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SHINE BRIGHT! Jaz’s JESC 2017 Reviews, Round 3 (Australia, Belarus, Malta + Ukraine)

If you’re not ready for Junior Eurovision 2017 (which TBH I’m not, considering I’m still frantically trying to get my song reviews done on time), too bad – it’s nearly here! The countdown is in single-digit days, rehearsals have started in Tbilisi’s festively-decorated Olympic Palace, and Mariam Mamadashvili is probably wondering what to have printed on her business cards now that ‘Current JESC Champion’ is about to be void.

In fact, the contest is so close than I have zero time for a classic Jaz Introductory Euroramble™. All I’m going to say is here’s Round 3 of my annual reviews, feat. Australia, Belarus, Malta and Ukraine. Check out my verdicts and vote for your favourite of the four below! 

 

 

Watch it here

Last year…I couldn’t help being happy – though very, VERY confused – when Alexa Curtis finished 5th with We Are. I suspect the absence of a televote had something to do with it.

The 2017 verdict We’re back, bitches! Actually, scratch that, because I should be keeping my language in check when discussing JESC. We’re just…back. As an Australian, it’s hard not to be pleased that our Eurovision invitations are still being extended (even in the face of frequent backlash/mutterings from other countries, which I do understand. But at the same time, IT’S HAPPENING, SO GET OVER IT). Also pleasing is the fact that we’re yet to send a bona-fide dud to the adult or junior contest, and the seriousness of our approach is worth at least one less snide remark, right? I definitely think so when it comes to Isabella’s Speak Up, which is arguably our best JESC entry ever. It doesn’t have My Girls whiff of lyrical cheesiness, or the wishy-washiness of We Are – the lyrics are great, the chorus is catchy and easy to sing along to, the vibe is young without being too young, and it includes one of the best key changes of the year (which Isabella has already proven she can nail live). I honestly feel like I would rate this song no matter which country it was coming from or what language it was sung in. It’s not as bubblegum pop as, say, Kisses and Dancin’ from The Netherlands last year, but it has a similar charm and upbeat energy that makes you smile. All in all, there is very little to pick on re: Australia 2017 – before seeing it live, anyway (rehearsals have obviously started, but my golden rule is NEVER watch them). Isabella will be backed by some dancers, the outfits and graphics will be slick, we’re performing second-to-last…what could go wrong in a contest that’s weaker than the last few? Well, a lot. I have an unfortunate feeling that even though a) Speak Up is our best Junior track so far, way better than We Are, and b) as I just mentioned, 2017 is not the strongest field of songs, we’re not going to make it into the top 5 again. I think we deserve to with this – not necessarily reaching the podium, but 5th or 4th place, sure. I just have this gut feeling that Australia is headed for more of a 6th-8th ending á la 2015. Still, I don’t have the most reliable guts on the planet, so anything could happen. My fingers are extra crossed!

Song score 10

Artist score 10

Final score 10

 

  


Watch it here

Last year…Alexander Minyonok and Muzyka Moikh Pobed received the Christer Björkman douze points of approval, which (when combined with a usage of hoverboards that totally eclipsed Serbia’s) helped him hit the heights of 7th place.

The 2017 verdict This might not apply at adult Eurovision, but you should always keep an eye on Belarus at Junior. They’ve won it twice and done very well for themselves on most other occasions. The trend continues 110% with Helena and I Am The One, and I’m going to cut right to the chase by saying she may actually be the one (someone had to say it). This song is undeniably high-class, and I don’t think many people could call it anything less than flawless without lying a little bit. It’s not even in my personal top three for 2017 and I’m calling it perfection. Beautifully produced – right down to the music video – and big on atmosphere and drama, it does everything a dark pop song should do without being cookie-cutter predictable. Belarusian lyrics + English title = totally fine by me, as are the explosive choruses and moments of light and shade that make the Serbias and Portugals of the year sound flatter than a pancake. Helena’s voice can get a teensy bit grating in the chorus if I’m extra-critical, but as long as she has ultimate control over it and stops it from entering The Screech Zone (it’s like the Twilight Zone, but you need multiple pairs of earplugs to make it out alive) I can deal. Speaking of things that might happen live…I want this performance to be the way I’m picturing it in my head SO BAD. The mystical ball from the MV better be there at least, and dynamic, epilepsy-triggering laser lights basically go without saying. For the costume, I’m thinking boho-robot, but that’s a concept I need to write an explanatory thesis on later. For now, I don’t know what else I can say about Belarus bar the following: the other four or so songs in winning contention better watch their backs. Then again, this could be the pre-show favourite that doesn’t quite meet expectations. There’s only a few days until we find out!

Song score 12

Artist score 12

Final score 12

 

  


Watch it here

Last year…home girl Christina Magrin delivered possibly THE vocal performance of the year, and came 6th with Parachute. I still can’t stand the song…but damn, that voice!

The 2017 verdict If this was the Junior Eurovision Cuteness Contest, Malta would walk it because Gianluca is so, so cute *melts despite not being the biggest fan of kids in general*. But it’s not. Sure, being adorable and charismatic and having impressive eyebrow-waggling ability for a 10-year-old will benefit him, but he needs an A-grade song to secure Malta’s third JESC win since 2013. Does he have it in Dawra Tond? Well, it was better three years ago when Armenia sent it and called it People of the Sun. It is very similar to that bronze medalist of Betty’s, but as with movies and music, the original is usually better. Still, the infectious sunny energy of POTS is worth taking “inspiration” from, so I can’t be too harsh on Dawra Tond. The pros include: a bit of Maltese for the first time since 2010; simple lyrics and phrasing that make this sing-along friendly and a total earworm; a good combo of retro (there’s something Mambo No. 5 about it) and modern dance-pop sounds; and that energetic beat that Malta can’t stay away from for too long (though they’ve won Junior with and without it). Overall the song doesn’t show off Gianluca’s incredible vocal abilities as much as I would have liked, but it does have some big moments. Performing between female ballad-fielders Ukraine and Russia should make Malta stand out, but with Polina being a heavy hitter and a handful of other stronger songs scattered throughout the running order, I wouldn’t bet any money on Gianluca winning (but I’m still pre-predictions, so don’t hold me to that if he does!). Honestly, I don’t want him to, but I could live with a decent finish in the range of 3rd-7th. Any higher and I’ll be forced to post bitter (yet not offensive because KIDS) statuses, tweets and stories all over social media to console myself.

Song score 7

Artist score 12

Final score 9.5

  

 

Watch it here

Last year…Ukraine had something of an off year at JESC, only making it as far as 14th with Sofia Rol’s ballad Planet Craves For Love. The nonsensical Cirque du Soleil staging didn’t help.

The 2017 verdict Ukraine are a bit hit-and-miss with me at Junior, though I’ve liked all of their recent entries (I’ve got no complaints about the 2012-2016 songs on a purely musical level). And hit-and-miss is actually how I feel about Anastasiya’s Don’t Stop specifically. It has grown on me since it won the national final back when dinosaurs still walked the earth (a.k.a. ages ago). But, while there are parts of the song I love, there are other parts that really irritate me – so on the whole I can’t say I’m going to be voting for it. Getting my tick of approval are the verses – nice melody and structure, plus an acoustic-y, chilled-out vibe that gives me life – and anytime the violinist pops up even though that does remind me a bit of Jacques Houdek’s My Friend. However, my main peeve is kind of a big one: the chorus. Anastasiya seems very sweet and she has a nice voice, but whenever an ‘ay-i-ay-i-ay-i-ay’ comes out of her mouth (which is a handful of times in every chorus) the nearest mute button becomes all I can think about. Sometimes you don’t know why you’re annoyed by something…you just are. And sadly, as sweet as she is, Ana is not Gianluca-level cute in that I would forgive her if she stole all of the money out of my purse. There’s always the chance of her new and improved live version winning me over, I guess. Looking at/listening to Don’t Stop as objectively as I can, I think it has the potential to do fairly well in the contest, if not amazingly so. It’s not a winner (if Ukraine think that the key to winning Junior is sending a very small child called Anastasiya, they are wrong) but my notoriously unreliable crystal ball tells me mid to lower top 10 is attainable.

Song score 7

Artist score 8

Final score 7.5

 

 

Well, there’s another four songs I can cross off my list. And here’s the mini-ranking from this round: 

  1. Belarus (12)
  2. Australia (10) 
  3. Malta (9.5)
  4. Ukraine (7.5)

So Helena’s the one AND number one on this occasion, closely followed by Isabella *screams patriotically*. This was a pretty high-scoring round though, so on the miniscule chance that Anastasiya is reading this, she shouldn’t feel bad. That score won’t put her at the bottom of the overall ranking still to come. DRAMA!!

Is Belarus your favourite of today’s four tracks, or is Malta more your cup of tea? Perhaps Australia or Ukraine have served up your preferred kind of pop. Take your pick!

 

NEXT TIME There’s one final round of reviews for me to get through – so who’s left? Armenia, Ireland, Russia and Serbia, that’s who. Keep an eye out for that post to find out who gets douze points from me.

 

Until then,

 

 

 

JAZ JUDGES EUROVISION 2017 | Australia, Belarus, Iceland, Ireland, Montenegro + Spain

Hello again, and welcome to the second-last round of my Eurovision 2017 reviews! Obviously nothing has changed in my life since I was at university, because I’m still battling to get stuff done by certain deadlines. Just expect a lot of reviews in a short period of time, and everything will be fine (something I’m telling myself at least three times a day at the moment).

There’s just two days to go until the first semi final, and all 42 songs have now been rehearsed on the real-deal stage. We’ve seen our likely winner in action (monkeying around to massive rounds of applause) but that doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about all of the other songs. So that’s what my mum (she keeps coming back, even though I figured I’d have scared her off by now) and I are up to today.

Keep reading to find out what we think of the songs from Isaiah, NAVI, Svala, Brendan Murray, Slavko Kalezić and Manel Navarro. Spoiler alert: there are some major disagreements involved!

 

 

 

My thoughts A seventeen-year-old fresh from a TV talent show win – which followed an audition during which he forgot his lyrics (for the second year running) – wouldn’t have been my ideal choice for my country’s 2017 Eurovision act. On paper, it doesn’t sound that promising…and me bringing all that stuff up makes me sound mean, I know. But I wanted to make the point that when Isaiah was revealed as our act in March, I had a LOT of doubts that he was ready for such a big-scale show. As it turns out, I think he’s grounded and mature enough, and has gained enough on-stage confidence in the wake of his X Factor victory, to do Australia proud next week. He’s going to do that with a song that may be missing the x factor (ironically) that saw Guy Sebastian and Dami Im smash their respective shots at the contest, but has been a major sleeper hit with me. Don’t Come Easy is a soulful ballad that Sam Smith would totally approve of, and it couldn’t be any more suited to Isaiah’s voice. Lyrically, it could be more suited to his age – it’s hard to buy such tales of woe and heartbreak from a seller who’s still considered a kid in many ways (he can’t legally drink, gamble or complain bitterly about adult responsibilities). But if he can use those epic eyebrows to emote as much as possible, and not just sing the words – even though he’ll sing them terrifically – his age may end up being just a number. Most people watching him belt out the song in front of his own super-sized face (check out some rehearsal footage if you’re confused RN) won’t be worrying about it. I hope the staging doesn’t end up being a worry and lives up to what Australia’s put together the last two years, as both times it has made our songs stronger competitors. Don’t Come Easy has grown on me a lot since I first heard it, and now I find it really sticks in my head and makes me feel some feels (not on a Finland level, but there’s something there). There’s potential in the build of the song to create an explosive moment, like Israel did last year, and I believe we’ve even got a pyro curtain to help that along (just like Hovi did). If it all comes together, then another top 10 result is achievable. I don’t think top 5 is on the cards, but I will be waving my Aussie flag with pride (and probably a sweaty palm) in any case. 8 points.

My mum says… I own and treasure a copy of Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour, so the fact that this song could have fit right in to that album’s tracklist will give you a good idea of how I feel about Don’t Come Easy. I really like it! It’s retro in a wonderful way, with powerful music and lyrics that are set off by Isaiah’s incredible (especially for a teenager) voice. There’s a bit of an Adele feel to the soul of the song as well, and yes, you guessed it – I also own all of her albums. Is this a biased review? Nope, because I listened to it without knowing which country it was representing. Now I know, I’m proud. 8 points.

