of my most-loved musical languages) and Romani (which, like the song’s subject matter, highlights Joci’s heritage) making it extra-exotic, and allowing him to tell his story as authentically as possible. The rap is also a cool addition, seeming like an outlet for Joci to vent his frustrations and emotions in an unrestrained way that doesn’t happen in the lead-up. Every element of Origo flows smoothly into the next, with the slick production and ethnic riff making it current yet still one of the most original (pun intended) entries of the year. I understand that it’s a divisive song, but I think it was an adventurous choice for Hungary to make, and I love that it represents multiple facets of their music scene by marrying the old and the new. Whether that will work in their favour or not remains to be seen, but I’ll be praying that it does. DOUZE POINTS!!!
My mum says… As a disclaimer, Jaz didn’t tell me how she felt about this song before I offered up my own opinion (she doesn’t even tell me which country each one is from before she forces me to I voluntarily listen to them). As it turns out, though, I love it too! It actually gave me goosebumps. Beautiful instrumentals, great atmosphere and something I can’t put my finger on that just makes me want to hear it again – and hear more of what Joci can do. Origo gets 12 points from me!
Hungary’s score 12.00
My thoughts When it comes to the MGPs, I think Denmark had the superior line-up in 2017 (which is definitely not the norm). Norway only had a few songs that had the potential to give them the final finish at Eurovision that Agnete’s could not. Luckily, though, they picked one. Grab The Moment is an effortlessly ‘now’ pop song that takes advantage of the universe’s unquenchable thirst for music with weird noises and vocal samples in the background (which JOWST manages to pull off live). It’s familiar enough, style-wise, to feel comfortable, but original enough to not provoke any cries of ‘PLAGIARISM!’; and the chorus is so damn hooky, it could catch a great white shark without even breaking the ocean’s surface. I liked the song straight away because it’s not a challenging listen. All it asks from you is to have some fun (and not in an out-of-tune Tereza Kerndlová kind of way) and it makes that very easy to do. No, it doesn’t have what it takes to win Eurovision, and I’m not even confident it will sail to the final. But I personally am more than ready to grab the moment – and enjoy every moment JOWST and Aleksander are on stage. 8 points.
My mum says… This one’s definitely catchy, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. I feel like if I listened to it two or three more times in a row, I wouldn’t like it much more – it would start to annoy me instead! I’m not a fan of the lyrics, and I don’t hear anything that makes it stand out from the crowd. It’s not terrible, but all I can say is ‘next, please’. 5 points.
Norway’s score 6.5
My thoughts Montenegro’s taking us back to 2003, San Marino to 1977 and Portugal to 1956 for Eurovision 2017 – go figure. Two of those three throwbacks I’m on board with (stay tuned to the rest of the reviews to find out which time warp I DON’T want to do again) and Salvador’s is one of them. Why Amar Pelos Dois is so high in the betting odds is a bit of a mystery to me, but I can’t bring myself to trash what is a delicate, soaring and very vintage ballad that is powerful because it isn’t, if that makes sense. We haven’t heard a song so ‘classic ESC’ compete for a long time, and as such, it’s hard to say whether it will prove the bookies right or not. I do think Salvador can win televoters over with his adorkable charms, though, and perhaps the juries with both the song and his understated, pitch-perfect delivery of it. I feel like I want Portugal to do well more than I want Amar Pelos Dois itself to succeed (because there are plenty of other songs that I prefer) but there won’t be one without the other. So, in amongst my fistfuls of Hungarian, Danish, Swedish and Australian flags, you might just find a teeny little Portuguese flag come Eurovision week. 7 points.
My mum says… I quite like this one, as old-fashioned as it is. I can imagine it being performed in a smoky jazz club (in spite of the lack of jazz) in the 1950s, with nothing but a man, a few supporting instrumentalists and some dry ice on the intimate stage. I don’t think it would win the contest in this day and age in a fit (as a layperson) but it has to make for a nice contrast against the countries coming equipped with all the bells and whistles Customs will allow into Ukraine, doesn’t it? 7 points.
Portugal’s score 7.00
That’s the six songs for today taken care of! Now, with Round One done, the leaderboard looks like this:
- Hungary (12.00)
- Azerbaijan (9.00)
- Denmark (8.5)
- Portugal (7.00)
- Norway (6.5)
- Georgia (3.5)
Congratulations (and celebrations, etc) go to Joci for his impressive win. Sure, he only had to impress two people to make the number one spot, but I was pretty convinced my mum would think Origo was oriNOOOOOOO.
Can Hungary keep a hold of the metaphorical crown with 36 countries’ songs still to be scrutinized? TBH, if I keep going with only two jurors, he probably will. Lucky the final EBJ ranking doesn’t count towards anything official. OR DOES IT?!?
No, it doesn’t.
Waiting in the wings to be reviewed in Round Two are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Poland – i.e. lots of girl power feat. Koit Toome and that guy from Fusedmarc. Don’t forget to drop by to see if anyone ends up with a douze…or the opposite. As Koit and Laura would say, prepare for dramAAaaAA.
In the meantime, let me (and my mum) know what you think of the songs we’ve reviewed this time. Do you agree with any of our opinions, or should we be ashamed of ourselves for countless reasons? Don’t leave the comments box lonely 😦
Until next time,
Understatement Time: These reviews are slightly late. Let’s just say that I’ve suddenly realised how many To-Dos I have to cross off my list before I fly to Sweden’s capital on Friday night (!). Now, I’m left with three episodes of the EBJ Jury judgments to cram in before my departure. So here’s the first of those three.
TODAY’S EBJ JURORS
Mrs. Jaz, Wolfgang and I are ready to review Azerbaijan, Belgium, Iceland, Israel, Latvia and the United Kingdom – otherwise known as Samra, Laura, Greta, Hovi, Justs and Joe & Jake (they should form a supergroup…their names sound great together). Are you ready to join us? If so, read on and find out what we have to say – and how the entire EBJ Jury scores these six songs.
Mrs. Jaz Hmm. As someone who likes songs that are a little bit quirky, I wouldn’t go into raptures over this one. It’s very commercial, and it would fit right in on the radio at the moment, but that’s because it sounds like it was plucked off a musical factory conveyor belt – in Sweden, apparently. Samra’s voice is lovely, but without any trace of an accent, I had no idea which country she was representing (since the music doesn’t give any clues away either). This could have been Australia’s entry, for all I knew! I guess I’m saying that I would have liked to hear some ethnicity in there, especially as I’m told Azerbaijan usually do throw some traditional instruments into the background of their songs. That would have added more authenticity to Miracle too, which would have allowed me to connect with it as a consumer. As it stands, I can’t.
Wolfgang This miracle, so to speak, came at the last minute in a moment when I least expected one. Sometimes there are songs that need some time until I like them much, but then there are songs that I love from the very first moment. Samra’s entry belongs in the latter category. And although it is again a song composed by Swedish songwriters, and produced by Swedish producers, Miracle really has something special to me: the song is beautiful and catchy, the lyrics are great and Samra’s voice sounds amazing in the video/studio version. I only hope she will hold that standard and do an equally amazing live performance in her semi on the ESC stage. Then maybe a ‘miracle’ could happen for Azerbaijan in Stockholm. For one of my favourites this year I give 12 points and lots of love!
Jaz Azerbaijan, turning up at Eurovision with a song written by Swedes? MADNESS…said no one ever. When you think about it, Azerbaijan (or Azurjerbin, as I pronounce it in my head in honour of Lynda Woodruff) is the most predictable participant in the entire contest. Every year, they wait until March to drop a perfectly-polished Scandipop song on us, hoping we’ll think it’s the bomb dot com. And, against all my better judgement, Samra’s Miracle is verging on being explosive material in my book. I know I should hate the fact that it’s so derivative and one-dimensional; that it’s not risky or challenging or ethnically Azerbaijani in any way. I mean, we’ve just found out that it not only sounds like a Melodifestivalen reject – it IS a Melodifestivalen reject, for Christer Björkman’s sake! But, while those aspects of the entry do play on my mind, the song is so engineered-to-enjoy – melodically, lyrically and structurally – that I can’t fight the feelings of love that overwhelm me when I listen to it. It reminds me a lot of Lisa Ajax’s Melfest entry My Heart Wants Me Dead, which I would say was superior, but that I also love – it’s the partly middle-eastern, partly WTF computer-generated noises that run throughout, mostly. The chorus is soaring, impressive and instantly memorable, worming its way into your head when you’ve only heard it once. Samra’s vocal – in studio – is as smooth as silk and/or a baby’s bum, whichever simile you prefer…and let’s not ignore the fact that she is stunning to look at. Stick her on stage (possibly on a podium) in a spotlight and a wind-machine-friendly dress, and you have the recipe for a visually and aurally appealing package that will certainly maintain Azerbaijan’s 100% qualification record. A solid result in the final isn’t out of the question, but I’m wondering if this is too “perfect” to have the impact to push it into the top 10. Winning, I’m sure, will have to wait at least another year. Who wants to head back to Baku in 2018?
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 5
- Fraser 6
- James 7
- Jaz 10
- Martin 7
- Mrs. Jaz 6
- Nick 5
- Penny 8
- Rory 4
- Wolfgang 12
Azerbaijan’s EBJ Jury score is…7
Mrs. Jaz Now THIS is up my street – a song that has me yelling ‘Somebody get me some roller skates and take me back to the disco era, ASAP!’. I don’t know how it would go getting radio airplay and climbing up the charts outside of Belgium, but I do know I really like it. What’s not to like? It’s catchy and high on energy, and unwaveringly uplifting. The cherry on top is the fact that the intro sounds like Another One Bites The Dust. When you’ve got Queen in your corner, you’re all set.
Wolfgang It’s not about Laura Tesoro – she surely is a nice artist and has a voice (not THE voice, in my opinion), but it’s all about her song What’s The Pressure that does not appeal to me. I normally like funky and soulful songs a lot, but in this case she seems to be too young and inexperienced for the song. In the Belgian national final, her vocals sounded so try-hard that I got the impression the song’s simply too difficult for her vocal abilities. On the other hand, Laura is a powerhouse, and knows how to perform on stage well. Maybe her performance will help to compensate for some weak vocals, or one or two wrong notes. But I guess the ‘pressure’ will be very high for her to qualify to the final this year, with so many stronger competitors. In my opinion, it will be an ‘Iris’ year for Belgium in Stockholm. I don’t see this entry going anywhere.
Jaz I would have felt sorry for whoever succeeded Loïc Nottet as Belgium’s representative. The shoes he left behind for Laura (who turned out to be that ‘whoever’) to fill were inhumanly large – Bigfoot might have been a better choice, but he wasn’t shortlisted for Eurosong unfortunately (though can’t you just see him hip-thrusting through a Thomas G:son dance banger?). I personally would have preferred Adil Arab to be the successor in question, which you might think is setting the tone for the remainder of this review. However, I am a fan of Laura and What’s The Pressure. I was more of a fan back when she was selected, and all Eurovision 2016 had to its name was a handful of songs. As time went on and the entry forms were filled out by twenty, then thirty, then forty-plus countries, Belgium’s follow-up to Rhythm Inside wore a little thin, and sounded kind of pedestrian. But while it is pedestrian in terms of quality, it’s also pedestrian in terms of pace – as in, you can power-walk your butt off (sorry for all the bum references I’m making today) to it as it trumpets along. There’s a heap of energy on show, and a sense of fun that Laura manages to project every time she’s performing it. It does suffer from ‘Haven’t I Heard That Somewhere Before?’ Syndrome – in this case, I hear a fusion of Uptown Funk and Sax – but that recognition factor might actually work in Laura’s favour. She’s closing semi two, so if any of us are flagging by the time the end draws near, she’ll pump us up again – but that could be her only purpose. WTP can easily be compared to Finland’s Sing It Away in that it’s a pretty dispensable party track. It doesn’t really fight for a final place, so if it gets one, I suspect it will be due to a 9th or 10th place in the semi rather than a top five. I don’t think last year’s brilliant Belgian result was a fluke, but I do think they need to rediscover the formula that made such an impression on the juries and voters…because Laura will struggle to do the same.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 12
- Fraser 8
- James 5
- Jaz 8
- Martin 7
- Mrs. Jaz 8
- Nick 2
- Penny 7
- Rory 12
- Wolfgang 2
Belgium’s EBJ Jury score is…7.1
Mrs. Jaz *makes face that suggests I’ve just waved dog poo under her nose* *which I didn’t* After what was a promising start, this fell flat. It descended into far too many mentions of ‘hear them calling’ for my liking – jeeze, we get it, lady! Consequently, the chorus seemed to come around much faster than it actually did. The song – which I assumed was titled Hear Them Calling, on a hunch – is catchy, but in a mediocre, doesn’t-go-anywhere kind of way. Is catchy mediocrity a thing? If not, it is now. I’m sorry, but if this came on the radio and I’d already heard it on there once, I’d be quick to change stations before I suffered an acute attack of the yawns.
Wolfgang The Icelandic national final appeared to me like a Lame Lady Ballad contest this year, which I was not really impressed by. So I would say that Greta Salóme’s song was the best of a weak bunch, but is still good enough for Eurovision to leave an impression. What I like about the song is the country style, and that it’s really dynamic and up-tempo. But what makes the difference on the Eurovision stage is its amazing performance that reminds me strongly of those ‘Shadowland’ performances of the PILOBOLUS dance theatre artists. And that’s something I really enjoy watching! This could become the Mika Newton performance of 2016, from which we still remember the beautiful work of the sand artist (while we have almost forgotten Mika and her song). But remember: Mika came 4th in the grand final of Eurovision 2011 in Düsseldorf. Maybe this will be THE surprise performance of the year in Stockholm?
Jaz Yes, Greta’s back, blah blah blah…I kind of wish she’d reunited with Jónsi for her return, though, even if he’d just sat on the side of the stage looking like the chiselled descendant of a Viking god that he is. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Greta. I’m going to cut right to the chase and say that her solo effort Hear Them Calling outdoes Never Forget – but NOT its Icelandic version. In turn, as Raddirna, this song had an extra something special that it now lacks. Plus, it seems ten times more repetitive in English (how many times does she say ‘hear them calling’ during the three minutes? It’s like the new ‘Why-ay-ay-ayyyy’). I also dislike the Mumford and Sons-style folksiness of the song – it’s been done to death. I’d say it actually died circa 2014. Let’s be honest (well, those of us who don’t think the song is all that, anyway): it’s all about the staging with this one. I have to give a curt nod to Iceland for taking the concept of projections and not just copycatting Heroes (the clear inspiration) but playing with shadows instead – there is a lot of light and shade in Greta’s performance, literally. That moment where she leans back and “smoke” billows out of her like she overdid it at an Indian curry buffet the previous evening is a golden one. Now, I know using visuals to win over your audience is exactly what Sweden did to win Eurovision 2015 – but to me, Heroes was a better and more modern standalone song than Hear Them Calling. The package was more complete. Iceland still has a decent shot at qualifying and maybe squeezing onto the left-hand side of the scoreboard with what they’ve got, but because that is a) an obvious attempt to capitalise on Sweden’s offering of last year, and b) overshadowed (so to speak) by better and edgier entries, the chances of Reykjavik 2017 are very slim.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 7
- Fraser 10
- James 12
- Jaz 7
- Martin 12
- Mrs. Jaz 5
- Nick 10
- Penny 8
- Rory 8
- Wolfgang 7
Iceland’s EBJ Jury score is…8.6
Mrs. Jaz Aah…the beauty of simplicity. So much modern music is so noisy, full of stupid noises and vocal manipulations. This, on the other hand, is a pure and simple piano ballad that managed to be anthemic without being in-your-face about it. The music doesn’t overshadow the vocals, meaning I could understand what Hovi was saying (and though some of it was silly, I liked it). I can imagine couples all over Israel and beyond using this song as their ‘first dance’ wedding song, assuming Ed Sheeran becomes passé in the near future. It’s very nice indeed.
Wolfgang It seems to me that sun, moon and star metaphors are booming this year in the Eurovision lyrics. The Israeli entry is a classic example of a lame lady ballad that wants to ‘shine’ (a little light?) – only done by a male artist. As with Belgium, there is nothing wrong with Hovi Star: he has a great voice and a wide vocal range that is a bit comparable to Adam Lambert, IMO. So the only thing he needs for Eurovision would be a better song. Made of Stars to me is so cliché in an awful way, and it sounds dated, not contemporary. The build of the song resembles somehow the ‘drama queen’ ballad by Conchita from 2014, only this one goes nowhere and suddenly ends when you expect more to come. But what I find really cheesy and annoying are the lyrics: ‘A million faces tied in chains, you ride a black horse in the rain.’ Honestly, did they let the songwriters of the last three Russian entries write these lines? To sum it up, the song’s very cliché, the lyrics are terrible, and I don’t see a qualification for Israel this year. Not with that song!
Jaz If ever there was a shoo-in to win the prestigious EBJ Eurovision Excellence Award in the category of Mr Congeniality, Hovi Star is it (and a bit). I don’t even know this guy, and I LOVE him. He is, to me, the Tooji of 2016 – so personable and fabulous, you want to be his BFF after watching a thirty-second vox pop. And damn, he’s got great hair! My main mission in Stockholm is to touch it so I can then relay back to you guys what it feels like (Schwarzkopf-misted silk, I’m sure). I could go on forever about how much I want to hang out with Hovi, but I suppose I should devote some page space to Made of Stars. It’s not as fabulous as he is, but I think it’s beautiful in its simplicity. Initially, Israel were sending a big, brash, theatrical production that had Adam Lambert written all over it – and if you read my review of the now (sadly) disqualified Romania, you’ll know I detest OTT drama at Eurovision. Granted, that version of Made of Stars had a strong identity; but the revamp/reshape has toned down the drama and allowed the spotlight to shine on Hovi’s vocals. The lyrics, nonsensical as they can be, are lovely to listen to – ‘thunder and lightning, it’s getting exciting’, they are not – and the pared-back piano backing is equally so. Overall, though it’s not as powerful as it could have been, I’m very fond of this. I think, given Hovi’s performance skills and the star-related possibilities of his staging (the drones from the music video probably won’t be making an appearance, but still) Israel could do better than many expect, but I’m not convinced they even have the legs to qualify. Nonetheless, I will be watching on in rapt fascination when Hovi’s time comes…while fashioning a long-distance hair-stroking device out of toothpicks.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 8
- Fraser 8
- James 2
- Jaz 10
- Martin 7
- Mrs. Jaz 7
- Nick 7
- Penny 6
- Rory 6
- Wolfgang 4
Israel’s EBJ Jury score is…6.5
Mrs. Jaz I think I liked this. That’s probably a strange thing to say, but I honestly couldn’t make up my mind about it. Pros: Great music. A nice voice to accompany that music. A beat that mimics a pulse (totally by coincidence, right?). Generally of a better standard than the Icelandic song. Cons: It didn’t jazz up in the way that I thought it was going to (you could say the Heartbeat flatlined). It might prove to be a bit forgettable seeing as it’s opening its semi. Other observations: I reckon I need repeat listens to learn to love Latvia.
Wolfgang Here we have the ‘Aminata’ song #2, following on from the very successful Latvian entry of 2015 by going for the same success package again in 2016. I must admit that I like this year’s Latvian song and artist much more than last year’s. Justs really is a great vocal performer, and his song is by far catchier than last year’s injected love. What I like most about the song is its up-tempo beat that gives me good vibes and really works well with Justs’ strong, slightly scratchy voice. The only thing I would criticise is the performance, where nothing much happens on stage (at least not in the NF performance). At the moment it all looks like Andrius Pojavis for Lithuania in 2013. So, if the stage performance is improved, including lots of heartbeats, then it will be another top 10 result for Latvia this year. I’m sure this song will leave a great impression on a lot of televoters. Or will we head to Riga again next year?