Australia’s score 8.00

 

 

 

My thoughts This song is like a musical version of Nathan Trent – so adorable you can’t help your urge to hug it so tightly it almost suffocates. The difference between the two is that the cuteness of Story of My Life doesn’t totally win me over, even though I acknowledge that it’s there. I think it’s fantastic that we get to hear Belarusian on the adult Eurovision stage for the first time ever thanks to NAVI – and I’m so appreciative of the fact that their entry is one of just four this year to feature 100% non-English lyrics *weeps internally*. I also think the sing-along factor of the song is a real asset, giving it an anthemic quality not often found in folk music. But – and you can call me bitter and/or soulless once I’ve said this – the overall ‘aww!’ vibe of Belarus that a heap of other fans feel, I don’t AT ALL. I wouldn’t skip the song if I was shuffling the 2017 album, but I wouldn’t wait for it to play with bated breath. For the sake of Belarus succeeding in the contest, and for the sake of filling the final with as many foreign languages as possible, I hope NAVI do qualify on Thursday. If they don’t, though, I’ll be okay with it. Overall, SOML is too repetitive and maybe too folksy for my tastes. 5 points.

My mum says… I couldn’t have less of a clue what these two are singing about, but it can’t be anything heavy going – the whole song is light and bright, and I really got into it. I especially like the use of instruments. However, that final stretch of hey-ho shouts went on way too long for my liking. That space could have been filled with something less repetitive, and in turn I’d have been giving this entry more than 6 points!

Belarus’ score 5.5

 

 

 

My thoughts There are some songs you can’t help but cut to the chase with when you’re talking about them. And cutting is an appropriate term to use when talking about Svala’s Paper, which I worship. At least 75% of my devotion to the entry has to do with Svala herself, a.k.a. Iceland’s answer to Gwen Stefani. She’s an age-defying, super-stylish GODDESS of a woman, and I am the personification of the heart eyes emoji whenever I think about her. But Paper also rubs me up in all the right ways. It’s like the cutting-edge, 1980s-inflenced love child of Margaret Berger’s I Feed You My Love and Aminata’s Love Injected – two songs I love to pieces. It’s ice cold and Svala is the ice queen with impeccably styled hair and makeup, plus bone structure that would have made Michelangelo weak at the knees. Not to say that I’m fixating on her cheekbones when she’s performing such an earworm of an electro-pop ballad (IDK how else to describe it). I’m actually getting lost in the dreamy atmosphere that the 80s synth sound provides, which contrasts beautifully with the slick production. It’s a perfect marriage. My only problem with Iceland this year is Svala being a visual force to be reckoned with, yet she’s singing a song that should bring out a vulnerable side based on the story told by the lyrics. She’s a little too intense, pulled-together and in control to pull off Paper with 110% authenticity. At least, she has been up until this point. From what I’ve seen (like, one photo) and heard (*insert long, long list of Eurovision sites/podcasts here*) of the rehearsals, she still needs to soften to match the emotions present in the song. Even if she does, I’m not that confident in Iceland’s ability to score themselves through to Saturday night. But I reckon this song would be an interesting and very contemporary (feat. a throwback sound that somehow makes it even more modern) addition to the final line-up. After the country’s shock DNQ last year – and failure to make the final the year before that – they seriously need a pick-me-up. I don’t want Svala using her Paper to wipe away tears of post-semi sadness. 10 points.

My mum says… This is far from being the worst entry I’ve heard, but it’s also far from being one of my favourites. I quite like Svala’s voice (though I’m incredibly jealous that she looks so young for her age and am wondering if it’s too late for me to up and move to Iceland) but I’m not a fan of a metaphor based on office supplies. I find the lyrics a bit lame in general. It’s just not for me! 5 points.

Iceland’s score 7.5

 

 

 

My thoughts Ireland – or at least those responsible for their recent Eurovision entries – needs a slap. Either that, or Sweden needs to hurry up and overtake them in the wins department so they’ll have to step up rather than falling back on the old line ‘Oh, but we’ve won the contest more than anyone else!’, which is usually accompanied by an entry of the same mould they were sending in the 2000s…which in turn paid tribute to the songs that won for them in the 1990s. Not much has changed in 2017, as the country’s collective face is still looking like it needs a high five. However…my relationship with Brendan Murray’s Dying To Try (not Trying To Die, thankfully) is love-hate. Here’s what I love: the first minute and a half. The understated start, the echo-y beat that kicks in, the melody, the frailty of Brendan’s voice (Svala needs to borrow some of that) and even the lyrics, which are a little cliché but have been neatly phrased and sparingly used, are all really nice. And, if the songwriters had carried on with another verse similar to the first, then a bigger second chorus that transitioned into an even more explosive final chorus without using a cringingly passé key change, all would be well. Instead, the entire second half of the song is one long, whiny chorus that doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. It’s like they literally couldn’t be bothered to write anything after that first chorus, so they dragged it out in order to fill as many seconds as possible. Except, it hasn’t. There’s an emptiness there as you wait for a second verse that never comes. I mean, who’d mix up a bowlful of cake batter and then only pour half of it into the pan? Ireland, that’s who. It’s a wasted opportunity of a song that could have totally tickled my fancy. I honestly love the first half enough to give it 10 points, but the rest deserves about 3. I’ll settle somewhere in the middle and give Dying To Try 7 points.

My mum says… THIS IS A GUY?? Mind = blown. It’s not like I’ve never heard high-pitched male vocals before, but I was completely convinced I was listening to a lady here. That aside (because it has nothing to do with what I think of the song) it’s a nice ballad with a good beat and a soothing quality. I think that comes both from the music and from Brendan’s voice. This is quite an emotional song – not so much that I’m in need of a tissue or ten, but enough to make me feel something. I like that in my music. I do think that this can be categorised as a forgettable ballad though. Describing something as ‘nice’ often leads down that path. 6 points.

Ireland’s score 6.5

 

 

 

My thoughts I never, not even in my wildest dreams, imagined that we would someday have an entry competing in Eurovision that could be considered camper than Deen’s In The Disco and Zoli Ádok’s Dance With Me combined. But Montenegro has given us the gift of Slavko’s Space, and I am SO here for it. It’s like a highly sexualised Alcazar made it to the contest with the help of a sponsor that manufactures hair extensions. What about that description makes it a bad thing? Nada, people. This is a BANGING disco-dance track that somehow doesn’t seem dated and lame like San Marino’s – possibly because it’s right up Slavko’s flamboyant street, and he owns the shit out of it. He whips his hair back and forth (I’m hoping it doesn’t fly off into the audience during the broadcast…or am I?), struts like it’s an Olympic event and has me lip-syncing along with the most outrageously pornographic lyrical metaphors I’ve ever encountered in a Eurovision song (mainly because the line ‘I trample in your arse’ from Slovenia’s 1999 song turned out to be a misheard lyric). I enjoy every second of every minute, even if I feel like my pleasure should be guilty. Generally speaking, I want Eurovision to evolve and be much less of what skeptics think it is (i.e. all novelty, cheese and the worst word ever – ‘kitsch’), but at the same time, I love that Space brings a touch of schlager back to the show. We’ve got plenty of edgy, deadpan entries this year – think Azerbaijan, Belgium, Iceland and Latvia – plus a classic ESC ballad from Portugal. So Montenegro are bringing some variety along with a suitcase exclusively reserved for body glitter (I assume). Uptempo, catchy and oh-so-danceable, this is the song that’s most making me miss the Euroclub. I would have busted some memorable moves to it on that dance floor, let me tell you. Unfortunately, I can also tell you that it probably won’t qualify, as sublime is likely to beat ridiculous (with the exception of Romania). As I can see that coming from a mile away, I won’t be too upset about it. But I’ll console myself anyway by playing it on full blast at every opportunity, until my neighbours file a complaint regarding excessive noise and sexual innuendos. Bring it on! 10 points.

My mum says… It’s hard to stay focused on how catchy the tune of this song is when the lyrics are so suggestive. That’s an understatement, really – Slavko seems to be less about suggesting than explaining in detail. Just when I thought ‘When you look this f*%$ing beautiful’ was the most controversial (almost) Eurovision line I’d ever heard! I could be convinced to dance to Space, but for the most part I can’t get past the ridiculous, R-rated lyrics. 5 points.

Montenegro’s score 7.5

 

 

 

My thoughts I’m not going to mention the words ‘Mirela’ or ‘contigo’ in this review (apart from mentioning them to say I won’t be mentioning them) because I think it’s about time we all moved on from The Spanish NF Incident of 2017. Manel Navarro is the one rehearsing in Kyiv right now, and Do It For Your Lover is the song representing Spain this year – that’s all there is to it. Speaking of which, there’s not a lot to this song apart from some simple charm, a cruisy surfer vibe and the most repetitive chorus since Ivi Adamou’s ‘La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la loooove.’ Those three things don’t add up to something spectacular, but I have to admit to liking this more than most other people I come across. Any music that sounds perfect for playing while on a road trip, with the windows down and no responsibilities to speak of for a few days, is bound to appeal to me to a certain extent. DIFYL ticks about 60% of my boxes – it’s inoffensive without being too bland, but it doesn’t push any boundaries either, and that repetition of the title (in case we forgot it, it was declared that Manel would repeat it 947 times in three minutes) is pretty irritating. As a result, I enjoy the Spanish-language verses more than any other part of the song. Manel’s aesthetic is casual street busker, which isn’t the sort of thing that does super well at Eurovision: Douwe Bob was a more polished exception. With his song failing to light a fire even for me, the odds are against him to strum his way out of the final’s bottom five. It might be time for Spain to revaluate their approach to the ESC on several levels, unless Manel shocks us all and defies our expectations. I can’t picture it, but I could live with it for sure. 6 points.

My mum says… Well, you can tell where this one comes from, and I like that about it. The Spanish parts are nice, easy-listening material, and I sort of wish that English didn’t feature at all in the song. It’s when that kicks in that things get monotonous. I especially dislike the stutter effect stuck in after each chorus. There needs to be more to a song than Do It For Your Lover has at its disposal to win me over completely. 6 points.

Spain’s score 6.00

 

 

 

That’s our six taken care of for this round…and here’s the ranking: 

  1. Australia (8.00)
  2. Iceland (7.5)
  3. Montenegro (7.5)
  4. Ireland (6.5)
  5. Spain (6.00)
  6. Belarus (5.5)

Naturally, I’m HORRIFIED that Australia topped the list. Not. Congrats go to Iceland for not being far behind, and commiserations to Belarus for being very far behind. Lucky for them that this scoring couldn’t have less bearing on the actual contest results.

There’s six more sets of scores for the mini EBJ jury to hand out, and then the full ranking will be revealed! Drop by on Monday to check out our thoughts on Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Trust me, you don’t want to miss my mother’s reaction to a man duetting with himself.

In the meantime, let me know how you’d rank today’s tracks. What do you think will happen to them this week as the competition gets going? I want all the dirt. You guys know how nosy curious I am.

 

Get (even more) excited – Eurovision is nearly here!!!

 

 

 

The Songs of Eurovision 2017 So Far: First impressions, 2016 vs 2017, my top five + vote for your favourite!

Happy First of February, everybody! As scary as it is that a full four weeks of 2017 have already gone by – it’s practically a permission slip for us all to Get Frighten like Lolita ZeroFebruary is an exciting month on the Eurovision calendar, so maybe we should all “get excite” instead.

January just ended with the presentation of Kyiv’s logo and slogan (‘slogo’ to those of us who don’t have time for excess syllables):

eurovision_song_contest_2017_logo-1

It isn’t the most attractive logo (or the greatest slogan) in ESC history as far as I’m concerned (the colour scheme in particular is pretty drab). However, it has the potential to look slick in show-motion, as part of the postcards, and plastered all over posters/lanyards/t-shirts/toilet paper (an untapped item of merchandise that could, ahem, wipe the floor with the rest). So shall we give it a chance to shine – or not – before we throw it in the trash via salty Twitter sessions? Yes? Okay then.