Jaz Latvia made an excellent decision when they opted to send a song to Eurovision 2016 that was written by their very successful 2015 representative. Aminata knows how to create a song that’s less cookie-cutter and more cutting-edge, cool and contemporary – the kind of thing that makes skeptical, non-ESC-obsessed viewers think ‘Hey, this is actually pretty awesome!’. And for that, I salute you, Miss Savadogo. Justs and his Heartbeat are everything I want to see competing in the contest in 2016. The song is a little alternative in sound and makes me feel like a much more epic person just(s) listening to it, but it’s still hugely accessible for mainstream pop lovers. The chorus, like Azerbaijan’s, is incredibly hooky, and though it does feel like the titular word has been said a few too many times by the end, it is the core of the song – that plus the pulsing beat that drives it. The verses are minimalist in the most appealing of ways, and the synthy string of notes that punctuates them adds an extra piece of ear candy to the concoction. Something else I love about this entry is the contrast between how Justs looks, and how he sounds. He looks like he could be cast as Edward Cullen in a Twilight reboot, but he sounds like…well, Hungary’s Freddie, if Freddie wasn’t as throaty. That ultra-innocent face clashes beautifully with the grunt in his voice. All in all, there is nothing I dislike about Latvia – again – and so much that I love. As a result, I’m hoping for an Aminata-level finish at least. But they’ll have to both pimp and nail their staging to increase their chances. Hey, even if they don’t…wow. I can’t believe we’ve gone from Cake To Bake to THIS in two years.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 5
- Fraser 7
- James 6
- Jaz 12
- Martin 8
- Mrs. Jaz 7
- Nick 10
- Penny 8
- Rory 3
- Wolfgang 8
Latvia’s EBJ Jury score is…7.4
Mrs. Jaz I like this! Yes, the UK is my homeland, but before you call me biased, know that Jaz didn’t tell me this was the UK song until after I’d given my verdict. And if I’d had to guess its origin, I probably wouldn’t have opted for the UK based on my past listening experiences anyway (Bonnie Tyler…Engelbert…the 1920s schtick from last year). You’re Not Alone is a little 80s-inspired, so we have skipped forward a few decades. Still, it’s radio-ready for the 00s too. It instantly got into my head and had me singing along, which has to be helpful for both Eurovision and karaoke nights. I feel quite proud of this, actually. I hope it does well – or at least that it doesn’t do too badly. It deserves a decent result.
Wolfgang This year the BBC started their biggest competition EVER to find the right song and artist(s) for Eurovision 2016, including almost every organisation in the British music industry that is of importance. And the result for their national final was six not-too-overwhelming songs sung by no-names. So that was all ‘Big Mouth’, and then baking only little bread again. But, among the songs there was light and shadow, and I’m glad that one of the better ones won the NF. Joe & Jake are fresh, cool guys who match well together on stage. They have a contemporary song that is a strong grower to me, and both of their voices have a very good live quality. So even if the song’s not too impressive, the guys are charming and good-looking, and they could spread some energy and fun to the Eurovision audience. I guess it won’t be enough for a top 10 placement for the UK in Sweden, but I expect a better result than last year – somewhere in the top 20. This year I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a good UK result.
Jaz I don’t know what I should have expected to hear from the UK after the bonkers-ness of Still In Love With You, but I am relieved it’s something less laughable (and bonus, there’s no mention of disease in the lyrics this time!). Two good-looking lads whose names conveniently both begin with ‘J’ (the superior initial for first names, obviously) sporting an anthem that it’s impossible to do the Charleston to? That’s got to be good, right? It is good – but I wouldn’t describe You’re Not Alone as ‘great’. It’s pleasant to listen to, but it reeks of the kind of song that backs a movie trailer or montage of some kind. If the Rio Olympic organisers are after a song that can soundtrack ‘The Top 10 Team Efforts of the XX-whatever Olympiad’, then they should look no further than Joe & Jake’s. My problem with this entry as a whole is that, while there’s nothing to complain about, there’s nothing to get excited about either. I don’t feel anything when I listen to it. Belgium brings a smile to my face; Latvia gives me goosebumps; this gives me nul points. And yet, I cannot physically fault it, because I wouldn’t describe it as ‘boring’ either! HELP ME. I am looking forward to ogling Joe when he’s on stage, and then pretending I wasn’t when accused shortly thereafter because he’s younger than me and I’m not ready to be classified as a cougar yet. So there’s that. If too many people are feeling the way I’m feeling (about the UK’s song, not about the big box of cutesicles that is Joe), then I can’t see this escaping the 15th-20th zone in the final. That makes me a little sad for the boys, but the Eurovision experience will be a brilliant one for them at this stage of their careers anyway.
The EBJ Jury says…
- Ali 6
- Fraser 8
- James 3
- Jaz 7
- Martin 7
- Mrs. Jaz 8
- Nick 6
- Penny 5
- Rory 10
- Wolfgang 7
The UK’s EBJ Jury score is…6.7
And, as usual, we have a winner! And a loser. Things did NOT go my way this time…
- Iceland (8.6)
- Latvia (7.4)
- Belgium (7.1)
- Azerbaijan (7)
- United Kingdom (6.7)
- Israel (6.5)
Congratulations to Greta, who can take the nonexistent trophy for this round of reviews back to Reykjavik and display it oh-so-proudly on her mantelpiece. Commiserations to Hovi, who would have finished much higher if I had all the power here (who’s stupid idea was it to recruit a jury, therefore relinquishing the majority of my precious power?). Remember, all of this score-giving and number-crunching is going towards the compilation of the EBJ Top 43*, which I’ll be publishing from Stockholm (which means it’ll be an exotic Top 43).
Yes, I said 43. We took the time to review Romania a few weeks ago, and I think we owe it to Ovidiu to keep him in our ranking. Even if he is rather low in it.
In a few days, the penultimate part of this series will see Armenia, Australia, Ireland, Malta, Moldova and Slovenia critiqued by an American, an Englishman and moi. Check in then to find out how high or low my patriotism level is running at the moment (i.e. what I think of Dami’s Sound of Silence).
Ugh. Can you tell I’m running low on salutations again?
If you haven’t already defected to Wiwi Bloggs in disgust, welcome back to the Viennese Verdicts. As the first semi final of Eurovision 2015 is mere days away *hyperventilates into a brown paper bag for a second* there’s no time to waste in getting these reviews out and about (i.e. finished). This is Part 6 of 8, and today I’ve rounded up German and Australian ESC experts to help me critique Israel, Hungary, Germany, Moldova and Azerbaijan.
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Wolfgang Schmidt: You met German-born-and-bred Wolfgang – a.k.a. Wolf – back in Part 3 of the Viennese Verdicts. He’s a massive ABBA fan (as is my other guest juror for today) with an impressive history as a Eurovision addict. Altogether he’s attended four contests: Birmingham 1998, Copenhagen 2001, Düsseldorf 2011 (just a hop, skip and awkward Lena dance step away from his hometown) and Malmö 2013, and the Birmingham show was his favourite. You know what they say…you’re always fondest of your first!
Andrew Pentecost: Andrew is from Sydney, Australia. He doesn’t know how long he’s been aware of Eurovision, but it probably started not long after ABBA’s win with Waterloo. Andrew was a huge ABBA fan from about 1975, and they’re still his favourite pop group forty years later. After ABBA introduced Andrew to Eurovision, he discovered that, along with pop music, Eurovision also offers Balkan rhythms, popera, a smörgåsbord of languages and dodgy accents, costumes and frocks, choreography and all sorts of other delights. Some of his favourite songs come from the ‘golden age’ – Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son by France Gall, Eres Tú by Mocedades, L’Oiseau et L’Enfant by Marie Myriam, Boom Bang-A-Bang by Lulu, and Un Jour, Un Enfant by Frida Boccara. More recent favourites include Fairytale by Alexander Rybak, Energy by Nuša Derenda, and Invincible by Carola. And let’s not forget the show’s hosts – Andrew’s all-time favourite was the stupendous Petra Mede from 2013, who managed to combine Nordic humour, elegance and flawless English language skills into the ultimate package. Andrew and his partner Richard believe they’ve been watching the contest on Australia’s SBS together for more than twenty years – it’s bigger than Christmas and birthdays in their household. Last year they attended Eurovision in Copenhagen, and in 2015 they’re off to Vienna. A highlight of the last two years has been making all sorts of friends – people from every corner of the world who are equally mad about Eurovision!
Jasmin Bear: Surprise, surprise – it’s me again! I bet you’re about as shocked right now as you were when you found out Australia was participating in Eurovision 2015. That’s assuming you’re very easily shocked.
Nadav, Boggie, Ann Sophie, Eduard and Elnur are no doubt on the edge of their seats, waiting to hear our verdicts. So I won’t make them sweat onto the upholstery any longer! I must warn them, and you, however, that one of today’s judges was difficult to impress…
Golden Boy by Nadav Guedj
Wolfgang: The Israeli entry this year sounds more Turkish than a lot of Turkish entries of the past ten years. It is a very ethnic and catchy song that seems like an ear-worm summer smash to me. And hey, who would have thought that the guy singing this song is only sixteen years old? He already has the voice and appearance of at least a 23-year-old, doesn’t he? I hope Israel will qualify in Vienna with this ‘golden boy’ after their 2011-2014 disasters. They really deserve a qualification this year. And with this song, I also see a good placement in the final – let’s say 10th to 14th on the scoreboard. 7 points.
Andrew: Nadav is handsome beyond his years. Like many young people, he tries to do too many vocal runs for my taste, but he is a strong singer with a distinctive vocal quality that’s a bit like Guy Sebastian’s. The song itself is an odd mix of styles. The verses do absolutely nothing for me but I quite like the Eastern feel of the chorus. Pop music for me is all about vocal quality, melody, emotion and rhythm, which means I rarely listen to the lyrics…but the lyrics to this song are so atrociously corny that I cringe when I hear them. 1 point.
Jaz: Poor Israel hasn’t had the best run over the last few years (although only one of their DNQs really puzzled me – Moran Mazor’s, whose choice of outfit also puzzled me). Via their Next Star competition, they’ve selected an artist who undoubtedly has star quality, plus the potential to undo their semi-final-related-sad (excuse my tendency to drag any topic into Sanna Nielsen territory). Nadav, as we’ve all acknowledged, is clearly a man in his mid-twenties masquerading as a teenager for some reason (at least, that’s what I’ll believe until I’ve seen his birth certificate). This “kid” is a great fit for the fusion of urban and traditional sounds that is Golden Boy. Whether those sounds fit together or not, I’m not so sure. I love the Justin Timberlake vibe of the verses, and the unashamedly ethnic chorus, but the flow from one to the other isn’t so smooth. And I have to agree with Andrew on the lyrics – some of them are awful. Still, I don’t think that will hold Israel back too much. The song is instant, modern (for the most part) and, crucially in a contest bursting with ballads, a dancefloor filler (I defy anyone in the Stadthalle or at home to stay seated when Nadav hits the stage). The lack of ethnicity among his rivals’ entries makes him stand out too. I’m not putting any money on Golden Boy breaking Israel’s streak of bad luck, but I really hope it does. 7 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 5.00
Wars For Nothing by Boggie
Wolfgang: This song really says nothing to me! It sounds like it was from ‘before yesterday’ and it is absolutely non-catchy. To me, it is one of the most boring entries this year. And lyrically speaking, it is the other side of the A Little Peace medal – I am sure that the Ukraine would give their douze to this song this year, but unfortunately they are not competing. I already see a Dina Garipova performance straight from the IKEA lamp department coming up, with the backing singers joining Boggie hand-in-hand at the last minute. Oh, how sweet…not! One point for the beautiful blue dress + one for her voice + no points for the song = 2 points!
Andrew: I rarely enjoy the songs and artists sent to Eurovision by Hungary, and sadly, 2015 is no exception. A pleasant guitar instrumental leads into a very low-key, repetitive ballad that simply doesn’t build to anything. The main vocal is weak and often off-key and the harmonies are also poor. This is an utter nul-pointer in my opinion.
Jaz: Up until Hungary opted for Boggie this year, I was convinced that they were on track to win Eurovision within the next couple of years. Ever since their comeback in 2011, they’ve impressed me – their 2013 and 2014 entries were especially epic by my standards. But when your least favourite song of an entire national final lineup ends up winning that national final, you start to lose faith…and boy, have I lost my faith. I’m not saying that if Kati Wolf (whose A Dal entry remains on top of my could-have-been list for 2015) had been representing Hungary instead, they would have won in Vienna, or anything. I’m just saying that an up-and-coming country has let itself down here. In Copenhagen, Hungary gave us a powerful message song that was moody, gritty and contemporary. Wars For Nothing is a message song, but that’s about all it has in common with Running. I don’t find it powerful or particularly contemporary – lame and limp are the words I’d use to describe it. There are rare moments when I think I’m warming to it, but then I think about the likes of Sweden, Italy and Norway, and things are swiftly put into perspective. Boggie is a nice vocalist and a lovely person inside and out, but I’m just not interested in buying what she’s selling. 3 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 1.67
Black Smoke by Ann Sophie
Wolfgang: I feel like I should say something nice now, but unfortunately I can’t! It is no secret that I am not a big fan of Ann Sophie. I belonged to Team Andreas, which means I voted (more than once) for Heart of Stone, which was the best song in the German national final, IMO. I also like that he is not the polished superstar on stage, who plays perfectly with the camera and does an impressive show. But when you hear him sing, you understand why he won The Voice of Germany. Coming back to Ann Sophie, I must admit that I like Black Smoke a lot more than Jump The Gun (her second USFÖ entry). What can save us in the contest is that we don’t have a lame lady ballad like a lot of other countries, but a song that is much catchier. Also, Ann Sophie is a ‘Rampensau’ when she performs, meaning she kicks ass and rocks the stage. Maybe she can keep us awake after the sixth lame ballad in a row. I don’t have high expectations concerning the scoreboard this year – I think we can be very satisfied with a result between 15th and 20th place in the final, same as Elaiza last year. 5 points.
Andrew: After the cringe-worthy drama of the televised final, Germany is sending Ann Sophie to Vienna as their plan B. I really like this song, and Ann Sophie’s interesting, quirky voice. I plan to support her by cheering loudly in the Stadthalle, and I hope she’ll end up in the middle of the scoreboard. 3 points.
Jaz: If ever there was a prime example of a happy accident, THIS is it. If not to all of us fans (sorry, Wolfgang) then to me. There was nothing wrong with Andreas Kümmert and his Heart of Stone, aside from the fact that the song could have been lifted from a Phil Collins album released twenty-five years ago…but did I love it? Nope. Do I love Black Smoke? Yes I do! There was something about the song that captured me from my very first listen. It’s radio-friendly pop without being generic and cliché, it’s got a hint of retro funkiness to it that adds appeal, and both the verses and the chorus are equally catchy. The lyrics may not be genius (unless you compare them to Israel’s) but I really like those too – they’re simple but effective. I even covet the black-and-white ensemble and giant gold Pac-Man earrings Ann Sophie was wearing the night she “won” the right to represent Germany. It’s all good in my opinion, sans the bad that is the awkward position this girl has been put in as Germany’s choice by default. But, if she can carry the class and conviction she put into her reprise directly after the Andreas Incident (that’s got to win some kind of award for Best TV Drama) through to Eurovision, she’ll be fine. As much as I enjoy Black Smoke, I can’t see it scoring über-well in the final, but let’s hope Ann Sophie can claw her way a little closer to the top 10 than Elaiza managed to last year. Perhaps some of my one-off Australian votes will help her get there. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.00
I Want Your Love by Eduard Romanyuta
Wolfgang: My first impression was ‘What was that???’. The second time I watched it, I thought it was a fun entry. On the third play, I laughed my guts out. Sorry, but I can’t take this song and this little boy seriously. His name sounds like a ridiculous stage name and him singing ‘I want your love’ simply sounds so funny that I always have to laugh about it. Not that I’m a great fan of Moldovan entries anyway, but this year I’d wish Aliona Moon or Natalia Barbu back on stage. Can we change that, please? This entry is just not good enough to qualify – I’ll scream aloud if that happens. DNQ!!! One very gentle and polite point.
Andrew: Well, Ukraine did manage to send a singer to Vienna after all – except Eduard will be representing tiny Moldova rather than his homeland. When his hair is not long and lank, he’s quite a cute young man, but his live vocals are nothing to write home about, and he has a strong accent when he sings in English. I find the chorus to this song reasonably catchy in a predictable, boy band kind of way. The lyrics are corny and the video clip is horrendously juvenile. Another nul-pointer.
Jaz: Somebody please tell me where to buy a t-shirt with ‘GUILTY PLEASURE’ emblazoned on it, because I’m going to need one to wear while Eduard is doing his best Eric Saade impression (i.e. putting 95% of his energy into his dance moves, 4% into smoothing his hair and that measly leftover 1% into his vocals) as the opening act of semi final one. This song is total trash, and I LOVE it. Yes, it’s something I would expect to find on my Greatest Hits of N*SYNC album, but the reason I own that album is because I am a boy band tragic from way back who will never stop listening to the Backstreet Boys’ back catalogue. I Want Your Love is the kind of song I was waiting for as the Viennese ballads kept on coming. The performance, on the other hand…well, let’s just say that if it was someone’s face, it would need serious plastic surgery. If Eduard can pull a Ruslana and find the balance between singing and dancing, then do both to the best of his ability; and if the presentation is less 2000s street and more cutting-edge, then Moldova could surprise everyone who isn’t me by qualifying. Another pleasant surprise would be if Eduard chopped his hair off for ESC purposes. At least that way, the Viennese paparazzi wouldn’t mistake him for Edurne. Either way, I’m giving him 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 3.67
Hour of the Wolf by Elnur Huseynov
Wolfgang: Yes, you have read right: it’s the hour of MOI! How can I not love this song, just by its title? I must admit, my expectations of Elnur were very low after hearing he would be going to Eurovision for the second time this year, because I am a hater of his first “heaven and hell” opera, Day After Day. That was so awful that it still belongs on my list of worst-ever Eurovision entries. But this year it’s all totally different! The first time I heard this song it gave me goosebumps, and it is a song that gets better with each and every listen. In the meantime, I really love it! But on the other hand, Azerbaijan has gone for another secure number here by again choosing a song from Swedish songwriters and producers, which is a bit boring now. Nevertheless, this song is material that winning songs were made of in the past, and maybe if he comes barefoot in a white suit, anything can happen! This is my favorite of all the songs I’ve reviewed. 10 points.
Andrew: Azerbaijan seem to have developed a formula of using songs that have been written by composers and lyricists from countries like Sweden and Greece. This year they continue on that well-worn path. Some may enjoy this song, but I am tired of Azerbaijan’s formulaic approach and I wish they would send us some music with genuinely local melodies and rhythms. Hour of the Wolf is pleasant but rather bland. It is sung in heavily-accented English, but the vocal performance is excellent, as I would expect of Elnur. 1 point.