In other end-of-January news, the allocation draw for the semi-finals took place yesterday, and has divided all of the non-automatic finalists into either the Tuesday or Thursday night shows. This doesn’t mean that much at the moment. Still, I’m happy to have Sweden in the first semi alongside Australia (despite the fact that they’re obviously tough competition) because we’re pretty friendly, and unless it’s third time unlucky and Australia sends something diabolically bad to Ukraine, we’re likely to get a little boost of points from last year’s hosts. If we don’t, the entire country will have a mob of angry Aussies (or perhaps just me) to answer to.

With the theme art unveiled and the allocation draw done and dusted, we can now move on to the millions (slight exaggeration) of national finals mapped out for this month – including the magnificent Melodifestivalen, which starts this Saturday. For now, though, there are five seen-and-heard songs in the race to be the next 1944…and that’s such a neat little number, I’ve got to take advantage of it. So here, have some opinions on the fabulous (and not-so-fabulous) five songs chosen to date for the 2017 contest. And stick around to the (possibly bitter) end to vote for your favourite before five becomes…more than five. #mathsskillz.

 

ffsf

 

Bonjour, Albania, Belarus, Finland, Georgia and the United Kingdom. I’m about to criticise you like crazy.

 

 

Botë by Lindita Halimi (Albania)

When discussing Albania at the moment, we’re fully aware that the song we’re talking about now is probably not the song we’ll be talking about in a month or two. That’s because Lindita and her crew are currently revamping it and preparing for its English-language unveiling (not because the Botë writers are going to pull a Diell on us and actually force her to find a different song to sing in Kyiv). In its at-this-second state, Botë is classic Albania – a big, brassy power ballad in possession of a mysterious beauty. Even if any of that changes when the final version is presented, Lindita will still sing the absolute crap out of it without breaking a sweat. If she doesn’t qualify to the ESC final, I feel like someone’s going to get punched (not by me, but by her. The girl is fierce).

My current score 8 points.

Better than Fairytale? As one of the few living and breathing fans of Fairytale, I’m not 100% certain, but I think Lindita trumps Eneda. She’d definitely beat her in the boxing ring.

 

 

Historyja Majho Žyccia by NAVI (Belarus)

Like Finland, Belarus chose wisely from their NF line-up when they could easily have made a dreadful decision (in my opinion…which as always, is the right one). NAVI’s brand of fun folk-pop is wrapped up in a neat, cheerfully-decorated package with Historyja Majho Žyccia. Even though it will stay in Belarusian (which makes me want to do a little ethnic/highly embarrassing dance of joy) we’ll all be able to sing along to the various heys and hos that up the cute factor throughout. I’m not head-over-heels in love with this song – it could be the genre, which isn’t my favourite, or just a missing bit of pizzazz – but I like it a lot, and I’m interested to see how it performs at Eurovision.

My current score 7 points.

Better than Help You Fly? This is like comparing 1944 with Wadde Hadde Dudde Da (don’t try to tell me that Stefan Raab masterpiece isn’t stuck in your head now). Basically, it’s a tough call, but I’m saying yes.

 

 

Blackbird by Norma John (Finland)

I was holding out a little hope that this track would win UMK, but until I saw the performances, I assumed Emma had it in the bag. Or that Finland would think ‘f%#k it’ and pick Günther & D’Sanz. Fortunately, they pleasantly surprised me by doing neither of those things. Blackbird has plenty of people pretending to puke whenever it’s mentioned, but for me, it has a bit of the magic of A Monster Like Me plus the raw emotion of Silent Storm. That amounts to something special, if not spectacular. Some pre-ESC crafting of the staging concept should elevate it to semi top ten status, but it’s early days and most of Norma John’s competition is a question mark. They might blend into the background, or make a statement with their subtlety. If you ask me, it’s Option B!

My current score 10 points.

Better than Sing It Away? As a party-starter/dancefloor-filler, nope. In every other department, yep.

 

 

Keep The Faith by Tako Gachechiladze (Georgia)

Tako nearly made it to Moscow in 2009 as part of the peeps that brought us We Don’t Wanna Put In. To be honest, I’d rather listen to that disco-flavoured, thinly-veiled dig at Russia’s main man than this melodramatic, been-done ballad. When you’re watching a song being sung, and you’re thinking about how sparkly the singer’s dress is and how voluminous her hair is and where you can buy a lipstick in that exact shade because it’s gorgeous…but not about the song itself as it kind of sends you to sleep, that’s bad news. And that, my friends, was me watching Tako do her thing at the Georgian final. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, so I know Keep The Faith has its fans. I’m just not one of them at this point.

My current score 5 points.

Better than Midnight Gold? No way. Bring back the drug references and epileptic lighting sequences.

 

 

Never Give Up On You by Lucie Jones (United Kingdom)   

Was it my number one (like, the only treasure I’ll ever have) choice of the six You Decide songs? Not before the comp. But I’ve got to admit, this song has grown on me very rapidly after only a few listens and a look at Lucie’s pared-back performance from Friday night (in which she sang like a songbird, wore an amazing velvet dress and reminded me a little bit of Lena circa 2010 if Lena had taken a Valium before stepping onto the Oslo stage). It’s an almost-exceptional, well-worded minimalist ballad that Emmelie de Forest has co-created here – and may I remind the haters that every single song she’s written that has made it to the ESC has won the contest? True fact.

My current score 10 points.

Better than You’re Not Alone? Definitely. Joe + Jake were a much less hyperactive and more sensible-haired version of Jedward, which can only be a good thing – but Lucie is a step in a more successful direction.

 

 

For those of you who made it through all of the above, here’s my top five:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. Finland
  3. Albania
  4. Belarus
  5. Georgia

How long will it be before somebody, if anybody (*sneezes in a very timely fashion with a ‘SWEDEN!’ instead of an ‘AACHOO!’*) steamrolls over the UK and parks in my personal top spot?

I have no idea.

Here’s an easier question to answer:

 

If you want to justify your poll pick or say something snarky about a song you don’t like (this is not a bitchiness-free zone, so go ahead), drop by the comments below. Also, feel free to send your personal top five my way so we can compare our rankings while secretly wondering why the heck each of us has THAT song in first/last place.

 

Until Saturday, when the clouds part and a heavenly glow covers Gothenburg because it’s Melfest Semi One Day (can’t you hear the angels warming up their vocal chords in anticipation?)…

 

 

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SELECTION SEASON 2017 | Bring it on, Belarus!

Say Fri-yayayay! Not only is it now the weekend (cause for celebration in itself), but it’s also the true start of the Eurovision 2017 national final season. What’s happened before tonight was the warm-up, and now that we’re all stretched and dying to get going…well, things are getting going. So that’s good.

In case you can’t tell, I’m not a fully functioning, able-to-string-a-decent-sentence-together human person at the moment. My working week was pretty exhausting, and my extra-curricular plate is more overloaded than the Buranovskiye Babushki’s pie tray. Still, I couldn’t bear to miss out on making some rash judgments and ridiculous predictions re: tonight’s NFs, which I’ll regret later.

Speaking of tonight’s bits and pieces (and tomorrow’s), what’s on?

  • Friday Belarus’ Eurofest (feat. Napoli, NAVI + Nuteki); Georgia’s unnamed NF
  • Saturday Hungary’s A Dal (Heat 2 feat. Gigi Radics); Lithuania’s Eurovizijos (Heat 3 feat. Vilija)

There’s something for everyone in there, even if you’re saving your girlish screams for the Scandinavian selections (like me). Let’s talk about the shows that are putting the ‘final’ into ‘national final’ by actually producing entries for Kyiv.

 

 

A very mediocre Georgian marathon (or ‘Why This Post’s Title Was Belarus-Centric’)

I’ll get straight to the point here – I’m NOT reviewing or predicting this year’s Georgian NF.

That’s partly because I’m pressed for time, but also because I was so uninspired by the stuff in it that I can’t be bothered. The impression I got from hearing all 5000 (approximately) tracks, one after the other, is that waking up at an ungodly hour to watch them be performed would be like tuning into a parallel-universe version of the ESC 2007 semi final, in which every single competing song is Time To Party by The Jet Set.

I.e. a terrible plan not worth sacrificing sleep for.

But hey – first impressions never last. I’ll give a second chance to whatever becomes the winner.

Also, I apologise for flicking my bitch switch up to max in the paragraph above. I’m just being honest, though.

 

 

Nudity + wolves = so 2016…but what’s next for Belarus?

Where do you go after the Ivan Incident? Anywhere that erases Giant CGI Babygate from our memories is fine by me.

There are 13 (ooh, lucky/ooh, unlucky – pick a side) songs battling it out tonight to represent Belarus in the not-very-far-away land of Ukraine. Among them are a few that could certainly improve on the DNQ of Help You Fly, given some polishing time. How convenient, then, that it’s January, and Eurovision’s not until May! No excuses, Belarus.

 

The line-up

After another year of excruciatingly amateur (oops, must’ve hit that bitch switch again) auditions – seemingly held in a studio with all the acoustic calibre of a shoebox – here are the finalists.

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  1. Children of the World by July
  2. Be Stronger by Alexandra Tkach
  3. Follow The Play by Vladislav Kurasov
  4. Historyja Majho Žyccia by NAVI
  5. On The Red Line by Isaac Nightingale
  6. Wild Wind by Kattie
  7. Take My Heart by Nuteki
  8. Let’s Come Together by NAPOLI
  9. Voices In My Head by Nikita Hodas
  10. We Should Be Together by Angelica Pushnova
  11. We’ll Be Together by Anastasiya Sheverenko
  12. Heartbeat by Lermont x Julic
  13. #mylove by PROvokatsiya

There are a few returning artists in the mix – including NAPOLI, who peddled My Universe at both Eurofest and Poland’s Krajowe Eliminacje last year. Will any of them finally get the chance to move to the next stage (literally)? I’ll tell you what I think in a minute. But first…

 

My top 13

Because compiling rankings is as natural as breathing to us Eurofans. 

  1. On The Red Line – It’s on the red line but off-the-wall, and that’s what I like about it. This doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before, and there’s not a cringely, clichéd lyric to be heard. I’m YAASSSing all over the place about that.
  2. Historyja Majho Žyccia – NAVI, once again, are bringing all kinds of adorable to the Belarusian NF. This is the only non-English track on offer and that instantly makes it stand out. It’s super catchy, cute, and full of happy in a folksy way.
  3. Take My Heart – I think this is my favourite musical attempt-to-make-it-to-Eurovision of Nuteki’s. It’s not going to win any awards for originality, but it’s a good example of energetic mid-tempo pop rock in the We Are The Heroes
  4. Be Stronger – There’s something about the sweet lyrics and vulnerability in Lexy’s voice and look (I don’t know how old she is, but she looks like she’s still in school) that has me reaching for the tissues when I hear this. It makes my heart hurt in a good way.
  5. Follow The Play – This sort of pop ballad is right up my street, but it’s a bit passé at Eurovision (and everywhere else) in 2017. Dima Bilan and his ’06 mullet would probably agree.
  6. Children of the World – This is a blatant rip-off of Nick Jonas’ Chains, only with much cheesier lyrics crammed in. And yet I don’t mind it. WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!?!?
  7. Voices In My Head – I’m torn on this one. I quite like the alternative vibe (this song is the hipster vegan café of the music world) and Nikita’s vocals, but the spoken word sections don’t speak to me.
  8. Heartbeat – I can’t tell whether this is a good song sung badly, or a bad song made worse by crappy singing. In summary, ???
  9. We Should Be Together – Dated, predictable dance-pop does not rub me up the right way…anymore (I think I can use the phrase “I’m too old for this s%#t’ and really mean it at this point in my life).
  10. Wild Wind – Donald Trump is about to be inaugurated as US President. Ergo, there’s so much depressing stuff happening in the world already that we don’t have room in it for such a melodramatic, morbid ballad about unfortunate weather conditions to go to Eurovision.
  11. We’ll Be Together – I’m pretty sure that this is a decent song…but Anastasiya’s voice is so bizarre (has she swallowed a sponge at some point?) that it’s a distraction.
  12. Let’s Come Together – Of the 75 songs competing in Belarus with the word ‘together’ in the title, this is by far the worst. It’s obvious that NAPOLI is desperate to get to Eurovision, but three solid minutes of clichés isn’t going to do the trick.
  13. #mylove – Nope. To the hashtag, the melody, the style and the words, I say ALL OF THE NOPES.