Jaz: Dilara’s Start A Fire sparked absolutely no flame in me last year (see what I did there?). In fact, just thinking about it now is making me drowsy, so I’ll get right on to how much of an improvement Hour of the Wolf is on that borefest. Sure, it’s another ballad with marginal Azerbaijani input, but that’s where the resemblance ends for me. This song is beautiful – almost Sam Smith-like – and although I’m yet to see a live performance (on purpose) I believe it will be a stunner in that context. The verses are well-constructed and the choruses are big without being too shouty. As a whole, this is a song that builds up to something explosive and perfectly complements Elnur’s impressive vocal range. Speaking of the man who really sells this song: Elnur is not the same person who was half of his country’s debut duo back in 2008. The angel wings and copious amounts of body glitter are gone, and a mature, even more powerful vocalist who is now The Voice of Turkey has taken his place. Song and singer have merged into something special here – something that has made me more willing to support Azerbaijan than ever before. I know I should be more critical of their tendency to turn to other countries for musical aid, but in this case, I just can’t. I never said I had principles. 10 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.00
And there you have it! That’s five more down, and ten to go – with ten days until Eduard and his long blonde locks step onto that rather sexy Austrian stage (the finished product is, as Cascada would say, glorious) and hopefully start this year’s contest off with a fiery bang rather than a pathetic puff of smoke.
Let’s take a look at today’s rankings:
- Azerbaijan (7.00)
- Germany (6.00)
- Israel (5.00)
- Moldova (3.67)
- Hungary (1.67)
So the Land of Fire is in the lead here and now…but where will Elnur end up in the EBJ Jury Top 40? Within the next week, you’ll find out. First, though, there are a quarter of this year’s entries left to review.
Next time, the stars and stripes, the Union Jack and the Blue Ensign – that’s the American, British and Australian flags, in case you were wondering – will be waving in the wind as the jury judges Finland, San Marino, Denmark, Estonia and Greece. You know you won’t want to miss what we say about the year’s most controversial entry (she says, hoping you’ll find that tempting enough to make a return visit).
While you’re waiting, let us know how you rate Azerbaijan, Germany, Israel, Moldova and Hungary, and how you’d rank them. If you don’t, well…nothing much will happen. But if you do, you’ll get a virtual high-five.
Yes, you read that title correctly. It has been just over two months since the final of Eurovision 2013, and that means it’s also been two months since my hopes of having an unexpected winner were destroyed by a girl with bed hair and bare feet, and two months since we were all plunged into a deep depression at the over-ness of it all. What with that anniversary and the revised dates of the 2014 contest, there isn’t a mahusive wait until Copenhagen/miscellaneous Danish city attempts to outdo the pared-back but still impressive spectacle put on by Sweden in May. So…yay!!
Two months, or eight weeks as I like to call it on special occasions, is a time period in which opinions can change drastically, as I discovered when I decided to redo my top 39 recently. Up until then, I’d only done it once, and to be accurate that was a little while before Eurovision. All this time later, I was über curious to see how extra listens and seeing the performances had changed my rankings, and the outcome was so shocking and astounding that I felt compelled to show it to y’all. So here is my revised top 39 for 2013, complete with explanations of the most WTF shifts in opinion. Keep in mind as you read it that I may have been exaggerating when I used the words ‘shocking’ and ‘astounding’, and let me know below which entries have shot up or come crashing down in your eyes (or ears).
My new and improved top ten
- Italy (+4) – I’m still head-over-heels in l’amore with this, and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. It’s easily my favourite of the three entries Italy has sent since their comeback, and if they want to impress me next year they should start preparing yesterday. Considering they don’t seem that bothered about impressing at Eurovision (but manage to anyway) they’ll probably wait a while longer.
- Hungary (+1)
- Moldova (+4)
- Sweden (-3)
- Germany (-3)
- Montenegro (+25) – Yep, you could say Igranka made a substantial leap upwards in my rankings. You know, ‘cause it did. I had high hopes for it on description alone, only to hear it and think ‘What The Fudge?’. But a few listens later (away from the raunchy music video), I got it, and now I want to be taken to the party. I can’t promise I’ll dress up as an astronaut, though.
- Norway (-1)
- Ukraine (-4)
- Ireland (+6)
- Azerbaijan (+27) – Another extra-large jump was made by The Land That Brought Us Running Scared, Shudder Shudder. I won’t deny it: the man in the box and all that jazz played a part in changing my mind about the song. That presentation took Hold Me to another level, and when I listened to it after the event, I was still feeling positive.
- Belgium (-3)
- Serbia (-1)
- Israel (+8)
- Lithuania (-4)
- Greece (+14) – I must have been in a bad place when Koza Mostra were chosen to go to Malmö. A place where it’s impossible to see how fun-derful they are. Now I see them as musos that embody Greece at their best; that is, their best when they don’t have a fierce female in a super-short dress performing an up-tempo ethnopop song representing them. Alcohol Is Free is off-the-wall, very Greek and more complex than you’d think (hint: it ain’t all about free alcohol).
- Croatia (+19)
- Albania (-3)
- United Kingdom (-6)
- Macedonia (-10)
- Russia (+18) – You don’t have to hate me for this, because I’m hating myself enough for all of us. I still despise the lyrics in all their OTT, clichéd grossness, but the melody got to me in the end. Dina also sold the sentiment quite well on stage, which made it feel slightly less forced. She has a great voice (in fact, she’s THE voice in Russia) so let’s hope it’s put to less nauseating use in the future.
- Romania (+4)
- Estonia (-3)
- Georgia (+7)
- San Marino (+8)
- Slovenia (+8)
- Spain (-6) – I still feel more or less the same about this as I did two months ago, and the only reason it’s gone down in my rankings is because a bunch of other songs have gone up. It’s a sweet little ditty (BRB, just got to give my grandmother her terminology back) and it works better purely as a listening song, not as a competition song, so 26/39 is in no way a slap in ESDM’s collective face from me.
- Netherlands (+7)
- Denmark (-4)
- Switzerland (-12)
- Malta (-4)
- Armenia (+5)
- France (-19) – I still have a sneaking regard for this, as a lover of the retro style and French language (don’t you just love that ‘toxique’?) but again, it was sent packing to the lower end of my 39 by all the entries that I suddenly became enamoured with. Having said that, it isn’t something I’ll have on repeat.
- Iceland (-17)
- Austria (-16)
My (un)lucky lasts
- Latvia (-7)
- Finland (-14)
- Bulgaria (-10)
- Belarus (-15) – Solayoh has finally begun to grate on me, and with the excitement of Eurovision over, I’m recalling how much I hate the way the Belarusian selection panned out. It was a pretty pointless exercise, and THEN somebody decided to go back in time and nab a Helena Paparizou B-side to make up for it. FYI, it didn’t. As of now, I’m officially back to missing Rhythm of Love.
As usual, at this point, there isn’t a single entry I could claim to hate. Sure, I’m disliking Solayoh at the moment, but if it were a person I wouldn’t want to strangle them with a feather boa – I’d probably just shake my fist in their general direction. Cyprus, the only song that didn’t shift positions in my rankings between May and now, is only at the bottom because it sends me to sleep. But who knows what will happen after another few months have gone by. You may see Cyprus and Belarus catfighting for my #1 position.
Hashtag AS IF.
How’s your top 39 looking now compared to way back when? Which entries have grown on you the most and which ones have begun to get a little…*yawn*…tired?
Let me ask you a question. Do you remember Eurovision 2013?
I ask you this because, approximately a million days after the final, I’ve just managed to pull myself out of the post-contest funk and do a review, and I’m not sure it’s relevant anymore.
That is, of course, a hilarious joke which exaggerates the fact that it is Wednesday and the final was on Saturday and I’m only just getting my behind into gear to write about it. But I figure, why should anyone have to get all of their thoughts about Malmö out ASAP? We should all be dissecting and discussing it for months! That’s the only good thing about Eurovision being over each year!
Hands up who wants me to stop using exclamation marks! Okay.
I am warning you now that I personally don’t intend on shutting up about Ye Olde Swedish Spectacular until something happens on the JESC front, and/or the 2014 ESC season begins. So here is one of many, many ramblings to come on the subject. These are my thoughts on the final, from top to bottom.
A few fascinating factoids about Eurovision 2013
– Spoiler alert (for those who have been hibernating under a rock). For the second time, Denmark won the contest in neighbouring Sweden, after the Olsen Brothers vocoded their way into first place back in 2000 in Stockholm. I wonder if this means Estonia will win next year, and Latvia the year after, and so on? Place your bets now, people.
– For the second year running, the winner was a solo female with an aversion to shoes. #justrealised
– The Malmö show proved that spending a little less of your pocket money doesn’t mean ending up with something substandard. The budget of this year’s contest paled in comparison to that of Baku. No disrespect to Azerbaijan, but Sweden did a lot with a little, which I like to call the Allen key mentality.
– The show did break a record as being the edition with the greatest number of close-up hand shots in history. Well, I can assume that’s the case, because have you EVER seen so many GOSHDARN HAND SHOTS in your LIFE?
– There were 17 non-English language entries out of the 39 competing. 5 of those qualified to the final, and 3 were from Big Five countries. Of those 8, 3 made the top 10, with another just missing out.
– Norway made the top 10 for the first time since their 2009 win, Malta for the first time since 2005, and Hungary for the first time since 2007. But most impressive of all was the Netherlands, cracking the top 10 for the first time since 1999.
Hitting the heights of Cezar’s range: performance highlights
France: I never saw a great result on the cards for France. And when they were chosen to open the show, all I could think was ‘Amandine is tres screwed.’ But my god, can the woman perform! She ripped into L’Enfer et Moi like it was a bag of hot chips and she hadn’t eaten for three days. She was sexy but not sleazy, very, very fierce, and above all taught us that the clichéd singers wear metallic fringe, while the classy ones wear leather fringe.
Moldova: I couldn’t wait to see Aliona in action again after the semi, and apart from one crack of the old voice, she did not disappoint. From the sound to the look to the choreography, Moldova brought it this year.
Belgium: For the first time in a long time, Belgium was in the final AND I was over the (Aliona) moon about it. Roberto looked pretty happy that Belgium was there too, and that made for an excellent performance. I have officially forgiven them for the Iris snoozefest.
Malta: Has anybody ever been as happy to be at Eurovision as Doctor Bezzina? His face must be aching from that smiling, but I’m sure he can prescribe himself something to ease it.
Sweden: The walking, talking cuteness that is Robin Hcqwernberg (just wanted to have a go at spelling it how you say it) finally made it…back to the Malmö Arena where his Melodifestivalen semi was held. But hey, it was a different stage, and he was wearing a different jacket. His was one of my favourite acts of the night, and to anyone who thinks he can’t sing, I point you to this three minutes and ask ‘are you freaking kidding me?’
Hungary: I don’t know if this was by accident or on purpose because of that laid back/apathetic vibe ByeAlex has about him, but his vocal was more solid on Saturday than it had been on Thursday, and that combined with the reaction from the audience and the quirky backdrop (and my endless love for the song) charmed my socks off. Not literally – it was a cold night – but still. I swooned.
Azerbaijan: Hold Me is without a doubt my grower entry of le year. I’m really digging it now, but I won’t deny that the slow clap-worthy staging had a hand in it. Farid was basically as consistent as he had been in the semi, and I marveled once again at what was going on under and around him.
Norway: I loved everything about this performance. Though it was similar to the original from MGP, the subtle differences (i.e. the fact that someone took to Margaret’s dress with a bedazzler and some pinking shears) showed some effort.
Lower than Moran Mazor’s neckline: performance lowlights
Russia: This was not as slick as it was in the semi. Dina’s hair was limper, her vocal wasn’t as impressive, and those light-up balls were thrown into the audience a little too late. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased, since those tiny errors spelt N-O W-I-N F-O-R T-H-E R-U-S-S-I-A-N C-H-E-E-S-E.
Germany: I was looking forward to Cascada in an über-big way, but something didn’t click. I’m not sure what it was – Natalie’s vocal was good, her outfit was much less trashy than that of Unser Song, the stairs were cool…but it just didn’t have the same impact as it did in the NF. I guess the editing of Glorious into an ESC-sized version with less build and drama could be to blame.
Romania: This is a lowlight strangely based on how good (albeit in a bizarre way) it was. I got a teensy bit scared that Romania could win, or at least make the top 10, and that the press would have an absolute field day mocking such a ‘typical’ Eurovision success. Also, none of the glassware in my house made it to Cezar’s final pose unshattered. I’m going to be sweeping it up for months.
Georgia: Watching this, keeping in mind the flood of tips for it to win, I couldn’t help feeling depressed. As much as I’m keen to see a Georgian contest, I really didn’t want it to happen with Running Scared 2.0 – a nice, Swedish-penned ballad sung by a male/female duo who were quite touchy-feely with each other and were showered in sparks (not love) as the clincher. I felt that Sophie & Nodi were more than competent, but kind of soulless on the night.
What about the other entertainment of the evening?
– The opening act combined a choir, half of ABBA, a bit of the Olympics and a dash of Junior Eurovision and the result was a testament to the different approach SVT took to this year’s contest. In other words, I hadn’t seen an artist parade before in my Eurovision lifetime bar the mini version, and that’s a part of JESC I’ve always loved. So that was good. Thanks, SVT.
– In the middle came another reprise of sorts from Loreen, who distracted us from her continuing lack of footwear by modeling extreme feathered shoulder pads/hanging from the ceiling/et cetera. It was just an average day on the job, basically.
– Petra’s Swedish Smörgåsbord had ‘Melodifestivalen’ written all over it, and it was glorious (can I use that word without being sued by Cascada?). I would pay to go and see an extended version. It was unfortunate that Carola exited so quickly and ungracefully, but at least we know she doesn’t mind making a fool of herself.
– Sarah Dawn Finer on the Eurovision (satellite) stage at last! This was the woman most of us wanted to host the show, and her performance was our consolation prize. I wonder where Lynda Woodruff was at while SDF was doing her thing? You know, I’m starting to wonder if they might be the same person…
The final scoreboard – expectations, shocks and surprises
- Denmark 281
So the favourite turned out to be the favourite for a reason. Fair enough. Only Teardrops wasn’t my ideal winner, but it makes a worthy one, and I’m glad that 2014 will take us to Copenhagen (probably) rather than back to Baku so soon.
- Azerbaijan 234
Unlike Running Scared, I would have been happy to see Hold Me win based on song and performance. That staging was pure genius. Yeah, yeah, Eurovision is a song contest…but don’t think the visuals have nothing to do with anything. Still, 2nd place is another excellent result for this country.
- Ukraine 214
- Norway 191
- Russia 174
- Greece 152
- Italy 126
And Italy does it again, with class and minimalism (and a spiffy blue suit). In your face, haters. I do think this should have beaten Russia.
- Malta 120
- Netherlands 114
- Hungary 84
Places 8, 9 and 10 all make me happier than Gianluca on holiday at Disneyland, for different reasons. In Hungary’s case, it’s because a country that struggles to succeed sent a humble, native-language song that I adore to pieces, and was surprisingly rewarded for it. Doctors and philosophers = Eurovision triumph.
- Moldova 71
- Belgium 71
Now this was a shocker. After Roberto miraculously qualified (5th, no less) I expected Belgium to come undone in the final. But it seems enough ordinary folk and haughty jurors saw in his song what I do to get him a respectable score.
- Romania 65
- Sweden 62
This isn’t a dreadful finish by any means, but as president of Team Robin, I was hoping for more. I actually think representing the host country worked in his favour – if he hadn’t been, I suspect he would have ended up lower. I still don’t think YOHIO would have done better.
- Georgia 50
- Belarus 48
- Iceland 47
- Armenia 41
- United Kingdom 23
- Estonia 19
- Germany 18
I’m confused. I know I complained about the performance earlier, but Glorious still went off, and I would have at least expected a top 15 result for Germany. I blame the draw. Still, it might be time for Deutschland to revert back to the Unser Star format.
- Lithuania 17
- France 14
- Finland 13
- Spain 8
- Ireland 5
It’s Tooji all over again, but with less points and a much better vocal. I don’t get it. Why wasn’t the UK all over this?
So those are a few (…) of my musings on what went down last weekend. Like I said, 100 years ago at the beginning of this post, there will be more to come, including the handing out of my awards for Eurovision Excellence, and non-excellence. There will be a people’s choice award this year, so look out for that very soon. In the meantime…
Got some personal highs and lows of the 2013 finale? Let me know below!
Hello again! The first semi final of Eurovision 2013 is just hours away (!!!!!!!) and I’m about to begin my internet sabbatical to avoid spoilers before our Friday broadcast (if you want the reasoning behind my not watching the live stream, just ask). So I’ve got a little more time to make some predictions on what will go down tonight, on Thursday, and finally on Saturday, when Loreen’s successor will be crowned. Well, trophied. Brace yourselves for a shockingly inaccurate reading of Eurovision’s palm, from go to whoa.
Semi Final 1
Who will qualify: Croatia, Denmark, Russia, Ukraine, Netherlands, Moldova, Montenegro, Belarus, Ireland and Serbia.
Who I want to qualify: Croatia, Denmark, Ukraine, Netherlands, Montenegro, Lithuania, Moldova, Ireland, Belgium and Serbia.
Who is most likely to…
Win the semi: Russia. I had to force myself to type that instead of Denmark, but I just have a feeling that something this horrible could happen. In spite of the cheese and what I hear is a very frumpy outfit, the juries will rate Dina’s perfect vocal and the voters who haven’t been previously exposed will probably lap up the “feel good” ballad. Blerrgh.
Lose the semi: Belgium. I had to force myself to type that too, as the self-proclaimed captain of Team Belgique for 2013. I think Roberto is adorable (in a dark and mysterious yet awkward and uncomfortable kind of way) and Love Kills is my cup of tea, but this is Belgium we’re talking about. As much as I want a qualification to happen, I have to be realistic. Sob.
Get the biggest round of applause: Montenegro. Igranka is one of the few songs in this semi that will get people up and dancing, and Who See will be duly compensated with a hefty send-off. Plus, who wouldn’t cheer for people who voluntarily decided to wear space suits at Eurovision?
Sing best live: Klapa s Mora and Zlata Ognevich. Both the boys and Zlata are amazing vocalists. I can’t wait to hear the Klapa harmonising in that spine-tingling manner of theirs, and Zlata tearing into the big notes like nobody else. PS – did anyone else notice that the first word in Mižerja is ‘zlata’? I know it’s a legit word meaning ‘gold’, but I’m starting to think Croatia and Ukraine are in cahoots.
Sing worst live: Alyona Lanskaya. She’s pitchy at the best of times, but with all the cha-cha moves she’ll be doing, I can imagine her being carried (not literally – that’s what shirtless dancers are for) by her backing vocalists. It is possible that I’m just willing her to be bad on the off chance it frees up a space for a worthier song in the final.
Make the best use of the background: Ukraine and Ireland. For one, I’m visualising forests and flowers and diamonds and unicorns. For the other, Celtic symbols and love hearts and flames. You decide which is which.
Have the most boring stage show: Cyprus or Estonia. Mark my words, Despina or Birgit will be the Iris of Year Malmö – the pretty girl in the nice dress with absolutely nothing going on around her. Both of their songs are too lacklustre to carry off such minimalism.
Have the best costume/s: Aliona Moon. You know what they say: if you’re going to rip off something Azerbaijan did, do it better (and add a hairstyle Rona Nishliu would be reluctant to try out). Sabina Babayeva’s projector gown clearly started a revolution, and Aliona’s just the latest person to take it to the next level.
Have the worst costume/s: Serbia. We know the devil/angel thing is no more, and has been replaced by what has been described as ‘workers from the Willy Wonka factory gone mad’. I’ve seen a thumbnail of these outfits, and to me they looked like Kool Mint-studded umbrellas. Who knows? Maybe once I see them in HD I’ll love them.
Semi Final 2
Who will qualify: San Marino, Azerbaijan, Finland, Malta, Greece, Israel, Hungary, Norway, Georgia and Romania.
Who I want to qualify: San Marino, Macedonia, Finland, Malta, Bulgaria, Iceland, Hungary, Norway, Albania and Switzerland.