 

Who SHOULD win? This is basically the same as asking me ‘Who do you personally want to win?’, and my answer would be (based on the ranking I typed out two seconds ago) Isaac Nightingale, NAVI or Nuteki. To my tastes, these three (plus one or two others at a push) are diamonds in the rough that is this national final. Isaac has the least chance of actually winning, as I’ll admit that On The Red Line isn’t exciting enough to demand attention (which would translate into votes). I’d love NAVI to win since they’re the sole reps of their native tongue in the entire show, and to see that win out via such a sweet song would make me smile. Nuteki’s entry this time around doesn’t set the world on fire like it’s a piano belonging to The Makemakes, but it’s competent and catchy and karaoke-friendly – multiple boxes of mine are ticked by it.

Who WILL win? *drumroll* Let Jaz’s horrendously inaccurate NF predictions begin! I’m not a betting woman (mainly because I am so bad at foreseeing the future that I’d be constantly broke if I was) but NAVI, Nuteki or Napoli (yeah, I know what I said before) are the names I’d drop some dollars on.

Ask me to single one out FTW, and I’d say…

Last but not least, I’m going to throw in a random underdog, because why the heck not. It’s Lermont x Julic. Don’t ask me why; just know that, like Justin Timberlake, I got this feelin’…inside my bones.

  

SUDDEN ENDING ALERT!!! I’m going to say my goodbyes now, before I fall asleep on my keyboard and risk waking up tomorrow with ‘QWERTY’ imprinted on my forehead. Hit me up with your opinions on and predictions for this weekend’s NFs in the comments, if you have any. Don’t be shy!

If you’re settling down with some snacks and a potentially pixilated stream from somewhere in Europe, enjoy. I’ll see you on the other side when we have two more songs to welcome (with open arms or middle fingers, we’ll see) into the Eurovision family.

 

Love, love, peace, peace out!

 

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THE EBJ JUNIOR JURY REVIEWS | Albania, Belarus, Italy + Malta

I bet you didn’t see this coming. Regardless and right on schedule, round three of the EBJJJ judgments has arrived!

Today, it’s time for a few of last year’s JESC success stories; host country Malta; and Italy (who neither did brilliantly in 2015 or are hosting like they COULD HAVE in 2015) to be picked apart by me and my posse of Europop aficionados. Prepare for highs, lows and mixed emotions, people.

 

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Without further ado, let’s jump in to judging Klesta, Alexander, Fiamma and Christina’s songs for Europe. And Australia. And any other country that happens to be broadcasting JESC this year.

 

 

albania

My thoughts Last year, I staunchly supported Mishela Rapo and her dibi-dibi-Dambaje as they ventured forth into the bloody musical battle that is…not JESC (blood-drawing = not so child-friendly, and probably frowned upon by the EBU). The haters did hate, but she went on to finish 5th, equaling the best-ever ranking in a Eurovision event that Albania secured with Rona Nishliu in Baku. Funnily enough, their Junior entry for 2016 reminds me of Suus, for several reasons. But am I intending to sing its praises the way I did with Dambaje (and yes, Suus, once my ears became accustomed to Rona’s tuneful but still very loud wailing)? The answer is ‘kind of’. In my opinion, there’s more to like about Klesta’s Besoj than there is NOT to like about it, but it isn’t flawless. Let’s start with the good stuff, though. A mature, sophisticated and B-I-G ballad bursting out of a precious-looking little girl (in glasses, no less) has been a secret to JESC success lately – think Gaia Cauchi’s 2013 win or Slovenia’s song from Lina Kuduzović last year. So there’s that. Then there’s the fact that this ballad features multiple moments of melodic magnificence throughout, particularly between the choruses. The choruses do have their strengths, as they’re a dynamic contrast to the softness of what surrounds them, exploding out of nowhere and allowing Klesta to reach her full vocal potential (surprising unsuspecting viewers in the process). It’s a statement song, that’s for sure. But I have to point out its flaws if I want to get all of the cattiness out of my system before these reviews reach their conclusion, and these are the most obvious: firstly, the somewhat strange use of English in amongst the Albanian – ‘believe’ popping up in that first chorus instead of ‘besoj’ is too random for my tastes. Secondly, the second half of the chorus, where most of the power is packed, is OTT enough to give me the beginnings of a headache by time the song’s over. Still, my personal ratio of like to dislike here is about 85%:15%, which ain’t bad for Albania. It just means that the more people who feel the way I do, the more likely they’ll have to settle for a less impressive result than last year’s. I’m not sure if it would be a help or hindrance if Klesta took even more cues from Rona Nishliu and appeared on stage with her hair forming part of her costume…

My score 7

The EBJ Junior Jury says…

  • Dara, Australia – 6
  • James, UK – 6
  • Joshua, Australia – 12
  • Matthew, Ireland – 7
  • Michael, Australia – 4
  • Penny, USA – 10
  • Rory, Ireland – 10

 

 

belarus

My thoughts This is old-school Junior Eurovision right here, folks! From 2003-2010 (ish), pre-teen pop was the core of the contest. Nowadays, we’re lucky to get two or three tracks per year that bring back those memories (the trio of 2016 being Belarus, The Netherlands and Serbia). Alex’s homeland came third in 2013 with something similar, and I’m guessing he’d like to do the same or better. Sadly, I’m about to burst his bubble, because Muzyka Moikh Pobed is only okay, and certainly no Poy So Mnoy (then again, what is? That was BOSS). It’s a mid-tempo, pretty well-sung and performed song with a reasonably catchy chorus, and I do get a kick out of it – just not  a hard one. More like a gentle poke with the toe, if you were after specifics. There’s nothing about it that’s memorable, even though comparing it to anything else in the competition would be like comparing Lordi and Boggie. It would make a great Sing It Away­-style opener for the show because it’s energetic and sets the mood switch to ‘Party Time!!!’, but can then promptly be forgotten about by everyone and eventually putt-putt to a halt in 13th place because it’s disposable. I don’t want it to fail – if an outcome like that would be considered a fail – but I don’t see it having the steam to climb much higher. That doesn’t mean Europe should stop sending kid pop: it can be done in a memorable way that still scores serious points. It just means that…well, you can’t take a top 5 spot every single year. Unless you’re Armenia.

My score 6

The EBJ Junior Jury says… 

  • Dara, Australia – 5
  • James, UK – 7
  • Joshua, Australia – 10
  • Matthew, Ireland – 5
  • Michael, Australia – 8
  • Penny, USA – 7
  • Rory, Ireland – 5

 

 

italy

My thoughts Nobody does class like Italy. It consistently ensures they get great adult Eurovision results (when they don’t, those are the exceptions, not the rule) and even won them the Junior Eurovision title on their very first try in 2014. Fiamma Boccia’s ballad, which is an ode to her mother (see, Axel Hirsoux…it CAN be done in a non-creepy way!), is nothing if not classy. Yet it still manages to be age-appropriate for the twelve-year-old, who actually looks younger than her years (she may be asked for ID upon entering the Mediterranean Conference Centre for the first time). To be honest, I thought Cara Mamma was an unfortunate sweet-and-savoury combo of sugar and cheese back when it was presented, and if it was entirely in English (against JESC rules, I know, but I’m talking hypothetically here) I probably still would. But further listens have somehow changed my mind, and I’m really digging it now. It is sweet, but the Italian, as always, adds an aspect of beauty that’s very appealing. The chorus is soaring and melodic without being overblown or melodramatic. And the softness of the verses that is echoed when the song winds down gives me a satisfying feeling that the entry has come full circle, returning to its roots and making it more meaningful. Italy also makes excellent use of the little English they’ve opted for, as it doesn’t feel like it was crammed in just to increase the song’s accessibility. Fiamma is pretty darn cute, and has an emotional presence – at least in her music video – that reminds me of Alisa Kozhikina, who represented Russia the year Italy won JESC (albeit with a ballad that was too mature and melodramatic for my liking, but still finished 5th). I think she has one of the best ballads of the year up her sleeve, but with tough competition coming from Albania, Bulgaria and Poland, she needs to pull off a top-notch performance to give herself the best shot of outdoing the others. I’d like to see her do well, and I bet her mother would too (her father, who’s probably feeling a little left out, may be less supportive).

My score 8

The EBJ Junior Jury says… 

  • Dara, Australia – 5
  • James, UK – 12
  • Joshua, Australia – 7
  • Matthew, Ireland – 10
  • Michael, Australia – 8
  • Penny, USA – 8
  • Rory, Ireland – 4

 

 

malta

My thoughts Malta has been hyped a heap at Junior Eurovision recently, and usually they live up to that hype by winning or doing very well indeed. Destiny’s Not My Soul wasn’t my favourite entry last year (far from it, in fact), but she certainly fulfilled expectations, and did deserve to win as far as I’m concerned. But if Christina Magrin does the double on home soil with the frequently-fangirled-over Parachute, I will be FURIOUS. To cut what could be a long story short, I hate this song. So much so that I’ve taken to calling it Parashite (hoping that Christina never finds out, because I’m not a monster who wants to hurt a child’s feelings). I seem to be in the minority, but to me the song is annoying, vacuous, derivative crap. And what the heck is up with that ‘Ew ew ewhew ewwwww’ part of the chorus? I mean, yes, it accurately describes my attitude towards the whole thing, but what does it add to the track? It’s like the writers couldn’t for the life of them think of any more lyrics for that section, so they decided to string out the last syllable sung instead in the most irritating manner known to man. All in all, this is bubblegum pop that should stay stuck to the underside of a school desk somewhere. Maybe this rant makes me a distant relative of Satan himself, but I have to tell the truth! I will admit that Christina is a great singer, as is everyone under the age of sixteen who calls Malta home. But her vocal gymnastics can’t somersault the song into my good graces. Worryingly, the last time I felt this strongly about a Maltese JESC entry in a negative way, it was 2013 and Gaia Cauchi’s The Start went on to win with ease. So if Parachute does the same¸ y’all can go off and celebrate and I’ll just be crying in a corner, cursing the juries under my breath.

My score 2

The EBJ Junior Jury says… 

  • Dara, Australia – 5
  • James, UK – 10
  • Joshua, Australia – 6
  • Matthew, Ireland – 12
  • Michael, Australia – 6
  • Penny, USA – 8
  • Rory, Ireland – 3

 

 

And with that controversial ending to today’s round of reviews (direct all hate mail to me and expect a falsely polite reply within six to eight months), there’s now twelve down, five to go for the EBJ Junior Jury.

Our ranking after scoring this group of four looks like this:

  1. Albania (7.75)
  2. Italy (7.75)
  3. Belarus (6.62)
  4. Malta (6.5)

It’s the ballads that have reigned supreme, with Albania and Italy equaling each other’s scores. Albania gets the top spot on countback, but the gap between the two is barely there. Belarus and Malta keep each other company in the lower half, with very little separating them as well.

How do they all fit in to the full EBJJJ ranking for 2016? Well, you’ll have to wait and see – but don’t worry, there’s not long now until I reveal all. The final five left to be reviewed are Australia, Israel, Macedonia, The Netherlands and Serbia. Maybe we’ve saved the best until last….maybe we haven’t. Either way, you won’t want to miss it.

 

Did Albania deserve to take out today’s top honours, or should Malta have been the cream of the crop á la Destiny? Perhaps Italy or Belarus have won you over instead. Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments!

 

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REVIEWS | The EBJ Jury Judges Eurovision 2016 (Part 2)

Yes/ja/oui, et cetera – it’s already time for another round of reviews here on EBJ! And since this second installment isn’t much less epic (a fancy way of saying ‘ridiculously long’) than the first one, I’ll make this intro fast…by stopping it right here. You guys know how these posts go.

 

 TODAY’S EBJ JURORS
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Remember, you can reacquaint yourself with the 2016 EBJ Jury at any time via the meet and greet page up there *points in the appropriate direction*. Today’s reviewers = my mum (she’s back!), Fraser from ESC TMI, and yours truly – meaning it’s an all-Aussie, all-awesome affair. We’ve had our say on the Eurovision entries from Belarus, Cyprus, Georgia, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. Our excessive compliments and/or abusive tirades are in, as are the scores from all of my other slaves…er, I mean helpers. So now I present to you the entire EBJ Jury’s assessments of IVAN, Minus One, Nika Kocharov & The Young Georgian Lolitaz, Francesca, Frans* and Rykka. Which act will emerge victorious? And will they knock France off the top of our leaderboard? If you want the answers to those questions, plus a whole heap more, then read on!