Who is most likely to…
Win the semi: Azerbaijan. They’ve got a better song than what won them Eurovision 2011, and what sounds to be even cleverer staging. There’s nothing stopping Farid from annihilating the competition.
Lose the semi: Macedonia. I like Pred Da Se Razdeni, but it is a shambles of a song. It would be too easy for it to come last.
Get the biggest round of applause: Greece. This is going to go off, especially coming after the sedate and simple Iceland. You can’t tell me the audience won’t be sucked into it and be yelling for more (as well as some free alcohol) when Agathonas has stroked his ‘stache for the final time.
Sing best live: Moran Mazor and Sophie & Nodi. Moran may not have a ballad as good as Milim, but her voice won’t be doing a Harel Skaat crack anytime soon. And Sophie & Nodi are Georgian, so it goes without saying that they can sing like angels.
Sing worst live: Armenia. Lonely Planet is a screamer song, and sometimes Gor Sujyan can scream out of tune.
Make the best use of the background: Georgia. They may not be so obvious as to run three minutes’ worth of aerial waterfall footage, but they’ll do something mesmerising, I reckon.
Have the most boring stage show: Israel. Moran will be on the stage in her revealing dress, singing ‘rak bishvilooooo’ over and over (and over) again. If there is a surprise dancer I will happily eat my words for entertainment’s sake.
Have the best costume: Krista Seigfrids. Let’s face it, any kind of bridal wear will be an improvement on the gold lamé mini dress Moldova used for Natalia the Bride in 2006. There will be poofiness, and there will be coordinating accessories.
Have the worst costume: Cezar. This man could take to the stage wearing anything, and that scares me a little. Nothing is off limits for someone who can breeze through their entire eight-octave vocal range in under ten seconds.
The Grand Final
Who will win Eurovision 2012: Don’t ask me to choose one. C’est impossible! All I can manage is a narrow-down to four.
Azerbaijan. Like I said, they’ve got a better song than Running Scared, a genius stage show (by all accounts), a powerful male singer some would call attractive (he’s not up my street personally) and last but not least, they’re Azerbaijan. The only time they haven’t done amazingly well was in Junior Eurovision, and I actually think that was unjustified. I’ve come around on Hold Me enough that I won’t burst into tears if it does win, but my main gripe would be Eurovision heading back to controversial Baku so soon.
Denmark. Although I’ve had this feeling for a while that the bookies’ favourite won’t take it out, I can’t really discount them. This is a year where anything can and will happen. It would be neat for the Danes to win on Swedish soil, just like they did in 2000.
Georgia. Can’t you picture the credits rolling over Sophie and Nodi’s exuberant faces as they reprise Waterfall? I bet Thomas g:son has at least thought about which shelf in his trophy cabinet to put the 2013 gong on. Sure, Georgia can do better, and sure, this new trend of importing Swedish ballads is annoying, but this song is just the kind of accessible, soaring schmaltz (sung extremely well) that the decision-makers might resort to in the wake of high-energy Euphoria.
Finally, for a random outside bet…Greece. It would be nice for a song that doesn’t take itself too seriously (but is still a very good song) to come out on top, and I think it could be Alcohol Is Free. Maybe. Eh, I just felt like stepping outside of the obvious box for a minute.
Who will make the top 10: Azerbaijan, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Russia and Ukraine.
Who will be left at the bottom: Spain, or Belarus/Israel (assuming they qualify).
How the final 6 will end up: If Azerbaijan isn’t on top, I can’t see any result lower than 5th for them. Germany should be in the 3rd-6th range, with Italy around 9th or 10th. I’m seeing France and Sweden somewhere in 11th-15th, with the UK and Spain bringing up the rear in 16th-26th.
5 countries I want to succeed the most: Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro and Sweden.
5 countries I’d love to win: Germany, Hungary, Italy, Sweden or Ukraine.
5 things I’m most looking forward to:
Observing the standing fans – It’s been a while since Eurovision had a STANDING ROOM ONLY section, so even though I’d be bringing a deck chair if it were me, I’m happy enough to watch how it changes the dynamics from my position on the couch.
The interval act of semi final 2 – If someone asked me ‘Which two Swedish soloists would you choose to perform medleys of their greatest hits during the interval of a Eurovision semi final?’ I would say ‘Why, Darin and Agnes, of course, you nincompoop!’ And now, it’s going to happen. My dream is coming true.
A familiar face in the green room – A Mr. Eric Saade (that’s pronounced ‘Sha-day’ if you’re Lynda Woodruff) will be cavorting around the green room, hopefully in tight trousers. What am I saying? As if he ever wears anything else.
The postcards – When they’re blatantly touristy, I lose interest. Honing in on the artist for a change was a good decision made by SVT. I’m excited to see these.
The ‘host country’ cheer – This could well be my favourite part of every final. Even watching from home, you can feel the buzz start to build before the host entrant even steps on stage. Before, during and after Robin Stjernberg, expect supportive noise.
5 cities I’d love to host the ESC next year:
Whew, that was exhausting! All of that crystal ball gazing/palm reading/haphazard guessing has worn me out, so I’m off to have a sleep. By the time I wake up, the first semi will be over, and I’ll be dodging social media like a woman possessed. So until the weekend, when I’ll be back with a wrap-up of the semis, goodbye. I hope you have a very merry ESC experience, wherever you are and whoever you’re with. Unless you’re in Malmö rubbing shoulders with Marco Mengoni and Cascada, in which case I hope you have a terrible time…not that I’m jealous or anything.
What do you make of my predictions? Which countries do you think will succeed, fail, shock and surprise?
By my calculations, there are just fourteen days until we’ll be graced by the first semi final of Eurovision 2013, live from Malmö Arena. Holy sequined hotpants! Of course, for my Australian TV-viewing self there are a few more days to factor in (as well as an extended period of internet avoidance) but it’s worth the wait for an unspoiled HD experience that doesn’t take place at 3 o’clock in the morning.
Basically, there’s so much to do and so little time to do it in, especially since giving the cold shoulder to everyone I know who’s going to Sweden takes up so many hours. So, just before we’re officially in Eurovision month, allow me to introduce the first installment of my 2013 reviews, featuring Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Denmark. These come complete with awarded points and extreme judgment. I hope you enjoy the read, and please stick around ‘til the end for a ranking and to let me know where you stand on this group of ten.
First up for the year is…
Identitet by Adrian & Bledar
IMO: Rock on, Albania. ROOOOCK OOOOONNN! I’m not saying that because I’m wildly enthusiastic about this entry. It’s more a case of ‘we have ourselves some rock muzak from Albania for the first time! Intriguing!’. And it is pretty good rock, don’t get me wrong. I find the whole thing generally catchy, and I think the verses are equally as strong as the choruses – in fact, the choruses sound like they’re taking their hats off to the verses (a.k.a. complementing them on a job well done). Making the decision to leave Identitet in Albanian was a good one. In English it would have been a middling rock number, but the mystery of the native language gives it an extra bit of ‘oomph’ (though not to people who understand Albanian). This song won’t hit the unexpected heights of Suus, and may not even qualify (I haven’t decided yet) but as one of only two or three rock entries on offer in this year stuffed full of ballads, it adds variety to the proceedings.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Lonely Planet by Dorians
IMO: I feel like Armenia has lost its way a bit over the last few years. They started out so strongly with acts like André, Sirusho and Eva Rivas. But then, out of the blue, came Emmy’s fail Boom-Boom, followed by a year of absence…and now, this. I think I speak for everyone who isn’t from Azerbaijan when I say I was hoping they’d come back in 2013 with a bang. But Lonely Planet, despite its unashamed rockiness and good intent, is more of a gentle knock. I did appreciate it more after my most recent listen than my first, but like the Russian song, the schmaltzy message it conveys just feels contrived (though not as contrived as What If’’s). Gor Sujyan’s combination of yelling and vocal gymnastics is jarring, particularly when heard live, so that doesn’t bode well for Eurovision. Having said all of that, I don’t hate it by any means. I just prefer the old tassel-shaking, apricot-harvesting Armenia, and I think this might be staying in the semi – just like Emmy.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.
Shine by Natália Kelly
IMO: I’ve had trouble in the past getting into entries called Shine. This time around, Shine was the best song in Austria’s fairly weak NF line-up, but again, I won’t be professing my undying love for it anytime soon. It’s one of those songs that make you smile and maybe sing along with the chorus a couple of times, but after the third or fourth listen gets a bit boring. It also has a super-awkward key change. I do like it more than the Shines of the past (don’t hate me for giving Georgia 2010 a miss); it’s quite sweet and radio-friendly, and Natália looks and sounds pretty when she’s performing it. It will probably improve on Austria’s dreadful result – lowest of the low – from last year, but I can’t imagine it having the interest factor for enough people to push it a heap higher. I’d rate Woki Mit Deim Popo higher myself (but then I’ve always been weird).
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.
Hold Me by Farid Mammadov
IMO: This song is a mish-mash of two different ballads to my ears: the first, a dark and contemporary one (as heard in the verses and bridge), the second a dated and clichéd one (that’s the choruses). As a result, I love the verses but really dislike the chorus. The fact that those verses are so good and that Farid is a decent vocalist should be tipping me towards enjoying the entry as a whole, and just accepting the bad parts. But the fact that so many fans are raving about it like it’s the best thing since the invention of wind machines, and insisting that it’s going to win, is freaking me out. In spite of the pros here, I think there are far better songs in the competition, and that this deserves to end up around 10th-16th position in the final (there’s no doubt it’s going through). But this is Azerbaijan we’re talking about, so expect a low to mid-top 10 result for Farid at least, especially if he borrows Sabina Babayeva’s projection dress. That would be a sight worth voting for.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.
Solayoh by Alyona Lanskaya
IMO: Just when I thought time travel was totally impossible, Belarus went and transported us all straight back to Eurovision circa 2005 with this cliché-ridden summer “hit”. What with the way it came about and the fact that it replaced Rhythm of Love which I really liked, I want to hate it, and in some ways I do. It is dated (literally…it wasn’t just written that way), predictable, and unimaginative. But in other ways, damn, it’s good. It’s so catchy I can’t help singing along to it, and I suspect Europe will be too when Alyona steps onstage in May, hopefully wearing a foot-high turban made of tropical fruit. It reminds me of I Love Belarus in that it’s a replacement song that has become a guilty pleasure. Can I also point out how random Alexander Rybak’s appearance in the music video is? Maybe he was so pissed off that the song he composed for NMGP didn’t win, he figured he’d crash anyone’s Eurovision campaign he could manage (yes, I know he’s Belarusian-born, but it’s still random).
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 7 points.
Love Kills by Roberto Bellarosa
IMO: We’ve all witnessed the horror that was the Belgian national final (and I use the term ‘national final’ loosely) which certainly played a part in the instant negative reaction to this chosen song. In spite of that, I was one of the few to develop a fondness for it immediately, and since the revamped version was released, that fondness has only grown stronger. I also have a slight fondness for Roberto, but let’s not discuss that. Call me crazy, but this is my personal favourite Belgian entry since 2004’s 1 Life, and Urban Trad’s Sanomi before that (I never got the whole Tom Dice thing). I think Love Kills is pretty contemporary, and I like the beat, the melody and the lyrics. I don’t expect it to do well, although if the staging is polished and more interesting than last year’s (not a big ask) and Roberto’s vocal is on point, Belgium may surprise us all. But while being scheduled next-to-last after the incredibly boring Cyprus is a blessing, coming before the similarly-paced song from Serbia (a country with infinitely better chances of qualifying) is likely to be a curse on a nice, uplifting pop song.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
Samo Shampioni by Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankulov
IMO: The result of BNT’s massive Eurovision-themed survey of 2012 was the rounding up of their most successful entrants ever. Clearly, the pressure is on Elitsa and Stoyan to do the same thing they (surprisingly, let’s admit it) managed to do in Helsinki with Water. But can they do it six years later with Samo Shampioni? This song has elements that remind me a lot of that previous entry, mainly Elitsa’s wailing and Stoyan’s drum-beating which puts the Moldovan grandmamma to shame. The wailing and drumming is what these guys do, so that’s only natural. Then there are some elements in the music that make it less ethnic and more contemporary than Water. It’s almost ethno-dance, and certainly stands out from the other 38 songs. However, I don’t think it has the legs to be a sure qualifier, let alone equal or top the 2007 5th place. People who voted for Water might find this too derivative or not derivative enough, and people who didn’t or are seeing the duo for the first time might just be disturbed. Who knows what the juries will make of it.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.
Mižerja by Klapa s Mora
IMO: Croatia’s ethnic entries have a history of success when compared to their more mainstream pop songs. I hope that trend continues this year, since the country has spent the last three contests stuck in the semis and it’s about time they found a way out. This very ethnic entry has a lot going for it, which could make that happen. First and foremost, the guys are brilliant vocalists who can harmonise like nobody’s business, and as we now know, great vocals are part of what the juries will be listening for. Then, there’s the lovely, classy song, which may be called ‘Misery’ but isn’t half as depressing as say, the Dutch song. It sticks out for being something other than a club thumper or cheesy ballad, and I applaud Croatia for returning to their musical heritage. I will applaud even harder if they qualify. They did in Moscow with the not-entirely-dissimilar Lijepa Tena, even if it was by the skin of their teeth, so maybe that magic will work again.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
An Me Thimase by Despina Olympiou
IMO: And the award for ‘Song Most Likely To Be Everyone’s Toilet Break’ goes to…An Me Thimase! This award will be presented in my head by Iris, the performer of last year’s winner, Would You. There’s at least one entry each year that sends me to sleep, and unfortunately, after four years of songs I still enjoy, in 2013 it’s from Cyprus. This is verging on nice, but has anyone ever wanted to fist pump for a ‘nice’ song? When this comes on, you’ve barely got time to form a fist, let alone pump it, before you’re snoring your head off. The chorus, which takes up 80% of the running time, has no catchy hook to latch on to, and as a result, three minutes here feel like ten. No doubt it will be beautifully sung, but I don’t think there’s any amount of props or costume reveals the Cypriots can whip out of their Mary Poppins handbag to get Despina to the final.
Winner, loser or grower: Loser. 3 points.
Only Teardrops by Emmelie de Forest
IMO: I mentioned before how I never ‘got’ Tom Dice. His was a song that I knew was good, that I knew had merit, but that I just couldn’t get into. I feel exactly the same way about Emmelie’s Only Teardrops, the favourite to win Eurovision 2013. It’s clearly a good song, quite original, ethnic (albeit in a very Irish way) and, to use a term I haven’t used since describing this entry prior to Dansk MGP, rousing. And yet, it doesn’t rouse anything in me personally. It’s a definite qualifier, and I’d be happy for it to win if it means Azerbaijan doesn’t swoop in again with an average ballad and wipe out the superior competition…but…meh. The most exciting thing about that victory to me would be Denmark winning on Swedish soil exactly as they did back in 2000 (I love me some spooky patterns). PS – Emmelie is a good performer and probably a very nice person, so I wish her luck with her career, no matter what happens in Malmö. And I hope she finds some shoes in the near future.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
So that’s part 1 of 4 done and dusted, and with that, here are my personal standings:
- Belgium 10
- Croatia 7
- Albania 7
- Denmark 7
- Belarus 7
- Bulgaria 6
- Azerbaijan 6
- Austria 6
- Armenia 5
- Cyprus 3
What do you think? Bring on the disagreement (and if you’re one of the rare breed to agree with me, I welcome that too). Which of these entries are hot and which are so not?
PS – Drop by later in the week for part 2 of the Malmö Reviews, featuring Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland and Israel, plus the first of the Big Fivers: France, Germany and Italy.
Before I had a looksee at my play stats of the Baku 42, I had zero expectations. What with my ever-changing moods and the bias my iPod seems to have towards particular songs when it’s on shuffle mode (I swear those things have minds of their own and will one day rise up and take control of planet Earth) there was no guarantee that the entries I rated the highest a year ago would make equally high appearances on this list. It turns out that, while some of them clawed their way up, songs that I didn’t realise I had a penchant for bumped others way down. I’ll let you decide which are which, as I present to you the 20 entries of 2012 that I’ve listened to most since May.
#1 | Love Unlimited by Sofi Marinova
If you happened to be drinking when you read this, I apologise for the liquid you just spat out all over yourself in shock and/or horror. Then again, if you’ve read me before you should know that I am probably the #1 fan of this song, worldwide. I don’t think Sofi herself loves it as much as I do (although she has had to sing it a billion times, so the boredom must have set in by now). So why have I played it more times than any other of the 2012 entries? Well, I just think it’s incredibly catchy (great to dance wildly to in the comfort of any place where there are no other humans present), I love the mixed languages in the chorus (great for singing along to in the same situation) and I find it super motivating (great for jogging to, etc). What a useful song it is.
#2 | Waterline by Jedward
#3 | Euphoria by Loreen
#4 | Zaleilah by Mandinga
#5 | Kuula by Ott Lepland
#6 | När Jag Blundar by Pernilla Karlsson
I want to compare this to Hungary ’13, being the simple, quiet and pretty but not too well-liked song that it is, that I and a few others I know LOVE. But Kedvesem has actually proved itself more popular than I expected, so you’re on your own, Pernilla. I think this song is really beautiful, well constructed and has a lovely sentiment (having been written by Pernilla’s brother for their mother and all). It gets me all misty-eyed even though I have no idea what she’s singing about because I never bothered to translate the lyrics #mybad. But they say music is the universal language, so if I can get the emotion without knowing what’s being said, that’s acceptable, right?
#7 | Love Me Back by Can Bonomo
#8 | Aphrodisiac by Eleftheria Eleftheriou
#9 | Verjamem by Eva Boto
#10 | Be My Guest by Gaitana
#11 | La La Love by Ivi Adamou
Here’s a song I didn’t think douze-worthy at first, but have gotten more and more obsessed with over the last year. It’s a good thing we’ll have this genuine Cypriot gem and the awesome stage show that accompanied it to cling on to while Despina Olympiou takes to the Malmö stage and bores us all to death (more on that in my upcoming reviews). La La Love wound up 16th in the final, which is an excellent result for Cyprus (it’s practically a win, like it would be for Austria, Switzerland, and co) although once it had qualified I was predicting it to do better. Maybe Ivi’s average vocal was to blame; though that didn’t stop Eric Saade from coming 3rd…
#12 | Quédate Conmigo by Pastora Soler
#13 | Standing Still by Roman Lob
#14 | Woki Mit Deim Popo by Trackshittaz
#15 | Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović
#16 | Sound Of Our Hearts by Compact Disco
#17 | We Are The Heroes by Litesound
This, even in its post-NF disco-lite version, is SO much better than the tropical trash (albeit damn catchy tropical trash) Belarus are sending this year. The unfortunate thing is that Alyona will likely be much more successful than Litesound, and then she’ll knock on their doors and point and laugh at them because they “stole” her ticket to Eurovision 2012 and she’ll have gotten her revenge. Or perhaps not. Anyway, back to We Are The Heroes: another song written expressly to motivate me when I’m on the treadmill and this close to bailing. Thanks, guys.
#18 | Nebo by Nina Badrić
#19 | Laŭtar by Pasha Parfeny
#20 | When The Music Dies by Sabina Babayeva
Rounding out my most-played list is Baku’s host entry. I have long suspected that Sabs was referring to Running Scared as the thing that made the music die. But that’s irrelevant. This isn’t my favourite entry from Azerbaijan, but it’s one I’m still liking all these months later. I didn’t think it was going to do as well as it did, but I think we’ve all learnt that the power of Azerbaijan-representing, Swedish-penned ballads cannot be underestimated.
I’ve showed you mine – show me yours? Which entries of last year have you been playing on repeat?