 

*Am I the only one who thinks Francesca and Frans should hook up purely because their couple name writes itself? I’m dying to use #Franscesca in a tweet or two (hundred).

 

 

 Belarus

Mrs. Jaz The beginning of this song caught me off guard (even though I didn’t know what would follow it). As interesting as it is, that intro sounded strange to me, and not in a good way. As Help You Fly continued, I was also unsettled by the high note-filled choruses that IVAN is so fond of – choruses that could be his downfall if he doesn’t nail them at Eurovision (if he’s even a millimetre out of tune, it could be painful for everyone with functioning ears). However, on the whole, I quite enjoyed Belarus’ entry. It’s catchy and radio-friendly, and would be easy to sing along to, if I knew any of the lyrics! I’m told that IVAN’s slightly disturbing wish to perform starkers with wolves will not be granted by the ESC powers that be, and that’s definitely the best part of this package…so to speak.

Fraser Howling, wolves…ooh, this is Eurotastic! I do love how projections can make any song look super professional. IVAN has a fabulously expected, deep Eastern European pop voice – one that, in most other countries, would not be used for this style of song. Somehow it all seems to work. The song is easy to sing along to, and not bad as a bit of background music. I’m struggling to see how Help You Fly has anything to do with wolves…but hey, this is Eurovision, so who cares! Belarus have not made it through to the final for a few years, but if IVAN presents this naked on the Eurovision stage surrounded by wolves, maybe they will. That’s their best chance.

Jaz It seems that taste in music doesn’t totally run in my family, given that I do like the intro of Help You Fly – a song that I named the one I’d least like to win the Belarusian final a while back. Clearly, I’ve come around since then. If you’re wondering what’s up with IVAN’s wolf obsession (especially when an eagle obsession would make more sense), then that intro at least incorporates a howl into HYF, and sets an intense, mysterious and minutely-ethnic tone for the rest of the song, which sits on the right side of the rock genre. Initially, I found the chorus irritating, and couldn’t even remember how the verses went. But after listening to it a time or two recently, I’ve found myself appreciating it for what it is – a solid Eastern European rock effort, with lyrics that manage to be inspirational without inducing any gagging (which is always good). It’s a little too lethargic to trouble its semi’s top 10, so I’m not sure it’ll qualify. But if IVAN gets to grips with the knowledge that the naked + animal thing ain’t going to happen, and intensifies his NF staging (the background graphics there were edgy and complementary), you never know. Failing that, he might burst (not naked) out of a giant disco ball, and subsequently straight into Saturday night. It worked for Alyona Lanskaya, didn’t it?

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 6
  • Fraser 4
  • James 5
  • Jaz 7
  • Martin 5
  • Mrs. Jaz 7
  • Nick 1
  • Penny 7
  • Rory 5
  • Wolfgang 1

Belarus’ EBJ Jury score is…4.8

 

 

Cyprus

Mrs. Jaz ‘Coz this is thrillerrrrr….thriller night!’ Oh wait – it isn’t? Well, it sure sounded like it at the start. Though that is where any resemblance to Michael Jackson’s music ended, because this track is only okay, in my opinion. I preferred Belarus to Cyprus. Alter Ego is pretty catchy too, and it has a good beat, but it’s rather repetitive and not as instant. I think I’d need further listens to appreciate it, but as I got bored halfway through this one (I zoned out and did some online shopping during those last 90 seconds) I’m not too keen to hear it again. If Jaz wants me to give it another go, she might have to use some force.

Fraser Well, this is a bit of a surprise. Everything about Minus One’s Alter Ego is against my normal style of music, but there is something that’s a bit ‘easy-listening soft rock’ that I like about this. Wolves are big this year – maybe Minus One and IVAN can do a naked mashup with wolves, or re-enact ‘Dances With Wolves’ on the stage. Naked. Please? Actually, looking at the video, it’s probably best if they all keep their clothes on. Honestly, I think Cyprus may have a chance of getting through to the final with this song. It’s catchy enough to sing along to, and that may just get them somewhere.

Jaz Thomas G:son strikes again! Though it must be said, Alter Ego isn’t his best-ever Eurovision effort. Then again, neither an uplifting power ballad nor a club banger (the kind of songs he does best) would have suited Minus One, who’ve bounced back from a defeat in the 2015 Cypriot NF to represent the island in Stockholm. What the band and G:son have created is a song that ticks a lot of boxes, but still seems to be missing something – something that says ‘Vote for this!’. It’s all just a bit…flat. Having said that, it does have a great driving beat, and a two-part chorus that adds variety. The Killers-slash-Nickelback vibe also has appeal (no, I don’t mind Nickelback. You got a problem with that?) and I particularly enjoy the ‘Howlin’ for youuuuuuuuu’ part (SVT should just change the ESC slogan to ‘Come together…with wolves’ already). In summary, I suppose I’m in two minds (or perhaps I’m thinking one thing, and my Alter Ego is thinking another). This track is more than halfway up on the good-quality song scale, but I also believe it doesn’t pack enough punch to reach the highest heights. Ultimately, I’m happy that it doesn’t send me to sleep like Cyprus’ entry did last year, but I’m not exactly impressed by it.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 7
  • Fraser 2
  • James 7
  • Jaz 6
  • Martin 7
  • Mrs. Jaz 5
  • Nick 4
  • Penny 7
  • Rory 7
  • Wolfgang 5

Cyprus’ EBJ Jury score is…5.7

 

 

Georgia

Mrs. Jaz Wow – what a throwback! You’d never guess this was the Georgian entry based on how Brit-pop it sounds. Oasis would be proud to have Midnight Gold as one of their own hits if the Gallagher brothers weren’t such…well, you can insert your own insult here. The song’s clearly not cutting-edge, but I like that Georgia have taken a deliberately retro route rather than an accidentally stale one. The result is something that stands out (though maybe not for the better in the eyes and to the ears of many Eurovision fans). If I may channel Austin Powers for a moment, I’d say it’s pretty groovy, baby!

Fraser Immediately this sounds like some average 90s Brit-pop band is making a comeback. There is nothing that sounds remotely Eurovision about it. I’m bored already. I think Noel Gallagher is on bass guitar, and his talents are better used elsewhere. Did I mention I’m bored? Sorry Georgia, this is not your year.

Jaz I try not to feel guilty about fangirling over ANY song – why should you feel bad about liking what you like? But…if I could call anything a guilty pleasure this year where Eurovision’s concerned, it would have to be Georgia’s Midnight Gold. As it’s far from being a fan favourite, I have a strong feeling that I’m not “supposed” to enjoy it. And I’d be lying if I said I expected it to succeed, or even get out of its semi. But I really, really like this song! What’s even weirder about that is the fact that alt-rock is a genre I hardly ever choose to listen to any other time. Apparently, though, it can be slotted into the ESC line-up and I’ll fawn over it like it’s Måns Zelmerlöw attending a nude party thrown by Sir Ivan of Belarus. Everything about the song is close to bizarre and certainly edging towards bonkers territory – and I love it. The catchy guitar riff, ambiguous zero-cliché lyrics, and general freshness of the genre in the Eurovision context have well and truly won me over, folks. And I refuse to be ashamed about it! I’m letting my freak flag fly, and quite possibly a Georgian one too.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 10
  • Fraser 1
  • James 2
  • Jaz 8
  • Martin 4
  • Mrs. Jaz 7
  • Nick 6
  • Penny 7
  • Rory 8
  • Wolfgang 1

Georgia’s EBJ Jury score is…5.3

 

 

Italy

Mrs. Jaz I’M IN LOVE. This is gorgeous, and makes me want to get married again just so I can use it as my wedding song. Obviously I had no idea what Francesca was on about until the English chorus kicked in, but I figured it was something romantic, and I guess I was right (although the Italian language can make any subject matter sound romantic…this could have been an ode to conjunctivitis and I’d still be swooning). The melody, plus her combination of crystal-clear and raspy notes (she’s got a great range) made me feel the emotion of her words without even trying. I’d willingly listen to this one again, at my fantasy second nuptials or not.

Fraser Italy can do no wrong. This is fabulous. Maybe it’s just that anything sung in Italian sounds hot! Francesca’s voice is youthful, modern, and soothing. I fell in love with this song after San Remo, and it has grown on me more and more ever since. I’m not sure there was a need to add in the English lyrics halfway through the song, as it was good regardless – but it is competing in Eurovision, and you need to make sure you get votes from as many people as possible. I expect that this will finish within the top five songs this year.

Jaz Oh, Italy. What would Eurovision these days be without you? A lot less classy, that’s for sure, and in the case of 2016, that lack of class would be accompanied by a lack of spine-tingles, and a lack of exclamations such as ‘Oh no, I’ve got something stuck in my eye *sniff*’. No Degree of Separation is, put simply, stunning. My only criticism – which I’d like to get out of the way so I can carry on gushing – is that it wasn’t an instantaneous goosebump-producer for me, like Grande Amore was. It took a few plays of the 100%-Italian version for me to fall in love, but the song did pique my interest straight away, as elegant Italian piano-pop always does. And now, with the (barely) bilingual version off to Stockholm, I have high hopes for Italy once again. Francesca’s choice to insert an English chorus and make it known by its English title for ESC purposes will pay off, I reckon. That second chorus adds an element of understanding to a song that was already seeping with sentimentality. The fragility of Francesca’s voice is perfectly paired up with the themes and style of the song. The structure of it is dynamic without shoving itself down anyone’s throat. I’m besotted, basically (in case you couldn’t tell). With an entry that reminds me of Gabrielle Aplin’s version of The Power of Love, and suitably ethereal/off-beat staging, I think Italy could and should do very well with this. But I am a teensy bit biased.

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 12
  • Fraser 10
  • James 12
  • Jaz 12
  • Martin 5
  • Mrs. Jaz 10
  • Nick 5
  • Penny 6
  • Rory 8
  • Wolfgang 10

Italy’s EBJ Jury score is…9

 

 

Sweden

Mrs. Jaz I get the feeling I’m not supposed to find that ‘no’ at the end of Sweden’s song amusing, but I did anyway. And, after all, I spent most of the three minutes thinking ‘Clearly, he’s not sorry!’, so it’s a relief that he admitted it. I did quite like this one. It’s interesting, and that made me pay attention rather than drift off daydreaming (or online shopping). If I Were Sorry is a bit repetitive – let’s just say I had no issues with working out its title before I was told what it was. But lyrically, it grabbed my attention, and I think Frans’ unique accent is an asset.

Fraser Well, well, well…what happened to schlager? It appears that Sweden has grown up and moved on. Maybe I should too? From the first time I heard this song in the field of Melodifestivalen entries, I knew it was going to be the Swedish representative. It wasn’t my favourite song in the field, but it’s a song of today. With a pared-back, youthful and emotional song, Frans will have a huge following of teenage girls which will automatically get him some votes. But I hope the rest of Europe get IIWS too. It didn’t do as well as some others with the international juries in Melodifestivalen, which was surprising. I guess we will have to wait and see how Frans goes on the huge Eurovision stage. My fingers and toes are crossed for him!

Jaz A minute ago, I said I was biased about Italy. Well, now it’s time to talk about our hosts with the most – so hold on to your underpants, because a tsunami of bias is headed your way! There’s a reason I knew, the second Heroes won Eurovision 2015, that 2016 HAD to be the year I trekked across the globe to attend my first contest. I. LOVE. SWEDEN. In and outside of the ESC (though the outside mainly refers to Melodifestivalen). That’s not to say there haven’t been times when I’ve disliked their entries (La Voix, I hate with a passion), but for the most part, the country can do no wrong in my eyes. So, despite my earlier desires for Oscar Zia or Molly Sandén to represent Sweden, I am a fully-fledged Frans fan. If I Were Sorry is in the mould of Sweden’s recent host entries – i.e. just You – in that it’s more organic, less precise, and simplified in comparison to the stuff they send when they’re competing on foreign ground. But there’s no doubt Sweden are still in the race with this, as the Spotify streams and betting odds are testament to. I don’t think Frans will deliver his country the seventh win Christer Björkman is hoping for (I’m sure he can wait until 2017 or 2018) but what I’m hoping for is a strong top 10 finish with this very-2016 toe-tapper. I can’t see the IIWS staging changing much from ye olde Melodifestivalen times – so the song and its presentation are really going to need to capture the public and the juries when it counts, as they captured the Swedish public and (some of) the international juries back in March. The song is certainly endearingly sweet and quirky enough – not to mention unique enough in the 43 – to find that favour. Perhaps my plan to scream the roof off the Globe Arena whilst wearing a shirt with Frans’ face on it will have a positive effect on the outcome?

The EBJ Jury says… 

  • Ali 7
  • Fraser 12
  • James 6
  • Jaz 10
  • Martin 8
  • Mrs. Jaz 7
  • Nick 7
  • Penny 8
  • Rory 1
  • Wolfgang 7

Sweden’s EBJ Jury score is…7.3

 

 

Switz

Mrs. Jaz Very nice, Switzerland. I like this a lot. I was lured in from the abrupt beginning all the way through to the end, and I loved the sound of Rykka’s voice throughout. Her diction is beautiful. I’m a ballad fan if said ballad fits my definition of ‘decent’, and Last of Our Kind definitely does. It sounds like it should be the theme to a romantic drama movie or something – as in, what Ellie Goulding’s Love Me Like You Do was to Fifty Shades of Grey (not that I’d know anything about that). Backing an intense scene between two extremely attractive leads, the song would shine.

Fraser Rykka is a surprise for me. Her song feels like a step back into the end credits of a movie from 1989 (I know she even says that, but it really does). It’s a really nice song that I find myself singing along to in the car. The only thing is, I don’t always understand all of the lyrics she’s singing – maybe it’s just her accent. The recorded version is a lot stronger than the live of course, but I really hope that Rykka has a lot of practice before May. If her performance is on point, she may just sneak through to the final. BTW, if she could do something about those eyebrows, it would be greatly appreciated.

Jaz Each and every year, the Swiss NF is made up of a handful of mediocre songs (and often one or two that start with ‘r’ and end with ‘ubbish’) plus one that is slightly less mediocre than the others (but is still crappier than the crappiest Melfest entry of that year). The latter always wins, but I don’t always dig it. Where am I going with this? Straight to the shed for a shovel, peeps, because I totally dig The Last of Our Kind. It’s one of several Sia-esque songs heading to Stockholm, and that gets it an automatic ‘YAAAASSSS!’ from me. The melody and lyrics we hear before that first chorus are stunning, and overall the song is like a particularly ethereal dream that I don’t want to wake up from. I do think that the verses are stronger than the choruses, perhaps because they’re less repetitive (you and whoever you’re singing to are the last of your kind, Rykka…we get it). But there’s nothing wrong with a little repetition – and nobody’s going to forget the song title fast, that’s for sure. I’d love Switzerland to succeed with this, but I’m not entirely confident they will. Still, I have total confidence that they made the right choice by selecting Rykka as their representative…and let’s not forget what happened the last time a Canadian stepped up to fly the Swiss flag (although a tense battle for the win between Switzerland and the UK is super unlikely in 2016). While Fraser has all of his digits crossed for Sweden, I’ll have mine crossed for Canada…slash Switzerland.

The EBJ Jury says…

  • Ali 6
  • Fraser 10
  • James 5
  • Jaz 10
  • Martin 7
  • Mrs. Jaz 8
  • Nick 4
  • Penny 5
  • Rory 1
  • Wolfgang 12

Switzerland’s EBJ Jury score is…6.8

 

 

With a slightly above-average score for Switzerland locked in, that’s six more songs I can now file away under ‘Reviewed’. As you might have noticed, there wasn’t a massive difference of opinion between the three of us critiquing today – but survey those scores again, and you’ll see basically every number from 1-12 pop up at least once. That variety has left us with these results: 

  1. Italy (9)
  2. Sweden (7.3)
  3. Switzerland (6.8)
  4. Cyprus (5.7)
  5. Georgia (5.3)
  6. Belarus (4.8)

Close, but not close enough! If you’ve forgotten the results of Part 1 (or have dropped by randomly and didn’t see them at all) then I can reveal that Francesca has failed to overtake France on the EBJ Top 43 table. But she’s topped this round of reviews, so that’s something – maybe I’ll send her a congratulatory card.

Next time, two British bloggers will join me to discuss Albania, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and…San Marino (there’s SO much to say about San Marino). Feathers and curse words will (probably) fly, so you won’t want to miss that.

In the meantime, let us know what you think of our winner and of our losers. Do you agree that No Degree of Separation is a stunner, or are you anti-Italy this year? Is the Georgian entry just bonkers enough in your opinion, or way too cray-cray for your taste? If you’re thinking it, type it in the comments. My mother would really appreciate it.

 

Hej då!

 

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SATURDAY SELECTION SHENANIGANS: A high-flyer from Belarus + Malta’s last hurrah

Overnight, three have become four. And four will have become five by this time tomorrow. You might think I’m referring to the formation of the Spice Girls, but it’s actually the Class of (Eurovision) 2016 that I’m talking about – it’s beginning to fill up, people! Belarus has chosen a song that’s destined to do worse than their latest Junior Eurovision entry, and Malta is about to do the same – so let’s have a debrief re: both.

 

WARNING: Ira Losco’s name appears a LOT in the latter part of this post. If you’re not an admirer of hers, you might want to avert your eyes.

 

Ivan a do-over…Belarus opt for Alexander Ivanov’s Help To Fly, dropping jaws in the process

Well, that result dropped my jaw, anyway – I can’t speak for the rest of you (mainly because my chin is still stuck to the floor, weighed down by a momentous amount of shock). My first major fail of national final season has arrived early, because I did NOT see Alexander ‘Ivan’ Ivanov’s Help To Fly (as it’s now known) as a potential winner in Belarus. I can say with confidence that it won’t be considered a potential winner in Stockholm, and I don’t expect it to outdo the last song sung by an Eastern European dude with long blonde locks that will be swished from side to side hypnotically but not hypnotically enough.

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That’s right. The hair is back. Though I don’t think we can say the same about the sexy police uniforms.

I just…don’t get this decision. Sure, Ivan has a decent live voice, but his song is a big pile of nothingness in my opinion (with an annoying chorus buried in it). It would take a giant glass box, an army of cartoon stick men, sixteen costume changes and a wind machine firing on all cylinders to even give it a chance of qualifying to the Eurovision final *she says, reserving the right to change her mind and assuming you won’t mock her if Belarus miraculously win the contest in May*.

Having said that, I think Belarus would have struggled to advance no matter what they’d chosen this year (in case you missed yesterday’s mini-rant, I was hardly impressed with what the country had to offer us, overall). I stand by my reckoning that Kirill’s Running To The Sun would have given them a semi-decent shot – but, at the end of the day, it’s a begrudging ‘Congratulations!’ that goes to Ivan and nobody else. Help To Fly is no Cheesecake (what is?) but I wish it the best of luck anyway…and I will try and muster up some smidgen of desire to see it performed live. Either that, or I’ll just use Belarus’ performance as my much-needed toilet break time.

Will you be heading off to the bathroom or the bar when it’s their turn to take on Eurovision 2016? Or does their latest entry rock your socks?

 

The Maltese final countdown: Is MESC 2016 Ira Losco’s to lose?  

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I wouldn’t say she’s a shoo-in to win, but Ira probably has the edge in the small group of fierce females who are still, realistically, in contention after last night’s semi. Ira’s That’s Why I Love You was booted last night (as per the rules, one of her entries had to be sacrificed at this stage), alongside the songs from Danica, Dario, Domenique (it was not a good night for the Ds), Sarah Crystal and Stefan (or, for that matter, the Ss). That means that I somehow managed to correctly predict 4 of the 6 non-qualifiers yesterday, which kind of makes up for my mishap with Belarus.

It’s time to make some more predictions already, with Malta’s list of Eurovision hopefuls down to “just” fourteen. In mere hours, only one act will remain. Who will it be? If it isn’t Ira, I mean.

  1. All Around The World by Deborah C
  2. Little Love by Franklin
  3. Under The Sun by Daniel Testa
  4. Golden by Brooke
  5. Flashing Lights by Raquel Galdes
  6. Kingdom by Christabelle
  7. Falling Glass by Corazon
  8. Fire Burn by Dominic
  9. The Flame by Jessika
  10. Alive by Jasmine Abela
  11. You’re Beautiful by Lawrence Gray
  12. Young Love by Maxine Pace
  13. Chameleon by Ira Losco
  14. Lighthouse by Kim

Okay – clearly, Ira is the fan favourite here. But with an overwhelming majority of the power in the hands of Malta’s (hopefully) esteemed jurors tonight, she does have a fight on her hands. I’d be happy to see her back in the ESC after all this time – especially if she has another glitter pouch stuffed in her jumpsuit – but how high is she in my MESC top 5? Find out right now (I know you were dying from the suspense…).

  • #1 | Chameleon Yep. Sorry for being Miss Predictable, but despite this song being a bit of a mish-mash and failing to reach either its own potential or Ira’s, there’s something powerful about it. The chorus in particular is very catchy and very instant.
  • #2 | Falling Glass I hated Corazon’s last MESC entry with a passion, but she pleasantly surprised me with this one. Falling Glass is a two-part song that doesn’t suffer from Crisalide Syndrome – i.e. it actually works well as a ballad and a dance track, and transitions from one genre to the other without any speed bumps.
  • #3 | All Around The World I know, I know! This is cheesy, clichéd, and something the Spice Girls wouldn’t have touched in 1996 with a ten-foot pole. But it’s so darn infectious, and makes me think of being on a summer holiday to such an extent that I can taste the margaritas. I’m pretty sure I look a little tanner after every listen too, so thanks, Deborah!
  • #4 | Young Love Is Maxine’s number an All About That Bass for the teen market? Yes. Is it appealing nonetheless? Yes. I’m not a huge fan of retro-pop, but the fact that this does hark back to a faraway decade makes it fresh and fun. Maxine has great personality and stage presence that adds to the package.
  • #5 | Kingdom Christabelle’s Rush was far, far better than this (and I still wish she’d elbowed Amber out of the way and gone to Vienna in her place) but this is the best straight-dance song in the running.

When it comes to the winner and Warrior’s successor, I can narrow it down to three of my top 5. That’s right – it’s ladies’ night, folks. In order of likelihood, here’s the trio* I’d bet on if I was a betting woman.

  • Chameleon Ira is more or less to MESC 2016 what Måns Zelmerlöw was to Melfest 2015. If it’s going to be a by-the-book kind of year, she’ll take the victory with ease.
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She’s in the ‘hood, and in with a very good chance of representing Malta for the second time.

  • Young Love If it’s a ‘say what?!?’ kind of year, however, a newcomer to the NF might out-score the veterans. This song is current, memorable and well-performed, and I think there’s something in it for televoters and jurors.
  • Falling Glass This is Corazon’s best attempt yet to represent Malta, so she’d deserve the trophy if she nabbed it. She is smack bang in the middle of the running order, so she’ll have to work hard to keep attention on her.
*Like last night, I want to slip in an extra prediction here to reduce my chances of looking stupid later on. So if the stars don’t align for Ira, Maxine or Corazon, perhaps they’ll do so for Christabelle.

I’m not seeing through the eyes of a respectable jury member here, so what do I know? If you’re keen to put your objective, non-Ira-obsessed juror hat on and predict the MESC winner for the year, be my guest. The comments section will feel lonely and abandoned if you don’t…AND SO WILL I #guilttrip.

 

I’ll leave you now to mentally and physically prepare yourself for the abovementioned Maltese final. It’s going to be a long one as always – but with any luck, we’ll have a decent result at the end of it.

 

As Adele says when ending a phone call, see you on the other siiiiiiiiiide!

 

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THE BELARUSIAN NF IS TONIGHT?!?!? + Malta’s mammoth, Mediterranean Bank-sponsored semi final

I have a confession to make: I had no idea that Belarus’ national final was taking place tonight.

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For some reason (I’m inclined to blame Malta holding their semi and final over two consecutive days in order to confuse me) I was convinced they were choosing an act to follow in Uzari & Maimuna’s footsteps TOMORROW night. So, naturally, I had planned to forgo posting about Malta’s semi final so I could combine a prediction for both the MESC final and the Belarusian equivalent into one ridiculously long ramble on Saturday. SO, I’m not exactly prepared for what I’m about to do – hammer out a brief analysis of the ten songs competing to represent The Land of Koldun this evening, and take a look at Malta’s twenty-song-long semi while I’m at it. That being the case, there’s no Time (HEHEHE) to waste. Let’s go.

 

BELARUS: It’s Time to select a song for Stockholm!

Yes, I used the Time joke twice in a very short space of sentences. There’s only a matter of Time before it becomes totally irrelevant, so one simply must squeeze it in as many Times as possible.

But I’m done now. I think.

Hey, here are the prospective Belarusian entries for 2016!

  1. Flame by Alexey Gross
  2. Glory Night by Sasha Zakharik
  3. Not Alone by Valeriya Sadovskaya
  4. Radiowave (Ne Shodi s Uma) by Radiovolna
  5. Turn Around by The EM
  6. Heta Ziamlia by Navi
  7. How To Fly by Alexander Ivanov
  8. Pray For Love by Anastasiya Malashkevich
  9. Running To The Sun by Kirill Yermakov
  10. My Universe by NAPOLI

 

 

Overall, I’m pretty disappointed in this bunch. It only takes one great song to win Eurovision, but it seems to me that Belarus have none – which makes me wonder why they even bothered with their lengthy live audition process and all of the other jazz leading up to this point (and why they should bother with the stuff that’ll come after, such as rehearsing and remixing and turning up at Globen). That might sound harsh, but this final is lacklustre at best, and physically painful to preview at worst. At least, in my opinion. If you think it’s the new Melodifestivalen in terms of its epicness, power to you (but seriously, book yourself into an insane asylum stat).

I’ve selected some highlights (using the ‘high’ loosely) and collated them into a short list which I believe is traditionally titled a ‘Top 5’.

  1. Running To The Sun Lyrically questionable, but contemporary and catchy, this one’s my pick of the bunch. But I wouldn’t waste any douze points on it. If it wins, I’d be keen to see what was done with it between now and May.
  2. My Universe This is NAPOLI’s weakest attempt to represent Belarus, but because it reminds me a bit of Zlata “Goddess Amongst Us Mere Mortals” Ognevich’s Gravity, I can get on board with it.
  3. Turn Around It’s a man-band with a melancholy ballad! The boys from The EM are like a very sad Eastern European Jedward, who plumb the depths of depression and duckface a LOT in the Turn Around music video. Part of me loves it, part of me wants to play them a succession of YouTube cat videos to get them to cheer the heck up.
  4. Radiowave If this wasn’t so incredibly repetitive, it would be my favourite.
  5. Heta Ziamlia The only non-English track competing, this is cute, and would be something different for Belarus to send to the ESC (laters, melodrama). The ‘ooh-ooh’ bits are irritating though.

So who’s going to win, and does anyone really care when the standard is so crap? OF COURSE THEY DO, AND STOP BEING NEEDLESSLY MEAN, JAZ! This is the trio of tracks I can see scuffling at the top of the scoreboard for the ticket to Stockholm:

  • Flame Although I didn’t put this in my Top 5, I do think it’s a credible and rather majestic number (and I’m not just saying that because I personally know one of the lyricists, and want it to win for her sake). It’s first up in the running order, and I think it could end the night in first position too.
  • Pray For Love I can’t stand Anastasiya’s voice – talk about nails down a chalkboard. But she’s done well for herself in the past with a song that was far worse than this one, so I can’t discount her.
  • Running To The Sun Yes, I’m biased. This is my personal fave, so obviously I consider it the best of the bunch and a possible winner.

PS – I’d like to slip My Universe in as a prediction too, just in case. So consider that done.

Who would you like to see fly the Belarusian flag this year? Does Alexey ignite your Flame, or are you hoping it’s Sasha’s Glory Night? Maybe you’re thinking that Alexander Ivanov should learn How To Fly to Arlanda airport (though I truly hope you’re not). Let me know below!

 

MALTA: One mammoth semi + one mammoth final = MESC 2016

Another year, another MESC, and still nobody’s explained to me why Malta goes to the trouble of holding a semi final when they only ditch six songs at the end of it. CUT THE FIELD IN HALF, FOR THE LOVE OF IRA LOSCO!

Speaking of our beloved Ira…she’s back in the mix for 2016, fourteen years after her very successful, should-have-won-it trip to Eurovision in Tallinn. She’ll open tonight’s semi with one of her two entries, and be followed by eighteen other acts. If you’re tuning in, you’re in for a loooooong night. But it just wouldn’t be MESC otherwise.

Here’s the line-up, for anyone requiring a refresher:

  1. Chameleon (Invincible) by Ira Losco
  2. Falling Glass by Corazon
  3. Light Up My Life by Stefan Galea
  4. Empty Hearted by Domenique
  5. I Love You by Dario Mifsud Bonnici
  6. Under The Sun by Daniel Testa
  7. The Flame by Jessika
  8. Alive by Jasmine Abela
  9. Flashing Lights by Raquel Galdes
  10. Golden by Brooke
  11. Lighthouse by Kimberley Cortis
  12. Right Here With You by Sarah Crystal
  13. Frontline by Danica Muscat
  14. Kingdom by Christabelle
  15. Little Love by Franklin Calleja
  16. Fire Burn by Dominic
  17. That’s Why I Love You by Ira Losco
  18. You’re Beautiful by Lawrence Gray
  19. Young Love by Maxine Pace
  20. All Around The World by Deborah C

 

 

Now THAT’s more like it. It’s not the best musical battleground ever to have existed, but there’s hardly anything that I’d describe as dreadful listed above. I’m going to save my Top 5 ranking for tomorrow’s pre-final post (assuming all my favourites qualify. The odds are in their favour) but I will say that Ira, Corazon (gasp!) and Deborah C (double gasp!) have made the grade.

For now, I’ll have a bash at predicting which six songs WON’T be seen and heard again on Saturday night.

  • Light Up My Life There is plenty of generic dance pop on offer, but this is the blandest example.
  • Empty Hearted I quite like this one, but I can see it struggling.
  • I Love You This ain’t bad either, but there’s always one or two DNQs that I don’t get.
  • Flashing Lights Raquel failed to qualify last year with a much better song at her disposal. This one does nothing for her unique vocals.
  • Frontline This is actually one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard. Nothing more needs to be said.
  • You’re Beautiful Well, thanks, Lawrence…but as it turns out, flattery won’t get you everywhere.

It’s a tough task, deciding which of Malta’s marathon runners won’t make it to the finish line. If you’ve selected your own six, get on down to the comments section and put them in writing! You know I’m an extremely nosy human and want to know what you think about anything and everything at all times.

 

Now, I’m going to say goodbye (I have some more face-palming re: my Belarus mistake to indulge in) but I’ll be back in about twenty-four hours with a verdict on the fourth member of the Eurovision 2016 family – i.e. Belarus’ song – plus a review, ranking and prediction of the MESC final. If you’re watching one of tonight’s NFs (or you’ve cloned yourself and plan to watch both), enjoy. And remember, selection season is only just beginning!

 

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FRIDAY FAST FIVE | The JESC 2015 artists who should graduate to the ESC, ASAP!

Happy Friday, guys! Or, for all of you residing in the US of A and anywhere else where Black Friday is a thing (they try to make it a thing here in Australia, but it hasn’t really taken off), HAPPY BLACK FRIDAY! It’s definitely a Happy Friday for me, because yesterday, after several hours of heart palpitations, yelling expletives at my computer screen and sobbing into the Swedish flag I carry with me at all times, I managed to score some Eurovision tickets.

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OH MY LORDI. Honestly, I’m more relieved that the ordeal of attempting to get them is over than ecstatic that I managed to nab a ticket to both broadcast semis – as you’ll know by now, whether you were in the dreaded Waiting Room of Death or not, the ticket quest was very traumatic. But I have my tickets next to me as I type this, and every time I look at them (and stroke them lovingly from time to time), I feel a flash of excitement. Congratulations to all of you who also got your hands on a ticket or two (or three, damn you), and to those of you who didn’t, or who are planning to try again in the new year for the show you missed out on: I will see you there. Assuming I will have concluded the course of therapy I’ve enrolled in to get over yesterday, of course.

It’s also a good Friday for me and my fellow Aussies thanks to tomorrow being the day of the delayed JESC 2015 broadcast, with our brand new pair of commentators narrating the proceedings (and probably taking the piss a little too often for my liking, but I’ll try to ignore that). I’m in no mood to stop talking about JESC ’15 until the credits roll on that replay, hence the topic of today’s post. So, if you’re not a fan of Eurovision’s younger sibling, you’ll have to humour me a little longer.

Let’s get into this Fast Friday Five* before I’ve officially rambled on for so long that it’s no longer Friday (confession: it’s already Saturday over here anyway). Here are five Junior acts from this year who I’d love to see and hear at Eurovision in the future.

 

*I’m now thinking that this might be the first time I’ve posted an FFF, so in case that’s true, here’s a definition: A Fast Friday Five is a short, sweet and unranked version of a top 10 list, for which I’ll select five randomly ordered favourites from any given ESC (or JESC, in this instance) category and ask you for yours in return. Just so you know.

 

Albania’s Mishela Rapo

If Mishela allowed her already-mature voice to mature even more, ditched the adorable but very childlike Mullet Gown of Multilingual Greetings (© Jaz, 2015) and popped up in Festivali I Këngës with a tropical-pop song sans the repetitiveness of Dambaje, she’d have great shot at representing Albania in the big show. Even more so if Albania loosened their purse strings and gave her some backing dancers (she doesn’t need any backing singers…not visible ones, anyway).

The earliest we’ll see her in the ESC 2017

 

 

Belarus’ Ruslan Aslanov

You guys know this kid can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. What can I say? He’s the Vincenzo Cantiello of 2015 (only without a trophy to prove it). At age thirteen, he’s got the vocal chops, stage presence and effortless ability to emote of someone twice his age, and if we assume his voice will have broken by the time he’s sixteen (since it thankfully didn’t on the JESC stage), Belarus would be mad not to force him, at glitter cannon-point, to enter Eurofest.

The earliest we’ll see him in the ESC 2018

 

 

Malta’s Destiny Chukunyere

This little list wouldn’t be complete without our winner, who sang all of her competition under the (dinky, child-sized green room) table last weekend. She could also destroy many an adult vocalist despite being three years younger than one must be to participate in the ESC. If it wasn’t for that pesky age rule, Destiny would be the bookies’ top pick to represent her island home in Stockholm, I’m sure.

The earliest we’ll see her in the ESC 2018

 

 

Armenia’s Mika

I’ve said it once, and now I’ll say it again – Mika is a star in the making. He has more personality in his four-foot-something self than the entire cohort of Eurovision 2015 competitors (not that they were boring…he’s just that stocked up with the stuff). He’s said he’d be happy to represent Armenia in the adult contest, so all we have to do is sit back and wait three-and-a-half years for him to come of age and for that pink suit to be altered accordingly.

The earliest we’ll see him in the ESC 2019

 

 

Slovenia’s Lina Kuduzović

Last but not least, it’s Slovenia’s Got Talent winner Lina, whose voice is so studio perfect live, hearing it raises the same question asked when Federica Falzon launched into Diamonds at JESC 2014 – is this for real? Another thing I love about Lina is how much she seems to enjoy herself when she’s on stage. She’s not a show-off or a try-hard – she just gets up there, sings her heart out and smiles the entire time. We need her to spread some joy at Eurovision (and perhaps score Slovenia another top three placing!).

The earliest we’ll see her in the ESC 2019

 

 

So, now I’ve shown you mine, you’re pretty much obligated to show me yours. Count them on one hand, then let me know which JESC 2015 tweens and teens you’d like to see have a bash at Eurovision once they’ve hit the big 1-6!

Considering how insanely talented some of them are now, imagine how phenomenal they’ll be with a few more years of practice…*refuses to due to intense fear of feeling useless and unskilled in comparison to a bunch of teenagers*

 

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JUNIOR EUROVISION HAS ARRIVED! The EBJ Junior Jury’s Top 17 + predictions for Sofia’s spectacular show

It’s D-day, guys. #discover day. Saturday, for those less JESC-inclined. For the rest of us, though, the next best thing to Eurovision is about to take place in Sofia, Bulgaria, and we (I can safely assume) are very, very excited!

There are mere hours until a certain European – or perhaps Australian – takes over from Vincenzo Cantiello as Junior Eurovision champion incumbent, and I am more than ready to find out who that child is. But before that, there’s some important business to take care of: the business of predicting. Attempting to guess what’s going to happen at any given Eurovision event is tradition, and I don’t like to break from tradition. You can see where this is going, right?

3, 2, 1, predictions!

Oh…hang on. There’s one teensy thing I forgot I had to do first. But you’ll like it, I promise.*

 

*I can’t REALLY promise that.

 

Revealed: The EBJ Junior Jury’s complete ranking, from #1 to #17

Whether you’re an EBJ regular or a random, you’ll be aware that over the past few weeks, myself and seven other JESC devotees have been both extremely catty and extra complimentary in reviewing Sofia’s seventeen competing entries. If you want to revisit all the highs and all the lows, follow Gaitana’s lead and be my guest.

  • Part 1, feat. Armenia, Montenegro, the Netherlands and Serbia
  • Part 2, feat. Italy, Malta, Russia and Slovenia
  • Part 3, feat. Australia, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine
  • Part 4, feat. Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Ireland and San Marino

I totted up the top four/five at the end of each round of reviews, but being a fan of a soap opera-style cliffhanger, flatly refused to reveal the full ranking until I was gosh darned ready – i.e. when the suspense had pulled up at the intersection of Unbearable Street and Just Tell Us Already Avenue (in the suburb known as Jaz’s Overactive Imagination). That moment, my friends, has arrived. Without further ado, feast your eyes on this collaborative ranking of the Class of (JESC) 2015.

ebjjj17I’m very happy to report that my hands-down favourite from the start, Belarus, topped the list in the eyes (and ears) of the EBJ Jury. I should think so, too…I didn’t bribe them for nothing! Also in our top five are the highly regarded songs from Slovenia, Armenia and Australia, with Albania making a bit of a curveball appearance. I don’t expect Mishela, as lovely as she and her song are, to dambaje her way to such heights tonight. See my scoreboard prediction below if you want to find out where I think she will finish.

Our gracious first-time hosts Bulgaria didn’t fare so well with the EBJJJ, limping into last place. If that’s their fate in the actual contest, at least Gabriela and Ivan will be spared the humiliation of mimicking The Makemakes’ goose egg – thanks to the ‘Douze points for everybody, dance’ Junior rule, none of the kids will be jetting out of Sofia empty-handed. Bless ‘em.

In case you were wondering (which is highly unlikely, I know), here’s a rundown of the top scores handed out by each of my jury members. Not all jurors reviewed all of the entries – in fact, I was the only one who did – so keep that in mind when you’re about to mutter ‘Well, there’s no accounting for taste.’

  •  Jaimie (Australia) 10 points to Armenia
  • James (UK) 10 points to Slovenia
  • Jaz (Australia) 12 points to Belarus and Slovenia
  • Liam (Australia) 7 points to Ireland
  • Lukman (Australia) 10 points to Belarus
  • Mrs. Jaz (Australia) 8 points to Italy
  • Penny (USA) 12 points to Belarus
  • Rory (Ireland) 12 points to Albania

With three sets of douze points being awarded to Belarus, have we chosen a champ you can bet on? Or have we jinxed Ruslan right out of trophy territory? All will be revealed in a few hours’ time.

To officially conclude my 2015 JESC reviews, I’d like to thank all of my jury members for taking part – some at quite short notice. You guys are awesome, and if we were in the same room right now, I’d give you the high five of the century.

Now, onto what you probably started reading this post for: some predictions!

 

Looking into my (cloudy) crystal ball and getting all psychic on Sofia

Let’s start the proceedings with some standard guesses re: who’s going to hit, who’s going to miss, and who’s going to have it all. I’m the CEO of Never Ever Watch The Rehearsals Enterprises, so the following predictions are based on what I’ve heard about the run-throughs, plus my personal opinions of how the songs will fare.

 

The slickest staging Armenia/Belarus. Armenia never fail to entertain, and from what I’ve heard, they’ve really got their shiz together this year, bringing some of the fun from Mika’s music video to the Arena Armeec stage. Belarus will be replicating Ruslan’s NF performance, having adapted it a little to bring it up to JESC standards. It’s sure to be simple, but super-duper effective.

The most jaw-dropping vocals Australia/Belarus/Ireland/Malta/Serbia/Slovenia…I could go on. Once again, the 10-15-year-olds of Europe (and Australia…) are singing like they’ve been doing it for decades, and given that flashy vocals were a big part of Italy’s winning formula in 2014, the ability to make us all go ‘Wow!’ could be crucial. My top picks for tonight are Australia and Ireland. If there aren’t any voice-breaking incidents in the Belarusian camp, listen out there too.

The most cutting-edge costumes Armenia/Georgia/San Marino. I’ll admit, I have caught glimpses of these guys in costume, so this isn’t so much of a prediction as an educated opinion. It’s all about colour for Armenia and Georgia, whereas San Marino is going for shattered-glass chic. Believe it or not, it works.

The best backdrop Belarus. Trees are always a crowd pleaser. Hey, prettiness! Hey, symbolism!

The coolest choreography Armenia. Because if they don’t, it just wouldn’t be Junior Eurovision. And I would not know what the heck to do with myself.

The total package Armenia, Australia, Belarus. This trio should have sight and sound fully covered, and that’s what makes them frontrunners for the win.

A positive surprise San Marino. Both in terms of performance and result, I’m hoping Kamilla will surpass expectations.

A negative surprise Ukraine. Usually you can trust Ukraine to nail the visuals and mechanics of their stage performance, but I hear they’ve gone all Amanecer and thrown everything at Anna, including a giant lotus flower and a CGI shark. What the?

Biggest cheer from the crowd Armenia/Bulgaria/Malta. Bulgaria gets a free pass on this one as the host country – even if they’d sent two aggressive feral cats to hiss through a duet (which, let’s face it, is actually a semi-decent way of describing the dynamic between Gabriela and Ivan) they’d be received with rapturous applause. Armenia’s Love and Malta’s Not My Soul will get the audience going in a big way as two of the most energetic songs on the program.

 

Now, to bring out the big guns…guns that fire pixilated love hearts á la Armenia’s. Decoded, that means it’s time to predict the final results.

One of the bajillion things I love about JESC is its unpredictability. For some reason, this contest is always harder to predict than its adult counterpart, which can be frustrating as well as wonderful. 2015 is just as unclear-cut as the previous few editions have been – even in terms of who’s going to finish last, which is usually the easiest call to make – but I’m not going to let that stop me from making a fool of myself! Here’s how I think the leaderboard of Junior Eurovision 2015 is going to look just before the winner’s reprise and the roll of the credits.

 

The bottom five

Albania, Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia, Italy, Montenegro

If I HAD to call it: Montenegro 13th, Italy 14th, Albania 15th, Bulgaria 16th, FYR Macedonia 17th

 

The mid-rangers (a.k.a. the meat in the scoreboard sandwich!)

Georgia, Ireland, The Netherlands, Russia, San Marino, Slovenia, Ukraine

If I HAD to call it: Georgia 6th, Slovenia 7th, Ireland 8th, Ukraine 9th, San Marino 10th, The Netherlands 11th, Russia 12th

 

The top five

Armenia, Australia, Belarus, Malta, Serbia

If I HAD to call it: Belarus/Malta 1st/2nd (I CANNOT call it, okay?!?), Armenia 3rd, Australia 4th, Serbia 5th

 

Call it controversial (even if it isn’t, just to make me feel badass) but I’ve had a gut instinct that Belarus, my favourite entry of the year, is going to fare a lot better than some believe. I don’t want to tempt fate and ruin Ruslan’s chances, but I ignored the similar instinct I had about Italy last year, and we all know what went down in Malta. The thing is, I’m not anywhere near certain that Belarus will win – perhaps because many parallels can be drawn between their package of singer and song, and Italy’s last year, and I’m wondering if voters and juries will go for the same thing two years in a row. But, I’ve heard nothing but good things about Ruslan’s rehearsals, and provided he kept his voice in check (generally and hormonally-speaking) for the jury final, he would have raked in the points – and as some countries, including Australia, are using 100% jury vote *mutters angrily about not being able to vote*, televoters have less power here. Basically, I think things look very good for Belarus, and if they don’t win, it’ll be at least a return to the top five for them.

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Ruslan had better hope the dry ice doesn’t go all Nina Sublatti on him tonight… (Photo: Wiwibloggs)

If I’m not about to witness my favourite song win a Eurovision event for the third consecutive time, however, then it’s got to be a win for Malta (which I’m steeling myself for as it’s not an outcome I’d be thrilled about…NO NO NO!) or Australia. Armenia could take it out too, but I’m convinced Love is the kind of song that will come second or third rather than go all the way. With adult jury influence heavily in play, “junior” Junior entries have struggled to beat their more mature rivals, and I suspect that trend will continue here. But top five is almost a certainty for Armenia again.

There’s a big space between the top five and bottom five that has to be filled, but it’s ridiculously hard to predict how. Georgia has a good chance of almost being back on form this year, because they know how to put on a show, and Gabede is a song that stands out (not necessarily for all the right reasons, but it’s definitely memorable). I’m crossing my fingers for Ireland to finish in the upper mid-table region, or surprise me and do even better. The Netherlands and Russia won’t perform terribly – which is a relief for me because I really like Million Lights and Mechta – but they’re just not memorable enough to battle for anything other than to squeeze into the top ten. This is, of course, in my opinion, but I am incredibly knowledgeable AND have an impeccable prediction record. Not.

Mikhail-Smirnov-Russia-Junior-Eurovision-2015-rehearsal

Mikhail’s fairly well suited to JESC, and his backing dancer’s all white. (Photo: Wiwibloggs)

I’m pretty sure that FYR Macedonia, who once upon a time sent absolute gems to JESC, is going to be to Sofia 2015 what Croatia was to Malta 2014 – i.e. the loser (sorry, kids, but when there’s an über-accurate word for a situation, you’ve just got to use it). I don’t mind Pletenka, but even I can hear that it’s repetitive and monotonous, and maybe a little too amateur in comparison to the other sixteen songs. But I’m happy to be wrong if it means FYR Macedonia defies expectation, does okay and then decides to return to the comp next year.

 

Finally…the five things I’m most looking forward to seeing tonight

I don’t think this segment requires an intro.

  • Seeing how Bulgaria handle their hosting duties. Malta did an amazing job in 2014, and I’m sure Bulgaria can measure up. With Poli Genova at the helm, the night’s got to be rocking.
  • The performances from my personal top three. I’ll be on the edge of my seat when Belarus, Slovenia and Ukraine have their minutes in the spotlight, hoping for the best (or, in Ukraine’s case, hoping the shark thing was a joke).
  • Australia making their JESC debut. There was a time I would have laughed at you for fifteen straight minutes if you’d even implied that we Aussies would have a delegation at mini-Eurovij, all the whole wishing it would happen. Now it IS happening, and I am psyched.
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‘My girls here we goooooooo…to the supermarket, to buy some more alfoil for this dress.’ (Photo: ESC Daily)

  • Speaking of Australia…I’m awaiting our point delivery with eagerness too. Hopefully our jury has made the kind of choices that compensate for a lack of public vote. Although, we’re relying on an ex-Wiggle here…
  • And, to finish off, Vincenzo’s reprise of the stunning Tu Il Primo Grande Amore. I’m keen to see if his sass levels are still higher than a kite a year on from his victory. I’ve no doubt his voice remains spectacular.

 

I think I’ve said all I need to say before the show kicks off – or at least, all I have time to say, as I’ve got to go and have a pre-contest nap so I don’t pass out halfway through the recap. I’ll be doing some live tweeting tonight if you want to meet me on Twitter (I’m @EurovisionByJaz, in case you didn’t know).

Until then, if you catch sight of the comments section and feel like using it, give me one or all of your predictions for JESC 2015! I hope, no matter how right or wrong you turn out to be, you enjoy the show. I know I will, even if it does mean hauling my butt out of bed at two o’clock in the morning.

Merry JESC!

 

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